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Apple kicked off WWDC by announcing new Apple Cinema Displays - including a 30-inch monster - and previewing Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. Adam and Jeff run down the important details. Also this week, Glenn looks at a potentially useful merging of technologies to fight spam, and Tonya relates how she came close to becoming a rock chick thanks to Jeff Tolbert's new "Take Control of Making Music in GarageBand" ebook. And we note the releases of WorkStrip 3.2, Peek-a-Boo for Mac OS X, and Vonage's software phone for the Mac.
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Strip My Work and Heat My Menus -- Softchaos has released version 3.2 of WorkStrip, the Dock-like launcher prized for such features as multiple workspaces, document previews, and ingeniously arranged hierarchical menus that navigate folders and associate recently opened documents with their applications. Most notable in this revision are "hot menus," keyboard shortcuts that display a menu wherever the mouse happens to be; among these are a menu of running applications and their windows, a menu of running applications and their recent documents, and a menu of the contents of the folder(s) currently selected in the Finder. Some behaviors are also made faster. Version 3.2 is a free update for WorkStrip 3 users; WorkStrip is $40 (or thereabouts, depending on the pound-dollar exchange rate), with a 30-day trial available as a 2 MB download. [MAN]
Vonage Adds Software Phone for Mac -- Last week, the voice-over-IP (VoIP) service provider Vonage added a software option for its subscribers to place and receive phone calls to the public telephone network from their Macintosh. A "soft phone," as Vonage calls its VoIP software, costs $12 per month, including fees, for 500 minutes of outgoing local and long-distance calls. Additional minutes are 3.9 cents each in the U.S.; international rates are fantastic. The soft-phone service has to be added on to an existing Vonage line, which costs as little as $15 per month before tax. The service uses software from Xten, a British Columbia firm that makes the best-looking and best-functioning software phone for Mac, Windows, and Linux.
I've found that the soft-phone service works terrifically, and was able to make my first call from a landline to my Vonage soft phone number within two minutes of adding the service to my account. But I recommend using a USB or microphone/headphone headset: the built-in speakers and mikes on some Macs cause feedback and echoes. [GF]
Peek-a-Boo, I See Your CPU -- Clarkwood Software's Peek-a-Boo, one of my favorite utilities under Mac OS 9 and before, has now been rewritten for Mac OS X. Peek-a-Boo is a process watcher; it displays the applications and Unix processes running on your computer, along with lots of data about them. Unix geeks and Mac OS X mavens may be tempted to dismiss Peek-a-Boo as merely a graphical front end to tools like "top" and "ps," or a partial duplicate of Apple's own utility Activity Monitor. But graphical front ends are good, and Peek-a-Boo does make it easy to do tricky things such as constructing a running graph of an application's CPU usage over time, or changing an application's priority ("renice"). It would be great if Peek-a-Boo could do even more - for example, it might show an application's open files ("lsof") or disk activity ("fs_usage"), graph memory usage over time, and so forth - and it's a pity that Peek-a-Boo is itself something of a CPU hog. But users may still find it a useful addition to their bag of Mac OS X tricks. Peek-a-Boo is $20 ($10 for previous owners), and a fully functional demo is available as a 565K download. [MAN]
by Tonya Engst <email@example.com>
I've never been musically inclined. In my grade school, singing in music class marked one as being uncool, and although I eventually had a few piano lessons and a small singing part in a ninth-grade production of Fiddler on the Roof, by high school, it was clear that I lacked much in the way of musical talent. Being one of those people who focuses on the things I know I'm good at, I never picked up other instruments or pursued additional musical opportunities of any sort.
My lack of musical inclination came into sharp focus during the San Francisco 2004 Macworld Expo, which brought the introduction of iLife '04 and GarageBand, Apple's ultra-hip software designed to let anyone make digital music. Immersed as I am in the mode of being a working mother, I hadn't even heard of the obviously cool John Mayer (described on the iTunes Music Store as a "chart-topping wonder"), who Steve Jobs asked to demonstrate GarageBand to the keynote audience. At the time, the whole GarageBand thing made me feel old and terminally uncool.
Judging from the applause in the keynote, not everyone felt the same way, including Seattle musician and designer Jeff Tolbert. When Jeff's not doing cutting-edge illustration or Web design (thus proving the adage that real musicians have day jobs), he has played in numerous bands with hip names like the Goat-Footed Senators. GarageBand's introduction may have made me feel completely out of touch, but Jeff bought iLife '04 immediately, picked up new gear to use with the GarageBand, and sent me email to see if I'd be interested in publishing a Take Control ebook about GarageBand.
