Mac News Review

Apple Tops in Customer Satisfaction, First USB 3.0 Card for Macs, Dragon Dictate for Mac, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2010.09.24

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

Products & Services

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

Customer Satisfaction: Apple Still Leads PC Market

PR: The American Customer Satisfaction Index survey, founded at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business and now produced by ACSI LLC, is a national economic indicator of customer evaluations of product quality and the services available to household consumers in the United States. The latest quarterly ACSI survey finds overall consumer satisfaction with personal computers and other consumer electronics is at or near all-time highs, with Apple product satisfaction leading the way, up another two points over last year's already high survey score.

Customer satisfaction with Personal Computers in general surged 4.0% to match the industry's all-time high of 78. Nearly all brands showed increases in satisfaction, and no manufacturer declined. Lower prices, better service, and an emphasis on new, smaller systems and a variety of portable PCs helped drive the improvement. Windows-based manufacturers made large gains in the second year of Microsoft's release of Windows 7, marking a recovery from the problems associated with the Windows Vista software.

However, Apple continues its dominance, leading the PC category by a wide margin for the seventh straight year. Customer satisfaction with Apple's computer products, including the iPad, rose 2% to an ACSI score of 86 out of 100 - the highest score ever for Apple. The company now has a 9-point lead over its nearest competitor. No other company in the ACSI has as formidable a lead within its own industry. Innovation and product diversification, along with strong customer service, have long been at the center of Apple's success. At times, demand for Apple products has outstripped supply, with over 3 million iPads sold in the second quarter alone. At the same time, sales of Mac computers set an all-time quarterly high, which suggests that the popularity of the iPad has not impacted Apple's desktop computer business. The company's net income rose 78% in the second quarter, and stock price, despite recent volatility, was up about 50% compared with one year ago.

Among Windows-based PC makers, satisfaction with Dell improved 3% to 77, while Acer (Gateway and eMachines) and the HP division of Hewlett-Packard both rose 4% to 77, creating a three-way tie. The aggregate of all smaller PC makers, such as Sony and Toshiba, joined the tie as well (+4%), placing the entire industry well behind leader Apple. Only the Compaq division of Hewlett-Packard was stagnant at the bottom of the industry with an unchanged score of 74.

The report says PC makers overall have benefited from better customer service. Still, customer service for personal computers continues to lag far behind other durables. Owners who had reason to contact customer care or technical help lines were 8% less satisfied than those who had no post-purchase contact with the manufacturer or retailer.

Apple Mice: Lots of Room for Improvement

Blogger Troy Simpson raises a point that has perplexed your editor over the years: Why can't Apple, which pioneered and popularized the computer mouse as an input device, make a decent mouse. Simpson accurately observes that not a single mouse designed in Cupertino, California, has been top class, causing him to wonder how Apple can make a great laptop, MP3 player, desktop computer, tablet, phone, and various other products yet still make such poor mice.

Excellent question. Simpson goes on the review a sorry succession of mice Apple has foisted on us, beginning with the Apple USB "hockey puck" mouse of 1998, although he could have reached back farther than that.

Publisher's note: I have to agree with Simpson and Moore on this one. I have used Macs since 1987, and while Apple had a couple decent ADB mice and one decent USB mouse (the "no button" Apple Pro Mouse), I left them behind long ago for well designed multibutton mice from Kensington, Contour Design, and Logitech. dk

Add an eSATA Port to an Old iMac

Hardmac's Lionel says:

"[T]here . . . exist some mini-PCIe cards which allow the connection of SATA disks, a thing that some of our readers have done in the past in Mac minis. Now a reader of XLR8Yourmac has done the same in an old (2006) iMac, creating an eSATA port."

First USB 3.0 Option for Macs

MacFixIt's Topher Kessler says:

"When Buffalo released a number of USB 3.0 products a about a year ago, there was some confusion over whether or not the included USB 3.0 PCI-express card would work in Macs....

"Unfortunately the card supplied by Buffalo did not work in OS X, though users could boot to Windows installations in Boot Camp to utilize the hardware for USB 3.0 performance.

