Previous Issue | Search TidBITS | TidBITS Home Page | Next Issue

TidBITS Logo

TidBITS#911/21-Jan-08

Apple promised "something in the air" for last week's Macworld Expo and delivered the MacBook Air, a super-thin (and fairly aerodynamic if you want to test its moniker) laptop that relies heavily on wireless networking. We're back from the show and cover the MacBook Air as well as the new Time Capsule wireless backup device (including why some Mac users are upset about it), iTunes movie rentals, the Apple TV 2.0 update, and changes to the iPhone and iPod touch software. If you weren't in San Francisco, Glenn put together a podcast interviewing industry notables and friends of TidBITS, Tonya noticed an increase in women attendees, and Adam looks at how this year's expo marks a change in how vendors are operating within the Mac market. We also cover the important QuickTime 7.4 security update (and how it still needs more work), and the releases of iMovie 7.1.1 and Front Row 2.1.2. And in non-Expo news, Joe Kissell offers an AppleScript solution to pasting unformatted text in Word 2008.
 
Articles
 

This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:
Help support TidBITS by supporting our sponsors!

QuickTime 7.4 Improves Security, but Not Enough

  by Jeff Carlson <jeffc@tidbits.com>

Apple updated its media workhorse QuickTime to version 7.4 last week, fixing bugs and adding support for new iTunes features such as downloadable movie rentals. But the more important news is that this version squashes a handful of security holes that could allow remote attacks. However, a serious vulnerability discovered shortly before Macworld Expo demonstrates that Apple's engineers need to remain hard at work.

The QuickTime 7.4 update is available for Leopard (a 55 MB download), Tiger (a 51 MB download), Panther (a 50 MB download), and Windows (both XP and Vista, a 22 MB download).

The most recent exploit, not addressed in QuickTime 7.4, takes advantage of a hole in QuickTime's RTSP (Real Time Streaming Protocol) that could open a computer to a denial-of-service attack or possible remote code execution. (RTSP is not a new target; see "Protect Yourself from the QuickTime RTSP Vulnerability," 2007-09-07.) Because QuickTime is the underlying technology of iTunes, Macs and Windows computers running QuickTime are vulnerable. Anyone who uses iTunes or owns an iPod should update.

Bookmark at: del.icio.us | digg | reddit | Slashdot | Yahoo! MyWeb


iMovie 7.1.1 and Front Row 2.1.2 Released

  by Jeff Carlson <jeffc@tidbits.com>

While the keynote address at Macworld Expo garners all the attention, Apple usually pushes out a few other updates at the same time that aren't as exciting. (The 802.11n AirPort Extreme Base Station wasn't mentioned at all last year; see "AirPort Extreme Updated," 2007-09-07.) This year, Front Row and iMovie received the silent update treatment.

According to Apple, iMovie 7.1.1 "addresses issues when publishing movies to a .Mac Web Gallery, improves overall stability, and addresses a number of other minor issues." The update is available via Software Update or as a 16 MB download.

Front Row 2.1.2 receives even less description, noting only that the update includes bug fixes and improved compatibility with iTunes (presumably to handle movie rentals). The update is also available via Software Update or as a 16.8 MB download.

Bookmark at: del.icio.us | digg | reddit | Slashdot | Yahoo! MyWeb


Taste of Macworld Keynote Day Podcast

  by Glenn Fleishman <glenn@tidbits.com>

Have you ever thought of attending Macworld Expo in San Francisco, but decided that the price of airfare, hotel, and admission (cheap for the exhibit hall, high for conference tracks) wasn't in your budget? Our coverage will provide most of the high-level details you need to know what went on, but it won't give you the feel for what it's like to be at the show. This year we tried something a little different, and you can get a taste of what Macworld is like through the associated podcast - click Listen to hear about 25 minutes of discussions and jocularity before and after the keynote, as I spoke to friends and colleagues.

The list of notables, in order, includes:

Bookmark at: del.icio.us | digg | reddit | Slashdot | Yahoo! MyWeb


DealBITS Drawing: Win a Copy of the MathMagic Equation Editor

  by Adam C. Engst <ace@tidbits.com>

Do you need to create equations for papers, reports, or other publications? If so, you'll want to enter this week's DealBITS drawing to win one of three copies of InfoLogic's MathMagic Personal Edition 5.65, which enables you to create complex equations and export them in TeX, EPS, GIF, JPEG, and PICT format for use with word processors, presentation programs, and graphics software. MathMagic Personal Edition (with two years of free upgrades) is a $119.95 value. Entrants who aren't among our lucky winners will receive a discount on MathMagic Personal Edition, so be sure to enter at the DealBITS page. All information gathered is covered by our comprehensive privacy policy. Remember too, that if someone you refer to this drawing wins, you'll receive the same prize as a reward for spreading the word.

