Apple giveth, and Apple taketh away. In the "giveth" department, Apple last week released an updated Xserve model with improved performance and a fascinating SSD option. On the "taketh away" side of things, Apple removed DRM from all music sold through the iTunes Store, dropped one-size-fits-all music pricing, and announced that the .Mac HomePage Web application would disappear in a few months. Also in this issue, Glenn Fleishman opines that the addition of push notifications to the iPhone could drive a nail into the coffin of usurious SMS message costs, Doug McLean looks at the new features of the DroboPro storage device, and Adam pokes deep within iPhoto '09 to reveal ten important changes that Apple has left undocumented. Notable software releases this week include VMware Fusion 2.0.4, WireTap Studio 1.0.11, WireTap Anywhere 1.0.4, Snapz Pro X 2.1.4, TweetDeck v0.25, PDFpen 4.1.2, HoudahGeo 2.2, and Dialectic 1.4.
by Doug McLean
As promised during Apple's keynote speech at the 2009 Macworld Expo, the company has now removed DRM from all of the music in the iTunes Store and moved to a tiered pricing system. Show full article
During Apple's keynote speech at the 2009 Macworld Expo, Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, announced that the company would be removing digital rights management from all of the music offered in the iTunes Store, and would implement a new tiered pricing system (for more details, see "Apple Moves to Unprotected Music, Tiered Prices", 2009-01-06). Apple's FairPlay DRM limited music sold through iTunes to recognized devices. On the day of the announcement, 06-Jan-09, Apple removed DRM from 8 million songs in iTunes, but that still left an additional 2 million songs to be switched over. Apple has now made good on its promise in full by removing DRM from all music in iTunes.
In addition to removing DRM from music sold through iTunes, all songs now use 256 Kbps AAC encoding, which was found previously only in the subset of Apple's catalog known as iTunes Plus. The previous bit rate, 128 Kbps, will no longer be available. Users will also have the ability to upgrade previously purchased music to this higher quality DRM-free format at the rate of $0.30 per song and $0.60 per music video. To upgrade your existing music, click the Upgrade to iTunes Plus link on the iTunes Store front page.
Reports on TidBITS Talk indicate that the switch isn't 100-percent complete, with some songs having been removed from the iTunes Store (possibly because Apple couldn't acquire resale rights for DRM-free versions) and others simply not yet available in iTunes Plus format. After upgrading, you can determine whether you have any of these tracks by creating a smart playlist that looks for "Kind contains protected" and "Kind contains audio".
Lastly, Apple has implemented a tiered pricing system. Previously all songs were available at the flat price of $0.99, though purchasing full albums could sometimes result in a discount. Now, songs are available at $0.69, $0.99, or $1.29. Apple has not commented on how exactly song prices are determined, though Schiller did note during his presentation back in January that there are more $0.69 songs than $1.29 songs.
by Doug McLean
Apple has announced the .Mac HomePage Web application will be discontinued as of July 2009, though Web pages created with the tool will remain accessible for the life of their owner's MobileMe account.Show full article
Apple has announced that on 07-Jul-09 it will discontinue the .Mac HomePage Web application as a method for adding and editing content on .Mac-hosted Web pages. HomePage is a legacy feature of the .Mac service that enables users to publish simple Web pages using their .Mac account; old versions of iPhoto also created photo albums that could be edited via HomePage.
While all .Mac Web pages will remain accessible at their current URLs (as long as you maintain an active MobileMe membership), they will become unmodifiable via the HomePage Web application after 07-Jul-09. However, you will still be able to modify HTML files in your iDisk's Sites folder. Plus, if you want to remove any content after 07-Jul-09, you'll have to delete the files manually from your iDisk, since the HomePage Web app will disappear.
In lieu of HomePage, Apple recommends that existing MobileMe users use iWeb (included with iLife '06 and later versions) to publish new pages to their MobileMe accounts. Additionally, MobileMe members may use iPhoto or iMovie to publish photos and movies directly to MobileMe Gallery. Instructions for migrating HomePage photos and movies to MobileMe Gallery can be found on Apple's Web site.
