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Rejuvenated after a week's vacation, we're back with an abundance of Mac news, along with a 50%-off sale on all Take Control ebooks! While we were away, Apple introduced the 17-inch MacBook Pro, announced a Q2 $410 million profit, and expanded its computer recycling program. For those thinking about installing Windows on their Macs, Glenn Fleishman clears up confusion surrounding Microsoft's licensing. Glenn also notes Adobe's timeline for universal binary versions of Acrobat and the Creative Suite, and he spots the first ExpressCard device. Finally, Jeff Carlson looks at the useful simplicity of John Haney's Backdrop, and we note the releases of LaunchBar 4.1, GarageBand 3.0.2, Pages 2.0.1, Keynote 3.0.1, and Apple's Keyboard Update for Intel Macs.
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Apple Posts $410 Million Q2 2006 Profit -- Time to break out the tip jar: Apple reported just second-best performance for its second financial quarter of 2006.
Then again, maybe Steve Jobs and company won't be penniless anytime soon. Apple sold 1.1 million Macintosh computers and 8.5 million iPods during the quarter ending 01-Apr-06, compared to 1.07 million Macs and 5.3 million iPods one year ago. That translated to revenue of $4.36 billion and a net quarterly profit of $410 million. Apple's haul for the first financial quarter of 2006 broke company records with a $565 million profit, which included the holiday buying season. In a press release, Jobs boasted that the company has "generated over $10 billion in revenue and almost $1 billion in earnings in the first half of fiscal 2006" and cited success in the transition to Intel processors as well as strong online music sales. [JLC]
Apple Updates GarageBand, iWork, and More -- Apple posted a trio of updates while TidBITS was on hiatus last week. GarageBand 3.0.2, according to the company's terse announcement, "addresses issues with video handling, podcast exporting, and importing QuickTime markers. It also addresses a number of other minor issues." The update is a 32.2 MB download via Software Update or as a 30 MB stand-alone download.
Apple's iWork '06 updates also appear to be bug fixes. Pages 2.0.1 (a 20 MB download) sees repairs to its charting and image adjustment features, while Keynote 3.0.1 (a 39 MB download) tackles three-dimensional charts with textures; both also address other unspecified issues. Lastly, the Apple Keyboard Update 1.0 is a 12 MB download that improves reliability of the keyboard and mouse on the first Intel-based MacBook Pro, iMac, and Mac mini models. [JLC]
LaunchBar 4.1 Adds Scripts and Dictionary Lookups -- Objective Development has released LaunchBar 4.1, the latest version of their highly useful (and for some of us, utterly essential) keyboard-based launching utility. LaunchBar's basic approach remains unchanged: press a keyboard shortcut like Control-Spacebar; type an abbreviation that does not have to be pre-defined; and press Return (to open the item), right arrow (to access more data or related documents), or Spacebar (to start a search with the next bit of text you type). But LaunchBar 4.1 adds some helpful features, including the capability to look up words in Mac OS X's Dictionary application, a new indexing rule that scans a folder for AppleScript and shell scripts (including a bunch of new built-in scripts), new smart groups for personal and corporate contacts in Address Book, and new Address Book scanner options. Also improved are LaunchBar's general speed, recognition of URL fragments, iTunes support, Spotlight search, and Address Book browsing. LaunchBar 4.1 is a free upgrade for owners of LaunchBar 4.0; it's an 865K download, requires Mac OS X 10.2 or later, and is a universal binary. New copies cost $20 for individuals, $30 for a five-user family license, and $40 for businesses.
Perhaps what I like most about updates to LaunchBar, however, is the way they cause me to reexamine what LaunchBar can do for me. For instance, I use Now Contact for contacts, and although LaunchBar can't index my Now Contact file, realizing that made me remember that I could synchronize my contacts from Now Contact to Address Book, which LaunchBar can index. Plus, poking around in LaunchBar's search templates reminded me of several Web sites that I can search directly from within LaunchBar. I've tried similar utilities, but for speed and accurate guesses at my abbreviations, none have surpassed LaunchBar. [ACE]
by Mark H. Anbinder <email@example.com>
Apple marked the first day of this year's National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) conference in Las Vegas by introducing a 17-inch version of the Intel processor-based MacBook Pro line. The new high-end laptop replaces the 17-inch PowerBook G4 as the ideal computer for portable video production.
Sporting a 2.16 GHz Intel Core Duo processor, the new one-inch-thick MacBook Pro features a 17-inch 1680 by 1050 display that the company says is 36 percent brighter than the screen on its predecessor, and an ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics processor that can drive Apple's 30-inch Cinema Display. Unlike the 15-inch MacBook Pro, the new model has an 8x SuperDrive with double-layer support, one FireWire 800 port (in addition to one FireWire 400 port), as well as a third USB 2.0 port.
