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Unsurprisingly, the iPhone nearly monopolizes this issue with our news coverage of the release of the iPhone OS 3.0 and the iPhone 3GS, AT&T’s improvements and clarifications of upgrade pricing, the iPhone 3GS’s initial sales figures, Glenn Fleishman’s in-depth look at how the new Find My iPhone feature works, and Adam’s gleeful reporting of the iPhone 3GS’s name change. On the Mac side of the fence, Jeff Carlson reviews the ViBook monitor adapter for adding a display via USB, we announce the release of Sharon Zardetto’s “Take Control of Safari 4” book, and we open a DealBITS drawing for free copies of SmileOnMyMac’s DiscLabel. And just for a little variety, Glenn reports on the letter sent by a Who’s Who of security experts to Google about improving the security of Google services. In the TidBITS Watchlist, we look at Apple’s Bluetooth Firmware Update 2.0, Sync’Em 1.30, DiscLabel 6.0.1, and Safari 4.0.1.

Jeff Carlson No comments

iPhone 3GS and iPhone OS 3.0 Now Available

Apple overhauled its mobile computing offerings last week, making the iPhone OS 3.0 software available on 17-Jun-09 and then releasing the iPhone 3GS two days later on 19-Jun-09.

The iPhone 3GS release didn’t create the same lengthy waits as last year, when some people stood in line for hours. (I spent 8 hours at the Apple Store University Village to buy an iPhone 3G for my wife; see “iPhone 3G: On the Line in Seattle,” 2008-07-13.) Purchasers this year were able to pre-order models and have them shipped for delivery on the 19th or for pickup at an Apple Store; iPhone 3G buyers needed to activate the phones in person at an Apple Store or AT&T retail location.

Supplies seem to be plentiful, with shipping estimates from the online Apple Store quoting 2-4 business days.

Today, Apple announced that it had sold 1 million iPhone 3GS units during the opening weekend, an impressive feat considering the new model was introduced in just eight countries; the iPhone 3G, which also sold a million units in its first weekend, debuted in 24 countries. Apple also reported 6 million copies of the iPhone OS 3.0 software were downloaded in the same time period.

iPhone OS 3.0 — The iPhone OS 3.0 Software Update is a free update for owners of all existing iPhone models. Owners of all iPod touch models can purchase the update for $9.95 (the pricing is required because of how Apple reports iPod revenue). For details on what’s new, see “Apple Previews iPhone 3.0 Software” (2009-03-17) and “iPhone OS 3.0 Ships 17-Jun-09” (2009-06-08).

To get the update, connect your iPhone or iPod touch to your computer, launch iTunes, and let it synchronize and back up the device. Next, click the device’s name in the sidebar and click the Check for Update button. iTunes downloads the software (approximately 230 MB, depending on the model of device you’re updating) and applies the update. It will take some time to download and install, so don’t do this if you expect to need your phone within the next hour or so.

Activation Troubles, Again — Although not as rocky an introduction as the iPhone 3G and iPhone OS 2.0 last year, the launch still taxed Apple’s resources.

When the iPhone 3G and iPhone OS 2.0 software were released on the same day in July last year, the launch was severely marred by the overwhelming flood of activation requests to Apple’s servers, which left many people with unactivated devices. The load was compounded by the introduction of MobileMe, which replaced Apple’s .Mac service. (See “MobileMe Fails to Launch Well, but Finally Launches,” 2008-07-12; and “MobileMea Culpa: Apple Apologizes and Explains Tiger Situation,” 2008-07-16.)

This year’s release was better, but activation woes still bedeviled new iPhone owners and upgraders. According to a report posted to AppleInsider, some customers were alerted in iTunes that the activation process could take up to 48 hours. My new iPhone 3GS (white, 32 GB) had no cellular access for about 3 hours on Friday; my original iPhone was also offline during that time.

According to Ars Technica, Apple is offering $30 iTunes Store credits to people who were affected by the activation delays. It’s not yet clear who will receive the credits – I presume there’s a minimum wait time – but email messages with the offer are due to be sent from Apple today.

