Mac News Review

Time to Ditch Java?, Computers vs. Dementia, Half of Americans Stressed by Computers, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2012.09.07

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. Older Macs are covered in Vintage Mac News. All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

Purchases made through links to Amazon.com and Apple's iTunes/iBook/App/Mac App Store support Low End Mac.

News & Opinion

Apple Updates

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

Time to Give Java the Boot?

PCWorld's Andrew Brandt writes:

"Is it time to give Java the boot? Experts say yes.

"Java, the programming language designed to make the web fun and interactive, has become one of the weakest links in a PC's and Mac's defenses against external threats. Consider the most recent Java vulnerability, a weakness currently being exploited by malware distributors: When Oracle, Java's maker, released an emergency update to fix the software, security analysts reported that even the hot-off-the-presses code contains additional vulnerabilities.

"But the most recent security problems with Java are far from unique. Security firm Sophos, for example, blames underlying Java vulnerability for attacks by the Flashback malware last April that infected one out of five Macs.

"The risks don't outweigh the rewards, security experts say."

The proposed solution: Uninstall Java unless you absolutely need it.

Publisher's note: For tips on doing that, see Topher Kessler's How to Check for and Disable Java in OS X on MacFixIt. I'm giving it a try on my Macs and want to warn you that the Java Preferences app can take a long time to launch - and the version in OS X 10.4 Tiger will not let you disable Java, but newer versions will. If you don't plan to disable Java, be sure to see the Java updates for Mac OS X 10.6, 10.7, and 10.8 released by Apple this week. (There are no updates for older versions of OS X.) dk

Update: I just tried to launch Cyberduck, my favorite FTP client, and it refuses to run without Java. That helps explain why it's so slow to launch! Time to look for a good free alternative.

Chitika: Mountain Lion Adoption Passes 10% Mark First Month

PR: A Chitika Insights says a month ago, the advertising-oriented market research firm reported that Apple desktops running Mountain Lion (OS X 10.8) generated 3.2% of all Mac-based Web traffic. Since Mountain Lion officially turned one month old last Saturday, Chitika Insights revisited this study to see how quickly Mac users were adopting the latest operating system now that the novelty has begun to wear.

To quantify this study, Chitika Insights compiled a month's worth of Mac OS X Web traffic, which sampled hundreds of millions of desktop ad impressions. The team then calculated market share distribution between all versions of Mac OS X both as a weekly average and a daily tally from the date of release until now.

Mac OS X Mountain Lion's share of Mac OS X Traffic by Day

Chitika Insights notes that since the unprecedented traffic increase that occurred within the first two days post-release, OS X Mountain Lion has been steadily clawing its way upwards. The spike seen in their previous Mountain Lion study actually continued past the first 48 hours, plateauing at 5.65% on July 29th, a full four days post release. Mountain Lion users represented an average of 9.61% of all Mac OS X traffic from August 20th through August 27th, and the adoption rate has shown no signs of letting up. By August 27th, Mountain Lion usage constituted 10.3% of all Mac-based desktop impressions seen over the extensive Chitika ad network.

Mac OS X distribution, 8/20 - 8/27 weekly average

The data show that Mountain Lion's adoption rate is on track to outperform its predecessor, OS X Lion, which took three months to reach 14% of total Mac OS X traffic. Mountain Lion has already surpassed the 10% mark after only a single month. It's possible that Mountain Lions growth will stall slightly once the post-launch excitement dies down, but should its rate of growth continue, the new OS will exceed Lion's mark within three weeks.

Chitika Insights suggests that there are numerous potential reasons as to why Mountain Lion's adoption rate has fared better than its predecessor thus far; it received widely positive reviews by critics upon release for its vast array of new features which made it feel like a genuine upgrade, while Lion was criticized by many prominent bloggers for its lack of innovation and behaving too much like iOS. They also speculate that Mountain Lion's success may even be a testament to the notion that users are adopting the newest software at a faster rate than ever, thanks to better distribution options, but any case, they'll soon be able to confirm whether or not OS X Mountain Lion truly outperforms its immediate predecessor.

