Mac News Review

Mac Fading Away?, Linux Programmer Loves OS X, Disabling Java Your Best Bet, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2012.09.14

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.

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News & Opinion

Is the Mac Fading Away?

Mac 360's Alexis Kayhill notes that the Mac was once Apple's core product, but times have changed, and the company has moved on to become a purveyor of highly desired digital devices, starting with the iPod, followed by the iTunes Store, the iPhone, and the iPad. She observes that while the Mac is not dead and not likely to die anytime soon, it's obviously fading from prominence at Apple - and perhaps from Mac users as well.

As supporting evidence for her thesis, Kayhill points to nominally Mac-oriented websites on which most content these days is focused on Apple's mobile iDevices and on the company itself, with relatively little about the Mac, coverage of which in some instances has become almost a footnote.

Apple unit sales by year
Although not Apple's most popular hardware line, Macs are selling at record levels.

As we noted on our Facebook page earlier this week: I don't think it's so much the Mac fading away - the platform has never been more popular - as it being eclipsed by iOS devices, which are vastly outselling it. What do you think? dk

Linux User Finds a Lot to Like in OS X

Blogger Bozhidar Batsov chronicles his impressions a year after he became an OS X user after eight years on desktop Linux. A professional programmer, he says that he found the transition initially painful but was impressed with the quality and responsiveness of the OS X desktop and the fact that Emacs keybindings are used by default in its editor toolkit. He notes that one app in particular, Spotlight, "blew me off the water," and that most of the other apps he really needed had native OS X ports; the others have worthy alternatives.

He also notes that being a keyboard devotee, he was underwhelmed by the whole multitouch mumbo-jumbo at first but eventually came to the conclusion that Apple has the only trackpads and mice that are actually worth using (even though he still likes using the keyboard way more).

Things Batsov loves about OS X:

  • The Desktop ("makes KDE4 and GNOME3 look like school projects in comparison)
  • The OS X flavored apps (It's obvious that Mac users have developed a taste in extremely refined software")
  • Hardware compatibility ("If something is supposed to work with OS X - it works superbly out-of-the-box;" "Battery life is exceptional")
  • Stability ("One year, three Macs - only two or three system crashes")

Things that are just OK:

  • The Default Apps
  • Mac App Store
  • Emacs
  • Software Development
  • System administration

Things he hates:

  • The special keys
  • No standard all mighty package manager
  • Ugly XML config files
  • XCode

Is Batsov happier now without Linux? "Definitely!"

Is OS X a better OS than Linux? "Absolutely not!" says Batsov, but it does have a much better desktop experience, and since he spends most of the time on a computer interacting with the desktop, that's a big win.

He advises that if you're happy using Linux, you should stick with it. Obviously he wasn't and there weren't that many alternatives lying around, noting that not having to deal with hardware problems and immature desktop apps is like a breath of fresh air that more than compensates for the few shortcomings of OS X.

Will Apple's 'Real World' Software Appearance Cause an Internal Revolt?

Fast Company's Austin Carr speaks with industry insiders and ex-AppleDesigners who have soured on the fake leather, glass, and wood that runs through OS X and iOS.

iCal's faux leather look
iCal's leather look, an example of skeuomorphism.

Carr notes that Apple is rightly heralded for its innovative thinking and bold hardware design, but the elephant in the room is Apple's software, which he reports many inside the company believe has taken a turn for the worse in the last few years, with much of the criticism and controversy revolving around a trend called skeuomorphism - interface design featuring calendars with faux leather-stitching, bookshelves with wood veneers, fake glass and paper and brushed chrome - a generic term for when objects retain ornamental elements of past, derivative iterations, and other elements that are no longer necessary to the current objects functions.

He contends that skeuomorphism has seeped into all areas of UI design, but especially into Apple's software, where text documents, for example, are made to look like yellow legal pads and iCal's faux leather-stitching (rumored to have been modeled on a texture in Steve Jobs' Gulfstream jet), or Apple's Game Center app that's dressed in a lacquered wood and green felt ostensibly lending it the feel of a casino.

Disabling Java the Best Policy

Krebs on Security notes that an update for Mac OS X installations of Java that Apple issued this week fixes at least one critical security vulnerability in the software and suggests that if you own a Mac, taking a moment to run the Software Update application right now and check if there is a Java update available - or, better yet, remove Java - and warns that delaying this action could set your Mac up for a date with malware.

The updates can be downloaded via Software Update or at <https://support.apple.com/kb/DL1573> for OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and <https://support.apple.com/kb/DL1572> for OS X 10.7 Lion and OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.

If you do subsequently need Java, you can always reinstall the program. or if you only need it for specific Web sites, update to the latest version, and you can still dramatically reduce the risk from Java attacks just by disabling the plugin in your main Web browser. and adopting a two-browser approach leaving an alternative browser with Java enabled for browsing only sites that require it. For browser-specific instructions on disabling Java, see How to Unplug Java from the Browser.

Mountain Lion's 43 Hidden Wallpapers

A tip of the hat to LifeHacker's Alan Henry for bringing to our attention a trove of 43 hidden wallpapers in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.

In order to gain access to the folder containing the wallpapers, Open the Go menu in the Mountain Lion Finder and type or paste in this string:

/System/Library/Frameworks/ScreenSaver.Framework/Versions/A/Resources/Default Collections/

Many of the images, some of them from National Geographic, are stunningly beautiful.

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