Bookmark at: del.icio.us | digg | reddit | Slashdot | Yahoo! MyWeb


MacBook Air Introduced as World's Thinnest Notebook

  by TidBITS Staff <editors@tidbits.com>

Billing it as the world's thinnest notebook computer, Apple announced the MacBook Air, a 3-pound Mac that fills out the company's portable line between the inexpensive MacBook at the low end and the powerful MacBook Pro at the high end. During his keynote address at Macworld Expo, Steve Jobs demonstrated the new machine's slim profile by sliding it out of a standard interoffice manila envelope (a trick that also appears in a new television ad). The slightly wedge-shaped computer ranges in thickness from 0.76 inches (19.3mm) on the hinge side to a mere 0.16 inches (4mm) at the front.

[View image]

The MacBook Air offers many whizzy features that you'd expect from a new Apple laptop: a full-size, backlit keyboard with an ambient light sensor; a built-in iSight camera; 802.11n and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) wireless support; a magnetic latch; and a 45 watt power adapter with a MagSafe connector (note that the MagSafe connector is slightly different from previous MagSafe connectors). Its "generously sized" trackpad borrows gesture support from the iPhone's multi-touch display, meaning that with various combinations of finger movements you can zoom, pan, rotate photos, move windows, and perform other actions without having to worry about the exact location of your mouse pointer or manipulating tiny on-screen controls. The gestures can be turned off and on in the Trackpad view of the Keyboard & Mouse preference pane.

Apart from the power connector, the only physical interfaces on the MacBook Air (all hidden beneath a small flip-down door) are a single USB 2.0 port, a micro-DVI video port, and a headphone jack. Notably absent is an Ethernet port, although Apple offers a $29 USB-to-Ethernet adapter as an option. In addition, the MacBook Air is the first Apple computer since 2000 not to include any form of FireWire port, and it lacks even a slot for a security cable (a real pity given how tempting it will be to swipe one of these machines). Another interesting omission is that of an Apple Remote, though users can purchase one for an additional $19.

The MacBook Air features a glossy 13.3-inch, 1280-by-800-pixel display with LED backlighting - the same physical size and resolution as the existing MacBook's display. At Apple's request, Intel created a special version of the Core 2 Duo CPU for the MacBook Air; the processor is 60 percent smaller than those in Apple's other laptops. It's also slower, with the base model clocking in at only 1.6 GHz, plus an option to switch to a 1.8 GHz processor. The computer comes standard with 2 GB of RAM, which is not upgradeable.

In order to save space, the MacBook Air uses a 1.8 inch hard drive (the same size found in some iPod models). The standard configuration features an 80 GB, 4200-rpm drive. However, Apple also offers, for the first time, a 64 GB solid-state drive, which is somewhat faster - especially compared to the relatively slow 1.8-inch drive - and enormously more shock-resistant, and has slightly lower power requirements (though at a significantly higher price). (Reportedly, the 160 GB drive found in the high-end iPod Classic - which uses two platters for storage - is too tall to fit into the MacBook Air's svelte case.)

Apple claims 5 hours of battery life for the MacBook Air, even with wireless networking active; Apple told us that battery life could be increased slightly by disabling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Although one would suspect that figure would increase with the solid-state drive option, Apple said in a briefing that the difference is negligible. It's a good thing the battery life is so long, too, since the battery is not removable - another first in an Apple laptop. It can be replaced at an Apple Store for $129 without being sent in for service, Apple said. The battery, like that of the iPhone, is expected to retain at least 80 percent of its capacity after hundreds of complete recharge cycles.

The machine has no optical drive, though an external USB SuperDrive is available for $99. However, Apple thinks most users won't need one, thanks to a new technology called Remote Disc, which enables the MacBook Air to mount CDs and DVDs inserted in other computers - even Windows PCs - with the permission of the computer's owner. A preference can also be set to allow automatic mounting.

Remote Disc even allows network-based installation and upgrade of Mac OS X through a network boot, a feature previously found only in Mac OS X Server, meant as a tool for network administrators. This feature requires a choice at startup - probably holding down certain keys as with the server-based Net Install - that we were unable to determine by publication time.

Remote Disc can share discs on any Tiger, Leopard, Windows XP, or Windows Vista system. However, Apple told us that Remote Disc would work for mounting only on a MacBook Air. We hope Apple expands the availability of the feature - likely requiring firmware changes in other models - as an additional option for flexibility and disaster recovery for other Mac owners.

Steve Jobs made a special point of enumerating the environmentally friendly features of the MacBook Air. It has a fully recyclable aluminum case; a mercury-free display with arsenic-free glass; circuit boards that are BFR-free and PVC-free; and retail packaging that occupies 56 percent less volume than that of the existing MacBook. These changes were well-received by the audience, though Greenpeace is still pushing Apple to go even further, perhaps to a fully compostable Mac.

Apple is now accepting pre-orders for the MacBook Air, which Jobs said would begin shipping two weeks following the announcement. The base model, with an 80 GB hard drive and a 1.6 GHz processor, costs $1,799. Swapping the hard drive for the 64 GB solid state drive adds a whopping $999 to the price, while upgrading to a 1.8 GHz processor adds $300.

