Mac News Review

Make a Mac Emergency Drive, Mountain Tweaks Gives You Control over Mountain Lion, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2012.10.05

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

Tech Trends

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

Create an Emergency Diagnostic Drive for Your Mac

mac.tutsplus.com's Jordan Merrick cites several good reasons why having a diagnostic drive available is something that we all should have (in addition to a good backup strategy, of course). In his new tutorial, Merrick walks us through setting up an old external USB drive with the necessary software to allow users to boot, fix, and reinstall software on a Mac.

A diagnostic drive is essentially an external hard drive that you set up so that you can recover from different scenarios in the fairly unlikely event of serious software problems on your Mac, such as:

  • A software update crashing, leaving your Mac unbootable
  • You installed a new driver and now your Mac kernel panics when you try to log in.
  • Forgotten administrator password.
  • Or in some cases tangential to hardware problems, such as when the internal hard drive is reporting errors and you need to recover your data - fast.

Once set up, the diagnostic drive will contain the following:

  • A full installer for OS X Mountain Lion so that if you ever need to perform a reinstall and don't have Internet access, you can.
  • A standard installation of OS X Mountain Lion.
  • Some simple but useful utilities to resurrect a troublesome Mac.

Publisher's note: Always a good idea, no matter which version of the Mac OS you use. In many cases, you can get by with a USB flash drive. A second-best option (it won't work if your drive crashes) is to create a small emergency partition on your hard drive that you can boot from as needed. I've been doing that for years, and I've rarely had reason to resort to an external drive or CD/DVD instead of using that partition. Regardless, be prepared. dk

OS News' Thom Holwerda Buys a New iMac

Netherlands-based OS News columnist Thom Holwerda reports that he bought a brand new iMac on Tuesday, noting that he bought his first Mac - an iMac G4 - sometime in 2004, and since then, has purchased several other Macs, new and used.

Holwerda says he didn't like Windows XP, liked Linux, but at the time (2002/03) it still had a while to go before it reached a state where he could rely on it, so he ended up in Apple's arms and became an instant fan of both OS X 10.3 Panther and 10.4 Tiger. He's virtually always owned a Mac since then, except for the last 12 months or so, explaining that he doesn't like the iOSification of Mac OS X, and in the meantime, Windows had made huge strides, culminating in Windows 7, which he finds a very good operating system.

However, some life and career changes made a new computer necessary, and he says this tine instead of just wanting the cheapest and fastest machine possible, he's had to take things like service and proximity of authorized repair points into account, and "the cold and harsh truth" is that Apple bests every other player in this business when it comes to that.

Holwerda also notes that Windows 8 played a role in his decision, because in his estimation the UI formerly known as Metro just plain sucks and has absolutely no place on desktops and workstations. While OS X still has enough that annoys him (he says his eyes still burn whenever he looks at crap like Address Book or iCal), at least it's still a proper desktop operating system.

Save As Fixed Yet Again with OS X Mountain Lion

Cult of Mac's Rob LeFebvre notes that back in July, he showed how to add an Application shortcut to the Mountain Lion Edit menu and then create a keyboard shortcut to invoke it, the problem being that it modified both the original file and the newly saved file if you've changed stuff before invoking the Save As function.

He notes that you can fix this behavior with OS X 10.8.2, and it's easy to do.

Do You Need OS X Server?

MacFixIt's Topher Kessler says Apple's Server package for OS X could provide the capabilities you need for your home or office network, noting that OS X comes with several servers installed, including those for network services like screen sharing, printer sharing, and file sharing, and also those for local application support such as the window "server" that draws windows and interface elements on the screen, plus several hidden and unused server packages such as the FTP server that have been replaced with more secure or faster options, but which can be configured for use if needed, and can be used to turn an OS X client into a rudimentary server of sorts.

With OS X Server, on the other hand, you get a bunch of services and enhanced configuration programs to the existing OS X installation that give you far greater ability to provide network services and that change these services' capabilities with the facility to dynamically switch between standard client and server configurations as is needed.

OS X Server can also act as an email server on which you create your own email accounts.

Tech Trends

Helium Shortage Could Impact WD's Drive Technology Breakthrough

Having been aware of a looming global shortage of helium gas for some time, I was wondering how Western Digital was planning to finesse acquisition of industrial quantities of helium when it announced it is developing a new helium-filled hard drive technology that WD claims will substantially reduce internal friction and commensurately lower power consumption by 23% while increasing capacity by 40%.

Computerworld's Lucas Mearian notes that even though helium is the second most abundant element in the universe, helium reserves in the US, which supplies 75% of world's annual demand, are at an all-time low, with the largest US reserve projected to last another five to six years unless additional supplies are brought on line.

However, he reports that WD's HGST has told Computerworld that the new drive tech would not make WD a big consumer of helium, and its requirements will have little incremental impact on the overall worldwide demand for helium.

The article also includes a fascinating backgrounder on helium production and the policy issues related to its conservation.

Software

Mountain Tweaks for OS X Released

Mountain TweaksPR: Fredrik Wiker says that after the success with Lion Tweaks, helping hundreds of thousands of users in OS X Lion, Mountain Tweaks is set to do the same with Mountain Lion. The release focuses on a user friendly user-interface, even more tweaks and the ability to do simple maintenance on your Mac.

Key Features

  • Small app, but extremely powerful
  • Brand new tweaks
  • Works with both Lion and Mountain Lion

Available Tweaks

  • Show/Hide the user Library folder.
  • Change to a 2D or 3D dock.
  • Enable/Disable system window animation.
  • Enable/Disable mail reply animation.
  • Remove/Add Reading List Icon in Safari.
  • Enable/Disable Spelling Correction.
  • Enable/Disable repeating keys.
  • Enable/Disable permanent scrollbars.
  • Show Hidden Files.
  • Disable Crash Dialog Pop-Up.
  • Get a new Stack List View.
  • Highlight Stack items on mouseover.
  • Change iCal leather interface to aluminium
  • Change Address Book leather interface to aluminium
  • Disable resume for a single app
  • Enable the hidden FTP-server
  • Customize Launchpad folder background
  • Disable local Time Machine Backups
  • Enable Airdrop on old hardware
  • Enable colours in the Finder sidebar
  • Enable iTunes Dock Animation
  • Enable TRIM support in Lion
  • Enable secret iCal debug-menu
  • Remove Spotlight icon
  • Disable gatekeeper
  • Highlight non-retina images
  • Remove leather from Contacts (ML)
  • Remove leather from Calendar (ML)
  • Select text in Quiclook
  • Change the Notification Center background
  • Disable the new automatic app termination
  • Disable smooth scrolling
  • Disable rubber band when scrolling
  • Disable default iCloud save location
  • Display framerate for Cover Flow
  • Disable Go to Folder in Finder
  • Restore function should now be more stable
  • New in version 1.0.4:
  • Disable default iCloud save location.
  • Display framerate for Cover Flow.
  • Disable "Go to Folder" in Finder.
  • Restore function should now be more stable.

More tweaks coming soon.

Leopard WebKit Updates Leopard Safari

leopard-webkit builds of current WebKit frameworks for Mac OS X 10.5 (PowerPC G4, PowerPC G5, Intel)

The goal of this project is to provide builds of current WebKit sources for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard for both PowerPC and Intel (PowerPC G4, PowerPC G5, Intel).

The necessary patches are available for download as well.

The built product comes with no support and is provided only for testing purposes.

The dmg image is based on the last officially available PowerPC nightly (r89812).

System requirements:

  • PPC or Intel
  • Mac OS X 10.5 only

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