TidBITS#1066/07-Mar-2011

This week’s news revolves around the just-announced iPad 2, iOS 4.3, and new iMovie and GarageBand iOS apps. We have full coverage, complete with Jeff Carlson’s hands-on impressions of the iPad 2 from his time at Apple’s media event. Also this week, contributor Kirk McElhearn reveals a few hidden details in the just-released iTunes 10.2, Adam offers practical advice on Apple’s upcoming forced upgrade to the new MobileMe Calendar, and Glenn Fleishman can’t resist answering the question of whether Thunderbolt could maybe, possibly, conceivably drive two external monitors on a new MacBook Pro. Finally, anyone considering Windows virtualization should check out Joe Kissell’s “Take Control of Running Windows on a Mac, Fifth Edition.” Notable software releases this week include Firefox 3.6.15, SpamSieve 2.8.5, BusyCal 1.5.2, Dragon Dictate 2.0.3, and Airfoil 4.0.2.
 
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Thunderbolt Drives One External Monitor on MacBook Pro

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

Ever since Apple announced the new MacBook Pro models that use Intel’s super-fast Thunderbolt technology, a debate has been running across Twitter, comment forums, and email: Can a new MacBook Pro out of the box drive two external monitors from the Thunderbolt port?

The answer: no. Don’t believe me. I asked Apple — in fact I asked the company twice, the second time after new information appeared to contradict its first answer. I received a definitive statement both the first and second times. No, no, no, no, no. (I also wrote this in “Secrets of Thunderbolt and Lion,” 27 February 2011, but I sought more clarification after particular questions kept arising.)

Where does this confusion arise? It’s the difference between genotype and phenotype. Stay with me. The Thunderbolt spec is the genotype. The MacBook Pro models are the phenotype. The Thunderbolt spec (its genes) says that the standard may support up to two monitors along the chain. This is true. However, the MacBook Pro (the expression of those genes) contains graphics circuitry that is already supporting one display: the internal screen. That allows for just one external monitor.

This became more confusing in part because Apple’s Australian product page for the new MacBook Pros had a footnote (number 4) that read, “The 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pro support two displays; the 13-inch MacBook Pro supports one display.” This footnote was oddly referenced out of sequence under the “Ports with possibility” heading near the bottom of the page. Apple revised the page soon after, and the footnote is now gone.

You can use a third-party DisplayPort splitter, like the Matrox DualHead2Go ($160 to $200 online), just as you can with previous DisplayPort-only Macs. The splitter divides the available resolution into smaller rectangular pieces that Mac OS X treats as separate monitors. Thunderbolt will also ostensibly support more elaborate external adapters that would use the data side of Thunderbolt, just as a few USB-to-video converters work today. For more on those, see “Put More Pixels on Your Desktop with ViBook+” (13 November 2009).

I also confirmed that you cannot work around the problem by shutting the lid of an early 2011 MacBook Pro and thus, by avoiding use of the internal display, actively shunt the output to two external monitors.

While Apple doesn’t comment on future products, it’s abundantly clear that:

There you have it. But I expect the first comment to this article will be: are you sure?

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Wrangle Windows on a Mac with New Take Control Ebook

  by Tonya Engst <tonya@tidbits.com>

Now that running Windows on an Intel-based Mac has become commonplace, you might think that it has also become easy. Alas, the technology gods have yet to make it so, and making Windows run smoothly can still be a Herculean task. This fact also keeps Mac writers like Joe Kissell busy, and, thanks to Joe’s unstoppable curiosity, we’ve just released the helpful and comprehensive “Take Control of Running Windows on a Mac, Fifth Edition.” The 178-page ebook is available for $15.

“Take Control of Running Windows on a Mac, Fifth Edition” kicks off by helping you figure out which version of Windows you should run (XP, Vista, or 7) and which virtualization software makes sense for you (Parallels Desktop 6, VMware Fusion 3, or VirtualBox 4) or whether you should dual-boot with Apple’s Boot Camp. Next up, Joe helps you round up the necessary hardware and software, and make any obligatory preparations. Mid-way through the ebook, you’ll be making it all work right with hardware drivers installed, printers printing, anti-virus software patrolling the perimeter, and so forth. Before you finish, you’ll know how to share files between Mac and Windows installations, enjoy the snazzy new features in the latest versions of Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion, create functional backups of your Windows installation, and generally get on with your life while using Windows.

