Mac News Review

Is Snow Leopard Apple's XP?, In Praise of PCs, FireWire's Demise, and More Apple News

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2012.11.10

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 Snow Leopard Becoming Apple's Windows XP?

Computerworld's Gregg Keizer observes that while one-in-four Macs now runs OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, there are indications that OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, which originally shipped in August 2009, may be in the process of becoming the Mac's equivalent of Microsoft's Windows XP, a Windows version, originally released in 2001, that some 40% of Windows users have stubbornly refused to upgrade from.

Keizer notes that the upgrade/adoption rate for Mountain Lion, released on July 25 for the friendly price of $19.99, has not kept pace with the uptake trajectory of Apple's last two operating system editions, OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and OS X 10.7 Lion, which had both grabbed slightly larger market shares after three full months of availability.

Publisher's note: The graph below shows Low End Mac site traffic by percentage of Intel Mac users for OS X 10.6, 10.7, and 10.8 since April 2011. According to our data, Lion reached 33.95% of that market in the fourth month after release, while Mountain Lion reached 34.31% in the same time frame. Note how after steadily declining after the release of Lion, Snow Leopard has maintained 27-28% over the past three months while Lion has fallen from 55% to 24% since Mountain Lion's release. dk

Mac OS X share by version

In Praise of Old-fashioned PCs

Tech.Pinions' Steve Wildstrom says that while he's a big fan of tablets, especially the iPad, and finds himself spending more and more time with a tablet and less and less with a traditional computer, he can't imagine getting by without a Windows PC or a Mac - which is why he contends that though the market for traditional computers will shrink, they aren't going away.

Wildstrom references Steve Jobs' famously 2010 observation that that PC was like a truck and the iPad like a car, and most people don't need trucks. He was technically right, but Wildstrom thinks Jobs seriously underestimated the importance of trucks, noting that nearly half of all vehicles sold in the United States are light trucks.

He notes that while content creation in an iPad is possible, it isn't much fun. Like most content creators, he regularly works with multiple windows open, often cutting and pasting material from one app to another, and you can't do the former at all or easily do the latter on an iPad.

He concludes that three things PCs have and tablets lack are processing power, big displays and storage capacity, contending, as many serious computer users do, that virtually unlimited storage in the Cloud is not a satisfactory substitute for data stored on local media, noting that he wants local copies of his important content, including music and photos, as well as thousands of documents.

Editor's note: Me too. cm

Publisher's note: And me too. dk

How to Cope with FireWire's Demise

InfoWorld's Mel Beckman notes that the new 15" and 13" MacBook Pros with Retina Display have no FireWire port; it has been replaced by USB 3.0, which provides equivalent performance and is widely used in recent Windows PCs. It's clear that FireWire will be eliminated on future Macs, which will be an inconvenience (or worse) for folks with a lot of FireWire peripherals, and Intel's Thunderbolt technology introduced 18 months ago in almost all new Mac models is still too rare and expensive.

So what can users with significant investments in FireWire devices do when upgrading to new Macs? Beckman notes that there are solutions, but all have drawbacks, which you must carefully weigh before buying.

Editor's note: I've adjusted to FireWire's long fade long ago, having used a FireWire-less aluminum Unibody MacBook as my anchor computer since early 2009. FireWire was restored to the 13" unibody form factor with the subsequent revision, which was dubbed a MacBook Pro, but too late for me. I've learned to get along without FireWire - but not happily. cm

Survival Guide for Macs in the Workplace

The Register's Trevor Pott notes that Macs are ready for the enterprise and can already be found in organizations of all sizes, with even IBM having more than 10,000 MacBooks deployed.

With so many organizations deploying so many Macs, Pott says corporate IT departments can no longer lean on the psychological crutch that Macs are in service simply to stroke the egos or desires of a handful of top brass. He observes that in his experience business Mac usage is being driven by employees looking for comfortable and familiar environments - the results of BYOD policies at IBM, Intel, Google, and other large organizations - and that when everyday people are given the choice of computer platforms, they don't all choose the same thing.

Pott says that while coaxing Macs into playing along with directory services has in the past sometimes proven to be a small challenge, fortunately for sysadmins everywhere, this has changed with recent releases.

