Type Faster by Competing in Races
A fun way to improve your typing speed and accuracy is to join an online typing competition at typrX. This typing competition keeps track of your typing speed, while allowing you to compete against other people, either around the world in public races or with friends in private races. To set up a private race with your friends, follow these simple steps.
- Once you have a typrX account, click the Create Private Race button on the front page and you’ll be taken to the private race page.
- From there, copy the track code URL and send it to the friends you want to join the race.
- You can click the Delay Countdown button to add 10 seconds to the clock if you are waiting on your friend to join the race.
We’re taking the next email issue off for the Memorial Day holiday, but we have an excellent slate of articles for you this week, including coverage of Apple’s security-related updates for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard and the forthcoming demise of Perian, which provides QuickTime Player with support for many more video formats. Feature articles this week include Glenn Fleishman’s explanation of how you can use the free OpenDNS service to help protect your Mac from malware like Flashback, Tonya Engst’s look at how to deal with overly cluttered iOS Home screens, and Steve McCabe’s review of FileMaker Pro 12. Notable software releases this week include GraphicConverter 8.0 and TextWrangler 4.0.1.
We’re taking a brief break from building an email issue of TidBITS next week in honor of the Memorial Day holiday in the United States, so look for the next issue in your mailbox on 4 June 2012.Show full article
Between next Monday’s Memorial Day holiday in the United States and numerous family commitments for TidBITS staffers, we’re taking a brief break from our email issue next week. We’ll continue publishing on our Web site in the meantime, of course, which means that if you miss your TidBITS fix via email, you can also follow along via RSS (full text for TidBITS members), Twitter, Facebook, and our iOS app. And if you’d like to take advantage of the time to catch up on some back issues, they’re all available online. The next email issue of TidBITS will appear on 4 June 2012.
Two Leopard-specific security releases from Apple bring a Flashback malware removal tool and protection from exposure to vulnerabilities in older versions of Adobe Flash.Show full article
Bringing Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard up to speed with its more recent big cat siblings, Apple has issued Leopard Security Update 2012-003 and a Flashback Removal Security Update, the latter of which provides a tool for excising the most common variants of the infamous Flashback malware. Previously, Apple had released versions of the Flashback malware removal tool for 10.7 Lion and 10.6 Snow Leopard (see “Apple Releases Flashback Malware Removal Tools,” 12 April 2012).
After installing the Flashback Removal Security Update, the removal tool will run automatically in the background. If the Flashback malware is found, you’ll be notified via a dialog that it has been removed. In some instances, however, you may need to restart your computer to remove the malware completely. Additionally, the Flashback security update disables the Java plug-in for Safari, preventing unintentional use of Java applets in the Web browser.
The Leopard Security Update 2012-003 mirrors the recent release of Safari for 10.7 Lion and 10.6 Snow Leopard (see “Apple Hardens Security with Mac OS X 10.7.4 and Safari 5.1.7,” 9 May 2012), which disables elderly versions of Adobe Flash (10.1.102.64 or older) that are incapable of updating themselves to the current version. If you are running an older version, you’ll be redirected to download and install a current release from Adobe’s Web site.
Both security updates should appear in Software Update, but they can also be downloaded via Apple’s support Web site. The Leopard Security Update 2012-003 weighs in at 1.11 MB, while the Flashback Removal Security Update comes in at 1.23 MB. Both require an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5.8.
by Steve McCabe
With the cessation of development and support of Perian, Mac users will eventually need to find a new way to play many otherwise unsupported video file formats. With choices including NicePlayer, UMPlayer, MPlayer, and VLC, which should you choose, when changes by Apple finally render Perian obsolete?Show full article
The developers of Perian, the free and extremely popular video format extender for QuickTime, have announced that they are ceasing work on the project. In a statement on the project’s Web site, the developers have said that it’s time to move on, their goal of making video content playback easier on the Mac having been met.
