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TidBITS#1049/18-Oct-2010

We have three bits of interesting news this week: an Apple exchange program for certain Mac Pro video cards, the announcement that Verizon Wireless will be selling the iPad bundled with the MiFi mobile broadband Wi-Fi hotspot, and the release of the Incognito extension to Safari to let you surf the Web a bit more anonymously. But our main feature this week is an in-depth look from Michael E. Cohen and Adam Engst at how to create an iTunes media server that would enable a family to share the same set of media files. Finally, be sure to visit our Web site to read about Apple's latest financial results, which came out too late to be included in this week's issue. Notable software releases this week include MacGourmet 3.0.1, LaunchBar 5.0.3, Postbox 2.0.1, Microsoft Office 2008 12.2.7/Office 2004 11.6.1, Logic Pro/Express 9.1.2, FotoMagico 3.6, Dragon Dictate 2.0.1, SpamSieve 2.8.4, MacBook/MacBook Pro SMC Firmware Update 1.4, and PDFpen/PDFpenPro 5.0.2.
 
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Apple Exchange Program for ATI X1900 XT Video Cards

  by Michael E. Cohen <lymond@mac.com>

Do you have a Mac Pro purchased sometime between August 2006 and January 2008? Have you been seeing distorted video and unsightly video artifacts? If so, Apple has created a special repair program for you. Under the terms of the program, you can take your old video card (along with your Mac Pro's serial number) to an Apple Retail Store or an Apple Authorized Service Provider and exchange it for a new card.

Video cards that are eligible for exchange under the program have the characters "V6Z" in the last part of the card's serial number. In order to verify the card's serial number, you will need to open your Mac Pro and remove the card; you can't see the serial number when the card is installed. Apple has published a support note, "Mac Pro: ATI X1900 XT video card with distorted video," that explains how to remove the card and verify the serial number. The support note also points out that you do not need to exchange the card if it does not exhibit signs of distorted video.

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The exchange program, according to Apple, applies to "affected ATI X1900 XT video cards three years from the original date of purchase or until January 31, 2011, whichever provides longer coverage," although Apple may extend the program if necessary.

If you have already paid for a repair or purchased a replacement video card, you may be eligible for a refund; contact Apple for details.

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iPad Arriving at Verizon Wireless with MiFi Option

  by Michael E. Cohen <lymond@mac.com>

As rumors and reports swirl about the ever-more-likely possibility that Apple will soon make an iPhone model compatible with and available from Verizon Wireless, official word has come down that the cellular carrier will sell the iPhone's big sibling, the iPad, in its phone stores by the end of October.

Starting on 28 October 2010, you can buy a Wi-Fi iPad at over 2,000 Verizon Wireless stores in the United States by itself or bundled with the MiFi, a cellular router. The base price for iPads is a very slight markup from the Apple Store price - less than a dollar. The 16 GB iPad sells for $499.99, the 32 GB model for $599.99, and the 64 GB model for $699.99.

Because the 3G model of the iPad only works over GSM networks - and only at AT&T's 3G speeds in the United States - Verizon and Apple are doing an interesting end-run around the network compatibility problem. For 3G access on Verizon's CDMA network, you pony up another $130 for a MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot. That $130 is the same difference between the Wi-Fi and 3G iPad models that Apple and its retail partners charge. The pocket-sized MiFi connects to Verizon's cellular data network and shares that connection with up to five Wi-Fi devices. (Discerning readers will note that one could buy a single iPad-MiFi bundle and share its mobile broadband connection with up to four other Wi-Fi-enabled devices.) The MiFi 2200 has a rechargeable battery that can provide 4 hours of active use and 40 hours of standby time before it needs to be recharged. Purchasers of the bundle need to activate the MiFi by syncing it with a Mac or PC, after which it can be used without accessing the computer again.

Verizon will offer three unique monthly data plans for the MiFi bundle: $20 for 1 GB (and $20 for each additional GB), $35 for 3 GB, or $50 for 5 GB ($10 per extra GB). No other data device from Verizon comes with similar plans.

