Mac News Review

Mac Attack Begins, Xserve Xeon Impresses, Apple Tops in Reliability, Core 2 Quad, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2006.10.20

The final piece in Apple's Intel transition is in place, the Xserve Xeon. InfoWorld's Tom Yager finds it a marvelously well designed piece of hardware. Next up: quad-core Mac Pro and Xserve models?

Macs are on the grow at Princeton and among the general computer using public, and Apple is top rated for reliability. And D-Link has a $38 USB adapter that can add Bluetooth to any Mac with a USB port and OS X 10.2 or later.

PowerBook, iBook, MacBook, and other portable computing is covered in The 'Book Review.

All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

News & Opinion

Reviews

Products

iPod Accessories

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

Poll Shows Mac Attack Beginning

Investor's Business Daily's Patrick Seitz reports:

"Apple Computer is poised to grab more converts to its Macintosh computers this holiday season, according to a new survey.

"The new Mac buyers are driven as much by Apple's decision to switch to Intel processors as they are from the halo effect associated with the company's much-loved iPod portable music players.

"In its latest survey, ChangeWave Research found a large and growing pool of consumers who say they're more likely to buy one of the new Intel-based Macs.

"The survey of 3,046 members of the ChangeWave Alliance shows that 37% say they're more likely to buy an Apple computer because of the Intel chips. That's nearly double the 19% found in a June 2005 survey, taken just after Apple said it was switching to Intel chips for its Mac computers. It had used chips made by IBM and Freescale Semiconductor.

"Members of the ChangeWave panel tend to be more tech savvy than average consumers. The group is made up of 9,000 business, technology and medical professionals who are working on the front line of technological change."

Princeton Students Are Mac-in' It

The Daily Princetonian's Doug Eshleman reports:

"Though PCs are still used most, in recent years, Mac has increased its popularity by appealing to students with hip new designs and software.

"Dude, you're getting a Dell! Well . . . maybe not any more. According to the Office of Information Technology (OIT), 45 percent of computers purchased this year were Macs, more than in any previous year. In 2003, when this year's seniors arrived on campus, just 15 percent of them chose Macs. The next year, a quarter of incoming freshmen did, and the year after that, 38 percent. These statistics aren't comprehensive, because some students choose not to buy their computers through OIT. Nonetheless, the upward trend is real. Macs are where it's at."

Xserve Xeon 'Built to Fall Apart'

InfoWorld's Tom Yager reports:

"A couple of weeks ago, Apple invited me to its campus to get a close-up look at Apple's Xserve Xeon. It is a marvel of physical design, so much so that I find that it implausible that Xserve Xeon and Xserve G5 could have been designed by the same company. Xserve G5 was pretty tight, but Xserve Xeon makes its predecessor, not to mention ever PC 1U rack server I've seen, look slapped together.

"I was struck by how perfectly Xserve Xeon was designed, and in particular by how easily it comes apart. I have high standards in this regard. I told a friend that I will only buy or recommend servers that I can install, remove, disassemble and repair with one hand, a TSA-approved butter knife and no instructions. While others are marveling over the blue LEDs on the front panel (which, yes, now reflect the load of four cores), I'm looking for blobby spot welds and for paper-thin steel that's been bent into a U to grip a cooling fan (once). I look for hacks done to make a server interior "tool-less," such as levers hooked to long rods hooked to blades that work as embedded pry bars. In that well thought-out design, the tool-lessly removable part is exactly where it would be in, and uses exactly the same type of connector as, a tool-fully serviceable server. A sexy server assembled with a welder, a metal brake and a torque wrench is like a sports car that drives perfectly well, but which requires a pneumatic nut driver to open the door."

Last to the Intel Party, the Xserve Is Set for a Fashionably Late Arrival

Ars Technica's Michael Biven reports:

"Early August, Apple announced their new Intel-based Xserves running two dual-core Xeon processors and up to 32 GB of memory. That's a quad 64-bit server with twice the memory and triple the bandwidth of the previous Xserve G5. Ever since later that month, you haven't been able to purchase an Xserve directly from Apple and while the new systems are due this month, there is still no word on when they will be shipping. 'The chassis was designed first, and the logic boards were designed to fit it. What a concept.' Tom Yager."