What Perian Does -- Described by its developers as a Swiss Army knife of video playback, Perian has long been among the first pieces of software I install on a new Mac. Out of the box, a Mac can play video through Apple’s QuickTime Player, which handles .mov, .m4v, and .mp4 files quite happily. Unfortunately, QuickTime Player throws its hands up in despair when asked to play .avi and .mkv files, which are common on the Internet, not to mention a host of more unusual formats.
This is where Perian comes — or, rather, came — in. Installed as a preference pane, Perian offers little in the way of configurable options. Instead, it simply operates in the background, quietly and transparently enabling QuickTime Player to play video formats not deemed worthy by Apple.
But Perian’s days are numbered. The developers have announced that support will cease 90 days after the upcoming final update to Perian. Perian may, they say, continue to function under Apple’s forthcoming OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, or it may not.
The Perian people are making no promises, other than that they won’t be supporting Perian any longer. Time, they say, to move on to new projects; the source code will remain available for others to improve, but the existing development team won’t be working on it.
The Alternatives -- It is quite likely that Perian will continue to function under releases of Mac OS X for the near future, but it isn’t guaranteed, and so users like me, who have become dependent upon Perian to handle playback of movies not Apple-approved, will be looking for alternatives. Luckily, all of the main options are free.
The first contender is VLC. Like Perian, VLC has a wide reach, nimbly embracing all but the most exotic videos, including DVDs. And, if it’s in a really good mood, it can even provide a way to play DVDs from regions other than the region for which the computer has been set (a feature of interest to anime fans and many people outside the United States). I personally care little for VLC’s interface, though it cleaves more closely to Apple’s human interface guidelines than does the quirky QuickTime Player.
VLC, by virtue of its thoroughness and its longevity, has become the standard against which competitors are judged; foremost among them is MPlayer OSX Extended, which offers much the same feature set of its rival, including spoggly and unreliable DVD playback, but little in the way of enhancements or embellishments that might make it a compelling alternative.
The same is true of UMPlayer, whose unoriginal name hides an extensive feature set. Sadly, though, UMPlayer is let down badly by jerky playback (unacceptable on a 2 GHz i7 MacBook Pro), a reluctance to recognise my laptop’s DVD drive, and dialogs written by someone who, if we’re being charitable, has yet to master English. UMPlayer’s interface is strangely reminiscent of Windows Media Player, and its standout feature, YouTube playback and recording, is disappointingly dysfunctional — a YouTube search box in the top-right of the app’s main window returns search results, but UMPlayer seems incapable of actually playing selected videos.
Perian’s developers recommend NicePlayer, which is a nice piece of kit, though still in preview form for 10.7 Lion in a September 2011 release. Similar in its interface minimalism to QuickTime Player, NicePlayer eschews unnecessary extras such as YouTube access and DVD playback, focusing instead on what a media player should — the playing of media files. Sad, then, that it’s built on Perian, and so will likely end up stumbling and falling if Perian does.
Recommendations for the Perian User -- Lack of support suggests, but does not by any means guarantee, future problems. Perian 1.2.3, the current release, works admirably under Mac OS X 10.7.3, and unless Apple substantially overhauls QuickTime in Mountain Lion, it seems fair to assume that Perian will function, at least adequately, for some time to come.
At some point, though, it will likely fail, and an alternative will then be required by anyone who needs to play an .avi or .mkv file on the Mac. NicePlayer seems unlikely to have a future separate from Perian. UMPlayer, frankly, could use some additional beta testing before being turned loose on the public. And while MPlayer OSX Extended shows promise, it feels a touch immature and unpolished.
And that leaves us where we started, with VLC. It might not be the last word in DVD playback, but right now the obvious candidate to start accepting Perian users looking for a new home is indeed VLC, a mature and stable media player that provides playback options for more file formats than one can reasonably shake a stick at.
How can changing your DNS server make your Mac — or a Mac owned by a family member — less prone to being attacked, phished, or subverted? OpenDNS blocks malicious sites, which helps both before and after malware is discovered.Show full article
Malicious Web sites install code without our knowledge, or rely on our gullibility, in order to hijack our computers. Anti-malware software can help by blocking known attacks, but does little or nothing about new vectors. Some software, like McAfee’s security package, can show whether a site linked via a search engine is known to be safe or malicious. But OpenDNS can go a step further.
