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It's becoming a common story: After determining that he didn't really need one, Joe Kissell finally took the plunge and bought an iPhone 3G when it became available in France. Joe discusses how the iPhone has changed his work and some of the limitations that he's run into. Speaking of the iPhone 3G, Apple is recalling its diminutive USB power adapter due to the risk of electric shock. Adam looks at the new StuffIt Deluxe 2009 as the venerable utility turns 20, Joe highlights the improvements in VMware Fusion 2.0, Tonya finds an immediate use for the just-released MercuryMover 2.0 window-moving utility, and we note the release of the latest edition of Adam's "Take Control of Buying a Mac." In the TidBITS Watchlist, we spotlight the availability of Gears for Safari, BBEdit 9.0.1, Coda 1.5.1, Apple's Digital Camera Raw Compatibility Update 2.2, Apple Remote Desktop 3.2.2, and Server Admin Tools 10.5.5.

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Apple Recalls Supercool iPhone 3G USB Power Adapter

  by Glenn Fleishman <>

In shocking news - pun intended - Apple has recalled the tiny USB power adapter it released with great glee along with the iPhone 3G. The ultracompact adapter, hardly more than two prongs and a USB jack, apparently has a flaw that has led to one or both of the prongs breaking off and remaining in an outlet. The company's recall page says that "no injuries have been reported," and that it involves a "very small percentage of the adapters sold." Nonetheless, there's a risk of electric shock, and no electric shock is good at any household amperage.

[View image]

The company has asked its users to stop using the adapters immediately, but won't have replacements ready to ship until 10-Oct-08. Affected adapters were sold with iPhones in the United States, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Peru.

The included iPhone USB cable, docks sold separately, and adapters sold in other countries pose no risk. Apple strongly advises charging the iPhone 3G by plugging the USB cable into a computer, the larger fold-up Apple adapter, or a third-party adapter.

Revised ultracompact adapters will sport a green dot on the bottom to differentiate them from the less-safe initial version. Apple is accepting Web orders for the exchange, which requires your iPhone serial number. You can also go to an Apple Store starting 10-Oct-08 to exchange an adapter in person, but you must bring your iPhone 3G as well as the adapter.

There is no charge associated with the exchange.

I expect most iPhone 3G owners will continue to use the existing ultracompact adapter until the replacements become available and just take additional care, because the alternatives involve always having a computer nearby or purchasing a different charger for which Apple will not reimburse you.

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MercuryMover 2.0 Puts Windows Where You Want Them

  by Tonya Engst <>

On Sunday afternoon, just after telling a pair of boys not to throw pillows indoors, I sat down to pay some bills and immediately lost a window in my MYOB bookkeeping software. This problem happens occasionally when I switch my MacBook Pro from running while attached to an external monitor to running on its own, and I retrieve lost windows by zooming them from MYOB's Window menu. It's annoying, but not a big deal.

However, this time, all the commands in MYOB's Window menu were dimmed and the window was seemingly irretrievable without spending time rebooting, reattaching, or reinstalling on what wasn't supposed to be a computer-intensive weekend afternoon.

I even knew what was causing the problem. I've recently been testing the Matrox DualHead2Go - a USB device that enables me to attach a pair of external monitors to my MacBook Pro. There's a long story about the DualHead2Go that I'll tell at another time, but suffice to say that MYOB put the window in a spot that the DualHead2Go had made available, but since I'd disconnected the DualHead2Go and was using a single external monitor, that location wasn't visible.

What to do? Sometimes being a member of the press has its perks: coincidentally, and accompanied by some tasty homemade brownies that made the package impossible to ignore, a CD had arrived in my house on Friday, containing the brand new MercuryMover 2.0, a $20 utility from Helium Foot Software. While enjoying a brownie on Saturday, I asked Adam to remind me what MercuryMover does - it enables you to use keyboard shortcuts to move windows around on your Mac's screen, and to resize them. I duly noted that MercuryMover sounded useful, and that I hoped a TidBITS staffer who was less enmeshed in editing books would write about it. Anyway, as the boys went outside - no doubt to look for sticks suitable for a sword fight - I realized that MercuryMover might solve my MYOB missing window problem.

Indeed, MercuryMover allowed me to retrieve my missing window with ease. After I enabled it in System Preferences and invoked it with Control-Command-Up arrow, it walked me through how to use it, showing which keys I could press to move my missing window and showing the current coordinates of the window. I also took a moment to configure the main cool new feature in version 2.0, which creates keyboard shortcuts that correspond with particular window sizes and locations. Because my windows often jumble as I connect and disconnect my MacBook Pro from an external monitor, I think this feature will help eliminate window chaos. Better still, it all worked smoothly and intuitively, leaving me plenty of time to sneak another brownie and make sure nobody's eye got poked out.