Bookmark at: del.icio.us | digg | reddit | Slashdot | Yahoo! MyWeb


iTunes Movie Rentals and Apple TV, Take 2

  by TidBITS Staff <editors@tidbits.com>

Furthering Apple's expansion into consumer electronics and entertainment, Steve Jobs announced at Macworld Expo a significant change to the iTunes Store business model - movie rentals. Interestingly, Jobs introduced the movie rentals by talking first about the iTunes Store successes - 4 billion songs and 125 million TV shows sold - before admitting that the company wasn't happy about selling only 7 million movies so far. By adding the movie rental business to the iTunes Store, Apple was able to sign up all the major movie studios along with a number of smaller ones, a feat that had previously eluded the company.

By the end of February 2008, Apple plans to have 1,000 movies available for rental in the United States (with an international release of the program slated for later this year), and new releases will appear in the iTunes Store for rental 30 days after the DVD availability. The movies will be available in DVD quality (at roughly 640 x 480 resolution, depending on the movie's aspect ratio). Older movies cost $2.99; new releases are $3.99. Once you've rented a movie, you have 30 days to watch it, and you must finish watching within 24 hours after you start. (This is comparable to the viewing restrictions on movies rented via Amazon Unbox, which only supports TiVo DVRs and Windows computers.) You can still purchase some movies, but many are available only for rent.

Movies can, of course, be watched on Macs and PCs in iTunes, on the current generation of iPods, and on the iPhone. But as Jobs noted, most people watch movies on large screen TVs, and in another burst of humility, he admitted that the Apple TV has been disappointing, associating it with failed efforts from numerous other companies. That served as the springboard for the next announcement, of a significant software update to the Apple TV that enables users to rent movies directly from the iTunes Store without the need for any computer. The Apple TV update, which will be a free software update available for all owners two weeks following the announcement, features a redesigned user interface that also provides access to audio and video podcasts, can display photos from Flickr and .Mac, plays videos from YouTube, and lets users purchase music and TV shows from the iTunes Store for direct playback and syncing to computers.

The revised Apple TV is also capable of renting high-definition movies, with Dolby 5.1 surround sound, from the iTunes Store for $1 more than the DVD-quality versions; older movies cost $3.99 and new releases cost $4.99. Other devices, even Macs running monitors capable of viewing high-def content, are excluded from HD rentals.

Jobs also announced that the price for the 40 GB Apple TV, previously $299, would drop to $229; the 160 GB model dropped from $399 to $329. It would have been more interesting had Apple seriously slashed the price, say to $99, in an attempt to drive a vast number of purchases and associated movie rentals.

Bookmark at: del.icio.us | digg | reddit | Slashdot | Yahoo! MyWeb


Time Capsule Bundles AirPort Base Station and Backup Disk

  by TidBITS Staff <editors@tidbits.com>

Time Machine backups from Leopard can now fly through the air with the greatest of ease, not just over a Wi-Fi network to another Mac running Leopard, but to a new "backup appliance" called Time Capsule. According to Steve Jobs, the Time Capsule is a "full 802.11n AirPort Extreme Base Station with all the ports in the back." Showing a slide with a laptop connected to an external drive, Jobs bemoaned the annoyance of connecting and disconnecting the cable.

Time Capsule, which looks like a larger version of the square AirPort Extreme Base Station shipped in 2007 (7.7 inches or 197mm versus 6.5 inches or 165mm), is intended to back up multiple Macs - for instance, all Macs in a household or small office workgroup - and it includes either 500 GB or 1 TB of storage. The new device costs $299 or $499, depending on drive capacity, which puts the 1 TB model at a bit of a premium in comparison to the average prices of raw drives.

Time Machine currently cannot back up to a NAS (network-attached storage) drive, such as one that you might attach via USB to an AirPort Extreme Base Station. Apple originally promised Leopard would include AirPort Disk backups to AirPort Extreme-connected drives, but that feature was dropped prior to Leopard's release.

While 802.11n can offer speeds as fast as 90 Mbps when using the less widely used 5 GHz band, it also supports the slower 802.11g (roughly 20 Mbps at best) and 802.11b (5 Mbps) standards - supported by the original AirPort Extreme and the original AirPort. Backing up over 802.11g or 802.11b could be painfully slow and clog the rest of the network.

Given that Jobs announced software updates to other hardware devices, such as Apple TV and the iPod touch, at the keynote, the lack of an announcement about the existing 802.11n AirPort Extreme Base Stations would seem to indicate that Apple does not have an update for them that will enable Time Machine support for NAS drives. That's strange, since it would seem that the technical problems that reportedly caused AirPort Disk support to be dropped from Time Machine would also afflict the Time Capsule, so perhaps a future update will offer that promised functionality. Apple also gave no indication when Time Machine will fully support FileVault encrypted user accounts, another important feature for security-conscious mobile users.

Time Capsule also works as a NAS volume, along with any additional drives you attach via USB to Time Capsule.

In the years we've written about backups at TidBITS - starting with floppies; moving through early, middle, and late tape systems; and continuing now with hard drives - we've consistently complained about the lack of a simple, configuration-free software and hardware offering that would pair with a Mac. Now we have it.