Although purchasers will have to sign a service agreement with Verizon, the data plans themselves are on a month-to-month basis, and can be changed or cancelled at any time with no termination fee. The MiFi can be purchased separately, but then must be used with a two-year, $60-per-month plan limited to 5 GB with per-megabyte overage fees, as well as cancellation penalties.

(Discerning readers will also note that you could buy the bundle, then resell your Wi-Fi iPad in its original box and just keep the MiFi.)

If Verizon is not your cup of connectivity, Virgin Mobile also offers the MiFi with an unlimited service plan - $40 for 30 days - as Glenn Fleishman reported a few months ago. See "Virgin Mobile Offers MiFi Mobile Hotspot without Contract" (28 June 2010).

The Verizon deal was not the only iPad announcement of the day. Apple also announced that both Wi-Fi and 3G iPads would be coming to over 2,200 AT&T stores in the United States, also on 28 October 2010. Prices for the devices will be the same as at the Apple Store. iPad data plans from AT&T currently cost $14.99 per month for 250 MB and $25 per month for 2 GB, and require no long-term contract; you can cancel at any time.

With the news that iPads are now available in China, as well as the recent addition of the magic slab to 1,743 Target stores and several thousand Wal-Mart stores (joining Best Buy and Micro Center in the United States), the iPad seems poised to give Apple a very merry holiday season, indeed!

That's especially relevant in the face of upcoming tablets based on Android or Windows 7. Although much will be made of these tablets among the drama-addicted press, it seems unlikely that any of these tablets will be able to mount a significant challenge to the iPad in the near future given Apple's dominant market position, backed up as it is by this significant distribution network.

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Safari Extension Hides You from Google and Facebook

  by Glenn Fleishman <glenn@tidbits.com>
  10 comments

Orbicule has released a free extension for Safari 5 that blocks several methods of tracking your behavior across multiple Web sites. The Incognito extension can prevent Google's AdSense and Analytics JavaScript from phoning back to the mothership. This incidentally blocks Google ads from appearing, but that's not the primary intent. The extension can also suppress all calls back to Google, and prevent Facebook and YouTube from working on sites other than their own.


(Orbicule is the maker of Undercover, a fine theft-recovery program that we've written about many times, as in "Undercover Theft-Recovery Software Update Gives You the Details," 19 April 2010.)

The Incognito extension is the latest entrant in a class of tools designed to fight back against multi-site tracking. Advertisers have used cookies, JavaScript, and other methods of associating your behavior on many sites with the same identity, which can then be used to target ads and offers at you. That same information can be sold to other parties and then associated with "real-world" data, such as your mortgage, credit record, and other information.

Ad blockers, scrubbers, anonymizers, and the like can block both directions of information flow. People who don't want to see ads, Flash content, or what-have-you can prevent their Web browsers from displaying such. And if you don't want any of the elements that appear on pages you view to trigger tracking and associative data mining, you can do that, too.

Incognito attacks just a portion of this ball of wax. By blocking Google AdSense, it prevents ads from appearing on Web sites, and it stops Google from collecting information about your browsing behavior. (TidBITS displays Google AdSense ads.) Analytics is a trickier issue. The free metrics service lets sites like TidBITS learn how a site is being used and traversed. We use it to see what articles are read most, among other purposes. But Google also receives some aggregate information from our use of Analytics, and uses that data for its own research. Google offers an opt-out option for AdSense and a browser plug-in to opt out of Analytics - but it's not compatible with Safari. Incognito also optionally lets you turn off all Google APIs, which use JavaScript to communicate to the firm. The extension notes that this "may break some websites," as Google's application interfaces are used for a host of reasons beyond tracking.

For Facebook, the problem is a bit different. Facebook allows unaffiliated sites to link into visitors' social networking profiles if a visitor logged in to Facebook in the recent past on the same browser. This mostly results in a Like button appearing on media, blog, and other sites.