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StuffIt Deluxe 2009 Keeps Evolving After 20 Years

  by Adam C. Engst <>

The world has changed over the last 20 years, but one constant for Mac users has been the premier compression and archiving software StuffIt Deluxe. Starting out life as shareware from teenage programmer Raymond Lau and riding along through multiple versions as its parent company Aladdin Systems became Allume and was then acquired by Smith Micro, StuffIt Deluxe has continued to add features and improve its lossless compression capabilities. Though the need for compression isn't nearly as great in this age of large hard disks and fast Internet connections (not to mention Apple's support for Zip archiving within Mac OS X), StuffIt Deluxe remains useful for large numbers of Mac users. (For those who can't quite understand this, the mere fact that it remains the flagship product of Smith Micro's Consumer Group should be sufficient evidence that many Mac users do rely on it.)

Most notable among the changes in this version, StuffIt Deluxe 2009 adds support for new technologies in Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. Thanks to Quick Look support, Leopard users can now look inside archives without having to expand them first, a major boon. This works within the Finder, Mail, or any other Quick Look-capable application. Similarly, you can preview archives while browsing in Time Machine. And, though unrelated to Leopard, new support for Google's MacFUSE filesystem utility lets users mount any browsable archive type in the Finder as though it were a disk.

It's unclear if StuffIt Deluxe 2009 has particularly different compression capabilities, but the program does offer optimized compressors for common file types, including MP3, PDF, iWork files, Microsoft Office files, and more. It can losslessly compress even JPEG images up to 30 percent. One new capability is "duplicate folding" - a way of saving space within an archive by storing only a single copy of duplicate files that's likely to be most helpful to those who rely on StuffIt Deluxe's scheduled archiving capabilities as part of a backup routine. Duplicate folding is yet another instance of how StuffIt Deluxe views compression as happening to a collection of files, rather than merely to each individual file in an archive. Also new is support for expanding 7-Zip and segmented Zip archives; in total, StuffIt Deluxe 2009 can now expand over 30 compression formats.

DropStuff, one of the major utilities that makes up the StuffIt Deluxe 2009 package and itself the bulk of what Smith Micro sells as the StuffIt Standard 2009 product, has been enhanced with additional customization options. Sets of compression formats and other options can be saved as Desktop droplets, enabling users to create different types of archives quickly via drag-and-drop.

Another utility, SEA Maker, lets users create Mac OS X mini-installers - it's not new, but what is new is its Remote Payload feature that lets SEA Maker retrieve the parts of an installer from an FTP site or iDisk. DropStuff, with help from the StuffIt Scheduler utility, can also automatically transfer archives to your MobileMe iDisk, making it potentially useful as part of a backup strategy.

StuffIt Deluxe 2009 costs $79.99, StuffIt Standard 2009 (which comprises DropStuff and the otherwise free StuffIt Expander) costs $49.99, and StuffIt Expander 2009 remains free. Upgrades to StuffIt Deluxe 2009 from any previous version of StuffIt Deluxe or StuffIt Standard run $29.99, and upgrades to StuffIt Standard 2009 from previous versions cost $14.99. Mac OS X 10.4 or later is required.

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Take Control News: Buy the Right Mac at the Right Time

  by TidBITS Staff <>

Deciding that you want to buy a new Mac is easy, but embarking on the project immediately raises questions like, "What Mac will best meet my needs?", "Should I buy now or wait a month?", "How do I move my files from my old Mac to my new one?", and "What should I do with my old Mac?" Mac guru Adam Engst has answered these questions countless times, and he has distilled the answers into the 98-page "Take Control of Buying a Mac."

Worksheets in the book help you match your needs and budget to the right Mac model, and a chart of Apple's model launches over the last 5 years helps predict when new Macs will appear. Adam also explains when you can purchase to get the most bang for your buck, compares different venues for where to shop, gives advice and step-by-step instructions for transferring files from an old Mac to the shiny new one, and offers thoughts about how to get the most out of the Mac that's being replaced.

It's only $10 and will easily pay for itself in helping you buy a Mac with the desired extras for less.

If you've purchased a previous edition of this book prior to 2008, click the Check for Updates button in your copy to access a 75 percent upgrade discount. (We wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to update to this new edition while still earning a little money to pay for the time that went into writing, Caroline Rose's editing, and Tonya's production efforts.) Those who purchased in 2008 should have received email from us with a link to a free update.