Publisher's note: Low End Mac site stats aren't based on millions of impressions, but on hundreds of thousands of visits by Mac users. Our data shows that OS X 10.7 Lion rose to 35% share of Intel Mac users in August 2011, peaked at 55% in June 2012, and declined to 31% in August 2012. OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion has grew to 33% in August and continues to climb, while OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard settled in at 27% in June.

This is in stark contrast to Chitika's data, which has OS X 10.6 in the top spot, 10.7 Lion a strong second, and 10.8 just catching up to 10.5 (they seem to lump together PowerPC and Intel versions), while we see Leopard in a distant 4th place among Intel Mac users. Different methodologies....

Daily share of Intel-based versions of OS X among Low End Mac visitors
Daily share of Intel-based versions of OS X among Low End Mac visitors.

Looking at daily traffic since June 24, 2012, Mountain Lion averages 37% over the past few days, Lion 26%, and Snow Leopard 29%. The week-by-week data shows even more clearly what is happening.

Weekly share of Intel-based versions of OS X among Low End Mac visitors
Weekly share of Intel-based versions of OS X among Low End Mac visitors.

Looking at weekly statistics, Lion peaked at 56% and has since declined to 27%. Mountain Lion was about 2% of traffic prior to its official release, peaked at 37% last week, and is at 36% this week. The surprise is Snow Leopard's comeback - it was at 32% before Mountain Lion shipped, dropped to a low of 27%, and has since risen to 29%, which makes it more popular than Lion.

For the record, 86% of Mac users visiting Low End Mac are doing so on Intel-based Macs, with just 14% still using PowerPC hardware to read our content. Three years ago, PowerPC still had 33%. That dropped to 20% two years ago and 14% one year ago, where it remains pretty constant.

Looking at August 2012 numbers, OS X 10.4 Tiger on PowerPC is the #4 Mac OS at 6.2% and 10.5 Leopard on PowerPC is #5 with 5.9%, leaving 10.5 for Intel in 6th place and 5.55%, and Intel 10.4 well behind that at 1.4%. You can see why developers who are leaving PowerPC behind are also dropping support for 10.4 and 10.5, as never versions have the lion's share (92% according to our stats) of the Intel market. For those who choose to still support PowerPC, Tiger remains remarkably resilient, at least among Low End Mac readers. dk

Older Men Who Use Computers Have Lower Risk of Dementia

PR: A study funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia at the University of Western Australia in Perth to determine if older men who use computers have lower risk of developing dementia followed 5,506 community-dwelling men aged 69 to 87 years for up to 8.5 years. Use of computers was measured as daily, weekly, less than weekly, and never. Participants also reported their use of email, Internet, word processors, games, or other computer activities.

Table 1: Demographics characteristics of older men who use comptuers

The researchers noted that 33.7% of the subjects reported using computers and 347 (6.3%) received a diagnosis of dementia during an average follow-up of 6.0 years. The hazard ratio (HR) of dementia was substantially lower among computer users than nonusers (HR = 0.62, 95% CI = 0.470.81, after adjustment for age, educational attainment, size of social network, and presence of depression or of significant clinical morbidity). The HR of dementia appeared to decrease with increasing frequency of computer use, with older men who use computers having a significantly lower risk of receiving a diagnosis of dementia up to 8.5 years later. Randomised trials are required to determine if the observed associations are causal.

Figure 1: Cumulative hazard of dementia among older men according to computer use

The study notes that with an aging world population demographic, the number of people experiencing cognitive decline and dementia will continue to increase. Currently available estimates suggest that over 24 million people worldwide had dementia in 2005, with this number expected to reach 50 million by 2025. Direct and indirect costs associated with dementia will also continue to rise, and conditions such as Alzheimer's disease are expected to become leading causes of health expenditure in developed and developing countries, and such considerations have stimulated the search for factors that might delay or prevent the progression of cognitive decline in older adults at risk, with promising results being reported for physical activity, adequate management of diabetes and hypertension, and participation in cognitively stimulating activities. Data from the Bronx Aging Study showed that the hazard of dementia over five years was decreased amongst older adults involved in cognitively stimulating activities, with the lowest risk observed for the most active participants.