Figuring that if Jeff could hook me into using GarageBand, he'd be able to do it for anyone, I asked him to draft a few pages that would help me create a decent-sounding tune. Jeff wrote the draft, I followed the directions, and, amazingly enough, I was able to combine several loops in interesting ways that sounded (at least to my ear) like a real song. Feeling ever so slightly cool, I gave Jeff a contract, connected him with one of our editors who has more musical experience than I (the estimable Caroline Rose, best known for writing and editing Inside Macintosh Volumes I through III at Apple, being the editor in chief at NeXT, and returning to Apple for a while as editor in chief of "develop, the Apple Technical Journal"), recruited TidBITS Technical Editor (and professional studio musician) Geoff Duncan to help with a technical review, and we were off.
A while later, Jeff and Caroline turned in the 68-page "Take Control of Making Music with GarageBand," which helps novices like me open the door to the world of digital music while offering sufficient depth to help those with real musical backgrounds and some GarageBand experience. It explains not just how to use GarageBand's built-in loops, but also how some of the music theory I missed in school can be employed in GarageBand to make truly cool songs. (Note that it does not cover recording music via MIDI devices or adding vocals to your tracks; those are topics for later titles.) The part of the ebook I most enjoyed was playing with tricks like panning the sound from speaker to speaker. The tune I created sounds reminiscent of Pink Floyd, and speaking as someone who graduated from high school in 1985, if that's not cool, I don't know what is. Maybe I can still hope for a second career as a rock chick, though I won't be giving up my day job publishing Take Control ebooks anytime soon.
"Take Control of Making Music in GarageBand" is now available for sale for $5, and along with the usual Take Control goodness like full-text searching, internally linked cross-references, and free updates, it includes links to clips in the iTunes Music Store that illustrate points Jeff makes, along with links to audio examples of the two songs Jeff helps you create (we tried embedding them in the PDF, but they played only in Acrobat 6.0 and caused Preview to crash on launch). Whether you're already a hip musician or a self-admitted wannabe like me, I hope you'll check it out.
by Jeff Carlson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The curious thing about computers is that no matter how beautifully they're designed, you're always looking at the screen. At this year's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple improved the view by announcing three new Apple Cinema Displays: updated 20-inch and 23-inch sizes, as well as a huge 30-inch model. For the benefit of the other people you work with, each display sports a stylish new aluminum case design that complements Apple's PowerBooks and Power Mac G5 computers.
The 30-inch Apple Cinema HD Display supports resolutions up to 2560 by 1600 pixels, or approximately 4 million pixels overall. It features a brightness level of 270 cd/m2 (candela per square meter) and a contrast ratio of 400:1. Due to the increased pixel count, the 30-inch display will work only with a Power Mac G5 equipped with an Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra DDL graphics card; that card will be available in August as a build-to-order option for new Power Mac G5 purchases, or as a $600 kit for existing Power Mac G5 owners. The card offers dual DVI connections in parallel, and it will also support the use of two 30-inch displays. The 30-inch Cinema Display costs $3,300, and will be available in August 2004.
The 20-inch and 23-inch models may appear to be Apple's existing displays in different cases, but the new screens add more than just aluminum. The 20-inch Cinema Display, priced at $1,300, still sports up to 1680 by 1050 pixels, but now has a brightness of 250 cd/m2 compared to 230 cd/m2 and a contrast ratio of 400:1 instead of 350:1. Similarly, the $2,000 23-inch Cinema HD Display handles up to 1920 by 1200 pixels, but features the same 270 cd/m2 brightness (up from 200 cd/m2) and 400:1 contrast ratio (up from 350:1) as the 30-inch Cinema HD Display. Both displays will ship next month.
The new Cinema Displays include two self-powered USB 2.0 ports, two FireWire 400 ports, a power button, brightness buttons, and a Kensington security slot. Apple is also introducing a magnetic iSight mount that will be included with new iSight cameras or available in a separate iSight Accessory Kit in the next few months, as well as a Cinema Display VESA (Video Electronics Standards Association) Mount Adapter Kit for connecting a display to a third-party ergonomic mount.