OpenDNS promoted itself as a way to avoid being exploited by the Flashback malware last month, but it takes a little unpacking of that claim to understand how the service can help. Flashback attacked Macs by using an exploit in Java triggered when a user visited a Web site hosting the necessary malicious code (see “How to Detect and Protect Against Updated Flashback Malware,” 5 April 2012). Once the malware was installed, Flashback attempted to contact command-and-control servers at obscured domain names built into the code. (Security firms and anti-virus companies ferreted out these domains and registered those that weren’t already controlled, while those already registered were blocked by ISPs and other parties.) When successful, Flashback’s goal was to infect network applications and steal identity and financial information, transmitting it back to those command-and-control servers.
You could thus be protected from infection if your computer were deterred from visiting compromised and malicious sites that have all manner of code that could cause you trouble. And you could reduce the liability of being infected if Flashback were blocked from connecting to its command-and-control sites. OpenDNS provides both those benefits by controlling DNS lookups.
DNS (Domain Name System) is as complex as any other bit of Internet plumbing, but simple to explain at its highest level. It converts a name of a host and domain, like www.tidbits.com, into an Internet Protocol (IP) number, like 22.214.171.124. DNS enables users to initiate connections to remote servers by using human-readable names instead of the numeric IP addresses that operating systems rely on.
When you switch your Mac or router to use OpenDNS instead of your ISP’s DNS servers, OpenDNS can intercept a DNS request and respond based on what it knows about the destination IP address. This is used for simple but useful purposes, such as fixing a typo like
.com. (Basic OpenDNS features are free; the firm offers a $20 per year account with additional reporting, support, and controls, and more expensive business and academic institution accounts.)
But it can do more. OpenDNS built a system called PhishTank that accepts reports of “phishing,” or schemes in which spam email messages lure unwary recipients to counterfeit Web sites designed to steal passwords, credit card numbers, or other personal information. PhishTank relies on community reporting and review, letting users examine reports and vote on whether a given Web site should be categorized as one that’s associated with phishing.
Here’s the key for how OpenDNS can protect you from malware. When you’re using OpenDNS, if you visit a Web site identified as being involved in phishing scams, the site is blocked, and OpenDNS displays a message warning you about the site. Other network applications that try to connect to a PhishTank-listed IP address are simply blocked. OpenDNS also maintains a list of servers that are used to control zombified computers, and blocks access to those as well. Finally, OpenDNS can optionally keep DNS from resolving to private address ranges, the ones reserved for use only on local networks (like the 192.168.0.0–192.168.255.255 set) that would never be used for publicly reachable domain names. That might seem unnecessary, but malware can try to rewrite DNS to point to other compromised machines on the same network or to load a Web site from the computer on which it’s running.
I’ve been using OpenDNS for years, and I also recommend it as something you could set up for friends, family, and colleagues who may not be sophisticated enough to avoid phishing attacks, or who ask you for help in protecting their computers. Adam and Tonya Engst point out that kids — notably young teenagers — are also a prime audience for protection via OpenDNS, since the teens that they’ve observed often click seemingly randomly on Web pages (and in program interfaces in general), exercising little or no discretion as to whether a risk is involved.
You can use OpenDNS at either the level of a single computer, or, more effectively, at your router, so it protects your entire network. (In fact, for laptops, it’s worth doing both, so you’re protected even when you’re away from your home or office network.) For a single Mac, manually enter OpenDNS’s two DNS server IP addresses (126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52) into the DNS view of the appropriate network adapter’s Advanced dialog.
For an AirPort base station, run AirPort Utility, edit your base station’s configuration, and in the Internet view, enter 184.108.40.206 in the Primary DNS Server field and 220.127.116.11 into the Secondary DNS Server field.
