Mac News Review

Fighting Flashback Malware, 11 Reasons to Skip OS X Lion, Why Lion Calls for an SSD, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2012.04.13

Mac OS X 10.0 first shipped on March 24, 2001, and for the first 11 years, what little Mac malware there was existed only in labs - never in the wild. There have been a few Trojans, programs that tricked Mac users into downloading supposed Flash updates, free antivirus apps, etc. while instead installing malware, but until the recent Flashback outbreak, no Mac malware has been able to install itself without user involvement. Last week we reported that 600,000 Macs - 1% of the installed base - were infected, and this week we're reporting on a lot of new tools to identify and/or remove Flashback.

Flashback changed all that, and for the first time in the history of Macs, we recommend installing antivirus/anti-malware software on your OS X Macs. If you're running OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard or 10.7 Lion, be sure you use Software Update to install the latest version of Java (Update 8 for 10.6, 2012-003 for 10.7), which is secure against the current version of Flashback. If you're running older versions of OS X, your best bet is to open your browser's preferences and disable Java or go to the Utilities folder in your Mac's Applications folder, move the Java folder to the Trash, and delete it completely. Another option is to switch to OpenDNS, which protects against malware and phishing, as covered below.

We have been unable to find any information on which older versions of Mac OS X may be infected, and Symantec is now reporting that Flashback has been removed from the majority Macs that had been infected by Flashback, dropping the infection level to approximately 270,000 Macs from a possible high of 670,000.

The big lesson is that Macs are not impregnable. Although the level of Mac malware is far, far lower than for Windows, we can no longer ignore the fact that we have been successfully targeted - and things will only get worse going forward. Kudos to Apple for building Gatekeeper into the forthcoming OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion to give us even more protection.

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.

Flashback News

News & Opinion

Rumor Roundup

Apple Updates

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

Flashback News

Mac Flashback FAQ: What It Is and How to Get Rid of It

Cnet's Josh Lowensohn has posted a FAQ guide to the Flashback Trojan malware currently attacking the Mac OS X platform, addressing what it is, whether you have it, and how to get rid of it.

Worried About Mac Malware? Set Up Free OpenDNS

OpenDNS' Allison Rhodes reports that OpenDNS security and DNS provider of choice for 2% of all Internet users is blocking the Flashback Trojan, which is being described as one of the single biggest Mac security incidents of all time.

Rhodes says that as OpenDNS does in cases of very large scale attacks like this, the protection is included in Premium DNS and completely free to users. People not yet using OpenDNS need only to set up the service on their wireless router, computer or device to secure their computers and devices from the attack. (OpenDNS also offers OpenDNS Enterprise, a security service for businesses that includes comprehensive malware and botnet protection.)

If you're already using OpenDNS services, no action is required to get the protection. It was enabled for you automatically. In addition to protection from Flashback, OpenDNS will also protect you from future, widespread attacks and make your Internet both faster and more reliable.

What Is Flashback, and How Does OpenDNS protect Users?

Until very recently, notes Rhodes, it was commonly believed that Macs are largely immune to malware and attacks. However, some reported estimates of numbers of infections this time are as high as 600,000 Macs, with a reported 56% of those on US soil. Flashback was first discovered in September of last year, when it was designed to look like a Adobe Flash update (hence its name). But as of this month, it is now infecting users that visit compromised websites. Once infected, the malware will attempt to connect to a server for command and control. Flashback has a built-in algorithm, which calculates the domain for C&C.

Rhodes says OpenDNS is far and away the most ideal measure Internet users can take to protect their machines from Flashback, since it is a proactive, preventative measure, and the only solution that doesn't require software or installing of anything, recommending that all Mac users switch to OpenDNS now to prevent infection, and avoid a scenario where infection occurs and disinfection is necessary, citing an F-Secure note regarding Flashback: "Caution: Manual disinfection is a risky process; it is recommended only for advanced users. Otherwise, please seek professional technical assistance."

Even for those people who find their machine has already been infected by Flashback, Rhodes maintains, enabling OpenDNS will prevent the malware from connecting to its command and control and causing your machine any damage.

Not Yet Using OpenDNS?