Glenn Fleishman No comments

AT&T Improves and Clarifies iPhone Upgrade Eligibility

With the release of the iPhone 3GS, AT&T has clarified and changed some of the most confusing policies around which existing customers qualify for the cheapest upgrade prices. Many existing iPhone 3G customers can now pay $199 or $299 (16 GB or 32 GB) for a new iPhone 3GS – the same as a new AT&T customer. Before 17-Jun-09, they were told it would cost them an additional $200.

TidBITS editor Rich Mogull wrote about these policies and his analysis of how they work last week in “Call AT&T for the Best iPhone Upgrade Price,” 2009-06-15. The condensed version is that AT&T said most subscribers who had a subsidized phone, whether an iPhone 3G or otherwise, under a 2-year plan would likely be eligible for the cheapest upgrade between 12 and 18 months into their contract period.

The latest change is that iPhone 3G owners who would be eligible for new-customer pricing in July, August, or September 2009 will be offered that lower upgrade price starting 18-Jun-09. AT&T will update whether a customer is eligible or not in that person’s account on that date as well.

In the announcement, AT&T revealed what Rich and others had inferred: the more you spend, the sooner AT&T will sell you another phone at below its cost. In the release, AT&T says that subscribers who spent $99 or more per line per month are the people who are eligible between 12 and 18 months in a 2-year contract.

While this change still doesn’t explain some of the scenarios Rich explored, it’s a welcome change for early iPhone 3G buyers who already pay AT&T a lot of money per month. Such customers felt that AT&T had already recouped the difference between what AT&T pays Apple and what the subscriber paid for the phone, and that the telecom giant was losing a lot of good will, along with another 2-year commitment, from its most dedicated customers.

Doug McLean No comments

iPhone 3GS Sells One Million Units in Its First Weekend

Apple has announced that one million iPhone 3GS units were sold during the phone’s first three days of availability. Interestingly, this is the exact amount of time it took the iPhone 3G, released on 11-Jul-08, to clear one million units. The iPhone 3GS also launched in just eight countries, compared to 24 countries for the iPhone 3G launch. Despite the incredible anticipation and memorable images of lines spilling out of Apple retail stores, the original iPhone didn’t hit the one million mark until 74 days after its release on

Although it’s interesting to compare these numbers, we have to take a number of factors into account, especially when considering the time it took the original iPhone to hit the one million mark. While the subsidized prices for the iPhone 3G 8 GB and 16 GB models were the same as for the iPhone 3GS 16 GB and 32 GB models – $199 and $299 respectively – the original iPhone’s 4 GB and 8 GB models were priced at $499 and $599 (without subsidies). Selling at roughly double the cost and under first-generation scrutiny and skepticism, the original iPhone’s 74-day wait to sell one million units is easily understandable.

It’s also worth considering that since the original iPhone’s debut, Apple has opened more retail stores, and a wider population has caught on to the iPhone phenomenon and even the concept of owning a smartphone. Additional years of marketing, positive reviews, and awards should also be acknowledged when considering the tremendous reduction in time it took both the iPhone 3G and 3GS to hit the one million milestone.

But how should we think about the apparently identical sales statistic for the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS? Some factors point to lowered expectations, such as the dour economy (the major bank failures that signaled the most serious phase of the economic crisis came after the release of the iPhone 3G in July 2008). Plus, at least in the United States, AT&T’s fumbling of the iPhone 3GS upgrade pricing must have caused some people to hold off on upgrading (see “Call AT&T for the Best iPhone Upgrade Price”, 2009-06-15, and “AT&T Improves and Clarifies iPhone Upgrade Eligibility”, 2009-06-17). While AT&T eventually improved its wayward upgrade
policy to be more friendly to loyal customers, initial reporting may still have negatively affected the first weekend of sales.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the iPhone 3GS could have exceeded the sales of its predecessor, given the additional year of marketing and press, and an improved list of specs for the same price points. This year’s model also had the benefit of online pre-orders, with devices shipped free for arrival or available for pickup at an Apple Store on launch day. The iPhone 3G required in-person sales and activation at the beginning of its run.

Which generation’s one-million-sold mark is the greater accomplishment is thus a difficult question to answer – but quite the enjoyable problem to have if you’re Apple. Meanwhile, the demographics of who partook in this first weekend’s shopping spree will likely remain unknown, though this year it likely contained a slew of generation-jumping owners of the original iPhone, a healthy dash of iPhone 3G upgraders, and likely some wide-eyed newcomers too.

