Open Links from Mail in the Background
Tired of switching back and forth between Mail and your Web browser every time you click a link in a TidBITS issue or other email message? Here's an easy workaround. Hold down the Command key when you click links in Mail to open them in your browser without switching away from Mail. That way you can keep reading in Mail and then read all the Web pages you've opened.
Series: Macworld Expo SF 2008
In which Apple releases the MacBook Air and Time Capsule, and the rest of the industry does its own thing. Join Adam and Tonya Engst, Glenn Fleishman, Rich Mogull, and others as we prepare for and attend Macworld Expo in San Francisco.
Article 1 of 15 in series
Come find us at Macworld Expo in San Francisco with this handy cheat sheet!Show full article
We're gearing up for our annual trip to Macworld Expo in San Francisco, a significant part of which is trying to find time to see the show floor among a slew of meetings and presentations. Here's our current schedule, and please do come by and say hello! Note that Macworld Expo takes place in both the new Moscone West and the old Moscone South, so plan for some walking time between the two and pay attention to booth numbers.
Monday, January 14th -- Tonya and I, along with a host of other Mac luminaries, will be at the Apple User Group Advisory Board's Wine and Cheese Reception at 4 PM at the Westin (formerly the Argent). Alas, this event has sold out, so you're out of luck if you haven't already registered.
Tuesday, January 15th -- We don't have any public appearances on Tuesday, largely so we can cover the keynote in the morning and get a chance to see some of the show floor in the afternoon. If you see us, make sure to point us in the direction of interesting booths.
Wednesday, January 16th -- At 11 AM, Tonya will be giving a Users Conference session called "Get Smart about the Leopard Finder," all about making the most of the functionality Apple added to the Finder in Leopard. Then, at 1:15 PM, I'll be talking about "Collaborative Editing Tools and Techniques," again in a Users Conference session.
At 3 PM at the Macworld Podcast Studio in Moscone West, Tonya and I will join Ted Landau and Chuck Joiner for a MacNotables roundtable discussion about the show (and whatever we can sidetrack Chuck into talking about). A short time later, at 3:45, I'll dash over to the Peachpit booth (S-1026) to talk about my favorite new aspects of iPhoto '08, as covered in my "iPhoto '08: Visual QuickStart Guide."
Thursday, January 17th -- At 11 AM, Tonya and I will be discussing our picks of the show in the User Group Lounge, which is Room 250 on the Mezzanine level of Moscone South. Then at 3 PM, we'll meet up with Chuck Joiner again at the Macworld Podcast Studio in Moscone West for another MacNotables session. And at 3:30, we'll bring Glenn Fleishman and possibly a new TidBITS face on stage with us for a MacVoices podcast with Chuck (we think he puts on different hats for each one).
At 6 PM, we'll be meeting at the top of the Moscone South escalators in preparation for the annual Netter's Dinner. At 6:30, we'll all walk to the Hunan at Sansome and Broadway, where the hot and spicy Chinese dinner (vegetarian dishes are available) costs $18. You must register in advance by Tuesday, January 15th, via Kagi; the link has all the details. Jon Pugh is back to host this year, so I can once again enjoy the food and conversation.
Friday, January 18th -- If you're still around at 3 PM, head over to the Macworld Podcast Studio in Moscone West one last time for Shawn King's Your Mac Life Expo Wrap Up Session, where you'll see me, Jason Snell of Macworld, and Leo Laporte in an exhaustion-fueled trip through the events of the week. It was a heck of a time last year, and I'm sure it will be again.
Even More -- Looking for more to do? First, check out the Macworld Show Highlights, and then be sure to skim through all the events in Ilene Hoffman's annual Hess Memorial Macworld Expo Events List, now updated for 2008.
Article 2 of 15 in series
New rules from the U.S. Department of Transportation forbid checking spare lithium batteries in your luggage; you must bring them in your carry-on luggage. Read on for details.Show full article
Macworld Expo attendees (and anyone else) flying to or within the United States will be affected by a new set of rules implemented recently by the U.S. Department of Transportation that limits how and where air travelers can carry spare lithium batteries for their electronic devices. Effective 01-Jan-08, the rules prohibit carrying spare batteries in checked luggage, and limit spare batteries brought aboard in carry-on luggage.
The DOT recommends carrying electronic devices with you (we do, too, considering how often our checked luggage has gone astray), but if you wish to pack an electronic device in your checked luggage, you may pack it with its battery installed - as long as the device is securely turned off. You must protect the terminals of spare batteries in your carry-on bags to avoid short-circuits; the DOT provides how-to tips for safely covering battery terminals, such as using the plastic slip-cover that may have come with the battery, or electrical tape over the terminals.
The battery guidelines specifically refer to cell phone and laptop spare batteries, but apply to all lithium and lithium metal batteries, also common in digital cameras and camcorders, portable DVD players and video games, etc. Check the DOT Web site for specific limits on the allowed lithium content per battery, which is especially important if you have an extended-life battery.
Concerns about Sony-made laptop batteries overheating, leading to battery recalls by Apple, Dell, and several other laptop manufacturers in 2006, make this the most rational and least arbitrary restriction on passenger baggage we've seen affecting air travelers in recent years. (For details on that recall, see "Apple Recalling 1.8 Million Laptop Batteries," 2006-08-26.)
Article 3 of 15 in series
Wouldn't it be cool if all those CDs containing demo software that are given away at trade shows could automatically ensure that their contents were always up to date? Rogue Amoeba has figured out how to make it happen.Show full article
Imagine that you're exhibiting at Macworld Expo and want to hand out CDs containing demo versions of your software. It's easy to create a master disc and a label, and send it out for printing and duplication. But there can be a long lead time for big orders, making it hard to release a new product at the show, and any unused CDs become obsolete quickly afterwards, which is a waste of money and resources.
The clever lads at Rogue Amoeba have come up with a nifty solution to this problem, which they call Live Disc. Essentially, Live Disc is a custom application that presents a Finder-like window to the user, showing icons for demos of Rogue Amoeba's products that you can drag to copy or double-click to launch, just like in the Finder. The magic is that if a newer version of the application is on Rogue Amoeba's server, Live Disc seamlessly downloads that version and copies or launches it instead. If there's no Internet connection, Live Disc simply uses the copy on the CD.
At the moment, Live Disc isn't a product anyone can buy or license, although I imagine that Rogue Amoeba would consider making it one if there's sufficient interest. Far too many CDs are wasted because their contents have become obsolete; with Live Disc and some forethought, nearly any promotional CD could have a significantly longer life span and would be less likely to join the ever-growing waste stream without at least being useful first.
Article 4 of 15 in series
Macworld Expo will be a prime location for those with bad intent to snarf passwords and data as it flies through the air from unwary iPhone users and their unsecured iPhones. Laptop users are at risk, too, of course. Here are some hints and references for ensuring your privacy before attending the event - or visiting any Wi-Fi hot spot.Show full article
What do you get when you cross thousands of iPhones users, hundreds of Wi-Fi nodes across dozens of networks, and no network security? Lots of snarfed passwords from what could be as few as a handful of ne'er-do-wells who know what to look for.
If you're an iPhone user headed towards the Macworld Conference and Expo, I'll see you there, but I hope I won't see your passwords floating through the air. The iPhone - and Mac OS X and all other major operating systems designed for personal computers and mobile phones - doesn't secure data sent over Wi-Fi by default. Rather, the operating system and hardware makers assume that you will layer your own security on top.
Most users aren't aware they need to add security on top of their in-transit data, and I've tried to be Johnny Wi-Fi Security Seed - if I'm not stretching the king of Applejack's reputation too far - in spreading the word on simple ways you can ensure your passwords and data aren't sucked in while walking around. You can read an in-depth article I wrote several months ago for Macworld about the iPhone and its security limitations or scan the following tips. (A few obscure VPN flaws mentioned in the article have been fixed in subsequent iPhone updates since the article was written last summer.)
Fundamentally, every network connection you make over an iPhone or a laptop via Wi-Fi when roaming away from home is insecure unless the particular program you're using or network connection has been designed to include encryption or overlaid with some secure elements. (At home, you might enable WPA Personal encryption on your network, which reliably protects the data from snoopers who don't have the network password.)
