Mac News Review

Open Source Virtualization for Macs, iMac Shutdowns, Psystar Reviews, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2008.05.16

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

Reviews

Apple Updates

Products

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

Mac OS X Gets First Open-source Virtualization Tool

ZD Net.co.uk's Matthew Broersma reports:

"Sun has released a major update to its open-source desktop virtualisation tool xVM VirtualBox, adding support for Mac OS X and Solaris host operating systems, in addition to other improvements.

"Software makers such as Parallels have been making Mac OS X virtualisation software for some time, but Sun is the first to release an open-source virtualisation product for the platform....

"The free, open-source version is available for download, and Sun also sells a version under a proprietary licence with additional features such as USB support and a Remote Display Protocol (RDP) server.

"The proprietary version is also available as a free download, but only for personal use; business users must purchase licences."

Random iMac Shutdowns Continue

MacFixIt reports:

"Users continue to report an issue in which various iMac models randomly shut down during routine operation. As described by one user: '...it randomly has shut down on me at least 12 times since I turned it on. I can restart it and it'll stay on for a long time. But then, randomly it'll shut itself off again.'

"This problem has been reported by several other users, but one user has a unique situation in which his computer restarts at the slightest vibration, indicating a hardware fault of sorts in the power system, potentially due to faulty wiring."

Aluminum iMacs Limit USB Bus Power

The Apple Core's Jason D. O'Grady says:

"Remember my theory about 10.5.2 causing poor audio quality in Skype? I pretty much convinced that 10.5.2 is the culprit, but there's another theory floating around out there - that it's related to USB ports.

"...It seems that only the front USB port on the MacBook offers a full powered, full speed bus. On the MacBook Pro the magic USB port is the left one, the right one is hubbed.

"The rear USB port, the one nearest the screen, is in fact already on an internal hub, shared with everything USB inside the case: the keyboard, the Bluetooth, the trackpad, the iSight camera and the infra-red receiver. Adding a four way hub to this is bound to end in disaster."

Editor's note: This impacts all Santa Rosa MacBook and MacBook Pro models and all aluminum iMacs, not just the newest ones. All Macs based on the Santa Rosa chipset only allow use of a single high-powered USB device, such as a hard drive, connected to the computer. dk

Existing USB Ports May Face Trouble Powering New Breed of Peripherals

Pertinent to current blogosphere discussion of USB port issues on MacBooks, last August ZD Net's David Berlind reported:

"Contrary to popular belief, at least from a power perspective . . . not all USB ports are created equal. Yes, they all offer 5 volts. But where they often differ, according to Verenkoff, is on amperage which could be equally important to the peripheral people are looking to power - particular power hungry devices like hard drives....

"[The first issue] is Amps vs Volts....

"Where as all USB ports support the 5 volt requirement in the USB specification, amperage varies from one system to the next. 500 milliamps (ma) appears to be the standard with many notebooks supporting more....

"Devices like USB keychain flash drives and mice run at 5v but only require limited amounts of power (or amperage). However, larger devices like 3.5" USB Drives, external speakers, etc. require significant power and often need to be plugged into the wall....

"Every computer has different amperage at their USB ports. For example, even in some of the new MacBooks, we've observed a low amperage of 500ma...."

Psystar Now Nearly Silent

ZD Net's Jason D. O'Grady says:

"Today was my second day with my spankin' new Psystar Open Computer. Following are some observations....

"This machine is almost silent, folks. In fact, I opened the case and put the sound meter about an inch from the main exhaust fan and the highest reading I could get was 52 dBA, barely. The shutter of the camera (Nikon D80) made it jump to 57 dBA, as a comparison. The fan over the CPU registered <50 dBA.

"When an optical disc is inserted the sound level (about four inches from the front of the optical drive door) ranges from 52-54 dBA. While louder than when it's not running (<50 dBA) it's not obnoxious either."

The Open Computer: We've Had Enough of It

MacUser's Aayush Arya reports:

"If the Psystar Open Computer is of any interest to you at all, you might want to know that Macworld has now tested one of these things and published the results, as promised....

"If we had our way, and the honkin' huge machine could fit inside one of those blenders, we'd have been describing a very different type of test right now and it would have been accompanied by an amusing YouTube video.

"In any case, if you've had enough of the Psystar coverage to last you a while, we assure you that we share your pain, so we're hoping there won't be any more Psystar stories from here on out - unless something really important happens...."

Have You Cleaned Your Keyboard Today?

ITWire's Stephen Withers says:

"When I saw the recent spate of newspaper and web headlines about germs on keyboards I thought they most likely originated from a study performed by or on behalf of a company that sells cleaning products. But that wasn't the case.

"The research was performed on behalf of UK consumer organisation Which?, so that blows away my suspicions of vested interests at work.

