Mac News Review

20 Years with One Keyboard, iPad Cannibalizing Mac Sales?, Apple Is Catholic, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2010.08.20

MacBook, PowerBook, iBook, and other portable computing is covered in The 'Book Review. iPad, iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV news is covered in The iNews Review.

All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

News & Opinion

Apple Updates

Products & Services

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

20 Years, 1 Keyboard

Minimal Mac guest poster and TUAW editor Dave Caolo says the first Mac he ever used was the compact but powerful (for its time) SE/30 - "definitely an enviable machine in 1990" - which was connected to a forgettable mouse and an Apple Extended Keyboard II - a "massive battleship of a keyboard was an homage to beige plastic, and laughably oversized for the Mac."

Apple Extended Keyboard IIHowever, Caolo says he loved that Extended Keyboard II so much that he still uses one today, and he declares that it will have a place on his desk for as long as it works or as long as Mac OS X continues to recognize it.

Editor's note: I have one of these keyboards (pictured), and while I prefer a keyboard with a lighter touch, smoother action, shorter key travel, and smaller physical dimensions, I do understand the attraction. cm

Matias Tactile Pro 3 Keyboard Returns to the Alps

TidBITS' Adam C. Engst says:

"Over six years ago, I reviewed the original Tactile Pro keyboard from Matias, and I think my article's title summarized things nicely - 'The Majestic Alps and the King of Keyboards' (29 March 2004). Put simply, the Tactile Pro was the best keyboard I had used for a very long time, in the genre of loud, clicky keyboards with great tactile feel."

"If you, like me, are a fan of clicky keyboards with the classic feel of the old Apple Extended Keyboard, you'll love the Tactile Pro 3."

Is the iPad Cannibalizing the Mac?

Fortune's Philip Elmer-DeWitt reports that Morgan Stanley market analyst Katy Huberty sees what may be the first sign of iPad Mac cannibalization trouble in July's retail sales data, outlined in a report to clients issued on Monday in which Huberty notes that sales trends for the broader PC market, which includes Apple and everybody else, were mixed.

On the other hand, Mac sales were up 14% year-over-year in July - outdistancing both the Mac's June sales performance and that of the overall PC market, but still down from the Mac's previous three-month average of roughly 25%. Huberty deduces, "iPad momentum is likely contributing to the moderation of both broader PC and Mac unit growth."

'Perhaps the Mouse Is Passé'

PC World's Tony Bradley says:

"A German retailer has prematurely posted (and very quickly taken down) details and product shots of the upcoming Microsoft Arc Touch mouse. The Microsoft peripheral is innovative more in its form than its function, but along with the Apple Magic Trackpad it hints at a future where the mouse may no longer have a role."

Bradley observes that Apple - responsible for introducing the mouse to mainstream computing a quarter-century ago - has introduced a new peripheral that it hopes will spark a new revolution in computer interactivity. The Magic Trackpad is basically the same sort of trackpad that you find built into most laptops as a pointing device, but the new, freestanding trackpad is larger and includes multitouch capabilities to provide more functionality, such as pinch-to-zoom.

"Perhaps the mouse is passé," Bradley muses.

Editor's note: Trackpads are okay as a compromise on laptop computers, but the mouse won't be passé as long as I draw breath so long as there's no better alternative than trackpads, touchscreens, and trackballs. cm

Bradley also declaims that "wired mice have the obvious handicap of being tethered to a limited range and constantly getting the wire tangled or caught."

Editor's note: Why in the world do you need extended range with a computer mouse (aside from perhaps the odd unusual circumstance)? Personally, these days I lean toward gaming mice like the Razer Orochi and the SteelSeries Ikiri, partly because they still offer the option of hard-wired connectivity, unlike current mainstream mice which are overwhelmingly wireless. Serious gamers won't put up with the imprecision of wireless connections. cm

Other editor's note: The USB specification supports cables up to 3 meters (9'10") for low speed devices, which includes most mice and keyboards, and up to 5 meters (16'5") for high speed devices. And when that's not long enough, you can always use a powered USB hub to extend your reach. Really, how far away from your computer are you going to use your mouse? dk

Microsoft Adds Photo Editing to Mac Office

Cnet's Ina Fried reports:

"Microsoft said Wednesday the next version of Office for Mac will allow such things as color correction or background removal from within the new versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint."

