Mac News Review

Use Dropbox for All Your Documents, Mac Sales Up While Windows Declines, and More Mac News

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2013.01.21

News & Opinion

Tech Trends

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

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

It Would Be Great If iCloud Was More Like Dropbox

AppleBitch comments that there was a problem the other day - Dropbox connectivity was sporadic and, even when connected, incredibly and painfully slow. At one point some users couldn't even connect to the Dropbox, so in order to share some data between a MacBook Air and an iMac, a quick shifted over to Google Drive (previously terra incognita) did the trick, with the file transfer quick and easy, as it had been when Dropbox was working.

What was an irritation was the fact that one couldn't go straight to iCloud, since the files were in PDF and PowerPoint format, and document sharing in iCloud is limited to applications that have been granted iCloud functionality, instead of universal file access.

Editor's note: This pretty much captures concisely why I've never bothered with iCloud and have no near-term intention of doing so. I have no patience with what seems like arbitrarily proprietary gatekeeping. The beauty of Dropbox (which usually works flawlessly notwithstanding the other day's troubles) is in large measure due to its platform and format agnosticism. (Google Drive sounds like it's worth a look however.) cm

Publisher's note: Curiously, browser access to iCloud isn't supported in Safari 4.1.3, the last version for Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, but by running TenFourFox, you can access iCloud on even ancient G3, G4, and G5 hardware. Safari 5.0.6, the last version for OS X 10.5 Leopard, can access your iCloud data, so G4 and G5 users have that option. Using iCloud natively requires OS X 10.7 Lion or later. Dropbox supports all versions of Mac OS X back to 10.4.11 Tiger, while Google Drive requires OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard or newer. For those of us using PowerPC Macs or OS X 10.5 and earlier on Intel Macs, Dropbox is the only real choice among the three. No wonder almost every Low End Mac staffer uses it! dk

Why Use Dropbox as Your Documents Folder?

MacGroup's Terry White, like many of us an avowed Dropbox fan, says he uses Dropbox daily to sync files and to share files with others. White says that after initially signing up for Dropbox's free service, he liked how it worked so much he decided it was worth paying for, so he went with a 100 GB plan.

White, who has a MacBook Pro for work and a MacBook Air for personal use and non-work travel, says he's had always hesitated against having two computers, because he knew the day would come when he'd be frustrated that a document he wanted to work on was on the Mac left behind. However, with his 100 GB Dropbox account, he has enough space to use his Dropbox folder as his "Documents" folder, so that whenever he was working on a project and saved it to the Documents folder inside his Dropbox folder, it would automatically be synched to the Dropbox cloud - and more importantly to any of his other Macs signed in to the same Dropbox account.

White has now upgraded from 100 GB to 200 GB (plus all the free space he's accumulated for referring people) and says he couldn't be happier with this solution, which not only gives him access to his documents on all of his Macs, but also can access from his iPhone or iPad as well as a web browser on any connected device.

White also explains that with Dropbox he doesn't migrate any more. For years whenever he'd get a new Mac he'd migrate from the old Mac to the new one, a great feature of Mac OS, but with the downside being that you accumulate a lot of old junk on your drive. With Dropbox, he's switched to doing "clean" installs, keeping his data files on Dropbox in the cloud - and regaining tons of disc space and enhancing system stability.

Editor's note: I pretty much use Dropbox the same way, with my Dropbox folder displacing my Documents Folder and other folders as default repository for work-in-progress and files I might want to reference. I'm still getting along fine with the free service, which is up to 8 GB or so thanks to Dropbox's referral dividend. That's ample for synching work on three Macs and my iPad, but as the Cloud matures, I can see the advantages of having all of one's data stored and accessible with Dropbox, although I can't imagine ever not keeping regularly updated and redundant backups on local media. cm

Gartner: US Mac Sales Up 5.4% While Windows Market Declines

PR: Gartner Inc. preliminary results for fourth quarter of 2012 show Apple in third place in US PC sales and logging 5.4% year-over-year Mac system sales growth bucking a 2.1% general PC sales decline from the fourth quarter of 2011.

