Mac News Review

Apple's 'Crystal Prison' Pros and Cons, Mac Malware Safety, MailForge 3 Released, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2012.06.01

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

Products & Services

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

EFF: iOS Is a 'Crystal Prison' - and OS X Is Headed Down the Same Road

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Micah Lee and Peter Eckersley note that two weeks ago, Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak made a public call for the company to open its platforms for those who wish to "tinker, tweak and innovate with their internals."

The EFF supports Wozniak's position say Lee and Eckersley, acknowledging that while Apple's products have many virtues, they are increasingly compromised by "an ugly set of restrictions on what users and programmers can do with them" the phenomenon that has come to be popularly known as Apple's "walled garden." They observe that as yet, this is most especially true of the mobile iOS platform, although other Apple products are increasingly beginning to suffer in the same way.

In their analysis, Lee and Eckersley delve into the kinds of restrictions that Apple, phone companies, and Microsoft have been imposing on mobile computers; examine the rationalization these corporate entities make for imposing such restrictions; and warn of the dangers this is creating for open innovation with a special emphasis on Apple in particular which they contend should lead the way in fixing this mess. They also propose a bill of rights that needs to be secured for users of smartphones and other pocket computers.

EFF Wants to Save Apple Users from the Tyranny of Excellence

In response to EFF's tirade, Mac Observer's Bryan Chaffin writes:

"I love the EFF. They are a force for good and have been instrumental in protecting and extending all manner of freedoms in the digital age. More importantly, they have helped to keep a number of truly awful things from happening over the years.

"It's just in this case, I don't want the world for which they are agitating.

"It's the whole widget model, where one company - Apple - controls the hardware and the software. That model is directly opposed to the paradigm that has ruled computerdom since Microsoft won the platform wars in the 1980s...."

"...the EFF wants Apple to basically make iOS into something far more similar to Android than the iOS platform we know today."

"The EFF is calling these four bullet points a 'bill of rights for mobile computing owners,' and it wants those rights to extend to all devices, not just Apple."

"Apple protects my data, Apple kept the carriers from restricting features on my iPhone, and Apple curates its App Store to keep it free of scams and malware.

"In short, Apple has chosen to earn its profits by catering to my wants, rather than the wants of everyone else. It's not perfect, far from it, but it does so more than any other tech company out there.

"Yes, Apple has also needlessly censored political (and not-at-all political) apps, keeps adult material off the App Store, and has made some peculiarly arbitrary App Store rejections. Apple has also kicked a lot of third party purchasing ability out of App Store apps, and made some other decisions I don't necessarily agree with.

"But, and this is my central point, I prefer the overall experience that Apple offers. I like having a one-stop app shopping destination. I love the fact that I don't even have to think about malware in the App Store. I love having a seamless experience for my apps, for my ebooks (even Kindle ebooks), for my music (even music ripped from CDs). I love my seamless contact syncing, and Apple's visual voicemail, and more recently, iMessage."

"It's somewhat ironic: by advocating for a totally open iOS platform, the EFF is wanting to take away my ability to choose the experience I want."

Publisher's note: What Bryan said! While there's something very fair and democratic about open source software and user rights, there's much to be said in favor of Apple's integrated model for Macs and iDevices where everything "just works". That's why I'll take my 5-to-10-year-old Macs and iPhone 3GS over Windows, Linux, Android, and even Apple's own OS X 10.7 Lion, which "just works" too differently from what I'm used to and won't run several of my legacy apps. dk

Sandboxing Is a Lose-Lose-Lose Situation for Apple, Developers, and Users

Macworld UK's Karen Haslam reports that the implementation of sandboxing on the Mac App Store looks like it's shaping up to cause big headaches for the Mac developer community, but perhaps even more importantly, it may disadvantage users. Sandboxing limits an application's access to a computer's resources, confining it to its own dedicated space.

Haslam cites several software developers explaining how this Apple edict is likely to frustrate, complicate life for, and diminish productivity of Mac users, making removal of features from upgrades to existing apps necessary for compliance - and concerned that they will become targets of the ire of angry customers rightly upset about losing features. One describes it as "a lose-lose-lose situation for Apple, developers, and users."

Developers May Abandon Apple's Mac App Store Over Sandboxing Issues

Macworld UK's Karen Haslam takes a look at concerns and frustrations relating to Apple's insistence that applications distributed via the Mac App Store are sandboxed, how these changes will 'disadvantage Mac users' according to developers, and what developers are doing to meet Apple's sandboxing requirements, noting that rather than update their apps, some developers are considering removing them from the Mac App Store altogether, while others have decided to maintain more than one version of their app, and some are refusing to do anything because Apple keeps changing the guidelines for sandboxing and they don't want to waste development time on making changes that may become unnecessary.