To set up the OpenDNS free service, simply create an account, choose your router or computer and follow the step-by-step instructions. Note that setting up OpenDNS on your router will protect all devices connecting to the Internet through your WiFi network, and Windows users should use OpenDNS, too.

If you're already using OpenDNS, you can rest assured that you're protected.

The OpenDNS dashboard lets you filter Internet content
The OpenDNS dashboard lets you filter Internet content.

Publisher's note: We use OpenDNS on all of our Macs at Low End Mac headquarters. Features include security against malware and phishing, faster DNS lookups than most ISPs, and the ability to filter Internet access as you see fit or using its preconfigured FamilyShield. All for free. Recommended. dk

Free Test4Flashback Malware Checker

PR: Marc Zeedar, publisher of Real Studio Developer magazine, has written a simple and free Test4Flashback utility that upon startup tells you whether or not your Mac is infected. This software doesn't attempt to do any removal.

Test4Flashback

Free FlashbackChecker Utility Detects If Your Mac Is Infected with Flashback

PR: Juan Leon's free FlashbackChecker utility runs tests described in the F-Secure Bulletin as of April 6th, 2012.

FlashbackChecker

Note that this utility checks and reports the presence of Flashback malware, but does not remove it, and Leon has no affiliation with F-Secure.

Supported Mac OS versions:

  • Mac OS X 10.5 up
  • PPC and Intel

FlashbackChecker 1.0 is donationware.

F-Secure Issues Free Flashback Removal Tool

PR: F-Secure has released a free tool that automates detection and removal of the Flashback Mac OS X malware. The tool creates a log file on the user's Desktop, and if any Flashback infections are found, they are quarantined into an encrypted ZIP file (flashback_quarantine.zip) to the current user's Home folder. The ZIP is encrypted with the password "infected".

F-Secure Corporation protects consumers and businesses against computer viruses and other threats from the Internet and mobile networks. F-Secure's award-winning solutions are available as a service subscription through more than 170 Internet service providers and mobile operator partners around the world, making F-Secure a global leader in this market.

Free Kaspersky Labs Tool Identifies and Disinfects Flashback and Flashfake

PR: Kaspersky Labs experts recently analyzed the Flashfake botnet and found a total of 670,000 infected computers worldwide, with more than 98% of those computers most likely running Mac OS X. It is anticipated that the other 2% of machines running the Flashfake bot are very likely to be Macs as well. This is the largest Mac-based infection to date, with the largest number of victims targeting developed countries. The United States had the most infected computers (300,917) followed by Canada (94,625), the United Kingdom (47,109) and Australia (41,600). Other infected countries include France (7891), Italy (6585), Mexico (5747), Spain (4304), Germany (4021) and Japan (3864).

Users can check if they're infected with Flashfake by visiting Kaspersky Labs' safe verification site, and can remove it using the Kaspersky Flashfake Removal Tool.

On April 6 Kaspersky Labs researchers reverse-engineered the Flashfake malware and registered several domain names which could be used by criminals as a C&C server for managing the botnet. This method enabled them to analyze the communications between infected computers and the C&Cs. By connecting to Flashfake, Kaspersky Labs experts are able to continuously monitor the botnet's communication with active bots and have published their findings.

Throughout last weekend Kaspersky Lab experts saw a decline in the number of active bots: on April 6 the total number was 650,748. At the conclusion of April 8 the number of active bots was 237,103; however, the decrease in infected bots does not mean the botnet is rapidly shrinking. The statistics represent the number of active bots connected to Flashfake during the past few days it is not the equivalent of the exact number of infected machines. Infected computers that were inactive during the weekend would not be communicating with Flashfake, thus making them not appear as an infected bot.

Since connecting to the botnet for analysis, Kaspersky Labs' sinkhole server has registered all the data sent by bots from the infected computers and recorded their UUIDs in a dedicated database. Based on this information, Kaspersky Labs experts have created an online resource where all users of Mac OS X can check if their computer has been infected by Flashback / Flashfake.

