Mac News Review

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Ships and Reviewed, New Mac OS X/Crisis Trojan Found, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2012.07.27

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. All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

Mountain Lion News & Opinion

News & Opinion


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Mountain Lion News & Opinion

Mountain Lion Now Available from the Mac App Store

PR: Cupertino, California - July 25, 2012 - Apple today announced that OS X Mountain Lion, the ninth major release of the world's most advanced desktop operating system, is available as a download from the Mac App Store. OS X Mountain LionWith more than 200 innovative new features, Mountain Lion includes iCloud integration, the all new Messages app, Notification Center, systemwide Sharing, Facebook integration*, Dictation, AirPlay Mirroring and Game Center. Mountain Lion is available as an upgrade from Lion or Snow Leopard for $19.99.

"People are going to love the new features in Mountain Lion and how easy it is to download and install from the Mac App Store," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. "With iCloud integration, Mountain Lion is even easier to set up, and your important information stays up to date across all your devices so you can keep editing documents, taking notes, creating reminders, and continue conversations whether you started on a Mac, iPhone or iPad."

With more than 200 innovative new features, Mountain Lion includes:

  • iCloud integration, for easy set up of your Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Messages, Reminders and Notes, and keeping everything, including iWork documents, up to date across all your devices;
  • the all new Messages app, which replaces iChat and brings iMessage(TM) to the Mac, so you can send messages to anyone with an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or another Mac;
  • Notification Center, which streamlines the presentation of notifications and provides easy access to alerts from Mail, Calendar, Messages, Reminders, system updates and third party apps;
  • systemwide Sharing, to make it easy to share links, photos, videos and other files quickly without having to switch to another app, and you just need to sign in once to use third-party services like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Vimeo;
  • Facebook integration, so you can post photos, links and comments with locations right from your apps, automatically add your Facebook friends to your Contacts, and even update your Facebook status from within Notification Center;
  • Dictation, which allows you to dictate text anywhere you can type, whether you're using an app from Apple or a third party developer;
  • AirPlay Mirroring, an easy way to wirelessly send an up-to-1080p secure stream of what's on your Mac to an HDTV using Apple TV, or send audio to a receiver or speakers that use AirPlay; and
  • Game Center, which brings the popular social gaming network from iOS to the Mac so you can enjoy live, multiplayer games with friends whether they're on a Mac, iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.

Additional features in Mountain Lion include the revolutionary new Gatekeeper, which makes downloading software from the Internet safer; Power Nap, which automatically updates your apps and system while your Mac is asleep; and a faster Safari browser. New features for China include significantly improved text input, a new Chinese Dictionary, easy setup with popular email providers, Baidu search in Safari, and built-in sharing to Sina Weibo and popular video websites Youku and Tudou.

Pricing & Availability

OS X Mountain Lion is available from the Mac App Store for $19.99. Mountain Lion requires Lion or Snow Leopard (OS X v10.6.8 or later), 2 GB of memory and 8 GB of available space. For a complete list of system requirements and compatible systems, please visit: OS X Server requires Mountain Lion and is available from the Mac App Store for $19.99. The OS X Mountain Lion Up-to-Date upgrade is available at no additional charge from the Mac App Store to all customers who purchased a qualifying new Mac system from Apple or an Apple Authorized Reseller on or after June 11, 2012.

* Facebook integration will be available in an upcoming software update to Mountain Lion.

John Siracusa Reviews Mountain Lion

Ars Technica's John Siracusa has been publishing in-depth reviews of each version of Mac OS X since the Public Beta, and his detailed analysis of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is perhaps the lengthiest and most illuminating review you'll find. Especially pay attention to his critique of the way iCloud stores documents tied to the applications that created or edited them, making it impossible to open them in another application - something you might want to do with photos, text, or word processing documents, for instance.

The Register Reviews OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion

The Register's reviewer Oscar Milde (nom de plume, perchance?) observes that OS X 10.8 is not all about bug fixes, noting that he dictated his review because one of Mountain Lion's new features is the facility to enter text by voice, which he says is pretty accurate, with strong word recognition - and you can talk for ages or even pause at length as you speak to it without a hitch, noting that it's not perfect (for instance, it doesn't take kindly to expletives), but it's certainly good enough to have speech recognition companies worried.

