Mac News Review

'Poor Boy' .mac Alternatives, Mac Pro Ruled in 2006, Apple Closing on HP, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2007.01.05

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

All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

News & Opinion

Apple Updates

Products

iPod Accessories

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

Poor Boy Apple .mac Alternatives

5thirtyone.com's Derek Punsalan says:

"Purchased a new Apple computer lately? Apple recommends supplementing your new purchase with a yearly subscription to their Dot Mac (.Mac) service.

"Touting such conveniences as iWeb publishing (no HTML/CSS knowledge necessary), Photocasting (think personal photo broadcasting), iDisk (access files anywhere at anytime or share files with others), Backup (schedule automatic backups offsite or to external media), Groups (communicate and socialize with others), Mail (desktop & web based email access), and Sync (data & preference syncing between machines) what's not to like? What may not be so enticing for users is the admission cost(s) for such 'conveniences'. $99 for single users and $179 for family (up to 5 members) per year. Still sound enticing enough to subscribe and renew on a yearly basis? It very well may be. Fortunately, for the penny pincher in all of us, similar 'conveniences' can be achieved for a fraction of the cost... Maybe even free.

"Whether or not you can make do without the annual subscription service offered by Apple depends wholly on your willingness to nit-pick through the alternatives. The following article will break-down available solutions based on the specific 'conveniences' you wish to retain while saving a little money in the long run...."

Mac Pro and New iPod nano 'Ruled in 2006'

Newsday's Stephen Williams reports:

"Miniature media players and giant-screen monitors bookend the best in electronics that passed our way in 2006. As usual, everything plugs in, and some of our favorites, like the earphones from JBL, plug in at both ends.

"The end of the year promises to be a major revenue event for consumer electronics companies, with their gadgets once again taking the prize for most-wanted gifts of the holiday season.

"But enough about the future. Here's a look . . . at the best of 2006:"

Two Apple products made the list, coming in at #3 and #4:

Mac Pro

"This Apple PC is a desktop to die for. The ultimate Mac to date, the Mac Pro, is a powerhouse machine driven by a pair of Intel Xeon processors, allowing it to run computations up to twice as fast as the previous Power Mac Quad desktop...."

8 GB iPod nano (Product) Red

"This latest generation iPod junior doesn't sound any better than its predecessor, but the screen is noticeably brighter and seems more impervious to scratching. Still a terrific music portable."

Planned Home Computer Purchases Surge, Apple Closes on HP

InformationWeek's Gregg Keizer reports:

"Although Dell (at 43%) and Hewlett-Packard (13%) were voted the top two brands among likely buyers in December, Apple's 12% was the highest since IBD began tracking it in mid-2003.

"Consumer PC purchase intent is at the highest level since July, according to a monthly index tracked by Investor's Business Daily, and one of the big beneficiaries in the next six month will be Apple Computer.

"The IBD/TIPP Home Computer Purchase Outlook index, which uses a 0-100 scoring system to measure buyer intent, jumped 17% to 23 in December from November. Only July's 23.4 had a higher mark in the last three years, Investor's Business Daily said."

Mac mini 'Carputer' in a Subaru

Mac mini in a SubaruGThing's Sam reports:

"WELCOME DIGG USERS: This is the last of 5 articles about the carputer. It has all the good stuff like pictures of the final install. If you want more background and information, videos of the front end in action, pictures of my car ripped apart, etc. about the installation, check out the first four articles.... If you would like the music from the clip that plays in the video, it's free and you can get it at thepowerless.com....

"Items Used In The Carputer:

  • 7" Lilliput 629GL-10NP Touch Screen - ~$250
  • Subaru WRX Bolt in Kit (Custom Screen Housing) - ~$130
  • Carnetix CNX-P1900 DC-DC Power Regulator - ~$100
  • MacPac Power Cable Kit - ~$25
  • Kenwood 300 Watt 4-Channel amp - ~$??
  • Refurb 1.66 GHz/512/60 GB Intel Mac mini - $530
  • Long VGA Cable - ~$20
  • USB Extender Cable - ~$20
  • Subaru Wiring Harness - ~$20
  • Miscellaneous Wiring, Switches, Fuse Box, Fuse, Female Cigarette Adapter, Mounting equipment, etc. - ~$200
  • GPS Tracking Equipment - ~$50 (+$5 Monthly)
  • Phone: Undecided