Table 2: Incidence and hazard ratios of dementia according to type of computer use

In this context, the authors say increasing ease of access to personal computers that has occurred over the past 20 years offers hope that the growing exposure of older adults to this technology will enhance their participation in mentally stimulating activities and contribute to maintain cognitive function and reduce the prevalence of dementia in the community.

The results of this study indicate that risk of incident dementia is about 30% to 40% lower among older computer users than nonusers, and show that these findings cannot be attributed to age, education, social isolation, depression, poor physical health, or prevalent cognitive impairment.

Publisher's note: It remains to be seen whether cognitively stimulating activities are reducing the rate of dementia or if predementia results in reduced participation in cognitively stimulating activities.

Half of Americans Stressed Out by Their Computers

PR: New research commissioned by memory upgrade online reseller Crucial.com provides greater insight into frustration experienced by Americans when it comes to the overall performance of their computers. The nationwide survey, conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of Crucial.com, revealed that more than half (52%) of US adults who own a computer have been unhappy with the performance of their computer in the past six months, with an overwhelming majority (94%) of those who have experienced performance problems indicating that their computer performance issues have caused them to experience stress.

When those who have experienced stress as a result of their computers performance issues were asked to compare computer-induced stress with other forms of stress, they indicated that their computer performance issues - such as slow loading programs, unresponsiveness, and crashes - were more stressful than choosing what to wear (47%), traffic jams (27%), going through airport security (21%), dealing with finances (19%), filing taxes (18%), managing their overall health (14%), and arguing with their spouse (13%).

"Computers are supposed to make our lives easier, but as we depend on our computers more and more for both professional and personal use, performance issues such as slow loading programs, unresponsiveness, memory warnings, and system crashes often result in a computer becoming a significant source of unneeded stress and frustration for users," says Roddy McLean, marketing director of Crucial.com. "Still, despite the high level of computer-induced stress and frustration among Americans, nearly two-thirds (63%) of computer owners have never attempted to install memory into their computer themselves.

"A simple memory upgrade could resolve their computers problems. It is stunning to see that although computers have become such a part of the fabric of our everyday lives, most computer users are seemingly still unaware that a simple do-it-yourself memory upgrade can oftentimes resolve performance issues and renew the life of an existing computer," adds McLean.

Publisher's note: No breakdown of Mac vs. Windows users, but too little RAM is a problem either way. With modern operating systems, more memory always means improved performance, and older PCs (Macs included) tend to have less system memory than newer models. This can generally be upgraded quite easily, and the difference can be astounding, particularly if the user has upgraded to a newer version of Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux than shipped with the computer. A faster, higher capacity hard drive can also improve performance noticeably, particularly if the current drive is nearly full, and SSDs offer even better performance than hard drives. But bang for the buck, it's RAM that makes the biggest difference. (At Low End Mac headquarters, we always upgrade system memory and install 7200 rpm hard drives to get the most out of our 5-to-12-year-old Macs.) dk

Availability of 27" iMac Dwindles Ahead of Expected Upgrade

AppleInsider Staff report that with Apple's long-in-the-tooth iMac lineup due for an upgrade to Intel's Ivy Bridge processors, stock of the larger 27-inch all-in-one desktop has become even more depleted ahead of a possible refresh.

Apple Instrumental in White Becoming the Hot Color for New Cars - and for the Resurgence of Brown

Motoramic's Brett Berk notes that silver was the most popular exterior car color in America for nearly a decade, but has been displaced this year by white, and reports that according to BMW Designworks' lead designer in color, materials, and finish Sandy McGill, this shift in color preference is Steve Jobs' doing, McGill quoted observing that: "Prior to Apple, white was associated with things like refrigerators or the tiles in your bathroom. Apple made white valuable."