Finally, while Apple has not officially confirmed it, some users posting on Apple forums say that Apple support techs have indicated that HTML pages published via .Mac and made using tools other than HomePage or iWeb will continue to work via their current URLs.
by Doug McLean
Storage solution company Data Robotics, Inc. has updated its popular smart storage lineup with the DroboPro, which offers twice the storage capacity of its predecessor and better connectivity options to boot.Show full article
Data Robotics has announced the latest model in its lineup of smart storage units: the DroboPro. The latest model increases storage capacity and connectivity options, while maintaining the trademark features of the original Drobo, such as hot swapping, smart volumes, and RAID-based protection against data loss.
Aimed at creative professionals and IT administrators, the DroboPro doubles the bay capacity of the original model, enabling users to insert up to eight bare hard drives for raw data storage of up to 16 TB. 3.5-inch SATA I and SATA II hard disk drives are supported, and you can mix and match disk brands, capacities, and speeds, something that's generally not possible with RAID boxes. The DroboPro also offers a triple interface, adding a gigabit Ethernet port that enables iSCSI transfers while retaining the USB 2.0 and FireWire 800 ports of the second-generation Drobo, which remains available. Despite the addition of the Ethernet port, the contents of a DroboPro cannot be shared across a network directly, as the company's DroboShare add-on makes possible, although the DroboPro's host computer can make its data available on the network.
Aside from these performance enhancements, the DroboPro continues to offer the flagship Drobo features. Drobo units intelligently handle tasks like swapping out disks during data transfers, and create and juggle a pool of virtual disk space. The company's BeyondRAID technology allows other features beyond hot-swapping disks, such as re-ordering volumes on the fly, mixing drive capacities, and storage virtualization, which reports the largest possible volume size to the computer so the Drobo's actual capacity can be increased or decreased without updating the computer's file system. BeyondRAID can also cope with hard drive failures automatically, alerting users to the presence of a failing disk and attempting to route around bad sectors if possible.
With its added storage capacity, dual disk redundancy is now available for the DroboPro. The original Drobo creates a RAID that protects you against the failure of a single disk by spreading your data across multiple disks. With dual disk redundancy, the DroboPro can protect data even if two of your disks fail simultaneously, allowing you to continue running without interruption (though popping new disks into the DroboPro in place of the failed disks would be a good idea). Using dual disk redundancy reduces your active storage space even more for data protection, so if you start running out of disk space and don't absolutely require dual disk redundancy, you can switch back to single disk redundancy in Drobo's software utility. Data Robotics tries to make all this as easy as possible, simplifying what can often be fairly complicated disk management.
All this self-managing RAID business protects against data loss, but it considerably reduces your storage space in comparison to bringing the same number of drives online individually. A calculator available on the Data Robotics Web site determines what actual storage volume a DroboPro would provide depending on the number and size of the drives you plan to install into it.
The DroboPro is available unpopulated or pre-populated with Data Robotics-installed disks (sold, unsurprisingly, at higher prices than at independent retailers). Without any drives installed, the eight-bay DroboPro costs $1,299. The second-generation Drobo, with bays for four drives, remains available for $499.
Apple's refreshed Xserve features significantly improved performance thanks to new Intel "Nehalem" Xeon processors and a new system architecture, along with an interesting option for a 128 GB solid-state boot drive. On the downside, Apple didn't address criticisms of the Xserve's industrial design that would make it easier to administer in a data center.Show full article
Apple has released a major update to its rack-mounted Xserve, taking advantage of the significantly increased processing power of the latest Intel "Nehalem" Xeon processors and new system architecture used in the recently refreshed Mac Pro (see "New Mac Pro Uses Intel 'Nehalem' Xeon Processors," 2009-03-03).
Power-saving and performance-enhancing technologies that first saw the light of day in the Mac Pro should be especially welcome in the Xserve, whose non-stop use makes power savings important. In particular, TurboBoost enables the Xserve to shut down idle cores and boost the clock speed of active cores, and Hyper-Threading allows two threads to run simultaneously on each core, providing a more-efficient use of resources without needing more physical (and thus power-consuming) cores. Thanks to the new processors and architecture, Apple is claiming an 89 percent improvement in performance per watt over the previous-generation Xserve and a 19 percent reduction in idle power use.