IBM/Lenovo, Apple Top Reliability Ratings

The Register's Tony Smith reports:

"Who makes the most reliable computers? Lenovo, closely followed by Apple, if you believe online service and support company Rescuecom's latest reliability audit, derived from more than 20,000 calls made by the firm's customers during the second quarter this year.

"Rescuecom assigned a reliability rating to computer vendors. Lenovo, in its guise as provider of IBM desktops and notebooks, scored 243. Apple attained 201. Third-placed HP/Compaq scored a mere 12. Dell's rating was 4, Gateway -12 and all the rest together scored -16....

"Apple, for instance, has a quoted US market share of 4.02 per cent but accounted for only two per cent of Rescuecom support calls."

Intel Quad-core Chips Going for Top Dollar

The Register's Tony Smith reports:

"So how much are Intel's upcoming quad-core processors going to set you back? Top dollar, it seems, according to reports coming out of Taiwan citing industry sources who've seen the chip giant's latest roadmap."

Intel Readies Refresh for Core 2 Duo Desktop Line

The Register's Tony Smith reports:

"Intel will next year extend its Core 2 Duo desktop processor line, rolling out four CPUs in the Q2 2007 timeframe, three with support for the 1,333 MHz frontside bus speed due to be introduced with the 'Bearlake' chipset series, it has been claimed."

Reviews

Mac Pro 'a Worthy Successor' to Power Mac G5

PC Magazine says:

"Mac-using professionals who've been holding their breath for 9 months can finally exhale. The new Intel Xeon-powered Apple Mac Pro is a worthy successor to the Power Mac G5 and its variants."

8 GB iPod nano Reviewed

PC Magazine's Mike Kobrin reports:

"Amid all the hooplah at Apple's September 12 press event, the company released the second generation of its wildly popular iPod nano. Thanks to its new anodized aluminum casing, the new model looks much like the now-defunct iPod mini, but much, much slimmer. Improvements over the first-gen nano include a brighter screen, longer battery life, and my personal favorite-gapless playback. The 2 GB model comes in silver only while the 4 GB model comes in silver, green, blue, or pink. And the 8 GB model comes in black only (the 1 GB model has been dropped). This revamped nano still lacks an FM tuner, a voice recorder, and video playback, so other premium flash players such as the popular SanDisk Sansa e200 series still have the iPod trumped on features. But then, the Sansa e200 doesn't do gapless, support lossless compression, or support Audible audio books. And the nano synchs with your Microsoft Outlook (2003 or later) contacts.

"One major difference between this generation of the nano and its predecessor is that the new model has picked up the optional recording capability of its full-size sibling; using an optional microphone adapter from Belkin (and soon others), you can create voice or line-in recordings on the iPod nano. Now that the player comes in an 8 GB capacity, this is a significant new feature. It's a good bet that this will be Apple's most popular iPod yet, and with good reason."

Products

$38 Adapter Adds Bluetooth to USB Macs

PR: D-Link, the industry pioneer in wireless networking, introduces another performance breakthrough in wireless connectivity - the D-Link PersonalAir series of Bluetooth enabled networking products capable of data transfer among devices such as PDAs, printers, cellular phones, computers, and other emerging electronic devices.

D-Link Bluetooth 2.0 USB AdapterThe D-Link PersonalAir DBT-120 USB Bluetooth Adapter is a very compact, low-profile solution based on the Bluetooth 1.1 specification, making it compatible with other Bluetooth enabled devices. The DBT-120 was designed and engineered from the ground up to be compact and portable, making it the perfect solution for notebook computers, but also just as easy to use with a desktop computer.

The DBT-120 features standard 128-bit encryption that provides you with a higher level of security for your data and communication.

The D-Link PersonalAir DBT-120 includes Bluetooth management and connectivity software by WidComm, which enables you to configure and access Bluetooth enabled devices quickly and easily. The Bluetooth software enables your computer to discover and access available Bluetooth services ranging from Internet access to wireless synchronization with your PDA or cellular phone.