As a result, Facebook obtains information about your browsing habits purely by you visiting a site that has a Like button. Clicking the Like button sends Facebook even more data that's stored with your Facebook profile. Since Facebook doesn't allow you to disable third-party Like buttons from appearing, Orbicule has stepped up to the plate to provide that feature with Incognito. (You can also use your Facebook credentials to log in to many Web sites, which also gives Facebook information about your browsing habits; Incognito doesn't address this.)

Finally, Incognito can disable YouTube videos from appearing as embedded movies on a third-party Web page. These embedded videos send tracking information to Google's YouTube division even if you don't watch the video. YouTube has its own opt-out page for advertising and some tracking. You can also use a Flash blocker to allow YouTube selectively on specific sites. (TidBITS embeds YouTube videos in articles as well, purely so readers don't have to click over to the YouTube Web site, which is designed to distract you into watching more videos.)

The use of extensions in Safari 5 isn't turned on by default. Select Safari > Preferences and click Extensions to flip the switch to On. Then you can download the Incognito extension from Orbicule's site, install it, and configure it.

I continue to have mixed feelings about ad blocking and Web tracking, and the kind of intrusions into privacy that large Web sites now routinely and legally engage in (within the United States, at least). An individual can absolutely choose what he or she sees; we're not Alex in "A Clockwork Orange" with our eyes forced open. And our every online step should not be recorded for posterity; regardless of the initial intent, that sort of data has a tendency to be used in ways that don't benefit the people being tracked.

On the other hand, most of my living is derived from writing for publications that rely on ad revenue and make essential business decisions based on Web analytics. While I block Flash by default in my browsers (for purely functional reasons), I do not block ads - and occasionally find and click on something of interest. And I don't mind a publication knowing I've visited and read a particular article, since in some ways that counts as a vote in favor of the publication, of that particular article, and even of the Web browser I'm using. I have no problem casting those votes.

Even more to the point, it's only the truly large sites and advertisers who are pushing hard on our privacy. Smaller publications (like TidBITS) have neither the volume of visitors nor the technical resources to extract privacy-busting information from Web logs, even if they wanted to. Similarly, small advertisers are generally targeting their ads manually by supporting specific publications, rather than attempting to gain tiny advantages by tracking behavior across multiple sites.

For most people, the crux of the matter with the Incognito extension and the online privacy debate isn't whether online advertising is acceptable. Rather, it's the lack of trust we now have in how our personal data and habits are being recorded and used by massive companies that appear to lack sufficient motivation, internal controls, and external regulation to acknowledge that privacy is a human right.

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In Search of the iTunes Media Server

  by Adam C. Engst <ace@tidbits.com>, Michael E. Cohen <lymond@mac.com>
  4 comments

From the beginning, iTunes has been a personal music player and organizer. The "personal" is important here: iTunes seems tuned, as it were, for handling one person's media collection.

By default, iTunes puts your media in your account's Home directory at ~/Music/iTunes. Unlike the myriad Fonts folders in Mac OS X, there is no corresponding Music folder that's available to all users of a particular Mac. Although the iTunes application itself is shared among users on a Mac (or on Windows, for that matter), each user has his or her own iTunes folder in the Music folder of the user's home directory, and each running instance of iTunes looks at only one iTunes folder, and displays the contents of only one media collection, for each user.

For those of us who have spouses, companions, siblings, children, or parents with whom we share both musical tastes and living quarters, the "one person, one media collection" model doesn't work well. Nor does it work well even for one person, if that one person has, for example, a computer in a home office and another in the living room, and wants access to the same iTunes library in both places. What we want is a central iTunes library that everyone on a home network (or using separate user accounts on a single Mac) can share when each of us runs iTunes. But that's not quite what Apple has given us.

Apple's Sharing Solutions -- Over the years, in various versions of iTunes, Apple has attempted to ameliorate the media-sharing problem to some extent, although their attempts have been hobbled by, among other things, their contractual arrangements with, and the influence of, the music publishers who stock the iTunes Music Store (and who, truth be told, would be more than happy if you had to pay for music each and every time you listened to it).

