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We wrap up our Panther release coverage this week with Jeff Carlson's look at what's new and interesting in some of Panther's utilities and applications. Jeff Porten also joins us with a review of El Gato's EyeTV digital video recorder for the Macintosh. In the news, we announce the release of our first free Take Control ebook update, explain more about WPA passwords, and cover the releases of Snapz Pro X 1.0.9, PhoneValet 1.1, and NoteBook 1.2.
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Apple Updates Panther to 10.3.1 -- Late today, Apple released an update to Mac OS X 10.3 Panther, saying version 10.3.1 offers "enhanced functionality and improved reliability" with Panther's FileVault document encryption feature, printing technology, WebDAV networking, and FireWire 800 drives. Some people have reported that FileVault's Reclaim Disk Space feature wipes out personal data and preferences; hopefully this update addresses that problem, but it's not clear exactly what has been fixed. Our advice is still to avoid FileVault until it has seen more real-world use without problems.
The FireWire 800 fixes supposedly address widely reported user problems with external FireWire 800 drives becoming corrupted when computers are restarted after a Panther installation. Apple says they've "identified an issue with external FireWire hard drives using the Oxford 922 bridge chip-set with firmware version 1.02 that can result in the loss of data stored on the disk drive," and they still recommend upgrading the firmware of such hard drives, even though this software update apparently addresses some of the problem. In an omission we find concerning, Apple says nothing about FireWire 400 drives, though reports of problems running Panther with those drives continue to appear. Again, we caution restraint with all external FireWire drives until user reports appear, and if you must use one under Panther, make frequent backups and avoid restarting with the drive plugged into the Mac. The Mac OS X 10.3.1 Update is available via Software Update, and is a 1.3 MB download. [MHA]
WPA Weakness Discovered, but Easily Solved -- Following last week's article about the implementation of WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) in AirPort Extreme cards and base stations (see "AirPort 3.2 Update Adds New Security Options" in TidBITS-704), a security expert alerted me to a weakness in choosing keys for the WPA system. The weakness applies to the AirPort 3.2 update as well as to all other consumer WPA-enabled Wi-Fi systems. Basically, choosing a key comprised entirely of real words that are 20 characters or fewer leaves you open to that key being broken rather easily. The solution? Choose a longer key or invent 20 characters of gibberish. If you're particularly security-conscious, use the option Apple provides to enter 256 bits of encryption, which is 32 hexadecimal bytes or 64 hexadecimal digits! That's overkill, however. In last week's article, it wasn't clear why Apple even offers the hexadecimal option when other devices from Buffalo and Linksys don't; now it appears that Apple provides all of the options for entering WPA keys, where the other manufacturers don't. I've written more about this issue and posted my colleague's paper on the subject at Wi-Fi Networking News. [GF]
New Snapz Pro X 1.0.9 Works Better with Panther -- Ambrosia Software has released Snapz Pro X 1.0.9, improving compatibility with Panther (version 1.0.8 wasn't working for me at all), and fixing a couple of bugs. Ambrosia also removed the Internet version checking feature for unspecified reasons. Snapz Pro X 1.0.9 is a free update for registered users; it's a 4.4 MB download. Note that if you received Snapz Pro X for free with your Macintosh, the update is not free, presumably since Apple didn't license future versions of Snapz Pro X. However, Ambrosia offers a discounted price of $20 (normally $50) for such people; use the second link below. [ACE]
PhoneValet 1.1 Improves Integration -- Parliant today released PhoneValet 1.1, a software upgrade to the company's Mac OS X-based hardware/software telephone management package (see "PhoneValet, Can You Get That?" in TidBITS-699 for a full review). PhoneValet 1.1 provides tighter integration with Apple's Address Book, enabling you to dial phone numbers from within Address Book, and automatically setting your status in iChat to "on the phone" when you're using the telephone. Unfortunately, the iChat integration (which you turn on in the Call Actions dialog accessible from the PhoneValet menu) works only if your status was set to available before placing or receiving a call. Other improvements include Panther compatibility, Apple event support, better support for AppleScript, and plug-ins and examples of how to automate dialing from FileMaker Pro and Microsoft Entourage. Parliant has made available a free PhoneValetRescue application that restores all your data after performing an Archive and Install option to upgrade to Panther. The PhoneValet 1.1 updater is a 9.1 MB download and is free to registered customers; a PhoneValet package costs $130. [ACE]