Glenn Fleishman No comments

Security Experts Urge Google to Secure All Sessions

Google has been name-checked on security. A letter sent on 16-Jun-09 to Google CEO Eric Schmidt strongly urges the company to make a secure connection the default method for Web applications. Among the 38 signatories to the letter are a host of well-known security experts, researchers, and advocates, including Ronald Rivest (the R of RSA), Bruce Schneier, Jon Callas, Eugene Spafford, Peter G. Neumann, William Cheswick, and Steven Bellovin.

Two years ago, Google’s use of unsecured connections came to the fore with the discovery of sidejacking, a technique for grabbing the authentication cookies that Google uses to identify users during an unsecured session and inserting them into a browser under the sidejacker’s control. Sidejacking can be performed anywhere there’s an open Wi-Fi hotspot or an untrusted Ethernet network in which traffic is mingled and sniffable. (See “Sidejack Attack Jimmies Open Gmail, Other Services,” 2007-08-27.)

Google has taken some steps to derail sidejacking, including marking the Gmail authentication cookie with a secure flag that should keep it from being sent without encryption even if https isn’t used. Google also added an option to require https (SSL/TLS secured) connections for Gmail. (See “Google Gmail Adds Secure Session Option,” 2008-07-28.) The researchers noted that other services, like Google Docs and Google Calendar, support https as well, although there’s no way to set that level of security as a default.

The letter sent to Google claims that acquiring a Google authentication cookie from Docs or Calendar would allow access to Gmail, but one of Google’s security team members, Alma Whitten, said in a blog entry that it wouldn’t be possible for such a cookie to be intercepted.

The security experts urge that https sessions become the default for all Web-based services. The letter acknowledges that this lack is a widespread problem, and is even worse at Microsoft Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, Facebook, and MySpace because those services don’t offer a secure option. We expect that the security experts are starting with Google because of Google’s existing optional support for secure connections, and if they can convince Google to make the switch, they’ll move on to these other companies.

They note that because Google apps are designed to work asynchronously, queuing and performing tasks at the server and then updating the browser without a page reload, any latency introduced by the additional user or server computational load for encryption won’t make the experience of using these applications worse.

Google’s response, in Whitten’s blog entry, is that Google remains concerned that there’s not enough known about whether specific computer configurations, networks, or parts of the world would suffer far worse performance in an all-https world. Whitten also said that Google is planning a trial that moves small sets of Gmail customers who haven’t explicitly requested https-only sessions to that option.

Adam Engst No comments

“Take Control of Safari 4” Guides Readers Beyond Basic Browsing

We’ve just released “Take Control of Safari 4,” a new book by long-time Mac author Sharon Zardetto. We’ve had many requests for a thorough explanation of Apple’s Safari Web browser, and the beta of Safari 4 inspired Sharon to comb through the program, documenting exactly how it works for those who would like to learn a few non-obvious features so they can get more out of the program. If, to pick just a few of the topics covered, you’ve been slacking off on learning how to organize your bookmarks into a highly useful bookmarks bar, if you’ve never bothered to learn the keyboard shortcuts for working with tabs efficiently, or if you’ve always wanted to read RSS feeds but never
quite figured them out, this 92-page book is for you. It’s available in both PDF ($10) and print ($19.99) formats.

In “Take Control of Safari 4,” you’ll learn about new features like Top Sites and searching the page content of your bookmarks and history, and you’ll get answers to questions like these:

  • How do I load six Web pages at once?
  • Now that I’ve loaded six pages, how do I best work with them?
  • What are all the keyboard shortcuts for working with tabs?
  • How do I bookmark a page I want to return to?
  • How do I import Firefox bookmarks?
  • I have 1,042 bookmarks. Is there a sensible way to search or organize them?
  • What are the default keyboard shortcuts for the bookmarks bar?
  • Can I search for text on the currently active Web page?
  • How do I erase my history to prevent someone from snooping through it?
  • Where does Safari store Web site user names and passwords?
  • Help! However Safari stored my password, it doesn’t work any more!
  • How do I use Safari to read RSS headlines from different sites?
  • How do I “snip” a Web page to make it into a Dashboard widget?

