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The big news that didn’t surface during Steve Jobs’s WWDC keynote last week was the release of Safari 5, and Adam takes a hard look at the Web browser’s new features. For more from Steve Jobs, also read Doug McLean’s summary of Jobs’s unscripted discussion with Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher at the D8 conference shortly before WWDC. In other news, AT&T will allow eligibility transfers for iPhone 4 upgrades in family plans, Adobe has released an essential update to Flash Player, we’ve uncovered some details about the forthcoming iMovie for iPhone, and Retrospect has been acquired by Sonic Solutions. Also, be sure to enter this week’s drawing for a Drobo, and if you didn’t win in last week’s drawing for Boinx’s iStopMotion, you can save 20 percent on new orders. Notable software releases this week include PasswordWallet 4.5.3, MacSpeech Scribe 1.1, 1Password 3.2.1, Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac 12.2.5 Update, Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac 11.5.9 Update, Cyberduck 3.5, and Photoshop Lightroom 3.0.

Glenn Fleishman 10 comments

AT&T Allows Eligibility Transfers in Family Plan

[Note: This article was updated on 15 June 2010 after attempting to place a pre-order for the iPhone 4.]

I call my wife, Lynn, “the Early Rejecter.” And I don’t mean that in a pejorative way. She’d rather have the 2.0 or 3.0 version of some product, and chuckle as I suffer the pain of early upgrades and new hardware.

Of course, she’s the one in our AT&T Family Plan to be eligible for a low-cost iPhone 4 upgrade, qualifying for the $199 (16 GB) and $299 (32 GB) pricing. My eligibility report says I have to wait until February 2011, or pay an extra $200 ($399 or $499) to get an iPhone 4 now.

Fortunately, an AT&T spokesperson confirmed for me that eligibility is transferrable among members of a Family Plan. But it will apparently be impossible to accomplish online.

To discover your eligibility, go to and log into your account, or call *639# from the phone you want to upgrade to receive a free text message with a date and more details. Whether AT&T will spot you an early phone trade-up isn’t strictly about your contract date, but includes factors such as the service plan and other dollars you’ve paid them. Some friends who purchased an iPhone 3GS at the same time that I did already qualify for the lowest price.

I called AT&T on June 15th, while the company’s Web site was broken after pre-orders for the iPhone 4 began, and was told that the way to handle eligibility was to place the pre-order for the eligible line. When you receive the phone, you take the iPhone 4 and the non-eligible phone to an AT&T store (check to make sure it’s one operated by AT&T directly, not a reseller), where they effect a SIM swap.

In the past, it was possible to swap SIM cards among phones, transfer phone numbers within the account, or perform other hoodoo to make it work out. But the iPhone 4 uses a micro-SIM, just like the 3G iPad, which means you can’t interchange a full-sized SIM from an earlier iPhone with the iPhone 4 (unless you buy one of these SIM cutters).

AT&T will apparently program the appropriate SIM and micro-SIM cards at one of its company-owned stores.

Adam Engst 6 comments

Adobe Flash Player Blocks 32 Security Holes

As Rich Mogull explained in “Security News: Flash Attacked, iPhone Exposed, Spyware Discovered” (7 June 2010), Adobe Flash suffered from a serious security vulnerability that had been exploited in the wild. Initially, the only way to protect yourself was to download the Flash 10.1 Release Candidate, but Adobe has now officially released Flash Player to address 32 different security holes. Adobe has also released Adobe AIR to fix the same problems. You can read more about the updates in Adobe’s security advisory, but suffice it to say, we recommend you upgrade now.

To determine what version of Flash Player you’re running, visit the About Flash Player page (although, realistically, it’s unlikely that you’re up to date), and then head over to the Adobe Flash Player Download Center to download the latest version. You’ll get a disk image with an installer to run; you need to quit all running Web browsers before you click the Install button.

Figuring out what version of Adobe AIR is installed on your system (you’d have Adobe AIR installed if you use TweetDeck, or another Adobe AIR-based program) is annoyingly difficult; you have to look for the CFBundleVersion entry inside the Info.plist file stored at:

/Library/Frameworks/Adobe AIR.framework/Versions/1.0/Resources/

That’s craziness, of course, so if you’re using Adobe AIR at all, I’d recommend just downloading a new version from the Adobe AIR Download Center.

In the whole dustup between Apple and Adobe surrounding Apple’s decision to keep Flash out of the iOS, little has been said about how the addition of Flash would increase the security vulnerability of the entire platform. Situations like this, where Flash Player had critical vulnerabilities that were being exploited in the wild for some time before a fix was available, clearly support Apple’s position.

Jeff Carlson 17 comments

iMovie for iPhone Details Surface

During the WWDC keynote last week that introduced the new iPhone 4, Apple also revealed iMovie for iPhone, an app that can edit video clips and still images into a movie. The app creates movies complete with themes, transitions, titles, and other features that go beyond just trimming individual clips, an option found in the iPhone 3GS. The demonstration was impressive (it begins at the 57:00 mark of the keynote video), but several questions were left unanswered.

