Macs Only! Blog Archive--April 2008
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Copyright 2008 by Bill Fox All rights reserved.
Last Updated: April 30, 2008
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[4/30] Mac beats PC in Popular Mechanics Shootout--Faster, Better and Cheaper
In an article entitled Mac vs. PC: The Ultimate Lab Test for New Desktops & Laptops, appearing in the May 2008 issue of Popular Mechanics, both platforms are compared with user and speed tests and by cost.
The Macs are the previous generation $1499 2.4 GHz iMac and $1299 2.2GHz MacBook, both running Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. The PCs are a similar-to-iMac-looking $1800 Gateway One desktop and a $1299 Asus M51SR 15.4" laptop, both running Windows Vista.
Users preferred the iMac and MacBook by 1/2 star each over the respective PC. The Macs tested faster in most of the speed tests. The Macs are equal to or less costly than the respective PCs.
The full Popular Mechanics article is here. [Bill Fox via John Esser]
[4/30] Trans International has RAM for New iMacs
Trans International today announced the worldwide availability of 1GB, 2GB and 4GB DDR2 800Mhz (PC2-6400)200 Pin SO-DIMMs for the newly released Apple iMac Intel Core 2 Duo (2.4GHz, 2.66GHz, 2.8GHz and 3.06GHz models).
Transintl.com is currently shipping the 4GB Kit for $108.00 (2X2GB), 2GB (Single Module) for $56.00 and 1GB (Single Module) for $28.00.
TransIntl.com memory modules conform to Apple's stringent electrical and mechanical design guide lines.
For pricing and availability details, check out this TransIntl Web page. [Bill Fox]
[4/30] Hands-On Report--Apple Java for Mac OS X 10.5 Update 1
Yesterday, Apple released Java for Mac OS X 10.5 Update 1 and it is available via Software Update or as a stand-alone updater from this Apple Web page. The update is for Intel-based 64-bit capable Macs running 10.5.2.
According to Apple,
This Java for Mac OS X 10.5 Update 1 adds Java SE 6 version 1.6.0_05 to your Mac. This update does not replace the existing installation of J2SE 5.0 or change the default version of Java.
I downloaded it via Software Update and installed in on a number of Macs running Mac OS X 10.5.2 (Leopard): MacBook Air, dual quad Mac Pro and 24" white iMac. No problems were encountered during the installation nor during brief use.
One of the original complaints about Leopard is that Apple did not include Java SE 6 for developers of Java-based applications. Apple has now rectified that issue. [Bill Fox]
[4/29] Gaming Graphics return to the iMac Line--Hooaah!
Yesterday, Apple updated its iMac line with the latest Intel Core 2 Duo (Penryn) CPUs sporting speeds ranging from 2.4GHz to 2.8Ghz and a $200 CTO option of 3.06GHz for the 24" model. The big news, however, is the return of the 24" model's high power graphics CTO, in this case Nvidia 8800 GS graphics with 512MB of video RAM.
When Apple replaced the white plastic iMacs with the aluminum iMacs sporting the newer ATI Radeon HD graphics, Apple dropped the high power CTO graphics, an Nvidia GeForce 7600 GT at that time. This move left the old 2.33GHz 24" white iMac much better for gaming than the new 2.8GHz 24" aluminum iMac (see here and here).
Here are some performance characteristics for the two techologies from Nvidia's web site:
Nvidia 8800 GS vs 7600 GT
||Memory Bandwidth (GB/sec)
||Fill Rate (billion pixels/sec)
The 8800 GS has a memory bandwidth over 71 percent higher than the 7600 GT and a fill rate of over 61 percent higher.
When I reviewed the 24" white iMac CTO with 2.33GHz CPU and Nvidia GeForce 7600 GT graphics in September of 2006, I gave it high marks as possibly the best ever Mac for consumers and noted that at $2374 it was a great deal compared with the entry Mac Pro with 23" Cinema Display at $3198. Well, the current 24" aluminum iMac CTO with a 3.06GHz CPU and Nvidia 8800 GS graphics is only $2149 vs the same $3198 for the Mac Pro so it handily assumes the crown.
In addition, Apple also released a graphics firmware update for aluminum iMacs with ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT and 2600 Pro graphics systems. [Bill Fox]
[4/28] Hands-On Report: Installing Apple Boot Camp Update 2.1 for Windows--Nvidia Driver Issue
Apple released Boot Camp Update 2.1 for Windows XP, Vista 32-Bit or Vista 64-Bit as three separate updates. It is also available via Apple Software Update for Windows.