Protect Email Passwords and Contents -- The iPhone tries to be good. When you set up a new email account using the prefabricated partner email host options in iPhone's Mail preferences, or when you add an email account manually, Apple's procedure is to use an encrypted connection unless one isn't available. (Yahoo Mail's push service for the iPhone secures its passwords but sends the contents of your messages in the clear.)
Email passwords are often sent in the clear by default, which means that without adding encryption on top, someone could access your password. Mail programs and mail servers, like Web servers, use SSL/TLS to tunnel data without allowing a snooper a position to intercept what's being sent. Almost all mail software, including Apple's iPhone Mail and Mac OS X Mail, include support for SSL/TLS connections.
Most but not all Internet service providers offer SSL/TLS for sending (SMTP) and receiving (POP3/IMAP) email. It may be worth forwarding email to Gmail or another service that offers encrypted POP, IMAP, and SMTP while traveling if your ISP's own mail servers don't support encryption. (Here's a detailed article on how secured email works and why to use it.)
You can protect just your email password by using APOP (Authenticated POP) with ISPs that support that protocol. Using APOP, each time you retrieve messages your mail client creates a unique hash of your password that the server, knowing your password as well, can confirm. The iPhone doesn't offer APOP support, but many mail programs include it as a legacy option.
If your ISP requires your password for sending outgoing email - as most do - that password is frequently sent in the clear if SSL/TLS isn't used.
Keep Insecure Web Surfing Private -- When you're browsing Web sites that don't use encryption to protect your sessions, a sniffer on the same network can monitor all your activity. Banking sites nearly always use SSL/TLS to entire sessions, while ecommerce sites may limit SSL/TLS to your account login and the checkout phase.
It used to be fine to be sanguine and say, well, I have no secrets; if my password is protected during login to a site - as many firms like Yahoo and Google offer - what do I care if the session is in the clear? That was an attitude one could take before sidejacking was defined.
Sidejacking is a way of grabbing the account token sent by sites like Google that enable your browser to maintain a continuous session as you request pages. That token, stored as a cookie that your browser sends on each transaction, can be grabbed through in-the-clear Web surfing, as is typical for sites that don't involve financial details, medical information, or other private transactions. The token may last minutes, days, or years, depending on the security model chosen by the site's developers.
An account token doesn't let someone decode your password, but it can allow them access to your current session, which they can hijack on the side. This lets them send email as if it came from your account, receive and read your messages, and, on security-poor Web sites, ask the site to send your password to their email address with little effort. (For more details, read my article "Sidejack Attack Jimmies Open Gmail, Other Services," 2007-08-27.)
You can secure Web sessions and prevent sidejacking on a Mac with the Secure-Tunnel service (available in Gold or Platinum offerings, $7.95 or $9.95 per month, respectively), which acts as an encrypted proxy for Web requests.
But if you're using an iPhone, this won't work. The iPhone unreasonably requires that Web and other network proxies be set individually for each Wi-Fi network, rather than for the Wi-Fi adapter and the EDGE adapter, as is the case in Mac OS X, and how most operating systems handle proxy services.
So for your laptop browsing, Secure-Tunnel is an option, but iPhone users must consider a VPN if they want this form of protection. That carries its own limitation on the iPhone, too, as described next.
VPN for Hire -- A VPN (virtual private network) connection encrypts all the data entering and leaving your computer or iPhone to a remote point. For those of you who work for companies that run VPN servers, that remote point is inside the corporate network. But several firms sell VPN service, terminating the remote point at their server inside a data center somewhere: the end point isn't secure, but typically you're just trying to protect your data over the Wi-Fi link and the local network. These VPN service providers offer that.
Mac-friendly services include publicVPN's eponymous service and WiTopia's personalVPN. After you sign up for publicVPN's $5.95 per month or $59.95 per year service, you receive a simple set of instructions explaining how to set up the L2TP-over-IPsec VPN client built into the iPhone (called just L2TP) and Mac OS X 10.3 and later to connect to publicVPN's servers.
WiTopia offers a $39.99/year SSL-based VPN service, and provides a complete package for installing the open-source TunnelBlick connection client with the necessary digital certificates custom created for you. Unfortunately, the iPhone doesn't currently support SSL VPNs or the installation of third-party software, and TunnelBlick can cause freezes in Leopard. (I was able to solve these freezes only by uninstalling TunnelBlick. It works fine in Tiger. The TunnelBlick developer is working on fixing the Leopard problems.)
WiTopia does an end run around both the iPhone limitation and the current Leopard crashes through their free addition a few months ago of a second VPN account as part of your service. WiTopia offers the widely supported PPTP (Point to Point Tunneling Protocol), which can be used by the iPhone and in Leopard. PPTP is an older VPN protocol that has weaknesses when poor passwords are chosen; WiTopia chooses a strong password for you to bypass this. (Other limitations have led to most companies bypassing PPTP in favor of IPsec and SSL-based VPNs.)
On the iPhone, select Settings > General > Network > VPN, and enter information provided by WiTopia for PPTP or publicVPN for L2TP-over-IPsec. After entering the information, a VPN button appears beneath the Wi-Fi switch in the main Settings screen to make it easier to turn the VPN on and off; more on that in a moment.
In Panther and Tiger, you use Internet Connect to configure a VPN; in Leopard, VPN service is an option in the Network preference pane displayed like another network adapter. (If you don't see a VPN service in the adapter list, click the + [plus sign] at lower left, select VPN from the Interface menu, and choose L2TP over IPsec or PPTP from the VPN Type menu as appropriate.)
But here's the rub with the iPhone. While a VPN is the best overall solution, Apple hasn't made it easy to keep a VPN active while you roam, which could lead to you browsing with the VPN off unintentionally. Because the iPhone is so good at roaming between EDGE and any available Wi-Fi network you've chosen to join before, your VPN connection is liable to break during any of these network switchovers. Some corporate software is designed to work on mobile devices and maintain a continuous connection back to the enterprise network regardless of your connection media - Ethernet, Wi-Fi, cellular, or other. But Apple and AT&T haven't provided this kind of flexibility yet. With the addition of third-party software for the iPhone in February 2008, developers might be able to extend this flexibility to the device.
In the meantime, you need to pay attention to your VPN connection before each browsing session if you're concerned about the issues I raise in this article. A security expert I consulted suggests that the EDGE network is generally secure - some heavy resources need to be brought to bear to break its encryption and then only for a single device - but Wi-Fi is wide open.
Macworld Optimism -- With the release of the iPhone development kit due in February, and a preview of it likely part of the Macworld Expo keynote, I can only hope that some of the rough edges that expose data and passwords of the unwary at the show can be fixed through third-party software that will make networked data transfer that much easier to keep private at events like Macworld - and at your neighborhood hot spot.
Article 5 of 15 in series
by Jeff Carlson
Today's Macworld Expo keynote promised "something in the air," but the highlight actually came from a business-sized envelope during Steve Jobs' presentation. We'll have more in-depth coverage soon, but for now here's a rundown of this morning's developments.Show full article
Today's Macworld Expo keynote promised "something in the air," but the highlight actually came from a business-sized envelope during Steve Jobs' presentation. We'll have more in-depth coverage soon, but for now here's a rundown of this morning's developments.
Catch Some Air -- The new MacBook Air, dubbed the world's thinnest laptop, is a half-inch thick portable with a full-size keyboard, 13.3-inch LED screen, 1.7 GHz or 1.8 GHz Core 2 Duo processor (extremely small and custom made by Intel for Apple), 80 GB hard disk (with an optional 64 GB solid state disk drive also available) - and no optical drive or Ethernet port. It's available for pre-order today starting at $1,799, and shipping in two weeks.
Movie Rentals -- Jobs also introduced a movie rental service through the iTunes Store, with features available for $2.99 ($3.99 for new releases), and high-definition movies for just $1 more. After renting a title, you can keep it for up to 30 days; once you begin watching it, it expires after 24 hours. The movies can be synced to an iPod, Mac, iPhone, or Apple TV, too. Powering this is iTunes 7.6, which is available now via Software Update.
iPhone and iPod touch Software Update -- On the iPhone front, a software update available today adds smart location tracking to Google Maps, Web-clipping capabilities, a customizable home screen, the ability to send SMS messages to groups, and chapters and other features to video playback.
iPod touch owners can pay $20 to upgrade to a version of the operating system that includes the same applications as the iPhone (Mail, Maps, Stocks, Notes, Weather) as well as the improvements found in the iPhone.