A final option for advanced users is to use OpenDNS’s DNSCrypt software, currently in beta. DNSCrypt encrypts DNS lookups, which can prevent malicious redirection on public networks or in subverted nations. I wrote more about DNSCrypt at Macworld.
OpenDNS certainly can’t prevent malware attacks or even protect against unknown malicious Web sites. But by using DNS as part of an Internet-wide reporting and deterrence approach, and requiring that you install no software to take advantage of the benefits, OpenDNS can play a useful role in your overall security strategy.
by Tonya Engst
Do you find yourself launching apps on your iOS device by searching for them in Spotlight because you can’t remember where their icons are on your Home screen? Read on to learn how to sniff out wayward apps scattered across your iOS device, and keep them found.Show full article
You can use the Find My iPhone app to locate a wayward iPhone and Find My Friends to find a family member, but what if you want to find an iOS app on one of the many pages of your iOS device’s Home screen? It’s hard to believe, but there isn’t an app for that. If you’ve noticed that you’re repeatedly hunting through multiple Home screen pages and folders for a particular app, here’s how to detect where its icon is hiding, and how to move it to a more memorable location.
(As an aside, this problem exists because the Home screen, which is actually an app called SpringBoard, scales poorly to hold tens or even hundreds of apps. Since the App Store makes it so easy to buy apps and download free apps, and there are so many to choose from, many users end up with cluttered, disorganized Home screens. If Apple allowed different Home screen pages to have different wallpaper, it would be significantly easier to differentiate between pages.)
One quick but unreliable solution for accessing a mislaid app works only if the app is one that you’ve used recently. You can switch to a recently used app by double-pressing the Home button and then tapping the app’s icon on the multitasking bar. On an iPad, you can also access the multitasking bar by dragging up from the bottom of the screen with four or five fingers. You can swipe left on the multitasking bar to reveal more apps, in order of last use, but if the app you want wasn’t recently used, you may need to swipe multiple times to find it. Worse, this technique doesn’t teach you where the app’s icon resides on your Home screen.
A more direct searching option is to use iOS’s Spotlight feature. From the first page of your Home screen, swipe right to access the Spotlight search screen. Then start typing the name of the lost app. Spotlight should nose out the app in short order, and then you can tap its name to switch to it. If apps don’t appear in the search results at all, look in Settings > General > Spotlight Search to verify that a checkmark appears adjacent to Applications. If there’s no checkmark, tap Applications.
Problem solved, right? Well, no. Next time you can’t find your app, you’re back where you began, searching from scratch. (A number of TidBITS staffers have admitted that this is their primary way of accessing apps.) If Apple wanted Spotlight to help you learn, rather than to just provide direct access to apps, tapping the app’s name could instead highlight the app’s icon where it’s located on a page of the Home screen. Then you would have a chance of remembering its location next time.
Fortunately, there is a better way, if you’re willing to put in a little organizational time. It requires that you sync apps between your iOS device and iTunes on a computer. In fact, one of the little-known benefits of syncing with iTunes on a computer is that you can use iTunes to locate an app icon lickety-split. Assuming that you’ve already set up an iTunes sync for apps, here’s how to find your app:
Select your iOS device in the left sidebar of the iTunes window.
In the bank of buttons near the top of the iTunes window, click Apps.
In the Search box near the upper right of the iTunes window, type the name of the app that you want to locate. The list of apps at the left should get short, and include the name of your app.
In the list at the left, double-click the name of the app.
The image at the right shifts to show the page containing the app, and the app’s icon takes on a blue outline. The outline can be hard to perceive, but if you know to look for it, you should be able to spot it. For example, the screenshot below shows the blue Dropbox icon outlined near the lower right, just above the Messages icon on the Dock. Also, I can tell that Dropbox is on the third page of the Home screen because the third indicator dot above the Dock is white, as is the numeric label 3 for the thumbnail at the far right.