Thanks to sources within Apple, I have uncovered some details:

  • iMovie for iPhone will require the iPhone 4, and will not be available for the iPhone 3GS. Handling video and creating real-time transitions needs the power of the iPhone 4’s A4 processor.
  • Although the iPad runs the A4 processor, the app won’t run on that device. I suspect the app is tailored to the iPhone 4’s higher-density screen, and therefore wouldn’t work within the iPad’s pixel-doubled compatibility mode. (I’d be very surprised if an iMovie for iPad version doesn’t appear at some point, possibly with the release of iOS 4 for the iPad in a few months.)
  • Projects edited on the iPhone cannot “currently” be transferred to iMovie on the Mac for further editing; projects stay on the phone. (The edited movies can be exported or synced to iTunes, however.)
  • Video clips can be recorded directly within iMovie for iPhone or come from the Camera Roll (clips previously shot using the phone’s built-in camera). Based on how the Camera Roll works, I suspect it may also be possible to work with clips you’ve shot elsewhere by emailing them from your computer to the iPhone, then saving the attachment to the Camera Roll. The clips would need to be properly formatted as H.264 videos (and without having the software or an iPhone 4 to test, I don’t know which specifications that entails).
  • iMovie for iPhone is scheduled to ship 24 June 2010 to coincide with the launch of the iPhone 4.

As previously announced, the app will cost $4.99 and be available in the App Store.

Glenn Fleishman 3 comments

Anti-Social Software Turns Your Tweet Off

What’s that giant sucking sound? It’s the noise made by your productivity swirling down the drain as you check Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, or any of hundreds of other social-networking sites instead of getting work done, writing that essay that’s due, or focusing on real life. Fred Stutzman’s Anti-Social software can help.

Anti-Social disables access to over 150 social-networking sites for a period of time you specify, up to 480 minutes (8 hours). The software’s Web site includes a list of blocked domains. This includes, the URL used by third-party Twitter clients to access Twitter messages and account information. A reboot is required to restore access to those sites before your specified time limit has passed.

Anti-Social is a case-specific version of Stutzman’s earlier utility, Freedom, which disables all network access for up to 480 minutes, optionally allowing local network access to remain available. Freedom was written for the Mac, and was recently also released for Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7.

Stutzman is a doctoral candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in information and library science, and his software reflects his interest in the impact of social networking on how people make life transitions.

I interviewed Stutzman for a recent Economist article, “Stay on Target,” which looks at the notion of using software to prevent yourself from doing something.

Anti-Social costs $15; Freedom is $10. Trial versions are available for each application, but include just five uses before the software is disabled.

Adam Engst 1 comment

DealBITS Drawing: Win a Drobo!

For those of us who remember the pricey megabyte-sized hard disks of yesteryear, the cost and capacity of today’s terabyte-sized drives continue to amaze. And yet, our data needs continue to outpace our storage capacities, and modern drives don’t seem significantly more reliable than the drives of the past. But ingenuity offers a single solution to both problems – a device that combines multiple drives to increase storage capacity and reliability. This approach, called RAID, for redundant array of inexpensive disks, divides and replicates data among multiple drives such that any one of them can fail without any loss of data.

But implementing RAID is often expensive and fussy, requiring identically sized disks and complex management software. To address those concerns, Data Robotics developed the BeyondRAID technology, which removes limitations in traditional forms of RAID, and implemented it in the Drobo storage devices. With a Drobo, you can install multiple drives (starting with 2 and expanding up to 4, 5, or 8, depending on the model) of any size or speed, and from any manufacturer. The Drobo automatically combines them into a single volume (up to 16 TB). The capacity of that volume will be roughly the total of all the installed drives, minus the size of the largest one and some overhead (Data Robotics has
capacity calculators that show exactly how much usable space you get with different drive configurations). But here’s the magic. In exchange for that drop in total capacity, you can – at any time – remove any drive and insert another without any loss of data or interruption of service.

There are two basic reasons you might want to do this – drive failure and capacity upgrades. As we all know, hard drives die, and usually at the most inconvenient time. If that happens with a drive in a Drobo, fixing the problem is just a matter of removing the dead drive and replacing it with a fresh one. Similarly, it’s equally known that drives keep getting larger, and if you initially populated a Drobo with some old 250 GB and 500 GB drives you had lying around, as those drives die or as you need more space, you can pop in a couple of 1 TB or 2 TB drives and radically increase your storage pool, all while retaining the protection against drive failure. (And let’s be clear, RAID-like protection against drive failure is not the same
thing as backup; a Drobo won’t protect against fire, theft, or even a deleted file.)

Much more could be written about the Drobo, but the folks at Data Robotics, the makers of Drobo, have put together videos of Drobo users at Macworld 2010 describing why they love their Drobos, how they use them, and what they store on them. Several members of the TidBITS staff, including Jeff Carlson and Rich Mogull, swear by theirs as well.