Apple TV 2.0 -- To handle the new iTunes movie rentals, Apple introduced Apple TV 2.0, a free software update for existing Apple TV owners that untethers the set-top box from your computer. It can order content directly (which then gets synced to your computer), including high-definition (HD) content. The update will be available in two weeks. Apple also reduced the cost of the Apple TV itself to $229 for new buyers.
Time Capsule -- When Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard was introduced, one capability missing from the Time Machine feature was wireless backups, something that had been demonstrated months earlier. Apple made up for that today by introducing Time Capsule, an AirPort wireless base station that includes a "server grade" hard disk of either 500 GB ($299) or 1 TB ($499) capacity for wireless Time Machine backups.
Article 6 of 15 in series
Combining the backup power of Time Machine and 802.11n wireless networking, Apple's new Time Capsule is an AirPort Extreme Base Station with either 500 GB or 1 TB of internal hard disk storage.Show full article
Time Machine backups from Leopard can now fly through the air with the greatest of ease, not just over a Wi-Fi network to another Mac running Leopard, but to a new "backup appliance" called Time Capsule. According to Steve Jobs, the Time Capsule is a "full 802.11n AirPort Extreme Base Station with all the ports in the back." Showing a slide with a laptop connected to an external drive, Jobs bemoaned the annoyance of connecting and disconnecting the cable.
Time Capsule, which looks like a larger version of the square AirPort Extreme Base Station shipped in 2007 (7.7 inches or 197mm versus 6.5 inches or 165mm), is intended to back up multiple Macs - for instance, all Macs in a household or small office workgroup - and it includes either 500 GB or 1 TB of storage. The new device costs $299 or $499, depending on drive capacity, which puts the 1 TB model at a bit of a premium in comparison to the average prices of raw drives.
Time Machine currently cannot back up to a NAS (network-attached storage) drive, such as one that you might attach via USB to an AirPort Extreme Base Station. Apple originally promised Leopard would include AirPort Disk backups to AirPort Extreme-connected drives, but that feature was dropped prior to Leopard's release.
While 802.11n can offer speeds as fast as 90 Mbps when using the less widely used 5 GHz band, it also supports the slower 802.11g (roughly 20 Mbps at best) and 802.11b (5 Mbps) standards - supported by the original AirPort Extreme and the original AirPort. Backing up over 802.11g or 802.11b could be painfully slow and clog the rest of the network.
Given that Jobs announced software updates to other hardware devices, such as Apple TV and the iPod touch, at the keynote, the lack of an announcement about the existing 802.11n AirPort Extreme Base Stations would seem to indicate that Apple does not have an update for them that will enable Time Machine support for NAS drives. That's strange, since it would seem that the technical problems that reportedly caused AirPort Disk support to be dropped from Time Machine would also afflict the Time Capsule, so perhaps a future update will offer that promised functionality. Apple also gave no indication when Time Machine will fully support FileVault encrypted user accounts, another important feature for security-conscious mobile users.
Time Capsule also works as a NAS volume, along with any additional drives you attach via USB to Time Capsule.
In the years we've written about backups at TidBITS - starting with floppies; moving through early, middle, and late tape systems; and continuing now with hard drives - we've consistently complained about the lack of a simple, configuration-free software and hardware offering that would pair with a Mac. Now we have it.
For those who haven't already settled on a serious backup strategy or invested in backup drives, the Time Capsule may prove to be a popular device, especially for backing up multiple 802.11n-enabled Macs on the same network. For a single Mac, if you can cope with the horror of a cable, a regular external drive is a significantly cheaper option. Further, Time Capsule seems best for those who don't already have older gear or an established backup strategy: those who already have NAS drives and AirPort Extreme base stations may be frustrated at the apparent lack of an upgrade path, and those backing up Macs with slower 802.11 standards will likely find that Time Machine backs up too slowly to be usable. However, in shipping Time Capsule, Apple has further emphasized how serious they are about Time Machine as a core feature in Leopard.
Article 7 of 15 in series
Apple announced movie rentals through the iTunes Store (including HD rentals), and unveiled Apple TV 2.0, a free software update that adds direct purchase or rental of media and a new interface.Show full article
Furthering Apple's expansion into consumer electronics and entertainment, Steve Jobs announced at Macworld Expo a significant change to the iTunes Store business model - movie rentals. Interestingly, Jobs introduced the movie rentals by talking first about the iTunes Store successes - 4 billion songs and 125 million TV shows sold - before admitting that the company wasn't happy about selling only 7 million movies so far. By adding the movie rental business to the iTunes Store, Apple was able to sign up all the major movie studios along with a number of smaller ones, a feat that had previously eluded the company.
By the end of February 2008, Apple plans to have 1,000 movies available for rental in the United States (with an international release of the program slated for later this year), and new releases will appear in the iTunes Store for rental 30 days after the DVD availability. The movies will be available in DVD quality (at roughly 640 x 480 resolution, depending on the movie's aspect ratio). Older movies cost $2.99; new releases are $3.99. Once you've rented a movie, you have 30 days to watch it, and you must finish watching within 24 hours after you start. (This is comparable to the viewing restrictions on movies rented via Amazon Unbox, which only supports TiVo DVRs and Windows computers.) You can still purchase some movies, but many are available only for rent.
Movies can, of course, be watched on Macs and PCs in iTunes, on the current generation of iPods, and on the iPhone. But as Jobs noted, most people watch movies on large screen TVs, and in another burst of humility, he admitted that the Apple TV has been disappointing, associating it with failed efforts from numerous other companies. That served as the springboard for the next announcement, of a significant software update to the Apple TV that enables users to rent movies directly from the iTunes Store without the need for any computer. The Apple TV update, which will be a free software update available for all owners two weeks following the announcement, features a redesigned user interface that also provides access to audio and video podcasts, can display photos from Flickr and .Mac, plays videos from YouTube, and lets users purchase music and TV shows from the iTunes Store for direct playback and syncing to computers.
The revised Apple TV is also capable of renting high-definition movies, with Dolby 5.1 surround sound, from the iTunes Store for $1 more than the DVD-quality versions; older movies cost $3.99 and new releases cost $4.99. Other devices, even Macs running monitors capable of viewing high-def content, are excluded from HD rentals.
Jobs also announced that the price for the 40 GB Apple TV, previously $299, would drop to $229; the 160 GB model dropped from $399 to $329. It would have been more interesting had Apple seriously slashed the price, say to $99, in an attempt to drive a vast number of purchases and associated movie rentals.
Article 8 of 15 in series
The January '08 updates to the iPhone and iPod touch bring improved Google Maps that can pinpoint your current location automatically, Web Clips for saving portions of Web pages, a new home screen with icons that can be repositioned or assigned to up to nine home screens, and more.Show full article
Last year's Macworld Expo was devoted almost exclusively to the iPhone, and despite speculation of a hardware refresh to a 3G iPhone, this year's keynote delivered a few welcome software improvements available at no cost to the 4 million iPhone owners who bought one in the first 200 days of sales. The iPod touch was also brought into greater software parity with the iPhone, but existing owners must pay $20 to get the goods.
Google Maps Improvements -- Google's Maps application is truly one of the killer apps of the iPhone, but one limitation has been especially maddening: it doesn't know where you are (even though by law your iPhone, and all recent cell phones, can roughly determine your location for emergency calls). We find ourselves having to enter "espresso seattle" or "cupcakes 98103" to tell Maps where to narrow the search.
Now, however, the iPhone gains the capability to triangulate its position using a combination of accessible cellular tower locations and the locations of recognizable Wi-Fi access points. Apple said that Google provides the cell tower location data, while Skyhook Wireless provides the Wi-Fi locations.
