Mac News Review

Lion Recovery Disk Assistant, Making Lion Less Horrible, Gmail Gains Preview Pane, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.08.12

Mac notebook and other portable computing is covered in The 'Book Review. iPad, iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV news is covered in iOS News Review. All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

News & Opinion

Reviews

Apple Updates

Products & Services

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

Apple Releases Lion Recovery Disk Assistant

Built right into OS X Lion, Lion Recovery lets you repair disks or reinstall OS X Lion without the need for a physical disc.

The Lion Recovery Disk Assistant lets you create Lion Recovery on an external drive that has all of the same capabilities as the built-in Lion Recovery: reinstall Lion, repair the disk using Disk Utility, restore from a Time Machine backup, or browse the Web with Safari.

Note: In order to create an external Lion Recovery using the Lion Recovery Assistant, the Mac must have an existing Recovery HD.

To create an external Lion Recovery, download the Lion Recovery Disk Assistant application. Insert an external drive, launch the Lion Recovery Disk Assistant, select the drive where you would like to install, and follow the on screen instructions.

When the Lion Recovery Disk Assistant completes, the new partition will not be visible in the Finder or Disk Utility. To access Lion Recovery, reboot the computer while holding the Option key. Select Recovery HD from the Startup Manager.

System Requirements

  • A Mac running OS X Lion with an existing Recovery HD
  • An external USB hard drive or thumb drive with at least 1 GB of free space

Publisher's note: Also see the news release about Lion DiskMaker below. dk

Apple May Offer Free USB Recovery Drives to Some Lion Users

MacFixIt's Topher Kessler notes that Apple's OS X 10.7 Lion operating system by default reconfigures your main boot drive to contain a small 650 MB recovery partition that, like the original OS X installation DVDs, contains options to fix problems with your OS installation or reinstall the OS if necessary. While the OS will set up this partition on most systems, the installer may not be able to configure the drive with the recovery partition for some setups (especially those running RAID or custom partitioned drives), and if you've already installed Lion on a system and can't use the built-in recovery tools, then you may be eligible to receive some sort of recovery option from Apple.

Apple's Ill-Founded Attempt to Bring the iOS Experience to the Mac

TidBITS' Matt Neuburg reports that OS X 10.7 Lion can cause an application to quit while you're not using it, thanks to a new feature called Automatic Termination, citing Ars Technica's John Siracusa explaining that Lion will quit your running applications behind your back if it decides it needs the resources and if you don't appear to be using them, noting that Apple's own discussion of Automatic Termination affirms that an application can be told to quit even if it has open windows provided that those windows are not currently visible to the user (because they are all minimized, or because the application is hidden or in a different space than the one the user is looking at).

Neuburg contends [and your editor agrees - cm] that the attempt to copy the iOS experience to the Mac is inappropriate, and Apple's entire agenda here is misguided. While with iOS, you can use only one application at a time, so it makes sense that the system can quit an application you're not using, but not so with a full-features desktop OS like OS X, where robust multitasking support should be a paramount priority

Says Neuburg:

"Moreover, there's a larger question at stake: Who, precisely, is in charge? I think it should be me, but Lion disagrees and not in this respect alone. Automatic Termination is merely one aspect of an overall nanny state philosophy characteristic of Lion, and which I find objectionable. When I tell an application to run, I mean it to run, until I tell it to quit; Lion thinks it knows better, and terminates the application for me. Conversely, when I tell an application to quit, I mean it to quit; but again, Lion thinks it knows better, restoring the applications windows when the application launches again, and relaunching the application if I restart the computer. By the same token, when I tell an application to save, I expect it to save, and when I don't tell an application to save, to save, I expect it to save, and when I don't tell an application to save, I expect it not to save; again, Lion wants to abolish a distinction and a choice that I think should be up to me . . . Whereas I think my computer is mine to command, Lion has other ideas."

Editor's note: What he said. cm

How to Make OS X Lion Less Horrible

BGR's Zach Epstein says that while OS X 10.7 Lion is claimed to include more than 250 new features, unfortunately for a seemingly large group of users, including him, the only new features that really mattered were numerous annoyances that came to light after just a few minutes of usage, such as autocorrect, annoying new event behavior in iCal, lack of key repeat, bizarre defaults set throughout the OS, and more, causing some serious users to considered rolling back to OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. Epstein observes that unhappy users will have to grit their teeth and learn to live with much of the new behavior if they wish to continue using Lion. There is a remedy for a few Lion gripes in the form of a little freeware utility called Lion Tweaks that allows you to customize and correct certain annoying new features of OS X 10.7.