NoteBook 1.2 Adds HTML Export and More -- Circus Ponies Software has released NoteBook 1.2, a significant update to their note-taking, outlining, and snippet-keeping application for Mac OS X. (NoteBook and AquaMinds' NoteTaker share a common lineage; Matt Neuburg reviewed NoteTaker in "Take Note of NoteTaker" in TidBITS-677 and I've been using NoteBook for a while now.) New in NoteBook 1.2 is a 1-Step HTML Export feature that enables users to export a single page or an entire notebook to HTML, with a range of customization options. For those keeping sensitive data in NoteBook, a new security framework lets you password-protect your entire notebook and optionally encrypt specific pages. Other new features include enhanced sorting, more powerful searching, color choices for action items, fully illustrated online help, numerous bug fixes, Panther compatibility (though I'm working with Circus Ponies to track down a bug that causes NoteBook to crash on only the first launch on my Mac after a restart in Panther), and more. NoteBook 1.2 is free to registered customers; new copies cost $50. It's a 7.6 MB download and a 30-day trial version is available. [ACE]
by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
We've hit another small milestone with our Take Control electronic book series: the first free update to Joe Kissell's "Take Control of Upgrading to Panther." We released it Friday, 07-Nov-03, exactly two weeks after the initial release. Although we don't plan to update every book nearly so frequently, this one was clearly necessary, given the large number of Panther installation issues that have cropped up. We notified every existing customer and told them where they could get the free update, but since some email addresses have gone bad (or were entered wrong, or were shut off) in the last two weeks, customers who weren't notified should contact us at <email@example.com>.
Since the terminology and style of paper book updates (minor changes in new printings, sweeping changes in new editions) don't apply to ebooks, we're mimicking the approach used by software. This update is fairly big, with 12 new pages making it more than 25 percent larger than the original, so we're calling it version 1.1. If the changes had been merely to fix a typo or two, we would have instead called it 1.0.1, and a significantly changed second edition would be version 2.0 (and wouldn't be free, like the others).
What's new in version 1.1 of "Take Control of Upgrading to Panther?" Joe added five pages about the problems people have experienced with external FireWire hard drives, explaining the situation as it's understood today, providing advice and links for more information, and discussing what to do if you've already been bitten. Joe also discusses problems caused by bad RAM, and delves into details on preventing (or repairing) installation issues regarding firewalls, printing, AppleTalk, and X11. Other updated information includes more detailed advice on partitioning hard disks, improved instructions for restoring essential files after an Archive & Install upgrade, and pointers to software that must be updated to work properly under Panther.
A Version 1.1 Change List section outlines the changes; we're investigating ways of making the changes more obvious to people who have read the previous version without cluttering the display for those who are new to the ebook. We're also trying to figure out if there's a good way to print just pages containing the changes for those who don't want to reprint the entire book; the problem is that small changes throughout caused large sections of the book to repaginate.
We're also working on a free update to Matt Neuburg's "Take Control of Customizing Panther," along with several new books, so stay tuned!
Take Control on Radio -- No, we don't have audio versions of our books yet (but it's a possibility; email me if you're interested). In this case, I forgot to mention last week that I've done a number of radio interviews with all the Macintosh radio hosts about Take Control, Panther installation issues, and more. You can listen to my interviews on:
Shawn King's Your Mac Life show:
David Lawrence's Online Tonight with David Lawrence show:
Gene Steinberg's The Mac Night Owl Live (scroll down to 10/31/03):
by Jeff Porten <firstname.lastname@example.org>
While there's been a bit of hoopla recently over the release of TiVo Series2 and the new Mac-integration features of its $100 Home Media Option (see "TiVo Series2 Improves on Original" in TidBITS-698), it bothered me that the TiVo wasn't a Mac-friendly device for its core function: recording and playing TV.