If you want to win your very own four-bay Drobo, worth $399, enter at the DealBITS page. (Unlike most of our drawings, we’re giving away serious hardware here, so we won’t be doing referral entries.) All information gathered is covered by our comprehensive privacy policy.

Adam Engst No comments

DealBITS Discount: Save 20% on iStopMotion 2

Congratulations to Ken Blakely at and John Sweeney at, whose entries were chosen randomly in the last DealBITS drawing and who each received a copy of iStopMotion Home 2, worth $49. But don’t fret if you didn’t win, since Boinx Software is offering a 20-percent-off discount on any edition of iStopMotion 2 to all TidBITS readers through 30 June 2010; enter “ismDeal” in the Coupon/Promo Code field on the second screen of Boinx Software’s online store to get your discount. Thanks to the 387 people who entered this DealBITS drawing, and we hope you’ll continue to participate in the future!

Adam Engst 3 comments

Retrospect Backup Software Acquired by Sonic Solutions

In an extremely quiet move, EMC has sold its Retrospect software to Sonic Solutions, the parent company of Roxio. For reasons that remain unclear, neither EMC nor Sonic Solutions has issued a press release about the acquisition, so few details have been forthcoming. The acquisition price was not revealed, though sources indicate that much of the product team will move over to Sonic Solutions.

Retrospect was created by Dantz Development in the early days of the Macintosh, and it grew to become the dominant Mac backup program by the late 1990s. However, its long history (and the extreme care with which backup programs must handle the data entrusted to them) made for a somewhat slow and rocky move to Mac OS X.

In 2004, EMC acquired Dantz, but Retrospect languished within EMC for several years, coasting on its reputation. Only in 2008 did EMC start devoting resources to Retrospect development again, bringing back some of the original developers and testers. About a year ago, EMC shipped Retrospect 8 (see “EMC Ships Modernized Retrospect 8,” 23 March 2009), but the release was premature, lacking PowerPC support (many small businesses use older Power Macs as backup servers), documentation, FTP support, and a smooth upgrade path. Although there have been additional minor releases of Retrospect since, the program still isn’t fully baked, and a quick scan of the archives of the MacEnterprise mailing list reveals dissatisfaction with Retrospect’s progress.

Eric Ullman, Director of Product Management in charge of Retrospect at EMC (he also worked on Retrospect at Dantz), said that the Retrospect team is looking forward to being able to finish the job that they returned to EMC to do, namely, rebuild Retrospect for Macintosh into a product that’s deserving of the trust of network administrators.

Regaining that trust will take time, unfortunately, and the backup world has evolved since Retrospect ruled the market. Back then, Retrospect Express was used heavily by individual users, which helped introduce them to Retrospect’s capabilities; if those users went on to become network administrators, they tended to rely on the beefier versions of Retrospect. Now the market for individual backup is largely owned by Apple’s Time Machine, with additional capabilities provided by programs like CrashPlan, SuperDuper, and Carbon Copy Cloner. And they’re by no means alone; Joe
Kissell lists over 100 backup programs in the online appendixes of his “Take Control of Mac OS X Backups.”

Time Machine, CrashPlan, and others have also traded scheduled backup for constant operation, backing up changed files every 15 to 60 minutes. And Internet backup services like CrashPlan Central, Backblaze, and Mozy (also now owned by EMC) provide an easy solution for offsite backup by backing up over the Internet, either to a centralized service or, in the case of CrashPlan, to another copy of the program that you or a trusted third-party controls.

Though it’s unlikely to become a dominant backup solution for individual users ever again, Retrospect now competes in the small and medium business world, where the players are largely different, with primarily CrashPlan PRO and MozyPro playing in both spaces. And while constant backup, backing up only file differences, and offsite backup features would be good to add, Retrospect still stands apart with its strong support for tape drives and optical media, which are important in the business world.

The next step up is the enterprise, where tape support is essential for creating versions of backups and where there’s a significant split in capabilities between administrator and user. In the enterprise world, Retrospect will need to focus on performance and reliability to earn back the trust of network administrators. For a look at some of the other enterprise-level Macintosh backup software, see District13 Computing’s PDF-based white paper on Enterprise Backup Solutions.

There’s no question that rebuilding the Retrospect brand to its former glory won’t be easy, but speaking as someone who has fond memories of the Retrospect of yesteryear, I’m extremely happy to see the team getting the chance to try again under Sonic Solutions.

Doug McLean 5 comments

Steve Jobs Answers (Nearly) All at D8

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher hosted the eighth annual D: All Things Digital conference, known in its most recent incarnation as D8. The conference has been bringing together industry leaders for conversations, demos, and interviews since 2003, with this year’s speakers including such notables as Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, Avatar director James Cameron, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.