Stay Safe Amid the Growing Threat of Mac Malware

AppStorm's Adam Williams notes that recently the tech world has been abuzz with news of Mac malware threats, the reports given weight by the emergence of a newer and more sophisticated version of the Trojan horse Flashback known as Flashback.K, the latest iteration of the malware that has been grabbing headlines since mid-2011, which makes use of a known Java security vulnerability to launch malicious code and potentially record users personal data.

He notes that as OS X market share continues to rise, security is becoming an area of concern for more users, and there's a perception building that Macs have lost their previous status as secure computers, with some analysts even going so far as to say that were about to enter an era of cat-and-mouse games between Apple and malware makers. So, is the sky falling or is this all a lot of hot air?

Publisher's note: The IT world defines security differently than most of the world. An operating system is insecure if it has vulnerabilities, whether any malware exploits those vulnerabilities or not. In the real world, a system is secure until malware exists to exploit those vulnerabilities. Macs have always had security holes, but whether in the days of the Classic Mac OS or the era of Mac OS X, they have rarely been targeted by malware in the wild. Not to say that we shouldn't be concerned about security just because we use Macs, but that until this past year there has been little reason to be concerned. Today we recommend that you look into freeware antivirus apps such as ClamXav, Sophos Antivirus for Mac, iAntivirus, Avira Free Mac Security, and Avast! Free Antivirus for Mac (we have not tested most of these, but they all come from reputable sources). Avoid apps that specifically target Flashback; use something that targets the full spectrum of Mac malware. dk

'We Want a New Mac Pro' Petition Posted on Facebook

Lou Borella and the Creative Community have posted a petition on Facebook imploring Apple to upgrade the Mac Pro. An accompanying open letter reads in part:

"Hello Apple. Remember me? I'm one of your loyal users. I'm one of the guys who has owned 2 MacPros (sic), a G5, a G4, 4 laptops, one iMac, 4 iPods, one MacMini (sic), 4 iPhones and a bevy of other peripherals and software packages over the last 10 years.

"I'm looking for a little clarity.

'We Want a New Macpro' petition on Facebook
'We Want a New Macpro' petition on Facebook.

"Can you please let me and the other people on in (sic) this group know what is going on with the MacPro (sic)? Its (sic) been neglected for far too long. We realize all the success of the iPad and iPhone and we're really happy with our new toys. But unfortunately many of us need to make decisions on hardware for professional uses that allow us to make a living....

"Please, either set us free and tell us that the hardware is dead or give us a little peak behind the curtain. Its (sic) not too much to ask. We cannot wait any longer and its really not fair to string us along like this."

Publisher's note: I'm sure Apple would take Borella more seriously if he wrote more professionally. Apple calls it a "Mac Pro" (not a MacPro or Macpro) and a "Mac mini" (not a MacMini). "Its" is a possessive, "it's" means "it is" - and so on. It's hard to take someone seriously who can't write properly, something we really strive to do here at Low End Mac. dk

Dropbox Alternatives for PowerPC Macs

PPC Luddite blogger Dan says that since file syncing is what all the kids are into these days, he thought he'd do a rundown on all the choices we PowerPC users have. It's not just Dropbox, right? There must be more?

For OS X 10.5 Leopard users, yes: SugarSync, SpiderOak, and Wuala still support PowerPC, in addition to Dropbox. However, for OS X 10.4 Tiger users, there are only Dropbox and Wuala, and Wuala's web interface requires the Java plugin, which is a drawback in these times of Java-based malware.

Publisher's note: Dropbox is a very Mac-like "it just works" solutions that most of our staff has embraced. We use it at LEM headquarters to sync files among three different Macs - a Power Mac G4 running Tiger, another running Leopard, and a Mac mini running OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. For more on why we love Dropbox, see Charles Moore's Why Dropbox Remains My Pick of the Cloud Services Litter on AppleTell.

Steve Jobs' AllThingsD Interviews Available for Free Download

Following the D10 interview with current Apple CEO Tim Cook on Tuesday, AllThingsD has made its collection of Steve Jobs interviews, entitled "Steve Jobs at the D: All Things Digital Conference," available as a free download in the iTunes Store.

Steve Jobs at the D: All Things Digital Conference
Steve Jobs at the D: All Things Digital Conference is available on the iTunes.

