Mac News Review

Safari 5.1.7 and OS X 10.7.4, How Flashback Works, Free Lion Boot Disk Tool, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2012.05.11

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

Tech Trands

Products & Services

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

Safari 5.1.7 for Snow Leopard and Lion Blocks Outdated Flash

Apple says Safari 5.1.7 contains improvements to performance, stability, compatibility, and security, including changes that:

  • Improve the browser's responsiveness when the system is low on memory
  • Fix an issue that could prevent webpages from responding after using a pinch to zoom gesture
  • Fix an issue that could affect websites using forms to authenticate users
  • Disable versions of Adobe Flash Player that do not include the latest security updates and provide the option to get the current version from Adobe's website.

New in version 5.1.7:

  • Improve the browser's responsiveness when the system is low on memory
  • Fix an issue that could prevent webpages from responding after using a pinch to zoom gesture
  • Fix an issue that could affect websites using forms to authenticate users
  • Disable versions of Adobe Flash Player that do not include the latest security updates and provide the option to get the current version from Adobe's website.

For information on the security content of this update, visit https://support.apple.com/kb/HT1222

Requirements: Mac OS X 10.6.8, 10.7.3, or later

OS X Lion 10.7.4 Released

The OS X Lion Update 10.7.4 update is recommended by Apple for all OS X Lion users and includes general operating system fixes that Apple says will improve the stability, compatibility, and security of your Mac. The OS X Lion v10.7.4 Update includes fixes that:

  • Resolve an issue in which the "Reopen windows when logging back in" setting is always enabled.
  • Improve compatibility with certain British third-party USB keyboards
  • Address an issue that may prevent files from being saved to a server
  • Improve the reliability of copying files to an SMB server
  • Addresses permission issues that may be caused if you use the Get Info inspector function "Apply to enclosed items" on your home directory. For more information, see this article.
  • Improve Internet sharing of PPPoE connections.
  • Improve using a proxy auto-configuration (PAC) file.
  • Address an issue that may prevent files from being saved to an SMB server.
  • Improve printing to an SMB print queue.
  • Improve performance when connecting to a WebDAV server.
  • Enable automatic login for NIS accounts.
  • Include RAW image compatibility for additional digital cameras.
  • Improve the reliability of binding and logging into Active Directory accounts.

The OS X Lion v10.7.4 Update includes Safari 5.1.6, which contains stability improvements.

For information on the security content of this update, visit https://support.apple.com/kb/HT1222

System Requirements : OS X Lion 10.7.3

Note that you can manually download the update installer - a useful option when you need to update multiple computers but only want to download the update once. These versions of the standalone installers are available from Apple Support Downloads.

Apple Extends MobileMe to iCloud Migration Deadline to September 30

Japanese Apple-watcher site reports that Apple now will provide a 20 GB addition storage plan after the iCloud shift for MobileMe users for free until June 30, 2012, but extends the period of use to September 30, 2012.

The iCloud service is free for iOS 5 and OS X Lion users. More information is available at http://www.apple.com/icloud

The core services provided by MobileMe have been completely rewritten and are now part of iCloud. MobileMe will no longer be available after June 30th, 2012. To continue to have mail, contacts, and calendars kept up to date automatically and free of charge, and to access the new services that iCloud provides, MobileMe members must move their accounts to iCloud before June 30th, 2012. For more information, visit http://www.apple.com/mobileme/transition.html

MobileMe services available in iCloud include:

  • Mail
  • Contacts
  • Calendar
  • Bookmarks
  • Find My iPhone
  • Back to My Mac

No longer Available are:

  • iWeb publishing
  • Gallery
  • iDisk

iCloud includes the following new services:

  • iTunes in the Cloud
  • Photo Stream
  • Documents in the Cloud
  • Automatic downloads and purchase history for apps and books
  • Backup and restore

You can continue publishing iWeb sites to MobileMe through June 30th, 2012, even after moving to iCloud. After June 30th, websites published to MobileMe will no longer be available. However, with iWeb you can easily move a site published to MobileMe to another web hosting service. For more information, visit https://support.apple.com/kb/HT4686