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VMware Fusion 2.0 Released

  by Joe Kissell <>

Not so long ago, it seemed like every time I looked at my computer screen, either Parallels or VMware had released yet another version of their respective virtualization programs for running Windows on an Intel-based Mac. Over the last several months, though, those rapid-fire releases have slowed way down. Parallels has focused its recent attention mainly on Parallels Server (see "Parallels Server Brings Virtualization to Leopard Server," 2008-01-10) and minor updates to Parallels Desktop, while VMware has spent the last four months beta testing VMware Fusion 2.0 (see "VMware Fusion 2 Beta 2 Adds Significant Features" by Adam Engst, 2008-07-31). Version 2.0 is now shipping, and it's a doozy.

If you've followed our periodic updates on Fusion 2.0's public beta testing, most of the new features will come as no surprise. But to review, VMware Fusion has changed tremendously; the most significant differences from version 1.1 (from among its "over 100 new features and enhancements") include the following:

This list is just the tip of the iceberg; for the full list of new features, see the extensive Fusion 2.0 release notes.

You may have noticed that more than a few of the new features strongly resemble features already available in Parallels Desktop. That was, of course, intentional. Although the two programs have always been close competitors, my overall advice in the past had been that if you wanted the best user experience and tight integration with Mac OS X, Parallels had the edge; whereas if you wanted the best performance in CPU-intensive tasks or the lowest impact on your Mac's resources, Fusion was, for the most part, the better choice. Assuming roughly comparable performance between the old version and the new, that equation has now changed; in terms of integration, Fusion is now just as good as - and in some cases better than - Parallels Desktop. Indeed, Fusion 2.0 now raises the bar with features like driverless printing and support for Leopard Server in a sub-$100 product, making it a compelling choice for the time being.

VMware Fusion 2.0 is a 248 MB download. It's a free upgrade for owners of version 1.x; the retail price for new customers remains unchanged at $79.99. A free trial is also available.

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Confessions of an iPhone Convert

  by Joe Kissell <>

As I write this, it's my two-month anniversary of being an iPhone owner. (We're celebrating by taking a vacation to Italy together; my wife, who has sometimes referred to herself as an "iPhone widow," is coming too.) What's surprising from my current vantage point is that I spent a number of months fully convinced that I was outside the target audience for this device, and that, cool as it unarguably was, I simply would never own an iPhone (or its slimmer sibling, the iPod touch). When I first got my iPhone 3G, I posted some thoughts on what had persuaded me to change my mind (see "Totally an iPhone 3G Owner," 2008-07-17). Now that I've lived with it for a while, I've learned that I was right about some things and wrong about others - and some aspects of the iPhone experience (both good and bad) have surprised me.

If you're thinking about joining the millions of (usually) happy iPhone or iPod touch owners but are still on the fence - or if you, like early-2008 Joe, think it just isn't worth it - perhaps you'll find my observations helpful in deciding one way or the other.

Price -- Let's get the whole money thing out of the way first. iPhones, though cheaper now than before thanks to the carrier subsidies, are still not cheap, and monthly voice-and-data plans are also rather pricey. Sure, they're in the ballpark of what you'd pay for other comparable devices and perhaps (depending on your calling habits) not hugely more expensive than a standard cell phone plan. Even so, monthly service is a nontrivial financial commitment for most of us. Obviously, an iPod touch requires just the single up-front payment (and, of course, the occasional $10 software update fee), but it lacks the phone, camera, and GPS. Depending on your needs, that trade-off may make perfect sense, or it may kill the entire appeal.

The reduction in initial cost overcame a big barrier for me, and though I dislike having to pay so much money per month, I do believe I'm getting more than I pay for. That is, the increase in productivity and the decrease in lost time much more than make up for the extra monthly expense. If I can do more paying work during the day simply by reclaiming time that would otherwise be wasted, that's a big deal to me.

There is one niggling issue, though, and that is international roaming. The costs of making calls and transferring data when away from your home country have been much discussed, and though I don't want to belabor them here, they can certainly become a concern for anyone who travels abroad. Given the nature of the plan I have with Orange here in France, roaming within Europe isn't too bad, but roaming to, say, North America is another story. Before I head to San Francisco for Macworld Expo in January, I'll probably pay Orange 100 euros to unlock my phone (it'd be free if I could wait another couple of weeks until my six-month anniversary), and then buy a prepaid SIM card with a data plan for use in the United States. I suspect the combined cost will be less than what I'd pay for voice and data roaming during my trip.

Productivity vs. Entertainment -- Needless to say, if you see an iPhone or iPod touch primarily as an entertainment device rather than a productivity device, you have to determine how much that entertainment is worth to you. For me, the music, videos, and games are merely the icing on the cake, not the reason for owning the device.