"A couple of weeks ago electronics developer CalDigit made a similar announcement, releasing a new AV Drive with USB 3.0 support (see press release below). Along with the drive, CalDigit includes a card for supplying desktop computers with USB 3.0 ports [and] the new card from CalDigit comes with support for OS X, so if you have a Mac Pro you can get USB 3.0 connectivity on it."

Products & Services

CalDigit SuperSpeed PCI Express Card First to Offer USB 3.0 Connectivity to Mac Pro

CalDigit SuperSpeed USB 3.0 PCI Express CardPR: Designed for use with CalDigit certified devices, the CalDigit SuperSpeed PCI Express Card is the first to offer USB 3.0 connectivity to both Mac and PCs with an available PCIe slot. For the first time, Mac users can utilize USB 3.0 due to a special driver that has been developed by CalDigit. This 2-port card enables the use of next generation USB technology, capable of speeds up to 5 Gbps.

The SuperSpeed Card is optimized for use with CalDigit certified products, such as the CalDigit AV Drive. The SuperSpeed Express Card is compatible with modern Windows systems. CalDigit does not guarantee USB 3.0 performance on all Macs or when used in conjunction with third party products. The driver has been optimized for CalDigit certified products. The SuperSpeed Express Card is backwards compatible with USB 2.0 (connection to USB 2.0 yields USB 2.0 performance).

CalDigit SuperSpeed USB 3.0 PCI Express Card in Mac ProFeatures:

  • The first and only card that allows USB 3.0 connectivity for the Mac
  • Next generation USB 3.0 capable of 5 Gb/s throughput
  • Supports bus powered peripheral devices
  • USB 3.0 Card is backwards compatible for use with previous USB devices

Tech Specs

  • Interface: PCI Express 2.0
  • Port: 2 USB 3.0 (backwards compatible with USB 2.0/1.1)
  • Max. Data Transfer Rate: 5.0 Gigabits per Second
  • Compatibility: Mac Pro with available x1 (lane) PCIe slot

Min. System Requirements:

  • Intel based Mac Pro or Windows PC with PCI Express x1 (lane) or higher

Dimensions:

  • L x W x T: 80mm (3.2in) x 68.5mm (2.7in) x 1.6mm (0.063in)

Environment:

  • Operating Temperature: 32F ~ 104F
  • Storage Temperature: -4F ~ 140F
  • Operating Humidity: 0% RH ~ 80% RH, non-condensing

In the Box:

  • CalDigit SuperSpeed PCI Express Card
  • USB 3.0 Cable, 3' (1m)
  • Quick Start Card

Software

Nuance Launches Dragon Dictate for Mac

PR: Nuance's new Dragon Speech application for Mac OS X taps the company's new Dragon 11 Engine, allowing Mac users to create content and interact with their favorite applications by voice

There are not a whole lot of choices in dictation applications for the Mac (or the PC for that matter), so the arrival of a new one merits some notice - especially from users who prefer, or are perhaps obliged, to work with speech recognition software.

Dragon Dictate for MacNuance Communications, Inc. unveiled Dragon Dictate for Mac version 2.0, the newest addition to the Dragon family of speech recognition products which includes Dragon NaturallySpeaking for the PC and Dragon Mobile Apps. Dragon Dictate for Mac - the first major desktop product for Mac OS X from the Dragon family following Nuance's acquisition of MacSpeech earlier this year - promises to make it easier than ever to create documents and emails, search the web, navigate the Mac desktop, and interact with popular Mac applications - all by voice.

Dragon Dictate for Mac, version 2.0, improves on the accuracy and performance of MacSpeech Dictate 1.5, leveraging the new Dragon 11 engine, which also powers the recently announced Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 for the PC. Dictate 2.0 offers a more streamlined setup, revamped Mac user interface, and dynamic new voice commands for dictation, editing, navigation and proofreading. Dragon Dictate for Mac also "learns" better than any previous version of Dictate, responds faster to spoken commands and supports Dragon Voice Shortcuts™ for searching the web, email and Mac desktop by voice.