There's lots of Steve Jobs video, primarily from his famous keynote introductions of Apple products over the years, as well as his oft-quoted Stanford commencement address. However the largest trove of video is of the late Mr. Jobs candidly answering unrehearsed questions and explaining his views on technology and business drawn from from his six lengthy appearances at the D: All Things Digital Conference, from 2003 to 2010.

As a memorial to a great man, and, in the spirit of sharing a priceless piece of history, All Things Digital are making all six of these appearances available free, in high quality, thanking Apple for its cooperation in making these videos available for all.

  1. Steve Jobs in 2003, at the first D: All Things Digital Conference. After starting NEXT and Pixar, Steve Jobs was back at an Apple in decline. 5/28/03
  2. Steve Jobs in 2004, at D2. Success with iTunes and a fledgeling iPod business were among the topics of conversation. 6/7/04
  3. Steve Jobs in 2005, at D3. Steve Jobs talks about mobile devices and their future in peoples pockets. 5/22/05
  4. Steve Jobs in 2007, at D5. Steve Jobs, the first iPhone, and the new Apple. 5/30/07
  5. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates Together in 2007, at D5. The historic, candid conversation with Steve Jobs and his lifelong rival, Bill Gates. 5/30/07
  6. Steve Jobs in 2010, at D8. Steve Jobs' final appearance on the D stage, talking iPad and the future. 6/1/10
  7. Steve Jobs' Legacy - Reflections from AllThingsD - Articles and essays from Walt Mossberg and Ina Fried of AllThingsD, including Mossberg's, The Steve Jobs I Knew. 5/30/12

Products & Services

Logitech's New Solar Keyboard for Mac, iPad, and iPhone

PR: Logitech has announced an expansion of its solar powered keyboard lines with the new Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K760 for Mac, iPad or iPhone. A continuation of Logitech's solar series, which started with the Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750 and has continued with the Logitech Solar Keyboard Folio for iPad, this new keyboard adds Bluetooth connectivity with an easy-switching capability. It allows you to simultaneously pair multiple devices and quickly switch among them with the push of a button.

Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K760

"Laptops, smartphones and tablets are ubiquitous both at work and at play," says Denis Pavillard, vice president of experience design at Logitech. "Because Apple devices are central to this trend, Logitech is committed to improving the way people interact with them. With its simple solar charging, familiar Mac layout and comfortable design, the Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K760 will appeal to Apple users worldwide."

One Keyboard for All Your Apple Devices

Logitech Brand Manager Todd Walker says that when the company released the Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750 for the Mac last fall, some customers let them know they wanted a solar keyboard that used a Bluetooth wireless connection. Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K760Logitech listened, and with the new Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K760, up to three different devices can be kept paired via the easy-switching Bluetooth connection that allows you to quickly and easily switch from your Mac to your iPad with the press of a button. Switching back is just as easy.

The Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K760 is stylish and compact with onboard cells that are powered by light for hassle-free charging. With its easy-switching Bluetooth connection, you can pair your keyboard to as many as three devices and switch among them without having to reconnect. This means you can move from typing on your Mac to your iPad to your iPhone and back again with the simple push of a button.

An ideal keyboard solution for your favorite Apple device, the Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K760 features a slim, minimalist design and Mac-specific keys, including Command, Brightness, Eject and more. Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K760The unique Logitech concave key design facilitates comfortable, quiet typing, and for iDevice users offers more speed and precision than typing on an onscreen keyboard.

With its environmentally friendly PVC-free construction, fully recyclable box and onboard cells for charging, the Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K760 is designed to minimize its environmental footprint. Similar to the existing Logitech Solar Keyboards, you can charge this keyboard in any light low light or lamp light, indoors or outdoors. Fully powered, the keyboard works for at least three months, even in total darkness (based on average use per day of eight hours).

The Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K760 is expected to be available in the US and Europe beginning in June 2012, for a suggested retail price of $79.99.

System Requirements

  • Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) or later (Intel only)
  • iPad or iPhone with iOS 4.0 or later
  • Light source from sunlight and/or indoor lighting
  • Internet connection (for software download)

Editor's note: I have been using a Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750 as my main workstation keyboard for the past 10 months and can't say enough good about it (see my review on PBCentral). This new 'board makes the concept more portable with Bluetooth connectivity instead of conventional RF so it can be used with iOS devices. cm

Logitech K760 with traditional Mac layout
Logitech K760 with a more traditional Mac layout.

Publisher's note: The layout of the K760 that we've seen on most websites (including Logitech's) has an oddly shaped Return key further to the right than Mac users are used to (a problem with the original IBM PC keyboard as well, but that was way back in 1981). We've seen another layout online as well (above), most notably on Cnet.com, that more closely mirrors the traditional Mac layout. We're hoping that's the one that's going to ship.