Skyhook Wireless has trucks constantly driving the largest cities in the United States and many cities worldwide, matching the unique identifiers of all Wi-Fi networks (not just public hotspots) against coordinates retrieved from a GPS receiver on the truck. Jobs said that Skyhook has 25 million networks recorded - but Skyhook probably has billions of snapshots that match each network with a point on the globe. (For more about Skyhook's service, see "Loki Here," 2007-06-18, which focused on their Loki toolbar. Also see a competing approach in "Glimpse of GPS Future in iPhone Hack," 2007-09-21.)
Because the iPhone has an EDGE connection for cellular data, the iPhone does not need to be connected to a Wi-Fi network to scan the current Wi-Fi environment and send the results of that scan over EDGE to whatever servers handle the triangulation. However, the iPod touch, having Wi-Fi has its only means of Internet connectivity, must be connected to a Wi-Fi network to obtain its location. (Skyhook Wireless had previously told Glenn about a several megabyte database that could provide cached information that would be updated over time, but the company told Glenn that only live queries are being performed for the iPhone and iPod touch.)
Once Maps shows you on a map where you are, you can ask it for directions to where you'd like to go. You can also use a virtual pin to bookmark locations. The pin is new, too: there was no good way in previous versions of the iPhone firmware to mark arbitrary locations (such as where you parked your car, to use Apple's example) in the Maps application.
Home Screen Customization -- In advance of the anticipated software development kit for the iPhone in "late February," the new iPhone software allows users to customize the home screens of their iPhones. Being able to rearrange, add, and subtract icons from the home screen is welcome: simply tap and hold on the home screen, which makes the application icons wiggle like kids on a sugar high. You can then drag the icons to whatever location you like, even moving them to the iPhone's dock.
Even more welcome is the addition of eight more customizable home screens - it looks a bit like Spaces on the iPhone. Drag an icon to the left or right side of the screen to slide into the next space; the dock remains constant on every screen.
Web Clips -- When Web bookmarks aren't good enough, the new Web Clips feature can jump in. Web Clips lets you save a Web site as a button on the iPhone or iPod touch home screen. Tap the Plus button (now relocated to the bottom of the screen) to share the page, and choose Add to Home Screen.
The advantage of Web Clips, however, is that you can save just a portion of a Web page as a clip by zooming in and panning to a particular spot and creating the bookmark. You could zoom in on the Most Popular Articles sidebar on the TidBITS home page and get back to just that information in the future, for example.
SMS for Multiple People -- With this new feature, you can send a single SMS message to several people at once. Apple has added a simple plus-sign button to the To: field of the New Message screen that enables you to add multiple people from your contact list, just as you would add people to a mail message.
A cynic would note that SMS is among the most profitable service of any kind ever developed. The iPhone service plans include 200 messages per month as part of a basic plan, while $10 extra gets you 1,500 messages, and $20 extra gets you unlimited messages. That extra $10 or $20 per month (or 15 cents per message for exceeding your monthly limit) is almost entirely profit, and each additional party to whom you send a message counts against your total.
Improved iPod -- Also new in the iPhone 1.1.3 update is support for chapters, subtitles, and multiple languages in videos, and support for displaying lyrics on top of cover art when music tracks are playing.
Enhanced iPod touch -- The $20 iPod touch update, available through the iTunes Store, adds five of the iPhone's core applications - Mail, Maps, Stocks, Notes, and Weather. The update also includes Web Clips and home-screen customization, as well as the iPod features mentioned above. With this update, Apple has moved the iPod touch much closer to the iPhone, making it less of a hobbled also-ran. The only things missing are the camera, microphone, and cellular access (and the monthly phone bill!).
New iPod touches will come with the software update, but if you are shopping in the near term, make sure you know what you are getting. There's no word yet on whether Apple is providing a grace period for devices just purchased, or currently on store shelves, that have the older firmware installed. (The $20 charge may be due to an accounting issue, which came up with the 802.11n enabler upgrade for Macs sold with 802.11n chips in late 2006 and early 2007 that wasn't enabled; see "Two Bucks for 100 Mbps 802.11n Enabler," 2007-09-07. Features that are beyond what's promised in a sale have to be accounted for separately. Apple could have revised its earnings and eaten the cost, too; that's equally legitimate. That said, the software update for Apple TV is available for free, even though it clearly offers new features.)
Other Changes -- A few smaller updates have also appeared in the new software update. Support for IMAP mail via Google is now incorporated into the Mail application, and you can now purchase songs from the iTunes Wi-Fi Store using gift codes.
A Healthy Market -- Jobs shared some market statistics on the iPhone, noting that the most recent numbers provided by research firm Gartner covered only the third quarter of 2007 in the United States, so this doesn't reflect what were apparently stronger sales later in the year due to the iPhone's European introduction. The iPhone had garnered 19.5 percent of the U.S. smartphone market, behind only RIM's 39 percent share for its BlackBerry series of devices. The iPhone's share was roughly equivalent to the sum of the next three vendors - Palm at 9.8 percent, Motorola at 7.4 percent, and Nokia at 1.3 percent - and to the large "Other" segment at 20.2 percent. (The Windows Mobile OS was part of the Other and Motorola figure, and not broken out.)
[Note: This article was updated after publication with additional details about how the Skyhook Wireless Wi-Fi data is sent over the network.]
Article 9 of 15 in series
Claiming the title of "world's thinnest notebook," the MacBook Air is a sub-notebook without the cramped screen and keyboard of other models of its class. It also lacks Ethernet, FireWire, and an optical drive, making wireless Apple's preferred state for this little marvel.Show full article
Billing it as the world's thinnest notebook computer, Apple announced the MacBook Air, a 3-pound Mac that fills out the company's portable line between the inexpensive MacBook at the low end and the powerful MacBook Pro at the high end. During his keynote address at Macworld Expo, Steve Jobs demonstrated the new machine's slim profile by sliding it out of a standard interoffice manila envelope (a trick that also appears in a new television ad). The slightly wedge-shaped computer ranges in thickness from 0.76 inches (19.3mm) on the hinge side to a mere 0.16 inches (4mm) at the front.
The MacBook Air offers many whizzy features that you'd expect from a new Apple laptop: a full-size, backlit keyboard with an ambient light sensor; a built-in iSight camera; 802.11n and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) wireless support; a magnetic latch; and a 45 watt power adapter with a MagSafe connector (note that the MagSafe connector is slightly different from previous MagSafe connectors). Its "generously sized" trackpad borrows gesture support from the iPhone's multi-touch display, meaning that with various combinations of finger movements you can zoom, pan, rotate photos, move windows, and perform other actions without having to worry about the exact location of your mouse pointer or manipulating tiny on-screen controls. The gestures can be turned off and on in the Trackpad view of the Keyboard & Mouse preference pane.
Apart from the power connector, the only physical interfaces on the MacBook Air (all hidden beneath a small flip-down door) are a single USB 2.0 port, a micro-DVI video port, and a headphone jack. Notably absent is an Ethernet port, although Apple offers a $29 USB-to-Ethernet adapter as an option. In addition, the MacBook Air is the first Apple computer since 2000 not to include any form of FireWire port, and it lacks even a slot for a security cable (a real pity given how tempting it will be to swipe one of these machines). Another interesting omission is that of an Apple Remote, though users can purchase one for an additional $19.
The MacBook Air features a glossy 13.3-inch, 1280-by-800-pixel display with LED backlighting - the same physical size and resolution as the existing MacBook's display. At Apple's request, Intel created a special version of the Core 2 Duo CPU for the MacBook Air; the processor is 60 percent smaller than those in Apple's other laptops. It's also slower, with the base model clocking in at only 1.6 GHz, plus an option to switch to a 1.8 GHz processor. The computer comes standard with 2 GB of RAM, which is not upgradeable.
In order to save space, the MacBook Air uses a 1.8 inch hard drive (the same size found in some iPod models). The standard configuration features an 80 GB, 4200-rpm drive. However, Apple also offers, for the first time, a 64 GB solid-state drive, which is somewhat faster - especially compared to the relatively slow 1.8-inch drive - and enormously more shock-resistant, and has slightly lower power requirements (though at a significantly higher price). (Reportedly, the 160 GB drive found in the high-end iPod Classic - which uses two platters for storage - is too tall to fit into the MacBook Air's svelte case.)