"Which? officials said tests on keyboards from a typical London office (no jokes about Londoners, please!) revealed the presence of bacteria that could cause diarrhoea and other stomach upsets....

"An accompanying Which? report on cleaning PCs suggests using a damp cloth to clean keyboards, followed by alcohol wipes to kill the bacteria...."

Editor's note: For my report on this topic, see Phones and Computers as Infectious Disease Vectors and What You Can Do About It on Applelinks. cm

Reviews

Today's Top-end iMac Twice as Powerful as Fastest G5 iMac

Macworld's James Galbraith reports:

"Macworld Lab benchmarks serve a couple different purposes. First and foremost, we're attempting to chart the progress of each new Apple hardware release against the previous generation. That way, we can determine if a new desktop or laptop represents a big step forward, modest progress, or no measurable difference at all.

"Take the new iMacs, which we reviewed last week at Macworld.com. Our review of the 2.4 GHz, 2.66 GHz, and 2.8 GHz machines contained benchmarks comparing these new systems to their predecessors, released in August 2007. By running those tests, we could point out that the new iMacs improved on the performance of the previous generation without a corresponding increase in price....

"Even today's entry-level iMac - the $1,199 2.4 GHz, 20-inch Core 2 Duo - earned a 69-percent higher Speedmark score than the fastest G5 iMac ever released."

Penryn iMac Radeon HD 2600 Pro vs. GeForce 8800 GS

Bare Feats' rob-ART Morgan reports:

"One of the most interesting features of the new Penryn iMacs is the addition of the GeForce 8000 GS as a CTO option. We wanted to see how much 'fun' it brings to the 'party.'

  • Aspyr Prey
  • MacSoft Halo
  • Aspyr Enemy Territory: Quake Wars (Etqw)
  • Stone Design Imaginator
  • Legend Of Graphs

"The GeForce 8800 GS option for the new Penryn iMac is a welcome addition - especially for 3D OpenGL apps like games. At 1920x1200 High Quality on the 24" iMac, it doubles the frame rates for most games."

Psystar v. Mac mini and All 3 MacBooks

The Apple Core's Jason D. O'Grady reports:

"I've completed some initial Benchmarks of the Psystar Open Computer. The results below are from Xbench 1.3 running on the following systems....

"In short, the Psystar pretty much trounces the closest price Mac available from Apple - the Mac mini - in both overall results and the CPU test."

Editor's note: With a 10% faster CPU and a 7200 rpm 3.5" hard drive, we would expect the Open Computer to beat the 2.0 GHz Mac mini with its 5400 rpm notebook hard drive. Perhaps more surprising is how little speed advantage the Psystar has - except on the disk test, where it absolutely trounces the Mac mini. dk

How Psystar's Computer Measures Up to a Mac

Macworld's James Galbraith reports:

"What do you get when you install Mac OS X on a generic Intel-powered computer with a 2.2 GHz Core 2 Duo processor? A system that, performance-wise, falls somewhere between a Mac mini and a low-end iMac, according to our testing.

"At any rate, that was what happened when we ran Psystar's controversial Open Computer through our battery of benchmark tests. Using our Speedmark tool for benchmarking new and upgraded systems, Psystar's would-be Mac clone runs about 28-percent faster than a 2 GHz Mac mini but 8-percent slower than the new entry-level iMac."

Apple Updates

Troubleshooting Mighty Mouse and Determining Expected Behavior

A new Apple Knowledge Base article says:

"Mighty Mouse comes with a software CD in the box; this software is only supported for use on Macintosh computers with Mac OS X 10.4.2 or later. If you're using such a system with the in-box software installed, Mighty Mouse will have the following functionality...."

Products

3 New Gigabit Ethernet Network Adapter Cards from Sonnet

PR: Sonnet Technologies announces the immediate availability of the Presto Gigabit Pro PCI network adapter card, the Presto Gigabit PCIe Pro PCI Express network adapter card, and the Presto Gigabit Ethernet Pro ExpressCard/34 network adapter card.

Presto Gigabit Ethernet Pro ExpressCard/34These Sonnet Gigabit Ethernet cards expand or add Gigabit Ethernet connectivity in any compatible computer, and offer enhanced performance through support for link aggregation with onboard Ethernet ports, and jumbo packet data transfers.

Presto Gigabit Pro network adapter cards deliver enhanced networking support in compatible computers and offer gigabit speeds over common CAT-5 cabling, so costly cable replacement is unnecessary to support the higher performance. These Sonnet cards are simple to configure and offer plug-and-play installation in Macintosh computers. Presto Gigabit Pro network adapter cards' 1000/100/10Base-T auto-negotiation and full/half duplex communication support allow them to be used in most networks.