How to determine if your computer is infected:

  • Visit Kaspersky Labs site at www.flashbackcheck.com to determine if you're infected.
  • This dedicated site is safe for users to visit and enter their UUID, which will be checked in Kaspersky Labs Flashfake database of infected computers. Instructions for entering user UUIDs are included as well.

How to disinfect your computer:

If your UUID is found in the database, you need to disinfect your Mac. Here are three recommendations to do this:

  • Use a free special utility, the Kaspersky Flashfake Removal Tool. It will automatically scan your system and remove Flashback if it is detected. This is a free-to-download and free-to-use program.
  • Download a trial version of Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2011 for Mac. This program offers comprehensive protection against all known malicious programs for Mac OS X, including Flashback.
  • Detect and remove Flashback manually. Please follow the instructions provided on the following page:

Apple Developing Detection and Removal Software for Flashback

Apple has released a statement regarding a recent version of malicious software called Flashback that exploits a security flaw in Java in order to install itself on Macs.

Apple released a Java update on April 3, 2012 that fixes the Java security flaw for systems running OS X v10.7 and Mac OS X v10.6.

Apple also says it is is developing software that will detect and remove the Flashback malware.

In addition to the Java vulnerability, the Flashback malware relies on computer servers hosted by the malware authors to perform many of its critical functions. Apple is working with ISPs worldwide to disable this command and control network.

For Macs running Mac OS X v10.5 or earlier, for which no security updates are offered, Apple suggests that you can protect yourself from this malware by disabling Java in your web browser's preferences.

Publisher's note: Apple has received a black eye in the antivirus community - firstly, because the security hole Flashback uses was patched in February on Windows and Linux; secondly, because it took so long to acknowledge the issue; and thirdly, because it attempted to shut down some of the servers antivirus companies set up specifically to monitor Flashback. Adding insult to injury, where (as noted above) existing Mac antivirus apps have been updated to detect and remove Flashback and some developers have created apps specifically to detect the first widespread malware in the 11-year history of Mac OS X, Apple has only promised detection and removal software at some unspecified future date (see update immediately beow for details on Apple's solution). Poor form, Apple. dk

Apple Finally Deploys Mac Flashback Trojan Terminator

The Register's John Leydan reports:

"Apple has released a tool that removes the infamous Flashback Trojan from infected Macs.

"The utility, billed as a Java security update, also disables Java applets by default - but only on machines running OS X Lion, the latest version. The update turns off Java applet execution by default for all browsers, not just Safari.

"Users can re-enable this if necessary, perhaps to use an online banking site that mandates Java, but the functionality is disabled again automatically in the absence of applet use within 35 days, as Apple's security bulletin for Lion explains:

This Java security update removes the most common variants of the Flashback malware.

This update also configures the Java web plug-in to disable the automatic execution of Java applets. Users may re-enable automatic execution of Java applets using the Java Preferences application.

If the Java web plug-in detects that no applets have been run for an extended period of time it will again disable Java applets.

Java for OS X Lion 2012-003 delivers Java SE 6 version 1.6.0_31 and supersedes all previous versions of Java for OS X Lion.

This update is recommended for all Mac users with Java installed

"The picture is different for Mac users running Snow Leopard, where disabling Java in your browser won't happen automatically, as explained in a blog post by Paul Ducklin of Sophos here. The update for Snow Leopard does include Flashback Trojan removal, as explained in Apple's bulletin here.

"Both the OS X Lion and Snow Leopard updates, released on Thursday, come with a patched version of Java that was made available in a separate set of updates earlier this week.

"Apple has made good on its promise earlier this week to release a Flashback removal tool but the move came after several security firms independently released their own Flashback detection and removal tools (a list of free utilities is here).

"The Flashback Trojan created a zombie army of remote-controllable 650,000 Apple Macs, or more, by exploiting a Java security vulnerability that Apple only patched last week, six weeks after a patch for Windows machines became available.

"The Flashback Trojan has declined over recent days from a peak of around 670,000 machines to around 270,000 bots (Symantec's latest estimate) or lower. Despite the decline the zombie network remains an undead menace."