Questions answered in the ebook include:

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Upgrade to MobileMe Calendar by 5 May 2011

  by Adam C. Engst <ace@tidbits.com>
  44 comments

Apple has announced that all MobileMe members must upgrade to the new CalDAV-based MobileMe Calendar by 5 May 2011. It’s clear from Apple’s statement below that if you don’t upgrade manually (Apple won’t do it for you), you’ll lose syncing of events between your devices along with the ability to see your calendars on the me.com Web site.

On May 5, 2011, MobileMe will transition completely to the new Calendar service that we launched in October. The new MobileMe Calendar includes calendar sharing, invitations, and a new Calendar web application. To maintain calendar syncing between your devices and to continue accessing your calendar at me.com, you must upgrade to the new Calendar by May 5, 2011.

In general, the new MobileMe Calendar is a good thing, using the CalDAV standard and providing push updates to calendars made from any connected device, read-write calendar sharing for family and friends, calendar publishing for groups, and event invitations with RSVPs. It’s accessible via iCal, in the Calendar app of iOS devices running iOS 4.2.1 or later, via the me.com Web site, and through some independent calendaring apps, like BusyMac’s BusyCal and Chronos’s just-released SOHO Organizer 9.

For most people, upgrading to the new MobileMe Calendar shouldn’t be a major fuss, and Apple has a MobileMe Calendar FAQ that provides links to instructions and covers most of the issues. However, there are some situations that require additional thought and effort ahead of time, and some people have had trouble that requires help from Apple.

First Things First -- Before you read any further or do anything, first back up all your calendars from iCal by selecting each one in turn and choosing File > Export > Export. That way, even if things go horribly wrong, you can at least tear everything down and start from scratch if necessary. There are other methods of backing up, but they may not work; this is what Apple recommends.

Also beware that any files you have attached to events in iCal will be removed from your events automatically, and you can’t attach files to events going forward. I suspect most people never attached files to events, but those who did should consider leaving existing calendars local (in the “On My Mac” category in iCal) and starting new calendars in MobileMe for sharing and syncing.

Finally, repeating events that cross Daylight Saving Time boundaries will reportedly have their times changed by an hour. There appears to be no workaround for this, so you’ll have to check manually after upgrading. It’s apparently best to fix such problems via MobileMe’s Web interface, probably because that’s the master copy of the data.

Use Appropriate Software -- Next, make sure you’re using the appropriate software. For the Mac, that means Mac OS X 10.6.4 Snow Leopard (or later). Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard also works, but with limitations, including the lack of push updates, the capability to share and accept shared calendars in iCal, and subscribed calendar syncing.

For iOS devices, Apple says you need iOS 4.2.1 or later, which automatically knocks the original iPhone and first-generation iPod touch off the MobileMe calendar bandwagon. For those devices, you’ll need to sync calendars and contacts via iTunes (select Sync Address Book Contacts and Sync iCal Calendars in the Info tab of a selected device in iTunes). Commenter MetalSamurai has noted that iOS 3.1.3 will actually work, but you’ll have to jump through hoops, including setting up a separate CalDAV account.

Windows users need at least MobileMe Control Panel 1.6.4, either Outlook 2007 or 2010 (32-bit), and iTunes 10. I don’t know if there are any gotchas with running those versions on standard Windows installations.

Using BusyCal -- If you, like us, relied on BusyCal for calendar sharing among a family or small workgroup before the MobileMe Calendar transition, you’ll need to run through a simple set of steps to upgrade to the new MobileMe Calendar and maintain your BusyCal calendars. If you’re using BusyMac’s older BusySync software, it can provide read-only access to the new MobileMe Calendar, making an upgrade to BusyCal the best option, although BusyMac has instructions for using BusySync in read-only mode with MobileMe as well.

Upgrading to the new MobileMe Calendar with BusyCal does require a change in how you share calendars. As BusyMac notes in a blog post, you’ll need to switch your LAN syncing (sharing from within BusyCal itself to other Macs running BusyCal on your local network) to cloud syncing (where your calendars are hosted on MobileMe or Google Calendar). Plus, since Google Calendar subscriptions won’t sync to both MobileMe and iOS devices, accessing calendars hosted on Google Calendar from an iOS devices requires syncing directly with Google Calendar. Again, BusyMac has instructions.

I was able to upgrade to the new MobileMe Calendar and set up BusyCal with no major problems, although I did have to juggle some files around, given that my BusyCal server was running on a Power Mac G5 under Leopard, so I couldn’t complete the upgrade within iCal on that Mac. I worked around the problem by moving my BusyCal backup file to my Mac Pro under Snow Leopard and performing the upgrade there. It’s also possible to export individual calendar files from BusyCal before the upgrade, perform the upgrade, create new calendars on MobileMe, and then import the exported calendars into the new MobileMe calendars.