Now that you’ve pinpointed your app’s icon, you can leave it in that location, or you can drag it to a different position on the current page or to one of the adjacent thumbnails of a different page. Of course, you can do this on the device too — just tap and hold on an app icon until all the icons wiggle. Then drag a particular icon to the desired location and press the Home button to save your change and stop the wiggles — but it’s harder to move icons across pages this way. You can move only a single icon at a time when in iOS; in iTunes, you can select multiple icons to move at once.
Of course, this solution assumes that you’re likely to remember the new location as well, which may not be true if you have so many apps that your first few Home screen pages are already full. In such a situation, you can choose from a few approaches:
Use a reset option to organize your apps alphabetically. In this scenario, Apple’s default apps appear first, so they’ll take up a page or so of your Home screen. After that, the rest of your apps will appear in alphabetical order, sorted by name — this includes non-default Apple apps such as Find My Friends and iBooks. Unfortunately, some app names may be rather unexpected, due to the extremely limited character count that iOS devices display without elision. To invoke this alphabetical sorting, open the Settings app and tap General > Reset > Reset Home Screen Layout. New apps will appear in the last available Home screen slot, so you’ll want to repeat the reset procedure periodically to maintain alphabetical order.
Make heavy use of clearly named folders to reduce the number of Home screen pages. In either iTunes or on the device (when you’ve set the icons to wiggling), drag an icon onto another to create a folder, or into an existing folder to add it to that folder. If you’re rounding up multiple apps into a new folder, put that folder on the Dock temporarily so you can access it from any page.
Consider dedicating particular Home screen pages to certain types of apps — this may work better than folders, since you can scan all the apps on a page at once, which is easier than looking in multiple folders. (A Home screen page on the iPhone and iPod touch can hold 16 apps, whereas a folder can hold only 12. On the iPad, both hold 20 icons.)
Give up on anything beyond the first Home screen page or two, and use Spotlight to find everything else.
Finally, a few tips may make maintaining your icon organization easier.
Since a new app appears in a somewhat random location, and since you’re likely to want to use it right away, move it into a memorable position before first launch.
Don’t be afraid to remove apps from your device if you’re not using them. Tap and hold an app icon to set the icons to wiggling, then tap the X button next to any icon to remove that app from your device. It will remain in iTunes and in your App Store account should you want it again later.
Periodically revisit your app organization and make sure it’s working for you.
If you have other techniques for dealing with overflowing Home screen pages, share them in the comments!
by Steve McCabe
A new file format and few new features make this a visually attractive but less-than-essential update to the long-standing database program from Apple subsidiary FileMaker, Inc.Show full article
FileMaker Pro 12, the database’s first integer-level update in a year and a half, offers little change in the way data is managed, stored, or structured. Instead, as Mark Anbinder discussed in his coverage of the update’s release (see “FileMaker 12 Adds Power, Clarity, and Free iOS Apps,” 4 April 2012), the focus is on display, presentation, and appearance. FileMaker’s Web site claims that this latest version offers “stunning” and “eye-catching” database design tools, and while this is clearly advertising hyperbole (it’s still a database!), FileMaker Pro 12 does improve significantly on earlier versions’ layout tools.
New Layout Tools -- The primary enhancement that FileMaker Pro 12 brings is themes. Earlier versions included preset designs for new layouts, but they were riddled with problems, not least the fact that they were often garishly coloured and quite puzzlingly unattractive — some even looked like they could easily have been designed by a seven-year-old with a crayon. But even if you decided that you really, really liked the orange and yellow of Brick Screen, for example, the colour scheme of a layout created using that style applied only to fields added during the creation of the layout. Fields added afterwards had to be styled manually — colour, typeface, type style all reverted to FileMaker’s defaults.
But this, mercifully, has changed. The 40 new themes are generally less gaudy and tacky than previous styles; the Retro theme is reminiscent of one of the skins available in Claris Organizer, which was sold to Palm when Claris became FileMaker, Inc. (“Claris Organizer Reincarnated as PalmPilot MacPac,” 11 May 1998). And the Wave theme would probably look quite at home on a Windows 7 desktop, which you may or may not feel is a good thing.
