Mac News Review

Run Lion on Core Duo Macs, Safari 5.0.4, Blu-ray for Mac, Lion-like Launcher for OS X 10.6, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.03.14

Mac notebook and other portable computing is covered in The 'Book Review. iPad, 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

Tech Trends

Products & Services

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

Does an SSD in a FireWire Case Make Sense?

Hardmac's Lionel notes that many disk manufacturers currently make external SSDs with a USB 3.0 interface, but Macs have no built-in USB 3.0 (nor eSATA, for that matter), so he wondered what an SSD could do if it were connected through FireWire 800, since that interface is present on nearly every Mac.

To find out, he borrowed a Safedisk Mini II case, installed a 60 GB Vertex 2 SSD, and compared performance with a 5400 rpm 750 GB hard disk in an external case. In short, he found that SSD is somewhat faster and more consistent in its speed, although FireWire 800 is a limiting factor.

Apple Releases Safari 5.0.4

The Safari 5.0.4 for Mac update contains improvements to stability, compatibility, accessibility, and security, including the following:

  • Improved stability for webpages with multiple instances of plugin content
  • Improved compatibility with webpages with image reflections and transition effects
  • A fix for an issue that could cause some webpages to print with incorrect layouts
  • A fix for an issue that could cause content to display incorrectly on webpages with plugins
  • A fix for an issue that could cause a Screen Saver to appear while video is playing in Safari
  • Improved compatibility with VoiceOver on webpages with text input areas and lists with selectable items
  • Improved stability when using VoiceOver

The Safari 5.0.4 update is available in distinct versions for Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and OS X 10.5 Leopard. (See below for information on Safari 4.1.3 for Tiger.)

The Safari 5.0.4 Windows update contains improvements to stability, compatibility, accessibility and security, including the following:

  • Improved compatibility with webpages with transition effects
  • A fix for an issue that could cause some webpages to print with incorrect layouts
  • A fix for an issue that could prevent HTML5 video from playing on www.youtube.com
  • A fix for an issue that could cause content to display incorrectly on webpages with plugins

Run OS X 10.7 Lion Developer Preview on Core Duo Macs

Cult of Mac's Adam Rosen says:

"For those of you who like living on the Bleeding Age while running on older hardware Cult of Mac received this tip from reader Matt Briggs about getting his Core Duo based MacBook running the Lion Developer Preview installation of Mac OS X 10.7...."

This requires installing Lion to an external USB drive from a supported Mac and then removing a specific file.

Identifying and Managing PowerPC Applications on Intel Macs

MacFixIt's Topher Kessler says:

"Apple made the transition [from PowerPC] to Intel's x86 and x64 architectures very smooth with the use of Rosetta and Universal Binary applications, but this effort also resulted in a lot of remaining PowerPC code that is either still being used or is being packaged with Intel code in Universal Binary applications.

"This is not a problem for most users, but since Apple is finally doing away with all PowerPC support in OS X 10.7 Lion, people who may still be using older older PowerPC code will find no option to run it. In addition, some people might wish to get rid of the unused PowerPC code in Universal Binary applications."

Publisher's note: If you no longer have or use PowerPC Macs, you may save a bit of hard drive space by removing PPC code from Universal Binary apps. The real problem will be replacing those PowerPC programs that you're still using, which could be an incentive to stick with Leopard or Snow Leopard and not migrate to Lion. dk

Apple Updates

Apple Releases Safari 4.1.3 for Tiger

The 'ol Tiger's not dead yet! Thanks, Apple, for continuing up-to-date browser support for Mac OS X 10.4 for at least one more update. I'm still using Tiger on my two old PowerBook Pismos, and very productively.

I'm planning to try out Safari 4.1.3 as a possible replacement for Opera 10.63 - the last Tiger-compatible Opera browser version. Opera 10.63 is nice and fast, but it has a bug with text entry in Web page fields (acknowledged by Opera) that causes long hangs. The holdup is that Safari 10.63 requires OS X Security Update 2008-005, which I had not gotten around to installing.