Apple claims 5 hours of battery life for the MacBook Air, even with wireless networking active; Apple told us that battery life could be increased slightly by disabling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Although one would suspect that figure would increase with the solid-state drive option, Apple said in a briefing that the difference is negligible. It's a good thing the battery life is so long, too, since the battery is not removable - another first in an Apple laptop. It can be replaced at an Apple Store for $129 without being sent in for service, Apple said. The battery, like that of the iPhone, is expected to retain at least 80 percent of its capacity after hundreds of complete recharge cycles.
The machine has no optical drive, though an external USB SuperDrive is available for $99. However, Apple thinks most users won't need one, thanks to a new technology called Remote Disc, which enables the MacBook Air to mount CDs and DVDs inserted in other computers - even Windows PCs - with the permission of the computer's owner. A preference can also be set to allow automatic mounting.
Remote Disc even allows network-based installation and upgrade of Mac OS X through a network boot, a feature previously found only in Mac OS X Server, meant as a tool for network administrators. This feature requires a choice at startup - probably holding down certain keys as with the server-based Net Install - that we were unable to determine by publication time.
Remote Disc can share discs on any Tiger, Leopard, Windows XP, or Windows Vista system. However, Apple told us that Remote Disc would work for mounting only on a MacBook Air. We hope Apple expands the availability of the feature - likely requiring firmware changes in other models - as an additional option for flexibility and disaster recovery for other Mac owners.
Steve Jobs made a special point of enumerating the environmentally friendly features of the MacBook Air. It has a fully recyclable aluminum case; a mercury-free display with arsenic-free glass; circuit boards that are BFR-free and PVC-free; and retail packaging that occupies 56 percent less volume than that of the existing MacBook. These changes were well-received by the audience, though Greenpeace is still pushing Apple to go even further, perhaps to a fully compostable Mac.
Apple is now accepting pre-orders for the MacBook Air, which Jobs said would begin shipping two weeks following the announcement. The base model, with an 80 GB hard drive and a 1.6 GHz processor, costs $1,799. Swapping the hard drive for the 64 GB solid state drive adds a whopping $999 to the price, while upgrading to a 1.8 GHz processor adds $300.
Article 10 of 15 in series
Get an inkling of what keynote day at Macworld Expo is like through a short audio adventure before and after the big news.Show full article
Have you ever thought of attending Macworld Expo in San Francisco, but decided that the price of airfare, hotel, and admission (cheap for the exhibit hall, high for conference tracks) wasn't in your budget? Our coverage will provide most of the high-level details you need to know what went on, but it won't give you the feel for what it's like to be at the show. This year we tried something a little different, and you can get a taste of what Macworld is like through the associated podcast - click Listen to hear about 25 minutes of discussions and jocularity before and after the keynote, as I spoke to friends and colleagues.
The list of notables, in order, includes:
- John Moltz, Crazy Apple Rumors Site
- John Gruber, Daring Fireball
- Rich Mogull, security guru, TidBITS Security Editor
- Dan Moren and Derik DeLong, MacUser
- Dan Lyons, Fake Steve Jobs and Forbes
- Julio Ojeda-Zapata, St. Paul Pioneer Press
- Randy Newman, a fair-use bit of "You've Got a Friend in Me"
- Rich Mogull again with Tonya Engst and Adam Engst, the illustrious editor in chief and publisher of TidBITS, respectively
- John Nemerovski, MyMac.com
- John Moltz, again, outside the Macworld Podcast studio
Article 11 of 15 in series
by Tonya Engst
TidBITS Senior Editor Tonya Engst is shocked to have to wait in line for the bathroom at Macworld Expo. Seemingly many more women made the trek to the show this year.Show full article
From what I could see, a lot of women attended Macworld Expo this year. While the wait to use one of the more popular restrooms was sometimes annoying, it was wonderful to see so many women at the usually male-dominated Expo. Kathryn Vercillo shared this observation in her Mac-Forums blog post, "The Women of Macworld," where she particularly noted the appearance of more women speaking in the conference tracks.
Paul Kent, General Manager for Macworld Conference & Expo, said that most of the Macworld Expo staff are taking a few well-deserved days off after the show, so he didn't yet have statistics on the number of female show-goers to share. However, he did comment, "Subjectively, the audience this year seemed particularly energized, diverse, and enthusiastic. There was a lot of growth (15 to 20 percent more attendees), so I'm thinking we'll be sharing a lot of 'new' participants at the show. I sincerely hope that female participation maps accordingly."
Strikingly, options for buying laptop bags with more feminine touches - many from woman-run companies - were also on the upswing, with choices ranging from classy leathers to light-hearted fabrics that went far beyond the usual basic black. We'll be running a photo-infused TidBITS article about bags at the show shortly, so stay tuned. Regrettably, as is so often the case for us women, form took the lead over function, and I spotted only one backpack case with a feminine design.
Women are usually welcomed at Macworld Expo, a sentiment supported by a recent Joy of Tech poll, where readers were asked, "What category of Mac celebrity do you like the best?" and the winner - by a significant margin - was "It's all about the Mac chicks... sure you might be a geek, you've still got that old need to breed." However, the people - likely single guys - who responded to the Joy of Tech survey seem to have missed the memo about the best way to make women feel welcome. While we women at Macworld Expo do know how to wield chic-looking laptop bags, whether we're out to hook up with a Mac geek is another question entirely. When it comes to women in the industry these days (apologies to ZZ Top), we've got Macs, and we know how to use them.
Article 12 of 15 in series
Is Apple still leading the Macintosh industry, or has the popularity of the Mac and the iPhone created a situation where independent developers can do their own thing and let Apple focus on consumer electronics and online entertainment content sales, along with maintaining the basic Mac and iPhone platforms?Show full article
The Macintosh industry continues to grow and gain steam, but it's no longer purely following in Apple's footsteps, a significant new trend that became evident at last week's Macworld Expo in San Francisco. The last few years of the show have all been upbeat, energetic, and increasingly large, and this year was no exception. But where this year's Expo diverged was in the extent to which the exhibitors are capitalizing on the overall success of the Mac and the iPhone but showing products and services in areas that Apple has left more or less untouched.
As a starting point, consider Apple's own keynote announcements. The updates to the iPhone, iPod touch, and Apple TV all underscored Apple's ever-increasing focus on consumer electronics, and the addition of movie rentals to the iTunes Store was the latest salvo in Apple's battle to maintain its position as the dominant provider of online entertainment. The MacBook Air, on the other hand, supports Apple's core Macintosh business and may prove more influential than its somewhat anemic specs would indicate due to the attraction sub-notebooks have for travelling executives. Time Capsule is interesting mostly in the way it aids Time Machine backups; it supports the Apple backup story in ways few third-party developers have been able to do so far.
But despite the numerous vendors showing iPod and iPhone cases at Macworld Expo, and a wide variety of iPod-compatible speaker systems, numerous companies exhibited products that have little to do with Apple's primary markets.
For instance, there was much speculation before the show that Apple would announce a tablet Mac or scaled-up iPod touch, but not only did that not happen, another company - Axiotron - finally shipped their long-simmering ModBook (announced at last year's Macworld Expo), which converts a standard MacBook into the much-desired tablet Mac. Perhaps Apple considers the tablet Mac market too much of a niche, but the crowds around the Axiotron booth clearly wanted to get their hands on one.
Enterprise companies like Iron Mountain (organization-wide backup) and IBM (corporate databases) were out in force at the show, despite Apple's focus on the consumer world. The Iron Mountain rep told me that the company didn't have any particular intention of creating a Macintosh client for their backup system until their enterprise customers started buying Apple laptops and asking to have them backed up with the rest of the company's Windows-based computers. In the past, companies would get into the Macintosh space because they were passionate about the Mac; now we're seeing companies almost forced to create Mac products purely because there is a customer base to satisfy and money to be made.
We even saw companies like Polar Bear Farm showing iPhone applications in advance of Apple's release of the iPhone software development kit (SDK). This is a company that can't even use the iPhone without jailbreaking and unlocking it, since Apple doesn't sell the iPhone in New Zealand yet. The company was demonstrating applications that can't be purchased, based on a business model - how Apple will allow iPhone applications to be sold - that remains unknown. (And no, there are no polar bears native to New Zealand - they live only in the northern hemisphere.)