"Valuable, yet boring," Berk contends, but fortunately, white's displacement of silver as top color has more enticing colors emerging on its coattails. Berk notes light blue's association with environmental well-being, oranges migrating from the world of high-end outdoor equipment, new paint technology possibly soon to make fluorescents a practical option, and gold: as its price and profile have skyrocketed, also in demand as a coating color alternative. However, he maintains that the most enticing automotive color trend is the return of brown, given that as recently as 2008 articles and experts were prognosticating brown's "extinction" as an automotive exterior color.

Berk cites major automotive paint purveyor PPG's Global Color Manager, Jane Harrington, explaining that brown's popularity redivivus is based in its quality of conveying stability and comfort, as well as the kind of authenticity experienced in good coffee, good chocolate, and great pieces of wood.

He reports that high end automakers like Mercedes, BMW (includes Mini and Rolls-Royce), and Volkswagen (with 11 brands including Porsche, Bentley, Audi, Lamborghini, Bugatti, and more) have all begun offering at least two shades of brown; a full half-dozen in the case of Bentley, and the trend has begun trickling down into mainstream the automotive marketplace, and that Alex Nuez, Senior Automotive Editor at Consumer Search, and Weekend Editor at Autoblog, has launched a Facebook Brown Car Appreciation Society that now includes nearly 600 members, mainly automotive writers, analysts, and pundits.

You can read Brett Berk's report with lots of great photos of brown cars.

Apple Updates

Java Update 10 for Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard

Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 10 delivers improved security, reliability, and compatibility by updating Java SE 6 to 1.6.0_35.

This update configures web browsers to not automatically run Java applets. Java applets may be re-enabled by clicking the region labeled "Inactive plug-in" on a web page. If no applets have been run for an extended period of time, the Java web plug-in will deactivate.

See https://support.apple.com/kb/HT5368 for more details about this update.

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

Version: 1.6.0_35

File Size: 81.9 MB

System Requirements: Mac OS X v10.6.8 Snow Leopard

Java Update for OS X 10.7 Lion and 10.8 Mountain Lion

Java for OS X 2012-005 delivers improved security, reliability, and compatibility by updating Java SE 6 to 1.6.0_35.

This update configures the Java plug-in to deactivate when no applets are run for an extended period of time. If the prior update named "Java for OS X 2012-004" was not installed, this update will disable the Java web plug-in immediately. Java applets may be re-enabled by clicking the region labeled "Inactive plug-in" on a web page.

See https://support.apple.com/kb/HT5367 for more details about this update.

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

Version: 1.6.0_35

File Size: 67.2 MB

System Requirements: OS X Lion v10.7 or OS X Mountain Lion v10.8

Software

Bible Buddy for Intel Macs: Free Bible Study Aid with Navigation and Bookmarks

PR: Bible Buddy provides a way to study the Bible with focus on two powerful features - easy navigation and using bookmarks with comments.

Bible Buddy includes the full text of the King James Version of the Bible. There are multiple ways to navigate through the Bible (including jumping directly to any verse), and you can bookmark passages with ease. Bookmarks are added to a dropdown menu for easy use. Bookmarks can include freeform comments of any size. Bookmarks and comments are saved for use in future sessions.

This screenshot of Bible Buddy displaying John 3:16 shows one of the bookmarks. Notice that the name of the book is displayed at the bottom of the window under the "Current Pointer" label.

Bible Buddy

Navigation: The Bible is displayed in the large box on the left, eleven lines at a time. The entire Bible has 126,846 lines with this display.

You can navigate using the scrollbar. With the scrollbar at the top you can see the first line of the Bible. With the scrollbar at the bottom you can see the last line of the Bible. Clicking on arrows at the top or bottom of the scrollbar moves the display up or down by 32 lines. When you use the scrollbar to navigate through the Bible, you can click on the "UD" (Update) button to see the Book being displayed under the "Current Pointer" label. All other ways of navigating automatically update this information.

You can use the "Page Up" and "Page Down" buttons to scroll ten lines at a time.

You can use the "Fine Scroll Up" and "Fine Scroll Down" buttons to scroll one line at a time.

You can use the "Jump to:" dropdown menu to select a Book, optionally enter the chapter and verse numbers and click on the "Jump" button to jump immediately to that line. If you do not enter the chapter and verse numbers, you will jump to the title line of the selected Book.

