Mac News Review

Apple Refurbs a Great Deal, iOSificiation a Fundamental Shift for Apple, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2012.02.03

Mac notebook and other portable computing is covered in The 'Book Review. iPad, iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV news is covered in iOS News Review. All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

News & Opinion

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News & Opinion

Shopping for an Apple Product? Choose Refurbished Every Time

Cnet's Rick Broida says that when it comes to Apple products, he can see no reason to choose anything but Apple Certified refurbs- an affirmation made not as gushing Apple fanboy, but as someone who thinks most Apple hardware is overpriced. Broida sees refurbs as a rare opportunity to get it for less.

Broida notes that the Apple store's refurbished iPad section offers the 16 GB iPad 2 WiFi for $419 shipped - a full $80 less than what you'd pay for a new one. A refurbished 32 GB iPad 2 WiFi is $499.

You can get a Core 2 Duo MacBook Air for as little as $699. A 13" refurbished MacBook Air can be had for $899 - $300 less than new, while a refurbished 15" MacBook Pro is $540 less.

What's the catch? What do you give up by opting for refurbished Apple gear?

"Nothing," says Broida, noting that Apple's refurbs come with a new outer shell and new battery, meaning you get same-as-new appearance and performance. You also get the same one-year warranty Apple extends to new hardware. There is literally no downside unless you count the small cosmetic difference of refurbs shipping in nondescript cardboard boxes rather then the fancy white ones new Apple gear comes in.

Broida thinks the Apple Store's refurbished section is the only logical place to start your shopping, noting that he's purchased refurbished iPhones, iPods, and iPads, and every one of them arrived in perfect, like-new condition.

Publisher's note: My experience has been the same with three eMacs, far better luck than I've had with refurbished Kodak digital cameras and photo printers, for instance, which I would never buy again even if Kodak survives bankruptcy. dk

iOSification Is a Fundamental Shift of Strategy for Apple

MacStories' Federico Viticci says that looking at his Mac's OS X 10.7 Lion screen, he can count dozens of iOS-inspired elements now coexisting with old school Aqua interfaces and controls, and contends that the iOSification of OS X goes far beyond simply converting graphics and updating apps from one platform to another. It is actually more a conversion of the entire Apple ecosystem to an iOS-inspired system of graphical elements, user interactions, business models, user experience paradigms, and functionalities - a fundamental shift of strategy.

He notes that in Lion, the user's Library directory is no longer visible by default, eliminating an important piece of filesystem from the default configuration of the OS, and that Mac developers will soon be forced to implement sandboxing, which limits the access a third-party app has to the filesystem. Viticci maintains that very soon, almost every aspect of Apple's operations will be iOS-inspired or iOS-unified, like it or not.

Worldwide, 21% of IT Workers Use Apple Products for Work

Forrester Research's Frank Gillett in a blog post says if you've been noticing more and more Apple products in public spaces and workspaces over the last few years, it's not just Apple consciousness on your part. Gillett says that research data reveal that 21% of information workers are using one or more Apple products for work, with almost half of enterprises of 1,000 employees or more issuing Macs to at least some employees and planning a 52% increase in the number of Macs they issue in 2012.

Gillett reports that Forrester decided to quantify the presence of Apple products in the workplace by asking over 3,300 IT decision makers in their annual Forrsights surveys what they were buying and supporting, but that doesn't capture the growing phenomenon of consumerization, where the employees are using personally owned technology for work purposes, whether at home or at work. Indeed, he reports, that's exactly what some of the CTOs were doing - bringing their personal gear to work and figuring out what they could do to make it work, often with little or no formal IT support.

Consequently, Gillett says Forrester also asked 10,000 information workers what products they use to get work done, at work and at home, and has posted in his blog two portions of graphics from the firm's "Apple Infiltrates the Enterprise report".