System requirements: Compatible with USB 1.1, the DBT-120 supports Windows XP/2000/Me/98SE and Mac OS X 10.2 and installs quickly and easily to a desktop or notebook computer with an available USB port.

Price: $37.77

I/OMagic Expands Line of USB Storage Products with GigaBank

PR: I/OMagic Corporation, a leading provider of data storage products, announced today the launch of the first two products in and 320 GB (1  GB = 1 billion bytes) 3.5" external hard disk drives come in sleek, grey, oval aluminum enclosures, they add-on easily to a personal computer and they hold large amounts of data. Currently the Company is shipping both its GigaBank 250 GB and GigaBank 320 GB to select retailers across North America.

GigaBank"The initial consumer response to the new 3.5" GigaBank products has been so positive that we anticipate adding both 500 GB and 750 GB versions to the lineup in the very near future," said Tony Shahbaz, president and CEO of I/OMagic Corporation. "These are affordably priced hard disk drives that expand the storage capabilities for large amounts of music, data, pictures, or video-clips."

With the growing need for data security, I/OMagic is including with the launch of the GigaBank line of 3.5" external hard drive a "free" copy of their DataBank software, a password-protected method of encrypting and protecting data and files on internal or external hard drives and portable devices that retails for $29.99. DataBank not only adds value for the purchaser, but it uniquely differentiates I/OMagic's GigaBank 3.5" external hard disk drive line from our competition.

The GigaBank 3.5" line of external hard disk drives easily connect to desktops or notebook personal computers (PCs) or a Mac, with a high-speed USB 2.0 connection for optimal performance. The drives come with a USB 2.0 cable to connect the high-speed USB 2.0 port of a computer for a fast maximum transfer rate of up to 480 MB per second; the GigaBank also works with USB 1.1 ports but at slower speeds. I/OMagic's GigaBank line of 3.5" external hard disk drives also include a power adapter.

I/OMagic's GigaBank line of 3.5" external hard disk drives have a one-year warranty; support Windows XP/2000/ME. Introductory MSRP for the GigaBank 250 GB is $149.99 and $179.99 for the GigaBank 320 GB.

A user's total accessible memory/storage/data capacity will be less than stated as a result of the user's operating system and other factors.

I/OMagic is a leading provider of data storage products (such as CD-RW and DVD+/-RW drives, USB Portable Storage Devices, external USB hard drives and floppy drives, including its MediaStation, DataStation, Data To Go and GigaBank™ products). The Company sells products under three brand names - I/OMagic, Hi-Val® and Digital Research Technologies - through nationally recognized computer, consumer electronics and office supply superstores and other retailers.

Danger Phone USB VoIP Handset

Danger PhonePR: MacMice is shipping its new easy-to-use USB VoIP handset, the Danger Phone.

The Danger Phone is a USB VoIP telephone handset that works with Skype, or with any VoIP application that recognizes a standard USB handset. It is plug-and-play compatible with both Mac OS X and Windows XP. The Danger Phone design has been carefully simplified to make operation easy, and to emphasize durability and ruggedness.

Distinguished as much by what it does not have as by what it has, the Danger Phone is the essence of a pure, clean product design.

Doing Only One Thing Very Well

With dozens of VoIP handsets on the market, finding a new direction to go with our product wasn't easy.

Danger PhoneInstead of making our handset look like a "real" telephone, and covering it with gadgetry, a fake display, and flashing lights, we focused on how people actually use a VoIP handset. And, we stripped away the nonsense to deliver pure magic.

Danger PhoneButtons That Work. Parts That Last

Even though it's not really sexy to talk about how our buttons are made to feel great, be easy to press, and to last a long time without the numbers wearing off or the switches failing, we think these are important factors in deciding to buy a VoIP handset. In fact, all of the components used in the Danger Phone are high quality, and are made to make this phone work very well and to last a long, long time. We think for $30, you deserve durability and ease of use.