Reinstalling OS X after a Malware Infection

MacFixIt's Topher Kessler says that while instructions are available to remove the latest malware threats for OS X, some may choose to simply reinstall OS X and start from a clean slate, although he cautions that you may not be able to trust Time Machine or other data backups or system clones to be free from the malware if you don't know exactly when your Mac became infected, such as when you installed a recent, now suspect update to Flash, then you might be able to reinstall using backup from before the problem occurred.

However, there are ways to start again from a clean slate with minimal data loss.

News & Opinion

No Mac Pro Upgrade Makes Mac Power Users Anxious

Hardmac's Lionel says that for reasons he has difficulty understanding, while the Xeon E5 CPU is currently available from Intel, Apple has not upgraded its Mac Pro (last updated in July 2010), disappointing current Pro users committed to Apple systems and applications who would like to get more raw power to boost productivity.

Lionel thinks that Apple should indicate its intentions, as it did it for Final Cut Pro X users, either by releasing/announcing the new Mac Pro or communicating its plans for the Mac Pro's future - if it has one - noting that many customers have been investing hardware and software into Apple technologies for years, and they deserve to be informed on this matter.

Publisher's note: The Mac Pro is the only current Mac that has not yet been updated to include Apple's Thunderbolt technology, which is aimed at high-end users - the Mac Pro's primary audience. At this point the 27" 3.4 GHz quad-core i7-based iMac, which has Thunderbolt but forces users to deal with a monstrous 27" display they may not want, has more raw processing power than the 3.33 GHz 4-core Mac Pro and nearly as much as the 2.27 GHz 8-core Mac Pro. We understand the concern Mac Pro user have that Apple is abandoning them, as Thunderbolt technology was introduced to all other Macs in 2011. dk

Cowardly Lion: 11 Reasons Not to Upgrade to OS X 10.7 Lion

The Musings From Mars blogger says:

cowardly lion"I am a big admirer of Apple, Steve Jobs, and Mac OS X . . . [H]owever, as much as I've tried to, I just don't like Mac OS X 10.7 ('Lion') certainly not enough to upgrade to it from Snow Leopard. Unlike every previous update to Apple's Unix-based operating system, there's really nothing in Lion that's truly compelling or will make me more productive on my Mac, and lot that isn't and won't....

"Perhaps some of Apple's vision for Lion will be better realized when Mountain Lion (Mac OS X 10.8) is released this summer . . . but most of what I've seen is filling in gaps with apps that are available on the iPad/iPhone and don't have Mac equivalents (from Apple)...."

"...a brief list of the things I really don't like about Lion (in no particular order):"

  1. Scrollbars
  2. Invisible User library
  3. Autosave
  4. Launchpad - Totally unnecessary a bit of screen fluff transported from the iPod - "If Apple ever seriously considers replacing the Finder with something like Launchpad, I definitely will not be moving with them"
  5. Preserving Open Windows/Apps
  6. iCloud only being available only to users of Lion
  7. App Store that makes you pay up front for everything you download, based solely on the developer's blurb and user ratings
  8. Full-screen apps - Arguably appropriate for some apps like Photoshop, iPhoto, iMovie . . . it's just silly to tout this a useful feature of the operating system. Can you imagine a full-screen version of, say, Calculator?
  9. Finder feature changes
  10. QuickLook on Lion is different and inferior to that on Snow Leopard.
  11. Toolbars - On Lion, Apple has removed the toolbar-toggle button at the window's upper right-hand corner.

For full discussion of these points and more, check out the blog.

Editor's note: This list of Lion shortcomings pretty much mirrors mine and explains why I'm still using Snow Leopard. cm

Publisher's note: Apple has always been a forward-looking company, dropping old technologies (such as floppy drives, SCSI, Classic Mode, and Rosetta PowerPC emulation) when it deems them obsolete, and often introducing new ones before the industry is ready to embrace them (for instance, FireWire and Thunderbolt). This is in contrast to Microsoft, which makes sure the current version of Windows works with lots of old, old software and peripherals. To our benefit, Apple helps grow the market for older Macs and Low End Mac every time is leaves an old technology behind. dk

OS X Lion Really Calls for an SSD

ZDNet's Robin Harris notes that Apple's adding iOS UI elements to OS X means lots more small I/Os, the kind that hard disks do poorly and SSDs do well, advising that you'll regret buying a new Mac without an SSD - and speaking from experience.