FileMaker Pro 12’s layouts are now much more tightly linked to their source themes. New fields added to layouts after their initial setup automatically inherit the styling of that layout’s theme. And themes can be switched after the fact — if the Wave theme really does remind you too much of Windows, then a quick trip to the Layouts menu’s Change Theme command will change the entire layout’s theme to something less jarring.
Refining elements within a layout has also been improved in FileMaker Pro 12. Perhaps the most important change has been to the way in which layout objects are selected. In previous versions, objects had to be enclosed completely by the selection area, but now the selection area merely has to overlap the objects you want to select. This is a long-overdue standardisation, but I have a suspicion that it might initially confuse veteran FileMaker designers used to the old approach.
Once layout elements have been selected, they can be styled much more extensively than had previously been possible. Gone are the dated dither patterns that somehow clung to life through FileMaker Pro 11; in their place come colour gradients for fields and buttons. Corners can be rounded to a specified radius; if a number of buttons are butted up against each other, for example, in a horizontal list, then rounding off the left corners of the left-most button, and the right buttons of the right-most object, can create a modern-looking style. Objects can be given different styles for different states, so that the currently active text input field might have a stand-out background colour, while a script-triggering button could be styled to change colour when moused over, and again when clicked.
FileMaker Pro 12’s layouts are a decided improvement over the psychedelic mistakes of earlier versions’ colour schemes, but they might not be to everybody’s tastes. It’s a shame, then, that there appears to be no way for developers and designers to create their own themes, or even to save modifications to existing themes.
Five of the new themes, including the Windows-esque Wave, have companion themes with the word “Touch” added to their names. Clearly the good people at FileMaker agreed with my assessment of FileMaker Go and the constraints placed upon FileMaker Pro designers by the small screen size of the iPhone (see “FileMaker Go Brings FileMaker Databases to iOS,” 9 February 2012). At any rate, these five Touch themes are designed specifically to accommodate the smaller screens of iOS devices running FileMaker Go. More on that later.
File Formats -- Long-time FileMaker developers will remember — indeed, many likely still wake at night in cold sweats from the nightmares — the traumatic experience that was the 2004 leap from version 6 to version 7 (see “FileMaker Pro 7: Can You Say Paradigm Shift?,” 15 March 2004). File schemata broke, quite badly in some cases, and an entire industry sprang up around the conversion from Old FileMaker to New FileMaker. But eventually things settled down, and since 2004, the .fp7 file extension has been a reassuring constant in FileMaker developers’ lives, a sign that everything is safe and comfortable.
The transition from FileMaker Pro 6 to 7 was, for many database developers, a growing pain that involved extensive retooling of databases constructed around kludges and workarounds to accommodate the fact that, before version 7, FileMaker Pro was not an actual, real, honest relational database. In an irony that failed to amuse many developers, the transition to a relational architecture broke — in some cases shattered — the data structures of many databases. But they were rebuilt, and have remained sturdy, robust little stores of information ever since.
The bad news for FileMaker developers, then, is that FileMaker Pro 12 brings a new file format, as evidenced by the new extension: .fmp12. The good news is that it won’t be accompanied by the same gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. That’s because the fundamental file structures of existing databases will not require any updating — no rebuilding of databases, no re-configuring of tables and relationships, no breaking of files. Updating a .fp7 file is simply a question of opening it in FileMaker Pro 12. According to the dialog that appears, “after conversion it will only be compatible with FileMaker 12 or later supported versions.” The dialog also offers an option to rename the old file; if this option isn’t selected, a Name Converted File dialog opens to enable the user to save the converted file, leaving the original untouched.
The new file format is necessary to support the layout themes that are the marquee feature of FileMaker Pro 12, and it also enables an enhancement to the capabilities of container fields in FileMaker Pro databases. In FileMaker Pro 12, .mp3 audio files can be played from within containers, with the option of the audio playing automatically. Similarly, according to FileMaker’s Web site, PDF files can be navigated directly within a container, although the container field will need to be made large enough in a layout for its content to be viewed easily.