Get an Apple Gift Card for Your Old Mac, PC, or iDevice

Send Apple your old iPhone, iPad, Mac, or PC for reuse or recycling, and if it has monetary value, they'll apply that toward an Apple Gift Card that you can use for purchases at any Apple Retail Store or the Apple Online Store. If your iPhone, iPad, Mac, or PC doesn't qualify for reuse, they'll still recycle it responsibly for you at no cost .

Only iPhone, iPad, and Mac or PC desktop and notebook computers qualify for the Apple Reuse and Recycling Program. When you apply, Apple contracts with PowerON, who will estimate the fair market value of your product and provide convenient prepaid options to package and ship your product to their facility for evaluation.

If all you want is to dispose of your unwanted equipment, regardless of brand, Apple can help you do that. Apple contracts with WeRecycle! to responsibly recycle computers and displays from any manufacturer. Call 877-712-2405 to receive a free prepaid shipping label, then pack up your equipment using your own box and send it off.

You can also bring your old Mac batteries to an Apple Retail Store near you, and Apple will recycle them for free.

If you live in one of the following Canadian provinces, you can also participate in free electronics recycling by clicking the links below:

If your province isn't listed here, Canadians can responsibly recycle Apple-branded products free of charge by calling 905-874-8510

Has Apple Made Hardware Specs Irrelevant?

AppStorm's Adam Williams observes that since the dawn of home computing, the cognizenti have measured a machine's worth with a look at it's systems specifications: for example, a 500 MHz iBook G3 was naturally superior to its 300 MHz clamshell ancestor, and once you understood the terms and the math, it was simple. Or at least used to be.

However, Williams notes that in more recent years, the picture has become muddled - is a 2.2 GHz AMD CPU superior to its Intel rival? Throw in multiple cores and a choice of video card, and a confused mess becomes positively Byzantine. Then there's Apple, who as usual does things its own way, with the MacBook Air not spec'ing out as conventionally powerful, but its real world performance speaking for itself.

Williams says one could also point toward Apple's iOS devices, which can often be seemingly underpowered when compared to their competitors, but are satisfactory performers nonetheless, and that whichever the product, Apple has gone a long way toward relegating hardware specs to a less important place when considering a computer purchase.

Publisher's note: It's not so much that Apple has made hardware specs irrlevant as that moving from hard drives to SSD has significantly reduced the bottleneck between storage (hard drive, optical drive, thumb drive, SSD) and system memory. That makes almost everything faster even on a 1.6 GHz dual-core MacBook Air. dk

Gmail Gains Preview Pane

Preview pane in GmailGoogle Associate Product Manager Maciek Nowakowski blogged about a new Preview Pane feature in Gmail.

"When I check my email, I often rely on the message snippets to figure out which messages to open first. Sometimes, though, I want to see more than snippets, which is why I'm happy to announce that you can now preview messages in your inbox using a new feature in Gmail Labs called Preview Pane. Its probably a very familiar layout to those of you who have used Gmail on a tablet device. We also think its going to work especially well if you have a larger resolution screen."

"After you enable Preview Pane from the Labs tab in Gmail Settings you'll see a toggle button in the top right corner of your message list, which lets you switch between preview and list views. For those of you who have more vertical space you can also move the preview pane below your message list. You can enable this using the dropdown arrow next to the toggle button."

Reviews

2011 Mac mini vs. MacBook Air

Bare Feats' rob-ART Morgan notes that since its first incarnation in January 2005, Apple's minimalist Mac mini has gone from a PowerPC G4 to an Intel Core i5/i7 processor, progressed from a Radeon 9200 GPU with 32 MB of memory to Radeon HD 6630M with 256 MB of memory, and instead of an 80 GB Ultra ATA hard drive, you can get it with a 750 GB SATA hard drive and a 256 GB SATA SSD. Yet it weighs less and is thinner than the 2005 model.

Morgan rates the 2011 Mac mini's performance with some basic benchmarks comparing four different 2011 models and, since he considers the MacBook Air the other minimalistic Mac, he's included three Air models in the graphs as well.

Apple Updates

Migration Assistant Update for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard

Apple's Migration Assistant Update for Mac OS X Leopard addresses an issue with the Migration Assistant application in Mac OS X Leopard that prevents transfer of your personal data, settings, and compatible applications from a Mac running Mac OS X Leopard to a new Mac running Mac OS X Lion.