The laptop includes a built-in iSight video camera at the top of the display, an infrared remote control to access the included Front Row media software, and an ExpressCard/34 expansion card slot, and it features Apple's MagSafe power adapter, introduced in January 2006. Both AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth wireless functionality are included, but as with the 15-inch MacBook Pro, Apple has left out the built-in modem; an external USB modem is available separately. The new laptop costs $2,800 and is scheduled to begin shipping this week.
by Geoff Duncan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Apple has announced it is expanding its technology recycling program: beginning in June 2006, Apple will offer free recycling and disposal of old computers to U.S. customers who purchase a new Mac through the Apple online or retail stores. Apple says equipment received through the program will be recycled domestically without any hazardous materials being shipped overseas; according to Apple, more than 90 percent of electronic equipment it has collected since 2001 has been recycled.
Apple also announced that its iPod nano, iPod shuffle, and current fifth-generation iPod music players are fully compliant with upcoming restrictions on hazardous substances (RoHS) to be implemented in California, and in Europe on 01-Jul-06. The RoHS standards are being promoted as a global standard for environmental preservation, and restrict the use of hazardous substances such as cadmium, lead, hexavalent chromium, bromiated flame retardants, and mercury. Apple had previously come under fire from environmentalists because of the potential environmental impact of millions of iPods as owners discard older or malfunctioning units; Apple announced an iPod recycling program in June 2005.
by Glenn Fleishman <email@example.com>
Adobe Systems's CEO Bruce Chizen announced that the company will deliver universal binaries of their flagship design and production products by the end of the second quarter of 2007, according to IDG News Service. This puts the damper on any remaining idea that a universal binary would be a no-cost upgrade for users of Photoshop, the Creative Suite bundle, or Acrobat.
Acrobat 8 will reportedly be universal when it ships in the third quarter of this year. The next version of Creative Suite - Adobe's bundle of Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, GoLive, and other tools - will be universal when it ships in the first half of 2007.
While there was little doubt as to Adobe producing universal binaries for these products, the company chose not to offer a timetable until now, nor did it clarify whether a universal version would be a paid upgrade, although all bets were on money being involved.
The lack of Intel-native code produces slowdowns of 50 percent or more for processor-intensive tasks within Photoshop and other programs compared to the same tasks running natively on comparable systems. Reports indicate that the Rosetta on-the-fly translation system generally works well with Adobe programs, however.
Apple's most lucrative customers work in audio, video, and film production; online multimedia; and graphic design. Programs for these fields of endeavor have always taxed processors, and these users were the loudest voices (alongside the gaming community) in critiquing the previous lack of speed improvements in the PowerPC G5 line.
Apple has said that it will transition the entire Macintosh line to Intel-based chips by the end of 2006, and with Adobe on board for a second quarter 2007 universal Creative Suite release, it's likely that companies will start budgeting for upgrades.
While it's possible this news will further reduce the sales of Power Mac G5 desktops, it's hard to imagine that those who don't absolutely need computers would be purchasing them with Intel-based models not yet released. More likely, there will be a massive set of pent-up orders when the professional desktop model ships as pros will have a migration path for their most important software.
by Jeff Carlson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Part of writing about the Mac involves taking screenshots - lots and lots of screenshots. Anyone can snap a screenshot by pressing Command-3 to capture the entire screen or Command-4 to specify an area to be captured, but when you're creating hundreds of images, those tools are too blunt. Instead, I use Ambrosia Software's excellent Snapz Pro X, which offers much more control over what can be saved: the entire screen, a window or object (such as a single pop-up menu), or a user-defined rectangle (both for still images and movies). For the most part, I use the object capture feature to grab stuff like the iMovie interface or System Preferences window.
When Apple introduced Mac OS X, however, it threw a kink into this screenshot system: unlike Mac OS 9, windows in the Aqua interface have no borders; they're defined by their content and a drop shadow that makes them appear as if they're floating above other windows. When I would take a screenshot using Snapz Pro X's object-level capture, the drop shadow isn't included, which often led to a problem when a white dialog (such as the System Preferences window) would be printed on a white page: with no definite borders, the image can be confusing. Ambrosia introduced the capability to specify several border types as a result, including a Drop Shadow option, but it's a bit darker than the Aqua version; it also can't be used when I need to build a screenshot that includes more than one window, since applying the Snapz Pro X drop shadow would create the shadow around the entire capture area, not to each element.
One method of capturing native Aqua shadows has been to position a blank Microsoft Word (or other word processor) document behind the objects I want to grab, or set my Finder desktop image to white. But those options are clumsy. Instead, for a recent project I used John Haney's free Backdrop 1.4, a 103K download.