"Recognizing the important opportunity within the Mac community, we set out earlier this year to bring Dragon to the Mac, working closely with our experts from the MacSpeech team, and drawing on our history and proven success with Dragon," says Peter Mahoney, senior vice president and general manager for Dragon at Nuance. "We've maintained the elements of Dictate that are most important to our Mac customers, such as the native Mac interface, and integrated many features of Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 to bring improved accuracy as well as smarter command and control capabilities to this discerning audience of new Dragon customers."

Dragon for PC, Mobile, and Now the Mac

For years, people from all walks of life have used Dragon NaturallySpeaking on the PC to be more productive, save time and capture their ideas at the speed of thought - at home, in the office, the courtroom, the classroom, the exam room, or even on the road. Most recently, with Nuance's Dragon Mobile Apps on the BlackBerry, Apple iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, millions of people now communicate quickly and easily on their mobile devices, simply using speech recognition. Dragon Dictate is the first Mac member of the Dragon desktop family, allowing Mac users to speak their minds to:

  • Turn talk into text - Dragon Dictate for Mac lets users simply speak to produce text. Speak thoughts and watch the words appear on screen, inside almost any Mac application - up to three times faster than typing - with recognition accuracy rate of up to 99 percent, right out of the box.
  • Unlock creativity - Transform ideas into text at the speed of thought with Dragon Dictate for Mac. Users can let their creativity flow from brain to voice to produce emails, blog posts, essays, and more.
  • Work comfortably - With Dragon Dictate, control the Mac in a relaxed, handsfree manner without being tethered to the keyboard. Instead of using a mouse, just speak commands to launch and control applications. Move the cursor or click anywhere on screen, simply by voice.
  • Multitask - Dragon Dictate allows users to tell the Mac what to do, with commands like "Reply To This Message" or "Open Microsoft Word" or "Search Google for Italian restaurants" to work faster and smarter. In addition, it's easy to create custom voice commands that automate complex workflows on the Mac.
  • Work your way - Dragon Dictate for Mac can be customized with a personal vocabulary and voice commands that reflect an individual's work style.

In addition to the powerful voice commands that Dictate already offers for controlling popular Mac applications such as Safari, Mail, iCal and iChat, the new Dragon Dictate 2.0 adds more ways to interact with the Mac by voice:

Dragon Voice Shortcuts for Search - Offers an easy way to search for information, files and content anywhere on your Mac or on the Web by using single voice commands. For example:

"Search Google for hula dancing lessons"
"Search Bing for wedding dress repair"
"Search Yahoo for gondola rentals"
"Search Mail for RSVP"
"Search Mac for history term paper"
  • New Editing Commands - A new suite of commands in Dragon Dictate for Mac makes it easy to edit documents. With commands that are designed to simplify editing, users can select and delete text, insert new text, capitalize text, and more.
  • Proofreading - The new Proofreading commands in Dragon Dictate for Mac take advantage of the powerful Text-to-Speech capabilities built into Mac OS X. Simply dictate text, and ask Dragon Dictate to read it back.
  • Surrounding Punctuation - New commands in Dragon Dictate for Mac enable users to put punctuation around certain words or groups of words, using a simple command, such as:
    • "Put Parentheses Around <text>"
    • "Put Brackets Around <text>"
  • Voice Navigation - Dragon Dictate lets users control the Mac's cursor and mouse actions by voice, giving new options for interacting with their desktop and precise handling of mouse pointer-based tasks. New features include:
    • MouseGrid: Placement of the cursor can be accomplished with MouseGrid commands
    • Mouse Click: Speak a command, with optional <modifiers> that designate one or more keys such as Command, Option, Shift or Caps Lock
    • Mouse Movement: New commands move the mouse pointer by voice
  • Flexible Microphones - Dragon Dictate users who have multiple microphones, such as a wired and wireless headset, can easily switch between microphones within the same voice profile.

Dragon Dictate for Mac is available immediately starting at $199.99 through Nuance's Website as well as its global network of reseller partners, software retailers and professional sales organizations. Existing MacSpeech Dictate customers and Dragon NaturallySpeaking customers can upgrade to Dragon Dictate for Mac starting at $49.99 and $99.99 respectively for a limited time.