One of the reasons I thought I wouldn't benefit from an iPhone is that I work at home and, like a good Parisian, shun exercise for its own sake - so I don't really need a portable gadget for listening to music or watching videos. My failure to think of my iPhone as an iPod is so complete that I have never, even once, thought to take my earphones with me when leaving the house. I'll see someone listening to an iPod and think, "Oh yeah, I guess I could be listening to music now too." But that's not what's interesting to me about the iPhone.

My iPhone has enabled me to be more productive by, for example, answering email and catching up on my RSS feeds while on the Metro to run an errand across town, a frequent occurrence. As I'll describe in a moment, it's saved me all kinds of grief by enabling me to produce just about any piece of information I may need while I'm out and about. I've used it as a remote control while watching movies from my Mac mini; I'll also use it as a remote control when giving Keynote presentations in person. And I've even - I'll regret admitting this, I'm sure - sent email from the bathtub to my wife in the next room.

In short, it's become an extremely handy tool, both around the house and around town. I use it primarily as a reference book and a communication device - usually for email, occasionally for voice, hardly ever for SMS, and only on rare occasions for music or video.

Head-slappers -- Owning an iPhone has also been a headache, in that I keep slapping myself on the forehead after forgetting I have a gadget in my pocket that could have alleviated some hassle I just went through. I'm not yet used to having access to the Web, my email, my photos, and most of my files at all times. For example:

Traveling Light -- The vacation on which I'm about to embark will be computer-free - a real stretch for me. I'm trying to avoid doing or even thinking about work, but I take tremendous comfort in knowing that I'll have access to my email and the Web wherever I go. Not only that, but I can (should the need arise) connect to my Xserve remotely to reboot it, upgrade my blogging software, or run disk repair utilities. If an editor emails me a Word or PDF file that urgently needs commenting or review, I can handle it from my phone. If a colleague needs a file that's on my MacBook Pro at home, I can most likely fetch it and email it to them - even though my home computer will be turned off. And so on. I have also, of course, loaded an Italian phrase book!

Clutter Reduction -- It's great to have a single small object that substitutes for the phone, camera, map, French dictionary, and notebook I'd otherwise have to carry. And yet, one way the iPhone has failed to live up to my expectations is, ironically, in ease of use.

Let's say I'm standing on a Paris street corner trying to figure out which Metro line to take across town. The old way of determining this would be to pull out a map book, flip open the front cover, and go, "Aha." The new way is to take out my iPhone, press the Home button to turn it on, drag the slider to unlock it, enter my passcode (a necessity for me since my iPhone contains lots of personal data), press the Home button again to display my apps, slide over to the screen with my Metro map, tap the icon, wait for it to load, and then find my location. It takes a lot longer to do all those things, so most of the time if my wife is with me she'll pull her map out of her purse and figure out where we need to go before I've gotten past the first screen.

This is just one example of many. As with any good multitasker (such as the proverbial Swiss Army Knife - and yes, I carry around one of those too), you trade usability for flexibility. You wouldn't carve a steak or build a house with the tools in your Swiss Army Knife, but when you'd otherwise be stuck, something is better than nothing. The iPhone doesn't have the greatest email client or text editor or map program or camera, but it has ones that are good enough for quickly performing minor tasks on the go.

The question is, does the reduction of objects make up for the loss of quality and efficiency? Well, sometimes yes and sometimes no. Although the iPhone does many things quite well, when I start seriously considering carrying, say, a map or a notebook around with me again, that means my multitasking marvel didn't meet even my basic needs in that category.

Speaking of notebooks... The iPhone is - let me be frank - a truly terrible device for doing any sort of writing (regardless of which spiffy text editor you've installed). Notwithstanding my relatively small fingers and the built-in text correction feature, I end up with tons of errors in even short, simple chunks of text, and the whole process is far more tedious than I imagined. The lack of copy and paste is certainly a huge irritant too, as that could save me a great deal of typing.

But the very lamest thing of all about the current iPhone, in my opinion, is that it cannot synchronize notes or to-do items. On Mac OS X, Mail and iCal can share to-do items, and you can sync notes from Mail with your other Macs via MobileMe. But you can't sync the iPhone's Notes with Mail's notes (or any other application), and the iPhone can't even display to-do items, much less sync them, without third-party software. I've tried a number of iPhone apps that can synchronize their own private notes and/or to-do items with a Web-based service or, in some cases, with a proprietary desktop application - but as far as I know, there is currently no way at all to synchronize those two basic and essential kinds of data between the software included with the iPhone and Mac OS X.

