Skip to content
Thoughtful, detailed coverage of everything Apple for 34 years
and the TidBITS Content Network for Apple professionals
Show excerpts


We have a cornucopia of articles this week, anchored by Jeff Carlson’s report on using the iPhone app Cyclemeter to track a 42-mile bike ride in the rain. Adam returns to the topic of iOS developers being threatened with patent infringement letters with news of Apple Legal’s response, and he also shares a subtle change in Mac OS X 10.6.7’s Finder sidebar that could have you questioning your sanity. On the perceptual side, Michael Cohen explores how being told to “Get over it” makes him feel in the rumored Rosetta transition with Lion, and Adam disassembles his laptop bag to figure out why it feels so heavy, even going so far as to share a spreadsheet of its entire contents. Notable software releases this week include Dolly Drive 1.2, PDFpen and PDFpenPro 5.3, ProKit 7.0, Digital Camera RAW Compatibility Update 3.7, and Mailplane 2.4.

Adam Engst 27 comments

Mac OS X 10.6.7 Changes Finder Sidebar Behavior

It’s easy to become so accustomed to certain Mac OS X behaviors that when they change and your old habits no longer work, you actually start to question your sanity. That’s what happened to me — and Tonya admitted to a similar feeling, too — when we realized recently that Apple changed the way you remove items from the sidebar in Finder windows in Mac OS X 10.6.7.

A quick recap. For as long as we can remember using the sidebar, you added items to it by dragging them in, and you removed items from it by dragging them out. Easy in, easy out, and that was true through 10.6.6.

As a result, we’ve found that we like popping a folder into the sidebar while we’re working on its associated project, and pulling it out as soon as we’re done — it provides quick access for active projects. That’s what I do with each successive Take Control book, for instance.

With 10.6.7, however, Apple not only messed up (and then fixed) font handling (see “OpenType PostScript Fonts Troublesome in 10.6.7,” 27 March 2011, and “Apple Releases Snow Leopard Font Update,” 26 April 2011), they also changed the way you remove items from the sidebar. Now, instead of just dragging items out, you must either Command-drag them out or Control-click them and choose Remove from Sidebar.


All I can think is that people were complaining about accidentally removing items from the sidebar because it was too easy to drag them out; by requiring either a Command-drag or choosing a contextual menu item, Apple has ensured that it’s nearly impossible to remove an item by mistake. In fact, comments on Twitter indicate that it’s common for inexperienced users (the stereotypical parents) to remove items from both the sidebar and the Dock and then be confused. Perhaps we can expect to see a
similar change for the Dock at some point in the future.

This new method of working isn’t a huge deal, but it would have been helpful of Apple to mention the change in the release notes for 10.6.7. That’s what they’re for, after all. Apple did post a support article explaining how to remove an item from the sidebar, but even that never acknowledges that the behavior changed.

Adam Engst 10 comments

Apple Tells Lodsys That iOS Developers Are Covered

Ten days after many iOS developers were informed by a company called Lodsys that their usage of in-app purchasing for app upgrades infringed Lodsys’s patents (see “Small iOS Developers Targeted over In-App Purchase Patents,” 13 May 2011), Apple Legal has weighed in on the matter, sending Lodsys a letter that unequivocally asserts both Apple’s license of Lodsys’s patents and how Apple’s license covers iOS developers.

In the letter, which TidBITS obtained a copy of and which Macworld has posted online, Apple General Counsel Bruce Sewall states:

Apple is undisputedly licensed to these patent [sic] and the Apple App Makers are protected by that license. There is no basis for Lodsys’ infringement allegations against Apple’s App Makers. Apple intends to share this letter and the information set out herein with its App Makers and is fully prepared to defend Apple’s license rights.

Sewall goes on to address Lodsys’s “infringement contentions,” which Lodsys apparently sent only to iOS developers and not to Apple. In particular, he points out how the iOS APIs, iOS devices, and App Store rely on Lodsys’s patents, which Apple is “expressly licensed” to offer to iOS developers.

That’s a problem because of the doctrines of patent exhaustion and first sale, which basically state that “the authorized sale of an article that substantially embodies a patent” prevents the patent holder from controlling post-sale use of the article. This was most notably addressed in the 2008 Supreme Court ruling in Quanta Computer, Inc. v. LG Electronics, Inc. In other words, Lodsys can’t license the patents to Apple and then go after iOS developers using the Apple products and services that embody those patents.