Steve Jobs, featured as the opening night guest, sat down with Mossberg and Swisher for over 90 minutes (the full video interview can be found on the D8 Web site) to offer insights into everything ranging from Apple’s recent market cap advance over Microsoft to how Jobs spends an average workday.

And while this year’s WWDC keynote speech offered Apple fans the chance to catch up with its CEO, the D8 interview is a unique opportunity to watch Jobs follow an agenda set by somebody else. His responses may toe (or set) Apple’s party line, but he nevertheless had to respond to the questions Mossberg and Swisher were asking. Furthermore, with a heavy hitter like Walt Mossberg – the most powerful technology journalist in the world – serving the questions, it was as close to a conversation between equals as you’ll find. And unlike Jobs’s famously terse email messages, his answers here often provide interesting detail.

While much was covered in the interview, the choicest moments came when discussing Flash, Google, and the recent controversies plaguing Apple.

Flash — One of the first topics of conversation was Apple’s relationship with Adobe and Flash. Mossberg, referring to Jobs’s “Thoughts on Flash” essay, asked if it was unfair to consumers to cut them off from the commonly used technology. Jobs’s response centered on Apple’s history of embracing emerging technologies (in this case HTML5), while orphaning others in decline. He pointed to the first iMac’s jettisoning of the floppy drive and legacy ports – and the subsequent initial public ire over those decisions – as examples of Apple’s willingness to abandon technologies that are past their prime. According to Jobs, denying support of Flash on iOS
products was strictly a technical decision, based on Apple’s view that Flash is over the technological hill (and thus, as Joy of Tech put it, “sent to the island of Apple-banished toys”).

Jobs even seemed to get a little ruffled when recounting how, without provocation, Adobe started a press campaign against Apple’s abandonment of Flash. Noting that Apple and Adobe have many shared customers as a result of the Adobe Creative Suite, and that Apple had merely declined to support one of Adobe’s products, Jobs expressed incredulity at Adobe’s attack. He also noted that Apple had encouraged Adobe to get in touch when Flash was faster and more stable on the iOS, but that this invitation has yet to be met.

In the end, Jobs said that people will either buy Apple products or, if the company has chosen the wrong technologies to support, they won’t. But, cracking a smile, he noted that so far people seem to be liking the iPad.

Google — Jobs seemed most reticent to comment when the conversation turned to Google as a competitor. Several times Mossberg and Swisher attempted to prod him into articulating the current state of Apple’s relationship with the search giant, and whether he personally felt betrayed by Google’s emergence as a competitor, especially given that Google CEO Eric Schmidt once sat on Apple’s board. But Jobs kept his cards close to his chest. At one point, asked again by Mossberg about the relationship, Jobs responded, “My sex life is pretty good these days, how’s yours?” Whether he was mocking Mossberg’s insistence on the word “relationship,” or implying that the line of questioning had begun to dig too deep, Jobs
was clearly trying to get the journalists to back off.

Jobs said repeatedly that he did not see himself or Apple as competing with Google, but rather that Apple simply tries to make the best products it can, and that it was Google that chose to compete with Apple. Yet this tenuous distinction failed to hold water with his interviewers, and Jobs eventually agreed, after much nudging, that the two companies are competing. He acknowledged that in trying to make the best products they can, Apple is also trying to make better products than Google’s. But Jobs went on to say that while the two companies are competing, things needn’t get rude. To that end, he pointed to the fact that Google and Apple share various properties: that Android now supports iTunes songs, and that Apple makes use of
Google’s maps.

While Jobs clearly enjoys repeating his mantra that he’s solely focused on his products – and there is likely a lot of truth to this image of him with stunning tunnel vision – it’s clear that as the CEO of one of the world’s most ambitious companies, his competitors are on his mind at least some of the time.

Controversies — Finally, Mossberg and Swisher asked Jobs about the recent iPhone prototype debacle and the recent spate of suicides at Apple’s electronics supplier Foxconn.

With the iPhone 4 now unveiled, the prototype story has become old hat, but it’s interesting to hear Jobs talk about it. He said there’s a debate as to whether the prototype was left in a bar accidentally, or stolen out of the engineer’s bag (and the fact that the engineer wasn’t fired would seem to support the latter). And he went on to suggest that it’s an amazing, colorful story that would make a great movie, with its combination of theft, purchasing of stolen property, and extortion – he even suggested that there’s probably sex in there somewhere. (Much more of this, and Jobs will start sounding like the famously risque Jean-Louis GassĂ©e, a high-ranking Apple executive in the 1980s.) Although Jobs disavows significant knowledge of
the case, it’s clear that Apple’s story differs significantly from the one Gizmodo has been telling.

Regardless, since one side of the case is up to the district attorney, not Apple, Jobs’s comments regarding how Apple responded are illuminating. Noting that several people had encouraged him to let the situation slide, Jobs said he thought long and hard about how to pursue the case, and in the end acted according to the same core principles he had 10 years ago, when Apple had almost closed its doors. Though he doesn’t quite say this, it would seem that he’s suggesting that Apple has succeeded because it focuses on the small details, whether in terms of product design or protecting product secrecy. Clearly, Jobs regards himself as having the same hunger and industriousness as when he returned to Apple, which bodes well for the company’s
fortunes over the next decade.