Software

FreeMemory Frees Up OS X Memory

PR: Rocky Sand Studio's FreeMemory can increase your free memory with a simple click and monitors memory usage in your menu bar.

FreeMemory

If you're using OS X 10.7 Lion, you can upgrade FreeMemory by adding FreeMemory Extras.* It will improve the app with show/hide dock icon, customizable menu bar, detachable 3D pie chart and more useful features. You can hide the dock icon with a simple click in Extras Settings. FreeMemory will only show up in your menu bar. Usage details with an elegant detachable 3D pie chart

The Extras Settings will enable you to shape your FreeMemory menu bar the way you like it. You can free up precious space in your menu bar by only displaying an icon, a small scale 2D pie chart, a shortened text, or even nothing at all. On the other hand, if you prefer you can display fully detailed information about your current memory usage.

Smart Auto Free Mode

Turn on Smart Auto Free mode from the Extras Settings window to activate Free Memory automatically when the amount of your free memory drops below the warning level you've set. Smart, because its only doing its job when necessary.

Developer mode enables you to use purge command to free up memory, instead of FreeMemory's own algorithm. You must have purge installed to be able to use this feature, which is the part of Xcode Developer Tool.

The customizable warning level warning level tells FreeMemory when to turn the menu bar text or icon red. This level will also trigger an automatic memory cleaning, when Smart Auto Free mode is turned on.

Extras Settings makes it easy to set the update frequency of the memory usage level inspection. You can save CPU usage by setting the interval higher, or you can have a precise monitoring tool by using a short interval.

The in-app purchase for Extras in FreeMemory is unfortunately only working for OS X Lion (it is Apple's restriction), so there is no way to purchase the Extras on OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.*

Get All the Extras with FreeMemory Pro

FreeMemory Pro includes all the functionalities that are implemented in Extras. As it is a solo app without in-app purchase, it can be purchased for OS X 10.6 as well.

These are the steps to remove the dock icon:

  • Quit the app.
  • Type in the terminal: defaults write com.rockysandstudio.FreeMemory showInDock NO

System requirements:

  • Mac OS X 10.6 or later
  • 64-bit Intel processor

* The in-app purchase for Extras in FreeMemory is unfortunately only working for OS X 10.7 Lion (it is Apple's restriction), so there is no way to purchase the Extras on non-Lion OS X. FreeMemory Pro has all the functionalities that are implemented in Extras. As it is a "solo app" without in-app purchase, it can be purchased for OS X 10.6 as well. This is how we could find a way to please the users who were asking about the Extras, but have no Lion.

MailForge 3.0 Email Client Released

PR: Infinity Data Systems, LLC's Mail Forge is built from the ground up for Mac OS X and designed to be a power user's email client, providing users with a host of features not commonly found in other email programs, such as the ability to edit every facet of received emails, scheduled sending of email, tabbed or multiwindow interface, HTML vs. text options, menu navigation of mailboxes, etc.

Harnessing the power of SQLite, MailForge also offers significant performance advantages, ranging from the ability to have a virtually unlimited number of emails in a single mailbox, to search capabilities that offer near instantaneous results. Even routine tasks, such as moving tens of thousands of emails from one mailbox to another, takes only seconds.

While MailForge already has a wide range of features, in the coming weeks and months we will be working hard to continue adding a large number of significant features and abilities to the program. For those interested in future development of MailForge, more information can be found at http://www.infinitydatasystems.com/mailforge/roadmap/

MailForge is available for $19.95 per user, with discounted rates for volume customers.

MailForge 3 Features

  • POP3
  • IMAP
  • Multiwindow or tabbed interface
  • Powerful, fast searching
  • Junk mail filtering
  • Full UTF-8 support
  • View plain or HTML emails
  • Send text or formatted emails
  • Advanced attachment saving
  • Edit all parts of an incoming email
  • Easily redirect emails
  • Signatures
  • Stationery
  • Manual filtering
  • Scheduled email sending
  • Ability to sort by email address
  • Import from Eudora

New in version 3.0:

  • Major rewrite of the MailForge underpinnings. Speed, stability, and usability have all been improved.

MailForge 3 is a $9.95 paid upgrade for anyone who purchased prior to 2012. Lifetime license holders, of course, are exempt from the upgrade fee. Due to a change in the serial scheme in MailForge 3, we IDS will be sending out new Lifetime License Serials to the relevant individuals during the coming week. In the meantime, MailForge 3 is available as a 30-day trial

System requirements:

  • Intel
  • Mac OS X 10.4 or later

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