It's possible, so I'm told, to pry open a TiVo and plug in various hardware adapters that enable you to grab the video off the hard drive and send it zipping around your home network. But I wasn't in the mood this week to perform death-defying and warranty-voiding stunts on pricey home electronics. So instead, I headed down to the Apple Store and returned home with El Gato's EyeTV, a $200 video decoder that converts your Macintosh into a digital video recorder.
EyeTV Basics -- Installation of the EyeTV is ridiculously simple. There are five connectors on the back of the box. A USB cable connects it to your Mac, and simultaneously provides power - no AC adapter necessary. After that, you have a choice of running either a single coaxial cable or three RCA A/V cables into the unit. That's it, your hardware setup is finished.
The first time you run EyeTV, you are walked through a step-by-step setup wizard which explains how EyeTV operates. There are additional options available in the EyeTV preferences if you need to correct any problems. My initial setup did not recognize my cable signal, but everything worked perfectly after I used an "exhaustive" channel scan that the wizard did not offer.
A CD is included with the EyeTV software, but the stock on the store shelves includes an outdated version of the software; I skipped the CD and downloaded the newest version (1.3.1) directly from the El Gato Web site; EyeTV requires Mac OS X 10.1.5 or higher. The software includes two applications: the EyeTV program manager and viewer, and a background-only helper application that launches EyeTV when it's not running and a scheduled recording is about to start. I generally leave EyeTV running all the time; even when recording a program, it consumes only 20 percent of CPU resources on a 500 MHz G4 (although drive responsiveness also takes a hit due to the amount of data being written).
If your video input is over a coaxial cable and you subscribe to an analog cable service, the EyeTV can tune into 126 channels automatically. However, if you're connected with the A/V cables, or if (like me) you subscribe to digital cable or scrambled premium channels, then your EyeTV must act like your television set - tune it to channel 3 or 4, and change the channel by hand. This leads to EyeTV's biggest weakness, which I cover shortly.
Open the EyeTV program, and you see a program list of previously recorded shows. If you've started watching any of them, a thumbnail of the frame where you stopped appears, and opening the program takes you back to where you left off. This program list also displays scheduled shows that haven't yet been recorded. EyeTV shows video in a compact window with no borders. You can also use QuickTime Player to watch recorded shows, but I prefer the EyeTV's minimalist display; EyeTV also provides a full screen option that is otherwise available only in the Pro version of QuickTime Player.
You schedule recordings by clicking the Guide button to open a Web browser window to TitanTV.com, which you can customize to show your favorite channels on your cable network. Having long been annoyed by my cable company forcing me to scroll through 40 premium channels to which I don't subscribe to get to the 12 that I do, I found the TitanTV interface to be an immediate time saver (though it works better in Internet Explorer than Safari). Click the record button (which oddly resembles a tiny Japanese flag), and the EyeTV automatically sets up the recording information.
The quality of the EyeTV's recordings won't wow anyone who has watched a DVD, but it's perfectly serviceable. The more you expand the video window, the more you'll see the quirks and artifacts. I find them noticeable but not distracting, although I might still consider buying the DVD for a visually stunning movie over an EyeTV recording. Another loss in comparison to DVDs, obviously, is that anything that comes over the cable will be formatted for TV image size (panned and scanned), or will be letterboxed so you'll be stuck with the same black bars that you get on the TV set. In full-screen mode, the black bars count, so you won't get a widescreen view on your widescreen monitor.
EyeTV records to a regular QuickTime movie file, at a rate of approximately 650 MB per hour at the standard recording quality. High quality doubles the size of the file. By default, the EyeTV buries these files in your home Library folder, but you can specify a new location (such as an external hard drive).
Lastly, EyeTV provides you with an editing window and tools that don't compare with iMovie's, but which are great for excising commercials and the inevitable wasted minutes before and after your recording.
The EyeTV Payoff: Mac Integration -- The great thing about the EyeTV is that you're not using a device that's almost or partially Mac-compatible. You end up with Macintosh files on a Macintosh hard disk in a regular Macintosh video format. This was the driving factor behind my choice of an EyeTV over a TiVo. A TiVo requires you to be at home to enjoy it; with a little extra effort, you can watch EyeTV recordings on your PowerBook anywhere (provided your TV preferences are PG-rated). For those of us who prefer being Starbucks-potatoes to couch-potatoes, the EyeTV is a killer app.