Of course, the downside of the MobileMe Calendar is that everyone who wants to sync multiple devices needs their own MobileMe account, which may not be practical in a large workgroup. For such situations, it might make more sense to avoid MobileMe entirely and rely instead on a solution like Google Calendar. BusyMac also mentions using iCal Server (part of Mac OS X Server) and Kerio Connect.

I suspect there are additional questions and concerns that people may have with regard to Apple’s forced upgrade to the new MobileMe Calendar. If there’s something that’s not covered by Apple’s MobileMe Calendar FAQ, BusyMac’s instructions, or this article, leave a note in the comments, and I’ll see what I can figure out.

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iPad 2: Faster, Thinner, Lighter, and Bicameral

  by TidBITS Staff <editors@tidbits.com>
  8 comments

Apple announced the iPad 2 and iOS 4.3 at a media event hosted by Apple CEO Steve Jobs last week. Jobs led off by explaining why he was playing hooky from his medical leave of absence: “We’ve been working on this product for a while, and I didn’t want to miss today.”

As is his wont, Jobs began with a recap of the numbers. He said that Apple has sold over 100 million iPhones to date, plus 15 million iPads in 9 months of 2010. This made the iPad Apple’s fastest-growing product ever, and possibly the fastest-selling new consumer product ever — Jobs admitted that Apple wasn’t sure. In those 9 months, the iPad accounted for over $9.5 billion in revenue for Apple.

Jobs also announced that Random House will be bringing 17,000 more titles to the iBookstore, joining 2,500 other publishers attracted by the fact that Apple now has over 200 million iTunes Store accounts. Over 100 million ebooks have been downloaded so far, though we expect that the majority of those were free.

Finally, Jobs noted that Apple has now paid over $2 billion to iOS app developers, who have, collectively, created 350,000 apps, 65,000 of which are iPad-savvy. If you do the math, however, that means the average paid app (about 75 percent are paid, according to various statistics I found) has earned only about $7,600, or, after you take out the Angry Birds share of the revenue, rather a lot less. In other words, a few companies are doing very well, but the rising tide is not floating all app boats.

That was all prelude to the real news: the iPad 2. The revised model is both awe-inspiring and more or less what was expected. Thinner and lighter, it boasts front- and rear-facing cameras, a gyroscope, an A5 chip (replacing the A4 chip found in previous models), and support for the two biggest U.S. data networks through two separate 3G models. One model is GSM, which works on AT&T’s network but also hundreds of other carriers’ networks worldwide. The other is CDMA, specifically labeled for Verizon Wireless. No 4G version was in sight, which is no surprise: only Motorola’s Xoom tablet offers a 4G option for Verizon’s network, and that factory update won’t be available for months.

Physically, the new iPad has the same basic height and width, and the same screen size, but it is thinner and lighter, making it even easier to lose in a pile of paper (so be careful!). It’s .34 inches (8.8 mm) thick and weighs 1.33 pounds (601 g), which is slimmed down from the original iPad’s .5 inches (13.3 mm) and 1.5 pounds (680 g). The 3G models are a few grams heavier. From pictures, it also appears that the iPad 2 is a bit flatter, so it should sit more firmly on a table or desk without rocking.

Front- and rear-facing cameras are included, as many people expected after their inclusion in the iPhone 4 and fourth-generation iPod touch. The front camera is designed for FaceTime, offering VGA resolution for video at up to 30 frames per second, and the same low-quality VGA for still images. The rear camera, in contrast, records at 720p (an intermediate HD resolution) for video at up to 30 frames per second, and acts as a still image camera with 5x digital zoom. Like the iPhone cameras, you can tap to control exposure, and photos and videos are geotagged. Apple didn’t state whether 720p FaceTime sessions would be possible with the new MacBook Pros, which have the new FaceTime HD cameras.

Under the hood, the iPad 2 features an A5 chip, an Apple-designed dual-core CPU that Jobs claimed is up to twice as fast as the A4 chip in the original iPad. Apple also improved graphics performance, making the iPad 2 up to 9 times faster. And, although processing performance improvements generally come at the expense of power consumption, Apple claims that the iPad 2 has the same battery life, providing up to 10 hours of use per charge.

Oh, and there’s a gyroscope, too, which is probably useful for certain games. The gyroscope also apparently helps with GPS positioning and navigation; a GPS receiver is once again included only with the 3G models.

