Mac News Review

Mac 'Security' Site Serves Malware, Penryn iMac and Mac mini Soon, XBMS for Mac, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2008.03.14

PowerBook, iBook, MacBook, and other portable computing is covered in The 'Book Review. iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV news is covered in The iNews Review.

All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

News & Opinion

Apple Updates

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

Mac 'Security Site' Littered with Malware

The Register's John Leyden reports:

"A Mac security site has a forum full of links to actual malware which targets Apple computers.

"Discussion forum posts on Macvirus.org seek to trick users into downloading the RSPlug-Gen Trojan, a type of malware capable of infecting Apple Macs. For good measure, the site also harbours posts designed to dupe prospective marks into downloading the Zlobar-Fam Windows Trojan.

"Both the Trojans pose as fake codecs that are supposedly needed to view non-existent pornographic movie clips featuring troubled chanteuse Britney Spears.

"The site serving the fake codecs detects the user agent in a browser in order to distinguish between Mac and Windows PCs before delivering the appropriate malware...."

Penryn iMac and Mac mini Imminent?

MacScoop's Alexandros Roussos says:

"Apple is readying to release an improved version of both its iMac and Mac mini lineups by the next few weeks, sources indicated MacScoop.

"The refresh will mainly bring Intel's 45nm Penryn chip across the line for both the iMac and the Mac mini, MacScoop was told.

"The Mac mini's Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics chip should also be replaced by the GMA X3100 currently used in the MacBook and the MacBook Air."

Blu-ray Macs Later This Year?

Macworld UK's Jonny Evans reports:

"Sony is in talks with Apple and Microsoft on a mission to provide Blu-ray drives for computers and console games....

"According to the Financial Times, Sony US president Stan Glasgow, confirmed talks with Apple and Microsoft. These talks would see Blu-ray deployed within the Xbox 360, while also seeing Macs with support for the standard appear."

Mac mini + Xbox Media Center Software: The Ultimate Media Center?

coolest-gadgets.com's Marc says:

"A couple of years ago (it doesn't seem that long ago...) I waxed lyrical about the advantages of using a modded Xbox with XBMC as a living room media adapter.

"Unfortunately technology moves on and my trusty Xbox just didn't have the horsepower to play back high definition content. The next gen consoles can do it but they still aren't as flexible as I'd like (although kudos to Microsoft for finally enabling DivX playback on the 360).

"So what do to? The Mac mini stepped in to fill the gap nicely; the new Core Duo models are fairly powerful, it's tiny and it's almost silent running. It's also surprisingly good value for money - I can't build a PC that ticks all those boxes for the price of a mini.

"It seems like the developers of the original XBMC software had the same thought and they've been porting the media player software to OS X...."

A Mac User's View after 5 Months with Vista

Applepeels reports:

"I have tried very hard to like Vista. I really did not have a lot of choice. I needed some sort of Windows to run Internet Explorer and the forms package that NC real estate agents use to complete transactions.

"I did not have the resources to run Windows on my two year old MacBook, and buying an inexpensive Windows laptop was the cheapest solution.

"At a certain point you have to decide that frustration you are experiencing is something you are willing to endure or make plans to minimize it . . . this is 2008, and I should not have to worry about my operating system showing up....

"Life is too short to be constantly dealing with operating system frustrations. I might not agree with everything that Apple has put into Leopard, but at least I am not hearing howls from people about Leopard just not working when you need it....

"I have ten things that need to be fixed before I will use Vista as much as I use my Macs...."

Leopard, Four Months Later

Macworld's Dan Frakes says:

"Back when Leopard was released, we gave you our in-depth, but first-look, impressions. Now that we've been using Mac OS X 10.5, day-in and day-out, for over four months, we've got a better handle on what we really like and don't like about the latest and greatest computer cat. Over the course of the week, several Macworld editors will be sharing their personal 'long-term' views on Leopard.

"Here's a run-down of my take...."

One Page Crash Course in Switching to the Mac

My First Mac's Chris Kerins says:

"A friend of mine recently started a new job at a company that used Macs. Normally that's not a big deal because there should be people at the office to train you. But in this case, she was starting up a remote office with no support and only years of Windows experience as her guide. So where do you turn when you get thrown into the deep end of the Mac pool?

"Of course there are web tutorials and screen-casts, not to mention the excellent free instruction at Apple stores. But what if you have to get productive NOW? No days or weeks of training, just start using your Mac, doing the all the things you are used to doing on your old PC.

"Fortunately, she received her Mac pre-configured, so she had an account set up in Entourage, and Skype was preloaded with all the business contacts. All the apps were installed, but where do you start when there is no Start menu?