Due to the tight inventory control and preparation for the Windows 8 launch, most PC vendors were able to ship Windows 8 PCs to the retail space. However, PC sell-through was rather weak, which leaves some level of inventory concerns for vendors in the consumer market.

Preliminary US PC Vendor Unit Shipments

Note that Gartner data includes desk-based PCs and mobile PCs, including mini-notebooks - but not tablets, such as the iPad.

Why One Mac Vet Won't be Buying a New iMac

The Mac Observer's John Martellaro notes that he's been buying and using Apple products for a long time, and shopping for a new Mac has always been a fun process, but he won't be buying one of Apple's new iMacs.

He'd intended to buy a new 2012 27" iMac and pass his current iMac down to his wife, so he eagerly loaded up Apple's online store and checked his storage options, which he says were bleak, leaving him stunned and annoyed that he couldn't pick a reasonable SSD at a reasonable price (compared to 2010), noting that Apple wants to soak him for $1,300 for a 768 GB SSD - a price he deems "outrageous," "larceny," and "obscene."

Publisher's note: A lot of veteran Mac users are sticking with Macs than can run OS X 10.6 so they don't have to replace pre-2006 apps such as AppleWorks 6, Office 2004, older but still adequate versions of Photoshop, etc. dk

What Version of OS X Can You Include When Selling a Mac?

TidBITS' Adam C. Engst explains what OS X version you can legally leave installed on a Mac that you sell or give away, and why you can't just install a fresh copy of the latest version of OS X it can run - the latter being explicitly forbidden it in the OS X Software License Agreement.

In brief, you can sell or give away a Mac with the version of Mac OS X that came preinstalled on it. If you bought a more recent version, you can sell that in a one-time permanent transfer of all of your license rights to the Apple Software (in its original form as provided by Apple) to another party, provided that: (a) the transfer must include all of the Apple Software, including all its component parts (excluding Apple Boot ROM code and firmware), original media, printed materials and this License; (b) you do not retain any copies of the Apple Software, full or partial, including copies stored on a computer or other storage device; and (c) the party receiving the Apple Software reads and agrees to accept the terms and conditions of this License.

However, if you purchased a license to Lion or Mountain Lion through the Mac App Store, it is not transferable and must be removed before you sell or give the Mac away.

Spinning Disks: Good-bye and Good Riddance?

InfoWorld's Paul Venezia thinks life will be much improved by casting off the alleged shackles of ancient storage technology. Your editor disagrees, retaining affection for the experienced (no critical data loss from hardware failure over 21 years use) reliability and economy of hard drive storage, but Venezia makes an interesting case hypothesis, arguing that within a decade, we may find ourselves in a post-storage world devoid of what in his estimation is the painfully outdated yet ubiquitous spinning disk.

He notes that there are already terabyte SSDs on the market for under $600 - solid state capacity and price point that were unthinkable even a few years ago - and maintains that performance and reliability of SSDs continue to increase, eventually yielding extremely affordable, blazingly fast, and ultra-reliable SSD storage arrays that all but eliminate many of the classic problems presented by spinning disk.

But this is still now, and SSDs capacities are much smaller and more expensive than with spinning disks' almost 60 year old technology, which offers amazingly large storage capacities at relative bargain prices.

Venezia acknowledges that Cloud storage operations may continue to leverage spinning disk technology for archival storage, but will necessarily have massive amounts of solid-state storage on the front line in order to deliver data at expected speeds, envisioning an era when cheap, persistent, and indefatigable storage will be largely ignored and taken for granted, with losing data a thing of the past with no crashed disks, no lost pictures or projects or reports, no hours of effort suddenly gone. Storage will be so available.

I, for one, am very much looking forward to that reality.

That of course assumes that solid state storage will turn out to be as reliable as Venezia and other SSD advocates imply.

Seagate's Magical Traveling Box and Hybrid Laptop Drives Coming

Barrons' Tiernan Ray reports that Seagate has developed a yet-to-be named gizmo that is both a MiFi-style cellular router at 4G speed and a half-terabyte drive in a single highly portable package - sort of a "MiFi"-plus. The device, which uses 2.5" 5400 RPM hard drive technology can serve as both a mobile personal drive and a wireless access point, and additionally, through a partnership with startup firm Poltek, will also will let people you invite connect to your drive over the Internet.

