Mac News Review

Apple Tops in Tech Support, Nancy Drew and Her iPod, Opera Mini Takes on the iPhone, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2007.06.22

You can't keep good tech down, whether it's Apple taking top honors in a tech support trial, Nancy Drew and her iPod nano, or Newton owners wanting to sync with OS X Macs.

And it looks like the iPhone has some competition in the Interweb department, as Opera is pushing its mobile browser, Opera Mini, as a browser that works on existing smartphones.

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

All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

News & Opinion

Products

iPod News

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

Apple Aces Super-secret Laptop Magazine Tech Support Trial

Macworld UK's Jonny Evans reports:

"Apple US has excelled once again in Laptop Magazine's annual tech support showdown.

"The title ran a similar test last year, when it secretly put tech support desks to the test.

"This year the magazine approached the support desks at nine major firms, asking two support questions: 'How do I clean up the icons on my desktop' and 'how to I defragment my hard drive'.

"Apple received an 'A' grade in the Web, Phone, and Overall categories to go along with its overall 'A' from last year's test."

Laptop Magazine: Apple 'One of the Best PC Support Sites We've Seen'

Laptop Magazine says:

"All computer vendors have become quite strict about providing tech support only to registered owners during the first year of service. Apple is decidedly different: Free tech support is available for just the first 90 days from the date of provable purchase. On our first call, answered within 30 seconds, Val in Ontario, Canada, told us that based on our serial number the system was manufactured in November 2006, so unless we had a receipt we could fax in, no support could be provided. But she answered our questions anyway as a courtesy, and delivered a perfect solution in a minute.

"Apple's Web support is excellent, and we found the answer to our second question on the site with a simple search. The site's search engine is one of the best PC support sites we've seen.

"Our second call was answered with an automated warning that the estimated wait time was eight minutes or less. Apple stands alone with this helpful phone support feature. John in Ontario picked up in 7.5 minutes and had us off the phone a minute later with the right answer. And like Val, he gave us a pass on the 90-day limit."

Emma Roberts and Nancy Drew Are Big iPod nano Fans

Sixrteen-year-old actress Emma Roberts (daughter of Eric; niece of Julia) and her fictional screen persona Nancy Drew are both big iPod fans.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Daily News' Glenn Whipp, Roberts was asked:

Q: Best gadget in your purse?

A: My black iPod nano. I couldn't go on this tour without it. And, of course, my Blackberry, so I can talk with my friends.

Nancy Drew posterAs for Nancy, while her style-sense id retro-conservative, her crime-fighting toolkit is completely up-to-date, and she carries an iPod, a laptop, and a digital camera. "Her character is essentially the same as she was in the book, but they updated the story around her and it's set in modern times," Roberts told Suite 101,"So she does have her iPod and her digital camera and the Internet and everything."

Several Nancy Drew online contest promotions are offering iPods as prizes.

Warner Bros is hoping to cultivate new generation of Nancy Drew fans with a giveaway.

One grand prize winner will be selected at random to receive a "Nancy Drew" iPod nano (2 GB Silver) and iPod cover, a makeup bag, a "Nancy Drew Guide to Life" mini-book, a clue ball, a notepad, a lipstick pen and pink T-shirt and a CD single of the Rooney single "When Did Your Heart Go Missing" as heard in "Nancy Drew".

In addition, the grand prize winner will receive a Her Interactive "Nancy Drew: The White Wolf of Icicle Creek" PC game, and one set of Papercutz "Nancy Drew" Graphic Novels, volumes 1-9 (subtitles include #1: "The Demon of River Heights," #2: "Writ in Stone," #3: "The Haunted House," #4: "The Girl Who Wasn't There," #5: "The Fake Heir," #6: "Mr. Cheeters is Missing," #7: "The Charmed Bracelet," #8: "Global Warning" and #9: "Ghost In the Machinery")

The contest runs June 8 through June 27. The contest is open to US residents only. For a complete set of contest rules, follow the link below.

MyJellyBean.com is also giving away a Nancy Drew iPod nano in a contest that is open to both US and Canadian residents.

One (1) lucky Grand Prize winner will receive an iPod nano (2 GB) and special Nancy Drew gifts, including makeup, a set of Nancy Drew graphic novels, an interactive CD game, and a cute tee shirt!