Summing up, Sewall writes:

Therefore, Apple requests that Lodsys immediately withdraw all notice letters sent to Apple App Makers and cease its false assertions that the App Makers’ use of licensed Apple products and services in any way constitutes infringement of any Lodsys patent.

Obviously, the entire situation isn’t over until Lodsys says it’s over, but the iOS developers I spoke with are breathing easier knowing that Apple Legal has said it will defend Apple’s license rights, which include embodying licensed patents in the iOS ecosystem.

Interestingly, it’s possible that this is the first Apple has heard of Lodsys. In the FOSS Patents blog, which examines patent issues with a focus on the competitiveness of free and open source software, Florian Mueller suggests that Apple’s license came about because the Lodsys patents were temporarily owned by Nathan Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures. Apple, Google, and Microsoft are all investors in Intellectual Ventures, and licensees of the company’s patent portfolio.

Adam Engst 43 comments

Why Laptop Bags Are So Heavy

I’ve been travelling with Apple laptops since the days of the PowerBook 100, and in those years, I’ve seen their power skyrocket and weight plummet. My aluminum MacBook from 2008 is noticeably lighter than that PowerBook 100, and the 11-inch MacBook Air is half the weight of my MacBook.

But what seemingly hasn’t changed one bit is the weight of my fully loaded laptop bag when I’m schlepping it through an airport. After my last trip to Denver and Boulder, I decided to find out where all that weight was really coming from (had I accidentally stored paving stones somewhere in the depths of my bag?), so I completely stripped the bag immediately after the trip, weighing each individual item.

Alas, I didn’t uncover any bowling balls, but as I weighed each item and recorded the numbers in a spreadsheet, I made notes about why that item was present, and whether or not it was essential. And that’s where things became a bit more interesting.

To start, my fully loaded laptop bag weighed in at 19.22 pounds (8.75 kg). What I found was that of that, 13.84 pounds (6.28 kg) came from items that I deemed absolutely essential. But the remaining 5.45 pounds (2.47 kg) stemmed from items that were either entirely pointless or that I would bring on only certain types of trips.

For instance, if I wanted to pack all the gear necessary for Tristan and me to take photos, that added 1.35 pounds (612 g) to the bag. All my running-related items and food added up to 2.10 pounds (952 g). And another 1.87 pounds (848 g) turned out to be completely and utterly unnecessary, coming from items I’ve carried for years and never used. For future trips, I’m considering a separate small bag that I can pack in my clothing backpack, to keep the laptop bag a bit lighter.

But the heftiest items aren’t surprising; nor are they optional. Tops is the MacBook itself, weighing in at 4.5 pounds (2.04 kg), followed by the empty Kensington Saddlebag at 3.33 pounds (1.51 kg). If I were really trying to shed weight, a MacBook Air and a different bag could probably cut the poundage by at least 3 pounds, though I’d still be carrying 1.4 pounds (636 g) of power adapters and cables (a lighter power strip is probably available).

I can’t justify such an expense to save a few pounds, but I should clearly look to reduce weight with different airplane reading material for those times when no one is allowed to use electronic devices. Just three New Yorker magazines weighed in at 1.29 pounds (584 g). Another one would have put my paper material load in range of the iPad and ZeroChroma case weight, at 1.91 pounds (866 g).

I wouldn’t think of telling you what you should or should not carry in your laptop bag, but I can say that if you haven’t cleaned it out recently, you might be lugging more than is necessary. And, if you want to enjoy the voyeurism of seeing exactly what I was carrying with me on my last trip, check out the Google Docs spreadsheet I’ve posted.

Jeff Carlson 17 comments

Tracking a Rainy Ride with Cyclemeter

My iPhone rings at 7:00 AM on a wet Sunday morning, identifying the caller as a friend who’s joining me to do Haul Ash, a 42-mile bike ride between Seattle and Woodinville, WA to commemorate the eruption of Mount Saint Helens. It’s disappointing news: He and the other members of our group are backing out, choosing breakfast at a warm restaurant instead of several hours of riding in what turns out to be a record-setting rain storm.