Milde observes that there are, apparently, 200 new features in Mountain Lion, many of which are things many users will never knowingly come across, but that a Mountain Lion marquee feature is Power Nap, which persuades certain Mac laptop models to do some work when sleeping. Power Nap only works on MacBook Air models from late 2010 and the MacBook Pro with Retina Display; ergo, it won't work on the recently released non-Retina Display MacBook Pro models, the reason being that Power Nap relies on flash memory to work and doesn't function with hard disk drives.

The reviewer notes that its the feel of an OS that matters for continued use, and says Mountain Lion comes across as slick and confident, pronouncing it powerful, attractive and even cool.

How to Create an OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Install Drive

MacFixIt's Topher Kessler notes that OS X 10.8 is only available as an online download, but you can create your own standalone install drive for it if needed.

Kessler suggests that, as with OS X Lion, Apple may release USB drives containing a bootable Mountain Lion installer, but this will cost you more than the App Store download. Additionally, while Apple's OS should be available using Apple's various Internet recovery options, this can often take a long time to download, especially if you do not have the fastest broadband connections available to you.

The process requires either burning a dual-layer DVD or partitioning a USB drive (either a flash drive or a hard drive) with over 6 GB capacity.

How to Create a Bootable Mountain Lion Install Disk

Ars Technica's Chris Foresman says that once you've downloaded the 4.34 GB OS X 10.8 installer, you may want to install Mountain Lion on more than one of your personal machines (which Apple's personal use license allows). Do you really need to wait 45 minutes or more for each one? Absolutely not! Just make your own bootable install disk using Ars' handy tutorial, which contains instructions for those of us who just want to get it done using the donationware Lion Diskmaker app as well as those that don't mind a little extra clicking to do it yourself.

Note well that the OS X installer will delete the necessary file needed to make your own install disk once it runs, so you will need to either make a copy of the installer outside of the Applications folder or make your install disk before upgrading.

You'll also need an 8 GB or larger USB flash drive, other external disk, or 4.7 GB DVD-R.

How One User Installed Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion on His 2006 Mac Pro

The Jabbawok blog says:

"There are two things that prevent 10.8 from installing on a Mac Pro 1.1.

"The first is the lack of EFI64. Mountain Lion as has no support for 32-bit kernel and extensions so it will not boot. This is true of many early Intel Macs.

"The other thing is that checks are made by the installer; against a supported machines list. If your Mac isn't on the list, it refuses to install.

"It's important to note that an upgraded graphics card is virtually essential, since the stock 7300 GT isn't supported and will cause Kernel Panic."

"The first issue can be dealt with by using the Chameleon bootloader which will emulate EFI64 and therefore load 10.8. Chameleon has to be booted by your Mac as if it were Windows. Apple calls this BIOS emulation Legacy Boot. Legacy boot will only boot from internal connectors like the SATA, so no USB or FireWire drives."

Apple Is Killing the Mac We Know in the Name of Progress

Mac 360's Ron McElfresh notes that for a few decades Apple's fortunes rested upon the loyalty of tens of millions of Mac users who disdained the Windows way of computing life, but today, the Mac represents the short leg of Apple's three-legged profit stool, taking a back seat to both iPhone and iPad, and noting that despite Apple's currently producing the highest quality Macs ever made with the best value ever, the march of change will not leave our beloved computing platform unscathed.

"The Mac as we know it is changing, even dying," McElfresh observes, "now in the beginning stages of transmogrifying to a device that may have more in common with iPhone and iPad and iOS than the Mac we knew and loved up until a few years ago," with Apple making the Mac more like iOS, its OS for the masses

"How long," says McElfresh, "before AppleScript, the little scripting tool that could, is completely removed from OS X because it is integrated with the OS to perform functions and tasks not fit for the great unwashed masses of new Mac users . . . In the name of progress, Apple is killing the Mac as we know it. Long live the Mac."