Contest is open to US & Canadian residents, ages 13 and older.

You may enter this contest once per day. Contest ends June 30, 2007 @ Midnight EDT.

1 TB 3.5" Hitachi Hard Drive in a Mac Pro

Hardmac's Lionel reports:

"Over the last week-end we have installed a Hitachi 1 TB 3.5" HD in a Mac Pro.

"Installing this drive is of course not an issue, and once formatted the true storage capacity is 931 GB.

"We performed some reading and writing test on this drive from a RAID 0 composed of two Raptors 150 in order to ensure a fast and continuous data flaw rate."

Do You Turn Your Mac Off at Night?

Macsimum News' Dennis Sellers says:

"Do you turn off your Mac at night? I don't; after all, that's when the good gremlins do the under-the-hood maintenance. But, according to a new survey, maybe I should put 'me on a different schedule and power down my Mac.

"According to a survey released this week by 1E (a provider of power management software) and the Alliance to Save Energy (a coalition of businesses, government, environmental and consumer leaders), nearly half of all corporate computers in the US are not regularly switched off at night. This means a conservative estimate of 31.2 million work computers are being left on overnight; wasting energy, spewing carbon emissions into the air, and costing US businesses $1.72 billion to supply power to machines that aren't even in use.

"The folks at 1E and the Alliance to Save Energy say that all these computers being left on overnight are also needlessly pumping 14.4 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. According to recently released PC Energy Awareness report, preventing that amount of CO2 from reaching the atmosphere would have roughly the same impact as taking 2.58 million passenger cars entirely off the road - more cars than exist in the entire state of Maryland (2.48 million cars)."

Editor's note: My four Mac laptops and my wife's PowerBook almost never get shut down, and if they do, it's only momentarily for maintenance or upgrades. However, they are always put to sleep when not in use. Of course, even when sleeping their AC adapters are drawing power from the grid, although not a lot, and to really minimize their power-sucking footprint it would be necessary to unplug the power adapters, which would be tedious, as would waiting for them to boot every morning.

However, back in the days when I worked with desktop machines, I shut them down both at night - and if I was going to be away from the keyboard for more than half an hour or so.

In general, using a notebook for general computing, aside from its many other advantages, is certainly more environmentally responsible, given the high priority that low power consumption is given in notebook engineering. cm

Opera Tries to Out-do the iPhone

The Register's Bill Ray reports:

"Opera has launched a beta of its mobile browser, Opera Mini: version 4 supports smooth zooming around web pages and server-based page optimisation, giving Opera claim to deliver the whole internet ahead of Apple's much-anticipated iPhone....

"Opera has produced a, slightly arrogant, video comparing its product with the iPhone. It highlights cross-phone compatibility and low cost compared to Apple's baby.

"It might seem odd to compare a downloadable web browser to a phone handset, but if the iPhone is being sold on the premise that it's the first time the web has been truly navigable then it's fair for Opera to compare when it believes its product achieves the same thing."

New iMac Expected between mid-July and mid-August

Hardmac's Lionel comments:

"It is of course difficult to avoid talking about the last rumor floating around....

"The new rumor predicts that the new iMac will come during summer time, some day between July 15th and August 15th. As previously reported, the 17" iMac should disappear and iMac models should only be based on 20" and 24" LCD display. But that's not all. The new iMac enclosure should also be redesigned and feature a brushed metal look.

"To have disassembled an iMac Core 2 Duo, we confirm that one can not really save a lot of space in the current design...."

Apple GPS System Rumored to Debut in Mercedes Cars

The Register's Jan Libbenga reports:

"Apple is secretly working on a GPS unit for cars with Mercedes owners likely to get hold the technology long before lesser drivers, a German magazine has claimed.

"The car navigation system for Mercedes-Benz, which would deliver 'maintenance, communication and navigation', is set to debut in early 2009, according to Focus, a rival of Der Spiegel.

"The magazine claims the unit will be available exclusively for Mercedes Benz during the first six months of production. Later the system would be introduced by other car manufacturers as well."

Products

Moshi Celesta Titanium Silver Keyboard

Moshi Celesta Titanium Silver KeyboardPR: Moshi's celesta is not slim just because it must look nice on your desktop; it is slim because it needs to be. keyboards are one of the most used input devices on your computer and are a leading causes of repetitive stress injuries.