But first, a quick digression. Some non-Apple media syncing solutions do exist, although that's a topic complex enough to deserve its own article. Until we get around to it here at TidBITS, you can take a look at Macworld's "Sync your iTunes libraries" by our own Joe Kissell.

And now, back to the show, which is already in progress...

The iTunes Folder and Its Contents -- iTunes "wants" to find its iTunes Library in ~/Music/iTunes. Note that we said Library not library. The iTunes Library is a file that lives at the top level of ~/Music/iTunes. It contains a database that includes information about all the songs and other media in your iTunes collection, along with playlist information and other bits of housekeeping information.

There are other database files in ~/Music/iTunes as well, such as iTunes Library Genius.itdb, which contains information related to the iTunes Genius feature. iTunes looks for all these database files in ~/Music/iTunes, and if it doesn't find them there, it creates them.

None of these files, though, contains your actual iTunes media collection (what we have been calling your "iTunes library" - small "l"). All of your music, videos, podcasts, books, iOS apps, and other media, at least starting with iTunes collections created by iTunes 8, is in your iTunes Media folder. This is the folder that you want to use as the basis of your homegrown iTunes media server.

Hold Yer Horses! What iTunes Media Folder? -- We're sure that some of you have opened your ~/Music/iTunes folder only to find no iTunes Media folder. Instead you probably saw several folders, including an "iTunes Music" folder. If that's the case, you have almost certainly been using iTunes for a number of years, and the contents of your iTunes folder are arranged in the way that versions of iTunes prior to iTunes 8 required. iTunes 8 and later can still use the older iTunes folder organization, which is why you don't see the iTunes Media folder.

Nonetheless, you'll need to reorganize the iTunes folder to consolidate and to organize properly all of your media in the iTunes Media folder, should you wish to use it for your iTunes media server. (This isn't entirely a required step; if all the copies of iTunes in your family are set up using this old version of the iTunes folder, they can all continue to use the old iTunes folder hierarchy rather than looking for everything inside a new iTunes Media folder. However, this article assumes you are using the new iTunes Media folder hierarchy.) The next section of this article discusses how to reorganize your iTunes folder properly, along with some of the possible consequences of this significant and irreversible act. Those of you who already have properly organized iTunes Media folders can skip the following section.

Organizing the iTunes Media Folder -- Although organizing your iTunes collection can be a massive undertaking as far as the amounts of material to be rearranged are concerned, there's not much work for you to do, since iTunes does all of the heavy lifting:

  1. Choose File > Library > Organize Library.

  2. In the Organize Library dialog, make sure that both Consolidate Files and Upgrade to iTunes Media Organization are checked, and then click OK.


iTunes proceeds to move all of the media files in your ~/Music/iTunes folder into their proper places in the iTunes Media folder, and to copy any media files that you had stored elsewhere on your Mac but had included in your library (you did know you could do that, don't you?) into the iTunes Media folder. Even for a media collection of 100 GB, this process usually only takes a few minutes.

There are some consequences from running this command:

See the Apple support note, "iTunes 9: Understanding iTunes Media Organization," for more information about what will be put where.

Set Up a Shared Media Folder -- Here's the key to making your own iTunes media server: iTunes doesn't care where the iTunes Media folder is stored or what its name is. As long as you set iTunes' preferences (stored in ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.itunes.plist, if you care) so that iTunes looks for the media folder where you have placed it, iTunes will use that folder. The database files - which, as we've said, contain things like your playlists - still remain in ~/Music/iTunes no matter where your music and other media resides. Thus, if you put the iTunes Media folder on a shared volume or on a file server on your network, several people can use it and still have their own personal playlists and all the other information that is unique to their view of the iTunes library. (Although you can merely move or copy the iTunes Media folder manually in the Finder, Apple describes a more-involved way to move an iTunes Media folder in the support note, "iTunes for Mac: Moving your iTunes Media folder.") In the following scenario, we assume you have copied your iTunes Media folder to a file server on your home network and have set the folder's permissions so that other users on the network can read from and write to that folder. One user (probably you) will be the main person who should add media to the iTunes Media folder. Think of this user as the designated Media Librarian. It's not a major problem if other users have read and write privileges and add media, but using and maintaining the media server will be less confusing if one person does most of the work.