Needless to say, if you already consider yourself sufficiently expert in Safari and other Web browsers, you probably won’t learn that much from the book, but you might consider picking up a copy, skimming it for new tips and tricks, and then giving it to a friend or relative whose Web browsing techniques drive you crazy (you know, your buddy who insists on typing out every URL in its entirety, or your family member who hasn’t picked up the utility of Command-clicking links).

Adam Engst No comments

DealBITS Drawing: Win a Copy of DiscLabel 6

Whenever I’m making Take Control Library CDs as door prizes for Mac user group meetings (which is, honestly, the main reason I burn CDs of any sort), I’ve taken to using the Dymo DiscPainter to label them, in conjunction with DiscLabel from SmileOnMyMac (see “Print Classy Discs with the Dymo DiscPainter,” 2008-12-01). There are other disc labeling programs out there, several of which I have, but DiscLabel floated to the top when I needed to label a CD.

The recently released DiscLabel 6 makes creating labels easier than before, thanks to a streamlined interface for creating new designs and an inspector that simplifies editing object, image, and text properties. Image importing has been improved, so imported images can now be added to all label and packaging design elements simultaneously, and a new montage tool lets you create montages from multiple photos. SmileOnMyMac also added 80 professionally designed template sets for those who just want to add some text or import track lists from iTunes, iPhoto, iDVD, the Finder, or Toast.

All entrants (and only entrants!) will receive a discount on DiscLabel 6, so be sure to enter at the DealBITS page. All information gathered is covered by our comprehensive privacy policy. Remember too, that if someone you refer to this drawing wins, you’ll receive the same prize as a reward for spreading the word.

Adam Engst No comments

Ding, Dong, the iPhone 3GS Space Is Dead

Call me obsessive, call me retentive, but just don’t call me on an “iPhone 3G S,” since Apple has quietly started changing the new iPhone’s name to “iPhone 3GS,” removing the space before the trailing S.

As I said in “New iPhone 3GS Boosts Power, Performance, and More” (2009-06-08), “Technically, it’s ‘iPhone 3G S’ – with a space before the S – but those of us who spend our lives writing about these products have to draw the line somewhere, and a standalone S is untenable in running prose.” Aside from just looking awkward, a standalone S makes it even harder to form plurals and possessives than it would be with an S at the end of the word.

(One person on Twitter pointed out that “Mac OS X” should also suffer from the same problems, but it never set off my warning bells because X is such an unusual character, because it’s pronounced “ten,” and because the entire name is short enough to be read as a single unit.)

Although I subsequently caved to staff concerns about our articles looking incorrect in comparison with those from other publications, and we wrote around the awkward “iPhone 3G S” construction all last week, I was ecstatic to see this morning that not only had Apple started following my construction in the press release announcing the iPhone 3GS’s excellent initial sales, but that the company had also retroactively edited the press release announcing the iPhone 3GS to avoid the spaced-out name. For a few hours, that initial release’s headline link on the main Apple PR
still used the old name, but I now see that even that headline has been fixed.

I expect it will take some time before Apple can make this name change consistent across the entire site. For instance, a useful KnowledgeBase page that calls out which iPhone OS 3.0 features work on which iPhone models still uses the old name. That’s OK – I was mostly interested in guidance from Apple for those of us who are likely to be writing about the iPhone 3GS on a regular basis for the next few years. Plus, losing that space will make Ted Landau’s next edition of “Take Control of Your iPhone” shorter and less prone to awkward orphans.

I also don’t see Apple changing the graphical branding of the iPhone 3GS, which actually has the S using a different font style and in a box. It’s also worth noting that on the iPhone 3GS itself, the only identifying text at all says simply “iPhone”. I’m fine with that.

Glenn Fleishman No comments

Find Your Lost iPhone or iPod touch with iPhone OS 3.0

Darn it – where’s my iPhone? My iPod touch? My keys? Okay, my keys are in my hand, but I have no idea where the other two are. Ow! Now I remember where I left the barbells. I’d better find my Mac – I know where that is, at least – and fire up MobileMe.

Let’s see, go to, enter username and password, click the Account icon at the top, re-enter my password (for what reason is beyond me), and then click Find My iPhone. Ah ha! It’s in my house according to the map. I’ll click Display a Message, and have a sound play, too.

Under the couch cushions. How typical.