Moshi Celesta Titanium Silver KeyboardBy constantly bending your hands at a steeper angle than your forearms while typing, you run the risk of compressing the median nerve in your wrists and restricting blood flow to your hands. both of these conditions may cause a variety of repetitive stress injuries.

Moshi Celesta Titanium Silver Keyboardcelesta was designed to be slim and simple to ensure that it is inherently ergonomic. adopting a minimalist approach, celesta does not come with any special wrist pads to aid in achieving an ergonomic design; nor does it arrange its keys in some fancy ergonomic fashion, which often times makes typing more strenuous. instead, attention was given on the tactile responsiveness of the keys to ensure no excessive force is required to register a keystroke (because there is no real benefit in weight-training your fingers).

Moshi Celesta Titanium Silver KeyboardFrom day one, celesta's dimensions and profiles have been carefully calculated to eliminate the need for your wrist to bend upward during typing. depending on how your keyboard is aligned relative to your desk's edge, there are two tilt angle selections in which to configure celesta. this is to ensure that your wrists remain comfortably flat with respect to your forearms while typing.

Moshi Celesta Titanium Silver KeyboardBy combining both style and ergonomics, celesta is here to make your daily computing more enjoyable and healthy. finally comfort meets design.

$120

I/OMagic Introduces 'Executive Style' 2.5" High Capacity Hard Drive

PR: I/OMagic Corporation has expanded its mobile storage lineup with the release and shipment of its 160 GB, 200 GB and 250 GB executive style 'GigaBank' 2.5" portable hard disk drives featuring a single-touch back-up button. This new line of 2.5" 'GigaBanks' are enclosed in an elegant aluminum and dark leather enclosure, with an appealing leather flap that snaps covering the connected USB cable. The added leather brings an executive high quality appearance to the drives which resembles a digital wallet.

GigaBank portable hard drive"We are proud to provide high capacity quality products to accommodate every customer's needs," says Don Wallis (VP of Sales and Marketing). "Our new line of 'GigaBank' hard disk drives do just that, by offering customers portability with a chic executive look."

The 160 GB, 200 GB and 250 GB 'GigaBanks' are powered through a high speed USB 2.0 connection (which is also USB 1.1 backwards compatible) and requires no external power supply. Its features also include a fast maximum transfer rate of up to 480 MB per second, plug-and-play compatibility and support of Windows XP/2000/ME.

The I/OMagic 160 GB, 200 GB and 250 GB 'GigaBanks' comes with a one-year warranty and will soon ship to national retailers with an introductory MSRP of 160 GB ($139.99), 200 GB (169.99) and 250 GB ($199.99).

Software

TabMeister 2.0 Manages Files in Popup Windows

PR: TabMeister is a desktop utility that allows the user to organize applications, files, and folders into "Tabs" which act like popup windows sitting on the edge of the screen.

TabMeisterRemember popup folders in OS 9?

TabMeister is a great little desktop utility that helps you quickly get to applications, files, and folders without having to always search for them on your hard drive. The Dock in Mac OS X is a great place to put a few of your basic things that you use often, but the Dock is just too small to fit all the stuff you'd like to have easy access to, and there's not much organization to the Dock.

So, what TabMeister does is allow you to add Tabs to your desktop that act like popup folders containing icons of all of the things you want to have access to. For example, you can create a Tab named "Graphics", and in that Tab you can store links to all of your graphics applications that you use. Normally, you'll just see a small Tab at the edge of the screen, but when you roll the mouse over it, it automatically pops up:

You can also put tabs on the sides of the screen:

One of the cool features of TabMeister is that when the cursor moves over an icon in a Tab, that icon along with the name of the file is displayed large in the middle of the screen:

New in version 2.0:

  • BLING!

In version 2.0 of TabMeister there is now a special "Bling" Tab that contains some fun little extras to add a little pizzazz to your desktop

The "Bling" Tab contains fun little utilities that add a little bling to your desktop. There are currently 5 different Bling items, and more will be added in the future as we come up with new ways to just have a a little fun.