You can continue using MobileMe Gallery through June 30th, 2012, even after moving to iCloud. After June 30th, your gallery will no longer be available. You should save copies of all photos published to your gallery before that date. Apple notes that if you have a Mac, it's likely that most of your gallery photos are already in iPhoto. If not, you can sync the gallery photos to your iPhoto library. For more information, visit https://support.apple.com/kb/HT4702

You can continue using MobileMe iDisk through June 30th, 2012, even after moving to iCloud. After June 30th, iDisk will no longer be available. You should save copies of all files stored on iDisk before that date. Read this article for details https://support.apple.com/kb/HT4701

System Requirements:

  • iOS 5 or later on iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch
  • OS X Lion v10.7.2 or later on a Mac
  • Microsoft Windows 7 or Vista (Service Pack 2 or later) on a PC

For OS X 10,5 Leopard users, Apple is giving away free copies of Snow Leopard that will enable you up to upgrade to OS X Lion if your Mac is supported by the current Mac OS: For details see https://secure.me.com/account/?flow=snowleopard

As of May 1, you can choose to keep using your mail after MobileMe ends, even on devices that don't meet the iCloud system requirements. Just go to me.com/move and select the option to keep using your email after MobileMe ends. Once you have completed this short process, your mail will continue to work on devices that don't meet the iCloud requirements after MobileMe ends on June 30th, 2012.

Publisher's note: If you're using MobileMe with Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard on PowerPC Macs, you're out of luck. Ditto if you're using Leopard or 10.6 Snow Leopard on a Core Duo Mac. If you need iCloud, you need to buy a Mac that supports OS X 10.7 Lion. If you're running a Core 2 Duo or newer Mac, you have no choice but to install Lion if you want to use iCloud - you may want to consider creating a dual-boot Mac so you can switch between Lion and Snow Leopard as necessary. (Or maybe just add a second Mac.) Another option comes out of left field: Use Parallels Desktop for Mac or VMware Fusion to virtualize Windows 7 or Vista on your Intel Mac. Kind of crazy how Microsoft supports older Macs better than Apple does, and that iCloud gives those using older Macs a good excuse to install Windows. Bizarre! dk

Symantec Explains How Flashback Malware Works

Symantec has published a new blog post on the inner workings of the Flashback malware that should be of interest to Mac users. The full post and graphics can be found here:

How Flashback works
How Flashback works.

The analysis provides a technical overview of this threat, which used browser plugins to exploit a Java vulnerability on the Mac platform, including:

  • The infection and click-jacking processes employed to target Mac owners
  • The command and control server verification process, which are employed to try to prevent the server from being taken down by security vendors and/or law enforcement.
  • The use of the two methods - domain generation algorithm and specially crafted Twitter messages to communicate new command and control servers

Why You Can't Dump Java Even Though You Want To

InfoWorld's Roger A. Grimes observes that with so many recent exploits using Java as their attack vector, you might conclude that Java should be eliminated - but banishing Java is easier said than done. Many enterprises live and thrive on Java, both pure Java programs and runtime applets running in the browser, and therefore can't remove it, and many websites and services also require Java.

How to Use Android with Your Mac

AppStorm's Alex Arena notes that as Mac users, we're often expected to fit within the lines of the Apple ecosystem - a Mac, iPhone, and maybe even an iPad. But Arena argues that the fact of the matter is that for many people, using something other than an iOS device just makes sense.

In that vein, Afrena tries to break down preconceived notions and help you get the most out of your Android device by using it in conjunction with your Mac, noting that he can almost guarantee you'll be surprised by what Droid can do with the help of your Mac.