Pairing Location with MobileMeFind My iPhone, which works with both the iPhone and the iPod touch, is a nifty feature that Apple added to iPhone OS 3.0. It requires a MobileMe account to work (accounts start at $99 per year), but has no other cost attached. The service is intended to help with both misplaced and stolen phones; it lets you trigger a message on the device or erase all the data on it.

With location services built into the iPhone, it’s trivial for an iPhone to send its current coordinates at any given time. The original iPhone uses a combination of Wi-Fi and cell tower locations; the iPhone 3G and 3GS add GPS to the mix (see “iPhone and iPod touch Become Self-Aware,” 2008-01-15). The iPod touch must connect to a Wi-Fi network to both find and update its location. An iPhone needs a connection to either a Wi-Fi network or a cell data network to send the small amount of data necessary.

You enable Find My iPhone via the Settings application on the iPhone or iPod touch. It’s hidden in the Mail, Contacts, Calendars section under your MobileMe account. You don’t have to sync calendars and contacts if you don’t want to, as those options can be turned off. The Find My iPhone/iPod touch item is at the bottom; merely slide the switch to On.

After enabling the option, use a browser to log into MobileMe, as I describe in my bumbling steps at the start of this article. The Account tab in MobileMe has added ever more options since launch, with Find My iPhone being the latest. (Apple inconsistently calls this Find My iPhone for both the iPhone and the iPod touch in some places, and in others uses the specific device type.)

The Find My iPhone page shows one entry for each device. I have both an iPhone and an iPod touch, both of which are set to be found, and I can scroll to see both. When the page first comes up, the last known position is shown, along with the date and time the device last checked in. MobileMe then – I presume – sends a push message to the phone to update that data. An Update Location button appears after MobileMe is satisfied that it has the best location.

As long as the device is online – indicated by a green dot and the text “Online” – you have the option to send a message, a beeping alert, or both to the device. Any message you send to the device is also sent to you via your MobileMe mail account.

If you use the Display a Message dialog’s Play a Sound for 2 Minutes option, your iPhone or iPod touch will sound an alarm even if you have turned off all audio notifications. That’s a nifty option both to freak out a thief and to find your phone when it’s hidden away in a car or your home.

When I described Find My iPhone to my wife, the owner of an original iPhone, she was initially slightly appalled. She thought this would become known as the cheating-spouse or stalker feature, because anyone with access to someone’s MobileMe account – which could be a spouse or partner or an ex – would also have live access to someone’s position.

That’s worth considering, references to current and prior relationships aside, if you’re not the only person with your MobileMe account password. MobileMe partitions multiple accounts with separate passwords and account features in a family pack ($149 per year), so that shouldn’t be a concern.

When Your Phone Goes Missing — As someone who has become rather aware lately of laptop theft – see my friend David Blatner’s account of his PowerBook being ripped off in “What I Learned from Having My Laptop Stolen” (2009-03-24) – I had wondered how recovery software companies might work around the “one program runs at a time” limit in iPhone software.

Apple skirted that issue by building in such a feature at the system level and bundling it with its own service. Laptop recovery software costs run from about $40 as a one-time fee to $40 to $60 per year, depending on the firm. The addition of Find My iPhone improves MobileMe’s value and utility more than just a little for me.

Find My iPhone isn’t designed just for dealing with the possibility of theft, but the Remote Wipe feature certainly is. Click the Remote Wipe button in MobileMe to reset the device to its factory setting, and your iPhone or iPod touch will delete all your personal data, files, and applications.

It will be interesting to see how this finding feature is used with a stolen phone, because law enforcement doesn’t always take an interest in items that are worth less than a few thousand dollars, even if you have a picture of the alleged thief and his or her address. However, with a live map, perhaps that would improve your odds. (For the first heart-warming story of how Find My iPhone reunited a geek and his iPhone, read this post from the blog The Intermittent Kevin.)

Ken Westin, the head of GadgetTrak, which makes recovery software for laptops and smartphones, said he was pleased that Apple has added this feature, especially the remote data wipe option; he calls it a “greatly needed service.” But, he noted, a lot more than a pin on a map could be done.

Westin’s firm gives away GadgetTrak for iPhone that, when active, looks just like a Safari window. This requires that you launch and leave the app up whenever you’re not using your phone. GadgetTrak can’t do more because that would require having a constantly running monitor program.