System requirements: The Danger Phone is a USB VoIP telephone handset that works with Skype, or with any VoIP application that recognizes a standard USB handset. It is plug-and-play compatible with both Mac OS X and Windows XP.

You can download the Mac OS X Danger Phone Utility software at the URL below.

Danger Phone is available online or from any MacMice retailer worldwide for $29.99.

2 Watt Transceiver Delivers Industrial-Strength Wireless

PR: QuickerTek announces a 2,000 milliwatt (2 Watt) Transceiver, expanding QuickerTek's line of Point-to-Point long distance wireless networking systems. The Transceiver is easy to setup and use. At only $599 , this 2 Watt Transceiver is the perfect solution for very, very long distance wireless networks where maximum performance is critical.

2 Watt TransceiverMounted inside or outside, this Transceiver performs equally well. Most often used when wireless must reach across hundreds of yards of line-of-site distances, users have found that building-to-building wireless is easily within reach. Often wireless communications between the broadband wired main office and the separate unwired warehouse is accomplished with the new Transceiver. Wireless between the main residence and a remote building is another application for the 2 Watt Transceiver.

"Transceiver customers should know that when they need the highest possible signal speeds across long distances, then this 2 Watt Transceiver is the only solution. However they should also be aware that while this new Transceiver has very high RF power, it cannot penetrate solid objects such as mountains and hills, several downtown office buildings or other dense obstructions that occlude line-of-sight. It's important to access the environment to create an adequate wireless boosting solution," stated Rick Estes, president, QuickerTek, Inc.

This new Transceiver works with all 802.11/b/g WiFi equipment including Apple AirPort and AirPort Extreme. It works with all AirPort-supported Mac OS versions and requires no software drivers or extra steps each time you want to go online.

Like most QuickerTek products, it's backed with a one-year warranty on parts and labor.

QuickerTek has been a recognized leading innovator of antennas and RF products for Apple Power Macintosh, Mac Pro, iMac PPC and Intel, PowerBook, MacBook and MacBook Pro computers. QuickerTek products can be purchased online and from authorized dealers.

iPod Accessories

New Italian Luxury iPod Cases

PR: Orbino, makers of fine luxury digital cases has announced that it has updated its line of luxury iPod cases to be compatible with the new 5.5 G iPod Video and 2G iPod nano.

Orbino iPod CaseHeralded by GQ as the "Rolex" of carrying cases and by Esquire as "one of the most visually intriguing cases available", the Orbino iPod Case line is being launched in four different luxury colors: black, brown saddle, hand antiqued cognac, and brown crocodile.

The Orbino iPod case is handmade by master craftsmen in Italy and features a variety of high-performance features including:

  • Patented spring loaded clip system which works as a belt clip, desk pedestal, and clip for car cup holders.
  • Work in case design: you never have to take your iPod out of the case. Full access to click wheel and dock connector.
  • Precious metal fixtures: give your iPod the look of fine Italian machinery. Palladium finished belt clip and precious metal scroll wheel frame.

orbshuffbelt.jpg

  • Tight, formfitting contours: respects the elegant contours of the iPod line.
  • Stunning luxury calf skins handcrafted in Italy.

Prices start at US$59 and product can be shipped throughout the world.

The Orbino cases can be purchased Orbino's online store.

Software

Drive Genius 1.5.1 Drive Maintenance and Repair (and More) Utility

PR: Drive Genius is an OS X utility designed to provide unsurpassed hard drive management. Featuring an easy-to-use interface, Drive Genius is packed with powerful tools such as a drive optimizer, a comprehensive repair facility for analyzing, repairing and rebuilding volumes, plus excellent testing capabilities with media surface scanning, performance benchmarking and data integrity checking. It can be used to initialize drives, create and delete partitions, and securely erase the data from volumes/drives per Department of Defense standards. Drive Genius can also hide partitions and duplicate volumes or drives swiftly. Last but not least, Drive Genius features advanced tools for resizing and moving of volumes without reformatting, and sports a sector-editing tool to modify the data on any sector of the drive - powerful features that will satisfy even the seasoned Mac experts.

