Mac News Review

OS X 10.6 Back at Apple Store, Quad-Core Mac mini Benchmarked, and More Mac News

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2012.11.23

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

Reviews

Apple Updates

Tech Trends

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Back at Apple Store

Snow LeopardLast week, I posted a blog on AppleTell asking rhetorically "Will OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard become Apple's Windows XP?" - an OS version that simply refuses to die. Other commentors have been making similar observations.

However, pundits and analysts are not alone in noting that Snow Leopard is exhibiting extraordinary staying power, which Apple has now acknowledged by re-offering Snow Leopard installer disks on the Mac App Store after an absence of more than a year - and priced $9 lower than 10.6 originally sold for.

On the Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard page, Apple notes that the most current version of OS X is OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, but if you need to purchase Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, you may order it for $19.99.

Publisher's note: As of October, over one-third of Mac users visiting Low End Mac were using OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, and thus far in November, less than one-fifth are using OS X 10.7 Lion (down from a 47% high in June), and about 15% are still using PowerPC Macs, which means OS X 10.5 or earlier. At the same time, Mountain Lion has been holding steady since August. Much as OS X 10.4 Tiger on PowerPC was the last version to support Classic Mode and thus allow the use of pre-OS X software, 10.6 Snow Leopard was the last version to allow the use of pre-Intel OS X apps. (On the PowerPC side, things are pretty even between 10.4 Tiger with its Classic Mode and the newer, more feature-laden 10.5 Leopard.) dk

Late 2012 iMacsLate 2012 iMacs Still on Track for November/December Release

9 to 5 Mac says that according to its sources, Apple's plans for November and December launches of the redesigned 21.5" and 27" iMacs announced on October 23 are still on track, contradicting rumors that claim both the new 21.5" and 27" iMacs would see their respective launches delayed until 2013.

Make Your Own Fusion Drive

Macworld's Albert Filice notes that Apple's take on hybrid drives, the Fusion Drive optionally to be available on the latest Mac mini and forthcoming iMac revisions that provides the high storage capacity of a traditional platter-based hard drive and the speed boost of a solid-state drive without the user having to manually manage files.

However, he says that if you're willing, able, and have the parts, you can make your own Fusion Drive. You must use OS X 10.8.2 or later for Fusion Drive.

Reviews

Is a 2012 Mac mini Quad-Core as Fast as a 2012 iMac Quad-Core?

Bare Feats' Rob-ART Morgan says some readers have been asking if the "Late 2012" Mac mini with a Quad-Core i7 processor can match the performance of a "Late 2012" iMac with Quad-Core i7 processor when running real world applications. Since the 2012 iMac isn't available yet, he decided to use a surrogate: the 2012 Retina 15" MacBook Pro which has similar internals - an "Ivy Bridge" Quad-Core i7 and discrete GeForce GT 650M GPU.

Morgan found that the Late 2012 Quad-Core i7 Mac mini is a true contender when it comes to CPU power, but hobbled by its Intel HD 4000 integrated GPU, which is a weak performer compared to the Retina MacBook Pro (and vicariously, the 2012 iMac with 21.5" screen) with their discrete GPUs.

Apple Updates

Apple Releases OS X Mountain Lion 10.8.2 Supplemental Update 2.0

OS X Mountain Lion 10.8.2 Supplemental Update 2.0 addresses an issue with Keychain that can affect 2012 Mac systems.

This update is recommended for all Mac systems introduced in 2012.

File Size: 26.65 MB

System Requirements: OS X Mountain Lion v10.8.2

Tech Trends

Windows 8: Disappointing Usability for Novices and Power Users

Jakob Nielsen has posted a stinging critique of Windows 8, contending that hidden features, reduced discoverability, cognitive overhead from dual environments, and reduced power from a single-window UI and low information density diminish the Windows 8 user experience for neophytes and power users alike, having abandoned Windows' traditional windows-based GUI style that emphasized powerful commands to the point of featuritis, and smothering usability with big colorful tiles while hiding needed features.

Nielsen observes that the new design is obviously optimized for touchscreen use, but Microsoft is also imposing this style on its traditional PC users because all of Windows 8 is permeated by the tablet sensibility.