The new Xserve comes in two basic configurations, a quad-core model with one 2.26 GHz quad-core Intel Xeon processor for $2,999 and an 8-core model with a pair of 2.26 GHz quad-core Intel Xeon processors for $3,599. The 8-core model can be upgraded to a pair of 2.66 GHz Xeon processors for $1,400 or a pair of 2.93 GHz Xeon processors for $2,600. Each processor has 8 MB of shared L3 cache and its own three-channel integrated memory controller to reduce memory latency and improve performance.
Both Xserve models default to 3 GB of 1066 MHz DDR3 ECC RAM, but the two models differ in RAM expansion options. The quad-core model has only 6 DIMM slots for RAM. Apple's maximum build-to-order configuration maxes out at 12 GB. The 8-core model has 12 DIMM slots, but Apple will sell you only up to 24 GB of RAM, not the full 48 GB that would theoretically be supported. That may be because Mac OS X Server 10.5 supports only 32 GB of RAM; I suspect that limit will disappear in Snow Leopard Server.
The Xserve ships by default with a single 160 GB SATA Apple Drive Module in one of three drive bays. For the moment, the Apple Store allows you to configure an Xserve only with either a 160 GB SATA ADM or a 1 TB SATA ADM, but the onboard SATA/SAS controller also supports 15,000 RPM SAS drive modules. Oddly, you must buy SAS ADMs separately from the Apple Store, which seems like an unnecessary hassle. As before, you can replace the SATA/SAS controller with an Xserve RAID Card for $700. For more information about Apple Drive Modules, see "Going Deep Inside Xserve Apple Drive Modules" (2009-03-27).
But what's innovative about the new Xserve in terms of storage is an optional 128 GB solid-state drive for $500. If added to the Xserve, the 128 GB SSD is automatically configured as the boot drive and doesn't take up one of the Xserve's drive bays. According to Apple, the SSD consumes less than 1 watt of power, compared to 12 to 18 watts for typical drives. Plus, the SSD reportedly features random-access performance that's up to 20 times faster than a SAS drive and up to 48 times faster than a SATA drive. Apple makes no claims about reliability, but it would also seem likely that the lack of moving parts would make a solid-state drive less prone to hardware failures; perhaps there isn't yet enough data to say that about SSDs.
Video support on the Xserve is now provided by the Nvidia GeForce GT 120 with 256 MB of GDDR3 memory. In keeping with Apple's model-line push, the Nvidia card offers only Mini DisplayPort output, thus requiring adapters - sold separately - to connect to VGA or DVI monitors.
Relying on Mini DisplayPort in the Xserve feels like a mistake, since no data center will be using Mini DisplayPort-equipped monitors. Chuck Goolsbee of the Web hosting and colocation firm digital.forest, agreed, "Switching to Mini DisplayPort for video is unwise, as no KVM sold today is Mini DisplayPort-compatible. That means adapters will be required, adding to the costs of deployment and complicating troubleshooting, which often is done remotely."
Other standard features include an unlimited client version of Mac OS X Server 10.5, an 8x SuperDrive, two PCI Express 2.0 x16 expansion slots, two independent gigabit Ethernet ports, two FireWire 800 ports, two USB 2.0 ports on the back and one on the front, and a DB-9 RS-232 serial port. Dual redundant power supplies remain optional.
Physically, it appears that Apple chose not to respond to criticisms of the Xserve industrial design, making the new Xserve nearly identical to the previous Xserve (see "New Xserve Goes Eight-Core Too," 2008-01-08). Digital.forest's Goolsbee commented, "Apple hasn't addressed the weaknesses of the Xserve's case design compared to similar offerings from competitors in the server space. It's still way too deep, and it still lacks a video port at the front of the unit."