Westin said that in his experience with smartphone theft, thieves typically remove SIM cards – the authentication module used on GSM networks worldwide – as soon as possible. Although the iPhone and iPod touch can connect to Wi-Fi networks to report location, thieves might be clever enough to prevent that, and to turn off the Find My iPhone switch.

He also pointed out the double-edged sword of pairing a MobileMe account with Find My iPhone’s service: if you don’t wipe your phone, a thief has access to anything on the phone provided by MobileMe, possibly including your calendar and address book, and the capability to send and receive email. (Setting a passcode significantly improves your odds of keeping your data safe.) The moment you wipe the phone, you’re secure, but your ability to locate the phone disappears.

Westin also noted that even with a map in hand, Apple isn’t providing assistance to go to law enforcement, something GadgetTrak and other laptop recovery software developers offer.

A Base on Which to Grow — Apple has certainly provided a baseline here for both misplaced and stolen devices, but the company usually then relies on third parties to fill in the missing pieces in its own offerings.

That’s impossible at the moment, but I would suspect that with tens of millions of these devices out there, and the high resale value of both iPhone and the iPod touch, Apple could allow some developers inside the kimono eventually.

At least I know where my equipment is at the moment. Now, if I could only find my glasses.

Jeff Carlson No comments

My Three Screens, via ViBook

A few years ago, I finally gave in to peer pressure (namely, from Adam Engst and Geoff Duncan) and bought a secondary display to attach to my laptop. Although I was skeptical at first, having drastically more screen real estate does make a big difference in productivity. (See our series of articles about multiple monitors; or, take a different tack and see how Jeff Porten uses two laptops to accomplish the same thing in “Build Your Own 23-inch MacBook,” 2007-02-05.)

Now, when I’m working in my office, I use a 20-inch Dell display as my main monitor and my MacBook Pro’s 15-inch built-in screen as a secondary monitor. I typically put iChat, Tweetie, and Skype on the laptop’s screen, along with Screen Sharing, Activity Monitor, and other applications that I need to reference occasionally. The Dell display handles applications I use more actively, like Web browsers, word processors, and email.

Even so, I still end up with lots of window overlap. Wouldn’t it be great to add a third display to the mix and spread out more? I already own another 20-inch Dell (formerly attached to an old Power Mac), but my main computer is a laptop with just one video-out port, not a tower that accommodates multiple graphics cards.

However, a pesky port shortage was no reason to give up. Village Tronic clearly buys into the advantages of using multiple monitors. The company’s $499 ViDock Gfx is essentially an external PCI Express graphics card that connects to a MacBook Pro via an ExpressCard/34 card. (I looked at the ViDock Gfx for Macworld as part of an overview of ExpressCard/34 devices.) While that’s a fine solution for owners of the supported generations of the MacBook Pro who don’t mind a loud fan attached to their Macs, it doesn’t help if you’re the owner of a MacBook, MacBook Air,
iMac, or Mac mini.

Instead, I’ve been testing Village Tronic’s ViBook, a small $129 device with a DVI port on one end that plugs into the computer via USB. It supports up to 1680 by 1050 pixel resolution widescreen, or 1600 by 1200 resolution for a conventional display at the 4:3 aspect ratio. You can connect up to four external displays using one ViBook for each monitor (and a USB hub, depending on the number of open USB ports on your Mac); under Windows, you can connect up to six ViBooks and monitors.

The ViBook includes a DVI-to-VGA cable if you want to connect a VGA display, a DVI adapter for connecting via DVI, and a mounting bracket for optionally attaching the ViBook to the back of a monitor.

After I installed an included video driver, the ViBook was ready to go. (The ViBook driver software requires Mac OS X 10.4.11 or Mac OS X 10.5.5 or higher running on an Intel-based Mac.)

Plugging the USB cable into my MacBook Pro made Mac OS X see the new monitor and let me begin using it; I didn’t need to restart the computer. The most work on my part was going into the Displays preference pane and configuring the arrangement of my three screens. In no time, I had nearly 2 million more pixels at my disposal.

Stutters and Limitations — Whether those pixels are actually helpful depends on how you plan to use them.