Although I sometimes ride my bike to the office — a 9-mile round-trip route with a long hill on the return leg — I’m not a cyclist of the calibre of TidBITS Security Editor Rich Mogull, or our resident 100-mile-rider Tonya Engst (see “Find My (Wife’s) iPhone,” 23 September 2009). This 42-mile ride will be the longest single ride I’ve taken, after not being able to do the event the last couple of years due to scheduling conflicts.

Track My Ride — The long ride is a great opportunity for me to test out Abvio’s Cyclemeter iOS app ($4.99). Several years ago I bought a simple cyclometer that tracked my biking speed and distance. It communicated wirelessly with a sensor attached to the front wheel, but at some point the sensor’s battery died and I never got around to replacing it.

Now, of course, I have an iPhone with built-in GPS that is already with me when I ride. Cyclemeter collects that data, records my speed and distance, and logs the route. It can track activities other than cycling, too, ranging from cross country and downhill skiing, to hiking, skating, walking, and running.

When you open the app and give it permission to use your location data (just the first time you launch it), Cyclemeter takes a minute or so to lock onto a good GPS signal. From there, tap the large and obvious Start button to begin a stopwatch and the tracking.

The Stopwatch screen tracks your ride time and distance, current speed, average speed, and fastest speed. If you’ve ridden this route before (more on routes in a moment), you also see the remaining distance. You can customize the Stopwatch screen to display a host of other criteria, such as Split Speed, Direction, Current Time, and various odometers.

If you don’t want your ride dictated by numbers, a Map view plots your course onto a Google map, which can show the service’s street, satellite, or hybrid views. Every mile is marked, so you see more than just a dotted line.

In preparation for this ride, I had installed Biologic’s Bike Mount for iPhone 4 ($64.99), which clips the iPhone to the handlebars. The mount holds the iPhone in either horizontal or vertical orientation in a protective case. The touchscreen is still accessible, although not as responsive as using the screen by itself (which wasn’t a big deal — using a phone while riding, I’m sure, can be just as dangerous as when driving).

The one downside to the mount is that the case covers the iPhone’s ambient light sensor (although the phone’s cameras are still usable), so the screen dims almost immediately. That’s easily fixed by turning off the Auto-Brightness setting in the Brightness system preferences.

Biologic advertises the Bike Mount as being weather-resistant, with seals for the cameras, headphone port, and the sync cable. A silicone liner fits the iPhone 4 snugly; a liner for the iPhone 3G or 3GS is also included.

However, because of the forecast, I had earlier looked closely at the packaging and saw a small disclaimer that the case is designed to be splash-proof, and not to be used in heavy rain. Since that was exactly the type of weather expected for the ride, and because I’m not inclined to risk my iPhone in the name of science or journalism, I decide to slip the case into a pocket. Since my socks quickly become soaked within 15 minutes of riding, that turns out to be a good call. (And of course I wasn’t able to locate the
waterproof shoe covers I bought for just such an occasion. Ah well, once you’re wet, you’re wet, I suppose.)

With Cyclemeter running, I can concentrate on the ride itself. The route is practically flat and not difficult, and the rain seems to have convinced a lot of participants to go have breakfast instead. I can’t compare to previous years, but for some stretches I cycle alone, occasionally getting passed by faster riders.

At the halfway point in the Fremont neighborhood, I tap the Stop button in Cyclemeter to pause the stopwatch. There’s a gathering at a bar where riders can redeem drink tickets for beers (the ride is sponsored by the Red Hook Brewery, so of course there’s beer), but being an admitted alcohol lightweight, I pass. No sense in me wobbling off the trail. Instead, I put on a dry pair of socks (my best idea of the day), eat an energy bar, refill my water bottle and get on the trail heading back. A tap of Cyclemeter’s Start button and off I go for another 21 miles of rain and revolutions.

One of the advantages of the weather, for me, is that I resist the urge to check Cyclemeter every few minutes to see how far I’ve traveled. If I had put the iPhone into the bike mount, I could turn off the screen, but its data would be a quick button press and finger swipe away. I recognize landmarks that I passed on the way, but I’m finding it more enjoyable to just ride and experience the moment. I spend enough time in front of screens — laptop, iPad, and iPhone — during the week that it’s good for my eyes to absorb non-pixelated surroundings.