The Xserve's 30-inch (76.2 cm) depth forces awkward spacing in standard racks, and the lack of front-mounted video (and FireWire) ports complicates arranging Xserves in "hot" and "cold" aisles that provide significantly more-efficient cooling. (Arranging servers such that adjacent aisles have the backs of servers facing each other creates a "hot" aisle that can be contained from the front-facing "cold" aisles. With contained "hot" aisles, requiring user access to the back of the Xserve is troublesome, both for the technicians doing the work and for maintaining the cooling.)
This isn't rocket science - many, if not most, rack-mounted servers from the likes of IBM, Dell, and HP replicate user-focused ports like USB, video, and FireWire on both the front and back panels, and relegate system-focused ports like Ethernet and power to the back panel.
Overall, the new Xserve offers extremely welcome performance improvements, and it's excellent to see Apple putting so much thought into reducing power requirements at the system architecture level. Plus, the optional solid-state drive is a fabulous addition. But it's too bad that Apple didn't rethink the Xserve's physical design with regard to the overall environment in which Xserves commonly operate.
The value of a text message for which a phone company charges a thousand times its cost is tied entirely to the message's reach and interruptive capability. iPhone push notifications may help kill SMS charges.Show full article
Text messages cost phone companies nearly nothing to deliver, and yet messages are billed at rates a thousand times their actual expense. This has become well known, even as carriers in the United States have raised pay-as-you-go rates for SMS (Short Message Service) from 10 to 20 cents a pop in the last year. (Randall Stross explained it well in a New York Times column in December 2008.)
It doesn't have to be that way. A revolution is brewing from the inside. When phones - specifically the iPhone - can notify their owners of incoming messages in a way that parallels SMS, how can such a ridiculous pricing structure continue to stand?
A Message You Can't Refuse -- Text messages use cellular network control channels, and, at no more than 160 characters per message plus some routing information, consume a handful of terabytes a day spread across all U.S. carriers' entire network systems. (The cell industry trade group says U.S. cell users sent 1 trillion SMS messages in 2008, or about 3 billion a day. Double that for the bandwidth to send and to receive, multiply by 150 characters, and you get 3 TB per day. But divide that by the number of base stations in urban areas, and you get only megabytes per day each.)
In handling all the administrative trivia of allowing hundreds of millions of cell phones to communicate via hundreds of thousands of base stations, these control channels pass far more data than text messages consume. Even assuming some additional cost to carry the current volume, a text message might cost a fraction of a cent in separate expense - say .01 cent or 1/10,000th of a dollar.
Why do we pay so much when we have various instant messaging services at our disposal? I have AIM on my iPhone, iChat and Skype on my Mac, Google Talk in my Web browser, and Twitterrific on my Mac and iPhone. But I still use SMS myself, even though my AT&T plan limits me to 200 incoming and outgoing messages a month.
Why SMS then? Because it's an almost guaranteed disruption. Recipients have to pay attention. Phones are designed by default to annoy us with SMS, and we generally like that for this particular category of notification. (If not, most phones let you turn off buzzing or chirping notification.)
SMS is also an always-available store-and-forward system. If your phone is off or out of cellular range, messages appear when you come back online. Whenever you're on a cell network (which is almost always for most people), SMS deliveries can happen.
Finally, SMS works with nearly all cell phones, from the cheapest on up, and among all major U.S. cellular networks. American carriers made great strides a few years ago to ensure delivery and provide standard pricing regardless of originating and receiving networks.
To combat overage charges, instead of allowing subscribers to stop receiving SMS messages, carriers added all-you-can-eat plans from $10 to $20 per month. Carriers make much more from you sending 2,000 texts at $10 a month than 200 texts at $5 per month, so it's good for them.
The reason companies charge so much is because we pay it. We don't have to text.
(In fact, if you don't want to get an SMS, it's rather hard to avoid it. Some parental monitoring add-on packages from cell carriers allow limits to be set. Ostensibly, you can call a carrier to ask SMS reception to be turned off, but posts in cell forums make that sound like a frustrating proposition.)
Push Off, Eh? But what if a service existed that would alert you on your iPhone when a message arrived from another service? A message that was included in your unlimited cellular data plan or could also be received via any Wi-Fi network to which you were connected? Where's your precious text messaging now, cellular carriers? (Evil laugh here.)