Presto Gigabit ProPresto Gigabit Pro Compatibility

  • Power Macintosh G3 All-in-one, Blue & White, Desktop, Minitower, Server
  • Power Mac G4 (all models except Cube)
  • Power Mac G5 (with PCI or PCI-X slots ONLY)
  • Xserve G4
  • PC with PCI slots
  • Mac OS OS X Version 10.4+
  • Windows Vista
  • Windows Server 2003
  • Windows XP with SP2

Presto Gigabit PCIe ProPresto Gigabit PCIe Pro Compatibility

  • Mac Pro
  • Power Mac G5 (with PCI Express slots)
  • Xserve (with PCI Express slots)
  • PC with PCI Express slot
  • Mac OS X Version 10.5.2+
  • Windows Vista
  • Windows Server 2003
  • Windows XP with SP2

Presto Gigabit Ethernet Pro ExpressCard/34 Compatibility

  • MacBook Pro
  • PC notebook computer with ExpressCard slot
  • Mac OS X Version 10.5.2+
  • Windows Vista
  • Windows XP with SP2

Pricing and Availability

  • Presto Gigabit Pro (part number GE1000LA) is available now for the retail price of $99.95.
  • Presto Gigabit PCIe Pro (part number GE1000LA-E) is available now for the retail price of $99.95.
  • Presto Gigabit Ethernet Pro ExpressCard/34 (part number GE1000LA-E34) is available now for the retail price of $79.95.
Link: Presto Gigabit Pro
Link: Presto Gigabit PCIe Pro
Link: Presto Gigabit Ethernet Pro ExpressCard/34

Software

Odysseus Eudora-Style Email Client Public Beta Released

Odysseus betaInfinity Data Systems has released the first public beta build of the Odysseus for the Mac - version 0.8.2 (there have been private betas for some time). One disclaimer that IDS strongly emphasizes that this is a very early beta, and that under normal circumstances, they would prefer not to release this early of a build.

However, they explain that given the issues that many people are having with Eudora running under OS X 10.5 Leopard, they felt it was necessary to show everyone the direction Odysseus is taking, specifically how close it's holding to the Eudora user experience, but that they emphatically DO NOT recommend using this build for anything other than testing. because it is not ready at this stage of development to be used in a mission-critical environment.

Features Currently Operational in Version 0.8.2 are:

  • Receiving Email
  • Sending Email
  • Downloading Attachments
  • Multiple Accounts
  • Built-in Address Book
  • Transferring Email Across Mailboxes
  • Replying, Forwarding, Redirecting
  • Basic Email Filtering (set default mailbox for each account if desired)
  • Basic Attachment Filtering (can define specific Attachment folder per email account)
  • HTML Rendering (via the File Menu. A future build will allow this to be enabled as On or Off by default)
  • Importing Eudora Email

Odysseus betaStill Not Operational (In many cases, the features below are already implemented to some degree, but are simply not accessible via the interface)

  • IMAP (This has actually been implemented for a couple of builds but intentionally disabled in this build
  • Signatures (This is largely done but disabled)
  • Stationery (This is largely done but disabled)
  • OS X Address Book Integration (This is largely done but disabled)
  • Sending Attachments (In progress)
  • Spelling
  • Gmail Support (In progress - this has been long-standing issue dating back to the Private Betas that they are addressing)
  • Advanced Features (Most are already in various states of completion)
  • Documentation

Now that Odysseus has moved to Public Beta, IDS will be releasing updates on a daily basis as they move closer to their revised June timeframe. Even if they are relatively minor, each build will fix bugs and/or integrate the missing functionality.

There are bugs, and a lot of work to still be done., so this version is not intended for everyday use.

Odysseus will be commercial software (as Qualcomm's Eudora was) and not open source, and will sell for $39.95, about the same price point as classic Eudora. The program is being developed with support for Mac OS X and Windows, with Linux compatibility being looked at for the future. Version upgrade prices, anticipated roughly annually, are projected to be$19.95, and if a full version number upgrade occurs in under a year's time, it will be free for users of the previous version.

Beta Test Rescue Kit Software for Mac OS X Lite for Free

PR: Try the brand new recovery solution for Mac. You can't afford to lose all information on your computer. Lost productivity can be devastating, to say the least. Rescue Kit for Mac OS X Lite restores your system to its original state and rescues sensitive data enabling you to be up and running. It can safely and easily backup both Mac and Windows data to any media, including USB, FireWire and network storages. It does what it says - and comes to the rescue with a variety of solutions.