Publisher's note: As a longtime Palm user (to this day), I hear this clearly. Since the advent of the iPhone, Apple has eliminated some of the hooks that once made Palm the preferred PDA platform for Mac users. While I love my iPhone, its apps, and its 3G connectivity, there are a few things I like better on my Palm Centro. Even though Android phones and tablets are a minority platform, it's great to see the being supported on Macs. dk

1-in-100 Chance a New Mac Pro Will Destroy Your Data

The Register's Anna Leach reports that Apple is recalling a batch of Mac Pro towers in the UK after a "small number" sold last month turned out to have defective hard disks that may put data at risk according to Apple in its recall notice, with the number of recalled computers in the "single digits."

"Apple has determined that the hard drives in a small number of Mac Pro systems, built from late March to early April, have a reliability issue that could cause data loss. Our records indicate that the Mac Pro system you recently purchased may be affected. We would like to replace the drive that shipped with your system or, if you prefer, replace the entire Mac Pro system."

Tech Trends

Browser Trends: Chrome Passes Firefox for #2 Spot

Browser usage, 2008-2012DailyInfographic has posted an infographic showing browser trends since the advent of Google Chrome, usage of which has exploded since 2008, and the evolution of screen resolution during that same time interval.

Chrome in 2012 is just behind Mozilla.org's Firefox in total usage. With screen resolution, the trend has been unsurprisingly upwards.

Publisher's note: I hate bad infographics, and this is one of the worst. EagerEyes notes that most people don't understand pie charts - and donut charts (as used here by DailyInfographic) are even worse. "The comparison between separate pie or donut charts is also largely meaningless, and should be avoided. To show progression over time, line and bar charts are much better suited."

Far better is this line chart adapted from Stat Owl showing month-by-month change from September 2008 through January 2012:

Browser market share, 2008-2012

Products & Services

Amazon Cloud Drive for Mac

PR: Amazon's new Cloud Drive Easy client software for the Mac lets you quickly access its Cloud Drive service from your computer to:

  • Easily upload your photos, documents, videos and other files
  • Drag and drop files and folders to the Cloud Drive icon
  • Right-click any file or folder and send to Amazon Cloud Drive
  • Easy download of one or more files and folders from Cloud Drive
  • Uploads and downloads run in the background
  • Continue using your computer as you normally would, the app can handle restarts and lost Internet connections without losing your data
  • Pause and resume at any time

Cloud Drive includes 5 GB of free cloud-based storage. Cloud Drive Easy for Mac requires OS X 10.6 or later.

iCloud Not Enough? Microsoft Says Try SkyDrive

Microsoft SkyDrive for Apple
Microsoft SkyDrive supports Macs and iOS devices.

PR: Do you use Microsoft Office on a Mac or a PC and need to work across devices or share with other people? If so, Microsoft contends that its SkyDrive Cloud service is the best cloud for your files. Reasons cited include:

Access Files and Office Docs, Anywhere

With iCloud, you can only access certain files across devices like iWork files or photos you take on your iPhone.

With SkyDrive, you can access or manage any file from anywhere. It doesn't matter whether the file is a document, photo, video, PDF, or anything else - just drag files to the SkyDrive folder on your Mac and they'll automatically be available on your iPhone, iPad, or PC. If you don't have your devices with you, you can still access, view, or edit any file by signing in to SkyDrive.com on any browser.

Share and Work Together with Anyone

With iCloud, you can only collaborate with people who have the right software.

With SkyDrive, you can share any type of file - even big ones up to 2 GB - with anyone. SkyDrive works seamlessly with Office. Anyone you share with can view or edit Word, PowerPoint, or Excel files using Office for Mac, Office for Windows, or with Office Web Apps in their browser

Your Notes, Everywhere

With iCloud, you can access notes across your devices but can't share them.

SkyDrive and OneNote, both free, are integrated so you can take notes, track to-dos and lists all in one place, and share your lists with friends and family so they can coordinate shopping or other tasks you're working on together. You can share and keep your lists automatically updated from any device.

Of course, there's more to life than computers. There are also phones, tablets, and the Web to consider. SkyDrive works and plays well with others. Download the SkyDrive app to your favorite devices and let SkyDrive keep your photos and files accessible from, automatically synced with, and updated on all of those devices.