Regarding the Foxconn situation, Jobs said Apple was taking the suicides extremely seriously and that he believes Apple is perhaps the most diligent in the tech industry, or any industry, in its evaluation of working conditions in its supply chain. Apple publishes an annual Supplier Responsibility report detailing the working conditions, employee treatment, and environmental responsibility of its primary, secondary, and tertiary suppliers. He went on to emphasize that Foxconn is not a sweatshop – that in fact it provides its workers with restaurants, movie theaters, swimming pools, and hospitals (not bad for a factory!) – but that Apple is looking into the matter with concern.

One potential insight into the situation came when Jobs noted that many of the workers at Foxconn are only in their late teens and are living away from their poor rural communities for the first time. He noted that this drastic transition and separation from home may be a serious contributor to the difficulties facing some of these young people. He also said that both professionals from within Apple and outside hires were currently trying to understand the issues at hand. (Foxconn has recently said it will be raising worker salaries to reduce the pressure on workers to work overtime.)

Interview Recommended — While these topics were among the most dynamic sections of the interview, it’s always enjoyable to watch Steve Jobs. That’s especially true when he’s not working from a script while responding to journalists who aren’t afraid to push him for answers. If you find yourself with some spare time, I highly recommend checking out the D8 video linked at the start of this article.

Adam Engst 36 comments

Apple Extends Safari 5 with Reader, HTML5, Performance

In a WWDC keynote dominated by the iPhone 4 and iOS 4, Steve Jobs didn’t so much as mention Apple’s other major release of the day: Safari 5 for both Mac and Windows. In step with the version number, Apple is focusing on five new features of Safari 5: Safari Reader, more support for HTML5, better performance, support for Bing in the search bar, and a Safari Developer Program that enables developers to create extensions.

Safari Reader — The primary user-focused feature in Safari 5 is Reader, which extracts the text from recognized articles and displays it without ads, site graphics, or other visual distractions. Plus, on sites that break longer stories into multiple pages, such as the New York Times, Safari Reader automatically follows the necessary links to present the entire story on one long scrolling page. A translucent pop-up at the bottom of the screen provides controls for changing text size, sending the page via email as a Web archive, and printing the page.

You invoke Safari Reader by clicking the Reader button in the address bar (or choosing View > Enter Reader [Command-Shift-R]), and it displays the page in what looks like a JavaScript-driven lightbox – sort of a Web-based dialog where the rest of the page is darkened and the Reader display is inset within it. The controls for changing text size, sending email, and printing aren’t new – the standard menu commands and their associated keyboard shortcuts have existed for quite some time. (They are: View > Zoom In [Command-+], View > Zoom Out [Command–], File > Mail Contents of This Page [Command-I], and File > Print [Command-P].)

There are some interesting quirks related to Safari Reader. Most notably, there’s no way to know which sites it supports, or, more to the point, which HTML tags it uses to identify articles within a site. For instance, Safari Reader doesn’t work on the TidBITS home page, but does work on TidBITS articles. And it does work on the Take Control home page, but not on Take Control News posts. On the sites I tried, including TidBITS, Safari Reader considers reader comments to be “visual distractions” and doesn’t display them.

Also, the Reader button in the address bar replaces the RSS button, leaving one to wonder how you’d subscribe to a site’s RSS feed if Safari Reader is active. The answer is to click and hold on the Reader button, which reveals the normal RSS menu for various feeds.


Unfortunately, the visible control for sending the page via email uses the Mail Contents of This Page command, rather than Mail Link to This Page (Command-Shift-I). If you want the latter, invoke it manually from the File menu or keyboard shortcut. Happily, though, if you invoke Print (in any way) while Safari Reader is showing, the resulting printout reflects the much cleaner Reader display rather than the normal Web site layout.

Safari Reader will undoubtedly prove controversial in some circles because it will reduce the click-through rate on ads even further, especially for sites that break long articles into multiple pages – each with their own set of ads. Even beyond the advertising issue, it’s somewhat distressing to see Apple deciding for a publication what content is and is not relevant. On the TidBITS site, for instance, we consider our reader comments highly relevant, along with related articles that link to the article being read, but Safari Reader hides all of that and more. I’d like to see Apple publicize how Safari Reader works so publications could choose what parts of their content would be recognized, and how.

All that said, Safari Reader is notable mostly because it has been built into one of the main Web browsers by default. There have been numerous ways of focusing on the text of an article on a Web page over the years; the most impressive ones I’ve seen are Readability (on which Safari Reader was based) and Readable, both of which operate via JavaScript-based bookmarklets. Both should work in any modern browser.