Apple's Eddy Cue Joins Ferrari Board

FerrariPR: Ferrari's board of directors met this week under the chairmanship of Luca di Montezemolo to examine the company's financial results for the first nine months of 2012, and to announce that Eddie Cue, Apple's Senior Vice President Internet Software and Services who oversees Apple's content stores including the iTunes Store, the revolutionary App Store and the iBookstore, as well as Siri, Maps, iAd and Apple's innovative iCloud services. Mr. Cue is a 23-year Apple veteran and played a major role in creating the Apple online store in 1998, the iTunes Music Store in 2003, and the App Store in 2008. He earned a bachelor's degree in Computer Science and Economics at Duke University.

Luca di Montezemolo announced the addition of a new Ferrari board member: "I am delighted that Eddy Cue, one of the main driving forces behind Apple's range of revolutionary products, has now joined our board. His huge experience in the dynamic, innovative world of the Internet will be of great assistance to us."

"I am pleased and proud to become a member of the board," Cue said. "I have personally dreamed of owning a Ferrari since I was 8 years old and have been lucky to be an owner for the past 5 years. I continue to be awed by the world-class design and engineering that only Ferrari can do," said Eddie Cue, commenting on his nomination to the board.

Rumor Roundup

Apple Planning to Drop Intel for ARM in Future Macs?

A major report by Bloomberg's Adam Satariano, Peter Burrows, and Ian King says that according to insider sources, Apple is studying strategies to replace the Intel processors it's used in its Macs since early 2006 with a version of the in-house designed, ARM-based A-series chips based on technology from Cambridge, England-based ARM Holdings Plc (ARM) that it uses in the iPhone and iPad.

The article notes that Apple engineers have grown confident that its A-series CPUs will eventually be powerful enough to run desktop and laptop computers.

Such a switch (which the Bloomberg article says is unlikely in the immediate to near term) would be disruptive, to say the least, and would eliminate the advantage of Macs being able to run Microsoft's Windows OS natively, which has been a major factor in the Mac's substantial market share gains since 2006.

However, other recent rumors contend that continued convergence of OS X with Apple's iOS mobile operating system will continue toward the eventual objective of a merger of the two OSs, which would make standardization on common processor silicon a logical (or perhaps even necessary) step.

Publisher's note: There are several hurdles the A-series chips need to overcome before they'll be ready to replace even the slowest Intel CPUs currently in use at Apple. The 1.4 GHz A6X processor found in the iPad 4 has a Geekbench score of 1753, while the 1.7 GHz MacBook Air, Apple's least powerful current model, rates 6157 - about a 4:1 performance difference. Further, Macs have been using 64-bit Intel CPUs since late 2006, while current ARM designs have been exclusively 32-bit until recently (ARM announced its first 64-bit processors at the end of October). Finally, there's the matter of being able to run legacy software: If ARM chips can't emulate x86 Macs with decent performance, few Mac users will want to make the switch. Historically, Apple has gone out of its way to include legacy software support (680x0 code on PowerPC CPUs, and later PPC support on Intel x86 chips until the release of OS X 10.7 Lion). Any switch to ARM for Macs is in the distant future. dk

Products & Services

Master Your Mac: Tweak, Customize, and Secure OS X

Master Your MacPR: Macs are great for beginners, because the basics are easy. The challenge comes when you want OS X to do things your way. For Mac users who want to travel beyond the basics, Master Your Mac is here to help.

"The great thing about OS X is that a complete beginner can turn on a new Mac and start surfing the web in less than five minutes," says author Matt Cone. "But things get tricky after that. How do you connect another monitor or create new trackpad gestures? I wrote Master Your Mac to teach people how to do things in OS  X that they didn't even know were possible."

Master Your Mac takes users to the next level with tutorials on how to change hidden defaults, enable undocumented features, repair disk permissions to improve performance, monitor their systems, and even create a bootable USB drive for emergencies. Readers will also learn how to:

  • Automate tasks with AppleScript, triggers, and Automator macros
  • Handle massive amounts of email and media with synced accounts and spam filters
  • Turn their Macs into a file or Web server
  • Create Safari extensions and use site-specific browsers
  • Secure their Macs with firmware passwords, firewalls, FileVault full-disk encryption
  • Install the best apps to boost productivity and fix everyday annoyances

Sure, anyone can use a Mac fresh out of its pretty packaging, but that's no fun. Master Your Mac promises to teach readers to customize their machines to make them work their way. Covers OS X Mountain Lion.

Matt Cone is a freelance writer specializing in Apple hardware and software, and has been a Mac user for over 20 years. A former ghostwriter for some of Apple's most notable instructors, Cone founded Macinstruct.com in 1999, one of the most popular online destinations for OS X tutorials.

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