Safari 4.1.3 for Tiger contains improvements to usability, compatibility, stability, accessibility and security, including the following:

  • More accurate Top Hit results in the Address Field
  • More accurate results in Top Sites
  • Fixes an issue that could cause content delivered with the Flash 10.1 plugin to overlap webpage content
  • More reliable popup blocking
  • Improved stability when typing into search and text input fields on www.netflix.com and www.facebook.com
  • Improved stability when using VoiceOver with Safari

System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.4.11

Supported Languages: Deutsch, English, Français

Apple No Longer Shipping TechTool Deluxe with AppleCare

9 to 5 Mac's Aaron Kramer reports that Apple will no longer bundle TechTool Deluxe disk diagnostic and repair CDs with it's AppleCare package boxes. This is assumed to be another indication that Apple will soon move entirely into the Cloud for software distribution.

Publisher's note: In a related development, Micromat just announced TechTool Pro 6 - more below. dk

Tech Trends

iPad a Factor in $4.3 Billion Hard Disk Drive Maker Deal

Forbes' Brian Caulfield says the Apple iPad phenomenon appears to be one of the factors catalyzing Western Digital's acquisition of Hitachi's Global Storage Technologies unit for $4.3 billion, noting that last week tech market research firm iSuppli reported that surging tablet computer sales are hurting notebook PC sales, resulting in a sales decline for traditional hard disk drives and an accelerating a shift towards solid state disk drives in other markets.

That would include Apple's new all-SSD MacBook Airs, which represented some 40% (1.1 million units) of Apple notebook sales in Q4 2010 (see this week's 'Book Review for more information) - and they weren't even available for the first three weeks of October.

Western Digital to Acquire Hitachi Global Storage, Combining the Industry's First and Third Largest Hard Drive Makers

PR: Western Digital and Hitachi, Ltd. announced Monday that they have entered into a definitive agreement whereby WD will acquire Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (Hitachi GST), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd., in a cash and stock transaction valued at approximately $4.3 billion. The company says the proposed combination of the largest and third-largest makers of hard disk drives (WD c.31%, Seagate Technology c.29%, Hitachi GST c.18%, Toshiba c.11%, and Samsung also c.11% based on market research firms iSuppli data) will result in a customer-focused storage company with significant operating scale, strong global talent, and the industry's broadest product lineup backed by a rich technology portfolio. Buying Hitachi GST will also give WD more reach in Apple's Macs, since Hitachi has been a major hard drive supplier to Apple.

Under terms of the agreement, WD will acquire Hitachi GST for $3.5 billion in cash and 25 million WD common shares valued at $750 million, based on a WD closing stock price of $30.01 as of March 4, 2011. Hitachi, Ltd. will own approximately 10% of Western Digital shares outstanding after issuance of the shares, and two representatives of Hitachi will be added to the WD board of directors at closing. The transaction has been approved by the board of directors of each company and is expected to close during the third calendar quarter of 2011, subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals. WD plans to fund the transaction with a combination of existing cash and total debt of approximately $2.5 billion.

WD expects the transaction to be immediately accretive to its earnings per share on a non-GAAP basis, excluding acquisition-related expenses, restructuring charges and amortization of intangibles.

The resulting company will retain the Western Digital name and remain headquartered in Irvine, California. John Coyne will remain chief executive officer of WD, Tim Leyden chief operating officer and Wolfgang Nickl chief financial officer. Steve Milligan, president and chief executive officer of Hitachi GST, will join WD at closing as president, reporting to John Coyne.

"The acquisition of Hitachi GST is a unique opportunity for WD to create further value for our customers, stockholders, employees, suppliers and the communities in which we operate," commented WD president and CEO Coyne on the acquisition announcement. "We believe this step will result in several key benefits-enhanced R&D capabilities, innovation and expansion of a rich product portfolio, comprehensive market coverage and scale that will enhance our cost structure and ability to compete in a dynamic marketplace. The skills and contributions of both workforces were key considerations in assessing this compelling opportunity. We will be relying on the proven integration capabilities of both companies to assure the ongoing satisfaction of our customers and to bring this combination to successful fruition."

"This brings together two industry leaders with consistent track records of strong execution and industry outperformance," said Hitachi Global Storage Technologies president and CEO Steve Milligan. "Together we can provide customers worldwide with the industry's most compelling and diverse set of products and services, from innovative personal storage to solid state drives for the enterprise."

Hiroaki Nakanishi, president, Hitachi, Ltd. observed that "As the former CEO of Hitachi GST, I always believed in the potential of Hitachi GST to become a larger and more agile company. This is a strategic combination of two industry leaders, both growing and profitable. It provides an opportunity for the new company to increase customer and shareholder value and expand into new markets. Additionally, it is important to us that WD shares common values with Hitachi GST to create a more global company that is well positioned to define a broader role in the evolving storage industry."