For those who haven't already settled on a serious backup strategy or invested in backup drives, the Time Capsule may prove to be a popular device, especially for backing up multiple 802.11n-enabled Macs on the same network. For a single Mac, if you can cope with the horror of a cable, a regular external drive is a significantly cheaper option. Further, Time Capsule seems best for those who don't already have older gear or an established backup strategy: those who already have NAS drives and AirPort Extreme base stations may be frustrated at the apparent lack of an upgrade path, and those backing up Macs with slower 802.11 standards will likely find that Time Machine backs up too slowly to be usable. However, in shipping Time Capsule, Apple has further emphasized how serious they are about Time Machine as a core feature in Leopard.

Bookmark at: del.icio.us | digg | reddit | Slashdot | Yahoo! MyWeb


Time Capsule and Its Associated Rage Factor

  by Glenn Fleishman <glenn@tidbits.com>

Time Capsule is rather cool. The new hardware device from Apple, introduced at Macworld Expo last week in San Francisco, combines a complete AirPort Extreme Base Station with gigabit Ethernet (the model released late in the second quarter of 2007) and an internal hard drive at a reasonable price for the combination. That AirPort Extreme Base Station by itself costs $179, making the $299 price for 500 GB and $499 price for 1 TB a decent deal. (See "Time Capsule Bundles AirPort Base Station and Backup Disk," 2008-01-15.)

The Time Capsule is designed to act as a Time Machine backup drive for a network, offering a capability that otherwise requires a networked Mac running file sharing in Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard to act as the backup destination. The Time Capsule drive can also be mounted like a network-attached storage (NAS) server.

(Before you ask: Time Capsule really is just a hard drive in a case combined with the current AirPort Extreme base station hardware. There are no extra features, unless you count the absence of a power brick. Unlike the regular AirPort Extreme, Time Capsule has an internal AC-to-DC converter and needs only a supplied power cord.)

But this simple device has produced a lot of anger. All week I heard people asking the question and then getting somewhat mad at the answer: "Can I now plug a regular drive into an older AirPort Extreme via USB and use that with Time Machine?" No, dear readers, no.

I've now heard from many people with connections to Apple engineers that the Time Machine support for NAS volumes on the AirPort Extreme was pulled from Leopard before the operating system shipped because of reliability issues. (Roughly Drafted published email from a reader explaining this back in November 2007; Joe Kissell discussed overall Time Machine problems, including this one, in "Time Machine: The Good, the Bad, and the Missing Features," 2007-10-28.)

But if Apple can now reliably write backups to a hard drive connected via Serial ATA, why can't it handle a drive connected via USB? And what does it say about the NAS support if backups can't be reliably written?

It's a mystery, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the answer will be a firmware upgrade for the current AirPort Extreme Base Station that accompanies the actual release of the Time Capsule next month. Hopefully that upgrade will be free, because many people bought an AirPort Extreme for the express purpose of using Time Machine with it.

Bookmark at: del.icio.us | digg | reddit | Slashdot | Yahoo! MyWeb


iPhone and iPod touch Become Self-Aware

  by TidBITS Staff <editors@tidbits.com>

Last year's Macworld Expo was devoted almost exclusively to the iPhone, and despite speculation of a hardware refresh to a 3G iPhone, this year's keynote delivered a few welcome software improvements available at no cost to the 4 million iPhone owners who bought one in the first 200 days of sales. The iPod touch was also brought into greater software parity with the iPhone, but existing owners must pay $20 to get the goods.


Google Maps Improvements -- Google's Maps application is truly one of the killer apps of the iPhone, but one limitation has been especially maddening: it doesn't know where you are (even though by law your iPhone, and all recent cell phones, can roughly determine your location for emergency calls). We find ourselves having to enter "espresso seattle" or "cupcakes 98103" to tell Maps where to narrow the search.

Now, however, the iPhone gains the capability to triangulate its position using a combination of accessible cellular tower locations and the locations of recognizable Wi-Fi access points. Apple said that Google provides the cell tower location data, while Skyhook Wireless provides the Wi-Fi locations.

Skyhook Wireless has trucks constantly driving the largest cities in the United States and many cities worldwide, matching the unique identifiers of all Wi-Fi networks (not just public hotspots) against coordinates retrieved from a GPS receiver on the truck. Jobs said that Skyhook has 25 million networks recorded - but Skyhook probably has billions of snapshots that match each network with a point on the globe. (For more about Skyhook's service, see "Loki Here," 2007-06-18, which focused on their Loki toolbar. Also see a competing approach in "Glimpse of GPS Future in iPhone Hack," 2007-09-21.)

It's unclear whether the iPhone must be connected to a Wi-Fi network to find the current location because the iPhone has the EDGE network for data connections, too. The iPhone could scan the current Wi-Fi network environment and send a query with those locations over EDGE, but it's possible you have to be on a Wi-Fi network to obtain a location via Wi-Fi. Skyhook Wireless had previously told Glenn about a several megabyte database that could provide cached information that would be updated over time. The iPod touch, without a cell radio, clearly has to make a Wi-Fi-based Internet connection, and may also use a local database.