The iPad 2 comes in three storage capacities for both the Wi-Fi-only and 3G models: 16, 32, and 64 GB. These sizes haven’t changed from the previous model, but the high end is still relatively generous compared to other devices in the market or planned for release. Apple, as is typical, didn’t mention the amount of internal RAM in the iPad 2. This was only 256 MB in the original iPad, and it was bumped to 512 MB with the iPhone 4.

Instead of a single 3G model intended for GSM networks, like AT&T’s, Apple is simultaneously releasing an iPad 2 for GSM networks, and an iPad 2 solely for Verizon Wireless’s CDMA network. The iPad 2 will be available in black and...wait for it...white! And Jobs promised white would ship at the same time as black. (For those who don’t follow the Apple soap opera constantly, the company has been unable to ship the announced white model of the iPhone 4.)

Further cementing Apple’s dominance in the market, where most competing tablets have yet to catch up with the original iPad’s price and feature set, the iPad 2 prices remain the same, ranging from the 16 GB Wi-Fi-only model for $499 up to the 64 GB 3G model for $829.

Although the online Apple Store is not taking orders before 11 March 2011, the iPad 2 will start shipping on that date in the United States, and 25 March 2011 internationally. So if you’re planning on ordering online, March 11th is the day to aim for. If you must have an iPad as soon as possible, sales at Apple retail stores begin at 5:00 PM on that day.

Apple also introduced a new Smart Cover, a novel and appealing way of protecting the screen. Unlike Apple’s previous case, which was, put bluntly, unattractive and difficult to use, the Smart Cover is a soft, flap-like device that attaches to the iPad with magnets — you may have to see Apple’s video of it to believe it. When closed, it covers the screen and puts the iPad to sleep; when opened, it wakes the iPad and folds back like a clever piece of origami to provide a typing or viewing stand in landscape orientation. The inside is microfiber to help clean the screen when closed. The Smart Cover will come in 10 colors, priced at $39 for the brightly colored polyurethane versions and $69 for the more-muted leather versions. Expect to see independent case manufacturers taking advantage of these magnets as well, since they’re actually in the iPad itself.

Finally, and this accessory will likely make the iPad a popular presentation device, Apple announced the $39 Digital AV Adapter, which provides mirrored output in 1080p HD video (mirrored output from the iPad 2 is actually available with the older VGA adapter too). It works for all apps, making it possible to connect an iPad to a large video screen or HDMI-capable projector and demo anything you can show on the iPad screen. The Digital AV Adapter actually has two ports, one for HDMI and the other for a dock connector, enabling you to charge the iPad while you’re presenting with it.

It’s hard to quibble with nearly anything related to the iPad 2. It would have been nice to see a 128 GB or even 256 GB model for those with lots of media, and 4G wireless would have been interesting, even if it’s yet not of widespread utility. The screen could also have increased in resolution, in theory, but it’s unclear if the necessary hardware is available in sufficient quantity yet. Lower prices would also be welcome, but the fact that competing tablets haven’t been able to undercut Apple’s prices indicates that it’s probably difficult to make an iPad-like tablet for much less than Apple is already doing. Besides, now Apple has something left to add to the iPad 3 in another year.

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Hands-On Details about the iPad 2 and iOS 4.3

  by Jeff Carlson <jeffc@tidbits.com>
  12 comments

If you thought the iPad was too heavy and bulky before, just wait until you hold it next to the new iPad 2. I was on hand for Apple’s March 2nd announcement and spent time working with the new device, got a feel for the cool new Smart Covers, and learned several details that didn’t make it into Steve Jobs’s presentation. (See “iPad 2: Faster, Thinner, Lighter, and Bicameral,” 2 March 2011.)

Smart Covers -- Nearly as much presentation time was devoted to Apple’s new Smart Covers for the iPad 2 as to the iPad 2 itself, and I can understand why. They’re really cool. I’ve used Apple’s black iPad case on my first-generation iPad not because it’s especially stylish — it’s not — but because it’s thin and functional. I’d prefer to have the iPad out by itself, but I found that carrying the iPad with no case at all is awkward: I didn’t want to hold it sideways like a notepad and smudge the screen, so I was always self-conscious about it. With the black iPad case, the screen is covered, and I can grab it however I choose, tuck it under an arm if needed, and slide it into my bag without worrying about scratching the screen.

The new Smart Covers appear to do all that in the most minimal possible way. Magnets in the metal hinge connect to magnets along the inside of the left edge of the iPad and snap securely in place. The attractive and durable-looking covers are made either of leather or polyurethane (“which is used to make spacesuits!” exclaimed Jobs). The leather covers are nice, thin, and tactile; I didn’t immediately notice that an iPad handed to me was using the leather cover versus the polyurethane, although to be honest I was more focused on the iPad itself.