Improved HTML5 Support — Apple is now making a very big deal about how the iOS supports two platforms, native iOS apps and HTML5-based Web apps. As a result, it’s not surprising that Safari 5 on the Mac now boasts greater HTML5 support, with things like full-screen video, closed captioning for video, location services, and much more.

HTML5 support is one of those chicken-and-egg situations at the moment, since Web developers can’t rely heavily on it until it’s well-supported in most browsers, and browser makers may not have significant incentive to support it well until it has wide adoption. (For useful information showing what tags are likely safe to use for different browser versions, see the When Can I Use… site.) So it’s good to see Safari 5 trumpeting its HTML5 support, since that will raise the bar for other browser makers. Using the HTML5 Test site (which could be biased in some way), I found that Safari 5 is indeed the most-compliant HTML5 browser around, edging out Google Chrome. The
scores are out of a total of 300 points.

  • Safari 5: 208 and 7 bonus points
  • Google Chrome 5.0.375.70: 197 and 7 bonus points
  • Firefox 3.6.3: 139 and 4 bonus points
  • OmniWeb 5.10: 129 and 7 bonus points
  • Opera 10.53: 129 and 4 bonus points
  • Camino 2.0.3: 46 and no bonus points

Better Performance — Apple claims better performance in Safari 5 on three fronts: the Nitro JavaScript engine, DNS prefetching, and improved page caching. Although Apple has some charts showing Safari to be the fastest browser available, it’s hard to translate benchmarks into real-world performance.

For instance, although Apple says that Safari 5’s Nitro JavaScript engine is 30 percent faster than Safari 4’s, 3 percent faster than Chrome, and twice as fast as Firefox 3.6, it was hard to see the difference on JavaScript-intensive sites I use. Part of the problem is that many such sites are using AJAX, so although JavaScript is being used to present an interface to the user, there’s also a bunch of back-end work happening that isn’t always quick.

DNS prefetching is quite neat – if you’re on a page containing links to other sites, Safari 5 automatically looks up those addresses so when you click on one, it already knows the site’s address, reducing the time necessary to load the page. Apparently, this feature has existed in Google Chrome for some time; thanks to commenter Glenn Rempe for the tip.

Page caching is the final feature that Apple claims to have improved in Safari 5, though Apple says only that additional types of Web pages are now cached, without giving any specifics.

Bing Search — Also new in Safari 5 is the addition of Bing to the search engine options in Safari 5’s General preferences; it joins Google and Yahoo. Apple also added Bing to the search engine options in iOS 4, and it’s hard to know quite what to make of the addition.

According to the Stat Owl site, Google dominates the search engine world with 86 percent of the market. Bing is second with 6 percent, and Yahoo third with 4.92 percent. So it’s possible that Apple merely wants to help even the playing field, especially when you consider that Google’s share of the search market for the Safari browser is over 95 percent. Given the tension between Apple and Google of late, I could see Apple wanting to spread the search traffic around so as not to become entirely dependent on Google for search.

Of course, the inclusion of Yahoo Search sort of already did that, but since July 2009, Yahoo Search has been powered by Bing. Oddly, the databases or algorithms must be slightly different, since Yahoo Search and Bing don’t present quite the same results to the same searches.

Safari Extensions — The last of Apple’s marquee features in Safari 5 is support for Safari Extensions, something that has been needed for a long time. Developers have resorted to all sorts of ugly hacks to modify Safari’s behavior in the past, and hopefully the new extensions will enable developers to extend Safari in interesting ways while playing within the rules. Extensions are managed in a new Extensions pane in Safari’s preferences, which implies that automatic updating of extensions will be available. (The Extensions pane appears only once you’ve installed an extension, or if you enable the Develop menu from the Advanced pane, and then choose Develop > Enable Extensions.)

A new Extension Builder application helps developers create Safari Extensions, which can put buttons on the toolbar, change the way Web content appears, add controls to Web pages, and more. Safari Extensions rely on HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript, so they should be more accessible to Web developers than would an extension model that requires Cocoa programming in Xcode.

Although it’s hard to determine the specifics, it looks as though Apple may be evaluating Safari Extensions in some way. All Safari Extensions must be signed with an Apple-provided digital certificate that comes free with membership in the Safari Developer Program. The certificate ensures that Safari Extensions aren’t tampered with and come from the developer they say they do, which is good, and they use sandboxing to increase security. Plus, Safari Extensions can be submitted to the Safari Extensions Gallery, opening in a few months, where users can find and download extensions. It’s unclear if there will be any vetting of Safari Extensions along the lines of iOS apps.

