Mac News Review

Apple Killing the Desktop PC, iCloud or the Highway, PlayStation Vita to Ignore Flash, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.10.29

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

Apple Updates

Products & Services

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

Apple Is Killing the Desktop PC Faster Than You Think

NeoWin's Brad Sams suggests taking a good long look at your desktop - whether it be Windows, Linux, or OS X - because it's going away, or at least that's where Apple is headed, and it is happening faster than you might think, underway since the day the iPad was first released.

The problem for traditional PC users, Sams observes, is that while the tablet is great for consuming content, it is not so great for creating it.

Nevertheless, Apple's new OS X Lion has an application launcher that imports the familiar iOS icon-based layout to OS X, while its App Stores are creating a unified platform that can go anywhere and do anything as long as Apple says its okay. Sams predicts that in the not-so-distant future direct download of applications to OS X will be gone and replaced with an iOS-style App Store only environment.

Sams also predicts that Siri is the future for Apple, with the iPhone 4S rollout only the start of its grand plans, and that Apple will kill the keyboard and mouse for most tasks, replacing them with your voice.

iCloud: Apple's Way or the Highway

The Sydney Morning Herald's Adam Turner notes that Apple's iCloud is an all or nothing proposition for users choosing to hold off installing OS X 10.7 Lion and iOS 5.

Turner looks at the challenges facing iUsers who are losing access to MobileMe next year but can't (or don't want to) upgrade all their gear to Lion and iOS 5.

The iOS 5 upgrade doesn't support the original iPhone or the 3G, and Turner says he knows people who've encountered overheating troubles running iOS 5 on 3GS iPhones. You can't upgrade to Lion if you're running a pre-Intel Mac - or even some of the earliest Intel Macs - so if you're not running iOS 5 and Lion, it looks like you'll lose access to many of your old MobileMe features next year.

Turner says he understands why people satisfied with their present hardware would resent being forced to replace something that still works just because Apple has chosen to discontinue features, noting that in today's throwaway society, people are all too quick to throw away perfectly good gear just because a newer model comes along.

He also notes that some users simply don't want to upgrade to Lion because their old Mac is working just fine, and he reports that his own Mid 2009 MacBook Pro isn't as happy running Lion as it was running Snow Leopard.

Turner reports that there's a rumor Apple that might bring iCloud to Snow Leopard after letting people sweat for a while and encouraging them to upgrade, but he suggests that crunch time has arrived for Apple users, to wit: either hand your life over to iCloud or turn your back on Apple and look for other ways to sync your data - Google being the obvious choice for those looking for device-agnostic cloud services. He says that even if he were prepared to jump through Apple's hoops, who's to say he won't get burned again the next time Apple feels like introducing a new service and killing off an old one, concluding, "it's time to cut the cord," bridling at Apple's habit of forcing users to play by its rules, and declaring that he doesn't intend to hand his entire digital life over to iCloud and forever lock himself into Apple's way of doing things.

PlayStation Vita's Browser Won't Support Flash

Gamasutra's Frank Cifaldi reports:

"Sony's upcoming PlayStation Vita [it's next generation portable gaming system] will not support Adobe's Flash platform in its web browser . . . at least, not at launch.

"According to an article published in this week's issue of Weekly Famitsu in Japan, the Vita's web browser will support cookies, JavaScript 1.7, and part of the HTML5 standard when it launches in Japan next month."

"Sony's previous portable, the PSP, also launched without Flash support."

"Support for Adobe's now 15-year-old platform has fallen by the wayside in recent years. Most famously, Apple's iOS-compatible devices do not run Flash content in their native browsers, with late former CEO Steve Jobs blaming its occlusion on 'technology issues.'

"Additionally, Microsoft announced that a future version of its Internet Explorer browser will drop support for all plug-ins, including Flash."

Apple Updates

EFI Firmware Update for Mid 2011 Mac mini

Mac mini EFI Firmware Update 1.4 fixes several issues to improve the stability of Mid 2011 Mac mini computers and is recommended for all users.

