Apple opens the week with a sizzling new lineup of PowerBook G4 models, boosting processor speeds and adding a new Sudden Motion Sensor and a scrolling trackpad. Also in this issue, we note price reductions for Mac mini build-to-order components; a clever service for transferring large files via email; and the releases of Security Update 2005-001, iMovie HD 5.0.1, iStumbler 90, and a Take Control update and German translation. This issue also brings a new approach to DealBITS that could significantly increase your chances of receiving a prize – SmileOnMyMac’s photoprinto software this time. Lastly, we wish the Mac a happy 21st birthday!
First Apple Security Update of 2005 Patches Mac OS X — On 25-Jan-05, Apple released Security Update 2005-001 to patch several reported vulnerabilities in both desktop and server versions of Mac OS X 10.2 and 10.3. The update affects Mail and Safari, the SquirrelMail webmail software incorporated in Mac OS X Server, the Unix command-line tool at, ColorSync color profile software, and the libxml2 and PHP libraries. With the update, Apple also started a new naming scheme for security updates that uses the year and a sequential update number rather than a full date that could sometimes cause confusion when it didn’t match with the release date.
The newly patched Mail client no longer uses each Mac’s identifiable unique network hardware address in constructing the Message-ID header in outgoing messages, and Safari now prevents a malicious pop-up window from appearing to be from a trusted site. (If Safari’s Block Pop-Up Windows feature is enabled, the issue doesn’t occur.) Details of the other patches are available on Apple’s Web site. The free updates, 18 MB for 10.2 users and 7 MB for 10.3 users, may be downloaded via Software Update or from the Apple Downloads Web site. [MHA]
iMovie HD 5.0.1 Addresses Audio Sync Issues — Apple on 27-Jan-05 released iMovie HD 5.0.1, which fixes unspecified audio and video synchronization issues. According to Apple, you should apply the patch if your iMovie HD projects include "DV Widescreen assets [16:9 footage], titles, transitions, or video effects" …which describes pretty much any iMovie project. The update is available as a 2.4 MB download via Software Update. [JLC]
Stumbling across Bluetooth (and Wi-Fi) — Alf Watt has released iStumbler 90, a Mac OS X tool that scans for Wi-Fi (AirPort and AirPort Extreme) and now Bluetooth and Rendezvous networks. Scanning for Bluetooth networks is a new hobby among those who want to find other similarly minded people and, sometimes, mess with their minds by sending them strange messages or even taking over certain devices when a user is unwise enough to accept a Bluetooth-sent attachment. The Rendezvous or multicast DNS (mDNS) scanning is also useful given how widely Apple has deployed the technology. iStumbler lets you browse for mDNS services and connect to them through a single interface instead of needing to use different programs, such as a Web browser and the Finder, to attach to different kinds of services.
This version also improves the scanning and display of Wi-Fi networks, which system administrators will find useful when trying to pinpoint signal problems or glitches, including a Widget-like transparent window showing signal strength on a time-based chart for any one network you choose. iStumbler is free and open source, but the developer is soliciting small donations to continue his work. [GF]
Happy 21, Macintosh! 24-Jan-05 marked the 21st birthday of our favorite smiling friend, Macintosh. If you have a BitTorrent client (I’m currently using Azureus), go to the last URL below and download the video (21 MB QuickTime) of the Mac’s introduction. Steve Jobs’s bow tie alone is worth the download. [JLC]
Before I introduce this week’s DealBITS drawing, I want to tell you about a few changes to the way DealBITS works that will increase your chances of receiving a prize. On the confirmation Web page (and in a new email confirmation message entrants receive), you’ll see a custom URL that you can send to friends and colleagues so they can enter the drawing too. Here’s the cool part. If one of our randomly chosen winners entered using your referral URL, you’ll receive exactly the same prize. Refer one person and you double your chances of receiving a prize. Refer 100 people and your chances increase by 100 times. Also, if the address you use to enter is not subscribed to TidBITS, the confirmation page and email give you an opportunity to subscribe; I’m hoping this new approach will help introduce more people to TidBITS as well.
On to this week’s drawing! Holiday cards bug me. Buying pre-printed cards and just signing them feels like a cop-out, but hand-writing individual notes to the 130 or so people on our list is far too much work. For some years we’ve addressed the problem with a holiday letter that we enclose in a card, but that approach lacks panache. The last two years we instead designed our cards in InDesign, adding photos from the year and the text of the holiday letter, and then had them printed on glossy, pre-scored stock. It’s still a lot of work, and it’s not cheap (though no more so than commercial holiday cards), but the results are worth it, and the cards engender lots of nice comments.