From O'Reilly: OS X Mountain Lion: The Missing Manual and OS X Mountain Lion Pocket Guide

OS X Mountain Lion: The Missing Manual

PR: What do you get when you cross a Mac with an iPad? OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. Its 200 new features include iPaddish goodies like dictation, Notification Center, and Reminders - but not a single page of instructions. OS X Mountain Lion: The Missing ManualFortunately, David Pogue is back with the expertise and humor that have made OS X The Missing Manual the #1 best-selling Mac book for over 10 years straight.

In Pogue's OS X Mountain Lion: The Missing Manual, you'll learn about:

  • Big-ticket changes:
    • Twitter and Facebook integration
    • AirPlay TV mirroring
    • Power Nap
    • Game Center
    • Documents in the Cloud
    • iMessages
    • Gatekeeper
  • Mountain Lion Watch: This book demystifies the hundreds of smaller enhancements, too, in all 50 programs that come with the Mac: Safari, Mail, Messages, Preview, etc.
  • Shortcuts. This must be the tippiest, trickiest Mac book ever written. Undocumented surprises await on every page.
  • Power users. Security, accounts, networking, build-your-own Services, file sharing with Windows - this one witty, expert guide makes it all crystal clear.

OS X Mountain Lion Pocket Guide - The Ultimate Quick Guide to OS X

Get the concise information you need to start using OS X Mountain Lion, the latest version of the Mac operating system. This handy guide by Chris Seibold goes right to the heart of the OS, with details on system preferences, built-in applications, utilities, and other features.

OS X Mountain Lion Pocket GuideOnce you're familiar with the fundamentals, use this book as a resource for problem-solving on the fly. You get configuration tips, lots of step-by-step instructions, guides for troubleshooting, and other advice - all in an easy-to-read format.

  • Learn what's new, including improved iCloud integration and other iPad-inspired features
  • Discover how working with multiple devices is easier and more streamlined with Mountain Lion
  • Get a guide to the Finder, Dock, user accounts, and other essentials
  • Use Mountain Lion's system preferences to customize your Mac
  • Take advantage of OS X applications, such as FaceTime and Time Machine
  • Manage passwords and secure your data
  • Work more efficiently with a complete list of keyboard shortcuts

News & Opinion

Apple Quietly Pulls OS X 10.7 Lion as Mountain Lion Launches

OS X 10.7 LionCnet's Josh Lowensohn says if you were in the market for Apple's previous OS X release, you're out of luck, since Apple has erased all signs of it from its two online stores.

Or not. Lowensohn notes further that Apple has confirmed the removal of the software, but says that customers can still purchase a copy from its online store's telesales agents.

So why would you want to buy OS X 10.7 Lion anyway with Mountain Lion available? Likely only if you have one of the Mac models sold between 2006 and 2008 that are compatible with Lion but won't run Mountain Lion. These include Late 2006 iMacs, the original 2008 MacBook Air, Late 2006 through Early 2008 MacBooks, Late 2006 15" and 17" MacBook Pros, the 2007 Mac mini, 2006 Mac Pros, and 2006 through 2008 Xserve models.

For more on this topic from Macworld's Lex Friedman, including how to re-download Lion from the Mac App Store if you've already bought it, see

Publisher's note: I guess Apple has decided for me (and perhaps millions of other Mac users who hadn't yet upgraded from OS X 10.5 Leopard or 10.6 Snow Leopard to 10.7 Lion but have Macs that can't run Mountain Lion) that we don't ever want to go there. Granted, thus far I have seen no reason to go there, but that doesn't mean that someday I may not want to install it on my 2007 Mac mini. I'm sure many others are in the same boat. dk

Safari 6 Snubs Lion, Drops Windows and Snow Leopard Versions

The Register's Neil McAllister notes that Apple has shipped Safari 6 to coincide with the release of Mountain Lion, but to take full advantage of the newest Safari, you'll need to be running Apple's latest OS, because although Lion users can download Safari 6, not all of the browser's features will work on the older OS, and users of earlier versions of Mac OS X can't get the update at all.

McAllister also observes that Apple's Safari website no longer includes a download link for Windows, which would seem to suggest that Safari for Windows has been scrapped.