Takeaway Highlights

  • Managers and execs are more than twice as likely to use Apple products.
  • Younger info workers are twice as likely to use Apple products as older ones.
  • Higher income workers are more likely to use Apple products - about that latter point, Gillett says use of Apple products is actually pretty strong right down the income scale, with most of the sample of 10,000 global info workers earning less than $50k, and an adoption rate of Apple products of almost 17% even in the bottom quartile of workers who make less than $12k per year.
  • Info workers in countries outside North America and Europe are more likely to use Apple products for work.

Apple Storms Past HP to Lead Global PC Market

PR: Canalys has announced that Apple, after reporting stellar results, became the leading worldwide client PC vendor in Q4 2011. Apple shipped over 15 million iPads and five million Macs, representing 17% of the total 120 million client PCs shipped globally in Q4. Overall, the total client PC market, including desktops, netbooks, notebooks, and pads grew 16% year-on-year. Excluding pads, the client PC market declined 0.4%. The floods in Thailand, that impacted hard drive assembly plants, caused mild disruption to shipments during the quarter, but the side effects are likely to be felt in the first half of 2012.

Among the other top five PC vendors, only Lenovo managed to increase its market share, by a relatively modest two points, compared to Apple's six-point gain over the same quarter a year ago. Acer, Dell and HP - the hardest hit - all lost market share. Now the second largest client PC vendor worldwide, HP will struggle to compete with Apple following the end of its Touchpad.

"Currently, HP is pursuing a Windows strategy for its pad portfolio, producing enterprise-focused products, such as the recently launched Slate 2, until the launch of Windows 8," says Canalys Analyst Tim Coulling. "However, questions remain over Microsoft's entry into the consumer pad space. While early demonstrations of the Window 8 operating system seem promising, Microsoft must focus its efforts on creating an intuitive user experience that is far less resource intensive."

Lenovo continued to close the gap on HP, thanks to successful investment outside of core markets. The acquisition of Medion in Germany helped Lenovo double its shipments in Western Europe during the second half of 2011. The vendors decision to use Android for enterprise and consumer pads gives it a better opportunity than HP to continue gaining market share.

Dell placed fourth among the top five PC vendors, followed by Acer. Acer's shipments continued to decline, as a result of the pad's impact on the netbook market. Acer did, however, make headlines at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show in January, when it revealed its S5 Ultrabook. Unsurprisingly, Acer and other vendors have been quick to announce their support for the new Ultrabook form factor, with the view of driving innovation and renewed customer interest in notebooks.

"We expect Ultrabook volumes to see limited adoption through the first half of 2012, before finally gaining momentum later in the year as price points decline and Intel launches a new line of processors and embarks on an aggressive marketing campaign," says Canalys Research Analyst Michael Kauh. "In the short term though, vendors will experience more pressure in the netbook and notebook segments, especially with Apple's annual iPad refresh approaching.

Pads accounted for 22% of total PC shipments during Q4 2011. In addition to Apple's strong performance, the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet by Barnes and Noble boosted volumes in the U.S. market, allowing both vendors to claim spots among the top five worldwide pad makers, in second and fifth place respectively."

All regions grew year-on-year with the inclusion of pads. Excluding pads, however, shipments in Europe, Middle East and Africa and North America declined, due to weaker consumer demand in Western Europe and the United States, despite the traditional Q4 sales periods. Vendors and channel partners took a cautious approach to inventory levels in Q4, as many had expected a slow quarter. Notebook volumes grew slightly, at approximately 1% in these regions, but continued their impressive rise in Asia Pacific and Latin America, as more consumers embraced mobile computing.

"The consumerization of IT continues to be a significant disruptive force in the PC industry, but many of the leading vendors have failed to capitalize on the trend to date," says Coulling. "This year will be a pivotal year for those vendors that were slow to launch pads. It is not just the product that they need to get right, business models are equally important - driving revenues from content delivery can help vendors reach lower price points in a market that is incredibly price sensitive."

Products & Services

Eco-Friendly Battery-Free BlueEye Mouse

Genius DX-ECO BlueEye MousePR: Genius, a Taiwan-based maker of computer peripherals, has announced what it claims is the world's first battery-free wireless mouse that is recharged within minutes - DX-ECO BlueEye Mouse.