Ray says he recently spoke with Seagate's chief marketing officer, Scott Horn, who thinks many in the industry and on Wall Street have overestimated how NAND flash memory technology, in the form of solid-state drives (SSDs), will devastate conventional hard drives, which have been Seagate's the bread and butter. However, by buying Samsung's storage drive business Seagate has gained a much deeper partnership with Samsung for flash that it's leveraging to sell more and more hybrid drives with a few gigabytes of flash memory cache piggybacking massive amounts of main storage on spinning disks (a la Apple's new iMac and Mac mini "Fusion" drive option), allowing both speed and capacity at a competitive price. Ergo, Ray says Horn thinks hybrid drives will turn out to be popular in Ultrabook laptop PCs, with Seagate planning 2.5" hybrid drives for users who don't want to be limited to the solid-state drive's maximum affordable capacities of around 128 GB or 256 GB.

Tech Trends

Wintel PC Market Share Set to Fall to 65% in 2013

PR: Canalys' latest forecasts paint a bleak picture of the state of the industry for the majority of PC hardware vendors. Combined shipments of desktops, netbooks, and notebooks showed a year-on-year decline of around 10% in the fourth quarter of 2012, as consumers favored Android and iOS pads over Wintel-based PCs.

Microsoft and Intel will suffer further, with the Wintel PC market share expected to decline from 72% in 2012 to 65% in 2013. This will represent a 5% decline in unit shipments, largely due to the poor outlook for notebook sales.

"'Pads and, increasingly, smart phones can perform many of the day-to-day computing tasks that most people require," says Canalys Research Analyst Pin-Chen Tang. "Wintel PCs are becoming less likely as an individual's first choice of computing device for everyday tasks, such as sending e-mail or web browsing."

"The launch of Windows 8 did not reinvigorate the market in 2012, and is expected to have a negative effect as we move into 2013. Windows 8 is so different to previous versions that most consumers will be put off by the thought of having to learn a new OS," says Canalys Research Analyst Tom Evans. "An additional barrier is the potential increase in cost that Windows 8 brings, as it is perceived that a PC with a touchscreen is needed to get the best user experience. In the current economic climate, this will be enough to make people delay purchases as they wait for prices to fall."

"The combination of Windows 8 and Ultrabooks has been the catalyst for notebook form-factor innovation, but what was becoming a routine purchase is now more complex," comments Canalys Analyst Tim Coulling. "Now buyers must decide between an Ultrabook and a standard notebook, a touchscreen and a non-touch-screen, as well as an increasing array of form-factors, such as clamshell, convertible, and hybrid. This added complexity will make purchases more considered and lengthen the sales process."

Canalys predicts that from 2014 to 2016, the PC industry will see a shift in form-factor mix, as consumers in both mature and high-growth markets become interested in new PC designs based on touchscreens. Canalys expects the pad market will grow by 37% on average each year between 2012 and 2016, with volumes reaching 389 million units, accounting for 59% of total PC shipments. This growth will be driven by the iPad and iPad mini, low-cost, content-subsidized Android products, and Windows-based hybrid PCs (e.g., Microsoft's Surface Pro). The hybrid form-factor adds value to pads, enabling a greater level of productivity. This, combined with the expected improvements in Android and iOS, will further encourage the shift from notebooks to pads.

"It is clear that Microsoft is now pushing touch as the primary input method for Windows, but keyboard and mouse are still needed for legacy applications," says Coulling. "Following the launch of the iPhone, the shift from keypad/keyboard to touch input on smart phones was rapid. The popularity of pads and the inevitable decline in touch-panel prices will cause the same trend to emerge in the PC market."