Other companies showed products that were even further afield. CodeFlare's TileStack.com makes it possible to create Web applications from old HyperCard stacks; the company's HyperTalk compiler also enables the creation of entirely new Web applications. (For those who haven't been using the Mac as long as we've been writing about it, HyperCard was an innovative "software erector set" created by Bill Atkinson and distributed for a time with every Mac; we published TidBITS in HyperCard format for the first two years. Apple never understood the utility and popularity of HyperCard and let it fade away many years ago despite impassioned pleas from the HyperCard developer community.) Another company, reQall, was showing a technology that enables you to create to-dos by voice recognition on a toll-free telephone number (you could also use a Web site); it could then remind you of your tasks via email, instant message, SMS, RSS, or a Web interface. The only connection with Apple was that you could use reQall on an iPhone - that's pretty tenuous.
The industry's different beat extends to the traditional Macworld Expo schedule as well. Although the show date has been known for at least a year and was even a week later than normal this year, a surprising number of companies were showing products that weren't shipping. EMC was perhaps the most notable among this group, showing only screenshots of Retrospect X and promising a public beta for the third quarter of 2008. There were also plenty of other examples: Parallels Server and VMware Fusion Server, which enable users to virtualize multiple copies of Leopard Server, were in beta and preview releases, respectively. DisplayLink's product for adding up to four monitors to any Mac via USB 2.0 clearly worked, but was far too slow for actual usage; the company anticipates a usable release in the first half of 2008. The iTornado device for easily transferring data between Macs and PCs (or between two Macs) is slated to ship in March 2008. Now Software's Nighthawk update to Now Up-to-Date & Contact is now slated for release by the middle of 2008. Iron Mountain is beta testing their Connected Backup Mac client. And so on...
Clearly, appearing at Macworld Expo was deemed important enough to justify the significant cost and effort, but seemingly not sufficiently important to ensure that the products were ready in time to be purchased at the show. Perhaps, and I realize I may be stretching to make a point here, just as we're seeing the Mac industry exerting an increasing independence from Apple, we're also seeing the industry treat Macworld Expo more as face time than as the drop-dead date for shipping new products.
In the end, seeing all these companies extending the Macintosh (and iPhone) platform in ways that Apple hasn't is indication of the ever-increasing strength of the industry. It has been many years since I've seen such a broad representation of companies at Macworld, and that's good for everyone involved: users, developers, and even Apple itself.
Article 13 of 15 in series
Interested in a new laptop bag? Whether you're looking for one that has oodles of pockets, wheels, an eco sensibility, or just a fabulous design in a hip fabric, the laptop vendors at Macworld Expo had something for you. Karen Anderson takes a spin through her favorites, and be sure to watch the slideshow for some pictures.Show full article
Even if I get that new MacBook Air, I won't be carrying it around in a manila envelope, Steve Jobs's keynote demonstration notwithstanding (in fact, there's now a fleece-lined vinyl one, called the AirMail, already in production). Laptop users need a place for a power adapter, cables, and all that other mundane gear we lug around. And while I want a bag with plenty of protective padding and comfortable straps, it should have enough style that I won't be mistaken for a SWAT team member.
Fortunately, Macworld Expo had no shortage of laptop bags this year, ranging from the fashion-conscious to the eco-sensitive to the user-friendly. Here's a quick roundup of a few I found particularly impressive. You can see even more bags from Macworld in the accompanying slideshow. Also be sure to read Jeff Carlson's article "Buying a Laptop Bag" (2004-04-05) for lots of sage advice about how to choose the right bag for your needs. (Hmmm, sage would be a pretty good color for a laptop bag, now that I think about it.)
Great All-round Bags -- The thoughtfully designed and attractive fabric bags from Brenthaven, in briefcase, messenger, and backpack styles, are made even more tempting by their reputation for durability. Brenthaven is constantly updating their line; the nicely sized sling backpack (in the slideshow) won't be available until May 2008. Both Brenthaven and rival bagmaker Targus (also renowned for durability) are touting their use of environmentally conscious materials and manufacturing processes.
Classic Business Bags -- Clark & Mayfield was back at the show this year with an even greater variety of high-end leather and fabric bags aimed at the businesswoman who carries a laptop. This line now includes a rolling bag and leather laptop briefcases for men. While other companies are aiming at this market, no one does it with such a classic look, featuring designs and workmanship that evoke Coach and Gucci.
Gear Bags -- The folks at Naneu got their start making camera bags, and their laptop bags show that experience, with loads of padding and plenty of external securable pockets for small accessories. These laptop bags and briefcases are the answer if you want to tote along bulky accessories such as power supplies and small cameras.
Special-feature Bags -- Heading for the Playa? Planning to kayak into the wilds? In addition to iPod and camera boxes, Otterbox makes a waterproof, crushproof laptop case with an internal structure that adjusts to fit your computer precisely. For the off-grid traveler, Voltaic Systems offers a variety of packs and messenger bags equipped with solar panels (capable of producing up to 14.7 watts of power), a battery pack, and adaptors for your gadgets. And for the audio-obsessed, there's the Boom Bag, a rolling office bag with two speakers, a sub-woofer, and cables - just add an iPod.
Trendy Bags -- Clearly aimed at women who cringe at the thought of schlepping a rectangular black computer case, the luscious Italian leather bags from Urban Junket are great big stylish purses - that just happen to have a secure place for a laptop. Urban Junket also offers the Campomaggi urban gear bag line for men.
From Sacks to Saks -- Where fashion trends go, laptop bags follow. The early portable computers appeared during the "dress for success" 1980s. People toted hefty briefcase-style bags, which came in an underwhelming choice of stiff black leather or stiff black synthetic canvas. (And you needed those tough materials because some of the early laptops weighed more than 10 pounds.) As laptops lightened up, so did the bag designs. That meant ballistic nylon briefcases (in colors) and backpacks with padded laptop compartments. Today's laptop bags continue to shadow fashion trends, from hip, scruffy messenger bags to outsized leather purses. And bags have evolved to address niches: for travel (rolling luggage with laptop compartments), for photography (laptop/camera bags), and for extreme sports (water-proof and crush-proof cases). The current buzzword is "green," hence the eco-conscious laptop Targus and Brenthaven bags made with recycled and/or recyclable materials.
What's ahead for Macworld 2009? Certainly more of the "green" bags from other manufacturers - plus we might see solar panel-equipped bags move into the mainstream. And, of course, something that's bound to be called the "AirBag."
Article 14 of 15 in series
Every year at Macworld Expo, the TidBITS staff keeps an eye out for the most interesting products, booths, and events - the things that we'd have told you to go check out if you'd been there. Read on for a picture-laden tour of our favorites!Show full article
It's once again time for our annual roundup of all those things at Macworld Expo that caught our attention for one reason or another and deserve to be called out. Contributions this year come from Adam Engst, Glenn Fleishman, Tonya Engst, and Rich Mogull.
Most Welcome Fix for Glaring iCal Failing -- BusyMac shipped their BusySync software a few months ago, but brought a new feature to Macworld Expo that's sure to help. BusySync is a tiny server product that runs in the background and lets multiple people share iCal calendars as if they were completely readable and writable over a local network or via the Internet. One computer acts as the calendar host, but other Macs with BusySync can have as much access to that calendar as the publisher chooses to offer. BusyMac's limitation is that it can't work over the Internet without the publishing computer for a given calendar having a publicly reachable IP address.