More Features — Other changes in Safari 5 are smaller, but some will be extremely welcome. For instance:

  • If you close a tab accidentally, pressing Command-Z before you do anything else will re-open it. This is tremendously helpful and something I’ve long appreciated in Firefox (where the shortcut is Command-Shift-T).
  • Safari 5’s address field can now match text against the titles of Web pages in the History and Bookmarks as well as any part of their URLs. Unfortunately, much as Apple likes to call it the “Smart Address Field,” Safari 5’s address field is still far stupider and less useful than the address fields in Firefox and Chrome, which attempt to do the right thing with whatever you type, even if that means guessing at a Web page or performing a search. This is the main reason I don’t use Safari as my primary browser.
  • Safari 5 claims to be smarter about opening new Web pages in tabs instead of separate windows, something that has long bothered me. If you use tabbed browsing, you generally want new pages opened in tabs, not windows, and Safari 4 was rather inconsistent about that.
  • A new button at the top of the window makes it easy to switch between Top Sites and Full History Search views. There’s also a new keyboard shortcut (Command-Option-2) for Show All History in the View menu.
  • When you’re in Private Browsing mode (choose Safari > Private Browsing to prevent Safari from remembering pages you visit, auto-fill information in forms, or search history), Safari 5 displays a Private button in the address field, next to the Reader button if necessary. Clicking it turns off Private Browsing.
  • Safari 5 can filter potentially malicious scripts used in cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks. Interestingly, the Web site that shows off the CSS-based browser history leak doesn’t seem to be able to read Safari 5’s history, which is great. However, Safari 5 is still susceptible to the tabnabbing phishing attack (“Beware Tabnabbing, a New Type of Phishing Attack,” 28 May 2010).
  • A new Timeline panel in the Web Inspector shows how Safari interacts with various aspects of a Web site. To display it, turn on the Develop menu in Safari’s Advanced preferences, and then choose Develop > Show Web Inspector and click the Timeline button. Then click the round red Record button at the bottom of the Web Inspector and load a page. There are also new keyboard shortcuts for switching among the Web Inspector panels.
  • Apple fixed a number of bugs that improve stability and performance related to Top Sites, trackpad pinch gestures, pasting text, auto-complete, transferring images to iPhoto, handling PDFs, making comments in Facebook, using, authenticating to Windows IIS, and dragging files while logged into
  • Finally, Safari 5 eliminates a number of security vulnerabilities related to ColorSync, PDF handling, URL obfuscation, clipboard handling, UTF-7 encoding, CSS, keyboard focus, and more.

Safari 5 is available via Software Update, or as a 37.46 MB download from the Apple Support Downloads site. It’s free, of course, and requires Mac OS X 10.5.8, 10.6.2, or 10.6.3. If you’re still using Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, you can take advantage of many of Safari 5’s features other than Safari Reader by upgrading to Safari 4.1 for Tiger, which is a 29.46 MB download from Apple’s Support Downloads site; it’s also available via Software Update. The Windows versions of Safari 5 run under Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7; they seem to be available from the same Support Downloads page as the Mac version of Safari 5.

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TidBITS Watchlist: Notable Software Updates for 14 June 2010

PasswordWallet 4.5.3 — Selznick Scientific Software has released a minor update to the longstanding password management utility PasswordWallet. Version 4.5.3 offers synchronization speeds that are ten times faster than the previous release, along with improved keyboard support for working with document password dialogs. The update also fixes occasional issues with the Find Duplicates feature, addresses duplication errors with syncing, and resolves a bug related to files remaining locked after quitting the program. The company has also released Password Wallet 4.5.2 for the
with a number of new features and usability tweaks. ($20 new, free update, 5.7 MB)

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MacSpeech Scribe 1.1 — MacSpeech has released a minor maintenance update to its transcription software MacSpeech Scribe. Version 1.1 fixes a pesky bug that prevented users from closing the File Open window after completing a transcription. The update also adds support for volume licensing. To learn more about MacSpeech Scribe, see Matt Neuburg’s recent review, “Transcribe Recordings With MacSpeech Scribe,” 19 May 2010. ($149.99 new, free update, 8.8 MB)

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1Password 3.2.1 — Agile Web Solutions has released a maintenance and compatibility update to the popular password management utility 1Password. Version 3.2.1 adds support for the just-released Safari 5, changes default search settings to always search all items, and improves the process by which Web site icons and page previews are downloaded. Also, several minor issues have been addressed including a problem with the Login password generator, sluggish keyboard scrolling through Login lists, and a bug related to date selection. Full release notes are available on the Agile Web
Solutions Web site. ($39.95 new, free update, 15.1 MB)

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Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac 12.2.5 Update — The Microsoft Office 2008 12.2.5 Update addresses 14 security vulnerabilities, the most serious of which pertain to maliciously crafted Excel files that could enable attackers to run arbitrary code and gain elevated system rights; accounts with administrative rights are at a greater risk than accounts with fewer privileges. The update addresses these issues by changing the way certain Excel files are parsed and by correcting certain installation problems with the Open XML File Format Converter for Mac. Additionally, the update
fixes an issue with the custom dictionary that caused it to include words from other languages.