Publisher's note: It would be fair to say that Safari for Windows never got much traction. Here at Low End Mac, where you would expect Windows users (31% of our traffic) to be open to Apple's browser, about 1.5% use it, placing it well behind Android Browser, Firefox on Linux, Opera (all platforms), Camino on Mac, Chrome on Linux, and Mozilla Compatible Agent on iOS. dk

Mac OS X/Crisis Trojan Discovered by Intego Virus Team

PR: Malware: OS X/Crisis

Risk: Low; this malware has not yet been found in the wild. It does install itself without user permission, and hides itself well if installed with root permission.

Description: Intego has discovered a new Trojan horse, Crisis, which is a Trojan dropper. This Trojan horse has not been found in the wild, but it exhibits some anti-analysis and stealthing techniques that are uncommon among OS X malware.

This threat works only in OS X versions 10.6 and 10.7 - Snow Leopard and Lion. It installs without need of any user interaction; no password is required for it to run. The Trojan preserves itself against reboots, so it will continue to run until it's removed. Depending on whether or not the dropper runs on a user account with root permissions, it will install different components. It remains to be seen if or how this threat is installed on a user's system; it may be that an installer component will try to establish root permissions.

If the dropper runs on a system with root access, it will drop a rootkit to hide itself. In either case, it creates a number of files and folders to complete its task; 17 files when it's run with root access, 14 files when it's run without. Many of these are randomly named, but there are some that are consistent.

With or without root access, this file is installed:

  • /Library/ScriptingAdditions/appleHID/Contents/Resources/appleOsax.r

Only with root access, these files are installed:

  • /System/Library/Frameworks/Foundation.framework/XPCServices/
  • /System/Library/Frameworks/Foundation.framework/XPCServices/

The backdoor component calls home to the IP address every 5 minutes, awaiting instructions. The file is created in a way that is intended to make reverse engineering tools more difficult when analyzing the file. This sort of anti-analysis technique is common in Windows malware, but is relatively uncommon for OS X malware.

Means of Protection

VirusBarrier X6 protects users from this malware with malware definitions dated July 24, 2012 or later. VirusBarrier X6's real-time scanner will detect the file when it is downloaded, and its Anti-Spyware protection will block any connections to remote servers if a user has installed the Trojan horse. VirusBarrier Express and VirusBarrier Plus, available exclusively from the Mac App Store, detect this malware with malware definitions dated July 24, 2012 or later, but these programs do not have a real-time scanner due to limitations imposed by the Mac App Store; users should scan their Macs after they have updated to the latest malware definitions, or manually scan any installer packages they have downloaded if they seem suspicious.

Intego's Lysa Myers says:

"Intego found samples of this malware on the VirusTotal website, a site used by security companies to share malware samples. This threat has not yet been found in the wild, and so far there is no indication that this Trojan has infected users so right now the threat is considered to be a low risk. Nonetheless, Intego VirusBarrier X6 detects and removes this malware using today's definitions. It detects the dropper component as OS X/Crisis, and the backdoor component as Backdoor:OS X/Crisis. It will also block connections with the IP address the backdoor component seeks to connect with.

"Intego VirusBarrier X6 users need to update as soon as possible to get protection from this threat."

New Mac Malware Discovered on Mountain Lion Eve

The Sophos Naked Security blog's Paul Ducklin reports that Sophos Labs recently received a intriguing Mac malware sample, variously known as Crisis and Morcut.

"We're still digging into the details of the malware itself," he says, "but the delivery mechanism is interesting....

"The malware package arrived in a file named AdobeFlashPlayer.jar."

Ducklin suggests that if you don't yet have anti-malware on your Mac, why not try the free Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition? (No registration, no password, no expiry. They don't even ask for an email address.) And if you're planning on picking up a brand new Mac with Mountain Lion drops, why not start off secure?

Sophos Anti-Virus on all platforms detects and blocks the various components of this malware as follows:

  • Troj/JVDrop-A: the outermost JAR file.
  • Troj/JVDrop-A: the cross-platform .class file inside the JAR.
  • Mal/Swizzor-D: the Windows malware inside the JAR.
  • OS X/Morcut-A: the OS X malware inside the JAR.