(An aside here: I'm not asking for recommendations; I'm merely venting. I know lots of developers are trying very hard to crack this nut, and though I haven't been entirely satisfied with any of the solutions I've found so far, I'm sure one of them will get there eventually. It's just the principle of the thing - I can't believe Apple has made it this hard.)

Along the same lines, another hope I had for the iPhone was that it would make a handy voice recorder. My French skills being what they are, I frequently have conversations in which I absorb only about half of what the other person is saying. I always wish I could record it and play it back later to figure out what I missed. Well, again, if it takes me 20 seconds of tapping, sliding, and waiting to get to the point where audio is being recorded, it's too late. With a conventional digital recorder in my pocket, I'd press one button (or maybe two) and be recording in under a second.

Failing the Impromptu Demo Test -- The built-in GPS has been a godsend on several occasions. But because the iPhone relies on a data connection to download and display maps, its operation isn't always what it should be. One evening my wife and I were walking along the Seine, and some tourists came up to us to ask where the nearest Metro stop was. I didn't know offhand, so I pulled out my iPhone, turned it on, and tapped the Maps icon, thinking I'd instantly get a map showing our current location and, of course, all the Metro stops in the vicinity. I'd done that many times before without any trouble. On this occasion, though, the map didn't load. I tried toggling 3G, but that didn't help. Not knowing what else to do, I turned off the phone and waited for it to restart. By this time, the tourists had gotten completely fed up with me and asked if I couldn't just point them in the general direction of a likely stop. So I did, and about 30 seconds later, the map finally showed up on the screen.

I don't know what they murmured to themselves as they walked away, but I imagine it was some combination of "what an idiot" and "what a stupid phone." I thought I was going to show off this impressive capability of a powerful device, and I only got egg on my face.

Then there was the time I was at a government office and had to look up a phone number on my iPhone. I went to Contacts and tapped in the right place, but the screen froze. After some time, I managed to get to the contact I wanted, but when I accidentally tapped the screen while trying to scroll, the phone began dialing the contact (a process that, as a side effect, hid the number from view). By the time I got back to the screen I wanted, three public servants were laughing and trading jokes about my iPhone. Well, I knew this was a powerful device, but I had no idea it had the power to make a French bureaucrat crack a smile. That's amazing! I must use this feature more often.

Wishing for More -- For every wonderful capability the iPhone has, I find myself wishing it were just a touch more fantastic. For example, I've been using Evernote to snap photos of signs, menus, and the like. When I do this, the phone uploads the photos to Evernote's servers, which use OCR software to find the text in the images and index their contents in a few minutes. So I can search (on my phone or on my Mac) for the name of a dish on a menu at a restaurant where I ate last month and find it instantly. That's very cool, but what I really want is for my iPhone to give me a rapid English translation of that text. All it would require is sending the text through any of the many machine translation services out there, but as things stand now, I can't get that all in one package.

Similarly, I sometimes use Jott to record short memos to myself that are converted into editable, searchable text by a combination of speech recognition software and human transcriptionists. Even better would be a service that lets me record someone speaking French and give me an English translation of the text (or vice versa). Sure, it would be rough, but in some situations, anything is better than nothing.

Final Thoughts -- The thing that made me realize the iPhone was worth the money was simply realizing that it would serve me best as a tool rather than as a toy. As tools go, it achieves some things far better than I'd ever imagined, and fails at some things I assumed it would get right. On the whole, though, I am happy with my choice. Unlike most tools, this one stands a good chance of becoming even better in the future, thanks to software updates. It does make my wife a bit jealous, but I think I can make it up to her by having my iPhone order her some great Italian food.

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TidBITS Watchlist: Notable Software Updates for 22-Sep-08

  by TidBITS Staff <>

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Hot Topics in TidBITS Talk/22-Sep-08

  by Jeff Carlson <>

Chrome Port for the Mac is Out -- Code Weavers has posted a quick port of the Google Chrome Web browser, and readers give it a spin while arguing about what constitutes a "native" application. (25 messages)

VMware Fusion 2.0 Released -- A reader runs into trouble after installing Fusion 2.0 on top of Mac OS X 10.5.5, but others aren't seeing the problem. (2 messages)

Confessions of an iPhone Convert -- Joe Kissell's account of how the iPhone is proving useful elicits comments. (2 messages)

iTunes 8 Adds Genius; iTunes Store Adds HD TV and NBC -- A reader notes that the new Genius feature in iTunes 8 performs poorly with classical music (which has never been the software's strong suit). 2 messages)

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