If you're a laptop-and-desktop person, you can copy your recordings from machine to machine or view them directly across your network. I've had less-than-stellar results watching video over my home AirPort (not AirPort Extreme) network, although the math says that the bitstream should have plenty of room. Over a wired 100 Mbps connection, it's as good as when the file is playing locally. For the truly dedicated, if your home computer serves files over the Internet and you're extremely patient, you can connect to your home Mac with file sharing and grab newly recorded shows on the fly.
When your hard disk fills up, as it rapidly will, you can delete old recordings, or burn them to CD or DVD to clear them off your drive. One DVD should hold three or four regular-length movies; a CD can store one hour of video in Video CD format. I've been grabbing movie posters from the Internet Movie Database and printing them onto my DVD inserts.
Unsurprisingly, adding a hard drive to a Macintosh for use with EyeTV is easier than doing the same to a TiVo. One crucial difference between an EyeTV expansion and a TiVo expansion is that you don't have to dedicate the new space for video, so you can use part of the space for actual work (and possibly write it off as a business deduction).
If you're watching movies on your home Mac rather than your laptop, you'll probably want a way to control the video remotely. EyeTV works with the Keyspan Digital Media Remote, and a few minutes with AppleScript got my system working fine with Salling Clicker and a Bluetooth connection to my cell phone (see "Salling Clicker in Action" in TidBITS-694). El Gato also provides links to third-party applications that allow you to control video and schedule recordings over the Internet or a home network.
The EyeTV Pain: Not Quite Nirvana -- If we were living in a pre-TiVo world, the EyeTV would be manna from heaven. But there are a number of features that leave much to be desired.
Foremost among these is that the EyeTV lacks an infrared port to send signals to your cable box telling it to change the channel. This is no problem if you have analog cable - the EyeTV has its own tuner. For digital or scrambled cable service, though, you must change the channel on the cable box manually. I'm still looking for a timer gadget that will do this, but this really needs to be a future upgrade from El Gato, so I can program everything at one time.
Second, the EyeTV doesn't offer wish lists or any other "we think you'd like this" options that you get with the TiVo. TitanTV has some credible search options, and you can set a repeating schedule for a program, but at its heart choosing shows to record is a manual process. While writing this article, I found a movie I would have loved to record, but I didn't know about it when I left home a few hours ago. TiVo would have given me the chance to have a little more foresight. (The remote control software I mentioned above lets you set up a recording over the Internet, provided you're not dealing with the channel problem.)
Third, although the EyeTV program window shows you the files with their regular names, the actual files are saved using an incomprehensible hexadecimal naming format. This is a major pain when you're doing some of the take-it-with-you tricks I mentioned earlier. I'm currently writing some AppleScript scripts that make this a bit less of a chore; I'll make those (and the Salling Clicker scripts) available publicly when they're ready for prime time. Bonus points to El Gato for making EyeTV fully scriptable.
TiVo vs. EyeTV Deathmatch -- In short, while the EyeTV is a great gadget and I'm quite happy with it, its deficiencies don't take long to surface. If you're in the market for a home electronics gadget that will record TV with no muss and no fuss, you'll be happier with a TiVo. Of course, even though a low-end TiVo costs the same $200 as an EyeTV, you must pay an extra $300 for the lifetime TiVo service (or $13 per month if you want to pay month-to-month) that provides all those neat programming and scheduling features.
If you do decide on a TiVo-like device, take a look at the ReplayTV as well. TiVo versus ReplayTV debates approach the ferocity of Mac versus Windows, but one might have features that make it an easy choice for you.
On the other hand, if you want your entertainment integrated with your computer, you have a Mac that can take on the job, and you don't think it's a hardship to do a little extra fiddling to get your media exactly in the places you want them, it's hard to beat EyeTV. There's no better way to turn that 17-inch PowerBook into a portable multiplex movie theater.