You may have noticed that we've been rather vague about the "file server on your home network" and how to set permissions on it. That is, unfortunately, intentional: we don't know the equipment that you own and so we can't say exactly what this device might be, nor how you should set it up. It could be an older Mac that you have sitting around that you've pressed into service as a file server. It could be an external USB drive attached to an AirPort Extreme base station. It could be a NAS (network-attached storage) device of some sort. All of these could work (though nothing is guaranteed: see below, "What Could Possibly Go Wrong?"), but the details of installing the server and setting the appropriate permissions on it vary.

If, instead, you share the iTunes Media folder from your Mac, you need to make it a Shared Folder using the Info window for that folder:

  1. Move the iTunes Media folder to your account's Public folder. (This isn't absolutely necessary, but putting it there both makes it accessible to other accounts on your Mac and serves as a reminder to you that the iTunes Media folder is publicly available.)

  2. Select the folder, and then choose File > Get Info.

  3. Click Shared Folder in the General section of the Info window.

  4. At the bottom of the Get Info window, click the lock icon to authenticate, and then give everyone Read & Write permissions. That's necessary so users can subscribe to podcasts and other subscriptions (but this sort of data opens another can of wriggly annelids, as described below in "Podcasts and other subscriptions").

  5. From the action menu (the gear icon) at the bottom of the Info window, choose Apply To Enclosed Items, and then, in the confirmation dialog, click OK. Other users can now connect to your Public folder as Guest to see the folder and its contents.

If you're sharing the iTunes Media folder from your Mac, there are two things to keep in mind. First, your Mac must remain on and awake, so that other users on the network can access the folder. Your Mac is a file server now. Second, you, of course, are the Media Librarian we mentioned above. Feel free to don a mask and cape.

There's one more step before others can connect to the shared iTunes Media folder: "stamping" the media with the names of the users who will share it. Why? Because this will help identify new media later on. To "stamp" all of the types of media you want to share (that is, the music, movies, TV shows, and EPUB-based books - this step doesn't work for PDFs or apps), select all the items with Command-A, press Command-I to display a Multiple Item Information dialog, and, in the Comments field, put the name of each person who will share the folder, separated by spaces (as in "Adam Tonya Tristan").

Now, to use the shared folder, each user on each Mac should perform the following steps:

  1. In the Finder, under Shared in any Finder window sidebar, select the server that contains the iTunes Media folder. If you can't see the server in the sidebar, use Go > Connect to Server. (If you have shared the folder from your Public folder, you can skip this step for yourself.)

  2. Connect to the server, using an appropriate account. (If you have shared the folder from your Public folder, other users can connect as Guest; you won't need to connect at all.)

  3. In iTunes, choose iTunes > Preferences and click Advanced.


  4. To the right of the iTunes Media Folder Location panel, click the Change button, and then navigate to and choose the shared iTunes Media folder within the volume from the server you just mounted. (If you are sharing your own folder, just navigate to it on your own Mac.)

  5. Select both Keep iTunes Media Folder Organized and Copy Files To iTunes Media Folder When Adding To The Library. This ensures that everything gets added to the shared iTunes Media folder.

  6. In the Finder, open the shared iTunes Media folder, select all the media folders inside it that don't contain subscription-based content (most notably, podcasts, although possibly TV shows as well), and drag them into the iTunes window to import them. This won't import PDFs in the Books folder for some reason; they must be selected as files and dragged in separately. (If you are sharing your own iTunes Media folder, skip this step, because iTunes already knows the files are part of your iTunes [big "L"] Library.)

Note that the above steps assume each user other than the Media Librarian has an empty iTunes library. If that's not true, and it likely won't be, the Media Librarian will have to work with each user to gather and add the media from each user's personal media collection for storage in the shared iTunes Media folder. Home Sharing would likely be the most effective way to see and merge multiple libraries.

