Thoughtful, detailed coverage of the Mac, iPhone, and iPad, plus the best-selling Take Control ebooks.

ExtraBITS for 06 September 2010

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We were watching Google this week, as the company released Priority Inbox for Gmail and open-sourced Google Wave. We were also amused to see Autodesk bring AutoCAD back to the Mac and Borders drop prices on all its ebook reading devices to compete with Amazon and Barnes & Noble (and the iPad). If you’re using Apple Mail’s parental controls be sure to read on for a concerning vulnerability. Finally, Adam participated in a pair of MacNotables podcasts that should make for good listening.

The Fall and (Open Source) Rise of Google Wave -- A month after shuttering Google Wave, the company has announced that it will be fleshing out the Google Wave code to turn the current example Web server and client into a complete application called Wave in a Box. Although Wave in a Box won’t have the full functionality of Google Wave, it will be made available as open source, and Google’s hope is that a vibrant developer community will help Wave move forward and fulfill its initial promise. We’re not holding our collective breath, but it could happen.

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Autodesk Puts Its CADs on the Table -- It has been nearly 20 years since Autodesk last made its AutoCAD design and engineering software available for the Mac. But now, The New York Times reports, CAD-craving Mac users with $4,000 to spend will once again be able to buy AutoCAD for the Mac. Thanks to the Mac’s resurgence, Autodesk says more and more customers are asking for a Mac version, and now the company plans to deliver.

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Apple Mail’s Parental Controls Flawed -- Apple Mail offers controls for parents to monitor their kids’ email usage, including the capability to add specific senders to a whitelist. However, Jonathan Kamens has discovered a fairly simple means by which a nefarious individual can trick Mail into automatically adding any address to the whitelist. Kamens says he reported the flaw to Apple back in June, but adds that the company has neither fixed the problem nor treated it as a security vulnerability. Fortunately for concerned parents, Kamens lays out a pair of stopgap workarounds.

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The Future of Books Discussed on MacNotables -- It’s a topic that many of us are struggling with these days — where and how should we acquire the books that entertain, educate, and enliven our worlds? In this MacNotables podcast, Andy Ihnatko and Adam range widely across the pros and cons of the many possibilities, bemoaning the loss of small bookstores and library budgets while simultaneously acknowledging the many advantages of ebooks. No hard and fast answers, sorry, but we think you’ll enjoy the conversation.

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Adam Pulls Back the TidBITS Curtain on MacNotables -- In this MacNotables podcast, what started as a discussion between Adam and host Chuck Joiner about the Matias Tactile Pro 3 keyboard morphed into a look at some of the trials and tribulations we go through to keep publishing TidBITS with a small staff and equivalently small budget. A hint — it’s all about having good technology behind the scenes. But it’s still not easy.

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Borders Drops Ebook Reader Prices -- Not to be left out of the price war between Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble, Borders has dropped the prices of a number of ebook reading devices that work with the Borders online store. Their E-Ink-based Kobo eReader is now only $129, the Sony Pocket and Sony Touch (also using E-Ink screens) are $119 and $139 respectively, and Aluratek Libre — which has an LCD screen — is on sale for only $99 through 14 September 2010. Borders also has a pair of Android-based tablets with color touch screens coming in a month or so, the Velocity Micro Cruz Reader for $199 and the Velocity Micro Cruz Tablet for $299. The question is, are they enough cheaper than an iPad?

[Updated 12 March 2012: With Barnes & Noble purchasing the Borders trademarks and intellectual property, I agreed to update the previous non-functional URL that previously pointed at Borders to point to the equivalent page on Barnes & Noble. -Adam]

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Google Introduces Priority Inbox for Gmail -- One of Gmail’s most ballyhooed features is its excellent spam filter. But having reduced spam annoyance to a dull roar, Google has moved on to another troubling inbox management issue: even “legitimate” email contains plenty of both wheat and chaff. Google’s latest Gmail feature, dubbed Priority Inbox, aims to make inbox management a bit easier. Through its own analysis and your manual training (much like you would train a spam filter), Priority Inbox learns which messages are more likely to require immediate attention, and which can wait. The feature splits your Inbox into “important and unread” messages, “starred” messages, and “everything else.” Google says it will roll out the new option to users of Gmail and Google Apps alike over the coming days. We’ll see how it works when it appears in our accounts.

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Set up short abbreviations which expand to larger bits of text,
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you can expand abbreviations in any app, including Safari and
Mail. <http://smle.us/tetouch3-tb>