Harris also notes that key aspects of OS X Lion performance - boot up, file access times, page swapping, context switching - all suck using even a 7200 rpm hard drive.

How much suckage? So much that Harris says a 1.86 GHz Core 2 Duo, 4 GB MacBook Air with a 128 GB SSD outperforms his 3.4 GHz quad-core i7, 16 GB 2011 Thunderbolt iMac with a 1 TB SATA drive in performing 90% of the work he does, and it is more stable as well.

Gartner: Macs Now #3 PC in US with 10.6% Share Excluding Tablets

PR: Worldwide PC shipments totaled 89 million units in the first quarter of 2012, a 1.9% increase from the first quarter of 2011, when shipments reached 87.3 million units, according to preliminary results by Gartner, Inc. These results exceed Gartner's earlier projections of a 1.2% decline for the quarter.

"The results were mixed depending on the region, as we saw the EMEA region perform better than expected with PC shipments growing 6.7% in the first quarter of 2012, while Asia/Pacific performed below expectations, in part because of slow growth in India and China," says Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. "While the PC industry has high expectations for strong growth in the emerging markets, the slowdown of these countries in this quarter provides a cautionary notice to vendors that the future growth for the PC industry cannot heavily depend on the emerging markets even though PC penetration in these regions is low."

"In general, the hard-disk drive (HDD) supply shortage had a limited impact on PC supply during 1Q12. There was a moderate impact on selected markets, such as low-end consumer notebooks and the white-box market in selected regions. Still, low PC demand was able to mask the tight HDD supply overall."

worldwide PC vendor unit shipments Q1 2012

Although PC vendors typically experience low consumer PC sales in the first quarter, Gartner's preliminary results reveal worse-than-normal consumer PC shipment growth. The weak consumer PC demand is in part because of intensified competition for consumers' budgets. Device vendors that focus on a limited product line will get only a small portion of the consumer wallet. Gartner notes that in such a market environment, companies such as Apple can be clear winners because of comprehensive product/service offerings, which gain a large part of consumers' spending.

HP increased its share as the global market leader, as it accounted for 17.2% of worldwide PC shipments in the first quarter of 2012 (see Table 2). HP was able to secure HDD inventory, unlike 4Q11 when it was faced with a shortage issue. HP's growth also indicates that internal management issues were resolved, and analysts said it appears HP was able to restore some of the business it lost as a result of those issues.

US PC vendor unit shipments Q1 2012

Lenovo experienced the strongest growth among the top five vendors, as its shipments increased 28.1% in the first quarter of 2012. It showed significant shipment growth in the EMEA market, with over 50% year-over-year growth. Lenovo has been enjoying healthy growth in the professional market, while the company successfully expanded into the consumer space.

Dell underperformed in most regions compared with a year ago. For the first time in two years, Dell experienced a year-over-year shipment decline in the Asia/Pacific market. Gartner analysts said early indications suggest that Dell's relatively low shipments were mainly due to low-end consumer systems, to which Dell gave low priority. Dell's investments seem to be more focused toward businesses.

In the US, PC shipments totaled 15.5 million units in the first quarter of 2012, a 3.5% decline from the same period last year (see Table 2). Gartner analysts had expected the market to decline 6.1% in the quarter.

"The consumer segment continued to be a drag on market growth, as PC demand was low," Ms. Kitagawa said. "The HDD supply shortage moderately impacted the very low-end consumer notebook market, so channels could not run aggressive promotions with very low-end systems. Questions remain on whether low-end systems can attract consumers, as their attention has moved to other devices."

HP experienced the strongest growth among the top five vendors in the US, as its shipments grew 6.6%, and its market share reached 29% in the quarter. Apple was the only other vendor among the top five to show growth in the quarter, as its shipments increased 3.8%. Apple now enjoys a 10.6% domestic PC market share, behind only HP (29%) and Dell (22.3%)

PC shipments in EMEA totaled 28.2 million units in the first quarter of 2012, a 6.7% increase from the same period last year. Professional PC shipments were above expectations across most countries, but consumer PC demand still varied greatly by country.