"Below you'll find the My First Mac guide on how to use your new Mac when all you know is Windows. Of course this topic can go deep and take months or even years of training, so we will stick to the top dozen or so issues that new Mac users run into that makes them want to throw their Mac through the window...."

To Buy AppleCare or Not?

TUAW's Cory Bohon says:

"Most people are split on the decision to buy an extended warranty on their electronic devices. Some think it's the best 'accessory' that you can buy for your gear, while others think it's a total waste of money. Speaking from my personal experience with AppleCare support - it has been a worthwhile investment.

"While I have never experienced a major problem with any of my Macs, iPod, or iPhone, AppleCare has definitely been there to solve those minor glitches. Case in point: this weekend my Mighty Mouse's scroll wheel stopped working (this is the 3rd Mighty Mouse in less than one year). I simply called Apple's support and told them what was going on. 'My Mighty Mouse stopped scrolling,' I said...."

Editor's note: I've never bought AppleCare coverage, and never been sorry. Money I've saved in not paying AppleCare premiums over the past 16 years would probably buy me a new MacBook Pro and then some. But that's the nature of "insurance". How much risk are you comfortable with? cm

How to Change a Hard Drive in Time Capsule

Hardmac's Lionel reports:

"When we ordered a Time Capsule, we chose the 500 GB model, since this was sufficient and also less expensive than the 1 TB. However we had in mind that as the price of large disks came down, we would one day change the disk for a larger one...

"However, we had a disagreeable surprise once the power was connected to the device and the disk had spun up. The Time Capsule started to vibrate . . . The device was to be installed in a calm area so we decided to change the disk to see if this would improve the situation."

Electronista Reviews Time Capsule

Electronista's Wallace Wang reports:

"Everyone needs to backup their data, but in the past, backing up your data meant fiddling with non-intuitive software, tape cassettes, multiple CDs or DVDs, or external hard drives. Fortunately, Apple provides a simpler solution called Time Machine, which comes with Mac OS X 10.5. While Time Machine makes backing up painless and simple, you still need an external hard disk connected to your Macintosh through a USB or FireWire cable. For desktop iMacs and Mac Pros, this isn't a problem, but for MacBook users, it's not practical to keep a laptop hooked up to a cable at all times. To solve this problem of backing up laptops, Apple offers Time Capsule, a combination WiFi router and external hard disk backup unit."

Apple Updates

Firmware Update for Mac Pro with ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT

This update is for Mac Pro computers with one or more ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT graphics cards installed, running Mac OS X 10.5.2 or later with the Leopard Graphics Update.

It updates the ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT graphics card firmware on all of the ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT graphics cards in the Mac Pro to improve system stability.

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.5.2 or later, Leopard Graphics Update.

File Size: 792 KB

Software

Xbox Media Center on OS X

PR: OSXBMC is a port of the highly functional and successful Xbox Media Center to the Apple Macintosh OS X platform. Like XBMC, OSXBMC is open source and licensed under the GPL.

The longterm goals of OSXBMC are to be the best media center for the Mac, offer tighter integration with OS X platform, and to give users the best of what XBMC and OS X offer. Eventually, we would like OSXBMC to behave and feel like a completely native Mac application.

The OSXBMC team are all Linux users and Linux fans, however, the founding team has friends and family members that are intimidated by Linux, or already happy Mac users that are not interested in building a separate box just for media playing purposes. Additionally, the team believes that there is an advantage in that there are limited hardware combinations with the Mac platform. With less combinations of hardware to support we can spend our time making sure the limited number of combinations that are available work very well. It's also no secret that the team (and many in the community) view the Mac Mini as an especially attractive HTPC option in terms of appearance, size/heat/noise, functionality and price (and let's not forget built-in IR, Bluetooth and WLAN)!

By adding OS X as a platform we are attracting new talent and resources to the XBMC project that might not have otherwise been interested. Today, we have had good luck with both platforms beings developed quickly in parallel - improvements made to the Linux code base often improve the OS X platform and vice versa.

Our plan is to support all current Intel Mac hardware.

It's unlikely that we will ever support PPC. Many people think that it is as simple as "checking PPC" in XCode, it is not. Additionally, as stated above one of the goals of OSXBMC is to support HD playback on most hardware - this is just not likely on legacy Mac PPC hardware. Tiger support is not a near term goal, but it is a possibility in the future. It's obviously quite possible to get OSXBMC to work on Tiger, but the team has determined that it is also nontrivial. As we get closer to a 1.0 release we will poll the community to see how much demand there is for Tiger support.

This is a 0.1 release, we will not consider this project "production" quality until 1.0. It is still very early days. While we are happy with our progress, and the core OSXBMC team has switched over to using it as our primary media center, the project is far from stable and complete. Unless you are an active tester or developer we do not recommend you run this as your primary media center . . . yet.