SkyDrive includes 7 GB of free cloud storage.

System requirements: Microsoft SkyDrive currently requires Mac OS X 10.7 Lion

Software

Free OS Track System Monitor

PR: OS Track is a monitoring system for your computer that allows you to analyse your use of the resources of your OS over time.

OS Track System Monitor

CPU, memory and network bandwidth are monitored constantly, giving you a clear graphical representation of your use of these resources. With this simple-to-use app, you will be able to supervise your computer usage history and compare the effective impact of each of the systems applications.

OS Track lets you quickly and easily which applications are using the most network bandwidth and which are excessively occupying the CPU, without needing to continuously monitor the system status: OsTrack carries out this activity for you, giving you the ability to view graphical representations of the functioning of individual apps at a glance.

The app retains a 60-day history for your system, in addition to allowing you to filter data using four major time intervals:

  • 7 days
  • 15 days
  • 30 days
  • 60 days

Analysing your history in this way makes it easy to see on which days the system was put under stress and which applications contributed to these events.

OS Track System Monitor

Easy-to-use filters at the top of the app allow you to filter applications by name, while the tab All allows you to view a global representation of all activities.

What's New in Version 1.03

  • Improved Performance uses less CPU
  • Several fixes

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.6 or later

Freeware

Lion DiskMaker Freeware Lion Boot Disk Creation Tool

PR: Guillaume Gète's 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 drive from Mac OS X Lion's installer program.

As soon as you launch Lion DiskMaker 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 writable DVD (single layer, 4.7 GB). To build a bootable disk, you'll need a 4 GB (minimum) USB or FireWire drive or an SD-Card.

WARNING!: The entire contents of the drive (including other partition volumes, if any) will be erased. You must back up any important data to another disk.

The Mac OS X Lion installer is automatically erased after you upgrade from Snow Leopard to Lion. If you need to download it again, open the Mac App Store, open the Purchase page while pressing Option (Alt) key. You'll be able to download Mac OS X Lion Install again.

The best time to use Lion DiskMaker is when you just finish downloading Lion from the Mac App Store. Create your disk with Lion Disk Maker, then install Lion.

You can also use Lion DiskMaker with the latest MacBook Airs and Mac minis that shipped with Lion (Summer 2011 models). If you've already purchased Lion on the Mac App Store (and therefore have a valid copy of the Mac OS X Lion Install application), you can download the full 10.7.2 installer from Mac App Store first. This installer is compatible with Macs that came with Lion installed.

If you did not purchase Lion, but want to get an Install disc, there is a way to get the InstallESD.dmg file for your Mac, albeit not simple or straightforward. Check afp548.com for the full story. After you get the InstallESD.dmg file, you can use it use it to build your flash drive, DVD, FireWire or SD-Card boot disk with Lion DiskMaker.

Note that a DVD boot disk will always be slower than a USB flash drive, and the developer says it seems Lion's disk image is not optimized for use with optical disks, so if you can use a USB flash drive it's recommended.

New in v1.7b1

  • 4 GB USB drives again compatible with Lion 10.7.3. I had to regain space by not copying AdditionalSpeechVoices.pkg (which is NOT essential) if you choose to use a 4 GB USB thumb drive. Lion DiskMaker will propose to copy AdditionalSpeechVoices.pkg on the Desktop after creating the disk.
  • Now you can use Lion DiskMaker to create a boot disk without reformatting the WHOLE volume. Now, if you use a bigger-than-4-GB disk, only the volume selected to install Lion DiskMaker will be erased. The other volumes will be kept safe.
  • If you use a more-than-4 GB drive, the disk will be visible in the Startup control panel, with its real name but the disk will need to use the GUID partition scheme.
  • More languages : Lion DiskMaker is now translated in Italian and Chinese ! A German version should arrive soon.

Note that Lion DiskMaker is not compatible with OS X Mountain Lion Developer Preview. This should come in another version.

Lion DiskMaker is donationware.

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