At one point, though, as my legs start to get tired, I finally pull the iPhone out of my pocket. Only four miles to go! A headwind has picked up, but discovering that I’m closer to the end than I expected gives me a boost of adrenaline to pedal a little harder and ignore my burning muscles.

I round a series of bends that culminate in a sharp right turn onto a bridge, and just beyond I can hear the voices of people who have already finished the ride, seeking dry refuge under tents and drinking beers at the brewery. There’s no finish line — it wasn’t a race — so I pedal to my car and tap Cyclemeter’s big red Stop button.

Now I can see that I’ve ridden 41.25 miles, and it took me 3:15:55 to do it (a bit faster than I expected, since I wasn’t trying to set any land speed records), for an average speed of 12.63 miles per hour. Tapping the More button at the bottom of the screen reveals a Graphs option, letting me see my speed and a representation of the ride’s elevation. I also have plenty of remaining battery life on the iPhone, about 60 percent, suggesting that the app grabs GPS data at a decent rate, but not so fast that it drains the battery.

(The faster you’re travelling, the faster the iPhone’s GPS has to sample to provide updated location information, which is why using a GPS navigation app in the car drains the iPhone’s battery much faster than using one on foot or on a bike.)

My wife wasn’t able to go on the ride this time, but wants to do the course later. So, I tap the Route button to save this route. When we go, preferably when it’s warm and dry, I’ll be able to load the route and start a new stopwatch, and then be able to compare results.

Share My Ride — Later, when I’m dry and recovered, I’m able to explore Cyclemeter’s sharing features. After all, what’s the point of racking up data if I can’t boast about it online? Maybe my friend, at this point full of hash browns and bacon, suspects that I spent the morning drinking at the brewery instead.

With Cyclemeter, I can share results to Twitter, Facebook, or Dailymile, or via email. However, the default options after you sign in to the corresponding services are too intrusive for my taste: The app can automatically post updates, and two of the six options are enabled. That’s two too many for me — I hate apps that automatically send anything, but at least it was easy to configure the settings (tap the service name, tap Auto Post Settings, and turn the options off). I don’t use Dailymile, so I didn’t test that option, but I’m assuming it’s similar. That said, I can see how the automatic post feature could be appealing if you’re on a long ride and you want to let friends or
family members keep track of where you are.

When you view the route info, scrolling down reveals a Share option that leads to a screen with a block of text filled in with the ride details. Tap the text to post it. The result is a link that displays a map of the ride on Google Maps, with mile markers and average speed per mile.

Sharing works the other way, too. You can enable the app to check your Facebook, Twitter, or Dailymile account. When something new is posted to your Twitter stream, for example, the app will read the text to you. You can also configure it so that only replies to you are read. It’s an opt-out feature, instead of opt-in, something I learned unexpectedly when someone posted to my Facebook wall. One voice is available for download at no charge, or you can purchase others in English (American and British English), French, German, and Italian.

Unfortunately, listening to tweets read aloud is like hearing a joke from someone who’s forgotten all the details (or having Jay Leno read tweets on TV, a feature I actually saw once while flipping channels). It doesn’t translate well to spoken communication, such as “Very funny. El. Oh. El. Hash sign. El. Ay. Em. Ee.”

Call me not-so-old-fashioned, but I don’t want to hear my Twitter stream while I’m riding. I’m wary of listening to music, even, although I’m more comfortable doing it while riding on a bike path like Seattle’s Burke-Gilman trail. Commuting in traffic? Forget it. I suppose if you have a daily biking or walking commute and want to catch up with what’s being said, and can parse the audio text, this is a fine feature. I catch up on Twitter by reading on my iPad when I take a bus to work — but I’m also not simultaneously driving the bus. As such, the feature falls outside my interest.

Another feature that doesn’t appeal to me is Competitors, where you can import rides from other Cyclemeter users and then compare your results with theirs, even during the ride. They can export the data as a Google Maps URL, a GPX (GPS Exchange Format) file attachment or URL, a KML (Keyhole Markup Language) file attachment or URL, or CSV (comma-separated values) file attachment or URL. I suppose I’m not competitive enough, but I can see how it would be helpful to try to match or exceed someone else’s pace.