The contents of container fields are now, more than ever, kept at arm’s length from the database itself — a database designer now has the option of either including the contents within the database file or simply placing a reference in the field to externally stored data. The trade-off is that data in container fields is still not searchable, and is increasingly unlikely to be made searchable in future releases.
Going Mobile -- As I discussed in “FileMaker Go Brings FileMaker Databases to iOS” (9 February 2012), FileMaker, Inc. offers iPhone- and iPad-based mobile FileMaker clients in the shape of FileMaker Go. The $19.99 iPhone app is a fine and useful piece of software; the iPad counterpart is probably every bit as good, but its $39.99 price tag deterred me from trying it out. On the plus side, both apps have been updated and made free. On the down side, they work only with .fmp12 documents. And here is found the key to FileMaker, Inc.’s new philosophy with regard to their mobile applications.
Like its predecessor, FileMaker Go 12 is a capable FileMaker client, but it cannot create new databases; nor can it modify layouts, scripts, or data schemata. This limitation makes it an excellent companion to FileMaker Pro, but renders it effectively useless to anyone who does not already run FileMaker Pro on a desktop computer. FileMaker, Inc. appears to have realised that FileMaker Go is better and more properly considered a part of a larger FileMaker implementation, and so they have decided to give FileMaker Go away as a means of promoting sales of FileMaker Pro. As a result, the new FileMaker Go 12 brings little new to the iOS world, but will likely help in the purchasing decisions of users of FileMaker Pro 11 who are considering upgrading but balking at numerous purchases of the old $39.99 version. And it certainly sweetens the deal for potential new users of the FileMaker product line. Happily for users of FileMaker Pro 11 who may still want them, the original FileMaker Go apps are still available from the App Store, at their original, high prices.
Sharing and Serving -- FileMaker databases are designed to be shared, and this is where the new .fmp12 file format becomes a problem. FileMaker Pro 12 can share databases only in the new file format, and only FileMaker Pro 12 and FileMaker Go 12 can open those databases. If you want to upgrade, you’ll need to be aware that interoperability could easily be compromised — if you update one computer on a network to FileMaker Pro 12, then all the other computers need updating if they are to share databases. And if you’re tempted to try out the new free iOS apps, then you’ll need to be running FileMaker Pro 12 on your desktop computer or server.
The good news, then, is that both FileMaker Pro 11 and FileMaker Pro 12 can coexist on the same computer at the same time, each happily running its own databases. The bad news is that only one of them can share databases over the network at any given time. Given just how screamingly useful FileMaker Network Sharing can be in a small-office environment, with the FileMaker Pro client software doing double duty as a database server, it is disappointing that only one version can activate Network Sharing on any single computer. As a workaround, you’d need to set up one machine to share FileMaker Pro 11 databases and another one to share FileMaker Pro 12 databases.
While this complication does, to a degree, bifurcate the FileMaker universe, it can also be seen as a helpful step on the upgrade path. FileMaker, Inc. clearly wants us to upgrade, as is illustrated by the free iOS apps, but the fact that both FileMaker Pro 12 and earlier versions can be run at the same time should make the upgrade process substantially less painful than the rude blunt-force shock that was the jump from version 6 to version 7.
Should You Buy It? -- While the new templates that are the centrepiece of FileMaker Pro 12 are pleasant to look at, and themes are likely to lead to fewer databases that look like they were designed under the influence of exotic recreational pharmaceuticals, there are few standout features of the new version of FileMaker Pro that make it a compelling upgrade.
Users of FileMaker Pro who have functional installations and databases that meet their existing needs will find little in version 12 to make this upgrade essential. Developers who produce FileMaker Pro solutions will want to keep both versions on their computers for the time being. Many of their existing clients’ needs will continue to be met quite splendidly by earlier versions, but new customers will likely be new users of FileMaker Pro and will start fresh with FileMaker Pro 12.