  • NEW: Improved handling of situations where display refresh rate < video frame rate. Allows doing things like watching 60 FPS videos on a 24 Hz display (although this doesn't work perfectly yet). It also improves how 24p content displays in 24p mode. (N.B. the mode on your display should really be 23.976 Hz. It doesn't sound like a big difference but it accumulates). Thanks to elupus for pointing me in the right direction.
  • NEW: RAW thumbnails are now building the embedded JPEG (when present), so previewing directories of RAWs is now really quick.
  • FIX: I was seeing occasional crashes when using FTP, due to an apparent incorrect ordering of libcurl operations. I've also increased the idle time from 5 seconds to 30, because when browsing, the connection would tend to close and need to be reestablished. It could probably be longer.
  • FIX: The hang in library mode has been fixed.
  • FIX: TV and movie scrapers have been updated and should now work.
  • FIX: Don't default to digital audio mode anymore, as we don't need to now that we do mix-down.

And one again, here's Barkley, who has agreed to sponsor all future releases. He thinks that the ball in the mirror is a duplicate and he's trying to figure out how to get them both.

Get support for the Apple remote so it works right out of the box. The main advantage of this Apple remote is that it comes free with just about every Mac. The downside The apple remote's primary weakness is that it only has 6 buttons, although the Mac has the ability to differentiate a pressed button from a held button giving the user effectively 12 buttons.

  • Audio: Playing, Visualizations (MProject), MP3, OGG, AAC, FLAC
  • Video: Playing, Full-screen, most video formats
  • Photos: Viewing, browsing, slideshows
  • Metadata: IMDB, Allmusic, etc pull down working
  • Library mode: Working but can be flaky
  • Connectivity: Local disk, FTP

GutenPrint Quality Open Source Drivers for Most Major Inkjet Printers

PR: The GutenPrint project announces GutenPrint 5.1.7, a development release. This release incorporates the support for additional printers and other improvements. See the Downloads section.

GutenPrint 5.1.7 is a release of the developmental branch of GutenPrint 5.1. The 5.1.7 release supports additional printers and offers some important bug fixes along with additional features.

New in version 5.1.7

The most important changes for Mac OS X users are:

Added support for the following printers:

  • Canon Pixma MP520
  • Canon Pixma iP6000D
  • Epson PictureMate 100
  • Epson PictureMate 210 (Corrected)
  • Epson PictureMate 240 (Corrected)
  • Epson PictureMate 250 (Corrected)
  • Epson PictureMate 260
  • Epson PictureMate 270
  • Epson PictureMate 280 (Corrected)
  • Epson PictureMate 290
  • Epson PictureMate 500
  • Epson PictureMate 2005
  • Epson PictureMate Dash
  • Epson PictureMate Flash (Corrected)
  • Epson PictureMate Pal (Corrected)
  • Epson PictureMate Snap (Corrected)
  • Epson E 150 (Corrected)
  • Epson E 300
  • Epson E 520
  • Epson E 500
  • Epson E 720
  • Epson E 700
  • Epson Stylus D92
  • Epson Stylus DX4400
  • Epson Stylus DX4450
  • Epson Stylus DX7000F
  • Epson Stylus DX7400
  • Epson Stylus DX7450
  • Epson Stylus DX8400
  • Epson Stylus DX8450
  • Epson Stylus Photo R280
  • Epson Stylus Photo R285
  • Epson Stylus Photo RX585
  • Epson Stylus Photo RX680
  • Epson Stylus Photo RX685

Note: Not all of the PictureMate printers have been fully tuned at this point.

Printing for the Canon Pixma iP4500 has been fixed

Printing near the bottom of the page has been improved for many modern Epson inkjet printers. In addition, we have determined that most of these printers can print with consistent high quality at 2880x2880 and 5760x2880 DPI. Therefore, these resolutions will be used for Ultra Photo and Best qualities respectively on these printers.

Printers affected include:

  • Stylus Photo R800, R1800, PM-G820
  • Stylus Photo R2400
  • All printers using Claria ink

Envelope paper sizes are now offered in both portrait and landscape form factor, as some printers expect envelopes to be fed long edge first while some expect them to be fed short edge first.

PCL laser printers now offer paper trays with adjustable guides. Many laser printers use adjustable guides for manual feed of papers narrower than letter size.

Two new dither algorithms, Segmented and Segmented New, have been added. These are not intended for normal use, and will normally behave like Ordered and Ordered New. However, if Raw color correction is selected and a printer with multiple drop sizes is used, the range of input will be divided up such that the high order bits will select the drop size to be used and the lower bits will specify the amount of ink. High order bits of 0 indicate that all drop sizes should be used.

GutenPrint is the new name for the Gimp-Print project.