Software

darktable Powerful Open Source Virtual Light Table and Darkroom for Photographers

PR: darktable is an open source photography workflow application and RAW developer. A virtual light table and darkroom for photographers. It manages your digital negatives in a database, lets you view them through a zoomable light table and enables you to develop raw images and enhance them.

darktable

Some of darktable's current features:

General

  • darktable runs on GNU/Linux / GNOME, Mac OS X / macports and Solaris 11 / GNOME.
  • Fully nondestructive editing.
  • All darktable core functions operate on 4x32-bit floating point pixel buffers, enabling SSE instructions for speedups. It offers GPU acceleration via OpenCL (runtime detection and enabling) and has built-in ICC profile support: sRGB, Adobe RGB, XYZ and linear RGB.
  • A collect module allows you to execute flexible database queries, search your images by tags, image rating (stars), color labels and many more. Filtering and sorting your collections within the base query or simple tagging by related tags are useful tools in your everyday photo workflow.
  • Import a variety of standard, raw and high dynamic range image formats (e.g. jpg, cr2, hdr, pfm, .. ).
  • darktable has a zero-latency fullscreen, zoomable user interface through multilevel software caches.
  • Tethered shooting.
  • darktable currently comes with 17 translations: Albanian, Catalan, simplified Chinese, Czech, Dutch, Finnish, French, Galician, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Thai.
  • The powerful export system supports Picasa web album, flickr upload, disk storage, 1:1 copy, email attachments and can generate a simple html-based web gallery. darktable allows you to export to low dynamic range (JPEG, PNG, TIFF), 16-bit (PPM, TIFF), or linear high dynamic range (PFM, EXR) images.
  • darktable uses both XMP sidecar files as well as its fast database for saving metadata and processing settings. All Exif data is read and written using libexiv2.

darktable

Modules

Currently darktable serves 47 image operation modules in L*a*b* and profiled RGB. Some of them can be used as blending operators offering blend functionality that works on the incoming image information and the output of the current module.

Basic image operations:

  • crop and rotate: This module is used to crop, rotate and correct perspective of your image. It also includes many helpful guidelines that assist you using the tools (e.g. rule of thirds or golden ratio).
  • base curve: darktable comes with general enhanced basecurve presets for several models that is per automatically applied to raw images for better colors and contrast.
  • exposure controls: Tweak the image exposure either by using the sliders in the module or dragging the histogram around.
  • highlight reconstruction: This module tries to reconstruct color information that is usually clipped due to information not being complete in all channels.
  • demosaic
  • white balance: A module offering three ways to set the white balance. You can set tint, temperature in and temperature out or you define the value of each channel. The module offers predefined white balance settings as well.
  • invert: A module working on JPEGs inverting colors based on the color of film material.

Tone image operations:

  • fill light: This module allows the local modification of the exposure based on pixel lightness.
  • levels: This module offers the well-know levels adjustment tools to set black, grey and white points.
  • tone curve: This module is a classical tool in digital photography. You can change the lightness by dragging the line up or down. darktable let you separately control the L, a and b channel. Read in Ulrich's blog post how to make use of this feature.
  • zone system: This module changes the lightness of your image. It is based on the Ansel Adams system. It allows to modify the lightness of a zone taking into account the effect on the adjacent zones. It divides the lightness in a user-defined number of zones.
  • tone mapping: This module allows to recreate some contrast for HDR images.

Color image operations:

  • overexposed: This module is a useful feature that displays pixels outside dynamic range.
  • velvia: The velvia module enhances the saturation in the image; it increases saturation on lower saturated pixels more than on high saturated pixels.
  • channel mixer: This module is a powerful tool to manage channels. As entry, it manipulates red, green and blue channels. As output, it uses red, green, blue or grey or hue, saturation, lightness.
  • color contrast
  • color correction: This module can be used to modify the global saturation or to give a tint. Read Johannes' blog post.
  • color zones: This module allows to selectively modify the colors in your image. It is highly versatile and allows every transformation possible in the LCh colorspace.
  • color transfer: Transfer colors from one image to another.
  • vibrance: For a detailed description read Henrik's blog post.
  • input/output/display color profile management

Correction modules:

  • sharpen: This is a standard UnSharp Mask tool for sharpen the details of an image.
  • equalizer: This versatile module can be used to achieve a variety of effects, such as bloom, denoising, and local contrast enhancement. It works in the wavelet domain, and parameters can be tuned for each frequency band separately.
  • denoise (non-local means): Denoising with separated color / brightness smoothing.
  • denoise (bilateral filter)
  • lens correction: lens defect correction using lensfun.
  • spot removal: Spot removal allows you to correct a zone in your image by using another zone as model.
  • chromatic aberrations: This module automatically detects and corrects chromatic aberrations.
  • raw denoise: Raw denoise allows you to perform denoising on pre-demosaic data. It is ported from dcraw.
  • hot pixels: This module allows you to visualize and correct stuck and hot pixels.