Anticipate My Rides — Now that I have a reliable way to track my rides, I’m looking forward to using Cyclemeter and the Bike Mount for iPhone 4 more as the weather in Seattle improves. Pedaling for 42 miles in heavy rain has made me more confident to take on other rides. And I can say “I did it” to my friend, with the data to back it up, and convince him to join us later in the summer.

Michael E. Cohen 217 comments

Rosetta and Lion: Get Over It?

On March 11th I found myself standing in line outside of the local Apple Store, waiting for an opportunity to buy an iPad 2 so I could get to work on a book I was contracted to write about the new iPad. Coincidentally, standing in line behind me was an old friend and colleague I hadn’t seen for some time. As we conversed, talk turned to Apple’s forthcoming Mac OS X Lion release. I mentioned the rumor that Lion would not include Rosetta and said that it bothered me. My friend snorted derisively and said, “Get over it.” His glib remark rankled me then, and it still rankles.

“Get over it.” I’ve seen the same sentiment pop up a lot, recently, and not just regarding Apple’s rumored abandonment of Rosetta. I’ve seen it in posts and comments about privacy issues (“Privacy is dead. Get over it.”). I’ve seen it, too, in political posts and articles (“Your candidate lost. Get over it.”). I’ve seen it on sports pages (“Your favorite player got traded. Get over it.”) and on entertainment sites (“The show was cancelled. Get over it.”). I’ve seen it in all sorts of contexts, about all sorts of transitions. Every time I see it, even when I understand, and even when I agree with the necessity of moving on, I get angry.

I get angry not because I hate change. Change happens. The cheese moves. I know this, and I accept it. I get angry because the remark is not meant as advice. Rather, it’s an order, and one aimed — at least subconsciously — at elevating the speaker’s own self-image and dismissing the recipient’s feelings. It is a way of saying, “I am above those petty concerns that you, if only you were as wise as I am, would agree are petty.” It is glib advice. It is smug advice. And it is, in many cases, bad advice.

Take Rosetta. Rosetta was introduced by Apple as a way to ease the transition from PowerPC-based Macs to Intel-based Macs. It was designed to run, transparently as far as the user was concerned, PowerPC-compatible applications on an Intel processor, a non-trivial feat of magic, given the differences in the processor architectures. Because of Rosetta, Mac users could upgrade to the newer Intel-based Macs without having to throw out all of their existing software. On the Apple Web page that introduced Rosetta, Apple said, “You’ll never see it, you’ll never configure it, you’ll never have to think about it. It’s built into Mac OS X to ensure that
most of your existing applications live a long and fruitful life.”

Now, two major versions of Mac OS X later, it appears that Rosetta is going away. And if it does, it will be accompanied by a number of applications that I use frequently. Quicken 2007. Photoshop CS1. FileMaker Pro 8. Microsoft Word 2004. Among many others.

According to my friend, I should just “get over it.” At a basic level, he’s right: if Apple does indeed drop Rosetta in Lion, I’ll have no recourse but either to abandon these applications (and at least some of the data I produced using these applications), or to spend many hundreds of dollars, in addition to whatever Lion costs, to replace these applications with their current Intel-native versions. In that sense, I’ll have no choice but to get over it.

But in another sense, I won’t be able to get over it, and there is no reason that I should. Coping with a change does not mean wholeheartedly embracing that change — not when that change has real, unpleasant consequences. The loss of Rosetta has just such consequences. In my case, they are financial (it will cost a lot to replace that software), logistical (I’ll have to devote a good deal of time and energy finding replacement software and, in many cases, converting data and work processes), and emotional (Apple’s promise about Rosetta — “you’ll never have to think about it” — has been broken, and with it goes some part of the trust I have in Apple’s claims for the future). The emotional consequences are no more
trivial than the financial or logistical ones. To glibly advise me to just “get over it” denies the validity and the reality of what I feel. It denies me as a person.

I may spend my days using computers, but I am not one. I am a human being. My relationship with technology is both intellectual and emotional. All humans have an emotional relationship with the products they use, whether or not they admit it. When the creators of those products make changes, even for sound engineering or business reasons, we users have to deal with both the practical and emotional consequences of those changes.

So I’ll deal with losing Rosetta, if that is what I have to do if I want to upgrade to Lion or buy a new Mac that can only run Lion. But part of that dealing will be my viewing each marketing statement that comes from Apple in the future with a more cynical, more jaundiced eye. And another part of dealing will be changing what I say when people ask me what computer to buy. I will still likely recommend Apple products, but there will be more caveats and more on-the-other-hands than I might have offered formerly.