Okay, done with my work for the day. Time to watch some TV.
[Jeff Porten is a Macintosh and Internet consultant in Washington, DC, who is now trying to avoid watching too much television.]
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by Jeff Carlson <email@example.com>
So you've installed Panther, started to get used to the new Finder, and worn the ink off the F9 key showing off Expose to your friends. Isn't there more to Mac OS X 10.3? In TidBITS-703, I looked at some of Panther's marquee features, while Adam poked around the corners of Apple's newest operating system (see "Mac OS X 10.3 Panther Unleashed" and "Interesting Bits of Panther"). In this article, I want to look at some of the application and utility changes that give Panther some of its sheen. If you're still deciding whether or not to upgrade, hopefully this information will help you decide if Panther is right for you.
Mail -- Apple's Mail application continues to improve under Panther. Version 1.3 adds a convenient view for tracking threaded messages, improves spam filtering, and offers better HTML rendering thanks to Safari's rendering engine. To help prevent improperly addressed outgoing messages, the Safe Addressing feature flags addresses that don't belong to a domain you specify. This feature could be worthwhile in an organization that wants to avoid sending proprietary information outside the local network. Note that you can specify multiple domains in Mail's preferences, even though only one field is available to enter them.
For some people, however, the big news in Mail is support for working with Microsoft Exchange servers, including non-email-related content using an Outlook Web Access Server (also known as an Internet Information Services, or IIS, server).
Also new is better integration with Address Book and iChat AV: any message from an iChat buddy that you've defined in Address Book includes a green indicator when the buddy is online and her status is set to Available (nothing appears if the status is set to Away). Double-clicking the indicator initiates a chat in iChat.
Address Book -- As one of the main components for Mail and iChat, Address Book has been expanded, too. Its iChat integration is similar to Mail, with an indicator appearing when a buddy is online and available.
Address Book adds several custom fields, including Prefix, Suffix, and Dates (the default is Anniversary, but you can customize it). A series of relationship fields has been added, so you can list relations such as Spouse, Sister, Brother, Friend, Assistant, etc. One thing that confused me initially is that the Job Title field is no longer included as a blank field when you edit a record; you must now select it from the Add Field submenu of the Card menu.
Unfortunately, a nasty and obvious bug still exists in this new version: if you're editing a contact and need to undo what you typed into a field, the entire contact reverts back to the state before you started edit it, wiping out any other fields that you changed or entered. That flub eliminated Address Book's usefulness for me in Jaguar, but I assumed that something so obvious would have been fixed in Panther. Perhaps no one is actually using Address Book?
iChat AV 2.0 -- Not much has changed between the iChat AV beta and iChat AV 2.0 (see "iSight Eyes iChat AV" in TidBITS-685). You can now specify a location where received files will be stored, and you can block users on a Rendezvous network from seeing your email and AIM addresses.
Perhaps the most significant news is that the iChat AV beta is set to expire at the end of the year, so Jaguar users will need to either upgrade to Panther or pay $30 to take advantage of audio and video chatting. Unfortunately, that counts for iSight owners using Jaguar; even though Apple bills the $150 iSight as the "eyes and ears" of iChat AV, the software is not included with the iSight.
Help Viewer -- I've set up a hotkey so that pressing Control-E brings up Eudora - a combination I use several dozen times each day. On another Mac running Jaguar where I don't have QuicKeys X installed, this combination launches Help Viewer, but only after an interminable wait.
Panther doesn't use Control-E to launch Help Viewer, but even if it did, I'd be elated: it launches quickly! It runs smoothly! I find myself actually turning to Apple's help system when I have a question about something, rather than making a knee-jerk Google search. Give it a try.
Faxing -- Tired of fighting with bad fax software? (See "FaxSTF Pro Echoes Sad State of Fax Software" in TidBITS-476). Although I try to avoid faxing whenever possible, there are times when I need to send a fax, which involves standing over the fax machine in our office, hand-feeding it one page at a time so it doesn't jam and make me start over from page one.