The latest version of BusySync - due to ship in February 2008 - skirts that problem by supporting Google Calendar. You might use Google Calendar already, but if not, you can adopt it as a sort of publishing relay to enable synchronizing between a Mac with a private IP address and computers elsewhere on the Internet. With Google Calendar support, you publish a calendar to Google, then other computers subscribe to that Google Calendar. It's a hack, but it's a nifty one, as Google Calendar is free. BusySync 1.5 currently costs $19.95 per computer, but the price will rise to $24.95 for version 2.0. Buying 1.5 now gets you a free upgrade (and thus $5 discount) for 2.0 when it ships in February. Discounts kick in for licenses purchased for five or more computers. [GF]
Most Social Use of an iPod -- iPods generally encourage anti-social behavior, but it doesn't have to be that way. With the new iNo from Sababa Toys, you can use your iPod's music collection as the basis of a four-person music trivia game. Plug your iPod into the iNo, flip a card to pick what aspect of the song should be identified (artist name, album name, etc.), and press Play on the iNo. The first person with an answer presses her remote control button, which stops the music and lets her guess, checking against the iPod for the correct answer. Additional buttons help keep score. The game lists for $99.99 but is available from Amazon.com for $49.99. The plastics of the iNo seemed a little flimsy, but it looked like something that could be a lot of fun with friends. [ACE]
Most Welcome Brain Transplant -- MacSpeech has been working with a good, but not world-beating speech-recognition system in their iListen product for years, before scoring the deal that they apparently wanted all along: a license to use the engine that drives Nuance Communications' Dragon NaturallySpeaking; Nuance's software is and has been available only for Windows. (David Pogue wrote up how this came to be in his New York Times column last week.) It's going to play extremely well, because many Mac users were running Windows simply to use Dragon NaturallySpeaking. I saw a short but effective demo of the pre-release MacSpeech Dictate software at the Expo under extremely noisy conditions and was suitably impressed. The software is slated to ship in February 2008, with a lot of improvements to come within six months, including learning from corrections and specialized medical and legal dictionaries. MacSpeech Dictate will cost $199 with a headset; upgrades from iListen 1.8 will cost either $79 (for purchases made in 2007) or $29 (for purchases in 2008). [GF]
Youngest Attendee and Worst Judgement -- There was a baby in the keynote. A baby! I still can't get over it. There may have even been two, according to a colleague who swears he spotted another. Now look, I have two kids, one of whom is still a baby. And the notion of bringing a small child into a huge room with dimmed lights, raucous laughter and applause, a crush of people, cameras flashing, and huge moving images - it's a recipe for disaster.
The second insanity is that no one prevented either baby from entering the keynote. (The baby I saw had no badge.) It's possible that California's anti-discrimination laws require that mothers be permitted to take their babies into any public accommodation, such as a conference center or theater, even for private events.
Unsurprisingly, at least one of the two babies cried. A lot. I could hear the wails distantly from where I was. Steve Jobs did not, however, stop his presentation and say, "Get that baby out of here." But I wouldn't have been surprised if he had. [GF]
Coolest Booth -- I always enjoy checking out the Crumpler booth, but this year it took me some time to realize the laptop bag company was indeed inhabiting a booth enclosed in black-and-white illustrated flexible walls (be sure to check out the closeup) that reminded me of some of Hieronymus Bosch's crazier work. [ACE]
Worst Demo Video of a Product That Appears Useful -- Despite what appeared to be shrink-wrapped boxes in the Data Drive Thru booth, Mac switchers, consultants, and others who want simple, ad-hoc file transfers between Macs and PCs will have to wait until March 2008 to purchase iTornado, a $79.95 USB device that picked up a lot of buzz at Macworld Expo despite the company's hucksterish infomercial. From the small, round iTornado, you unspool two retractable USB cables, which you then plug into a Mac and a PC. Handily, you need install no software. Instead, the device mounts like a USB flash drive, and you run software on it to view the file structure of each computer in a dual-pane window. To transfer files, simply drag them from one pane to the other. iTornado is based on The Tornado, a similar device meant to facilitate PC-to-PC file transfers. Both devices come with a separate copy of PC Eraser, Windows software that erases a PC's hard disk to U.S. Department of Defense standards, so if you wish to get rid of the PC after transferring your important files, you needn't worry about them being accessed by others. The only useful information I could find about iTornado on the company's Web site is a press release in PDF format. [TJE]
Best New Enterprise Backup Server Option -- Code42's CrashPlan Pro is an innovative backup program we've written about on a number of occasions, but it has always been aimed at the individual user and home office markets, emphasizing as it does how you can back up to another version of CrashPlan Pro running on a friend's Mac or PC. You could also back up to CrashPlan Central for less than $1 per gigabyte per year, but Code42 has never encouraged use of CrashPlan Central because they felt it was simply better and cheaper to do mutual backups with a friend. However, the news from Macworld Expo is the release of CrashPlan PROServer, which is essentially the back-end software Code42 uses to run CrashPlan Central. That moves CrashPlan into the enterprise backup space by giving a system administrator control over which computers back up, how often they back up, where their backups are stored, and so on, all via a Web-based management console. CrashPlan PROServer is distributed as a VMware virtual appliance that works with the Mac, Windows, and Linux. CrashPlan PROServer itself is free, and desktop agents are licensed on a per-seat basis with prices ranging from $38 to $48 depending on volume, with a yearly support license adding $12 per seat. [ACE]
Most Appreciated Return to the Mac Industry -- Although CrashPlan PROServer offers a great deal of power and flexibility for organization-wide backups, long-time Retrospect users will be pleased to hear that EMC is once again putting significant effort into that product, rewriting it based on the code base of the Windows version and giving it a much-needed interface update. Retrospect X will support multiple simultaneous backups from separate sources, the capability to expire backup sessions when a drive starts to fill up, and more, but most important, it will retain key features such as being able to run Retrospect Client on versions of the Mac OS back to Mac OS 9, support for tape drives, and the unusual capability to create bootable duplicates over a network. But don't go looking for a download today - EMC is expecting to release a public beta of Retrospect X in the third quarter of 2008. [ACE]
Largest Inflatable Amoeba -- OK, so Rogue Amoeba didn't really have any competition in this category, but how often do you see a larger-than-human-sized inflatable amoeba, heavily armed? That happens to be a friend of 1990s celebrity comedian Sinbad? [ACE]
Most Exciting New USB Device -- Yeah, it's cool that you can launch foam missiles via USB, but for you James Bond-wannabes, it's even cooler that you can password-protect your Mac with the Eikon fingerprint scanner. Made by Upek using the same technology that's been showing up in recent PC laptops, the Eikon lets you swipe your finger across the device's sensor when your Mac asks for your account password. You configure the device with any finger, and you can set your Mac to accept only your fingerprint, your fingerprint or your password, or your fingerprint and your password. I was able to make it work easily during my demo and here at home with my own Eikon, and I hope to follow up with a thorough review. The Eikon is available for $49.99 at Amazon.com; the Mac software appears to work somewhat differently from the PC software described in the reader reviews at Amazon. The question is, what happened to the Sony Puppy fingerprint scanner we noted at Macworld San Francisco in 2003? (See "Macworld Expo San Francisco 2003 Superlatives, Part 2," 2003-01-27.) [TJE]
Most Dans per Square Foot -- Macworld editors cracked under the pre-Macworld Expo strain and scheduled an on-floor podcast with Dan Frakes, Dan Pourhadi, Dan Miller, and Dan Moren. It was...dantastic? Danned with faint praise? Don't miss the DanCast. [GF]
Most Prodigal of Mac Sons -- It's arrived! The most awaited Macworld 2007 product that never appeared during 2007 was the Axiotron Modbook, a tablet version of a MacBook that the company munged together by connecting their parts to a partly disassembled Apple computer. A MacBook has its keyboard, trackpad, and display removed, and replaced with a tablet screen designed to work with a pressure-registering stylus.
At this year's show, Axiotron not only had dozens of units on the floor, all with the finish one would expect from a shipping item, but also partners of all sorts showing how a tablet Mac could be used for drawing, location finding, handwriting recognition, note-taking and markup, and other purposes.
I spoke to the company's CEO and various developers and partners at some length, tried drawing tools and handwriting recognition, and held a freestanding Modbook to test its heft. It feels heavy when held in one hand, despite weighing the same five pounds as what seems like a lighter MacBook. The Modbook has a resilient magnesium alloy that surrounds the scratch-resistant optical glass tablet screen.