"Softwares:

  • AMP Version 1.0 (frontend available in the mp3car.com forums)
  • Bluephone Elite (Bluetooth cellphone calling and answering, etc.)
  • Mac OS X
  • DisplayConfigX (To get OS X to properly work at the Lilliput's native resolution of 800 x 480)"

Low Power Mighty Mouse Coming?

greenthinkers.org reports:

"According to Macsimum News, Apple has been granted a patent for a hybrid low power computer mouse. Basically, this 'green' mouse will use two different mechanisms to track its movement on your desk - an optical tracking sensor and a new feature, an accelerometer...."

Apple Updates

What To Do if Your Intel-based iMac Won't Turn On

A new Apple Knowledge Base article says:

There are some simple troubleshooting steps you should try if your iMac (Early 2006), iMac (Mid 2006), or iMac (Late 2006) - the Intel-based iMacs - won't turn on. Use these steps if:

Your Intel-based iMac computer's display has no picture after you turn it on.

You don't hear any fan or hard disk activity sounds after you turn the computer on.

The computer doesn't seem to have any power when you try to turn it on.

Resolving Startup Issues and Performing Disk Maintenance

A new Apple Knowledge Base article says:

If your computer won't start up normally, you may need to use a disk repair utility to fix the issue. Mac OS X includes two utilities for this - Disk Utility and fsck. You can also use these even when your computer starts just fine but you want to check the disk for possible file system issues. For Mac OS X 10.4.3 or later, check out "About live verification in Mac OS X 10.4.3 or later," below.

Note: If you're using Mac OS X 10.4 or later, you should use Disk Utility instead of fsck, whenever possible.

In some situations, file system errors may prevent your computer from starting up. This can occur after an improper shutdown, forced restart, or power interruption. If your computer shows any of the following symptoms on startup, use a disk repair utility:

  • Your computer partially starts but then displays a command line in a text-only environment. You may see the message, "file system dirty, run fsck." Below it, you'll see what's called a command-line prompt, indicated by a number sign (#), that allows you to type a command. If you see this, you'll need to run fsck from the command line (see "Use fsck," below).
  • Your computer starts but either it won't reach the login screen, or it may reach the login screen but not load the Desktop after you log in. However, you can start up in single-user mode.

If your computer exhibits either of the above issues, here are some things to try to get your computer back to starting up properly again. If you can't find the system discs that came with your computer, see "Use fsck," below.

Topics covered:

  • Try a Safe Boot
  • Try Disk Utility
  • Use fsck
  • About live verification in Mac OS X 10.4.3 or later

Products

Compact, USB Powered DSMobile 600 Scanner Has OS X Support

DSMobile 600 ScannerPR: Pentax Imaging Company has announced the introduction of the Pentax DSmobile 600 scanner. The powerful, compact, lightweight 600-dpi color scanner combines dynamic software with exceptional quality scanning for easy management of documents and photos.

Built for use in the office or on the road, this Pentax DSmobile 600 scanner provides higher resolution and more powerful speed than previous Pentax mobile scanners. The advanced technology sheet-feed scanner and software are specifically designed for compatibility with Windows® XP, 2000, ME and 98SE. A Mac OS X 10.3 or later TWAIN driver will be downloadable from http://www.pentaxtech.com.

Measuring a mere 1.5" in height, 11" long, and weighing just 12 ounces, the DSmobile 600 offers quality scanning when space is an issue. Capable of scanning media as small as a business card and up to 8.5 x 14 inch paper size, the scanner offers high performance with low power consumption and connects to a high-speed USB 2.0 interface yet uses only 2 W of power while scanning. The unique USB power/data interface draws power directly from a PC or Mac and comes with a detachable USB cable.

One touch of a button on the DSmobile 600 will launch a choice of compatible scanning programs allowing users to choose these scanning programs and initiate that program. The DSmobile 600 ship set includes: DSmobile 600 scanner, 6 foot USB cable, carrying bag for scanner protection, installation CD, user manual (printable from the installation CD and also available on the Pentax website), two photo sleeves, two calibration sheets, and an installation guide.