The displays also abandon Apple's proprietary ADC (Apple Direct Connection) connector found in previous displays, in favor of the more common DVI (Direct Video Input) connection. ADC was an Apple favorite because it reduced cable clutter and eliminated the need for a power supply by routing power from the computer to the monitor. The new displays also feature a single cable exiting the display, though it splits off into power, graphics, USB 2.0, and FireWire 400 connectors; the display's power presumably comes from an external power brick. According to Apple, the 20-inch and 23-inch models will work with existing Power Mac and PowerBook models. These two displays will also work with "Windows-based PCs containing graphics cards that support DVI ports with full single link digital bandwidth and VESA DDC standard for plug and play setup," according to the specifications at Apple's Web site; the 30-inch model will only work with a Power Mac G5 and Nvidia G3Force 6800 Ultra DDL card. As with the iPod, this hardware expansion out of the Mac bubble can only improve Apple's sales to the large Windows market.
by Glenn Fleishman <email@example.com>
Last week may be a watershed in the efforts to suppress spam through efforts to eliminate the many illegitimate methods by which spammers send and relay their email.
Earlier in the week, several major Internet service providers (ISPs) agreed to some basic tenets on how to manage their own networks and their customers' networks to avoid helping to perpetuate or tolerate spam. Late in the week, Microsoft and the developers of the Sender Policy Framework announced a merged version of their two anti-spoofing proposals that would give domain owners more control over which servers could process their outbound email.
Model for ISPs to Fight Spam In-House and Inbound -- Some of the largest U.S.-based ISPs issued a model policy document that codifies best practices in shutting down spammers that use ISP resources, whether hijacking their customers' computers (turning them into zombies) or using open relays to send their spam. The document was authored by the Anti-Spam Technical Alliance (ASTA), which includes America Online, EarthLink, Microsoft, and Yahoo among their members. You can download the document from any of the members' sites.
This document doesn't change the basic methods by which spammers send or deliver their wares, but it does define a high standard of performance that should be essentially the law for peer-to-peer email exchange: if your ISP doesn't conform to the document, then they're not participating fully in the necessary struggle against spam. If the majority of ISPs made sure they implemented every recommendation, spam wouldn't go away, but the volume would be severely reduced.
Here's a summary of the recommendations in one paragraph:
Shut down open relays. Monitor well-known unintentional scripts that forward email to arbitrary recipients. Make sure proxies work in internal networks only. Discover if local machines are compromised and sending spam, and figure out how to remove them from the network through notification or by shutting down the connection. Use authenticated SMTP. Change passwords on customer routers, like DSL modems. Install reasonable limits on inbound and outbound email for standard accounts. Don't allow instant account access for new registrations. Turn off open Web redirectors. Improve complaint reporting and handling.
The only part of these proposals that might raise fears are the limits on inbound and outbound email. The proposal recommends limits like 150 unique recipients per hour and 500 per day. Many people would find these restrictive. This would unnecessary limit many users' ability to conduct business, and would require storing unique addresses, which could potentially violate an ISP's safe harbor against illegal content, too.
Spoofing, Revised -- A second section of the ASTA document deals with the prevention of email spoofing or forgery, which also received a boost last week. As I wrote in "SPF Protection for Email" in TidBITS-722, a proposal known as Sender Policy Framework would allow domain holders to state, via their domain name service (DNS) records, which mail servers on the Internet were legitimate to send email that includes their return address.
As noted in that article, Microsoft had a competing proposal known as Caller ID that used a similar but distinct approach. SPF looks at some basic information in the handshake that happens when one mail server talks to another; Caller ID looks at the body of the message, requiring more server load to figure out whether a message is valid or not.
Last Thursday, the developers of SPF merged their proposal with Caller ID into something called Sender ID, which was then submitted to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), a body whose proposals are typically turned into implemented realities. Sender ID will combine the best of both proposals and will subsume support for the SPF format.
Version 3.0 of Spam Assassin, which just became an officially supported project of the Apache Foundation - the folks who brought us the Apache Web server, among other server software - is about to be released with support for using Sender ID records as one of the factors in scoring incoming email as spam vs "ham."
Will Spam Slow Down? It's easy to be cynical and look at both announcements as more thumbs in the dike. The water level is rising and Dutch boys and duct tape won't cut it, right?
I'm slightly more optimistic. The lengthy list of best practices in the ASTA document do include some of the most egregious ISP failures. It's unclear if ISPs are unaware of these techniques or just choose not to devote resources to them. If the ASTA document provokes ISPs to identify zombies more aggressively and shut down their capability to send email out (i.e., block TCP/IP port 25) while the ISP notifies the customer, that alone could reduce spam significantly.