The tricky questions will be asked by small businesses looking to expand their in-office FileMaker solution to include a mobile dimension. Staying at FileMaker Pro 11 or earlier is, of course, free, but every iPhone with FileMaker Go represents an additional $19.99 cost, while each iPad costs an additional $39.99. With an upgrade to FileMaker Pro 12 starting at $179, upgrading could quickly become more cost-effective than buying multiple copies of FileMaker Go.
Certainly, FileMaker Pro will retain its position as the dominant desktop database development option of choice for many, and the fact that incorporating iOS devices into a FileMaker solution is now both free and easy to implement elegantly makes the entire FileMaker ecosystem a more attractive option for businesses that need a mobile solution. But FileMaker Pro is already a mature and robust platform, leaving the company with the challenge of trying to find new features that warrant a full integer-level upgrade. The design features of FileMaker Pro 12 are certainly attractive, in multiple ways, but unless the designs of your current databases leave you wanting to pluck out your eyeballs, it’s hard for me to recommend an upgrade unless you’re also looking at needing to purchase numerous copies of FileMaker Go 11 for your existing systems.
Notable software releases this week include GraphicConverter 8.0 and TextWrangler 4.0.1.Show full article
GraphicConverter 8.0 -- Lemkesoft has released GraphicConverter 8.0, a major new release for the well-regarded graphic conversion and editing utility that now supports the latest 64-bit Intel-based Macs, as well as file sizes larger than 16 megapixels. GraphicConverter 8.0 brings several new batch processing capabilities, including highlight and shadow, histogram equalization, and scale to size with crop. It also adds EMF and EMZ import capabilities, an option to show elapsed time in a slideshow, and an option to replace an underscore character with a space when creating an HTML catalog. GraphicConverter 8.0 is a free update for owners of GraphicConverter 7, but it requires a paid upgrade of $29.95 for users with versions 1 through 6. Lemkesoft also notes that users who purchased GraphicConverter 7 from the Mac App Store may have to wait between 2 to 3 weeks to receive the update to version 8.0 due to Apple’s review process. ($39.95 new from Lemkesoft or from the Mac App Store, free update from version 7.x, $29.95 upgrade from versions 1 through 6, 136 MB, release notes)
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TextWrangler 4.0.1 -- Following up its recent major upgrade (see “TextWrangler 4.0,” 11 April 2012), Bare Bones Software has released TextWrangler 4.0.1 with no new features added to the free general-purpose text editor — just a smörgåsbord of fixes. The highlights include a fix for a bug with Replace All operations that chewed up too much memory while processing a large quantity of files; a fix for a bug that displayed unusably tiny windows on a display that was disconnected; fixes for a couple crashes that occurred when running DragThing; and the addition of a few more recognized file types. (Free from Bare Bones Software and the Mac App Store, 5.2 MB, release notes)
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Just a couple of quick multimedia bits for you this week — Adam talking about security on the Tech Night Owl podcast and a video about how Pixar almost lost “Toy Story 2” to a bad backup.Show full article
Just a couple of quick multimedia bits for you this week — Adam talking about security on the Tech Night Owl podcast and a video about how Pixar almost lost “Toy Story 2” to a bad backup.
Adam Discusses Mac Security on the Tech Night Owl Live -- Security is one of those topics you wish would just disappear — because then no one would need to think about it. But until that happens, we’ll end up trying to explain just what’s going on and how you can protect yourself, as happens in this discussion Adam has with Tech Night Owl host Gene Steinberg.
Bad Backup Nearly Obliterated “Toy Story 2” -- We frequently harp on not only keeping data backups, but also on ensuring that your backups are good. (That’s why Adam Engst has designated every Friday the 13th as International Verify Your Backups Day.) It’s inconvenient to lose some recent files or email messages, but a good backup policy is even more essential for larger projects — like an entire movie. Two people involved explain how Pixar nearly lost a year’s worth of work on the movie “Toy Story 2” after
someone accidentally entered
rm * (the Unix command to delete all files) and the company discovered their backup had been compromised. The film’s salvation came from an unexpected source.