In fact, that's precisely what Apple will offer when the company finally launches push notifications for the iPhone 3.0 release. (See "Apple Previews iPhone 3.0 Software," 2009-03-17.)
All it takes is one killer application that provides push notifications and ties into a common messaging platform, and several such applications are waiting in the wings. Skype is already available for the iPhone (see "Skype Coming to iPhone," 2009-03-30), with calls available over Wi-Fi and chat over Wi-Fi and cellular networks. Twitter and other platforms have APIs which have been used in conjunction with iPhone applications, too.
Take my primary use of SMS. If I can text my wife via a direct message on Twitter and have a notification pop up on her iPhone, there is essentially no difference between an SMS message and that Twitter message.
There are more than 400 million registered, active Skype users, tens of millions of Twitter users, and billions of combined accounts at various instant messaging services. Yes, there's more management involved in reaching someone other than knowing their phone number, an "address" that works worldwide with no additional interface. But mind the cost.
We don't know yet whether Apple will charge developers a fee for push notifications. There has been no public discussion, but I have a hard time believing that developers will be allowed to distribute an unlimited number of push notifications for free, given that these notifications must be mediated by Apple's servers.
I'd be happy to be wrong about this, but it seems that Apple will either need to limit the number of notifications per user or notifications per developer unless it charges a fee to deliver high numbers of messages and shares that revenue with carriers. Of course, these push messages will be so short as to represent negligible data channel traffic. Sounds familiar, no?
Apple also doesn't appear to be guaranteeing that push notifications will arrive. From what I can tell, it will be a best-effort system: Apple will try to deliver all messages, and hold messages for later delivery to devices that can't be reached. But some push notifications may never arrive, and that's where SMS seems to shine. (SMS is also a best-efforts system, but messages aren't deliver in a generally small set of rare circumstances, such as a handset being turned off for more than a week.)
I also wonder whether carriers outside the United States will balk at supporting an easy method of eroding their high-margin SMS services. Deutsche Telekom has already said that Skype for iPhone is an unacceptable abuse of its service, whether over 3G (where it doesn't work) or over Deutsche Telekom's Wi-Fi hotspot network. Deutsche Telekom claims that the problem is network usage, not a subversion of high-cost calls. Still, one could imagine a carrier making the same pretense about push messaging, too.
I don't like to peer into a crystal ball much, as I'm generally a reporter of what I see, rather than a prognosticator about what I can't know. But there's a huge tension created when people find themselves paying either 20 cents a message or up to $20 per month for an essentially cost-free service.
If Apple could shift the utility of SMS to another delivery mechanism that has a similar ease and reach with far less cost, at least iPhone and iPod touch owners might wave goodbye to SMS's egregious fees.
Apple doesn't want to tell you about what has changed in the recent updates to iPhoto '09, but Adam has tracked down ten notable changes that will significantly improve your iPhoto experience.Show full article
I know we're starting to sound a bit like a broken record in our criticism of Apple's patronizingly minimal release notes. However, this isn't selfish whining - you, the users of Apple software, are the people who are hurt by Apple's refusal to describe exactly what changes from version to version of different programs, iPhoto in this case.
Sure, some changes are things that will simply work better the next time you perform that particular task in iPhoto. But with other actions, as the saying goes, once burned, twice shy. For instance, in the initial release of iPhoto '08, if you dragged an iPhoto library package onto iPhoto's Dock icon to open it, iPhoto instead imported the contents into the current iPhoto library. That was horrible behavior, and after seeing it happen once, who would ever try it again? Well, I did, when I was updating that page in my "iPhoto '09 Visual QuickStart Guide" for Peachpit (which I've just handed in to Peachpit, and will also be turning into an ebook soon too), and I was happy to discover that Apple had indeed fixed this egregious error.
So what follows are my top ten undocumented changes in iPhoto, some of which appeared in iPhoto '09 8.0 (that's Apple's official name and version number, confusing as it is), and others of which changed between the initial release of iPhoto '09 and iPhoto '09 8.0.2, the most recent release. If you've found any other significant changes, do let me know!