This update includes fixes delivered in Mac mini EFI Firmware Update 1.3 that enhance the stability of Lion Recovery from an Internet connection and resolve issues with Apple Thunderbolt Display compatibility and Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode performance on Mid 2011 Mac mini models.

Boot ROM or SMC Version Information: After Mac mini update has successfully completed, your Boot ROM Version will be: MM51.88Z.0077.B0E.1110141154

System Requirements: OS X Lion 10.7 and later

EFI Update for Early 2011 iMac

iMac EFI Update 1.7 enables Lion Recovery from an Internet connection and includes fixes that resolve issues with Apple Thunderbolt Display compatibility and Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode performance on Early 2011 iMac models.

For more information about Lion Recovery, visit http://www.apple.com/macosx/recovery/

Boot ROM or SMC Version Information: After iMac EFI update has successfully completed, your Boot ROM Version will be: IM121.88Z.0047.B1D.1110171110

System Requirements:

  • Mac OS X 10.6.8
  • OS X Lion 10.7 or later

Products & Services

Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs Biography Discounted to $17.88 at Amazon.com

PR: Based on more than forty interviews with Jobs conducted over two years, as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues, Walter Isaacson documents the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of the creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacsonn
Jacket photograph by Albert Watson.

With America is seeking ways to sustain its innovative edge in a world transitioning to digital-age economies, Jobs epitomized inventiveness and applied imagination. He knew that the best way to create value in the twenty-first century was to connect creativity with technology, building a company where leaps of the imagination were combined with remarkable feats of engineering.

Although Jobs cooperated with this book, he asked for no control over what was written nor even the right to read it before it was published. He put nothing off-limits, and encouraged people he knew to speak honestly. Jobs himself speaks candidly, sometimes brutally so, about people he worked with and competed against. His friends, foes, and colleagues provide an unvarnished view of the passions, perfectionism, obsessions, artistry, devilry, and compulsion for control that shaped his approach to business and the innovative products that resulted.

Jobs could drive those around him to fury and despair, but his personality and products were interrelated, just as Apple's hardware and software tended to be as part of an integrated system. His tale is instructive and cautionary, filled with lessons about innovation, character, leadership, and values.

Author Walter Isaacson, CEO of the Aspen Institute, has been chairman of CNN and the managing editor of Time magazine. He is the author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life and of Kissinger: A Biography, and the coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made.

Steve Jobs
by Walter Isaacson
Hardcover: 656 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (October 24, 2011)
ISBN-10: 1451648537
ISBN-13: 978-1451648539
List Price: $35

Samsung 830 SSD Series: 64 GB to 512 GB at 6 Gb/s

PR: Samsung Electronics America, Inc. has announced that its new line of advanced internal solid state drives (SSDs), the Samsung SSD 830 series, is available for purchase. These drives, which Samsung says set a new standard for SATA 6 Gb/s SSDs, are available in capacities of 64 GB ($129.99), 128 GB ($229.99), 256 GB ($429.99) and 512 GB ($849.99).

Samsung claims that system boot, game launch, and saved game loads are all noticeably quicker. This means gamers can jump into their games faster then ever before. On some titles, they report a more fluid experience, likely because of how quickly the game assets were streaming in.

Norton Ghost installation software and Batman: Arkham City for PC, published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and developed by Rocksteady Studios, will be included for a limited time with all 128 GB or higher models. A code provided in the box will enable a download of the full PC version of the game.

Samsung SSD 830 SeriesThe Samsung SSD 830 Series incorporates a high-performance Serial ATA Revision 3.0 interface, doubling the data bandwidth of Samsung's previous SSD product, the SSD 470 series. As a result, the drives boast superior random read speeds (up to 80,000 IOPS) and faster sequential read and write speeds (up to 520 MB/s & 400 MB/s respectively).