Once Maps shows you on a map where you are, you can ask it for directions to where you'd like to go. You can also use a virtual pin to bookmark locations. The pin is new, too: there was no good way in previous versions of the iPhone firmware to mark arbitrary locations (such as where you parked your car, to use Apple's example) in the Maps application.


Home Screen Customization -- In advance of the anticipated software development kit for the iPhone in "late February," the new iPhone software allows users to customize the home screens of their iPhones. Being able to rearrange, add, and subtract icons from the home screen is welcome: simply tap and hold on the home screen, which makes the application icons wiggle like kids on a sugar high. You can then drag the icons to whatever location you like, even moving them to the iPhone's dock.

Even more welcome is the addition of eight more customizable home screens - it looks a bit like Spaces on the iPhone. Drag an icon to the left or right side of the screen to slide into the next space; the dock remains constant on every screen.


Web Clips -- When Web bookmarks aren't good enough, the new Web Clips feature can jump in. Web Clips lets you save a Web site as a button on the iPhone or iPod touch home screen. Tap the Plus button (now relocated to the bottom of the screen) to share the page, and choose Add to Home Screen.

The advantage of Web Clips, however, is that you can save just a portion of a Web page as a clip by zooming in and panning to a particular spot and creating the bookmark. You could zoom in on the Most Popular Articles sidebar on the TidBITS home page and get back to just that information in the future, for example.


SMS for Multiple People -- With this new feature, you can send a single SMS message to several people at once. Apple has added a simple plus-sign button to the To: field of the New Message screen that enables you to add multiple people from your contact list, just as you would add people to a mail message.

A cynic would note that SMS is among the most profitable service of any kind ever developed. The iPhone service plans include 200 messages per month as part of a basic plan, while $10 extra gets you 1,500 messages, and $20 extra gets you unlimited messages. That extra $10 or $20 per month (or 15 cents per message for exceeding your monthly limit) is almost entirely profit, and each additional party to whom you send a message counts against your total.


Improved iPod -- Also new in the iPhone 1.1.3 update is support for chapters, subtitles, and multiple languages in videos, and support for displaying lyrics on top of cover art when music tracks are playing.


Enhanced iPod touch -- The $20 iPod touch update, available through the iTunes Store, adds five of the iPhone's core applications - Mail, Maps, Stocks, Notes, and Weather. The update also includes Web Clips and home-screen customization, as well as the iPod features mentioned above. With this update, Apple has moved the iPod touch much closer to the iPhone, making it less of a hobbled also-ran. The only things missing are the camera, microphone, and cellular access (and the monthly phone bill!).

New iPod touches will come with the software update, but if you are shopping in the near term, make sure you know what you are getting. There's no word yet on whether Apple is providing a grace period for devices just purchased, or currently on store shelves, that have the older firmware installed. (The $20 charge may be due to an accounting issue, which came up with the 802.11n enabler upgrade for Macs sold with 802.11n chips in late 2006 and early 2007 that wasn't enabled; see "Two Bucks for 100 Mbps 802.11n Enabler," 2007-09-07. Features that are beyond what's promised in a sale have to be accounted for separately. Apple could have revised its earnings and eaten the cost, too; that's equally legitimate. That said, the software update for Apple TV is available for free, even though it clearly offers new features.)


Other Changes -- A few smaller updates have also appeared in the new software update. Support for IMAP mail via Google is now incorporated into the Mail application, and you can now purchase songs from the iTunes Wi-Fi Store using gift codes.


A Healthy Market -- Jobs shared some market statistics on the iPhone, noting that the most recent numbers provided by research firm Gartner covered only the third quarter of 2007 in the United States, so this doesn't reflect what were apparently stronger sales later in the year due to the iPhone's European introduction. The iPhone had garnered 19.5 percent of the U.S. smartphone market, behind only RIM's 39 percent share for its BlackBerry series of devices. The iPhone's share was roughly equivalent to the sum of the next three vendors - Palm at 9.8 percent, Motorola at 7.4 percent, and Nokia at 1.3 percent - and to the large "Other" segment at 20.2 percent. (The Windows Mobile OS was part of the Other and Motorola figure, and not broken out.)

Bookmark at: del.icio.us | digg | reddit | Slashdot | Yahoo! MyWeb


More Women at Macworld Expo?

  by Tonya Engst <tonya@tidbits.com>

From what I could see, a lot of women attended Macworld Expo this year. While the wait to use one of the more popular restrooms was sometimes annoying, it was wonderful to see so many women at the usually male-dominated Expo. Kathryn Vercillo shared this observation in her Mac-Forums blog post, "The Women of Macworld," where she particularly noted the appearance of more women speaking in the conference tracks.

Paul Kent, General Manager for Macworld Conference & Expo, said that most of the Macworld Expo staff are taking a few well-deserved days off after the show, so he didn't yet have statistics on the number of female show-goers to share. However, he did comment, "Subjectively, the audience this year seemed particularly energized, diverse, and enthusiastic. There was a lot of growth (15 to 20 percent more attendees), so I'm thinking we'll be sharing a lot of 'new' participants at the show. I sincerely hope that female participation maps accordingly."