So when Greg Scown and Philip Goward of SmileOnMyMac told me at Macworld Expo they’d come up with a new program, called photoprinto, that makes it easy to design both entire photo albums and page layouts with text and photos, I asked them to simulate my holiday card layout, which took me quite some time in InDesign. A few minutes later, and they’d done a great mock-up; photoprinto really did make photo layouts easy.
Needless to say, photoprinto can import photos from iPhoto or from a folder; it can create single sheets or full multi-page photo albums; and it can help you go beyond what’s possible in iPhoto with a set of customizable, full-graphic, album templates for many occasions; numerous frames; and a variety of effects that you can apply to photos, including captions, cropping, soft edges, and more.
Apple today pulled the wraps off an update to the PowerBook line that increases CPU speeds to 1.5 GHz and 1.67 GHz, bumps all hard drive speeds to 5400 rpm, adds an 8x SuperDrive, and introduces a pair of interesting new technologies – the scrolling trackpad and Sudden Motion Sensor – the latter of which you hope you’ll never need.
Faster PowerBook! In a not unexpected move, Apple bumped up the clock speeds of the PowerPC G4 used in the current PowerBook line. The end result is a $2,700 1.67 GHz 17-inch PowerBook that comes with a 100 GB hard disk, an 8x SuperDrive (CD-RW/DVD+-RW), an ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 graphics processor with 128 MB of video memory, Dual Link DVI support that can drive Apple’s 30-inch Cinema HD Display, and internal Bluetooth 2.0+EDR. Other specs remain the same: 512 MB of RAM, Gigabit Ethernet, 56 Kbps v.92 modem, built-in 54 Mbps AirPort Extreme, a pair of USB 2.0 ports, FireWire 400 and 800 ports, optical digital audio input and output, and an illuminated keyboard with the ambient light sensor.
The addition of the backwards-compatible Bluetooth 2.0+EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) is somewhat notable, given that Apple is the first major company to build the technology in by default. Bluetooth 2.0 triples the maximum data rate from 1 Mbps to 3 Mbps and in doing so, thanks to the side effect of transmitting for shorter periods of time, reduces power consumption. Of course, nothing else supports Bluetooth 2.0 right now, but that will undoubtedly change soon. The final Bluetooth 2.0 specification was ratified in November 2004, with the first ratified chips appearing in December, meaning that Apple turned on a dime to build them into these new PowerBooks.
The 15-inch PowerBook comes in 1.67 GHz and 1.5 GHz models ($2,300 and $2,000, respectively). Compared to the 17-inch PowerBook, the 15-inch 1.67 GHz model includes only 64 MB of video memory (128 MB and Dual Link support are optional), comes with an 80 GB hard disk, and lacks digital audio input and output; the 1.5 GHz model also trades the SuperDrive for a Combo drive (CD-RW/DVD-ROM) and loses the option of Dual Link support.
With the 12-inch PowerBook, Apple offers a pair of 1.5 GHz models. The $1,700 model includes an 80 GB hard disk and an 8x SuperDrive; the $1,500 model instead provides a 60 GB hard disk and a Combo drive. Both models also rely on an Nvidia GeForce FX Go5200 graphics processor with 64 MB of video memory, and they offer only 100Base-T Ethernet and FireWire 400 instead of the faster ports sported by their larger siblings. As with previous models, the 12-inch version does not offer the illuminated backlit keyboard.
All models come with Mac OS X 10.3 Panther, iLife ’05, Art Director’s Toolkit, QuickBooks for Mac New User Edition, GraphicConverter, OmniGraffle, OmniOutliner, and a variety of trial versions of other programs.
Scrolling Trackpad — Raging Menace Software’s $15 utility SideTrack has long simulated scroll-wheel capabilities on PowerBook and iBook trackpads, but it does so by devoting a side of the trackpad to scrolling. Apple’s new scrolling trackpad technology, which is built into all the new PowerBooks, takes a different approach that may work better. Drag two fingers on the trackpad simultaneously to scroll horizontally, vertically, or to pan around the active window. You can customize the settings or turn off scrolling entirely, presumably in the Trackpad tab of the Keyboard & Mouse preference pane.
The scrolling trackpad technology is built into the trackpad hardware and thus won’t be available to owners of older PowerBooks or iBooks, though I would expect to see it migrate to the iBooks with the next minor update to that line.