In Asia/Pacific, PC shipments reached 30.3 million units in the first quarter of 2012, a 2% increase from the first quarter of 2011. In China, shipments of desk-based PCs decreased significantly as there was no longer a rural PC program in place to drive demand. In India, the Tamil Nadu deal, operated by local government to provide free laptops to students, was supposed to be executed in the first quarter, but it has been postponed to subsequent quarters.

The PC market in Latin America declined 3.2% in the first quarter of 2012, as shipments totaled 9 million units. Mobile PC shipments grew 0.4% over the first quarter of 2011, while desk-based PC shipments decreased 7.6%. Many white-box PC vendors had depleted inventory due to the HDD shortage.

PC shipments in Japan grew 11.5% in the first quarter of 2012, as shipments reached 4.4 million units. The double-digit growth was due in part to the very weak performance in 1Q11, which was affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March of last year.

"The first quarter of 2012 was a transitional period as the PC industry is awaiting two big releases: Intel's Ivy Bridge and Microsoft's Windows 8. Both are expected to be launched this year. Although these new releases are not expected to stimulate demand as much as the industry hopes, they will affect PC supply so that there will be artificial supply control before and after the product releases. There will be few products rolled out into the market until these major releases have taken place," Ms. Kitagawa said.

These results are preliminary. Final statistics will be available soon to clients of Gartner's PC Quarterly Statistics Worldwide by Region program. This program offers a comprehensive and timely picture of the worldwide PC market, allowing product planning, distribution, marketing and sales organizations to keep abreast of key issues and their future implications around the globe. Additional research can be found on Gartner's Computing Hardware section on Gartner's website.

Rumor Roundup

Rumor: Apple to Release New iMacs in June or July

AppleInsider Staff report:

"Apple's all-in-one desktop, the iMac, will receive an update with Intel's next-generation Ivy Bridge CPUs in the June or July timeframe, according to a new rumor."

Apple Updates

Java for OS X Lion (2012-003) Update

Apple says Java for OS X Lion 2012-001 delivers improved reliability, security, and compatibility for Java SE 6.

See https://support.apple.com/kb/HT5055 for more details about this update.

See https://support.apple.com/kb/HT1222 for information about the security content of this update.

File Size: 66.9 MB

System Requirements: OS X 10.7

Software

Gesture-based Sleipnir Browser Updated to Version 3.3.1

PR: The Sleipnir 3 Browser features:

Extremely simple design that doesn't need an address bar: URLs are just a technical specification, and definitely not easy to use information for people. We have removed the large address bar in Sleipnir 3 to provide a vast space for visually displaying opened tabs.

Sleipnir browser features speedy gestures

Extremely speedy gestures even with just one hand: You can operate tabs at high speed as if magic by using the multitouch and mouse supported gesture - [TouchPaging]. You do not need to do all your daily browsing by clicking the small buttons on the screen because you can perform gestures such as switching, going to previous, and closing tabs with just one hand.

Sync bookmarks automatically: You can sync your bookmarks with Sleipnir on other devices by using the free Fenrir Pass service. Because synchronization of bookmarks are completed automatically, you can use the same bookmarks as expected in any of your devices, whenever you want.

Sleipnir browser swipe to switch tabs

Other functions:

  • Switch tabs by swiping tabs, left or right-click
  • Operate tabs using a variety of gestures: Execute using touch operations or while holding down the right-click button
  • TiledTab: Pinch-in on the TrackPad to view a list of tabs
  • Hold And Go: Hold down on a link to open in the background
  • Ad Block
  • Tab groups for managing tabs
  • Sync bookmarks with other devices using Fenrir Pass
  • The standard full-screen with OS X Lion

Sleipnir browser pinch to view all tabs

Sleipnir 3.3.1 changes include security strengthened by stricter certificate displaying, "Unable to log into Twitter" issue fixed and Bookmarks bar operations improved.