Open iPhoto Libraries Directly -- In earlier versions of iPhoto, there were a number of tricks for switching among different iPhoto libraries, most recently holding down the Option key when launching iPhoto and choosing an iPhoto library in a standard Open dialog. You might ask, "Why can't I simply double-click an iPhoto library package file to open it, or open it as I would any other file?" Like so many other things with iPhoto (remember how many years it took before iPhoto let us name photos directly, rather than just in the Information pane?), this basic concept eluded the iPhoto team for a while.
Apple has finally seen the light, and with iPhoto '09, iPhoto library packages act like normal documents. You can double-click them to open, drag them to iPhoto's icon in the Dock, or open as you would any other document. iPhoto can be running or not - it doesn't matter, and it remembers your last-opened library on subsequent launches of the iPhoto application. In my testing, iPhoto will occasionally become a bit confused and will still prompt you to select the double-clicked iPhoto library package again in a custom Open dialog (often with duplicated entries), but overall, it works cleanly.
Sharing via the Shared Folder -- Another major annoyance with versions of iPhoto prior to iPhoto '09 was that you couldn't just put your iPhoto Library in the /Users/Shared folder to share it among multiple accounts on the same Mac, since iPhoto always set the permissions on thumbnails to the account that imported the photos, preventing other accounts from editing those photos and having the edits reflected in the thumbnails.
That limitation has now been fixed in iPhoto '09, so you can share an iPhoto library merely by moving it to /Users/Shared and then double-clicking it to open in iPhoto from each account. You may be prompted to repair permissions on the first access - click the Repair button to do that. Note that this also works for storing an iPhoto library on an external hard disk that's shared among users or on a network volume for access across a fast network.
Only one person may access a shared iPhoto library at a time.
Movies in Slideshows -- In another one of those inexplicable lapses, iPhoto '09 still can't play movies internally; double-clicking a movie opens it in QuickTime Player. But it does have one new movie-related capability - movies can play in iPhoto '09's totally revamped slideshows. Just add them as you would a photo, and when the slideshow gets to them, they'll play in their entirety before the slideshow moves on to the next photo.
Thumbnails in Slideshows -- This feature falls into the category of something so subtle that you might never notice it. When you play a slideshow in iPhoto '09, moving the mouse pointer causes the slideshow controls to appear, as before. But if you move the mouse pointer to the bottom of the screen, a row of thumbnails appears, with a white outline sliding left to right that shows the currently displayed photos. You can even drag the white outline to jump around in the slideshow. (iPhoto does display the thumbnails very briefly before it shows the slideshow theme picker dialog, so at least there's a possibility that you'd discover it on your own.)
Faces Plus Address Book Equals Facebook -- In the first two versions of iPhoto '09, when you named an unrecognized face, iPhoto would autocomplete the name from previous entries, but that was it. Starting with iPhoto '09 8.0.2, iPhoto also suggests names from the contents of Address Book, complete with email addresses.
If you've already created a name in iPhoto, you'll see two entries for that name in the menu of suggestions, whenever you're naming a face. To solve this, rename the person's snapshot in the Faces corkboard, selecting the suggestion from Address Book. In my testing in iPhoto '09 8.0.2, this works only if the original name in iPhoto differs from the name from Address Book, so you may need to rename the snapshot to a different name first, then connect it with the Address Book entry. Once you've connected the snapshot's name with the Address Book entry, you can change the snapshot's name to anything you like, and it will retain the full name and email address from Address Book.
No one will miss noticing this addition, but you may not realize why it's important. When uploading photos to Facebook, for them to receive tags linking to the Facebook profiles of the people pictured in the photos, you must have each person's email address in the Information dialog (select a snapshot in the Faces corkboard and either click the i button or press Command-I). It's important that it be the email address the person has used for Facebook, so check their profile if you're unsure of which email address to use in iPhoto.
The full name field is also important when uploading to Facebook. You probably want to refer to family and close friends purely by first name in iPhoto, but when you upload to Facebook, iPhoto uses the full name field, so "Tonya" becomes "Tonya Engst" on Facebook.