Products & Services

Blu-ray for the Mac from FastMac

PR: Thought it was impossible to watch Blu-ray movies on your Mac? Think again. FastMac now offers an external SuperDrive that not only allows you to burn conventional CDs and DVDs, but also gives you the ability to watch commercial Blu-ray movies on your Mac.

How does it work you ask? Well, it's simple. Even though Mac OS X currently lacks software to play Blu-ray movies, you can run Boot Camp on your Mac and use PowerDVD in Windows to play your Blu-ray movie.

Lightweight and compact, this external drive can go with you anywhere and will make life easier and a lot more fun.

Note: Apple's QuickTime software does not (yet) support the decoding and playback of encrypted Blu-ray movies. Therefore you cannot watch commercial (Hollywood) Blu-ray movies using Mac OS X. However, if you have Windows XP or Vista installed on your Macintosh, you can use PowerDVD software to decrypt and watch commercial Blu-ray movies via Apple's Boot Camp environment. You will need to ensure you have the latest graphics card drivers for your version of Windows and a HDCP compliant monitor to enjoy the full high definition experience.

Features

  • Blu-ray Movie Playback (Using Boot Camp and Windows)
  • 2x BD-ROM reading
  • 5x DVD-RAM Writing
  • 8x DVD-R Writing
  • 2x DVD-R DL Writing
  • 4x DVD-RW Writing
  • 4x BD-R
  • 8x BD-ROM reading
  • 2.4x DVD+R DL Writing
  • 4x DVD+RW Writing
  • 8x CD-R Writing
  • 8x CD-RW Writing

$139.95

PrayerGroup.org Launches Christian Social Network

PR: PrayerGroup, a social media company, announces the launch of a new faith-based online community, complete with online Bible, at prayergroup.org. Building on the need for a worldwide Christian social network, PrayerGroup has developed content beyond traditional online communities by offering a variety of faith-based content including Christian music, prayer groups, international prayer request forums, Christian chat, and videos. The network offers its community free of charge to members across the globe.

"Our goal is to provide Christians with a community they can call their own," says Vince Jensen, PrayerGroups founder. "Unlike other social networks where faith is not the focus, PrayerGroup is a place for members to socialize, learn about and discuss faith with others who share common values, he said. It's also a place for members to simply connect by sharing their music, photos, videos and prayer requests with friends and family who will enjoy them."

With the slogan "Where Christians Come Together," PrayerGroups mainstream feel is centered on a Christian lifestyle. It is noticeably rich with media content such as blogs, music and videos, but remains equally focused on worship through its online bible, prayer and count your blessings forums. The community also offers real-time prayer through its Christian chat feature.

At the heart of PrayerGroup.org is its mission to unite the world by expanding human compassion and the gift of prayer. Its international prayer request forum creates a worldwide prayer group using social media.

Imagine the power of a million people praying for a common cause, said Mr. Jensen. We are now at a point where we could do just this where you can instantly see that people around the world have heard your prayer request and have responded in kindness.

With the launch of its Christian social network, PrayerGroup.org is currently underway with its ThinkPrayer campaign designed to promote the Christian lifestyle through online faith-based media.

"PrayerGroups community is different from others because our members have one fundamental thing in common - Faith", says Mr. Jensen. "Unlike other social networks where people connect because they already know each other members in PrayerGroup connect because they have the Lord in common and want to share their faith with other Christians."

Software

Micromat Announces the Release of TechTool Pro 6

PR: Micromat, Inc. announces the release of TechTool Pro 6. For 20 years, Mac users have relied on TechTool for diagnostics, maintenance, and drive repair. In this new version, Micromat has added features to help Mac users diagnose hardware problems and make it easier to fix issues on their hard drives, including those with internal solid state drives (SSDs or flash storage), plus provide for dependable backup and recovery of Mac volumes.

TechTool Pro 6 can now create an emergency startup volume on the active hard drive using its eDrive technology, eliminating the need for using a boot DVD for most users or having to burn an eDrive on a secondary source to repair a Mac's internal drive. Plus, TechTool Pro's upgraded eDrive technology no longer requires Apple's boot disk updates to keep the software current.