Are the covers worth $39, or $69 for the leather versions? I think so, but it will be interesting to see what third-party case manufacturers come up with once they get the specifications on where to place the magnets. I will definitely buy a Smart Cover to go along with my iPad 2, but haven’t yet decided if I’ll spring for the leather version. Apple also notes about the leather covers on the product page, “Some color may rub off during use.”

Speaking of third-party covers, the iPad 2 includes a system preference to enable the sleep/wake functionality that kicks in when the cover is closed and opened. It’s a great additional feature, and was nicely responsive in my repeated flipping of the cover’s edge.

The way the Smart Cover bends in four places is also quite clever and quite useful. (Click and drag the sample on Apple’s site to see how this works.) I regularly flip back the cover of my black iPad case and latch it to hold the iPad at an angle. In fact, setting up the Smart Cover in the vertical orientation felt more stable to me than the old iPad cover, which often feels tippy because the base can sometimes bow slightly.


The Feel of a New Machine -- For several people I know, the size and weight of the first-generation iPad is a detriment; it’s just heavy enough that holding it for long periods of time — even propped against a leg; I’m not talking about elevating the iPad for hours — is tiresome.

(Let’s take a moment and point out that the original iPad is still much thinner and lighter than tablets that came before, so Apple gets credit for that. However, the reality is that we like our technology thinner and lighter than what came before, no matter the dimensions of the previous device.)

I didn’t get a good sense of how much the weight differed; it’s only 3.2 ounces (90 grams), after all. But the thinness is wonderful, and contributes to the sense that the iPad 2 is lighter than it really is. Your brain sees a sliver of glass and aluminum. Not a slab. Not a slate. And I think that physical effect will be lasting, just as I notice how much sturdier my unibody MacBook Pro is compared to old models every time I pick it up.


FaceTime -- After months of speculation that the iPad 2 would include dual cameras, the presence of FaceTime isn’t a surprise. The image quality looked soft in the hands-on room at the event, partly due to the VGA-resolution front-facing camera, and perhaps partly due to a room full of FaceTime demo chats going on. But I’m willing to give it a chance; FaceTime on the iPhone 4 has been great for doing video chats between my daughter and my mother (who uses FaceTime on the Mac), more so because Grandma is on a satellite Internet connection. In fact, the FaceTime image quality is consistently better than iChat video. FaceTime is still limited to Wi-Fi networks.

Faster Mobile Broadband -- Hidden in the iPad 2 announcement was a speed bump, although the implications still need to be measured. The 3G GSM (AT&T-compatible) iPad 2 joins the GSM iPhone 4 as the first models in each line to support the faster upload speeds possible with HSUPA, an upload standard for 3G GSM networks. The iPhone 3G and 3GS and original 3G iPad included only UMTS for upstream traffic, which maxes out at 384 Kbps. HSUPA in the flavor used in the iPhone 4 and likely in the iPad 2 can reportedly hit 5.8 Mbps of raw throughput, although AT&T’s network is limited to somewhat under 2 Mbps. Carriers in some other countries are running faster networks, and AT&T will eventually upgrade its upstream rates to that level.

On the download side, there’s no information from Apple yet about whether the iPad 2 improves on the 7.2 Mbps downstream flavor of HSDPA that’s built into the iPhone 4 and the original 3G iPad. AT&T built this rate out to cell towers nationwide, and is now working a boost called HSPA+, which offers a raw throughput of 21 Mbps. It’s possible HSPA+ is in the iPad 2, but AT&T said late last year that it only expected to see tablets with HSPA+ by the second half of 2011. In practice, 7.2 Mbps HSDPA can top 4 Mbps in the real world, and 21 Mbps HSPA+ might provide sustained download rates of 8 Mbps in the right conditions.

The Verizon Wireless CDMA flavor of iPad 2 remains fixed on Verizon’s current 3G standard, EVDO Rev. A, which the company is working to enhance by rolling out a faster standard called LTE. AT&T will also launch LTE this year. Neither 3G model of the iPad 2 will have LTE connectivity, but nor does any laptop on the market. Motorola recently flabbergasted many of us by explaining that its Xoom tablet, which is upgradable to support LTE, will require six days at a factory to install a new modem when the upgrade becomes available in a few months. LTE might offer 5 to 12 Mbps downstream, but it will take until 2013 for nationwide LTE coverage to overlay today’s GSM and CDMA 3G networks.

iMovie and GarageBand -- I’m excited to start playing with the new version of iMovie for iOS, which will be available on the iPad 2, iPhone 4, and camera-equipped iPod touch. I’m also curious to see how Apple translated the new version and features to the latter two devices with their smaller screens.