Make Unnamed Faces Smart Album -- Another highly welcome feature that's new in iPhoto '09 8.0.2 is the enhancement of iPhoto's smart album capabilities with regard to faces. In iPhoto '09 8.0, there was a Name criterion, and you could enter text to match against. Now the Name criterion has been renamed to Face, and when you choose either Is or Is Not as the match, you get a pop-up menu to choose from. The first item in that pop-up menu is "unnamed," so if you choose it, you get a smart album that contains all the photos for which iPhoto has detected faces, but to which you haven't yet assigned names.
As an added bonus, once you name each face in a photo while in that album, iPhoto updates the album on the fly, immediately removing the now-named photo from the album and displaying the next photo with an unnamed face.
One more thing. iPhoto sometimes identifies random objects or textures as faces. When it does that, just click the X button in the corner of the white rectangle surrounding the thing that isn't a face to remove it. Deleting incorrect face rectangles (or even rectangles around the faces of people you don't know) will remove the photos from your Unnamed Faces smart album.
Naming Suggested Faces Directly -- You're training iPhoto to recognize your friend Sally's face, so you double-click her snapshot on the Faces corkboard, and click the Confirm Name button to confirm or reject photos that iPhoto suggests might also contain Sally's face. Let's say iPhoto does a good job with Sally, and most of the suggested photos are indeed her, but one or two are of Sally's sister Jane. Starting with iPhoto '09 8.0.2, you can Control-click one of the close-ups of Jane, choose the Name command from the contextual menu, and enter Jane's name. Previously, you would only have been able to reject the pictures of Jane while training iPhoto to recognize Sally.
Detect Missing Faces -- In organize mode, if you Control-click a photo or selection of photos, the contextual menu as of iPhoto '09 8.0.2 contains a new command: Detect Missing Faces. My understanding is that sometimes iPhoto does a poor job at identifying faces in pictures on its initial scan, and this command lets you force it to run again on a subset of your collection, with less stringent guidelines. I've tried using Detect Missing Faces on photos that contain faces that iPhoto didn't identify the first time, but only once in a number of attempts did it actually detect a previously missed face. Oh, and for reasons known only to Apple, the little lozenge that appears under faces that you haven't yet named now contains the text "unnamed" instead of "unknown face." Go figure.
Rescan for Location -- Also new in the contextual menu that appears when you Control-click a photo in iPhoto '09 8.0.2 is a Rescan for Location command. Although I haven't been able test this, I believe that the point of this command is to enable iPhoto to pick up geotags that are added to photos by third-party tools like Houdah Software's HoudahGeo and Ovolab's GeoPhoto. I also gather that iPhoto '09 8.0.2 now allows you to enter latitude and longitude values directly when geotagging photos. Personally, I'm waiting for a GPS-enabled Canon PowerShot camera before I get more involved with Places.
Descriptions, Not Commands? Last, and absolutely least, Apple made several truly minor changes in the new black Information dialogs that debuted in iPhoto '09 for photos and face snapshots. Initially, iPhoto used imperative tags: "Enter photo location," "Enter description," "Enter full name," and "Enter email address." Starting with iPhoto '09 8.0.2, Apple switched to purely descriptive tags that lack the capitalized "Enter" command: "photo place," "description," "full name," and "email address."
Most people should be able to figure this out, and once you've entered a full name or an email address in those fields, you'll know how to do it in the future. But overall, I think losing the "Enter" command is a move in the wrong direction, especially since these new black Information dialogs indicate that something is a user-addressable field only with bright white text (gray text is read-only) and with a field border that appears only on mouse-over. It may be attractive, but it's not very discoverable, and the text change makes it worse.