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.2 or later.

System Support: PPC/Intel

Free

Switch Audio File Conversion Software

PR: Convert and encode a range of audio file formats. Switch audio file conversion software is a sound file format converter for Windows or Mac. Convert audio files from many different file formats into MP3, WAV or WMA files such as WAV to MP3, MP3 to WAV, WMA to MP3 and much more. This audio file converter is easy to use. Just add the files you want to convert, select the output format, and then click convert.

Put your music anywhereWith Switch you can convert your sound files into the formats you need to compress for storage, create ringtones, add to a presentation, listen on your iPod and much more. In fact, the possibilities are endless using this powerful audio file converter.

A full list of the Switch Audio File Format Converter features follows below but a quick way to see all the features is to download and install now. We make Switch free in the hope you will like it so much you will decide to upgrade to Switch Plus which supports additional encode-to formats.

Supported File Formats

Converts a variety of audio file formats to MP3 or WAV such as:

  • WAV, MP3, AU
  • AIF/AIFF, GSM, VOX
  • raw, OGG, FLAC
  • AAC, MP2, M4A,
  • .mov, .amr
  • and many more formats.

Other Features:

  • Automatically normalise audio while converting.
  • Import multiple file formats at the same time and convert to one output format.
  • Ability to play tracks prior to conversion.
  • Import and convert a playlist (m3u and pls).
  • Import video files and extract audio (AVI, mov, MPEG)
  • MP3 encoder supports constant or variable bit rates from 8 to 320 kbps with optional error correction and stereo modes.
  • WAV encoder supports sample rates between 6000 and 196000 Hz in PCM as well as a number of other audio codecs.
  • Allows up to 32000 files to be converted in one batch.
  • Can be run from the command line for automation with other applications.
  • Optimized CPU usage and efficient code allows for fastest conversion times.
  • Switch Sound File Converter integrates directly with other sound software programs including:
    • Express Burn for CD Recording,
    • Express Rip for Direct CD Ripping,
    • WavePad for Sound File Editing,
    • RecordPad for Professional Sound Recording and Typical Applications
  • Compress WAV to MP3 files to save hard drive space.
  • To open or convert strange or audio file formats not supported by other audio software you use.
  • Extract audio from video files (favorite sound bites) for your phone or other audio player.
  • Convert multiple format audio files to MP3 for your iPod, PSP or phone.
  • In professional audio studios to open formats not supported by your sound editor.
  • As a command line plugin for other software to convert or compress audio files.

System Requirements

  • Mac - Mac OS X 10.2 or above
  • Windows - 95/NT4/98/2000/Me/XP/2003/Vista
  • Linux

Switch Sound Format Converter Plus Edition

Unlimited license including all the new Plus features - $19.40

Geekbench 2.0.13 Checks Rosetta Performance and More

PR: Geekbench is a cross-platform benchmark that measures the performance an average application can expect from the computer being benchmarked.

Geekbench is a cross-platform benchmark that measures processor and memory performance. Geekbench was designed from the ground up to take advantage of the latest technology like multicore processors and 64-bit operating systems.

Geekbench is available for Linux, Mac OS X, Solaris, and Windows, letting you compare performance across different hardware configurations and operating systems with ease.

Result Browser

Submit your results to the Geekbench Result Browser and share your results with your friends and other Geekbench users. Create an account and keep track of your Geekbench results online.

Geekbench's processor benchmarks (every one!) run in both single-threaded and multithreaded modes letting you see the performance increase multiple cores (or multiple processors) bring to your system.

SIMD benchmarks

Geekbench features a number of benchmarks that use SIMD instructions (both AltiVec and SSE) letting you see the performance increase SIMD-aware applications bring to your system.

Geekbench is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Run both versions on a 64-bit operating system to see the increase (or decrease) 64-bit applications bring to your system.

Note: 64-bit benchmarks are only available in the registered version of Geekbench.

Rosetta benchmarks

Geekbench is available in both Universal and Rosetta versions for Mac OS X. Run the Rosetta version on your Intel-based Mac to find out how quickly it runs PowerPC applications, or to find out how much of a performance advantage Universal applications bring.

Note: Rosetta benchmarks are only available in the registered version of Geekbench for Mac OS X.

New in version 2.0.13:

  • Added support for the MacBook (Early 2008) and the MacBook Pro (Early 2008)
  • Added x86 processor database
  • Improved logical/physical processor count detection
  • Improved "Hackintosh" detection

System requirements:

  • Geekbench for Mac OS X
  • Mac OS X 10.4 or later
  • Mac OS X 10.5 or later for 64-bit
  • 512 MB of RAM

System support: PPC/Intel

Geekbench costs $19.95 and you'll receive your serial number immediately after purchase.

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