The only downside of these recommendations and proposals is that they could lead to what is essentially a whitelisted Internet: instead of blocking bad email, bad sites, and bad actors, only "good" actors would be allowed to deliver email, for instance. "Good" is always a hard quality to define, and there are reasons to allow ambiguity - not over spam, but over identity for reasons of privacy, sovereignty, and diversity.
Still, because these measures require unilateral participation by large numbers of ISPs to succeed, it's probably better to view them as more of the Internet spirit that allows decentralized information exchange.
by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Today's keynote from Steve Jobs at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco dished out the promised preview of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and its bundled applications. In the keynote, Jobs noted that over 50 percent of the installed base of Macs are now using Mac OS X, which amounts to 12 million users. That's up from the claim of 7 million users a year ago at WWDC, and although I'm not quite sure what to make of that 12 million number, it's not far from the 13.75 million Macs Apple sold from 2000 through 2003 (judging from the company's SEC 10-K filings). Nonetheless, Tiger will be Mac OS X's fifth major release since the operating system's introduction in 2000, and there's no question that Apple has made significant changes over that time.
You won't see Tiger this year though, since Apple is committing only to the first half of 2005 as a ship date. That could mean as early as January 2005 (expect to see a big preview at Macworld Expo in San Francisco, though I would be shocked to see Tiger ship then) or as late as June 2005. My money is on sometime in between, partly because it's the safest bet and partly because I believe Apple would want to use WWDC next year to preview what's coming rather than recap what just shipped. But software schedules are notoriously difficult to predict, particularly that far out, and particularly for an operating system, so there's no telling. The cost will once again be $130.
As with Panther, Apple is again touting 150 new features, although a few are more significant than others. Like everyone else, I'm seeing this stuff for the first time, so rather than attempt to repeat all the details here, I'll restrict myself to a short description of (and commentary about) each major new feature, along with a pointer to Apple's Web site, which you should read for details.
Spotlight -- With Spotlight, Apple aims to make it significantly easier to find data already on your hard disk. Spotlight won't just search filenames and content, as Mac OS X can do now; it will also be able to gather and search through metadata, much as iTunes and iPhoto can do with Smart Playlists and Smart Albums. Spotlight will power additional smarts: Smart Folders in the Finder (which could let you overlay different organizational structures on top of the basic hierarchical file system we have now), Smart Mailboxes in Mail (letting you group the same set of messages in different ways), and Smart Groups in Address Book.
It's good to see Apple acknowledging the need for more access to metadata about files and other data objects in the system, since as the amount of data we all accumulate increases, the more difficult it becomes to manage. Apple's metadata search engine will be able to extract some metadata from files automatically, and developers will be able to add their own metadata as well, making it possible to extend Spotlight's capabilities easily.
iChat AV for Tiger -- Immediately after iChat AV showed off audio and video chats, users started asking if they could include multiple people in an audio or video chat. Right now the answer is no, but that will change once Tiger ships. Multi-party audio chats will be limited to 10 participants; multi-party video chats to 3. As you would expect, the interface for iChat AV for Tiger is elegant, with a multi-party video chat showing each person an almost three-dimensional display, complete with subtle reflections on the "floor" in front of each person's picture. Multi-party audio chats lack the whizzy graphics, but add helpful sound-level meters, making it easy to see who is talking, even if you don't recognize voices. That's a feature I'd love to have on normal conference calls.
Apple also claims improved performance and picture quality, and while those will be welcome, I also hope to see reliability enhancements; the main reason I don't use audio and video chats more often is that at least some of the time it turns into a troubleshooting session via normal text chat for the first five minutes.
Safari RSS -- Although Apple's Safari RSS page is overenthusiastic about how RSS is a "new" technology, when in fact RSS has been around for years, it's still a major addition for Safari. RSS is a way of using HTTP to publish information, usually article headlines and summaries, though full articles are also possible, and in fact, you can read TidBITS Talk via RSS by getting the URL from the XML button on our Web Crossing version. You read RSS feeds using special programs like Ranchero Software's NetNewsWire. RSS support in Safari won't be unique; Opera 7 and the public beta of OmniWeb 5 both offer RSS features already, so it will remain to be seen how Safari's RSS support will stack up.
Other useful features in Safari RSS will include identity protection when using public Macs, the capability to save Web pages in an archive format and to email them directly, and to search your bookmarks. My take is that Safari RSS will be a nice improvement on Safari, but won't compete with the more full-featured browsers like OmniWeb and Opera.
