Mac News Review

How to Get Mountain Lion on Unsupported Macs, Messages Beta Available for OS X Lion, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2012.02.24

Movie poster for The NetYou may not remember the name of the security software that played a huge role in The Net, the 1995 Sandra Bullock thriller, but our own Dan Bashur did, posting a note about it to our Facebook page last weekend. Maybe you've guessed by now - it shares a name with a new OS X 10.8 feature: Gatekeeper.

Instead of providing security against malware, the fictional Gatekeeper instead provides a back door to any computer on which it is installed, as intended by the cyberterrorists behind it. I'm sure that Apple's choice of a name is merely coincidental. I certainly hope it is!

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.

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It's Relatively Easy to Install Mountain Lion on Unsupported Macs

Hardmac's Lionel reports that he's successfully installed OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion on a Core 2 Duo MacBook that is officially unsupported based on Apple's list, using a a procedure similar to the one described by Jamie Cruickshank and used for the Mac Pro 2006.

Lionel cautions that with the lack of drivers for the GMA X3100 graphics processor, there is no accelerated graphics, but he will try to find some workaround, possibly grafting in the driver from Lion, and if that works he'll publish the procedure in detail.

Publisher's note: OS X Daily has a report of Mountain Lion installed on an even older MacBook, one with GMA 950 graphics, along with instructions on how to do it yourself, stating, "Not only does OS X 10.8 run on the old MacBook, it reportedly works very well and with full graphics acceleration." You do need a supported Mac to make this method work. dk

Dropbox: 'A Feature, Not a Product' (but What a Useful Feature!)

Yankee Group blogger Pim Bilderbeek notes that the late Steve Jobs told Drew Houston, founder and CEO of Dropbox, "You're a feature, not a product."

Dropbox was a feature Jobs very much wanted, but Houston turned down his offer, so Apple went on to create iCloud, which Apple positions as a feature. But, says Bilderbeek, "Dropbox is a product for those that want their cloud content synchronized independent of device, operating system and browser vendor."

Editor's note: I am a big Dropbox fan. I can't imagine how I managed without it, and it's become a structurally key element of my workflow, by which I synchronize and access work in progress among my three Mac laptops and my iPad 2. iCloud, not so much, although that's a partly vicarious observation. My iPad will support iCloud, but I've been sticking with OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard on my newest (Late 2008) Intel Mac laptop, and the other two are PowerPC machines running OS X 10.4 Tiger. While iCloud requires OS X 10.7 Lion or iOS 5, Dropbox supports all four devices, including the two ancient but still very useful and serviceable Pismo PowerBooks from 2000, and it works reliably and flawlessly on all four. cm

Publisher's note: I'm in the same boat. My production Macs are a 2002 Power Mac G4 running OS X 10.4 Tiger, a 2001 Power Mac G4 running OS X 10.5 Leopard, and a 2007 Mac mini - my only Intel-based Mac - running OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. Thanks to Dropbox, not only can I sync files on these three Macs, as well as others should I feel the need, but I can also make old freeware and shareware apps and utilities available for download that are otherwise difficult to find. All this for free and with no need to deal with OS X Lion. Even though I can't use Apple's iCloud feature on my Macs, since I have no need for Lion, I can use Dropbox. dk

Mountain Lion Will Be Available Only at the Mac App Store

Mountain LionPocket-Lint's Stuart Miles says Apple has confirmed that OS X Mountain Lion, will be available only via the Mac App Store when it goes on sale this summer.

That means Apple has finally abandoned all forms of hard media to distribute its operating systems and is likely to spell the end of the CD or DVD for software in the future as well. Miles notes that the Mac App Store is now the home for all Apple software, as well as for software from companies such as Adobe and Intuit, and that Apple has confirmed to Pocket-lint that customers were not remotely interested in the USB drive offering, commenting , "It was an interesting test, but it turns out the App Store was just fine for getting the new OS."

The new OS, which has been released as a developer preview, is expected to be available for customers at a yet unspecified date sometime over the summer.

Editor's note: D'ya think the failure of the USB drive Lion installer might have been due to it costing costing twice as much as the download? cm

Messages Beta Available for OS X 10.7.3

MessagesPR: OS X 10.7 Lion users can download Apple's Messages beta and get a taste of what's coming in OS X Mountain Lion. When you install Messages, it replaces iChat. But iChat services will continue to work. And Messages brings iMessage to the Mac, just like on iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch running iOS 5.

