Mac News Review

Mountain Lion in July for $20, Save As... Sort of Returns, Mac Pro Not Really Updated, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2012.06.15

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.

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News & Opinion

WWDC 2012

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Ships in July for $20

Cnet's Jason Parker reports:

"Mountain Lion, originally seeded to developers in February, will be available from the Mac App Store in July for $19.99.

"Apple's new operating system takes the Mac OS in a new direction, with Apple integrating a number of iOS-inspired features from its mobile devices. Apple SVP Craig Federighi says the new OS has over 200 new features, including notifications, Reminders, Game Center, Documents in the Cloud, and Messages."

Save As... Returns to OS X with Mountain Lion, but Apple's Being Stupid About It

Cult of Mac's John Brownlee notes that one of the more bizarre changes Apple introduced in OS X 10.7 Lion was completely abandoning the Save As option in documents, part of its [unfortunate and misguided - cm] quest make the file system invisible - and extremely counterintuitive to Mac owners who'd actually been using Save As for the last 20 years. Brownlee reports that Apple has quietly restored Save As to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, sort of, hidden like some sort of shameful secret and only accessible through a convoluted Command-Shift-Option-S keyboard shortcut with no corresponding menu selection.

However, we'll still gladly take it.

Apple Doesn't Exactly Update the Mac Pro

Forbes' Connie Guglielmo reports:

"Andy Hertzfeld . . . took [Apple] to task yesterday for quietly releasing - as in not mentioning it onstage at the Worldwide Developers Conference yesterday - a meager update to the Mac Pro desktop....

"When Hertzfeld . . . went to the Apple store, he found that Apple did indeed update the Mac Pro....

Mac Pro at the online Apple Store
The current Mac Pro page at the online Apple Store.

"This is what Hertzfeld had to say about it:

"The specs for the 'new' Mac Pro had hardly changed, except for a tiny, inconsequential processor clock bump. Still no Thunderbolt, still no USB 3.0, no SATA III or RAM speed improvements - it seems like it's stuck in time in 2010. The only thing that's still high-end about it is the bloated price."

"The Mac Pro, starting at $2,499, hadn't been updated since 2010, so some mention of it might have been warranted. What does Apple say?

"An Apple spokesman just told me that new models and new designs of the Mac Pro are in the works and will likely be released in 2013." 

Publisher's note: It's an odd world where Apple's pro desktop is using outdated CPUs and an aging video card, yet it's still Apple's most powerful computer with 64-bit Geekbench scores ranging from 9,688 (2.8 GHz 4-core version) to 24,269 (2.93 GHz, 12 cores). The top-end 21.5" and 27" 2011 iMacs outperform the two lowest-end Mac Pro configurations, as does the entry-level 2.3 GHz MacBook Pro with Retina Display at 11,248, and the top-end Retina MacBook Pro (13,409) nearly catches the 2.4 GHz 8-core Mac Pro (14,174). Regardless of raw power, the Mac Pro needs to offer the same Thunderbolt and USB 3 connectivity that Apple has made the standard with its newest MacBook models. dk

Apple's Tim Cook Confirms Updated Mac Pro for 2013

AppleInsider's Mikey Campbell reports:

"An email from Apple CEO Tim Cook confirms that the company is indeed working on a professional-level Mac to be released sometime in 2013, allaying fears of current Mac Pro owners that the desktop had reached its end of life."

What Happens During Permissions Repair?

That's a question I've long somewhat idly wondered about. I run permissions repair from time to time along with a slate of other maintenance routines with OnyX, my favorite OS X maintenance utility, but I have always been hazy as to what was being accomplished.

Now MacFixIt's Topher Kessler has posted an explanation, noting that the permissions structure in OS X helps prevent inadvertent file access, and a permissions repair ensures the integrity of this structure, noting that there are two types of permissions in OS X, the first being traditional Unix permissions that just manage access on a full read or full write basis (allowing or denying each), and also an "execute" permission that allows scripts and other code to be executed as a process, with every file and folder in OS X containing traditional permissions and optional ACL entries associated with it, and that the permissions fixing routine in OS X checks the permissions setup against a permissions database that is maintained on the system, reading through all relevant receipt packages and files, then comparing files on disk to those in the database and if a mismatch is found, even if the mismatch is a benign alteration such as that mentioned above, it will output an error regarding this discrepancy and will revert the change.

Kessler notes that because standard use of the system will often result in small, benign alterations of the permissions settings on files, it is not uncommon for a permissions fixing routine to repeatedly list a number of permissions discrepancies.

Products & Services

Sonnet's xMac mini Server Rack Enclosure Expansion System Now Shipping

PR: Sonnet has announced shipment of its xMac mini Server, a combination PCIe 2.0 expansion system and 1U rack-mount enclosure for Mac mini with Thunderbolt ports. This innovative Sonnet product recently received a Post Pick Award at the 2012 NAB Show, granted to select best-in-show offerings that are destined to have the greatest impact on post-production workflows.