Strikingly, options for buying laptop bags with more feminine touches - many from woman-run companies - were also on the upswing, with choices ranging from classy leathers to light-hearted fabrics that went far beyond the usual basic black. We'll be running a photo-infused TidBITS article about bags at the show shortly, so stay tuned. Regrettably, as is so often the case for us women, form took the lead over function, and I spotted only one backpack case with a feminine design.

Women are usually welcomed at Macworld Expo, a sentiment supported by a recent Joy of Tech poll, where readers were asked, "What category of Mac celebrity do you like the best?" and the winner - by a significant margin - was "It's all about the Mac chicks... sure you might be a geek, you've still got that old need to breed." However, the people - likely single guys - who responded to the Joy of Tech survey seem to have missed the memo about the best way to make women feel welcome. While we women at Macworld Expo do know how to wield chic-looking laptop bags, whether we're out to hook up with a Mac geek is another question entirely. When it comes to women in the industry these days (apologies to ZZ Top), we've got Macs, and we know how to use them.

Bookmark at: del.icio.us | digg | reddit | Slashdot | Yahoo! MyWeb


Mac Industry Marching to a Different Beat

  by Adam C. Engst <ace@tidbits.com>

The Macintosh industry continues to grow and gain steam, but it's no longer purely following in Apple's footsteps, a significant new trend that became evident at last week's Macworld Expo in San Francisco. The last few years of the show have all been upbeat, energetic, and increasingly large, and this year was no exception. But where this year's Expo diverged was in the extent to which the exhibitors are capitalizing on the overall success of the Mac and the iPhone but showing products and services in areas that Apple has left more or less untouched.

As a starting point, consider Apple's own keynote announcements. The updates to the iPhone, iPod touch, and Apple TV all underscored Apple's ever-increasing focus on consumer electronics, and the addition of movie rentals to the iTunes Store was the latest salvo in Apple's battle to maintain its position as the dominant provider of online entertainment. The MacBook Air, on the other hand, supports Apple's core Macintosh business and may prove more influential than its somewhat anemic specs would indicate due to the attraction sub-notebooks have for travelling executives. Time Capsule is interesting mostly in the way it aids Time Machine backups; it supports the Apple backup story in ways few third-party developers have been able to do so far.

But despite the numerous vendors showing iPod and iPhone cases at Macworld Expo, and a wide variety of iPod-compatible speaker systems, numerous companies exhibited products that have little to do with Apple's primary markets.

For instance, there was much speculation before the show that Apple would announce a tablet Mac or scaled-up iPod touch, but not only did that not happen, another company - Axiotron - finally shipped their long-simmering ModBook (announced at last year's Macworld Expo), which converts a standard MacBook into the much-desired tablet Mac. Perhaps Apple considers the tablet Mac market too much of a niche, but the crowds around the Axiotron booth clearly wanted to get their hands on one.

Enterprise companies like Iron Mountain (organization-wide backup) and IBM (corporate databases) were out in force at the show, despite Apple's focus on the consumer world. The Iron Mountain rep told me that the company didn't have any particular intention of creating a Macintosh client for their backup system until their enterprise customers started buying Apple laptops and asking to have them backed up with the rest of the company's Windows-based computers. In the past, companies would get into the Macintosh space because they were passionate about the Mac; now we're seeing companies almost forced to create Mac products purely because there is a customer base to satisfy and money to be made.

We even saw companies like Polar Bear Farm showing iPhone applications in advance of Apple's release of the iPhone software development kit (SDK). This is a company that can't even use the iPhone without jailbreaking and unlocking it, since Apple doesn't sell the iPhone in New Zealand yet. The company was demonstrating applications that can't be purchased, based on a business model - how Apple will allow iPhone applications to be sold - that remains unknown. (And no, there are no polar bears native to New Zealand - they live only in the northern hemisphere.)

Other companies showed products that were even further afield. CodeFlare's TileStack.com makes it possible to create Web applications from old HyperCard stacks; the company's HyperTalk compiler also enables the creation of entirely new Web applications. (For those who haven't been using the Mac as long as we've been writing about it, HyperCard was an innovative "software erector set" created by Bill Atkinson and distributed for a time with every Mac; we published TidBITS in HyperCard format for the first two years. Apple never understood the utility and popularity of HyperCard and let it fade away many years ago despite impassioned pleas from the HyperCard developer community.) Another company, reQall, was showing a technology that enables you to create to-dos by voice recognition on a toll-free telephone number (you could also use a Web site); it could then remind you of your tasks via email, instant message, SMS, RSS, or a Web interface. The only connection with Apple was that you could use reQall on an iPhone - that's pretty tenuous.