The items in the Bling Tab cannot be deleted, edited, or moved. The Bling Tab itself acts like any other Tab, and it can be moved and deleted. To show or hide the Bling Tab, select the Show Bling Tab menu item in the Tabs menu.

To activate a Bling item, just click on it like you would any other Tab item. Some Bling items act like a toggle, so clicking it the first time turns it on, and then clicking it again will turn it off. Additionally, some Bling items have special options which you can access by right-clicking on the icon to invoke the item's contextual menu.

System requirements:

  • PowerPC Mac 400 MHz, or any Intel Mac.
  • Mac OS 10.4 or later.
  • 256 MB RAM
  • 64 MB VRAM

$14.95 shareware

Newton Connection 1.1 for Mac OS X

PR: Newton Connection allows you to backup your Newton data to your Mac desktop, import and export Dates, Names, Notes and NewtonWorks, install packages and use your Mac desktop keyboard to enter text on your Newton device.

Newton Connection (NCX) allows you to backup your Newton data to your Mac desktop, import and export Dates, Names, Notes and NewtonWorks, install packages and use your Mac desktop keyboard to enter text on your Newton device. In fact, most of the functions provided by the Newton Connection Utilities (NCU), but without the need for the Classic environment.

Newton Connection is work in progress, and the version available here is incomplete. In particular, it does not sync yet! Please report all bugs and feature requests using the Report Bugs application menu item within Newton Connection.

New in version 1.1:

This version of the application is self-contained and does not require an installer - simply move the NCX application wherever you like. The frameworks installed separately as part of version 1.0 (build 21) are no longer needed and can be removed by double-clicking the UnInstall21 script. The script runs in the Terminal application which you should close when it has completed. If the script fails, open UnInstalltext editor to view the files that should be deleted and do it manually in the Finder.

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.4 or later.

Update! The latest build (29) corrects a problem that caused Intel-equipped Macs to crash shortly after launching.

System support: PPC/Intel

Free

ScreenRecycler Uses a Spare Computer as an Extra Screen

PR: Most Mac users have a spare computer sitting right next to their main computer on their desk including a nice display. ScreenRecycler now enables you to use this spare computer as second display for your Mac. You can even use an idle machine for that purpose.

It's like a dual monitor setup without the need to buy an additional monitor.

Just start ScreenRecycler on your Mac then connect to ScreenRecycler via VNC from your old machine.

Use any machine as additional monitor on your Mac

New in version 1.02:

  • added support for pixel depth change encoding.
  • optimized screenchange lookup, network performance.
  • driver supports now 1680x1050 and 1024x1280 (portrait) resolutions.
  • fixed some typos.
  • JollysFastVNC 0.70 added, which by default connects automatically.
  • added uninstaller for driver.

System requirements:

  • Mac OS X 10.4 on the ScreenRecycler machine.
  • A VNC client program on the client machine.

System support: PPC/Intel

Free

Hardware Monitor 4.2

PR: Hardware Monitor is an application to read out all accessible hardware sensors in Macintosh computers. Currently more than 100 different Macintosh hardware sensors and more than 200 hard drive temperature sensors are supported. The program can visualize the history graphs of the readings, display measured values in a large variety of fashions, or announce readings by speech output. It can also store and export readings. Depending on what sensors are built into your Macintosh system, the following data can be accessed:

  • Temperarature readings at different locations
  • Battery data of portable computers
  • Voltage sensors
  • Current (amperage) sensors
  • Fan speed sensors
  • Sensors for pulse-width controlled fans
  • Power and load sensors
  • Ambient light sensors
  • User-defined artificial sensors to monitor the operating system

New in version 4.2:

  • Added support for the new MacBook Pro series introduced in June 2007.
  • Added support for a variety of internal temperature sensors of new hard drive models. This affects old Macintosh computers not supporting the AHCI standard.
  • Users can now create a new artificial sensor type which monitors the current number of running processes.
  • Users can now create several new artificial sensor types to monitor the network interfaces present in the system. It is possible to monitor the current number of incoming and outgoing packets, the current number of incoming and outgoing bytes, the current number of incoming and outgoing network errors, the current number of network collisions, and the total cumulative number of incoming and outgoing bytes. Sensors can be defined for each interface (requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later).
  • Alert panels now display the exact time when the alert situation was detected.
  • Selected display preferences for the Dock icon can now be set directly via the context menu of the Dock icon.
  • By user request, the Lite version has a new menu item to immediately refresh the display of readings independent of the regular update interval.
  • By user request, the Lite version has now support for sensor alerts. The actions to display alert panels, to play the warning sound, and to run external applications are supported.
  • The handling of repaired or refurbished Macintosh systems which don't have a valid serial number has been enhanced.
  • Modified preference values are now committed to stable storage immediately when the preferences window is closed. This can reduce the likelihood that changes are lost when the application is used to diagnose problems on a computer with defective hardware.
  • The application now correctly suppresses the display of electrical sensors for NVIDIA 7600 GT MXM cards in the 24-inch iMac. In that special configuration, the power supply of the GPU cannot be monitored.
  • A problem was corrected where artificial sensors for monitoring RAID status could only be defined for one subset of a RAID 10 configuration. It is now possible to monitor all 3 RAID subsets of a RAID 10 with three artificial sensors.
  • Corrected a problem where the application could crash when an artificial power sensor was created but one of the dependent voltage or amperage sensors was removed.
  • Corrected a problem where the preferences to control an external LCD box could not be deleted.

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.2 or later.

System support: PPC/Intel

Price: $10 shareware

Temperature Monitor 4.2

PR: Temperature Monitor is an application to read out all available temperature sensors in Macintosh computers. The program can display and visualize measured values in a large variety of fashions. The application supports the following operations on the measured readings:

  • display in a default window
  • output in a screen display in front or in the background of the screen
  • tabular display in an overview window
  • display in the menu-bar
  • display of a maximum of two readings in the Dock
  • graphical display of short-term and long-term history curves
  • speech output of readings
  • display of minimum and maximum values
  • export to text files

Moreover, the application can display additional technical information about your computer. Among other information this includes:

  • Processor type
  • Processor and bus frequencies
  • Manufacturing information

Of course the application can read out the data only if your computer is equipped with the necessary sensors, and if Mac OS X can access them without needing third-party device drivers. Beginning in summer 2002, Apple has begun to massively drive forward the use of monitoring probes in the PowerMac series, the Xserve series, and in portable computers. Some models are equipped with 38 and more sensors. But Temperature and Hardware Monitor can detect sensors on many older systems as well if they are available.

Apple has restricted the use of monitoring applications on Intel-based Macintosh systems. Thermal management of those computers is no longer done by the operating system, but controlled by an undocumented hardware device, the Apple System Management Controller. Only a few sensors are accessible by application programs.

We try to detect all sensors on as many Macintosh computer types as possible. However, a prediction which sensors are available in which models is not possible, because Apple very often releases "silent product updates", where the hardware equipments of some models are changed but the names are not (specifications are"subject to change without notice"). The particular graphics card and hard disk configuration used is also important because these parts can include independent sensors, too.

Please note that Apple does not support an official or standardized way of reading out sensor data in Mac OS X (the only exception is the Server Monitor application for the Xserve series). Moreover, there is no documentation or other technical note about the individual function of the sensors. For this reason, the development of Temperature Monitor and Hardware Monitor is very costly because the necessary data has to be determined by reverse engineering and tests run on a variety of computer models. Please support the development of the applications by purchasing a registration key for Hardware Monitor.

New in version 4.2:

  • Added support for the new MacBook Pro series introduced in June 2007.
  • Added support for a variety of internal temperature sensors of new hard drive models. This affects old Macintosh computers not supporting the AHCI standard.
  • Alert panels now display the exact time when the alert situation was detected.
  • Selected display preferences for the Dock icon can now be set directly via the context menu of the Dock icon.
  • By user request, the Lite version has a new menu item to immediately refresh the display of readings independent of the regular update interval.
  • By user request, the Lite version has now support for sensor alerts. The actions to display alert panels, to play the warning sound, and to run external applications are supported.
  • The handling of repaired or refurbished Macintosh systems which don't have a valid serial number has been enhanced.
  • Modified preference values are now committed to stable storage immediately when the preferences window is closed. This can reduce the likelihood that changes are lost when the application is used to diagnose problems on a computer with defective hardware.

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.2.5 or later.

System support: PPC/Intel

Free

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