The Read Me file included with the driver software (version 1.1, the most recent available at the time of this writing) notes two significant issues:

  • No 3D (OpenGL/Quartz) acceleration, which means you’ll run into problems if you try to do something that relies on graphics hardware, such as playing an iPhoto slideshow or a Keynote presentation. This limitation didn’t prevent me from running iPhoto on that monitor, but starting a slideshow made the monitor unresponsive. I also discovered that iMovie ’08 and iMovie ’09, which rely heavily on graphics hardware, refused to launch at all, even if I didn’t plan on using the application on the ViBook-connected display.
  • A ViBook-enabled display can’t be color-managed or calibrated, which rules out that screen for use as a photo or video monitor, or for doing serious work in an image editor such as Photoshop. The ViBook doesn’t distort colors, but if you’ve already adjusted your other monitors, the colors likely won’t match among the displays.

As a result of these limitations, you need to remember which applications need to be quarantined away from the ViBook screen.

The Read Me file also includes a list of nearly two dozen known issues, many of which boil down to problems running the ViBook display as the Mac’s main display.

(An aside: I applaud Village Tronic for including this level of detail in its release notes, but I don’t like that the two main issues – 3D acceleration and color calibration – are listed only in the Read Me file distributed with the driver software. A disclosure, perhaps on the Tech Specs page of the ViBook Web site, should make it clear the software is limited in these respects. Otherwise you must either buy the product and install the software, or download the software before purchase and review the release notes there, which is unlikely to happen.)

Ignoring those issues for a moment, a ViBook-enabled display suffers from reduced drawing performance overall. When moving a Finder window, for example, the motion stutters as the ViBook redraws the screen, giving the impression that it’s operating at a reduced frame rate. Playing videos in QuickTime Player and iTunes similarly lagged, with the audio and video drifting out of sync after 30 seconds or so. (So that rules out using a ViBook display as a dedicated screen for watching movies or TV shows.) I also can’t imagine it would work at all for fast-action gaming.

The ViBook Upside — Despite the shortcomings, I think the ViBook has a lot to offer. I mentioned earlier that its usefulness depends on how you want to use a third (or fourth, or fifth…) display. If you just want to stretch out and view more data, the ViBook works quite well. For example, while doing some Web design work, it was great to preview site iterations (ignoring the colors) and experiment with style sheets in CSSEdit on the ViBook display while I used BBEdit for coding and Photoshop CS4 for images on my primary display.

I also used the extra screen to monitor remote computers using Screen Sharing, to push iTunes off my main display, and to keep several OmniOutliner documents open to refer to notes without having to sort through layers of document windows belonging to various applications.

I can imagine that people who need quick access to broad sets of information, such as real-time stock market data, would benefit from chaining several monitors to one machine. I was able to test just one extra monitor on my setup (having only one ViBook at my disposal), and it was like stepping out of a crowded room to an adjacent courtyard. After years of working with layers of hidden windows, spreading them out is refreshing.

Is using the ViBook the same as connecting a second or third monitor to a hardware graphics card in a Mac Pro? No, and early this year, Adam actually bought a Mac Pro expressly so he could run a pair of matched 24-inch monitors at 1900 by 1200 resolution (larger than the ViBook supports) and without worrying about Quartz-accelerated applications, slow redraws, or color weirdness. But depending on what you’re expecting out of it, the ViBook can provide more room to work in programs that don’t require the level of performance you’d get (and have to pay for) with a Mac Pro.

Doug McLean No comments

TidBITS Watchlist: Notable Software Updates for 22-Jun-09

Bluetooth Firmware Update 2.0 from Apple comes with brief release notes saying only that the update “provides bug fixes and better compatibility with the Apple Wireless Mighty Mouse and Apple Wireless Keyboard.” Apple also notes that the update should be installed on any Macintosh system whose Bluetooth support is based on the Broadcom chipset. To find the manufacturer of your Mac’s Bluetooth chipset, run System Profiler, click Bluetooth under Hardware in the sidebar, and check the Manufacturer line. The update is available via Software Update and from the Apple Support Downloads page. (Free, 1.78 MB)

Sync’Em 1.30 from Derman Enterprises is an update to the multi-platform syncing utility. Changes include a new setup assistant with a simplified interface, the capability to relaunch the Sync’Em Engine if it fails, improved handling of corrupt SQLite database files, and the capability to handle contact notes that are too large for Google to accept. Also, several issues have been resolved, including one that prevented Exchange from accepting certain iCal alarm conditions, and one that prevented Sync’Em from recovering from lost Exchange EWS IDs.