System Requirements

Dragon Dictate requires an Intel-based Mac, Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard or greater, 3 GB of available hard drive space, 2 GB of RAM recommended, and an Internet connection for product registration. Dragon Dictate comes complete with a Nuance-approved USB microphone headset.

'Fake' Programmable Browser for OS X

PR: Fake is a new browser for Mac OS X that makes web automation simple. Fake allows you to drag discrete browser actions into a graphical workflow that can be run again and again without human interaction. The Fake Workflows you create can be saved, reopened, and shared.

Inspired by Apple's Automator application, Fake looks like a combination of Safari and Automator that allows you to run (and rerun) "fake" interactions with the Web.

Power Users will love Fake for automating tedious tasks like filling out lengthy forms and capturing screenshots. Developers can use Fake for graphically configuring automated tests for their webapps, including assertions, assertion failure handlers, and error handlers.

All of Fake's automation features are powered by Mac OS X's native scripting tool AppleScript. Which means Fake can be used to incorporate web automation into many other OS X scripting tasks.

Fake's browser component is based on the same open source technology behind the popular Mac OS X Site Specific Browser, Fluid. That means Fake has powerful features developers expect from a modern browser, like Userscript and Userstyle support. Fake's proprietary secret sauce is in its web automation capabilities - the Action Library, and Workflow side pane.

Fake is developed by Todd Ditchendorf of Celestial Teapot Software. You can follow Todd on on Twitter, on FriendFeed, or email him at todd {dot} ditchendorf {at} gmail {dot} com.

Support for Fake is available on the Fake Google Group or via email at support@fakeapp.com.

Todd Ditchendorf used to work for Apple as Dashboard Engineer, developing Dashboard and Dashboard Widgets for Leopard. He currently resides in Mountain View, CA, and can often be found hacking Fake at Philz or Red Rock.

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.5 or later

Fake sells for $29.95. Free (slightly crippled) trial available.

Prepared for DevonThink To Go: DevonThink and DevonNote 2.0.4 Released

PR: DevonTechnologies, LLC has updated all editions of its high-end information manager DevonThink and its intelligent note-taking application DevonNote to version 2.0.4. The new releases of DevonThink and DevonNote have been prepared to work with the upcoming DevonThink To Go for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch as well as with DevonAgent 2.5. DevonThink To Go lets users take their data with them on their device and add new documents on the go.

The new releases of DevonThink and DevonNote have been prepared to work with the upcoming DevonThink To Go for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch as well as with DevonAgent 2.5. DevonThink To Go lets users take their data with them on their device and add new documents on the go.

"We are very excited about the forthcoming release of DevonThink To Go. This important addition to our successful DevonThink product line will enable our users to finally untie their document collections from the bounds of their desktop computers. Students, lawyers, managers, whoever needs to keep their collected knowledge at their fingertips can do so now. Literally" comments Eric Bohnisch-Volkmann, President of DevonTechnologies.

In addition, DevonThink Pro Office 2.0.4 comes with a new 'Import, OCR, and delete' folder action for easy integration of e.g. network scanners, improves the reliability of the built-in text recognition, and heavily improves the integration with DevonAgent 2.5, which is about to be released later this year.

DevonThink Pro and Pro Office 2.0.4 allow the user to add reminders for documents to Hog Bay Software's Task Paper and connect to Third Street Software's Sente 6.0 through an updated smart template. Many other templates, e.g. the Annotation smart template, as well as a number of scripts have been overhauled and improved, too. DevonThink Pro's scripts work again with the most recent version of the popular Firefox web browser.

A new 'Add to DevonThink' service lets users send files, bookmarks, and images to DevonThink conveniently from, e.g., the Finder's contextual menu. Documents that have been indexed but not been imported can now be quickly consolidated into the database. All editions of DevonThink now include and install the latest extensions for Safari 5 and Firefox. In addition, DevonThink Personal inherits DevonThink Pro's 'Install Add-Ons' panel to easily install both browser extensions and PDF services- The send by email and take note functionalities have been completely rewritten for stability, performance, and usability.