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but Karelia Software wasn't flattered when an update to Apple's Sherlock mimicked Watson, and the same is true for Arlo and Perry. Apple has in the past purchased products or licensed code to include in the Mac OS, and it's unclear why the company seems unwilling to do that now, particularly given the open source underpinnings of Mac OS X and all the effort that goes into using those projects. The cost probably wouldn't be usurious, at least in comparison to the ill will generated by copying the work of small independent developers, both in the community at large and among developers who are being conditioned to avoid creating anything Apple might later take for itself.
The main consolation Arlo and Perry have is that Konfabulator is available now, whereas Dashboard may not ship for up to a year. In the meantime, you can enjoy Konfabulator even more with the just-released Konfabulator 1.7, which adds Unicode support and an Expose-like feature for showing all your Widgets at once on the same layer, separated from everything else that's showing.
Automator -- Dashboard may be an obvious knockoff, but it's less clear if Tiger's new Automator will threaten macro utilities like Script Software's iKey or CE Software's QuicKeys. Automator is a visual scripting environment for creating "workflows" that are sequences of "actions." Although it sounds like a macro utility when described like that (Apple calls it a "personal automation assistant" and has given it a little robot icon), the Automator Web page seems to point toward it having more of a link with AppleScript and Apple Events. We won't know quite where Automator fits for a while, but in the meantime, it's decidedly interesting.
VoiceOver -- For many people, using a Macintosh is visually difficult or impossible, and Apple is attempting to address that with VoiceOver, a new technology built into Tiger. VoiceOver enhances Mac OS X with a spoken interface that reads email and document files aloud, audibly describes the workspace, and provides a set of keyboard commands for navigating the entire operating system. It's difficult to extrapolate from Apple's description exactly how VoiceOver will work, but we can hope that it will make the Mac more accessible to those with disabilities.
.Mac Sync -- I've been tremendously disappointed in iSync, since Apple neither opened it up to other developers nor extended it to synchronizing files and other data between networked Macs. With Tiger, that should change, since Apple is building synchronization services into the operating system and opening them up to developers. Apple seems to be making a big deal of how Tiger's new sync engine will work with .Mac accounts to let you synchronize contacts and calendar, although it's unclear how that's different from what iSync provides now. Nevertheless, I hope Tiger's sync engine will enable much more than iSync has so far.
Tweaky Improvements -- Last, but by no means least, we come to the improvements that will primarily interest developers. Tiger will offer 64-bit memory addressing for memory- and CPU-intensive applications while retaining compatibility with existing 32-bit applications. 64-bit addressing will also improve code portability with other 64-bit Unix systems. Speaking of Unix, Tiger will upgrade to the FreeBSD 5.x kernel, provide command-line access to Spotlight, and offer access control lists for controlling access down to the file level. Xcode 2.0 will enhance Apple's development tools with visual modeling and design features, an integrated Apple Reference Library, improved Java support, and graphical debugging from remote machines. A pair of new architectures called Core Image and Core Video will enable developers to access the speed of the graphics processing unit (GPU) built into today's video cards. My impression is that Core Image and Core Video will basically enable faster and fancier eye candy than ever before. And while we're on the topic of video, Apple will be revving QuickTime to support H.264, a new MPEG-4 video codec (compressor/decompressor) that can display video on platforms from cell phones to high-definition TV; iChat AV for Tiger relies on H.264 for better picture quality without the need for additional bandwidth.
Tiger Server -- One more thing... As with previous Mac OS X releases, Apple also has a server version. Along with the improvements in Tiger, Tiger Server will include Weblog Server for publishing a weblog, an iChat server for protecting the privacy of internal communications (it will be compatible with open source Jabber clients for various operating systems), a variety of tools that aim to ease the process of migrating from Windows-based servers, server-based home directories for mobile users, a Software Update Server that lets administrators control the availability of Apple's updates for Tiger, an Internet Gateway Setup Assistant to simplify setting up Internet sharing services, and Apple's Xgrid clustering software.
Tiger Server shares the same amorphous ship date as Tiger itself - the first half of 2005 - and it will retail for $500 for 10 clients of $1,000 for an unlimited-client edition. It sounds good, and by adding services, Apple increases the likelihood that those of us with Panther Server or Jaguar Server will consider upgrading, something that's a good bit less likely than with desktop systems.
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iTunes Music Store in Europe -- Readers note VAT prices with the European stores and bemoan the lack of an iTMS in Canada. (8 message)
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