The DSmobile 600 scanner ship set also includes the following windows software:

  • DSmobileSCAN that allows scanned documents to be automatically saved as Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format files.
  • PageManager Version 7, an updated version of the popular software used with the DSmobile USB that allows users to scan and organize digitized files with the ability to view, edit, send, and save files in many formats.
  • TWAIN allows users to control all scanner details and settings. Users may access an array of scanning applications because TWAIN is compatible with any application that uses TWAIN device input.

The DSmobile 600 Scanner will ship in January for $135 through Pentax Reseller channels and online through Pentax Tech.

Gefen's Wireless USB Extender Boasts Full Wireless USB Connectivity

PR: Gefen's new Wireless USB Extender gives you the freedom to move your Mac peripherals around while retaining high-speed USB capability. This means your keyboard/mouse, scanner, printer, hard drive, digital camera, and iPod can all remain connected to the computer from up to 60' in distance (line of sight) with no connection cables required. Distances up to 30' are guaranteed through one wall.

Computer access is immediate with data transfer rates up to 400 Mbps. Pictures can be downloaded, documents printed, and computer data accessed instantly from any USB device. Both high and low speed USB (1.0 and 2.0) peripherals are supported on cross-platform computers for unbeatable compatibility.

The Gefen Wireless USB Extender operates through a small sender dongle that connects to the computer's USB port, and a four-port USB Hub positioned at the remote location. The Hub is plug and play in application, meaning you simply connect up to four USB devices to the hub's four inputs for instant access.

Based on ultra-wideband wireless technology from Wisair that operates in the 3.5 GHz range, Gefen's Wireless USB Extender is expected to begin shipping in January with a MSRP of $249.

Gefen is also making available a Wireless Component Audio Extender and a Wireless for HDMI Extender, expected in the first quarter of 2007. Check www.gefen.com for updated product information.

Gefen helps Mac pros and consumers get the most out of their systems with high quality add-on solutions designed to deliver the very best in digital video. Gefen's switchers, extenders, converters, scalers, and splitters enable the most streamlined and effective system integration possibilities available today. Top-notch performance and reliability have long added to Gefen's recognition as an innovative connectivity supplier for all types of audio/video systems, with the emphasis on Apple computers and high quality digital displays. Additional information may be found online.

RadTech Releases Tiny DriveMate External Drives

DriveMatePR: Rugged, portable, and compact 1" hard drive based data storage module combines compact size and multilayer hardware protection with ultra-fast data transfer speeds. DriveMate provides security conscious users with high-performance, compact and attractive solutions for their secure, portable data storage requirements.

DriveMateDriveMate compact data storage modules provide the ultimate physical protection and security for your valuable data. Protection starts with DriveMate's compact, tough and lightweight form-factor. The internally gusseted enclosure features a HDD shock-chamber to provide exceptional drop protection and physical crush resistance. A captive USB cable neatly stows inside DriveMate's housing and provides versatile connection options.

Each DriveMate module features a generous 2.0 gigabytes (GB) of data storage capacity, and is available with 64-bit patented Enova X-Wall hardware encryption technology - the most effective way to secure your valuable and sensitive information. A low profile write-protect switch prevents inadvertent data transfer when required.

DriveMate also includes OnSync - A Mac/PC compatible backup and synchronization application which combines scheduled sync and smart backup capabilities. OnSync sports a user-friendly and intuitive interface, detailed analysis of files to be synchronized and error-proof confirmation dialogs to prevent unintentional overwrites and duplicate file changes or deletions. When quality and dependability count, DriveMate delivers - don't trust your data to anything less.

DriveMateFeatures:

  • Rugged protection and security with blazing hi-speed USB 2.0 data transfer performance.*
  • Compact and lightweight enclosure provides exceptional drop and impact protection.
  • Integrated USB cable stows inside housing and provides versatile connection options.
  • Low-profile USB connector and flexible cable won't block adjacent ports on computer.
  • Available 64-bit hardware encryption ensures that your data is safe and protected.
  • Low profile write-protect switch prevents secondary users from writing to module.
  • Includes OnSync - synchronization and data backup utility for Mac and PC
  • Perfectly sized module fits easily into pocket, purse or luggage.
  • Formats easily as Mac, Unix, or MS-DOS volume(s).