Your editor is a big fan of the Logitech Solar Keyboard for Mac that's been my main input device for the past six months or so, and this Genius mouse sounds like an ideal companion device.

Genius DX-ECO BlueEye MouseGenius says the BlueEye DX-ECO's battery-free design has built-in a gold capacitor to expand recharge life up to 100,000 times, and it can be ready for a full day's use after only a three-minute charge. The Genius BlueEye technology lets you work virtually anywhere, connecting to you Mac or PC via bi-directional 2.4 GHz RF from up to 15 meters (about 50'), and anti-interference technology ensures working smoothness. Also supported is hot key 4-way scrolling, access to Previous/Next Page, Flying Scroll, and dpi adjust between 800 and 1600 dpi. The DX-ECO's tiny super mini USB pico receiver can be stored inside the DX-ECO.

DX-ECO Features

  • 2.4 GHz 7-button Battery-free mouse
  • 1600 dpi BlueEye engine
  • Flying scroll to hyper scroll document browsing
  • Works on dusted glass, marble, thick carpet, sofa upholstery
  • Ergonomic design with rubber comfort on thumb grip

The DX-ECO's suggested retail price will be $39.99, and it should be available at major resellers in the USA & Canada soon.


Free Alternatives to 15 Mac Apps

AppStorm's Henry Bennett notes that while there's a huge range of paid OS X software out there, more often than not there is also some form of free alternative, and he outlines 15 great free pieces of software that achieve much the same purpose as a popular commercial software application, although the latter are usually going to do the job better, look nicer, or have more features than any free app.

For example, he notes that while Photoshop is without question a brilliant piece of software, it costs a whopping $700, and freeware image editor Seashore might be perfect for most people looking for a general photo editing application on a tight budget. Seashore supports layers, alpha channels, and has a decent tool set, image editing controls likes contrast and hue sliders, and so forth.

The 15 apps profiled are:

  • Photoshop alternative: Seashore (requires OS X 10.4.11 or newer)
  • AppZapper alternative: AppCleaner (OS X 10.4)
  • Parallels/Fusion alternative: VirtualBox (Intel only)
  • Linkinus (IRC) alternative: Colloquy (OS X 10.4, earlier version supports 10.3)
  • Transmit alternative: Cyberduck (OS X 10.5, earlier version supports 10.4)
  • Concentrate alternative: Isolator (OS X 10.4 and 10.5/10.6 versions, 10.7 in beta)
  • InDesign alternative: Scribus (OS X 10.5, Intel)
  • Pages alternative: OpenOffice (system requirements not posted, but PowerPC compatible)
  • CoverScout alternative: Album Artwork Assistant (OS X 10.6)
  • CoverSutra alternative: Bowtie (OS X 10.6)
  • MainMenu alternative: IceClean (OS X 10.5, separate PowerPC and Intel versions)
  • DaisyDisk (monitor disk space used) alternative: DiskWave (OS X 10.5)
  • Illustrator (drawing) alternative: Inkscape (OS X 10.6)
  • TextMate/TextEdit (text editor) alternative: TextWrangler (OS X 10.5, earlier version supports 10.4))
  • Coda (web development) alternative: Aptana Studio (OS X 10.5, Intel)

All excellent suggestions, although your editor leans toward LibreOffice as opposed to OpenOffice.

Publisher's note: We have included Mac OS and hardware requirements where we can find them. It's nice to see so many of these freeware app still supporting OS X 10.4 Tiger and PowerPC. I want to also mention NeoOffice, a port of OpenOffice/LibreOffice specifically optimized for Mac OS X. dk

DashExpander vs. xType: Which Free Expander is Better?

AppStorm's Joshua Johnson says:

"As a writer, one utility that I simply cant live without is some sort of text expansion app. These tools are simply invaluable to my workflow and save me hours of typing every month. I personally am a huge fan of TextExpander ($34.99 at the Mac App Store). Its my go to text expansion app and it simply blows away the competition. I wouldn't dream of switching.