"Improving on already rock-solid design and incorporating valuable feedback from partners and beta customers, our engineers did a phenomenal job of creating a transformational product that enables users to turn a Mac mini computer into something much more," comments Greg LaPorte, Sonnet Technologies VP sales and marketing. "The added features and design improvements make the xMac mini Server an even more-compelling product. After months of refinement and testing, we are pleased to begin shipping this week."

xMac mini Server transforms a Mac mini into a full-fledged expandable rackmount server, mounting the computer inside a specially designed 1U rackmount enclosure that contains two PCI Express (PCIe) 2.0 slots that connect to the computer through its Thunderbolt port. The expansion system features a 100W power supply and employs variable speed fans to cool the cards and computer. This system enables users to plug in two PCIe adapter cards (one half-length/low profile and one full-length/full-height) to slots connected to the Mac mini via an included Thunderbolt cable, while enabling the daisy chain connection of additional Thunderbolt peripherals to the xMac mini Servers second Thunderbolt port.

The Mac mini's Gigabit Ethernet, USB, and HDMI interfaces are extended to panel-mounted connectors on the back of the unit. With these features, the Mac mini is able to use expansion cards normally usable only in the Mac Pro, and is ideally suited as a stand-in for Apple's now-discontinued Xserve for a smaller, lighter, and more compact footprint. This makes it ideal for use cases such as a back office RAID Server, a metadata controller or mobile rack frequently used in mobile pro audio, or on-location shoots for cinema and other media projects.

xMac mini Server requires the use of Thunderbolt-compatible PCIe expansion cards. Compatible cards fall into numerous categories including pro audio, Ethernet, Fibre Channel, SAS/SATA RAID controllers, video capture, and editing, with the list continually expanding as more cards are tested and certified.

xMac Mini Server (part number XMAC-MS) is available now for $1,295. More information on the product and compatible PCIe expansion cards is available at sonnettech.com.

Software

Adobe Flash for Mac Update Adds Silent Background Updating

PR: Adobe's Stephen Pohl notes that the company released Flash Player 11.3, including immediate availability of a new Background Updater for Mac.

Pohl explains that the Background Updater on Mac works in much the same way as on Windows, with the difference that it uses a LaunchDaemon instead of a scheduled task and Windows service. After opting into the Background Updater during the installation, the Background Updater will trigger an update check with actual network traffic every 24 hours if the system remains connected to the Internet. If an update is found, it will be applied silently in the background.

This new update mode will end ambiguity over whether an Adobe Flash update invitation that pop up on your Mac is genuine or a bogus attempt to install Trojan Horse malware.

Adobe has also introduced new features in Flash Player 11.3 to enable more immersive experiences, especially for gaming. Developers can now build games allowing users complete keyboard input while remaining in full screen mode, preserving full throttled immersion in games.

Flash Player 11 and later require OS X 10.6 or newer on an Intel Mac.

SixtyFour Reduces Memory Overhead by Opening Apps in 32-bit Mode

PR: SixtyFour is a memory optimizer and system utility for Mac OS X; its main purpose is the augmentation of overall system performance on low memory systems by reducing the memory overhead associated with apps running in 64-bit mode.

SixtyFour is compatible with any G5-based PowerPC or 64-bit-capable Intel hardware running Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, or higher.

SixtyFour

SixtyFour facilitates setting a preference to force a 64-bit app to open in 32-bit mode. Forcing a 64-bit app to open in 32-bit mode reduces its memory usage significantly and shortens its startup time.

SixtyFour presents a list of apps that can open in 64-bit mode. Apps excluded from the list are apps that will not open, 32-bit apps, apps that will only open in 32-bit mode, Java apps, and unregistered apps.

A selected checkbox indicates that the app will open in 32-bit mode, a non-selected checkbox indicates that the app will open in 64-bit mode, and a disabled check box indicates that the app will only open in 64-bit mode.

SixtyFour is 7-day trialware.

Publisher's note: I just installed SixtyFour on my 2007 Mac mini running OS X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard. As this Mac has a 64-bit CPU, the program does run. However, it didn't find a single application on my hard drive that could be switched between 32-bit and 64-bit operation. Nice that you can try it before you decide whether to buy it. dk

Foiling Apple's 'Kill the Finder' Agenda, XtraFinder Adds Tabs and Extra Features to the Finder

NoodleMac's Ron McElfresh thinks Apple is trying to kill the Mac OS Finder - or at least make it more obscure. McElfresh acknowledges that we manage email messages within email client apps, photos within the iPhoto app, music within iTunes, and there's no Finder on the iPhone or iPad, with more and more OS X Lion apps discarding use of the Finder to store files.

XtraFinder PreferencesHowever, call him old school if you will, but McElfresh likes knowing where his files live, and the Finder, despite some shortcomings, gets the job done. Add the new free XtraFinder utility and it gets the job done even better, faster, and easier taking a diametrically opposite tack to Apple's anti-finder push.

XtraFinder adds these features to the Mac OS X Finder:

  • Tabs (experimental).
  • Arrange folders on top.
  • "Copy Path" menu.
  • "Show Hidden Items", "Refresh", "New File", "Copy to", "Move to", "Launch as Root" ... actions.
  • Cut & Paste.
  • "Contents" menu displays contents of folder.
  • "Select..." action let you quickly select items in a Finder window.
  • Path bar enhancements: Spring-loaded, Contents menu.
  • Maximize on Zoom.
  • Automatically arrange items by Name in Icons View.

XtraFinder requires Mac OS X 10.6.6 or higher

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