New in Version 3.3:

  • Share pages (Twitter, Facebook, E-mail)
  • Use multiple accounts for AutoFill Passwords
  • Improvements to operations when downloading
  • Bookmarks management method switched to Folders / Labels
  • Manage cookies
  • Export bookmarks
  • German localization improved
  • Italian language support added
  • Swedish and Norwegian language support added
  • Issue where some web pages could not be displayed properly fixed
  • Issue where Keychain checking frequently occurred in Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard fixed
  • Issue where the application would crash if tabs were moved to Tab Groups in Mac OS X Snow Leopard fixed
  • Performance improved
  • Operational reliability improved

System requirements: Compatible with OS X 10.6 / 10.7

Sleipnir is freeware.

We have unfortunately had to remove some basic functions in the Mac App Store version due to some restrictions by the Mac App Store. You can also select the premium Black Edition that has no restrictions, and includes special web creation tools.

Read Charles Moore's review of the Mac and iOS versions, Sleipnir 3.3 Web Browser for OS X and Sleipnir Mobile for iOS 1.8.2, on MacPrices.

TextWrangler 4.0: Free Text Editor Updated

PR: Bare Bones Software announced the release and immediate availability of TextWrangler 4.0, a major upgrade to its high performance, general purpose text editor for Mac OS X.

TextWrangler 4 adds new editing and disk browser window layouts, switchable syntax color schemes, and seamless preservation of open documents on relaunch.

TextWrangler 4.0

In addition, TextWrangler 4 also includes a completely redesigned Preferences window, a new Setup window, a streamlined filtering and automation interface, new support for Verilog and VHDL, plus a new modeless "Open File by Name" feature with efficient search-as-you-type results as well as a slate of other significant performance and user interface enhancements.

In TextWrangler 4, the new editing window now presents a streamlined layout with easy, direct access to both open and recent documents. When run on Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion), TextWrangler 4 also supports "Full-screen" mode and "any edge" window resizing.

Upon quitting, TextWrangler 4 will now automatically remember the contents of unsaved documents, and restore them the next time the program is launched.

TextWrangler 4.0 preferences

The new TextWrangler 4 Preferences window has been completely re-imagined to make customization easier than ever. For example, a new "Text Colors" preference panel now makes it easy to create and switch between different color schemes. In addition, a new Setup window provides a central location to manage configuration, including FTP/SFTP bookmarks, grep patterns and file filters.

TextWrangler 4.0 colors

Access to text filters and scripts is now streamlined, plus TextWrangler 4 now has the ability to treat AppleScripts, Automator actions, and Unix scripts as co-equal and all may be used as text filters or run directly as scripts.

System Requirements: TextWrangler 4 requires Mac OS X 10.6 or higher (10.6.8, or 10.7.3 or later recommended).

All Mac OS X users may download TextWrangler 4 free of charge from the Mac App Store or the Bare Bones Software download site.

Publisher's note: We've been huge fans of TextWrangler ever since Bare Bones Software introduced it to replace BBEdit Lite, and after a few days working with version 4.0, we're impressed. dk

Free MarsThemes Text Tools Utility

PR: Writers need ready access to a range of text functions in whatever application one happens to be writing in.

In most of the rich text editors, those functions are available somewhere in the app's menus, but typically located in different places within each app, and some otherwise useful apps don't include one or two key functions at all.

MarsThemes Text Tools

However Mac OS X has a rich text framework that provides a decent set of editing tools, and it would be extremely handy to be able to access that toolset consistently across apps, which is precisely what the MarsThemes Text Tools app does: Grant easy access to the key OS X Cocoa text tools that writers and editors need but often can't find quickly or conveniently.

A example of this utility's usefulness is with Apple's Stickies app, which apparently assumes that users only want to type paragraphs with no formatting. Using the Text Tools, you can add The Ruler, a table, and all the rest. Likewise for applications like Yojimbo and TextWrangler, which provide no way to format text, but for which the Text Tools let you add The Ruler, a table, etc.

MarsThemes Text ToolsThe latest MarsThemes Text Tools version 1.1 release adds localizations for 13 languages plus English, and now filters out a multitude of console messages that were set up during development.

The key tools supported are:

  • Tables
  • Lists
  • Links
  • The Ruler
  • Strikethrough
  • Copy and Paste text styles

The MarsThemes Text Tools has two user options:

  • Show more text tools
  • Show Manage Tools menu at top.