(By the way: With recent versions of iTunes, if you launch iTunes while pressing the Option key, a dialog appears that you can use either to create a new, empty iTunes Library or to switch to an existing one. This is how you'd switch back and forth between two different iTunes libraries if necessary.)


At this point each person has the shared media in his or her iTunes library. Yay! There's one major downside to sharing an iTunes Media folder this way: every time someone adds new media - by, for instance, ripping a new CD, or purchasing something from the iTunes Store - each other user must import the files manually by dragging them into iTunes. However, that's not true of things that you subscribe to, such as podcasts; see below, "What Could Possibly Go Wrong?" for tips.

It's up to the Media Librarian to let everyone know when new media has been added to the shared iTunes Media folder so that other users can import it by dragging it to iTunes on their computers. This is, unfortunately, easier said than done, especially if quite a few pieces of media have been imported by the Media Librarian since the last addition.

How do you identify newly added media? You could try to match dates, but that doesn't work well, since Date Modified can change and Date Created isn't always representative, depending on the source of the file. There are two ways, an easy one suggested by a commenter that seems to work well, but which we haven't had a chance to test thoroughly, and a harder one that requires some manual effort.

For the easy approach, download the Music Folder Files Not Added AppleScript application from Doug's AppleScripts for iTunes. Launch it and click the Find button to look for files that exist in the iTunes Media folder that aren't in the current iTunes Library. The first time you run it, you may discover some oddities caused by tracks that have lost their links to the associated file (just delete them from iTunes and let the utility add them back) and by duplicates (you'll have to reconcile these manually). If this works for you, you don't have to worry about the "stamping" step above or the alternative approach below. If you don't wish to use the Music Folder Files Not Added utility, or it doesn't work for you for some reason, here's another, harder approach (it's why you went through the media "stamping" exercise above). Whenever anyone adds media (songs, movies, TV shows, or EPUB books; it won't work with apps) to the shared iTunes Media folder, that person should follow these steps:


  1. Select all newly added items, and type Command-I to open a Multiple Item Information dialog.

  2. In the Comments field, type the name of the person who has added the media. For example, typing Adam indicates that Adam's iTunes Library file (note the large "L") "knows" about the added media.

  3. For each other Mac, open the shared iTunes Media folder in the Finder and in the Finder window's Search field, type "comment:" followed by the name of the person who added the media, followed by a hyphen and the name of the person whose Mac it is, as in "comment:Adam -Tonya" (also, make sure to select the iTunes Media button in the Search toolbar; searching This Mac will skew the results). This search finds all items in the shared iTunes Media folder that were imported by one person, but which haven't been added to other libraries. In this example, it would find items imported by Adam, but not yet imported by Tonya.

  4. Drag any or all of the found items to the iTunes window to add them to the iTunes Library for that Mac.

  5. Sort the iTunes window by either the Comments column or the Date Added column, select the newly added items, and then press Command-I to open the Multiple Item Information dialog.

  6. Change the Comments field to include (don't replace) the name of the person who has added the media; for example, changing the comments field to "Adam Tonya" indicates that these files have been added to Tonya's iTunes Library.

Unfortunately, although the Comments metadata for each file will now contain "Adam Tonya" in this scenario, the iTunes Library of the Adam user (who imported the music to start with) won't display that change until Adam plays a song or changes other metadata. There seems to be no way to force iTunes to refresh the metadata contained within media files.

It's worth noting that each user of the media server can choose which of the shared media files to import, so if you don't want your daughter's Justin Bieber songs appearing in your iTunes Library, you can ignore them. Also, consider what this distinction between the iTunes media and the iTunes Library means for user-specific metadata like playlists, ratings, and play counts. Since iTunes tracks that information within each user's iTunes Library file, every user will have their own metadata even though they share the media. Generally speaking, that's good, since you probably don't want your daughter's playlists, nor do you want her play counts to migrate to your iTunes Library, because your smart playlists that relied on play count might have unintended contents.