Contrary to earlier reports, I confirmed late in the day that iMovie will not be available for the first-generation iPad. My guess is that there are two culprits: The original iPad does not include a camera, and even though I can see how it would be helpful to import footage and edit it on the iPad, Apple likes to have all features available for an app like iMovie. The second reason, I suspect, is memory. The iPhone 4 contains 512 MB of RAM, and the iPad 2 must contain at least that much (although the fourth-generation iPod touch is equipped with 256 MB of RAM, and is supported). Apple is extremely reluctant to reveal how much RAM is in the iPad, despite the fact that we’ll learn that fact as soon as someone like iFixit buys one of the first units and tears it apart.

GarageBand for iOS, the other major software announcement, also looks extremely polished and fun, although not being a musician, it doesn’t grab my interest as much. I do appreciate that a significant amount of effort has gone into appealing to people who would otherwise skip a music app like this. Also, based on the large number of music-related iPad apps and accessories at Macworld Expo last month, there must be a market out there. Or, at least a lot of people who like to burn money developing and trying to sell music gear.

Unlike iMovie, GarageBand will run on the first-generation iPad, although, I presume, with limited performance. Also, projects you create on the iPad can be transferred to the Mac, where you can continue editing (following an upcoming GarageBand ’11 update). It’s a one-way street, however; you can’t go back and forth, or start on the Mac and finish on the iPad. But I imagine it’s a great way to noodle with musical ideas when inspiration strikes, and then polish them when you’re back at your desktop computer.

A Few Other Tidbits -- The HDMI video adapter for mirroring the iPad’s screen on an HDTV or HDMI-capable projector is a great addition, but I also learned that the same feat can be accomplished using Apple’s existing iPad VGA Adapter, making it possible to connect the iPad to older projectors and displays. Apparently, there’s nothing specific to the HDMI adapter that makes mirroring possible; it’s the graphics capability of the A5 processor in the iPad 2. An original iPad can use the HDMI connector, but only with specifically enabled apps and features that already play through dock connector adapters.

A part of the iOS 4.3 update, iTunes Home Sharing lets you stream media from a copy of iTunes on your network to your iPad, rather than having to first transfer it during a sync operation. In addition, Home Sharing helps keep your library up to date. When you purchase a song on an iOS device and then connect to your iTunes library wirelessly, the song is automatically transferred to your library. It’s like turning your iOS device into an Apple TV.

Lastly, I recommend watching Apple’s video of the event to see Steve Jobs in fine form. I’m not talking about his health (he looked about the same as he did at Apple’s October 2010 event, like a man dealing with illness but not debilitated), but rather his criticisms of the rest of the tablet market. I believe Jobs is genuinely surprised that Apple is so far ahead of the game, that every other major player is just getting ramped up to compete with last year’s iPad. If you want to get a sense of Jobs’s and Apple’s competitive nature, the first few minutes of the presentation provide a telling glimpse.

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Apple Previews New Features in iOS 4.3

  by TidBITS Staff <editors@tidbits.com>
  4 comments

Along with its official rollout of the iPad 2, Apple revealed a few details of what’s coming in iOS 4.3, which will be a free upgrade for all compatible iOS devices on 11 March 2011.

For iOS 4.3, Apple focused on performance in the Safari app, migrating the Nitro JavaScript engine from Mac OS X to iOS, a move that Apple claims will make Safari run JavaScript up to twice as fast as before. That should help with modern Web sites that rely heavily on JavaScript for interactive elements.

In the ongoing attempt to integrate the media experience on all your connected devices, Apple added a new way to move music, movies, and TV shows from a computer to a Wi-Fi-connected iOS device. Under iOS 4.3, you’ll be able to use the iTunes Home Sharing feature to stream media from iTunes on a local computer to your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, thus bypassing a USB-mediated sync. The recently released iTunes 10.2 update makes this possible.

AirPlay (which enables you to stream media from your Mac or iOS device to an AirPort Express base station, Apple TV, or some other AirPlay-enabled device) has been enhanced, with added support for third-party apps and Web sites to enable them to stream full audio and video. Plus, AirPlay now will allow iPads to play photo slideshows using the transitions available on the Apple TV.