Apple Is Catholic; PCs Are Protestant

The Telegraph's Damian Thompson riffs on Apple as a metaphor for religion, noting that a crucial aspect of Apple's appeal is "the way good old Steve Jobs relieves us of the burden of installation and other tedious tasks by making his designers and engineers do the intermediary work for us. No Protestant work ethic for straight-out-of-the-box iPad users! We leave that to PC customers, who peruse their tiny-print instruction manuals as intently as Calvinists poring over their well-thumbed Bibles."

This "Apple - the Catholic option?" theme dates back to at least 1994, when novelist Umberto Eco declared in Espresso magazine (see The Holy War: Mac vs. DOS) that Mac was Catholic and the intimidating MS-DOS operating system was Protestant, while then-primitive Windows (Windows 95 was released almost a year after Eco's column was first published) represented a sort of halfway house, sort of like Anglicanism, with "big ceremonies in the cathedral," but "always the possibility of a return to DOS to change things in accordance with bizarre decisions: When it comes down to it, you can decide to ordain women and gays if you want to."

However, Thompson says that Eco's observation that machine code, which lies beneath both systems, has more to do "with the Old Testament, and is Talmudic and cabalistic", doesn't really ring true these days, "judging by the Hasidic Jews playing delightedly with iPads in the new Apple Store in Covent Garden this week."

Apple Updates

Snow Leopard Graphics Update

The Snow Leopard Graphics Update contains stability and performance fixes for graphics applications and games in Mac OS X v10.6.4.

Products Affected

MacBook (13-inch, Early 2009), MacBook Pro (17-inch, Mid 2010), MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid 2010), MacBook Pro (15-inch, Mid 2010), iMac (21.5-inch, Late 2009), Mac Pro (Early 2009), Mac mini (Early 2009), Mac OS X 10.6.4, Mac mini (Mid 2010), iMac (21.5-inch, Mid 2010), iMac (27-inch, Mid 2010), MacBook (13-inch, Mid 2010), Portal, StarCraft II, Team Fortress 2

  • Addresses frame rate issues occurring in Portal and Team Fortress 2 by Valve, on iMac (Late 2009 and Mid 2010), Mac mini (Early 2009 and Mid 2010), Mac Pro (Early 2009), MacBook (Early 2009 and Mid 2010) and MacBook Pro (15-inch, Mid 2010) or MacBook Pro (17-inch, Mid 2010) models.
  • Resolves an issue that could cause Aperture 3, or StarCraft II by Blizzard, to unexpectedly quit or become unresponsive.
  • Resolves an image corruption issue that may occur when disconnecting and reconnecting external displays while the system is running.

System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.6.4

iMac (Mid 2010) Display Brightness Update

The iMac (Mid 2010) Display Brightness Update 1.0 addresses an issue with 21.5" iMac (Mid 2010) display brightness.

System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.6.4

Products & Services

OWC Mercury Extreme Pro SSD Delivers 1 GB/s Read Performance in FirmTek RAID 0 Test

PR: Other World Computing (OWC) has announced leading controller card manufacturer FirmTek utilized four OWC Mercury Extreme Pro RE 200 GB SSDs to achieve 853 MB/s write and 1000 MB/s (1 GB/s) read data transfer rates. The OWC Mercury Extreme Pro RE SSD was selected by FirmTek to highlight performance gains that can be experienced by external eSATA port-equipped RAID 0 storage solution when using FirmTek's SeriTek/2ME4-E controller card, which features FirmTek's new 6.0.0fc18 driver. Complete test results are available in SeriTek/2ME4-E Direct Connect Performance.