I'm guessing someone at Apple became fed up with FaxSTF, which has shipped with new Macs for years, because Mac OS X now includes a basic option to send and receive faxes in Panther. Click a Fax button in any print dialog, specify a recipient from your Address Book, enter cover page information, and click Fax (this assumes that your Mac's modem is connected to a available phone line).
Panther can also receive faxes, using a few settings in the Print & Fax preference pane. It can print incoming faxes or email them to an address you specify, presumably as a PDF file, though I haven't tested this feature yet.
Here's a quick faxing tip: When you're sending a fax, an icon for your connection (such as Internal Modem) appears in the Dock. If the job doesn't go through and you accidentally close the window belonging to the connection, the interface disappears. To get it back, don't bother searching for a fax application as I did; instead, launch Printer Setup Utility from the Utilities folder of your Applications folder, and choose Show Fax List from the View menu.
I'm sure people with more serious faxing needs might opt for a more sophisticated program such as Smile Software's Page Sender (with which I've had limited experience on an old iMac set up at the office for receiving faxes). But for those of us forced to send only the occasional big, bitmapped, semi-legible picture to people who can't deal with email attachments, Mac OS X's fax implementation looks promising.
Preview -- Apple's Swiss Army Knife of PDF and image viewing and conversion, Preview, gains a much needed performance boost in Panther. In addition to launching and displaying pages faster, Preview beefs up its PDF features by adding an indexed text search capability and PDF bookmark and linking support for easier internal document navigation.
Preview can also now open raw PostScript or EPS files and print them to any cheap inkjet printer, something that previously required an expensive PostScript-based laser printer.
Zip Compression in the Finder -- A quiet addition to Panther is the capability to create .zip archives in the Finder. The Windows world has pretty much standardized on the .zip format, so this becomes an easy way to transfer files across platforms (although Aladdin makes StuffIt Expander for Windows, it's not nearly as commonly available on Windows machines). Select one or more files in the Finder and choose "Create Archive of [filename]" from the File menu or from the contextual menu (Control-click to bring this up).
Internet Preferences -- Finally, I want to point to a bit of reorganization that has prompted several people I know to scratch their heads. Under Jaguar, you could change the default Web browser and email client by going to the Internet preference pane. In Panther, however, the Internet preference pane is replaced by the .Mac preference pane.
Instead, in a move that I'm sure only makes sense in the marketing hallways at Apple, you must configure your default email and Web applications from within Safari and Mail. Launch Mail, go to its preferences, click the General icon, and choose an application from the Default Email Reader pop-up menu. Similarly, a Default Web Browser pop-up menu appears in Safari's General preferences.
What if you want to configure helper applications for other protocols? Turn to Monkeyfood's freeware More Internet preference pane, which uses Internet Config to provide a single interface to all your protocol helpers, something that was previously accessible most easily through Internet Explorer's preference in the Protocol Helpers pane.
Panting for Panther? Have you made the switch to Mac OS X 10.3, or are you still pondering the path to Panther? Go to the TidBITS Web site and scroll down to answer our poll question: "When do you plan to upgrade your main Mac to Mac OS X 10.3 Panther?"
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by TidBITS Staff <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Opinions about Zinio -- Macworld Magazine has begun distributing an electronic edition using Zinio software. How does it compare to PDF, and what do readers think of it? (8 messages)
Belkin iPod voice recorder -- Steve Jobs showed off Belkin's iPod add-on for recording audio, but is it any good in real life? (10 messages)
Open proxy servers exploited -- Chuck Goolsbee's TidBITS article about how spammers are exploiting older Mac OS-based proxy servers prompts several readers to plumb their own server logs looking for intruders. (7 messages)
Not all open proxies are bad -- Readers look at the difference between "open" and "anonymous" proxy servers, and lament that we have to lock down so much of the Internet due to malicious activities. (2 messages)
Where should mail be stored? You'd think that the Mail application would store mail in your user folder, but that's not the case. Why not? And should application preferences locations be transparent as well? (33 messages)
Non-profit, non-commercial publications and Web sites may reprint or link to articles if full credit is given. Others please contact us. We do not guarantee accuracy of articles. Caveat lector. Publication, product, and company names may be registered trademarks of their companies. TidBITS ISSN 1090-7017.
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