A welcome feature for some iPad users in iOS 4.3 is that the small physical switch at the upper right of the iPad will be configurable to serve either as a rotation lock (as it did with the original iOS release on the iPad) or as a mute switch (as it does in iOS 4.2). Apple doesn’t generally like providing options such as this, but the outcry when the switch changed behavior in iOS 4.2 must have convinced them.

In an effort to remain competitive with the new Verizon iPhone and its hotspot feature, Apple announced an official personal hotspot feature for iOS, which — at least initially — will work with the GSM-based iPhone 4 (in the United States, that’s the AT&T iPhone 4). AT&T set pricing a few weeks ago for mobile hotspot features on all its phones as the feature becomes available.

As it did with tethering, AT&T requires you have the $25-per-month, 2 GB DataPro usage plan plus a $20-per-month Personal Hotspot plan, which adds another 2 GB. Users with Personal Hotspot can use a total of 4 GB between on-phone, tethered, and hotspot data. You can switch the hotspot feature on and off, as well as switch between DataPro and DataPlus (200 MB per month for $15) at will. (See “AT&T Changes Tethering to Mobile Hotspot,” 2 February 2011.)

Apple plans to release iOS 4.3 on 11 March 2011 for download via iTunes. It will work with all iPads, the GSM iPhone 4 (which works with AT&T’s network in the United States), and the third- and fourth-generation iPod touch, but not the Verizon iPhone 4, the original iPhone and iPhone 3G, nor the first- or second-generation iPod touch. It’s interesting that the Verizon iPhone 4 can’t run iOS 4.3; presumably a future update will bring all the devices back into parity.

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New iOS Versions of iMovie and GarageBand

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

Along with announcing the new iPad 2 and iOS 4.3 last week, Apple also released two new apps — neither particularly surprising, but both signaling Apple’s intent to continue migrating the iLife and iWork apps to iOS.

iMovie -- The first app is a universal version of the $4.99 iMovie app, which will run both on the iPhone 4 (thank you, Retina Display) and the iPad 2. The new features in the iMovie app include:

And, when you have completed your handheld masterpiece, you can upload it directly to CNN iReport, YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook — and, oh yes, MobileMe. Or, if you prefer, you can send it via Wi-Fi and AirPlay to your Apple TV, sync it via cable to your iTunes library, and even play it directly on your HDTV via the new $39 Digital AV Adapter for iPad 2, which Apple also announced along with the iPad 2.

GarageBand -- To help you get in touch with your inner Domenico Scarlatti, Apple also announced a new GarageBand for iPad app, also for $4.99. With this new app you can play both Touch instruments (which take advantage of the multi-touch iPad capabilities) or real instruments (such as an electric guitar) that you plug into your iPad. The app even allows for audio recording with the iPad’s built-in mic. GarageBand runs on the iPad 2 as well as the original iPad.

Apple’s preview of the new app showed old GarageBand features joining new options made possible by the touchscreen, including:

Once you have completed your musical masterpiece you can share it by sending the audio file via email to friends, adding it to your iTunes library, or importing it into GarageBand on your Mac for additional tweaking. (Initial reports from the event indicated that you could also send iMovie projects to the desktop, but Apple confirmed that the feature is available only for GarageBand.)

As Jobs put it in his announcement: “It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.”

It makes us want to dance a little, too.

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iTunes 10.2: More Than Just iPad 2 and iOS 4.3 Support

  by Kirk McElhearn <kirk@mcelhearn.com>
  15 comments

Apple has released iTunes 10.2, a minor upgrade that hides a number of interesting changes. Apple mentions only support for syncing under iOS 4.3 and improved Home Sharing, although iTunes 10.2 for Windows also receives some security fixes.

But looking closely at iTunes 10.2, there are some noticeable changes to other features as well, though, luckily, nothing that makes my advice in “Take Control of iTunes 10: The FAQ” ebook obsolete. Let’s start with the preferences, where there are a number of changes.


One other menu item has a minor change. The Advanced > Open Audio Stream command has become simply Open Stream.

The new Home Sharing system has an interesting feature. If, in the Energy Saver preferences, you check “Wake for network access” on one of your Macs, and have iTunes running with Home Sharing enabled on that Mac, and then put it to sleep, its library will remain visible in iTunes on other Macs. If you then click on that library on another Mac, the sleeping Mac will awaken, and the library will load.

In initial usage, iTunes 10.2 seems a tad snappier, notably when deleting files from a large library. This is something that, with my library of more than 65,000 items, could take a couple of seconds, and present the spinning beachball. While I haven’t had time to test this very much, deletion is nearly instantaneous now.