When I need to capture a screen, I bring Backdrop to the front, which obscures my other applications, and then click the program I need to shoot so that it's the frontmost application. Then I invoke Snapz Pro X. It's that simple.
Backdrop works well with multiple monitors, so I'm able to use my PowerBook's screen (my secondary display) for capturing images and my Dell 2005FPW monitor (my primary display) to work in Word, InDesign, or another application. In fact, Backdrop's preferences enable you to specify whether the program works on all displays or just one (it recognizes up to five).
You can also control whether Backdrop sits between applications as if it's just another program (which it is) or if it blanks out the desktop image and leaves icons visible (thereby saving you the trouble of switching in and out of the Desktop & Screen Saver preference pane).
And you're not limited to white. You can set any color as your backdrop. There are also a collection of Pixel Test colors (red, green, blue, black, white) to help you spot-check the quality of your monitor.
Finally, you can choose to display images. How is that different from setting a desktop image? You can create a reference image such as rectangles denoting common Web screen dimensions. For example, as I'm updating my book iMovie HD 6 & iDVD 6 for Mac OS X: Visual QuickStart Guide, I'm using this feature to maintain a consistent iMovie window size.
I'm also tempted to try using Backdrop as an anti-distraction agent, as Merlin Mann recently suggested on his 43 Folders site, which focuses on time-management techniques such as the David Allen's Getting Things Done system.
As I mentioned, Backdrop 1.4 is a free utility, and it's recently been updated as a universal binary to run natively on Intel-powered Macs.
by Glenn Fleishman <email@example.com>
MacBook Pro owners have been on the bleeding edge of portable technology, but I'm not talking about the new Intel processor. Apple replaced the aging PC Card interface with an ExpressCard slot, which has so far remained empty because there are no shipping ExpressCard devices for it. But at last there's a glimmer of hardware on the horizon.
I've been saying for months that ExpressCard adapters offering high-performance specialized peripheral and networking connections would start appearing as more laptops (from Apple and others) sold with ExpressCard slots. The ExpressCard slot connects directly to the PCI Express bus in the new Intel Core motherboard architecture, and allows data transfer of 2 gigabits per second in each direction (Gbps), or more than double the latest CardBus speeds.
At the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) 2006 conference, FirmTek announced that they would offer a Serial ATA (SATA) ExpressCard with up to 3 Gbps per port of throughput (measured bidirectionally). This is the kind of performance that high-end video editing requires, and the availability of this card is just another piece in putting together a portable high-performance editing suite. Slated to ship in the third quarter of this year, the card will cost just $120.
Later in the year, we'll see ExpressCards that handle FireWire 800 and faster, additional switched Gigabit Ethernet ports, and, I would guess, FibreChannel or something like it.
When Apple introduces a Power Mac replacement using Intel Core chips, I expect we'll see at least one ExpressCard/34 (or possibly the higher-wattage ExpressCard/54 format) in that new model. ExpressCard first showed up as a server feature, providing hot-swappable card insertion,which helps users avoid having to power down an active server to use the internal PCI Express bus.
by Glenn Fleishman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Over at The Seattle Times, you can read a long feature I wrote about installing Windows XP Service Pack 2 in three ways on an Intel iMac: with Boot Camp, via Parallels, and using Q. Most of this territory was covered in recent TidBITS articles with greater technical detail than I offered for a general newspaper audience (see "Apple Opens Boot Camp for Windows Users" and "WinOnMac Smackdown: Dual-Boot versus Virtualization" in TidBITS-825).
Some feedback from readers, however, makes it clear that Windows XP licensing terms are a matter of some confusion for those of us in the simpler world of "you buy a new copy with every Mac OS X release." True, Apple offers two consumer licenses: a 1-pack and a 5-user family pack. Other licensing programs are available, such as a 3-year software subscription I bought for an Xserve that provides full versions of every version of the operating system released during that 3-year period.
But Microsoft takes a different approach for Windows XP, and ostensibly for the forthcoming Windows Vista, too. Windows XP requires activation, a process that takes a snapshot of hardware on the computer, sends it to Microsoft to record along with your Windows XP serial number, and then allows Windows XP to continue to operate on that hardware. Activation must take place within 30 days of installation. If you substantially change your computer or move Windows XP to a new computer, you may encounter difficulties in activating a reinstalled copy.
There are full retail versions, which are shrinkwrapped and licensed for single computers. These are the most expensive copies to buy, costing nearly $200 for Windows XP Home and $300 for Pro. You can find slight discounts off retail prices if you hunt, dropping down $25 or so from the full price. I confirmed with Microsoft last week that a single-user license is not legal to install on both a Boot Camp partition and a virtual machine running on the same computer, even though those are not running at the same time.