You can use the "Back One Book" and "Next Book" buttons to jump backwards and forwards, one Book at a time.

You can use the Search feature. Type any word or phrase (the search is case sensitive; "Book" is different from "book") into the "Find Text" field and click on the "Find" button to search through the entire Bible and see how many times that word or phrase was found. The Bible will scroll to and highlight the first occurrence. Use the "Find Next" and "Find Previous" buttons to jump between occurrences.

Bookmarks: You can add as many bookmarks as you like; each bookmark can include a comment of any size.

A Bookmark may be set to a View, with or without comments. Enter a comment in the box at the right of the View, then click on the "Add Bookmark" button. Enter a Bookmark name and click on the "OK" button.

To jump to a bookmark, select the bookmark from the dropdown "Bookmarks" menu. If the bookmark has a comment, this will be displayed automatically.

To delete a bookmark, select the bookmark from the "Bookmarks" dropdown menu and click on the "Delete Bookmark" button. You will be asked to confirm that you really want to delete that bookmark.

When you close Bible Buddy, bookmarks and comments are saved for use in future sessions displayed above but all

New in version 2.2.0:

  • Compatible with Mountain Lion's default security
  • Compatible with Tiger (10.4) or later
  • Intel only
  • Uses a new icon
  • Windows Version 2.1.3 has minor improvements, uses an installer and is compatible with Win 7

System requirements:

  • Intel
  • Mac OS X 10.4.7 or later

Bible Buddy is freeware.

MailForge 3.1.2 Eudora-Like Email Client Released for Intel Macs

PR: Macsimize Software claims that MailForge 3 can open mailboxes containing 100,000+ emails in under 2 seconds, manually edit every facet of an email, manually change the status of emails, use return receipts, perform powerful searches, and more

Designed from the ground up to run on the latest versions of Mac OS X and Windows, MailForge is crafted to offer users a wide range of powerful features that make managing email easier and more efficient.

MailForge 3 Features

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

System Requirements: Intel-based Mac

A new license for MailForge version 3 is $19.95

An upgrade from any prior version of MailForge to MailForge version 3 is $9.95.

Free 30-day trial for evaluation purposes.

Dropbox Experimental Edition

downloadcrew.com blogger Mark Wilson notes that Dropbox Experimental edition 1.5.28 has been released for testing and advises testing with caution.

This Experimental Edition ships with new features including security enhancements (an attacker will not be able to steal your computer's account credentials just by copying configuration files to another machine) and a new encrypted database format to prevent unauthorized access to local Dropbox client database.

Experimental edition 1.5.27 includes these fixes/features:

  • New icons (Retina support!)
  • Improved performance through use of Python 2.7
  • New Mac installer (just double click)
  • Mountain Lion Notification Center support
  • Improved web login from client
  • Fixed context menu delay on Mac

Experimental edition 1.5.28 includes these fixes/features:

  • Fixed Snow Leopard icon overlays in bottom half of Cover Flow mode
  • Fixed rendering of right-click tray icon menu in OS X
  • Reduced startup time on Mac
  • Fixed Windows camera uploads sometimes ignoring 'Never for this device'
  • Fixed a bug when using multiple monitors, some Retina and some non-Retina
  • Fixed a bug that allowed multiple instances of Dropbox
  • Fixed incorrect cropping of Mac dmg background Freeware (Dropbox also offers 2 GB Cloud storage free)

Operating Systems: Linux, Mac OS X, Windows 7 (32-bit), Windows 7 (64-bit), Windows 8, Windows Vista (32-bit), Windows Vista (64-bit), Windows XP

Desktop Mac Deals

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For deals on current and discontinued 'Books, see our 13" MacBook and MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, 13" MacBook Pro, 15" MacBook Pro, 17" MacBook Pro, 12" PowerBook G4, 15" PowerBook G4, 17" PowerBook G4, titanium PowerBook G4, iBook G4, PowerBook G3, and iBook G3 deals.

We also track iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, iPod classic, iPod nano, and iPod shuffle deals.

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