Google's Sparrow Acquisition Highlights the Dangers of Depending on Closed Source Software

Sparrow + GoogleOSnews' Thom Holwerda comments that Sparrow is/was an email client for Mac OS X and iOS (and Windows) that brought a decent Gmail experience to these platforms - as opposed to Apple's own not-so-good Gmail support and Google's Gmail iOS application, the latter essentially just a webpage.

However, Google has now acquired Sparrow (see below), and basically all hell has broken loose, Holwerda reports, noting that with Google's acquisition of Sparrow, all major development on the email clients will end - with only security and bugfixes from now on. Many Sparrow fans evidently feel angry and betrayed, because a product they paid for will no longer see new major revisions.

However, Holwerda observes that Sparrow customers got an email client that works and will still work tomorrow - and still be getting updates - so buyers got the product they paid for, and it will perform the same functions tomorrow as it does today.

He argues that the only true way to ensure your preferred software will never die is to use open source software, and that if you use closed source software - for-pay or free - you will always be at the whim of the developer, and if they decide to abandon the project, for whatever reason, you won't be getting new versions. Quite often, you won't even get security and bug fixes, noting that had Sparrow been open source, there'd be several other people starting forks right away, and that an application's survival does not depend on free vs. for-pay - but rather on closed vs. open.

Publisher's note: Holwerda is exactly right. For instance, I am writing this in Claris Home Page 3.0 on a 2002 Power Mac running OS X 10.4 Tiger because Apple/Claris/FileMaker decided to stop development of the friendliest, easiest to use WYSIWYG HTML editor I've ever used, and I need to use Classic Mode to run it. Although expensive commercial alternatives exist, I have not found a single free or open source alternative that can really replace it, although both KompoZer 0.7 (and not the newer 0.8 release) and BlueGriffin are good steps in that direction. Home Page itself is quite dated, forcing me to massage files using TextSoap and TextWrangler to update HTML 3.2 source code, but it's a process that works for me.

Likewise, I am still using AppleWorks on all of my Macs. AppleWorks did make it to OS X and runs very nicely under OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, but it will not run on 10.7 Lion - just one more reason I never made that switch. AppleWorks just works for me, and the upgrade path is Apple's separate Pages and Numbers applications, which are every bit as proprietary and closed source as Home Page and AppleWorks. The best thing I've found in an open source alternative to AppleWorks for word processing is Bean, and I really haven't looked at alternatives to the spreadsheet module. I will stick with AppleWorks as long as possible, as I have hundreds of files created by it. dk

Nearly Half of Consumers Fail to Upgrade Software Regularly, One Quarter Don't Know Why They Should Update Software

A Skype blog says Skype, together with other top brands in consumer technology like Norton and TomTom, kicked off International Technology Upgrade Week (July 23-29, 2012), spreading the word about why it's important to keep your software in top condition - access to cool new features and ensuring you have the latest security updates being chief reasons.

International Technology Upgrade Week
Click the image for a much larger, more legible version of this infographic.

Throughout International Technology Upgrade Week, Skype will provide helpful content about the benefits of upgrading, as well as tips and tricks to make sure that your software is operating at peak performance.

As part of International Technology Upgrade Week, Skype surveyed consumers in the UK, US, and Germany to learn more about their behaviors and attitudes related to regular software updates and created an infographic that summarizes their findings, hoping it will encourages users to update their software to get access to new features and peak performance from the applications and devices they're using.

Publisher's note: Apple has done a good job by including Software Update as part of the Mac operating system since Mac OS 9, and with OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion has passed that responsibility along to the Mac App Store, just as the iOS App Store handles it on iDevices. In other cases, software makes will notify of a new version each time you launch an outdated version of their app (unless you specifically disable that feature). In the best cases, the software will also download and install the update, then quit itself and launch the new version for you. Of course, the worst thing is when software prompts you to update to a version that isn't compatible with your current


Google Acquires Sparrow Email Client

Sparrow + GooglePR: The developers of the Sparrow email client software announced Friday:

"We're excited to announce that Sparrow has been acquired by Google!