The update is rated Important for Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac and requires that you’ve previously installed the Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac 12.2.4 Update. The update is available from Microsoft’s Web site and via the Office 2008 version of Microsoft AutoUpdate. (Free, 332.8 MB)

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Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac 11.5.9 Update — The Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac 11.5.9 Update addresses 14 security vulnerabilities, the most serious of which pertain to maliciously crafted Excel files that could enable attackers to run arbitrary code and gain elevated system rights; accounts with administrative rights are at a greater risk than accounts with fewer privileges. The update addresses these issues by changing the way certain Excel files are parsed and by correcting installation problems with the Open XML File Format Converter for Mac.

The update is rated Important for Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac and requires that you’ve previously installed the Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac 11.5.8 Update. The update is available from Microsoft’s Web site and via the Office 2004 version of Microsoft AutoUpdate. (Free, 9.7 MB)

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Cyberduck 3.5Cyberduck 3.5 is a significant update to the popular open-source file transfer client, adding support for Google Docs storage. Files uploaded to Google Docs are converted to Google Docs format, and you can set what format you want downloaded files in. Plus, if you upload images to Google Docs, Cyberduck can perform optical character recognition on the files. The update also adds support for Reduced Redundancy Storage at Amazon S3, custom metadata attributes for S3 and Rackspace Cloud Files, keyboard-interactive authentication using SecureID, the capability to configure access logs for CloudFront streaming distributions, and Romanian and Slovenian
localizations. A full list of changes and enhancements is available on Cyberduck’s Web site. (Free, 19.2 MB)

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Photoshop Lightroom 3.0 — Following a lengthy public beta, Adobe has released Photoshop Lightroom 3.0. The latest major version of the company’s professional photo cataloging and editing software dramatically improves its capability to reduce noise from high-ISO images, adds support for organizing video files in the library, uploads images to Flickr (and displays comments that other people leave on them at the site), and adds tethered shooting to record photos directly from the camera to Lightroom. A few other new features dance between the analog and digital photo worlds. Notably, a lens correction feature can correct images based on camera
model, lens model, and combinations of the two, addressing the quirks of specific sensors and glass. Perspective correction helps remove unwanted distortion. And, at the other end of the spectrum, a new film grain simulation tool brings a customizable analog film look to digital photos. ($299 new, $99 upgrade, 74.9 MB)

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ExtraBITS for 14 June 2010

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference generated most of the news last week, leading to TidBITS staffers making guest appearances on the MacNotables and Tech Night Owl podcasts. Also, we point at the keynote video itself, along with an article Glenn wrote for Ars Technica giving a possible explanation for the keynote’s Wi-Fi-related failure. In other news, an AT&T security breach revealed some iPad user email addresses, and Second Life laid off 30 percent of its workforce.

Adam Discusses the iPhone 4 and iOS 4 on Tech Night Owl Live — For yet another discussion of Apple’s WWDC announcements, listen in as Adam and Tech Night Owl host Gene Steinberg talk about the top features in the iPhone 4, how FaceTime should integrate with iChat and Skype, and the change in AT&T’s data plans, among much else.

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Congested Wi-Fi WWDC Keynote May Have Triggered iPhone 4 Bug — TidBITS editor Glenn Fleishman explains in some depth at Ars Technica how so much Wi-Fi network congestion was in the air at the WWDC keynote. Based on discussions with two Wi-Fi experts, one of whom ran Apple’s Mac networking hardware group for seven years, the iPhone 4 likely had a Wi-Fi driver bug, possibly triggered by the congestion.

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AT&T Security Breach Exposes iPad User Email Addresses — The New York Times reports that a hacker group named Goatse Security has successfully exploited a hole in AT&T’s Web site to access the email addresses of 114,000 iPad 3G users. AT&T has since patched the hole on its site, but the breach is a black eye for the company and could also harm the iPad’s reputation, even though there’s no indication that the problem was directly related to Apple.

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Adam & Tonya Discuss Ebook Formats and Safari 5 on MacNotables — MacNotables host Chuck Joiner has been confused about how EPUB and PDF compare, so Adam and Tonya tried to explain the pros and cons of each format in this MacNotables podcast. Adam also summarized the new features in Safari 5, and Chuck called upon listeners to vote in a poll to decide whether Adam or Tonya should get the new iPhone 4.

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Second Life Employees Get Second Careers — Remember the virtual world Second Life, which was much touted as the wave of the future some years ago? Well, it seems that the jokes about not needing to use Second Life in favor of your first life weren’t just poking fun. According to TechCrunch, the user base has been shrinking and Second Life maker Linden Lab is laying off 30 percent of its workforce, giving all those employees a chance at a Second Career.

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2010 WWDC Keynote Video Now Available — For those denied the pleasure of watching Steve Jobs unveil the iPhone 4 in person, Apple has posted a video of the 2010 WWDC keynote speech on its Web site. In addition to introducing the iPhone 4, Jobs and company also previewed iOS 4, an update to iBooks, the new video conferencing app FaceTime, and a hearty collection of app demos.

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