DiscLabel 6.0.1 from SmileOnMyMac is a bug fix update following a major upgrade of the CD and DVD label design software. Changes in DiscLabel 6.0 include 80 new template sets, a redesigned interface, an improved image import palette, a new inspector palette, a new montage tool that enables users to create montages and add them to design elements, an enhanced random design generator, and support for automatic software updating via Sparkle. ($35.95 new, free update, 12.7 MB)

Safari 4.0.1 from Apple is a maintenance update to the recently updated browser which “…addresses incompatibilities between Safari 4.0 and certain features in iPhoto ’09, including Places and Facebook publishing.” The update is available via Software Update or from the Safari download page. (Free, 43.5 MB)

TidBITS Staff No comments

ExtraBITS for 22-Jun-09

John Gruber Opines about WSJ Liver Transplant Article Sourcing — Late on 19-Jun-09, The Wall Street Journal published a surprising article about Steve Jobs having a liver transplant, but even more surprisingly, cited no sources for the information. John Gruber of Daring Fireball follows the threads to suggest that perhaps the source was a member of Apple’s Board of Directors. (Posted 2009-06-22)

New Hotspot Handling in iPhone 3.0 — The new iPhone 3.0 software includes a better way of handling recurring hotspot logins by capturing the gateway login page information that you enter and re-joining the network automatically. This new method also introduced some bugs in existing Wi-Fi connection managers. Glenn Fleishman explains all at Macworld. (Posted 2009-06-18)

Apple Kills Q&A at WWDC App Store Session — Marco Arment is reporting a surprisingly dismissive gesture by Apple at WWDC. After the final developer session about publishing on the App Store, Apple cut, without notice or explanation, the standard Q&A segment that provides developers a crucial opportunity to go beyond the presented content. Apple’s refusal to allow questions raises another one: What is Apple afraid of hearing from iPhone developers? (Posted 2009-06-16)

Adam Looks More at WWDC on the Tech Night Owl Live — If you just can’t get enough WWDC coverage, don’t miss Adam’s recent podcast appearance on the Tech Night Owl Live to discuss all of Apple’s announcements with Gene Steinberg. (Posted 2009-06-16)

Jeff Carlson No comments

Hot Topics in TidBITS Talk for 22-Jun-09

Click to Flash and YouTube — Click to Flash can automatically display the H.264 QuickTime version of YouTube videos, as can some other utilities. (5 messages)

iPhone running software — Readers discuss which iPod and iPhone models include support for the Nike+ software and hardware. (8 messages)

Upgrade to iPod Touch — With the iPhone updated, readers turn to speculation about what the next revision of the iPod touch will bring, as well as a discussion of getting Internet access at Wi-Fi hotspots. (24 messages)

The Art of iPhone Photography — The iPhone’s built-in camera gets the TidBITS Talk scrutiny. (8 messages)

Unable to upgrade RAM in dual G5 — After repeated failure to upgrade RAM in a Power Mac G5, the question of that model’s durability comes up. (9 messages)

Java update — Readers report problems when installing the recent Java update that fixes a security vulnerability. (9 messages)

Call AT&T for the Best iPhone Upgrade Price — The $99 iPhone 3G is somewhat misleading when you factor the cost of ongoing cellular service. (7 messages)

Clever address field parsing in Web browsers — Adam likes Firefox’s smart suggestions based on what’s typed in the address field, although LaunchBar can bring some of the same capabilities to other browsers. (2 messages)

Some observations about the new iPhone/iPod Touch OS — Readers start sharing their impressions of the iPhone OS 3.0 software. (4 messages)

Upgrading from iPod Touch to iPhone — What’s the best way to move one’s data from an iPod touch to an iPhone? Is it just a matter of plugging in the new device? (1 message)

AirPort Express Query — Can you access more than one printer from an AirPort Express if you attach a USB hub? (2 messages)

Switching to Safari 4: plugins? After switching to Safari 4, a reader looks for utilities that replicate the functionality of many Firefox plug-ins. (4 messages)