"We care a lot about how people communicate, and we did our best to provide you with the most intuitive and pleasurable mailing experience.

Sparrow on Mac and iPhone"Now we're joining the Gmail team to accomplish a bigger vision one that we think we can better achieve with Google.

"We'd like to extend a special thanks to all of our users who have supported us, advised us, given us priceless feedback and allowed us to build a better mail application. While we'll be working on new things at Google, we will continue to make Sparrow available and provide support for our users.

"We had an amazing ride and can't thank you enough.

"Full speed ahead!"

Barnes & Noble Releases Nook for Web

PR: Sample books for free; explore everything from your favorite subjects to new releases and best-sellers. Read right from the Web Open any book in your Nook Library and pick up reading right where you left off.

Nook for Web

Barnes & Noble have introduced Nook for Web, an innovative and free new browser experience that offers readers the ability to explore the latest digital titles and best-selling books right from their computer with no sign-in, software download or Nook account required to begin reading. With fast and easy access from a variety of major PC or Mac Web browsers (see below), Nook for Web seamlessly combines Nook's award-winning digital reading experience with access to Barnes & Noble's expansive Nook Store. Now, anyone who loves to read can browse, sample and become instantly immersed in a Nook-like reading environment from any browser, with support coming this fall for Internet-enabled tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices.

Nook for Web

Beginning immediately, Barnes & Noble is offering six best-selling Nook Books in their entirety at no charge for readers to try Nook's digital reading experience online. With popular summer titles the entire family will enjoy, customers can visit to browse the list of complimentary titles available, including Map of Bones by James Rollins, Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell, The Vow by Kim Carpenter, The Boxcar Children Summer Special by Gertrude Chandler Warner, Brave by Tennant Redbank and Perfect Island Getaways by Patricia Schultz, instantly read the sample, and then download the entire book for free on any browser through July 26.

Nook for Web

Browser compatibility:

  • Nook for Web lets you read using Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.

Microsoft AutoUpdate for Mac Office 2008 and 2011 Users

PR: Redmond says this update to Microsoft AutoUpdate for Mac is part of Microsoft's continued effort to provide the latest product updates to customers. Note that in order to receive future product updates, you must install this update.

The update applies to: Office 2011, Office 2011 Home and Business Edition, Word 2011, Excel 2011, PowerPoint 2011, Outlook 2011, Communicator 2011, Office for Mac Standard 2011 Edition, Microsoft Office for Mac Home & Student 2011, Microsoft Office for Mac Academic 2011, Office 2008, Office 2008 Home and Student Edition, Office 2008 Special Media Edition, Word 2008, Excel 2008, PowerPoint 2008, Entourage 2008, Microsoft Expression Media for Mac, Remote Desktop Connection for Mac 2, and Open XML File Format Converter for Mac.

Supported Operating Systems

  • Operating System Versions for Office 2008 or Open XML File Format Converter for Mac: Mac OS X version 10.4.9 (Tiger) or a later version of Mac OS
  • Operating System Versions for Office 2011: Mac OS X version 10.5.8 or later

Free Sophos Antivirus for OS X Supports Mountain Lion

PR: Sophos' free Mac antivirus supports OS X 10.8 starting immediately.

Intego X6 Products Updated for Optimum Mountain Lion Compatibility

Intego's Lysa Myers says that Apple is improving OS X security with a new feature known as GateKeeper. In conjunction with Wednesday's release of Mountain Lion OS X 10.8, Intego has released updated versions of all their products to ensure compatibility with the new operating system and the Gatekeeper function.

Intego strongly recommends that you update your Intego software before updating to Mountain Lion. To do this, use NetUpdate, which you can launch either from the Intego menu in your menubar or from the System Preferences application. There you'll find the necessary updates for all of your Intego software.

The following are the products that have been updated:

  • Internet Security Barrier Suite
  • VirusBarrier
  • ContentBarrier
  • Personal Backup
  • Personal Antispam
  • FileGuard
  • Washing Machine

Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition supports Mac OS X 10.4 and later on PowerPC and Intel Macs.

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