"We are continuing our commitment to make DevonThink open to other applications and to the variety of user workflows. From scripts to templates, folder actions, and services we provide as many ways to access the databases as possible" so Eric Bohnisch-Volkmann.

The update adds many other minor improvements, too, and fixes bugs and glitches. This update is recommended for all DevonThink and DevonNote users.

DevonThink Pro and Pro Office 2.0, DevonThink Personal 2.0, and DevonNote 2.0 require Mac OS X 10.5 or later and can be downloaded as free trial versions. DevonThink and DevonNote can be test-driven for free for 150 hours of noncontinuous runtime until they need to be properly licensed.

DevonThink Professional Office sells for US$ 149.95, DevonThink Professional for US$ 79.95, DevonThink Personal for US$ 49.95, and DevonNote for US$ 24.95 in DevonTechnologies' online shop. DevonThink Pro Office and DevonThink Pro are also available with the Internet research agent DevonAgent as bundles.

Users who purchased DevonThink Personal, Pro, Pro Office or DevonNote 1.x on or after July 1, 2008, are eligible for free upgrades. Users who have purchased before the grace period are eligible for attractive upgrade prices. In addition, users of DevonNote now can upgrade to DevonThink for just the price difference.

DevonThink To Go for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch will be available soon on the App Store for an introductory price of $14.99.

More about DevonThink

In today's world, everything is digital. From shopping receipts to important research papers, peoples' lives often fill their hard drives with emails, PDFs, Word documents, multimedia files and more. Questions eventually pop up, like where to store all of this stuff? How to organize these very different file types, and even better, how to find the exact file one is looking for the second one needs it? It's almost as if one needs a second brain just to keep one's digital life straight.

Enter DevonThink: The solution to this digital age conundrum. It is a second brain, the one and only database for all digital files, be they PDFs, emails, Word documents or even multimedia files. Boasting a refined artificial intelligence, DevonThink is exceedingly flexible and adapts to the user's personal needs. And if the files are not digital yet, paper capture support is already built-in (DevonThink Pro Office only.)

Users can use it as their document repository, their filing cabinet, their email archive, or their project organizer; DevonThink can do it all. One can even collect and organize data from the web, enrich it with sound and movie files, and then export the finished product as a website or to an Apple Pages document to print. Or one can copy the content to an iPod! The possibilities are only as limited as the user's imagination.

More about DevonNote

DevonNote helps taking notes and keeping them organized. It keeps ideas, documents, important information, and even web browser bookmarks in one single, accessible place. DevonNote supports the user with professional, easy-to-use features, and helps create structure out of chaos. DevonNote is the most sophisticated notepad application for Mac OS X, and the only one featuring AI (artificial intelligence) technology.

DevonNote was designed with the typical Mac user in mind. It comes with a clean, easy-to-use interface that gives you all the tools you need in a familiar Mac-like package. Even the most complex AI functions are just "buttons", meaning one simple click can send DevonNote into action, digging through all of your data to find a place for your latest note, or to show you all your ideas and concepts that are similar to the one you've just selected.

Of course, creative people don't just 'have thoughts', they often need new 'input', too. DevonNote comes with a complete Safari-based web browser and solid, but flexible, bookmark-managing capabilities. With DevonNote, the user can browse the Web and clip the most important information directly to DevonNote.

More about DevonThink To Go

DevonThink on the Mac keeps documents and snippets organized. But what about when one is away from the desktop? Put your documents into your pocket with DevonThink To Go - the DevonThink and DevonNote companion for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.

Documents synchronized to DevonThink To Go can be browsed, viewed, and searched with the touch of a finger. New text or photo notes can be created on the device, taken pictures can be later converted to searchable PDFs (requires DevonThink Pro Office on the desktop). Documents can be labeled and flagged, e.g. for later review, and the 'read' status makes DevonThink To Go even a simple feed reader for news captured and archived in DevonThink Pro.

DevonThink To Go synchronizes with its Mac counterpart through WiFi. Users select which items to sync by moving or replicating them to a special 'Sync' group available in every database. DevonThink or DevonNote 2.04 or later is required.

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.

We also track iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, iPod classic, iPod nano, and iPod shuffle deals.

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