To find out how well this works for real users performing real tasks, Nielsen invited 12 experienced PC users to test Windows 8 on both regular computers and Microsoft's new Surface RT tablets.

Points discovered:

  • Double Desktop = Cognitive Overhead and Added Memory Load
  • Lack of Multiple Windows = Memory Overload for Complex Tasks - Nielsen says one of Windows 8's worst aspects for power users (in common with Apple's iOS) is that the product's very name has become a misnomer, since "Windows" no longer supports multiple windows on the screen. He notes that Win 8 does have an option to temporarily show a second area in a small part of the screen, but none of the test users were able to make this work.
  • Flat Style Reduces Discoverability
  • Low Information Density Means Incessant Scrolling To Get Even A Modest Overview Of The Available Information
  • Overly Live Tiles Backfire
  • Charms (Hidden Generic Commands) Not Charming
  • Error-Prone Gestures
  • Windows 8 UX: Weak on Tablets, Terrible for PCs

Nielsen says Microsoft has thrown its traditional core user base - knowledge workers doing productivity tasks in the office - under the bus by designing an operating system that removes a powerful PC's benefits in order to work better on smaller devices, and that the underlying problem is the idea of recycling a single software UI for two very different classes of hardware devices, contending that it would have been much better to have two different designs: one for mobile and tablets, and one for the PC. He says he understands why Microsoft likes the marketing message of "One Windows, Everywhere," but this strategy is wrong for users.

With Apple having merged its OS X and iOS development teams, and rumors that the two OSs are likely to be merged as well, I hope Apple is listening.

No Consumer Rush to Windows 8 - and One-Third May Defect to Apple

USA Today's Byron Acohido reports that according to a survey by antivirus software maker Avast that was released exclusively to USA Today, most US Windows users are aware of Microsoft's Windows 8 release, but are not exactly thronging to upgrade, and moreover about one-third of current older-version Windows users planning a new computer purchase indicate that they intend switching to an Apple product.

Is Windows 8 DOA for the Enterprise?

Forrester blogger David Johnson says that with the release of Windows 8, Microsoft is in the midst of its largest marketing effort ever, but Forrester's market tracking indicates that Windows 8 is seeing roughly half of the interest from IT hardware decision-makers that Windows 7 saw at the same point in its release cycle, with only 24% of firms expecting to migrate to Windows 8 but have no specific plans to do so, versus 49% for Windows 7 back in 2009. He reports that a minuscule 5% of firms have specific plans to migrate to Windows 8 in the next 12 months, versus 10% for Windows 7 in 2009.

A brighter lookout for Microsoft is that the data indicate that Windows 8 is generating higher interest than Forrester expected among employees, with a full 20% already saying that they would prefer Windows 8 on their next touchscreen tablet versus 26% for iOS, which bodes well for Windows 8's prospects for bring-your-own-device (BYOD) demand at least.

Software

Give the Gift of Gab with Dragon Dictate 3 for Mac at $20 Off

PR: If you have a Mac user on your holiday list, Dragon speech recognition makes the perfect gift. Far more than just speech-to-text, Dragon Dictate 3 lets you create and edit documents, manage email, surf the Web, update social networks, and more - quickly, easily and accurately, all by voice.

Open and close or navigate between applications, or even create your own custom voice commands to execute multiple steps with a simple word or phrase. Use your iPhone or iPod as a wireless microphone, or capture your notes on-the-go using a digital voice recorder and Dragon Dictate 3 will transcribe them for you. You can also give the gift of Dragon for a great price. Regularly priced at $199.99, you can for a limited time buy Dragon Dictate 3 for Mac for a promotional price of $179.99, a savings of $20.

Dragon Dictate 3 is ideal for:

  • Students and working adults returning to school
  • Grandparents looking to chronicle their life stories
  • Two-finger typists and those with carpal tunnel or arthritis

Dragon Dictate 3 comes with everything you need, including a high-quality headset microphone For a limited time get Dragon Dictate 3 for $179.99, a savings of $20 off the regular retail price of $199.99.

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.7 and 10.8.

Also see Charles W. Moore's recent review, Dragon Dictate for Mac 3 Voice Software for Mac OS X.

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