Yes, change happens, but no, I won’t just get over it.

[Editor’s Note: Folks, before commenting, please think about what Michael is really saying in this article. He’s not complaining about the fact that things change, and he’s perfectly capable of dealing with those changes. He’s pointing out that the “Get over it” response to people who express concern about change is dismissive and unhelpful, and doesn’t acknowledge how people really do feel. And he’s noting that, despite Apple’s public description of Rosetta through late 2010, there has been no official word from Apple about something that — if it’s true — will eventually affect a vast number of Mac users. -Adam]

TidBITS Staff No comments

TidBITS Watchlist: Notable Software Updates for 23 May 2011

Dolly Drive 1.2 — The Dolly Drive online backup service has updated its software for redirecting Time Machine backups to the cloud. Dolly Drive 1.2 improves the performance of its local clone feature and correctly rebuilds a cache for smoother booting from the clone. Also, the Inclusions Assistant now defaults to no inclusions on its first run, the Dolly Drive main window shows your total Dolly Drive usage, and the Time Machine progress bar has been removed due to showing inconsistent results. (Free, but available only to subscribers)

Read/post comments about Dolly Drive 1.2.

PDFpen and PDFpenPro 5.3 — Smile has released new versions of PDFpen and PDFpenPro, their PDF manipulation software. Version 5.3 adds several security enhancements, including the capability to encrypt data using 128- and 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) algorithms, which are preferred by the U.S. government and required for the storage of medical records. Also, AES-256 encryption in PDFpen now supports Unicode in passwords, and the encryption method can now be set via AppleScript. ($59.95/$99.95 new, free update, 41.4 MB)

Read/post comments about PDFpen and PDFpenPro 5.3.

ProKit 7.0 — Apple has released ProKit 7.0 , the set of libraries that power the user interface behind Apple’s professional apps like Final Cut Pro, Logic, and MainStage. Among other changes, the new release includes several bug and stability fixes, provides better font rendering, and improves support for popover-style tooltips. ProKit 7.0 is recommended for — and will be presented by Software Update to — users of Final Cut Pro, Motion, Soundtrack Pro, DVD Studio Pro, iPhoto, Aperture, Final Cut Express, Logic Pro, MainStage, Logic Express and iAd Producer. ProKit 7.0 requires Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later. (Free update,
15.7 MB)

Read/post comments about ProKit 7.0.

Digital Camera RAW Compatibility Update 3.7 — With Digital Camera RAW Compatibility Update 3.7, Apple has updated its raw image support in Aperture 3 and iPhoto ’11 for several new cameras, including the FinePix 1000 from Fujifilm, the D5100 from Nikon, the E-PL2 and XZ-1 from Olympus, and Samsung’s GX-1S. (Free update, 6.62 MB)

Read/post comments about Digital Camera RAW Compatibility Update 3.7.

Mailplane 2.4 — Despite the rise of social networking services, email is where the action is when it comes to getting things done, and to that end, Uncomplex’s Gmail-specific client Mailplane 2.4 has added support for the popular Evernote service. Designed for collecting information and, well, notes, Evernote can now be accessed directly from Mailplane such that you can create notes linking to a Mailplane conversation and import email attachments directly into Evernote. Other fixes in Mailplane 2.4 include problems with Quick Links
not appearing in Mailplane’s Navigate list of labels and links, Mailplane’s main window showing up even when Mailplane was set as a hidden login item, exporting Word files from Google Docs, and more. ($24.95 new, free update, 21.5 MB)

Read/post comments about Mailplane 2.4.

TidBITS Staff No comments

ExtraBITS for 23 May 2011

Due to being heads-down in publication and development work, only one external article — news of GadgetTrak being able to file police reports — caught our attention this week.

GadgetTrak Adds Integrated Police Report Filing — GadgetTrak has added a feature that enables users to file police reports directly from within the theft recovery service’s Web-based control panel. Over 150 police agencies in the United States offer online filing of police reports, and if your GadgetTrak-enabled device is lost within one of those areas, you can now more quickly involve law enforcement in your loss.

Read/post comments