Sudden Motion Sensor — Dropping your PowerBook is a bad idea. A really bad idea. But as much as breaking the screen and denting the case in ways that might prevent the lid from closing or the optical drive from working are terrible, horrible, awful, rotten, no-good things to have happen, even worse is damaging the hard drive and losing all your data. (Unless, of course, you have cleverly followed Joe Kissell’s advice in "Take Control of Mac OS X Backups" to ensure that you can restore everything with a minimum of fuss and downtime.)
Apple still hasn’t built any sort of automatic backup capabilities into the Mac, but the entire line of new PowerBooks feature the new Sudden Motion Sensor, which detects changes in axis position and accelerated motion (as will likely happen when you accidentally pull the PowerBook off your desk while messing about with the cable nest on the floor). When the Sudden Motion Sensor activates, it instantly parks the heads of your hard drive to lessen the chance that they’ll scratch the disk surface, reducing the likelihood of data loss. Once the Sudden Motion Sensor notices that your PowerBook is level again, it unlocks the drive heads automatically.
As much as the Sudden Motion Sensor is a useful technology, it’s by no means a panacea. Even ignoring all the other damage that comes with dropping a PowerBook, the Sudden Motion Sensor is relevant only if you drop the PowerBook while it’s running; when the PowerBook is sleeping or shut down, the drive heads are already parked. So don’t assume that the Sudden Motion Sensor will provide any protection beyond what you already have in many situations. As always, focus on prevention: be careful when handling your laptop, use a well-padded laptop bag (TidBITS sponsor Matias has a video of dropping a laptop in their Laptop Armor bag onto concrete from a high of 10 feet (3.05 meters)), and set up your working environment to reduce the risk of people tripping over cables and other accidents.
Nice Updates — These minor revisions to the PowerBook line are welcome, particularly given that they don’t come with increased prices – no one will ever complain about a CPU speed bump, and the faster hard disks should improve performance with disk-intensive work. The Dual Link capability will be particularly appreciated by those who use a 15-inch or 17-inch PowerBook as their primary Mac, but who also need the massive screen real estate of a 30-inch Cinema HD Display. And the addition of Bluetooth 2.0+EDR, the scrolling trackpad, and Sudden Motion Sensor sweeten the deal beyond what normally happens with a speed bump update. The new machines will be available later this week.
Early complaints about the cost of built-to-order options for memory upgrades and wireless options on the Mac mini have apparently led Apple to slash those prices dramatically. (MacNN originally noticed these changes.)
The 1 GB memory upgrade was originally a fairly ridiculous $475 when name-brand 1 GB cards of the same type can be found in the mid-$200s. The price now is $325, which is low enough that it’s more reasonable to have an Apple-certified technician perform the installation – especially when you consider that Apple will warranty that RAM and replace it if you have problems. (Self-installed RAM is your own problem, a problem that bit me with my PowerBook G4 and Panther.)
The wireless combination of Bluetooth and AirPort Extreme is now $100 instead of $130 when installed together. Upgrading the hard drive to 80 GB now costs $50 instead of $90. (MacNN also noted that the add-on SuperDrive speed jumped from 4x at the time of the announcement to 8x. However, according to MacCentral, Apple said that the speed change was a typographical error and changed the specification back to 4x speed – the drive reads at 8x, but writes at 4x.)
I assumed that because built-to-order units wouldn’t have shipped, early buyers will get this new pricing. However, author and Macworld Senior Writer Dan Frakes wrote in after I’d posted this and noted that he’d received his build-to-order (BTO) unit on 20-Jan-05! He’s contacting Apple about a refund in the difference, and I suggest all early BTO purchasers do the same, as Apple is generally good about this kind of short-term price change.
This dramatically drops the cost of a "high-end" Mac mini in the BTO variety. Take a 1.42 GHz processor, an 80 GB hard drive, a SuperDrive, Bluetooth, AirPort Extreme, a USB keyboard and mouse (the price of which dropped last week), and a full gig of memory, and you’re no longer paying over $1,400, but $1,180 instead .
It’s a problem. You need to send a large file to a friend or colleague, but it’s too large for email, you don’t have access to an FTP server, or the recipient isn’t sufficiently savvy about usernames and passwords or firewalls to log in to your server. You could always resort to a CD-R sent via overnight delivery, but that’s expensive and just feels wrong in this day and age of Internet communications. What to do? There’s Creo Tokens, which creates and sends a tiny token file that a special Token Redeemer client can use to retrieve the file from your machine. But Tokens costs $50, and requiring your recipients to download and install client software is onerous, even when it’s free. (That said, Tokens could make a lot of sense if you want to run your own Token Server ($600 or $1,000, depending on capabilities) and maintain full control over the data streams.)