by Doug McLean
Notable software releases this week include VMware Fusion 2.0.4, WireTap Studio 1.0.11, WireTap Anywhere 1.0.4, Snapz Pro X 2.1.4, TweetDeck v0.25, PDFpen 4.1.2, HoudahGeo 2.2, and Dialectic 1.4.Show full article
VMware Fusion 2.0.4 from VMware is a stability and security update to the popular Windows virtualization software. The latest version addresses a critical vulnerability in the virtual machine display that could enable a guest operating system to run code on the host. ($79.99, free update, 186 MB)
WireTap Studio 1.0.11, WireTap Anywhere 1.0.4, and Snapz Pro X 2.1.4 from Ambrosia Software update the company's core productivity tools for the upcoming Mac OS X 10.5.7. A shared framework among the applications has been updated, which maintains compatibility with the latest Mac hardware and supports the next maintenance release of Mac OS X. (WireTap Studio retails for $69, WireTap Anywhere for $129, and Snapz Pro X for $69; free updates)
TweetDeck v0.25 from Iain Dodsworth updates the popular Twitter client with a fix for a memory leak, short URL previews, Twitpic thumbnails, recording and sharing capabilities for 12seconds videos, and added Facebook integration. Also new is the option to have usernames auto-complete in the tweet box, the option to include hashtags automatically when replying to messages, and the removal of the capability to direct message oneself. (Free, 2.1 MB)
PDFpen 4.1.2 and PDFpenPro 4.1.2 from SmileOnMyMac are the latest versions of the company's PDF editing utilities. Both version updates have added a new item in the File menu, Mail Document, that enables users to send the PDF document they're working on via email. When selected, the feature opens a new email message and automatically attaches the PDF to it. ($49.95/$99.95, free updates, 12.2 MB/12.4 MB)
HoudahGeo 2.2 from Houdah Software updates the photo geocoding software with a handful of new features. Changes include the capability to write directly into the iPhoto '09 Places database, all-new map based geocoding, a track library, access to Lightroom 2 folders, offline bookmark geocoding, and automatic altitude information. ($30 new, free update, 4.7 MB)
Dialectic 1.4 from JNSoftware is a maintenance update to the phone dialing utility. In the latest version, the Google Voice Dial Method has replaced the GrandCentral Dial Method, the Fritz!Box Dial Method's dialing has been improved, Daylite tasks can now be integrated when making and receiving calls, and the Firefox extension has been improved to add automatic highlighting and hyperlinking of phone numbers when pages load. Also, several bugs have been fixed, including one that caused dialing to fail when using some VoIP Methods such as BroadVoice or ViaTalk, and one that sometimes created an errant incoming task in Daylight when making outgoing calls. Finally, several minor code optimizations and improvements have been made, and the documentation has been updated. ($25, free update, 6.2 MB)
by Jeff Carlson
Are you looking to buy a new MacBook Pro, archive digital photos, or explore the changes in iPhoto '09? This week's discussions cover those topics, as well as Mac compatibility of Garmin devices, another surprising use of BBEdit, restoring the old .Mac slideshow feature manually, updating one's iTunes purchases to DRM-free versions, the loss of the .Mac HomePage Web application, and problems saving text attachments out of Apple Mail.Show full article
Mac compatibility of Garmin Forerunner 305 -- Garmin claims Mac compatibility, but has anyone actually tried it? And what about other options? (9 messages)
DVDs or hard disk for archiving photos? Readers discuss the best ways to archive digital photos, including online backup services. (29 messages)
Ten Surprising Uses of BBEdit -- A reader contributes an eleventh surprising use of Bare Bones Software's text editing powerhouse. (1 message)
Slides Publisher for Screen Saver -- Miss the old .Mac slideshow feature that enabled you to publish photos that someone else's screen saver would use? A reader figured out a way to get it working again. (4 messages)
When will a new MacBook Pro 15 come? What's the likelihood that Apple will release a new MacBook Pro soon? (13 messages)
"Save As" in Leopard's Mail.app, v 3.5 -- The Safari 4.0 beta may be interfering with the capability to save plain text and RTF files from Mail messages. (11 messages)
iTunes Drops DRM, Initiates Tiered Pricing -- Now that Apple is offering DRM-free music, it's possible to upgrade (for a fee) existing songs to the higher-quality versions. But not all may be available for upgrade. (8 messages)
.Mac HomePage Web Application To Be Discontinued -- Readers clarify details about Apple's decision to remove the capability to create Web pages online. (2 messages)
10 Undocumented Changes in iPhoto -- It's possible to merge two Faces sets that share similar name information. (3 messages)