Rescue Kit for Mac OS X LiteSmart Backup

  • Backup your critical data
  • Unique: Backup your entire system with ability to boot from the created image!
  • Dramatically improved data safety technology

Fast Restore

  • Recover individual files
  • Return your system to a stable and usable state
  • Valuable: Off-load folders/files to other partitions or drives before re-imaging or reinstalling the whole system

Bring your system and data back to life with enhanced recovery:

  • Receive effective, uncomplicated system tool that can rescue your sensitive data from the worst stages of disaster and return your system to a stable and usable state
  • Off-load folders or files to other partitions or drives before re-imaging or reinstalling the whole system
  • Recover individual files in minutes from a corrupted disk by copying them to any external media or CD/DVD disk or to a local drive
  • Easily avoid the need to reload or re-image your system with enhanced recovery features for unparalleled protection: you can restore your data without having to install any additional software, even Paragon Rescue Kit for Mac doesn't need to be installed.

Broad your data protection with easy backup and data safety tools:

  • Perform complete system backup - create even a bootable sector based image
  • Safely and easily backup both your Mac OS and Windows OS and data to any media including USB, FireWire devices or network shares
  • Browse backup images and restore separate files and folders from them
  • Export the necessary files and folders from a backup image
  • With its easy-to-use interface and proven Paragon imaging and recovery technology, now you can have a dramatic improvement in data safety and ability to restore partitions /Individual Files/Folder Restore.

Key Features and Benefits of Paragon Rescue Kit For Mac OS X Lite:

  • Bootable Recovery Media: Perform a full backup/restore and/or file/folder rescue even if your operating system cannot be booted.
  • Complete system backup: Create even a bootable sector based image
  • File Transfer Wizard: Get complete access to any file system (even if they are unmounted or corrupted).
  • Data Backup: Safely and easily backup both your Mac OS and Windows OS and data to any media.
  • Individual File/Folder Restore: Built-in image browser to quickly find and restore individual files and/or folders.
  • Network Support: Easily backup and restore from any accessible network.
  • Backup to any media: Backup vital data to any media, including USB, FireWire devices or network shares.
  • All file systems are supported: Get access to the most commonly used file systems (FAT 16, FAT 32, NTFS, HPFS, EXT2FS, EXT3FS, Reiser, including Apple HFS(+)).
  • Easy-to-use: Intuitive, easy-to-use Wizards handle the most common and even complex tasks.

Key features

  • Supports GPT and MBR hard disks
  • Supports USB 2.0 hard drives
  • Supports USB flash drives with GPT and MBR partition structures
  • Backup a separate partition including service data of the file system
  • Perform any Restore operations in case of the operating system corruption or other boot problems
  • Backup to any media, including USB and FireWire devices
  • Restore a partition or separate files from the backup archive
  • User friendly interface. Easily understandable icons and wizards accompany all functions of the program
  • Easy-to-use, straightforward Backup and Restore Wizards provide a unique possibility to carry out these technically complicated operations even to a novice user
  • Easily browse an archive of a separate partition getting access to its contents and copying the required information wherever you want to
  • Access all file systems at once - just boot Recovery CD
  • Network support
  • DVD+/-R (DL) Support.

Basic Backup Features

  • Backup a separate partition
  • Backup all kinds of volumes
  • Save backup images to local drives
  • Save backup image to remote USB or FireWire device
  • Save backup images to network
  • Burn a backup archive to CD/DVDs (or write them to ISO-image files for later burning)
  • Compressing backup image
  • Set archive names and add comments
  • Interrupt backup operations if necessary.

Basic Recovery Features

  • Restore a separate partition from any accessible location
  • Browse backup images by File Transfer Wizard
  • Restore separate files and folders from backup archives by File Transfer Wizard.

User Interface Features

  • Wizard driven User Interface
  • Wizards for the majority of operations
  • Display estimated archive size
  • Display operation progress in graphic form and step by step
  • Display archive information.

System requirements:

  • Supported Operating Systems
    • Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger
    • Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard.
  • Supported hard drives and removable media
    • Parallel ATA (IDE) HDD (MBR and GPT based)
    • Serial ATA (SATA) HDD (MBR and GPT based)
    • SCSI HDD (MBR and GPT based)
    • All levels of SCSI, IDE and SATA RAID controllers
    • CD-R/RW
    • DVD-R/RW
    • DVD+R/RW
    • DVD+/-R (DL)
    • USB 1.0/2.0 and IEEE 1394 (FireWire) devices (MBR and GPT based)
    • PC card storage devices.
  • Supported File Systems
    • NTFS (all versions)
    • FAT16
    • FAT32
    • Linux Ext2FS
    • Linux Ext3FS
    • Linux Swap
    • HPFS
    • Apple HFS (+)
    • Other file systems (in Sector-by-Sector mode).
  • System Requirements
    • CPU: Intel based Macs
    • RAM: 256 MB
    • CD/DVD-ROM

Restrictions

  • Backup an entire hard disk is not supported;
  • Backup image can be restored to the same partition it was made;
  • Backup of the first EFI (FAT32) partition (for GPT disks) is prohibited. There is no need to backup/restore this partition.

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