Further, the drives utilize 20-nanometer-class toggle DDR (double-data rate) NAND chips which enable data transfer rates up to 133 megabits per second (Mbps)more than three times faster than conventional (66 Mbps) single-data-rate (SDR) NAND chips. Samsung's unique triple-core MCX controller, which excels in multitasking, provides superior throughput under heavy input/output (IO) loads, allowing for more consistent performance on a wider variety of tasks.

"Since Samsung manufactures all components of the 830 SSD, we are able to deliver amazing performance and enhanced reliability," explains Reid Sullivan, Senior Vice President of Mobile Entertainment, Samsung Electronics America. "In addition, the drives feature an absolutely beautiful design that anyone will want to show off."

To verify that Samsung's 830 SSD delivers claimed benefits to the key audience of PC gamers, Samsung arranged for the research firm Hit Detection, led by former Newsweek senior writer NGai Croal, to test the 830 SSD side by side with HDDs on 30 different games.

"I expected a speed boost on systems utilizing the 830 SSD, but I was stunned at just how much of a benefit Samsung was able to achieve," Croal reports. "System boot, game launch and saved game loads are all noticeably quicker. This means gamers can jump into their games faster then ever before. On some titles, we even noticed a more fluid experience, likely because of how quickly the game assets were streaming in. Detailed findings will be available in a white paper to be released shortly."

Samsung SSD 830 SeriesIn addition to the high performance, the Samsung SSD 830 series features a stylish brushed metal enclosure, highlighted by a deep black tone.

Samsung also provides a full upgrade kit along with each 830 series model, for a superior user experience and a safe and easy upgrade solution. The included Norton Ghost software eliminates the need to reinstall applications, manually move data, and reconfigure user settings, reducing the time it takes to upgrade to an SSD by up to 75 percent according to Samsung. The desktop bundle also includes a bracket for installing the 2.5" drive in a 3.5" bay, all required cables, and detailed instructions. Notebook upgrade kits include a USB to SATA adapter cable and a drive spacer to ensure a perfect fit.

The new SSD series builds on the success of the acclaimed 470 Series SSD. Samsung, a leading memory manufacturer, has created proprietary firmware the brains of the drive to deliver exceptional performance. Samsung also engineers all of its components in-house, unique among SSD manufacturers. This allows it to meticulously fine-tune its hardware and software for enhanced reliability. In addition, the included Samsung Magician software helps keeps the SSD running at its peak.

SSDs utilize flash memory for data storage rather than the spinning platters found in conventional hard disk drives. This yields faster performance, lower energy consumption, reduced heat output and improved reliability.

*Accessible capacity varies; MB = 1 million bytes, GB = 1 billion bytes, TB = 1 trillion bytes. Please note that a portion of the drive may be reserved for system recovery and preloaded content software.

Magic FrogPad Transforms Apple's Magic Trackpad from Mouse to Keyboard

PR: On September 20th, Magic FrogPad became available to Mac users worldwide under the leadership of FrogPad president Linda Marroquin, who has stewarded the company for over ten years from the FrogPad offices in Houston, Texas. The Magic FrogPad transforms Apple's Magic Trackpad into a keyboard and numeric keypad and keeps the functionality of the mouse.

Magic FrogPad"What if you had a new way to interface with your Mac, your tablet or any multitouch surface? FrogPad is transforming the way you think about interacting with your latest multitouch technologies," says Ms. Marroquin. "FrogPad's one-handed user interface is easy to use, lets mobile workers be more flexible, and improves efficiencies and safety in many environments.

FrogPad's move into the tablet space is nothing new. FrogPad interface is a first mover in the tablet space, and since its inception, the inherently one-handed keyboard interface designed to make mobile easier, has been squarely focused on the mobility space. Its unique keyboard design takes less space and requires only one handed use. Tutorials can be found on YouTube, its website, and through games FrogPad has developed to make learning the new interface fun.