"That being said, I realize that not everyone can justify dropping $35 for a snippet expander. Newbies to this specific app genre might want to cut their teeth on a free app, so today were going to compare two such apps from the Mac App Store: xType (formerly Presto) and DashExpander. How are these two apps different? Which is the best for your needs? Read on to find out."

Tex-Edit Plus 4.9.11 Released

PR: Trans-Tex Software's Tex-Edit Plus X 4.9.11 is a scriptable, styled text editor ASCII text editor that fills the gap between a Apple's bare-bones TextEdit and a full-featured word processor. It's fast, efficient, and has a clean, uncluttered interface, and is also great for cleaning up text transmitted over the Internet. Tex-Edit Plus can read and write RTF documents and support pictures in common formats (TIFF, JPEG, GIF, PICT, PSD)

Another Tex-Edit Plus specialty is it's integrated support for AppleScript - Apple's wonderful, Mac-only technology that allows ordinary people to create automated shortcuts with minimal effort. Doug Adams maintains the official AppleScripts for Tex-Edit Archives, filled with scripts for download, hints, tips, examples, and step-by-step instructions for those of you interested in saving time, impressing the boss, and avoiding repetitive stress injuries.

Tex-Edit Plus also supports Apple's new Automator, which has been drastically enhanced for OS X 10.7 Lion. With 36 custom Automator actions and unrivaled AppleScript recordability, Tex-Edit allows you to create custom scripts and workflows with the push of a button. Of course, if your time is of little or no value, please feel free to ignore AppleScript and Automator.

Natural-sounding OS X voices are now available. If you use Tex-Edit's speech facilities to proofread documents (or if you want to find out what Eliza really thinks about you), check out the high quality voices produced by Cepstral. The Version 5.2 voices, including the new Callie voice, are extremely cool.

New in version Version 4.9.11

  • Fixed an important bug involving the "Check for New Version" command. (It now correctly downloads the most recent release version of Tex-Edit Plus.)
  • The "Speak Text" button in the Tools panel reads only the selected text. If no text is selected, the entire document is read.
  • The "Check Spelling" button in the Tools panel checks the spelling of only the selected text. If no text is selected, the entire document is spell-checked.
  • Fixed bug noted when speaking text aloud using high quality Lion voices. HQ Lion voices choke on traditional Mac high ASCII characters (e.g. "smart quotes").
  • New preferences file format. (Note that all Preferences settings will reset to default values the first time this new version is launched.)
  • Tools panel now preserves find string, replace string, and checkbox values between launches and prefs dialog reset.
  • Tools panel find & replace functions now operate independently from values in main "Find & Replace" dialog.
  • Added "Open Scripts folder" and "Open Script Tools folder" buttons to Script Tools panel.
  • Added "Duplicate Document" and "Duplicate Selection" scripts.
  • Minor improvements to Tools panel interface.
  • Minor improvements to Script Tools panel interface.
  • Both panels are displayed by default.
  • The "Shift Left" and "Shift Right" functions now honor the "Preferences->Tabs->Tab keypress will insert x spaces" setting. (For example, if this pref is selected with 5 spaces per tab, then Shift Right will insert 5 spaces instead of a tab at the beginning of each paragraph.)
  • Improved behavior of "save" command, to minimize appearance of the "save as" warning when editing nonnative text files (e.g. html).
  • Updated Automator actions so they function properly on 10.7 (Lion).
  • Will now run on G3 or newer and MacOS 10.4 or newer. (Recompiled to accommodate older G3/10.4 systems.)
  • Fixed font size bug noted when printing page numbers.
  • Fixed bug in text clipping file name.
  • Fixed bug in "uniform styles" AppleScript property.
  • Fixed bug noted when creating RTF files that contain pictures. The pictures are now drawn correctly in other word processors (e.g. Word).

Tex-Edit Plus is $15 shareware and is not locked, crippled, time-limited, or ad-infested.

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