System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.5.8

Products & Services

Seagate GoFlex Turbo Performance Hard Drives Feature SafetyNet Data Recovery Services

PR: Seagate has unveiled its new GoFlex Turbo performance drive with SafetyNet data recovery services (DRS).

Seagate GoFlex Turbo Performance Hard DriveSafetyNet data recovery is the first recovery service offering by a hard drive manufacturer to be included as part of the purchase price of an external drive. With the latest super speed USB 3.0 interface and RPMs clocked at 7200, the GoFlex Turbo drive is equipped to handle transfer speeds up to 40% faster than that of its USB 2.0, 5400 RPM siblings. This latest addition to the GoFlex family was developed with the understanding that those who place a high value on their data should have the peace of mind that their data is even more secure regardless of what unforeseen incident might occur to the drive.

The new GoFlex Turbo performance drive features two-years of SafetyNet data recovery services and is now available from Best Buy for a manufacturers suggested retail price (MSRP) of $119.99 for 500 GB and $139.99 for 750 GB.

"When our products are used as a backup to a primary system or even as supplemental storage, people should know that they can get a further layer of assurance that their data will be there when they need it. With this new GoFlex Turbo performance drive, it is our aim to provide more peace of mind for the people who choose Seagate to back up and store their valued digital assets," says Patrick Connolly, vice president and general manager of Seagate's retail product group. "When our products are used as a backup to a primary system or even as supplemental storage, people should know that they can get a further layer of assurance that their data will be there when they need it."

Seagate is now bringing to market a solution that shelters our customers, who purchase the GoFlex Turbo with SafetyNet, from the potential thousand-dollar cost of recovering lost files. Seagate is providing a solution that will no longer cost thousands of dollars to recover files. SafetyNet DRS provide an extra layer of protection for your content.

SafetyNet

SafetyNet Data Recovery Services are included with the new GoFlex Turbo performance drive that provides additional protection in the event of data loss. Many things can contribute to data being inaccessible from a drive and Seagate is now providing a safeguard against mishaps such as: physical damage to the drive, human error and software viruses. The GoFlex Turbo performance drive includes two years of SafetyNet Data Recovery Service, a service which separately often comes with a price tag of hundreds to thousands of dollars. The SafetyNet service covers one recovery attempt on your GoFlex Turbo performance drive within a two-year period. Seagate's Data Recovery Specialists will determine whether remote or in-lab service is the best way to recover the data.

The SafetyNet program provides one data recovery attempt in the first two years after date of original purchase. Not all data may be recoverable. For more information, see SafetyNet program terms and conditions at seagate.com/safetynet. SafetyNet service currently is available only to legal residents of US.

GoFlex External Hard Drives

First introduced in May of 2010, the family of Seagate GoFlex drives and accessories have introduced a new level of flexibility to external storage which has changed the way people store, access, enjoy and share their digital content. The GoFlex storage family includes easy, plug-and-play portable and desktop drives, with an array of interchangeable cables and desktop adapters that allow each drive to adapt to the interface or device being used. Seagate GoFlex Turbo performance drive and the entire family of GoFlex ultraportable drives are the first to meet the new Universal Storage Module (USM) specification1. GoFlex hard disk drives are also specially designed to provide interoperability between operating systems in order to work with both Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X computers.

Software

Lion DiskMaker Facilitates Burning a Bootable Lion Installer to DVD, USB Drive, or SD Card

PR: Lion Disk Maker is a small application programmed with AppleScript that you can use with Mac OS X 10.6 or 10.7 to burn a DVD or build a bootable USB key from Mac OS X Lion's installation program.

As soon as you launch the application, it checks the presence of Mac OS X Lion Install in the /Applications folder or tries to find one using Spotlight. Then it proposes to build a DVD or create a USB bootable install disk.

To burn the DVD, you'll need a SuperDrive and a writeable DVD (single layer, 4.7 GB). To build a bootable drive, you'll need a 4 GB (minimum) USB or FireWire drive or an SD Card.

The best time to use Lion DiskMaker is when you just finish downloading Lion from the Mac App Store.

Lion DiskMaker is donationware

MemoryFreer Clears Your Mac's Memory Heap Without Rebooting

PR: Rubin Wang's MemoryFreer does just what it says - free up memory, especially the inactive memory that occupies the precious RAM on your computer. It greatly improves the performance of your memory-hungry applications such as Photoshop, Safari/Firefox, Office, iWork, etc.