However, if you're sharing your content among your own machines - you have a Mac in your basement office and a Mac mini that plays music through your stereo system upstairs - not having the same playlists might be annoying. In this situation, you might be better off moving your entire iTunes folder to the server and selecting it with an Option-launch of iTunes. You must also make sure that each copy of iTunes looks for the iTunes Media folder itself in the proper location. The downsides there include contention for the iTunes Library file - only one copy of iTunes could be running at any given time - and performance problems if the iTunes Library file is large.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong? -- The answer to that question is "lots of stuff." Keep in mind that over the past decade Apple has had to tap-dance faster than a caffeinated hummingbird just to make sure that iTunes and its complicated ecosystem remain compatible with all the devices and the user scenarios that Apple supports. A roll-your-own iTunes media server is not something that Apple prohibits, but neither is it something that they support.

Here are a few of the pain points that might keep you from implementing an iTunes media server and instead could send you back to the supported solutions we described in "Apple's Sharing Solutions," above:

But, if none of the issues mentioned above are too troublesome, you can enjoy a shared iTunes media server right now, and not have to wait until that glorious day in the far future when Apple, and all the media companies with whom it partners, finally allow the development of a true Apple-supported iTunes Media Server. For more on what that would require, see Kirk McElhearn's thoughts at Macworld in "Opinion: Apple needs an iTunes Server version."

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TidBITS Watchlist: Notable Software Updates for 18 October 2010

  by TidBITS Staff <editors@tidbits.com>

MacGourmet 3.0.1 -- MacGourmet 3.0 has been released by Advenio and MacGourmet Deluxe 3.0 by Mariner Software (the latter is the same program, bundled with MacGourmet’s optional $9.95 Cookbook, Mealplan, and Nutrition plug-ins). MacGourmet 3.0 features a completely revamped interface, including greater control over marking recipes made, flagged, starred, and more in the summary view, along with new themes and greater flexibility in theme appearance. Among other changes, the recipe editor now allows for images within the preparation steps and for one recipe to be an ingredient within another. Chef view (the full screen mode to use while actually cooking) now supports voice and the Apple Remote, and can read recipes aloud to you. The recipe import assistant, one of MacGourmet’s most powerful features, can now import from any Web site. Finally, recipe scaling no longer changes the original recipe. The 3.0.1 update adds several new themes, fixes crashes when importing from AllRecipes.com, and addresses a number of other bugs. Advenio also makes an iOS app called MacGourmet touch that syncs with the desktop version of MacGourmet. (MacGourmet 3.0: $29 new, $10 upgrade, free updates for purchases after 1 July 2010, 12.7 MB. MacGourmet Deluxe 3.0: $49.95 new, $24.94 upgrade, $34.95 sidegrade, 26.5 MB. MacGourmet touch: $4.99 new.)

Read/post comments about MacGourmet 3.0.1.

LaunchBar 5.0.3 -- Eleven months after its last update, LaunchBar has been bumped to version 5.0.3. The new version includes a mix of new features, improvements, and bug fixes. LaunchBar now offers support for Firefox bookmark folders, improves iTunes integration, introduces support for browsing Aperture’s recent libraries, and adds more options for Address Book preferences. A pair of refinements address LaunchBar’s integrated calculator: you can now use the letter “a” to reference the last calculator result, and there’s a new rounding option, too. LaunchBar also now sports Bing, Bing Images, and Linguee search templates. Full release notes—including a slew of minor fixes—are available at Objective Development’s Web site. ($35 new, free update, 2.22 MB)

Read/post comments about LaunchBar 5.0.3.

Postbox 2.0.1 -- Thunderbird-based email client Postbox is now at version 2.0.1. The update improves Growl notifications, so that they now include new messages’ Subject lines. Also new is support for 1Password and the just-updated SpamSieve 2.8.4. Various minor issues—including improper font sizes for outgoing HTML messages, URLs not automatically linking properly, and others—are also addressed. (MacUpdate has the full release notes.) ($39.95 new, free update, 12 MB)

Read/post comments about Postbox 2.0.1.