"I want people to imagine a world without the QWERTY keyboard, which was developed long before mobile computers were even imagined," says Ms. Marroquin. "The multitouch capabilities we are releasing with Magic FrogPad transforms the way people develop information. Try it. Talk about it. Challenge it. And tell us what you think. We offer an Apple Magic Trackpad as our gift."

"The phone calls and emails that I receive from people around the world are truly inspirational," Linda Marroquin continues. Whether it is a technology enthusiast who raves about the ease of using the FrogPad interface with their tablets or veterans who have lost the use of a hand, our base of users are passionate and dedicated to our platform, the stories users share move Marroquin to make sure FrogPad continues to be available to everyone.

The Magic FrogPad is easy to "install" and fits the Apple Magic Trackpad like a glove. FrogPad has redesigned its revolutionary iFrog architecture to fit on a single, clear, repositionable cling. The touch sensitivity is powered by a simple software that turns your Magic Trackpad into a Magic FrogPad. Functionality can easily be interchanged between Mouse & Keyboard by simply sliding your finger across the FrogMouse Key. You don't need your QWERTY keyboard at all. Magic FrogPad can take over the functionality of both keyboard and mouse with one simple cling.

Just like the flagship FrogPad, the Magic FrogPad is also available in both left and right-handed versions. It connects via Bluetooth wireless technology. You can still use a mouse or work in conjunction with one. Magic FrogPad gives you a smaller footprint to control what's on your computer's desktop while leaving plenty of room on your physical desktop.

Features

  • FrogPad's gift to you: an Apple Magic Trackpad (limited time offer - $69 value)
  • Mouse and One Handed FrogPadKeyboard in one Device
  • Every function of a standard Qwerty Keyboard including numbers
  • Find your best fit, either a Lefty or a Righty, by the way we sell 50% Lefties
  • Easy to learn follow choice of tutorials

System requirements:

  • Bluetooth enabled Mac computer
  • Two AA batteries (included)
  • Mac OS X 10.6.4 Snow Leopard and latest software update

$129

Software

Fetch 5.7 for Mac Delivers Greater Control Over File Transfers

PR: Fetch Softworks has announced the latest release of Fetch, the original Mac file transfer app. With new features designed to provide greater control over the user's file transfer tasks, this release continues the Fetch tradition of steady, relentless improvement.

Fetch 5.7 for Mac

Fetch now offers users better control over files. A simple but very useful way Fetch does this is by preserving the modification dates of uploaded files, making it easier to tell when a file on a server matches the local copy. Further, Fetch's new Find field enables users to zero in on just the files they are working with.

Fetch also helps users better monitor the progress of file transfers. While previous versions reported the transfer progress of each individual file, Fetch now displays the progress of the overall transfer, making it easier to see when the entire operation will be complete.

Finally, Fetch now makes it easier to use Fetch on multiple computers without having to manually update shortcuts on each one. Fetch introduces support for syncing Fetch shortcuts using Dropbox, enabling individuals and groups to access an up-to-date collection of shortcuts no matter which Mac they use.

Fetch 5.7 for MacThe major new features in Fetch 5.7 are:

  • Improved Edit command you can now edit any kind of file using any application and the changes will automatically be saved back to the server
  • Added automatic resume of stalled or failed uploads
  • Added automatic resume of stalled or failed downloads
  • Added support for displaying the overall progress and time remaining of multi-file transfers
  • Added support for syncing shortcuts using Dropbox or a shared file server
  • Added Quick Look support for previewing files on servers (Mac OS X 10.5 and later only)
  • Added support for preserving the modification date of uploaded files
  • Made Get Info quicker by not calculating folder sizes until you ask for them
  • Redesigned Recent Folders menu to improve readability and display of folder hierarchy
  • Added find field for filtering transfer window file lists
  • Added support for gestures on laptop trackpads: in the transfer window, swipe left to go back to previously viewed folder, swipe up to go to the parent folder, and swipe down to open the selected folder

Other fixes and improvements in Fetch 5.7 can be reviewed here.