* Backward compatible with USB 1.1

Encrypted Hard Drives Available with 64-bit Hardware-Based Encryption

Infinitely more secure than software or biometric-based encryption. The Enova X-Wall engine provides real-time, hardware-based encryption and decryption.

X-Wall shuttles encrypted data as fast as the installed HDD reads and writes.

Unlike easily circumvented and platform dependent software or biometric encryption, X-Wall strongly encrypts every bit and byte on the drive, including the directory. The included secure key must be present to mount the drive. Without the key, the drive and its data are rendered useless and unreadable.

Two keys are included with each DriveMate, additional keys available for purchase on request.

Enova's X-Wall technology provides the world's most secure method to encrypt digital data:

  • Hardware key must be present at drive mount time - after drive mounts, the key can be removed
  • Attempts to crack X-Wall receive no 'bingo' answer to key injections, and a mount attempt must follow each try
  • Would require decades or even centuries to crack 64-bit Enova X-Wall hardware encryption
  • 192-bit software or biometric HDD encryption can be readily cracked in hours or days

DriveMate Specs

  • Material: Polystyrene
  • Enclosure Wall Thickness: 1.2mm
  • Dimensions: 76 x 66 x 15mm
  • Weight: Std: 57g Encrypted: 59g
  • Power Source: USB Bus Power
  • Bus Interface: USB 1.1 and/or 2
  • Data Transfer Rates:
    • USB 1.1: ² 12 Mb/s
    • USB 2.0: ² 480 Mb/s

Product of Taiwan

Price: $74.95 - $144.95

Impact 2.5" Secure Hard Drive Enclosure for ATA and SATA Drives

Impact 2.5" Hard Drive EnclosurePR: Impact ruggedized storage enclosures provide the ultimate physical and thermal protection for your valuable data. Protection starts with Impact's tough, yet lightweight heat-dissipating 1mm thick extruded 6075 Aluminum alloy shell. The tubular shell features 2mm thick, full-length stiffening runners, providing exceptional load-bearing capabilities and physical crush resistance.

A full-length bridgeboard features anti-shock damper strips and is suspended within the enclosure by full-length radial Aluminum standoff ribs. An array of self-limiting shoulder screws are provided to prevent stripped screw guides and properly load the shock-absorbing damper strips. This arrangement forms an effective anti-shock chamber, further guarding the HDD and electronics from impact and crush damage.

Self-aligning guide rails and high profile IDE or slim SATA connectors assure hassle-free installation of virtually all 2.5" hard drives. Horizontally stackable or vertically standable via the included rubber-footed base, Impact enclosures deliver the flexibility you need to be productive.

Easy Setup: Installing your hard disk drive into the Impact enclosure is fast and easy.

Each enclosure includes all mounting hardware, data cables for all supported connection busses and world voltage AC power supply. Philips drivers #0 & #1 required (not incl.) to access enclosure and mount HDD.

Features:

  • Maximum physical and thermal protection with top-speed data transfer performance
  • Rugged extruded Aluminum enclosure provides exceptional crush and impact protection
  • Heat dissipating design keeps hard drives running cool - extending their life span
  • Easy HDD installation - all hardware and high-quality connection cables included
  • Stack horizontally, or stand vertically using included stand base
  • Models for ATA (EIDE) and Serial ATA (SATA) hard disk drives
  • FireWire models are fully boot capable for Mac OS 9 and 10
  • Hardware encrypted models (presently ATA only) also available

Impact 2.5" HDD Enclosure Specs:

  • Material: Extruded 6075 Aluminum
  • Enclosure Wall Thickness: 1-2mm
  • Dimensions: 130 x 83 x 23mm
  • Weight: 220-230g w/o HDD
  • Power Source: Bus or Ext 5 VDC Source
  • HDD Supported: ATA-6 or SATA: 2.5" x 9.5mm
  • Bus Interfaces: USB 2.0+ FW400 and/or 800
  • Bus Ports: USB 2.0+ FW400 and/or FW800
  • Data Transfer Rates:
    • USB: ² 480 Mb/s
    • FW: ² 800 Mb/s
  • Power Supply Input: 110-240 VAC 50-60 Hz
  • Power Supply Output: 5 VDC-2A

Product of Taiwan

Price: $54.95 - $89.95

Impact 3.5" Hard Drive Enclosure for ATA and SATA Drives

Impact 3.5" Hard Drive EnclosurePR: Impact ruggedized storage enclosures provide the ultimate physical and thermal protection for your valuable data. Protection starts with Impact's tough, yet lightweight heat-dissipating 1.5mm thick extruded 6075 Aluminum alloy shell - highly efficient convection cooled interior negates the need for a distracting cooling fan.

The tubular shell features 3mm thick, full-length stiffening runners, providing exceptional load-bearing capabilities and physical crush resistance.

A full-length bridgeboard features anti-shock damper strips and is suspended within the enclosure by full-length radial Aluminum standoff ribs. An array of self-limiting HDD-mounting shoulder screws are suspended within the bores of 4 resilient grommets. This arrangement forms an effective anti-shock chamber, further guarding the HDD and electronics from impact and crush damage.

Self-aligning guide rails assure hassle-free installation of virtually all ATA-6 or SATA 3.5" hard drives. Horizontally stackable or vertically standable via the included rubber-footed base, Impact enclosures deliver the flexibility you need to be productive.

Easy Setup: Installing your Hard Disk Drive into the Impact enclosure is fast and easy.

Each enclosure includes all mounting hardware, data cables for all supported connection busses and world voltage AC power supply. Philips drivers #0 and #1 required (not incl.) to access enclosure and mount HDD.

Features:

  • Maximum physical and thermal protection with top-speed data transfer performance
  • Rugged extruded Aluminum enclosure provides exceptional crush and impact protection
  • Heat dissipating design keeps hard drives running cool - extending their life span
  • Easy HDD installation - all hardware and high-quality connection cables included
  • Stack horizontally, or stand vertically using included stand base
  • Models for ATA (EIDE) and Serial ATA (SATA) hard disk drives
  • FireWire models are fully boot capable for Mac OS 9 and 10
  • Front panel-mounted status LED provides positive visual feedback
  • Encrypted models (presently ATA only) are also available

Impact 3.5i" HDD Enclosure Specs

  • Material: Extruded 6075 Aluminum
  • Enclosure Wall Thickness: 1.5-3mm
  • Dimensions: 222 x 134 x 43mm
  • Weight: 810g w/o HDD
  • Power Source: Ext 12 VDC Source
  • HDD Supported: ATA-6 or SATA 3.5"
  • Interfaces: USB 2.0+ FW400/800 + eSATA
  • Ports: USB 2.0+ FW400 or 800 and/or eSATA
  • Data Transfer Rates:
    • USB: ² 12 Mb/s
    • FW: ² 800 Mb/s
    • eSATA: ² 3 Gb/s
  • Power Supply Input: 110-240 VAC 50-60 Hz
  • Power Supply Output: 12 VDC-3A

Product of Taiwan

Price: $64.95 - $107.95

Software

Docx Converter Fixes Major Bug

PR: In Office 2007 Microsoft introduced a new file format called the Microsoft Open Office XML Format (.docx). This format is not compatible with older versions of Microsoft Word or with alternative operating systems like Linux or Mac OS X. Nor is it compatible with other word processing applications like OpenOffice, Lotus 1-2-3, or NeoOffice.

The Docx-converter Dashboard Widget allows you to convert files right from your Desktop. Simply drag the .docx file you want to convert into the drop area of the widget (click to drag, push F12, drop) and the widget will automatically convert the file and save it to the location of the original file (with a .htm extension) and (optionally) open it in your web browser. Best of all, any updates or feature additions to the website will automatically be reflected in the widget!

New in this Version

  • Fixes a major bug where Paths or Filenames with spaces wouldn't convert.

System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.4 or later

Freeware

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