"With this new version of TechTool Pro, you no longer need to boot from a DVD, so preventative maintenance or repairing corrupt Mac volumes is faster and easier than ever before," says Christian Pickman, Micromat's Product Manager for TechTool Pro. "Removing the boot DVD requirement means we can deliver by download, greatly speeding up access to those who need drive repair."

Volume Cloning was added to this new version, to quickly create exact duplicates of volumes or disk images (.dmg) for trouble-free volume recovery, archiving or for upgrading from a smaller size hard drive to a larger drive.

TechTool Pro 6 features a new Local Network Tool, which shows the active services and ports on each selected Mac or Bonjour supported device on the local area network. This information is helpful when strengthening security on a specific machine or on the overall LAN, and since device history is tracked, it allows for tracking of machines or devices that were in use in the past but are no longer available.

The new benefits in TechTool Pro 6 improves the capability for Mac users to identify impending problems, provide ongoing maintenance and fix hard drive issues on their own systems to help prevent costly repairs in the future.

While maintaining previous version pricing, TechTool Pro 6 now ships in a Family Pack that can be installed on up to 3 CPU's to fill the needs of households using multiple Macs.

TechTool Pro 6 is available direct by download from Micromat, with Family Packs for $99.99, and Family Pack upgrades for users of any previous version of TechTool Pro, TechTool Deluxe or TechTool Platinum priced at $39.99.

Business Packs (10 users) are $299.99 and can be ordered online or direct from Micromat at 707-566-3831. Specially priced academic versions for TechTool Pro 6 can be ordered for $39.99.

TechTool Pro 6 can also be purchased from popular resellers and distributors worldwide, with localized versions available in Japanese, French, German, Italian and Chinese.

QuickPick Get the OS X 10.7 Lion Launcher's Functionality Now with QuickPick

PR: QuickPick is an application and document launcher designed to feel as if it's part of Mac OS X itself. Just drag and drop any number of applications or documents into the QuickPick window, and they'll only ever be a mouse click, flick, or key press away.

QuickPick is a place to store documents and applications that you use frequently. When it comes to launching, QuickPick replaces the roles of Finder, Spotlight, Stacks, and the Dock with one quick and easy interface that is fast to use with the keyboard or the mouse.

QuickPick Why You Need a Launcher

The Dock in Mac OS X is a handy place to put the applications and documents you use every day. Just one click, and you're ready to go. But what if you have a lot of them, too many for the Dock? What about the apps and documents you don't use quite as frequently, but still want nearby? Navigating through the Finder can take far too many clicks. Spotlight can be as helpful as a snail delivering rush order packages. So what do you do?

Why You Need QuickPick

QuickPick keeps any number of applications a mouse flick (or keyboard shortcut) away. When you activate QuickPick, all of the windows on your system will zoom off into the distance, and the documents and apps you want close by will fly right into view. It's describes as like having a fourth dimension just for your files.

QuickPick QuickPick displays files, folders, and application as clickable icons which can be arranged in any way you want by simply dragging them around, similar to the Desktop in Finder. If you need even more space, just add more pages. To launch an application or open a document from inside of QuickPick, just click on it. You can also select and launch items with the keyboard.

Requires Mac OS X 10.6.

QuickPick sells for $10.

6 Ways HyperStudio Is a New Age HyperCard

Mac 360's Natalia Nowak says:

"It's confession time. I last used Apple's legendary HyperCard while in middle school. Late in the last century. Relative to today's Mac apps, I only know how great it was from really old Mac users.

"HyperCard was hypermedia before the public Internet. Hyper-linked pages contained everything from text, to movies, to photos, and data fields. Is there anything like HyperCard today? Maybe....

"To put it simply, HyperStudio is not HyperCard. In many respects its much better, though not as intuitive. HyperStudio has been around for years but hasn't gained the popularity or notoriety of the original.

"In many respects, HyperStudio really is a 21st century incarnation of the promise of Apple's HyperCard."

Editor's Note: I guess I qualify as a really old Mac user, and I loved HyperCard back in the day, although I haven't used it either since late in the last century. However, I cut my graphics editing and creation teeth in HyperCard, and it taught me the rudiments of programming theory (in which I haven't really advanced past being able to write simple AppleScripts). I haven't used HyperStudio, but it sounds promising. cm

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