The industry's different beat extends to the traditional Macworld Expo schedule as well. Although the show date has been known for at least a year and was even a week later than normal this year, a surprising number of companies were showing products that weren't shipping. EMC was perhaps the most notable among this group, showing only screenshots of Retrospect X and promising a public beta for the third quarter of 2008. There were also plenty of other examples: Parallels Server and VMware Fusion Server, which enable users to virtualize multiple copies of Leopard Server, were in beta and preview releases, respectively. DisplayLink's product for adding up to four monitors to any Mac via USB 2.0 clearly worked, but was far too slow for actual usage; the company anticipates a usable release in the first half of 2008. The iTornado device for easily transferring data between Macs and PCs (or between two Macs) is slated to ship in March 2008. Now Software's Nighthawk update to Now Up-to-Date & Contact is now slated for release by the middle of 2008. Iron Mountain is beta testing their Connected Backup Mac client. And so on...

Clearly, appearing at Macworld Expo was deemed important enough to justify the significant cost and effort, but seemingly not sufficiently important to ensure that the products were ready in time to be purchased at the show. Perhaps, and I realize I may be stretching to make a point here, just as we're seeing the Mac industry exerting an increasing independence from Apple, we're also seeing the industry treat Macworld Expo more as face time than as the drop-dead date for shipping new products.

In the end, seeing all these companies extending the Macintosh (and iPhone) platform in ways that Apple hasn't is indication of the ever-increasing strength of the industry. It has been many years since I've seen such a broad representation of companies at Macworld, and that's good for everyone involved: users, developers, and even Apple itself.

Bookmark at: del.icio.us | digg | reddit | Slashdot | Yahoo! MyWeb


Word 2008 and the Paste Plain Text Dance

  by Joe Kissell <joe@tidbits.com>

Don't get me started on Word 2008. Suffice it to say that it's about what I expected, which is not saying much. In any case, one of the significant changes we all saw coming was the loss of VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) scripting. I had a few VBA macros, but wasn't losing any sleep over the change, since I figured I could always find another way to automate my work, or at worst switch back to Word 2004 when needed. However, after only a few hours of using Word 2008 I discovered how much I'd been relying on one particular macro: a simple script that pastes whatever's on the clipboard as plain text, without any style information.

It is, of course, unforgivable that Word lacks a built-in Paste Plain Text (or Paste and Match Style) command - even TextEdit has one. What Microsoft expects you to do, in the event that you want pasted text to adopt the style of the surrounding text, is to choose Edit > Paste Special, select Unformatted Text, and click OK. If I had to do that only once a day, it might not be too bad, but it's something I happen to do very often, and my fingers had become accustomed to pressing Command-Shift-V to run my little macro. The code for that VBA macro, for anyone interested, was this:

Sub PastePlainText()
    Selection.PasteSpecial Link:=False, DataType:=wdPasteText, Placement:= _
        wdInLine, DisplayAsIcon:=False
End Sub

Of course, I never actually learned any VBA; back in 2003, in the days of Word X, I created my macro simply by telling Word to start recording my actions, choosing the Paste Special menu command, selecting Unformatted Text, and clicking the Stop button; I then assigned a keyboard shortcut to the resulting macro. (Incidentally, doing the same thing in Word 2004 results in a macro that does not in fact paste unformatted text, though you can write one that does or use one created in an older version of Word.)

Now, in Word 2008, my goal was to reproduce that functionality using AppleScript. Word 2008 does have pretty good AppleScript support, after all. Unfortunately, it doesn't support recording one's actions as I'd done previously, so I had to figure out how to write the actual code. I assumed that wouldn't be a huge problem since I'm a fair hand (though certainly no expert) at AppleScript, but it took me an hour of fiddling with Word's odd implementation of this already odd scripting language to get to the point where I thought I'd solved the problem. I had a short script that seemed to work, using the AppleScript command for Word's Paste Special feature, and I even figured out how to assign a keystroke to it. Then I noticed that whenever I used the command, it left my insertion point at the beginning of the pasted text, rather than at the end where it should be. Ugh. Back to the drawing board.

To make an increasingly long story somewhat shorter, the script I ended up with after another hour's fiddling, which does in fact work exactly the way I wanted it to, is this (copy and paste this into Script Editor, or better yet, just download the completed script):

tell application "Microsoft Word"
  tell selection
    set theClip to string of (the clipboard as record)
    set newPoint to (selection start + (length of theClip))
    set content of text object to theClip
    set selection start to newPoint
    set selection end to newPoint
  end tell
end tell

It works around the insertion-point-placement problem, somewhat awkwardly, by determining where the insertion point is (or where the selection begins, as the case may be) before you paste, counting the number of characters on the clipboard, and then moving the insertion point that number of characters forward after pasting. I have a hard time believing this is the easiest or most efficient way to accomplish this task, though, and it could well be the case that a more elegant solution exists. If you know of one (and have tested it to make sure it actually works in Word 2008), drop me a line and I'll update this article accordingly. (And yes, I know there are oodles of third-party clipboard and macro utilities that can do this too, but my preference was for a solution that required no extra software.) Meanwhile, the above macro has functioned perfectly in my testing so far, and if you're looking for an easy way to paste plain text in Word 2008, enjoy it with my compliments.