Importing files from CD seems a bit faster as well; previously, there was a noticeable lag at the end of each track, during which iTunes would display the beachball as it, apparently, was writing the file. While I still see the beachball, when it goes away the next track is well on its way to being imported; in the past, this was not the case.

The main reason for this update is to provide compatibility with the iPad 2 and iOS 4.3, both due on 11 March 2011, but Apple has done some work under the hood. While changing preferences is relatively minor, some apparent minor speed enhancements are certainly a good thing for anyone with a large library. Again, these are first impressions, and I’ll have to test this a bit more to see if these speed increases show up anywhere else.

[Kirk McElhearn is a Senior Contributor to Macworld, an occasional contributor to TidBITS, and writes about more than just Macs on his blog Kirkville. Follow him on Twitter at @mcelhearn. Kirk’s latest book is “Take Control of iTunes 10: The FAQ.”]

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TidBITS Watchlist: Notable Software Updates for 7 March 2011

  by TidBITS Staff <editors@tidbits.com>

Firefox 3.6.15 -- Mozilla has released Firefox 3.6.14, a minor security and stability update to the open-source Web browser that’s approaching a major new version. Mozilla doesn’t say much about the changes, which were equally small in the previous few updates, but it’s worth updating if you use Firefox on a regular basis, just to make sure you have the latest code. And now, that means Firefox 3.6.15, which fixes a problem in 3.6.14 that prevented some Java applets from loading. (Free, 17.6 MB)

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SpamSieve 2.8.5 -- Surely to the chagrin of Nigerian princes everywhere, C-Command has released SpamSieve 2.8.5. The new update improves SpamSieve’s filtering accuracy, and also improves compatibility with new MacBook Pros, pre-release versions of Mac OS X Lion, and Freron Software’s new MailMate. Outlook and Entourage integrations now work more smoothly, and SpamSieve’s plug-in for Apple Mail now runs in 64-bit on Mac OS X 10.6 when possible. The software’s documentation and localization are improved, too. ($30 new, free update, 7.8 MB)

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BusyCal 1.5.2 -- It’s never surprising when the folks at BusyMac are busy working on features for BusyCal. The company’s latest update is BusyCal 1.5.2, which shows outgoing meeting replies when you link outgoing invitations with Apple Mail. The update also works around a Google bug that caused sync conflicts, corrects the “Application needs to be reinstalled” error, improves MobileMe CalDAV syncing, and offers numerous other miscellaneous bug fixes. ($49 new, free update, 6.6 MB)

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Dragon Dictate 2.0.3 -- Nuance has released Dragon Dictate 2.0.3 to address performance problems when using the dictation software in Microsoft Word and FileMaker 11. No other changes are included, but if you like talking to either Word or FileMaker via Dragon Dictate, you’re probably jonesing for this update. ($199.99 new, free update, 13.4 MB)

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Airfoil 4.0.2 -- Single-cell software company Rogue Amoeba has released Airfoil 4.0.2, an update to its utility for sending your Mac’s audio to all sorts of devices. The new version includes a slew of bug fixes; chief among them are improved AppleScript support, better Instant On performance, better fullscreen playback in Airfoil’s Video Player, smoother network load performance, and fixes for several rare crashes. Also in the release are several new features, including a Deselect All Speakers menu item, support for Flash 10.2, and window state saving across sessions. ($25 new, free update, 11.1 MB)

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ExtraBITS for 7 March 2011

  by TidBITS Staff <editors@tidbits.com>

If you’re in need of more to read, check out John Gruber’s insightful look into Apple’s 30-percent business model along with the news that Verizon Wireless’s unlimited data plan for the iPhone will disappear in a few months.

John Gruber Analyzes Apple’s 30 Percent -- Little has been more controversial of late than Apple’s subscription plan for periodicals, which retains the 70/30 split in revenues used by the App Store, and has a few contractual clauses that publishers dislike, including requiring subscription-based apps to use Apple’s subscription APIs and requiring price-matching from subscription offers outside the app. Daring Fireball’s John Gruber looks at the main arguments against Apple’s policies and concludes that, in essence, Apple is setting rules that are good for Apple, and likely good for users. Publishers? They can either play by Apple’s rules, or not play in Apple’s sandbox.

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Unlimited Plan Disappears from Verizon Wireless in Summer -- Verizon Wireless told analysts, according to Fierce Wireless, that the unlimited data pricing plan with which it introduced the iPhone on its network will be replaced by tiered service this summer. This is not a surprise. One assumes that subscribers with a two-year contract, as with AT&T, will retain the unlimited option unless they opt to drop to a cheaper metered plan.

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