System Requirements: Fetch 5.7 is compatible with Intel Macs running Mac OS X 10.5 or later, including Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and Mac OS X 10.7 Lion.

Fetch is free to try for 15 days, and a single-user license is $29.

Fetch can be downloaded from the company's website or from the Mac App Store. Upgrades are free for Fetch 5.5 and Fetch 5.6 users and customers who purchased Fetch after January 28, 2009; otherwise, upgrades are $10. Free licenses and upgrades are available for educational and charitable use.

Quicksilver Upgraded: Mac OS X at Your Fingertips

PR: Quicksilver, your editor's favorite launcher utility (much more elegant than that monstrosity in OS X 10.7 Lion) is a light, fast, and free Mac application that gives you the power to control your Mac with keystrokes alone.

Want to start the Mail application? Just type mail and hit return. Too much typing? Just type 'm and select Mail from the list of results. Quicksilver learns what you mean by certain abbreviations as you use them. Do this a couple of times and Mail will become the top result.

This isn't limited to applications. It applies to anything in Quicksilver's catalog.

Launching Is Just The Beginning

Saying that Quicksilver is an application launcher is like saying a car is a drink holder. You can do almost anything with Quicksilver. A list of specific features would probably make you say So what? I can do all of that now. You can, but it takes work. Quicksilver blurs the line between thinking about something and simply having it done.

Find it fast

Quicksilver gives you quick access to the stuff that's important to you. With only a few keystrokes, you can get to your applications, files, contacts, bookmarks, music, etc. But don't get distracted. Quicksilver is about doing, not finding. Finding things is simply a necessary prerequisite (that it happens to handle extremely well).

Type it like you think it

Using something like Spotlight to find an Address Book entry for John Smith would require you to search for part of the name, like john. What if you want to find it just by typing js? Quicksilver lets you abbreviate using letters from anywhere in the name. And that means anywhere, not just the beginning of words. Use ps to find Photoshop or tun to find iTunes. Use abbreviations that make sense to you.

Stay where you are

There's no need to stop what you're doing and switch applications for simple tasks. Move the file you just downloaded to your Documents folder without ever leaving your web browser. Paste a URL into an e-mail message without switching to your web browser and without copying and pasting. Add something to your To Do List as soon as you think of it and get right back to what you're doing.

Grab and go

Select files or text and do something with them immediately. Quicksilver can grab the current selection from almost any application. Use text to search the web or append it to a file. Grab files and delete them, move them or send them.

Do it backwards

Many actions are reversible. You can select a search engine then enter some text to find. But if you already have the text selected (or copied to the clipboard), you can do the reverse: grab the text then select a search engine to send it to.

You can select a contact and email them a file, or you can select a file and e-mail it to a contact. No thinking. No planning. No adjusting. Just doing.

Keep Finder at arms length

Quicksilver allows you to do all sorts of things with files, including moving, copying, renaming and deleting. It also allows you to navigate your entire file system (including hidden files) whether the files are in its catalog or not. Just add a few important top-level folders to the catalog and you can drill down from there as needed.

Still not fast enough?

If you find yourself doing something frequently, you can speed up the task even more by assigning a trigger to it. Triggers can be activated by keyboard shortcuts or mouse movements.

Do more

There are many plug-ins that extend the functionality even further. Change the interface appearance. Access information from web-based services. Access your browsers bookmarks and history.

What about Spotlight?

  • Spotlight is fantastic and it certainly has its place, but its no substitute for Quicksilver.
  • Spotlight knows about everything. Quicksilver concentrates on just the things you care about.

Spotlight is about finding things. Quicksilver is about finding things (faster) and then doing something with what you've found.

  • Spotlight only deals with files. Quicksilver gives you access to things that don't necessarily exist as a file.
  • Spotlight can show your dad's entry in the Address Book. Quicksilver can show your dad's work phone number.
  • Spotlight forces you to think when you search. Quicksilver allows you to just start typing and get what you want. Maybe not the first time you type it, but the third or fourth time for sure.

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