The final step is to get this thing working via a keyboard command. To do this, I saved the script in ~/Documents/Microsoft User Data/Word Script Menu Items/ and gave it a name with special characters on the end to indicate what keyboard shortcut I wanted it to use (my old favorite, Command-Shift-V). The name I selected was "Paste Plain Text\smV.scpt". The \s indicates that whatever characters follow are to be interpreted as a shortcut. The m means "Command" (I could have used other options, too, like c for "Control"), and the capital V means Shift-V. Et voilą. Without even having to restart Word, Command-Shift-V once again pastes plain text at the insertion point, and I only had to waste two hours of my life to make it happen! (I'm now wondering how many times I'll have to use that command in the future so that the cumulative gain turns out to be worth it. But even if I never actually recoup that investment, I'll be less irritated every time I use Word, and that counts for something!)


Script Suggestions -- Are there other common, everyday tasks in Word that you previously accomplished with a VBA script and are looking to recreate in AppleScript? Whether or not you already have a solution, let me know (by sending a note to joe@tidbits.com). I'm sure that if we put our collective heads together we can solve even more of these pesky problems.

Bookmark at: del.icio.us | digg | reddit | Slashdot | Yahoo! MyWeb


Hot Topics in TidBITS Talk/21-Jan-08

  by Jeff Carlson <jeffc@tidbits.com>


Eudora vs. Mac's Mail -- A lack of authentication is the likely culprit for a reader who can't get Eudora to work outside his home network. (3 messages)


When is a Warranty Not a Warranty? Mark Anbinder's experience with a failed hard drive and subsequent frustration leads to a discussion of warranty repairs (and related horror stories). (7 messages)


Dock Icons Not Default -- For some reason, icons on a reader's Dock have shifted. Perhaps the icon caches have become corrupted? (4 messages)


Monochrome Laser MFC to share Mac/Windows? Readers share their experiences with multi-function printers (don't forget to consider the costs of toner replacements!). (9 messages)


New Mac User (not until I get my Mac) -- A person interested in switching to the Mac is contemplating a Mac mini. Has the compact Mac been abandoned by Apple, or is it still a worthwhile machine? (22 messages)


Broadband Internet w/o DSL or Cable -- A reader sets up EVDO Internet service in a house that is out of range of DSL or cable service. (2 messages)


Lost Finder sounds in Leopard -- The sound effects in Leopard's Finder have disappeared for a few readers. Where did they go? (4 messages)


multi-touch trackpad -- The new multi-touch trackpad found on the MacBook Air is impressive, but will that functionality cross over into other Mac laptops? Are the features just in software, or does the new trackpad include special hardware not found in other models? (7 messages)


MacBook Air -- The MacBook Air comes with a cleaning cloth, presumably because it has a glossy screen. Other recent Macs with glossy screens have also included similar cloths. (14 messages)


An iPod Touch question -- The new applications available for the iPod touch could be enough to compel a reader to finally ditch his Palm handheld. Also, people discuss ways of storing secure passwords on the iPhone and iPod touch. (14 messages)


So, how is Time Capsule different from an Airport Extreme + Drive? Readers discuss Time Capsule's disk mode as well as the lack of support for Time Machine backup functionality to a hard disk attached to a regular AirPort Extreme. (11 messages)


iTunes Movie Rentals and Apple TV Take 2 -- A reader disputes our idea that a $99 Apple TV would be a good idea. (1 message)


Movie rentals -- Do the new terms of service of iTunes movie rentals prohibit watching movies stored on an iPod from playing on a connected television? Or is the Apple TV the only route to the TV? (1 message)


Folder actions -- A reader tries to use a folder action to sort a folder's icons, but the solution may lie in just setting that folder's view preferences. (2 messages)


Sharing security -- Are connections made between Macs secure? We look at AFP and Screen Sharing, and discuss the merits of public key authentication. (8 messages)


No CableCard for the Apple TV -- Putting a CableCard into the Apple TV would convince one reader to ditch his DVR, but Apple clearly doesn't want to play along with the cable industry. (12 messages)


Time Capsule and Its Associated Rage Factor -- Several people bought AirPort Extreme base stations and external USB hard drives in anticipation of Time Machine, but that feature was pulled before Leopard's release. Is Time Capsule a worthy replacement? (5 messages)


The new Cube? Stunning design, less power, and a price premium: is the MacBook Air the next Power Mac G4 Cube? (20 messages)


AVCHD support -- Final Cut Express 4 can only import AVCHD video on an Intel-based Mac, but a program called Voltaic can do the necessary conversion on PowerPC-based Macs as well. (3 messages)


Word 2008 and the Paste Plain Text Dance -- Readers offer suggestions for utilities that can paste unformatted text. (4 messages)

Bookmark at: del.icio.us | digg | reddit | Slashdot | Yahoo! MyWeb


This is TidBITS, a free weekly technology newsletter providing timely news, insightful analysis, and in-depth reviews to the Macintosh and Internet communities. Feel free to forward to friends; better still, please ask them to subscribe!
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.
Copyright 2008 TidBITS; reuse governed by this Creative Commons License.

Previous Issue | Search TidBITS | TidBITS Home Page | Next Issue