The Modbook is for sale now via Other World Computing in the United States and Carbon Computing in Canada; other resellers will come online in Europe soon. At Other World Computing, the two available models cost $2,279 and $2,479, corresponding to the $1,099 (Combo Drive) and $1,299 (SuperDrive) MacBook models. [GF]
Strangest Mash-Up of 1984 and 2008 Technology -- A castle in Transylvania. A thunderstorm. Rain pounds down as lightning strikes, and a developer from a tiny company called CodeFlare chortles as thousands of volts course through the corpse of HyperCard. Slowly, the application launches, lines of reverse-engineered HyperTalk compiled into Java code animating stack after stack, each encapsulated in a life-giving Web page. Yes, that's right, through the Web site at TileStack.com, CodeFlare has brought HyperCard back to life. TileStack.com can not only run existing stacks (as long as they don't use XCMDs), but it will also enable users to write new stacks - think of them as Web applications - using HyperTalk, the only programming language I've ever really liked. (There's an implementation of the Lights Out game in HyperTalk on the site for you to try.) Stacks store their data in an SQL database with custom extensions that enable it to mimic the way HyperCard could store data on each card of a stack, and the CodeFlare guys said it would even be possible to write new XCMDs to extend HyperTalk in different ways. TileStack.com isn't quite open yet, but if you visit today, you can sign up for the early access program. Once available, TileStack.com will be free; the CodeFlare guys were a bit fuzzy on the business model, although they muttered about how they hoped to have a desktop version available for sale toward the end of the year. Imagine using HyperTalk to create Web applications - the mind boggles! [ACE]
Best Method to Handle a Large Array of iPods -- University and K-12 system administrators who distribute educational materials on iPods were likely drooling on the sturdy-looking multiple iPod Dock shown by Parat at Macworld Expo. The iPod Dock, which holds as many as 15 to 30 iPods, can charge and sync all the iPods to the same iTunes Library. It's also integrated into a rolling suitcase, so it can be closed and locked for easy transport and storage. Parat was also showing a mobile classroom unit - called the Paradict Mobile IT Lab - that charges, networks, and transports multiple laptop computers. Parat has been making similar products for Windows laptops for a while, but they only recently began making cases aimed at Apple products, a fact that likely explains the vagueness of their press release, Web page, and online product literature with regard to the exact name of their iPod Dock (there may even be more than one) and exactly how many iPods it can charge. [TJE]
Most Welcome Method to Charge Multiple iDevices -- Griffin Technology's PowerDock could let us dump several cables while keeping our iPods and iPhones more reliably charged. The two- and four-slot models come with adapters or work with Apple-supplied ones for their universal dock connector ($59.99 and $69.99, respectively). It's due in March 2008, and with all due respect to our friends at Griffin - a firm notable for showing products with optimistic shipping dates - we're anxious to see the PowerDock in the metallic flesh. [GF]
Best Accessory Deal on the Expo Floor -- Wandering Macworld Expo with a credit card is a dangerous proposition. Mixing consumer products with enterprise tools, you never know when you'll turn the corner and run into a booth with that iAccessory you just have to have. On sale, of course. While many vendors offered 15 to 20 percent off their products, high-end earphone manufacturer Etymotic Research offered over 50 percent off most products, and substantial discounts on the rest. Etymotic is known for their in-ear noise-blocking headphones that use technology originally developed for hearing aids. Unlike active noise canceling headphones that cancel out background noise by countering them with opposite sound waves, in-ear designs block outside noise just like earplugs. The Etymotic ER series are so small they barely stick out of your ears, and offer up to 36dB of noise reduction - more than enough to block out those crying babies on the plane. For those with iPhones, Etymotic offers the hf2 Headset + Earphones, combining their in-ear design with an iPhone-compatible microphone in the cord. I succumbed to the temptation and walked away with a pair of ER6isolators for $69 (normally $149). Those of you who prefer over-the-ear noise canceling designs should check out the Creative Aurvana X-Fi Noise Canceling Headphones. Though priced at $299, they offer impressive sound quality by combining active noise canceling with Creative's X-Fi technology for enhancing compressed music. [RM]
Thinnest Protection for iPods and iPhones -- If you find yourself wandering around Macworld Expo with a brand new iPhone that mysteriously appeared in your pocket that morning, one of your best protection options is a set of BodyGuardz for the Apple iPhone. These thin, durable films are made from the same material that's used to protect the fronts of cars, and they completely wrap around your device, protecting it while still allowing you to use the touchscreen. They're thin enough that you can also use a case of your choice, while still protecting your device for those times when you just want to drop it in your pocket with a set of keys. The film is easy enough to apply that I was able to do so in a small San Francisco hotel room. For those of you who like a little choice, you can also look at InvisibleShield, made from the same film that covers helicopter blades. In either case, if you regularly subject your beloved iPhone or iPod to the same stresses as the front of a car or a helicopter blade, you might want to re-think some of your life choices. [RM]
Most Shocking Form of Networking -- Powerline networking lets you pass data over an electrical network without any additional wiring. It's a great alternative and complement to Wi-Fi, especially now that current powerline gear from several different firms and standards groups has hit 200 Mbps of raw throughput (for more details, see "Trading In-Home Wi-Fi for Powerline Networking," 2007-07-09). But Mac users have been left out of one aspect of powerline networking: encryption. I think encryption is overkill for this networking method, because to tap into it, a sniffer would need the same gear and access to your local electrical system - meaning access to your home or a device plugged into an outside outlet! If someone has that kind of access, you might have other things to worry about. (Don't go into the basement.)
Nonetheless, NetGear's Powerline HD Plus Ethernet adapters - supposedly shipping in February 2008 for about $160 each - have a nifty way around the software issue. Each adapter has a button on front. Plug both into electrical outlets, press the button on one, then the other, and they perform a secure key exchange (via Diffie-Hellman, for those who like those details), securing the network without any additional effort. This revised unit also sports a pass-through plug in the front so you don't lose the power outlet. [GF]
Best Excuse to Watch More Television -- Elgato Systems just doesn't stop adding features to its television-tuning products for Macs. The new EyeTV 3 software adds a long list of new capabilities, including better previewing through a Cover Flow-like option; better searching; series recording; and improved streaming support for viewing programs over the local network or the Internet to an iPhone or iPod touch, Mac OS X, and Windows, much like Slingbox. (The company bills this feature as Wi-Fi Access, but any device with Safari, Camino, or Firefox can view content over any fast-enough network connection.)
Both the company's HDTV/analog TV tuners - the EyeTV Hybrid and EyeTV 250 Plus - have been upgraded to handle Clear QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation) from digital cable providers. Clear QAM is the unscrambled content that is used for what an EyeTV employee at their booth said is quite a lot of regular cable programming. HBO may be encrypted, but it sounds like Home and Garden is not. [GF]
Technology Most in Need of Being Integrated -- ReQall is a simple Web-based to-do application with a bunch of twists on input and notification. QTech, reQall's developer, expects that people will use the service's option - when reQall goes live in February 2008 - to place a toll-free phone call and leave a message that's converted to text and turned into a to-do item. The system plucks out keywords to categorize the item, too. You can also add items through their Web site.
When an item is added, you can set reQall to send out email and text message notifications. Items are also fed via RSS and can be retrieved by phone. We were most excited with reQall's input and output technology: reQall's Web-based to-do application is nothing special, but if QTech were to provide an open API, any to-do application could add voice input and flexible notification mechanisms. Other applications could take advantage of reQall technology too: imagine creating blog posts by phone, or being notified by instant message of changes noticed by your RSS newsreader. [TJE]
Dumbest Move by a Rookie TidBITS Editor -- I made the nearly fatal error of attempting to follow the indefatigable Adam and Tonya around Macworld during the first day and well into the evening. With my laptop-laden pack. After running a half-marathon two days earlier. I'm lucky I can still walk. [RM]
Article 15 of 15 in series
Check out these MacVoices and MacNotables podcasts from Macworld Expo with the TidBITS staff.Show full article
Curious about just how we go about covering the Macworld Expo keynote each year? Our entire Macworld Expo team - me, Tonya, Glenn, and Rich Mogull - sat down with Chuck Joiner of MacVoices in the Macworld Podcast fishbowl during the show to talk about why we don't do liveblogging and just how much effort goes into our Macworld Expo coverage. It's a 20 minute podcast.
Also be sure to listen to the 28 minute MacNotables podcast where Tonya and I chatted with Chuck about some of the interesting things we'd seen at the show, along with some commentary about the audio versions of TidBITS and the overall health of the expo.