Selecting the first option adds the following tools to the menu:

  • Styles (used for adding a custom style to your personal list)
  • A More Tools menu, which includes the Capitalize functions, which normally appear in a submenu, as well as access to two handy formatting tools to control inter-letter spacing and baseline setting.
  • Access to the Substitutions setting panel.
  • A link to open the handy Special Characters panel.

The Manage Tools menu also includes functions for checking updates, uninstalling, and getting help.

The Text Tools application is programmed so that it only loads into software that it detects has some kind of editing functionality, which helps keep its overall footprint on your Mac as small as possible.

The Text Tools run as a plugin to the Mars Theme Loader (MTL) framework. If you do not have MTL installed, the Text Tools installer will do that for you. If you uninstall the Text Tools, the uninstaller will disable the MTL agent at that time.

Text Tools is freeware.

iBackup Free Easy-To-Use Backup/Restore Utility

PR: iBackup is a simple to use free utility that backs up and restores user data and not only Mac OS system and applications settings (e.g. System Preferences, Mail, iPhoto, iTunes) but also third-party application settings. More than 250 plugins for backup application settings are available, which allow you to restore the settings and data of one application or to restore an earlier point in time.

iBackup

iBackup allows users to create profiles, each of which makes it possible:

  • to select the items to be backed up
  • to specify scheduler information
  • to manage backup folder settings
  • to define connection settings
  • to manage log file settings
  • to manage UNIX copy commands settings

iBackup 2011 (7.4) supports Mac OS X 10.3.9, 10.4, 10.5, 10.6, 10.7, and is ready for 10.8. It is free for personal use only. For commercial purposes, licensing is available.

WaterRoof Free IPFW Firewall Front-end

PR: WaterRoof uses Mac OS X's built-in IPFW firewall. No kernel modules, no extensions, no pain. WaterRoof is free and open-source.

This advanced Mac OS X free graphic front-end for ipfw now features a new, clean interface. WaterRoof lets you create, modify, delete, and move ipfw ipv4 and ipv6 rules very quickly.

  • Designed for Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server
  • Build ipfw rules easily with the new simplified interface and the IPFW Rules Translator. Building ipfw rules now is easier than ever
  • Scan your Mac for running network services and filter open ports with one mouse click
  • List and ban remote hosts connected to your Mac
  • Watch and parse firewall logs, create raw and graphic statistics
  • Look at active network connections, block them or limit their bandwidth on-the-fly with the connection inspector
  • List all processes that make or listen for network connections
  • Backup and deploy firewall rules with WaterRoof Injectors
  • Manage Network Address Translation (NAT) daemon: create a dual-homed firewall/nat/router with port redirection and forwarding;
  • Manage rules on Mac OS X Server: WaterRoof is fully integrated with Server Admin
  • Manage NAT Port Forwarding (including Mac OS X Server 10.7 Lion)
  • Configure a dual homed NAT firewall/router with Mac OS X Server 10.7 Lion: set up (*)working(*) port forwarding directives and choose your favourite IP range for your LAN interface and clients
  • Deploy firewall configuration using WaterRoof Injectors
  • Import and export firewall configurations
  • Quick DNS reverse and whois choosing from a list of whois servers
  • Manage network bandwidth with dummynet pipes
  • Check live dynamic rules (IPFW States) created by stateful firewall rules
  • Import rules from NoobProof Injectors
  • Keep your favourite firewall rules active at system boot
  • Explore and test ipfw with configuration wizard and ready rule sets

Tested on OS X 10.6.8 and 10.7.3 (client/server), runs on 10.8DP1 too.

New in version 3.6:

  • New connection inspector
  • Fully compatible with Mac OS X Server 10.7
  • Added support for natd and port redirection on Mac OS X Server 10.7. See contextual helps for more info.
  • New interface
  • New boot script
  • Added integration with serveradmin, now it is safe to use WaterRoof on Mac OS X Server. Please see contextual helps inside the application for more information.
  • Fixed minor bugs

WaterRoof is free. PayPal donations accepted.

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