Microsoft Office 2008 12.2.7/Office 2004 11.6.1 -- Microsoft has released security updates for Microsoft Office 2008 and Office 2004. Both updates fix vulnerabilities that could allow attackers to execute code remotely if you were to open a maliciously crafted Excel or Word file. Microsoft says that the update for Office 2008 also improves stability in Excel 2008 and resolves Entourage 2008 issues with Kerberos authentication and inadvertent duplication of items in Exchange 2007 mailboxes. The Office 2008 update requires Mac OS X 10.4.9 Tiger or later, while the Office 2004 update needs Mac OS X 10.2.8 Jaguar or later. (Free updates; the Office 2008 updater is 333 MB and the Office 2004 updater is 16 MB.)

Read/post comments about Microsoft Office 2008 12.2.7/Office 2004 11.6.1.

Logic Pro/Express 9.1.2 -- Apple has updated its professional music software Logic Express and Logic Pro to version 9.1.2. The updated versions improve compatibility with 6- and 12-core Mac Pro systems, and support REX files in 64-bit mode. In addition, the software now supports iOS control surface apps that use the OSC protocol, and compatibility with certain Audio Unit plug-ins is improved. (Free updates, Pro: 193.01 MB, Express: 139.67 MB)

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FotoMagico 3.6 -- Boinx Software has released FotoMagico 3.6, the latest update to its slideshow generator. The new version adds integration with iMediaBrowser, so image, movie, and audio panels now sport what Boinx calls “a sleek new look.” Also new is support for browsing and accessing Flickr images from within FotoMagico. And a new audio feature lets you link audio to specific slides. The update also includes numerous other enhancements and bug fixes. ($149 new, free update, 57.9 MB)

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Dragon Dictate 2.0.1 -- Nuance Communications has released Dragon Dictate 2.0.1, a minor update to its dictation software. The update corrects issues related to MouseGrid and multiple monitors, resolves a crash when updating preferences, and fixes issues related to upgrading Dictate 1.5 profiles. The release also includes fixes for an issue with special keys functioning properly in Spelling mode, and removes the Page Setup menu option to behave as a better Snow Leopard citizen. We couldn’t find a download link for the free trial on the Nuance Website, but you can grab the latest version from MacUpdate. The software requires Mac OS X 10.5.6 or later. ($199.99 new, free update, 13.3 MB)

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SpamSieve 2.8.4 -- C-Command Software has bumped SpamSieve to version 2.8.4. The updated spam filtering tool now integrates with Microsoft’s upcoming Outlook 2011 for Mac OS X and the new Thunderbird-based email client Postbox 2. SpamSieve 2.8.4 also boosts filtering accuracy, improves training in Apple Mail, and improves localizations, too. If you’re not a Gmail devotee, we agree with David Pogue and John Gruber that SpamSieve is the best way to keep your inbox free of spam on a Mac. ($30 new, free update, 7.8 MB)

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MacBook/MacBook Pro SMC Firmware Update 1.4 -- Apple has released a pair of firmware updates addressing issues with charging MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops from 2007 and 2008. MacBook Pro SMC Firmware Update 1.4 and MacBook SMC Firmware Update 1.4 enable those early laptops to charge successfully using newer 60 watt and 85 watt MagSafe adapters. Apple advises that your computer’s fans will run loudly during the installation of the firmware update, but that they’ll resume normal behavior when the installation completes. To install the update, your laptop must either be plugged in, or the battery must have a minimum of a 25 percent charge. The firmware updates require Mac OS X 10.5.8 or 10.6.4 to install, though you can start up from a disk containing one of those operating system versions, install the update, and then reboot into an older version of Mac OS X if necessary. (Free, 880 KB)

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PDFpen/PDFpenPro 5.0.2 -- Smile has released updates for PDFpen and PDFpenPro, its software for creating and editing PDF documents. The updates for each application include reduced memory requirements for large documents, an added “needs OCR” AppleScript property, the elimination of a possible hang when using the Combine PDFs script, clipping and print artifact problem fixes, and other assorted minor fixes and improvements. You can read a detailed description of the updates in Smile’s press release. ($59.95/$99.95 new, free update, 41 MB)

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