MemoryFreerJust click "Free Memory" button and watch the magic work. In some instances you may need to run it a few times to shrink inactive memory to minimal.

New in Version 1.0.1

  • Added option to auto launch at login.
  • Added warning message at first run.
  • Fixed the bug that the process may not exist correctly in some rare occasion.

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.5 or later

99¢

Publisher's note: At present 25 users have rated this app, giving it a score of 4+. Similar apps are Purger King (free, 4+ with 6 ratings), iMemoryCleaner (99¢, 4+ with 15 ratings), Memory Cleaner ($5.99, 4+ with 34 ratings), and Memory Sweeper Pro ($9.99, 4+ with 34 ratings, currently on sale for 99¢). Only MemoryFreer supports OS X 10.5; the other require 10.6 or later. I have been testing Memory Cleaner and hope to publish a review in the near future. dk

Hallmark Card Studio for Mac on the Mac App Store at 25% Off

PR: For more than 100 years, Hallmark has been designing greeting cards for life's special moments. Hallmark Card Studio For Mac extends this tradition, making it easy to create one-of-a-kind Hallmark cards as unique as the people you care for.

Hallmark Card Studio for Mac

You can create personalized cards in 3 easy steps:

  1. Select from thousands of cards
  2. Add your own custom message or photo
  3. Print or email your special card

Hallmark Card Studio for Mac

It's a fast, easy, and fun way to create distinctive Hallmark cards for any occasion - birthdays to anniversaries, Christmas to Valentine's Day. But cards are just the beginning. Commemorate events and bridge the miles between family and friends with custom calendars, photo frames, postcards, stationery, invitations, scrapbooks, certificates and more.

Send personalized Hallmark E-Cards using a selection of prerecorded sounds for any occasion. Or add your own recorded sounds and WAV files for an extra personal touch. You'll get tips for writing more personalized, heartfelt notes with the Hallmark Note-Writing Guide.

Hallmark Card Studio for MacHallmark Card Studio For Mac Features:

  • Commemorate events and bridge the miles between family and friends with invitations, photo frames, scrapbook pages, stationery, certificates, e-cards and much more
  • 7,500+ Hallmark Greeting Cards and customizable projects
  • 10,000+ Graphic Images
  • Exclusive Hallmark Fonts
  • Optimized for Leopard and Snow Leopard
  • Integrated iLife Features
  • Import photographs from iPhoto and iSight cameras

Multitouch Gesture Support

  • Hallmark Graphics Collection
  • A tutorial gets you started fast
  • Browse projects by design, theme or occasion

Digital PhotoPlacer

Digital PhotoPlacerThere's no better way to personalize a Hallmark greeting card than by adding a family photo captured from your digital camera or scanner.

With Hallmark Card Studio, you can insert photos directly into your favorite Hallmark card. You can also capture life's special moments in beautiful photo frames or create custom photo newsletters to bridge the miles between family and friends.

Creative Projects

Create your own one-of-a-kind Hallmark cards for friends and family with Hallmark Card Studio for Mac! It's the fast, easy and fun way to create customizable Hallmark cards for any occasion - from birthdays and anniversaries to Christmas and Valentines Day!

Hundreds of Other Projects

Hallmark Card Studio for Mac also helps you capture life's special moments with scrapbook pages, photo frames, stationery, personalized invitations, stickers and certificates. Also included are personal calendars for monthly and yearly use.

To give your cards a truly unique look, there's an array of clip art images included suitable for any occasion. You can also import your own clip art if you prefer.

Hallmark Card Studio for MacSystem Requirements

  • Mac OS X 10.6 or later (Download Version)
  • Mac OS X 10.5 or later (Boxed Version)
  • Intel-based Mac
  • 1 GB RAM
  • DVD Drive
  • Internet Connection Required to Use Download Version
  • High Speed Internet connection recommended

$39.99

Limited Time Introductory Price: $29.99 - 25% off at the Mac App Store.

Requirements: Mac OS X 10.6 or later

River Bible King James Bible Viewer

PR: Jolon Faichney's 99¢ River Bible Viewer is a project designed to let you live with your Bible. River is based on an SQLite backend accessed through Core Data allowing for fast searching and retrieval. A simple table-based interface is provided to browse and search the Bible.

River Bible King James Bible ViewerRiver offers a variety of features:

  • King James Version
  • Beautiful typesetting
  • Clean, simple user interface
  • Fast Core Data backend

New in version 1.2:

  • River Bible now supports daily Journal notes

System requirements:

  • Intel
  • Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later

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