But for a low overhead solution, try YouSendIt. It’s a free Web service that’s about as simple as you could imagine. On the YouSendIt Web page, you fill in the recipient’s email address, click the Browse button to locate the file you want to send, optionally enter your email address and a message, and click the Send It button. The recipient then receives an email message containing a link that downloads the file. If you don’t want to reveal your recipient’s address to YouSendIt, just send the link to yourself and forward it manually with whatever additional text you’d like to add.
Files can be up to 1 GB in size, and YouSendIt scans all files for viruses (not being a virus-infected Windows user, I don’t know what happens if they discover a virus in something you send). Files remain available for 7 days and allow only a limited number of downloads to prevent abuse. The recipient can also click a link to delete the file after downloading. If you want secure transfers, you can switch to a version of the page that uses secure HTTP for both you and your recipient; of course, that assumes you trust YouSendIt in general. You can even put a link like the one below on your Web site that others can use to send you files via YouSendIt.
While writing about YouSendIt, I ran across a few other similar services, including LeapFile, SendThisFile, YouShareIt, and DropLoad. The first two required setting up accounts (most of which weren’t free); YouShareIt has been operating since 01-Jan-05 (now that’s longevity!) and appears to be an ad-supported clone of YouSendIt; and DropLoad is limited to files under 100 MB. So for most purposes, I think YouSendIt is all that’s necessary. Give it a try next time you need to send a file that’s too large for email.
It may seem as though little has been happening with Take Control of late, but in fact, that’s mostly because we’ve been working on translations and updates, with two appearing this week and more coming soon.
"Take Control of Sharing Files in Panther" Turns 1.2 — The 1.2 update of Glenn Fleishman’s ebook about setting up (and using) file sharing services under Panther is hot off our virtual press. The most important change is a significantly revised and expanded section about setting up an FTP server. Glenn now recommends that readers avoid using Apple’s built-in FTP server and instead use PureFTPd and PureFTPd Manager, which offer many helpful features for running a secure, well-managed server. In addition to a number of tiny updates relating to Mac OS X 10.3.6 and iPhoto 5, Glenn added info about Secure FTP (SFTP) and FTP-SSL/TLS. To finish the update, we added a coupon at the back for $5 off any purchase from Small Dog Electronics.
If you own the ebook, get your update by clicking the Check for Updates button on the first page of the PDF file. If your copy is too old (version 1.1.1 or older) to have a Check for Updates button, you may be able to update via a coupon code sent to you in email in the spring of 2004. If you’ve lost the coupon code, ask for help via the form on our FAQ page. [ACE]
"Take Control of Buying a Mac" Translated to German — Sprechen Sie Deutsch? If so, you should check out our latest Take Control release, the German translation of version 1.0.1 of my "Take Control of Buying a Mac" ebook. Translated by Hartmut Greiser, who also did Joe Kissell’s "Take Control of Upgrading to Panther," this new translation brings all my advice about when to buy a Mac, how to choose exactly the right Mac, where to buy Macs, and what to do with your old Mac to the German-speaking world. It costs US$7.50, and there’s a $5 discount if you already purchased the English version; just click your Check for Updates button and purchase using the link on that page.
Needless to say, it’s more difficult for me to get the word out about the ebook in words for which my years of high-school German apparently failed to prepare me. So we welcome any suggestions you can make for ways we can introduce the translation to other German-speaking Mac users (or PC users who need to become Mac users). [ACE]
The second URL below each thread description points to the discussion on our Web Crossing server, which will be much faster.
Macworld Expo in decline? Although the number of vendors at Macworld Expo San Francisco 2005 was up, the increase is offset by the number of iPod-specific (non-Mac) booths. Does this point to less interest in Macworld Expo? (4 messages)
Pages first impressions — Readers share their initial experiences with Apple’s new word-processing/page-layout application, Pages. (3 messages)
iWork and other applications — Does Pages import data from other applications, such as Microsoft Excel or FileMaker? (5 messages)
Memory for the Mac mini — Readers share suggestions on where to buy more RAM for the Mac mini, taking memory quality into consideration as well as price. (4 messages)
Remember Watson? Karelia’s Watson search utility was flying high before Apple introduced an improved Sherlock utility that copied many of Watson’s features. Now, Watson is owned by Sun, and people are talking about making Watson on the Mac open-source. Will Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger’s Dashboard widgets replace Watson’s functionality? (19 messages)