Effects/artistic image postprocessing:

  • watermark: The watermark module provides a way to render a vector-based overlay onto your image. Watermarks are standard SVG documents and can be designed using Inkscape. The SVG processor of darktable also substitutes strings within the SVG document which gives the opportunity to include image-dependent information in the watermark such as aperture, exposure time and other metadata.
  • framing: This module allows you to add an artistic frame around an image.
  • split toning: Original split toning method creates a two color linear toning effect where the shadows and highlights are represented by two different colors. darktable split toning module is more complex and offers more parameters to tweak the result.
  • vignetting: This module is an artistic feature which creates vignetting (modification of the brightness/saturation at the borders).
  • soften: This module is an artistic feature that creates the Orton effect also commonly known as softening the image. Michael Orton achieved such result on slide film by using 2 exposures of the same scene: one well exposed and one overexposed; then he used a technique to blend those into a final image where the overexposed image was blurred.
  • grain: This module is an artistic feature which simulates the grain of a film.
  • highpass: This module acts as highpass filter.
  • lowpass: This module acts as lowpass filter. One use case is described in Ulrich's blog post.
  • monochrome: This module is a quick way to convert an image to black and white. You can simulate a color filter in order to modify your conversion. The filter can be changed in size and color center.
  • lowlight vision: Low light module allows to simulate human lowlight vision, thus providing the ability to make lowlight pictures look closer to reality. It can also be used to perform a day to night conversion.
  • shadows and highlights: Improve images by lightening shadows and darkening highlights. Read Ulrich's blog post on this.
  • bloom: This module boost highlights and softly blooms them over the image.
  • colorize
  • graduated density: This module aims at simulating a neutral density filter, in order to correct exposure and color in a progressive manner.

darktable

New in darktable 1.1.2

A point release (so nothing too fancy) with a couple of bugfixes and better camera support. Additionally it comes with an updated user manual. The tarball can be found here: http://goo.gl/CNNtJ

A new disk image for Mac users is provided as well: http://goo.gl/D98zp

Support for the following cameras with either preliminarily added or updated:

  • Canon EOS 6D
  • Canon PowerShot s110
  • Canon PowerShot g15
  • Canon PowerShot sx50 hs
  • Nikon 1 v2
  • Nikon D600
  • Nikon Coolpix P7700
  • Olympus E Pl5
  • Olympus E PM2
  • Olympus XZ 2
  • Panasonic DMC GH3
  • Panasonic DMC LX7
  • Pentax K5ii
  • Samsung EX2f
  • Sony RX1
  • Sony NEX 6
  • Sony SLT A99
  • Sony NEX c3 blackpoint/greenshift fix
  • White balance preset updates:
  • Canon EOS 550D
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • Olympus XZ 1
  • Sony NEX C3
  • Sony SLT A57
  • Sony nex 5N
  • Panasonic DMC GH3

Open Source (freeware)

Desktop Mac Deals

Low End Mac updates the following price trackers monthly:

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.

Join us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or Google+, or subscribe to our RSS news feed

Links for the Day

Recent Content

About LEM Support Usage Privacy Contact

Custom Search

Follow Low End Mac on Twitter
Join Low End Mac on Facebook

Favorite Sites

MacSurfer
Cult of Mac
Shrine of Apple
MacInTouch
MyAppleMenu
InfoMac
The Mac Observer
Accelerate Your Mac
RetroMacCast
The Vintage Mac Museum
Deal Brothers
DealMac
Mac2Sell
Mac Driver Museum
JAG's House
System 6 Heaven
System 7 Today
the pickle's Low-End Mac FAQ

Affiliates

Amazon.com
The iTunes Store
PC Connection Express
Macgo Blu-ray Player
Parallels Desktop for Mac
eBay

Low End Mac's Amazon.com store

Advertise

Open Link