SeriTek/2ME4-E + OWC Mercury Extreme Pro RE SSD = Amazing RAID 0 Performance

The FirmTek SeriTek/2ME4-E is a must-have controller card whenever the highest level of external data storage and/or backup performance is required for intensive audio/video editing, HD video, digital photography, music, and graphics applications. With four 200 GB OWC Mercury Extreme Pro RE SSDs in a RAID 0 configuration connected to two SeriTek/2ME4-E controller cards, consistent average write performance of 851 MB/s and average read performance of 997 MB/s can be achieved. The 4-port eSATA host adapter card for all Mac Pro and late 2005 PowerMac G5 (dual-core and quad-core) models with an available PCI-Express slot features Port Multiplier and Snow Leopard 64- and 32-bit compatibility.

"We're very flattered a well-respected industry leader like FirmTek selected our SSDs with which to conduct their performance testing," says Larry O' Connor, Founder and CEO, Other World Computing. "From the pro user to the professional doing real-time editing of high definition video, these are proven products that provide the options needed to meet today's ever more demanding data performance needs."

Software

FreeBSD 8.1 G5 Now Shipping for x86, PowerPC

PR: The FreeBSD Mall is now shipping FreeBSD Version 8.1, the second release of the FreeBSD 8-STABLE branch in AMD64 and i386 architectures. FreeBSD 8.1 is the product of users deploying 8.0 in the field and submitting reports of its strengths and weaknesses,

FreeBSD Version 8.1 is the first update to FreeBSD Version 8.0, which added Virtual Access Points (VAP) support to 802.11 wireless networking,and allowed virtual machine administrators to create their own nested jails. The 8.1 release includes new features and improves upon the features that were introduced in FreeBSD Version 8.0.

The 8.1 release implements a ZFS Loader, allowing users to boot directly to ZFS. The ZFS pool has been updated to version 14. Also, NFSv4 support is improved, providing a more secure network filesystem for server based file serving.

In addition FreeBSD 8.1 updates sendmail to version 8.14.4, OpenSSH to version 5.4p1, ISC BIND to version 9.6.2-P2, and OpenSSL to version 0.9.8n. Desktop updates include KDE 4.4.5 and GNOME 2.30.1.

In this latest release, core developers focused their efforts on perfecting the functionality of the operating system to provide users with enhanced performance. "FreeBSD 8.1 is the product of users deploying 8.0 in the field, and submitting reports of its strengths and weaknesses," said Warner Losh, Director of FreeBSD Development at iXsystems and FreeBSD Core Team Member. "We, the developers, used those reports from the users to refine and improve the system across the board."

Other notable features of FreeBSD 8.1 include:

  • SMP support in PowerPC G5 systems
  • UltraSPARC IV/IV+, SPARC64 V CPU support
  • The HAST (Highly Available STorage) framework has been added
  • Support for SCTP has been improved

The four-disc CD set or dual-sided DVD is available individually or on a subscription basis at a discounted price.

FreeBSD is the free, open source Unix variant upon which Mac OS X is based and an advanced operating system for modern server, desktop, and embedded computer platforms in its own right. FreeBSD's code base has undergone over 30 years of continuous development, improvement, and optimization. It is developed and maintained by a large team of individuals. FreeBSD provides advanced networking, impressive security features, and world class performance and is used by some of the world's busiest websites and most pervasive embedded networking and storage devices.

FreeBSD Mall is a division of iXsystems, Inc. and provides high quality FreeBSD software, documentation, support, and services to the open source community.

FreeBSD can be acquired on CD-ROM or DVD from FreeBSD Mall, or one of the other CD-ROM and DVD publishers.

Desktop Mac Deals

For deals on current and discontinued 'Books, see our 13" MacBook and MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, 13" MacBook Pro, 15" MacBook Pro, 17" MacBook Pro, 12" PowerBook G4, 15" PowerBook G4, 17" PowerBook G4, titanium PowerBook G4, iBook G4, PowerBook G3, and iBook G3 deals.

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