Here are the features you can expect with Messages:

  • Send unlimited iMessages to any Mac, iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch running iOS 5.
  • Start an iMessage conversation on your Mac and continue it on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch.
  • Send photos, videos, attachments, contacts, locations, and more.
  • Launch a FaceTime video call and bring the conversation face-to-face.
  • Messages supports iMessage, AIM, Yahoo!, Google Talk, and Jabber accounts.

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.7.3 or later

Messages Beta Will Stop Working When Mountain Lion Launches

The Register's Anna Leach reports that the beta build of Apple's new Messages app for Macs, released as a free download last Thursday, will self-terminate unless you buy Mac OS X Mountain Lion when it comes out in the summer.

"So," Ms. Leach warns, "don't get too used to it if you're not going to upgrade your operating system," noting that a French blogger spotted the beta app's expiration date in the software code of the download:

"Thank you for participating in the Messages Beta program. With the inclusion of Messages in OS X Mountain Lion, the Messages Beta program has ended. To continue using Messages, please visit the Mac App Store and purchase OS X Mountain Lion."

Gatekeeper in OS X Mountain Lion Is Cause for Worry

GatekeeperAppleTell's Patrick Lutz says if you've checked out the new features to be included in OS X Mountain Lion, you know about Gatekeeper, the new security system that prevents users from unintentionally installing malware. This new system basically keeps apps that weren't downloaded from the Mac App Store or an identified developer outside of the App Store from launching unless users change Gatekeeper's default settings to allow them.

Lutz observes that with Gatekeeper, Apple is ramping up emphasis on having OS X apps distributed more within the Mac App Store rather than through outside sources - albeit in the name of security - noting that Apple will be imposing these limitations (and your ability to change them) within System Preferences under Security & Privacy, in which you'll be able to manage all of Gatekeeper's settings.

Users can bypass the Gatekeeper check (for now, at least, as Mountain Lion is only in developer preview and Apple can easily change this), but while Lutz appreciates Apple's efforts to fight against malware in OS X, he wishes they'd take a different approach, contending that telling users that they want them to only go through Apple's approved channels for their software is a pretty scary move that has him a bit worried.

Editor's note: Me too. cm

Security Experts Suspicious of Gatekeeper

The Register's John Leyden notes that security watchers are expressing reservations about whitelisting security that Apple plans to integrate with OS X Mountain Lion this summer with a feature dubbed Gatekeeper that restricts installation of downloaded applications based on their source.

Leyden notes that while that's a laudable aim from a system security perspective, there may be less palatable consequences, notably that Gatekeeper could be a step along the road to making OS X as closed to unapproved developers as iOS is already, making it, ironically, a bit of a Trojan itself in another, more traditional context. To wit, extending the garden wall to surround OS X by stealth.

Leyden cites F-Secure security advisor Sean Sullivan commenting that it's not much of a reach to imagine revoking third-party peripheral drivers in order to "secure" the Apple user experience on Macs, and observing that while Gatekeeper is being touted as offering "More control for you" - "I keep reading it as: more control over you. By 2014, I expect somebody out there will be jailbreaking their Mac."

And apparently Gatekeeper "security" is pretty leaky as well.

The Tools You Need to Repair a Mac mini

Amsys' Russell Harris says that one of the most important day-to-day tasks for Apple Certified Macintosh Technicians (ACMT) is making sure you have the correct tools to carry out repairs at hand. With the vast range of models, knowing what tools to set out for each repair isn't as easy as it sounds. Over the coming weeks, Harris will take brief looks at the list of tools required for Qualified Technicians to repair each Mac model, starting with the Mac mini.

He notes that most of the tools needed are available from most hardware/DIY stores, although a small range are Apple specific tools that can be purchased direct from Apple.

You may find the need for some additional tools, which are optional, but Harris lists the minimum required to do the full range of repairs

Publisher's note: The Mac mini has some very small, easily lost screws. Be sure to keep track of them! dk

Apple Extends Mac App Store Sandboxing Restriction Deadline to June 1

AppleInsider Staff report that Apple yet again extended the deadline for developers to make their applications compliant with the new Mac App Store sandboxing restrictions, moving it back to June 1. The previous deadline was March 1.

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