There are also upgrade versions of Windows XP, costing $100 less than the full retail versions, but upgrade versions require an older version of Windows. You can install Windows XP over the earlier version, but I believe you can also create a new installation as long as you have the original media for the previous Windows version available to insert at the appropriate point to confirm your ownership. However, as Jeff Carlson pointed out to me, upgrading an old version of Windows entails installing both versions on a Mac, which, when you consider the time required to download service patches and security updates, could total many hours; he said he'd rather just pay the extra $100 for a recent full version of Windows XP and avoid all the hassle.
The so-called OEM (original equipment manufacturer) version of Windows XP is licensed and customized as a bundle with a computer. A few readers of my Seattle Times piece wrote in to note that you could purchase OEM versions that were "overstock" or "excess inventory" from several sites online often for a fraction of the full retail cost. Unfortunately, these OEM sales violate Microsoft's licensing agreement. There's no such thing as "excess inventory" of OEM copies because those copies are licensed to the computer makers on a per-computer basis. No computer, no license.
There's a lot of risk in purchasing these copies because the serial numbers are obviously in batches, and Microsoft can cancel (through its activation system) any outstanding serial numbers. They do this regularly for copies of Windows that circulate through online file-trading systems. There's also apparently a fair amount of dodginess among companies that offer OEM copies since, technically, they shouldn't be selling them. Microsoft designed several points of authenticity on Windows XP packaging and media, and if you're going to walk on the twilight side of this particular licensing avenue, you should know what a legitimate copy of XP looks like so you can confirm it's real when it arrives.
(One TidBITS regular noted to me via email after I posted this article on ExtraBITS that there are even cracked, back-door OEM versions for sale that have spyware/malware baked right in. Purchasing a so-called OEM copy from a shady firm could lead to an immediate compromise of the machine you installed it on. While this sounds a bit like 1950s advice about avoiding loose ladies, it's completely feasible as selling an OEM copy already puts a company over a certain legal line.)
Finally, many companies purchase volume licenses from Microsoft for flexibility in administration and installation. These volume licenses avoid some of the complexity of managing serial numbers among large numbers of users and reduce the cost considerably from full retail purchase price. Companies that have volume licenses will be able to use those licenses to install Windows XP on Boot Camp partitions or virtual machines.
Now, I don't want to be seen as defending the particular terms that govern these licenses. I don't hold a brief for the cost of Apple's or Microsoft's operating systems - I've long thought Apple greedy in not offering some form of upgrade license for Mac OS X - but I want to make sure that Mac owners understand the grief that can result from buying the wrong version of Windows XP.
by Adam C. Engst <email@example.com>
50 Percent Off Spring Ebook Sale! Here in upstate New York, spring is in the air, we're back from vacation, and we're feeling lighthearted. For the next week (through 08-May-06), you can save 50 percent off any order of Take Control ebooks. Click the link below to start shopping and have the necessary coupon code applied automatically (look at the upper right of the first screen of the shopping cart). Remember that you'll save more with the sale than with any bundles, so it's best to order multiple ebooks from our catalog or to add them once you're in the shopping cart.
Whether it's spring in your part of the world or not, if your Mac needs a spring cleaning, don't miss the savvy advice in "Take Control of Maintaining Your Mac," "Take Control of Mac OS X Backups," and "Take Control of Permissions in Mac OS X," all of which will help you run a trouble-free Mac. And, if you haven't tuned into our catalog lately, check out our other recent titles - "Take Control of Making Music with GarageBand," "Take Control of Podcasting on the Mac," "Take Control of iWeb" (pre-order, with the final draft available for reading while we finish editing and production), and the "Macworld Digital Photography Superguide."
by TidBITS Staff <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The first link for each thread description points to the traditional TidBITS Talk interface; the second link points to the same discussion on our Web Crossing server, which provides a different look and which may be faster.
Mac malware checker? What spyware-removal tools are available for the Mac, and are they needed? (13 messages)
Looking for DiskWarrior Justification -- Alsoft's disk directory recovery tool can be a lifesaver in an emergency, but is it a cure for all hard disk ills? (32 messages)
Windows XP Tips and Tricks follow-up -- Kevin van Haaren adds more information following his article on Windows XP for Mac users. (17 messages)
Remote Desktop 3 -- Readers discuss the latest version of Apple's remote-control application, including setting custom port access and encryption. (3 messages)
NovaMind -- A reader looks for opinions on NovaMind versus Inspiration or ConceptDraw MindMap Pro as tools for diagramming and brainstorming. (2 messages)
Apple and the Environment -- Readers discuss Apple's new extension of its computer recycling program. (15 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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