Emails. Digital pictures. Work files. Music collection. Financial records. Lets face it, your computer has become an important part of your life. As you use your computer, your hard drive becomes bloated with thousands of files, mechanical parts wear and fatigue, your computer begins to operate more slowly, and eventually fails. Your only defense is to carefully monitor and manage your hard drive so you can be sure it is in good health and working at peak efficiency at all times - doing so might mean the difference between your productivity and complete data loss. Thankfully, Drive Genius makes these tedious tasks painless, fast, and easy. From performance tuning, to disaster recovery, Drive Genius provides all the tools needed to take control of your hard drive, and your digital life.

Drive Genius includes essential maintenance tools, effective optimization tools and powerful management tools.

Essential Maintenance Tools

  • Duplicate - Fast and easy volume or entire drive cloning. (click on image below)
  • Integrity Check - Find problems before they find you with these comprehensive hardware verification tests
  • Repair - Quickly fix corruption on OS X volume structures to get your damaged drive up and running fast
  • Rebuild - Rebuild and replace OS X volume structures to regain access to files that have become lost or hidden
  • Verify - Check OS X volume structures for possible corruption
  • Fix Permissions - Reset OS X boot volume permissions to improve application performance and compatibility
  • SMART Status - Read and display SMART diagnostic codes from your hard drive to avoid dangerous hardware failures

Effective Optimization Tools

  • Defragment - Get the most speed and efficiency possible by Optimizing your OS X volumes
  • Bench test - Make sure your hard drive performance is what it should be with comprehensive speed tests and graphical comparisons to other common configurations
  • Surface Scan - Verify your hard drive's reliability with a complete suite of nondestructive read verification tests for any drive or OS X volume
  • Sector Editor - Fine tune all aspects of your system with direct, advanced byte viewing and editing of all data on your drives, volumes and files (for expert users only)

Powerful Management Tools

  • Partition - Add, delete, hide, expand or shrink OS X partitions so you can organize your data more efficiently
  • Shred - Stop prying eyes with DoD compliant (5220.22 - m) secure erase. Removes all traces of data from free space and deleted files on any device or OS X volume
  • Details - In-depth report of specifications and space utilization of all devices and OS X volumes
  • Initialize - Easy, high level OS X formatting to prepare new hard drives for use on your computer

Drive Genius Is optimized for:

  • Mac OS X 10.4.x Tiger
  • Mac OS X 10.3.x Panther
  • Mac OS X 10.2.x Jaguar

New in version 1.2:

  • New OS X 10.4.2 based bootable CD. Supports latest machines.
  • Added support for hard drives formatted with Tiger's Extended with case sensitive formatting.
  • Resolved the issue of not being able to boot the source, destination, and/or both drives after duplicating a Tiger installation.
  • Supports dynamically sized allocation blocks and b-tree nodes.
  • Resolved issue with the image size not matching the size specified by the volume header.
  • Resolved issue with a grayed out resize window under 10.3.4 and 10.3.5
  • Resolved blank Defrag window under 10.3 to 10.3.5
  • Improved error reporting.

New in version Please note, Drive Genius 1.5 (previous release) came on 2 CDs, one for PPC and one for Intel-based Macs. The Intel-based Macs CD is indeed a dual-boot CD (will boot both PPC and Intel-Macs).

Version 1.5.1:

  • Shred operations can now be cancelled.
  • Any file can now be opened in the Sector Editor (either through the File menu or by dropping a file on the Drive Genius Dock icon).
  • Custom icons can be set when adding a new partition.
  • Custom volume icons are also used in place of the generic drive icon everywhere if available.
  • Mount and Unmount progress windows.
  • When booted from a CD, Drive Genius will attempt to read license information from mounted hard drives.
  • Uninstall now offers the option to trash the running Drive Genius application and remove the preference file.
  • If the user attempting to launch Drive Genius is not an admin user, Drive Genius will prompt for an Admin password.
  • Bug Fix: If a volume is renamed in another application while Drive Genius is running, Drive Genius will properly update itself.

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later.

$99 demoware

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