According to Apple,
This update addresses issues and improves compatibility with Microsoft Windows XP and Microsoft Windows Vista running on a Mac computer using Boot Camp. It is highly recommended for all Boot Camp users.
Important: Installation of Boot Camp 2.1 is required before installing Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3)
Boot Camp 2.1 Update has to be downloaded and installed while booted into Windows.
I have a Boot Camp partition with Windows XP-SP2 on my MacBook Air and 2.8GHz Dual Quad Mac Pro for essential and proprietary Windows stuff that I occasionally have to run. I also play a few 3D games on my Mac Pro, mainly Call of Duty 4 (CoD4) that has taken a very long time to come out for the Mac.
I downloaded the update from the link above with my MacBook Air booted into Windows XP. After clicking on the installer, it took awhile to see any further action. At first, I thought I hadn't effectively double-clicked and did it again. When I was getting ready to double-click a third time, the Windows installer window suddenly popped up and the installation went normally.
So far, Windows XP still runs fine on my MacBook Air after the update. Unfortunately, it still didn't allow the built-in iSight camera to work with Polycom PVX v8.0.2 video conferencing software. This forces me to carry around a Logitech USB QuickCam Deluxe which does work with the Polycom software.
I downloaded and installed the update via Apple Software Update for Windows on my Mac Pro. Upon reboot, the Nvidia graphics control panel was missing. I had to download and re-install the drivers for the Mac Pro's Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT (v169.21) graphics card from Nvidia's Web site. Otherwise, Windows XP SP2 seems to run as well as it did prior to the Boot Camp update. I played a couple of hours of CoD4 with no problems. Then, I downloaded and installed the latest beta drivers (v174.74) and played several more hours of CoD4 with no problems.
Based on my experience, I recommend using the stand-alone updater from the appropriate link above. [Bill Fox]
[4/28] Apple opening Store for Mainers--Finally!
Maine is one of the most Mac-centric states in the union with the state court system on Macs and iBooks being provided to every 7th and 8th grader plus MacBooks for every high school teacher and administrator. Yet, there has been no place for Maine residents to see and buy Apple's complete line of Macs or other hardware and software, not even Best Buy, a common complaint of Dana Baggett the former long-time New England Editor of Macs Only! The closest Apple Store is hours away in Salem, NH, and then Boston, MA.
Well, Dana sent me a note that things are about to change. It appears that Apple will be opening an Apple Store in the Maine Mall later this year. Apple's job listings on its own web site and on Monster.com have given away the secret.
This is good news for Apple Mainiacs. [Bill Fox]
[4/24] Apple reported Record Second Quarter Financials--Revenue up 43 Per Cent and All-Time Portable Sales Record
Apple had a record second quarter (Q2) according to its financial report for the second quarter of its 2008 fiscal year released yesterday. Q2 of 2008 covers the months of January through March. Apple posted a profit of $1.05 billion on revenue of $7.5 billion. The earnings per share of $1.16 beat thee analysts consensus estimate by over 8 per cent.
The record Q2 financial results beat last year's Q2 profit by 36 per cent, revenue by 43 per cent and earnings per share by 33 per cent. Apple's cash balance reached over $19.4 billion. However, the gross margin decreased to 33 per cent from 35 per cent last year. An interesting factoid is that Apple increased its research and development effort by nearly 50 per cent from $183 million to $273 million.
Apple shipped nearly 2.3 million Macs, over 10.6 million iPods and just over 1.7 million iPhones in Q2 of 2008.
Macs increased 51 percent in units and 54 per cent in revenue over Q2 of 2007. Portables (MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iBook and PowerBook) led the way with an increase of 61 per cent in units resulting in an all-time quarterly sales record for portables. Desktop Macs (iMac, Mac Pro, Mac mini, PowerMac and Xserve) did well, too, increasing by 37 percent.
iPods increased only 1 per cent from Q2 of 2007.
iPhones were not for sale in Q2 of 2007 but they decreased by 26 per cent from Q1 of 2008. The downturn from the previous quarter, usually Apple's best by far, is normal as Macs posted a decrease of 1 per cent and iPods decreased 55 per cent when compared with Q1 of 2008.
Apple reported large gains in sales revenue in each operating segment: Americas up 32 per cent, Europe up 43 per cent and Japan up 49 per cent. The revenue from Apple's retail stores increased a huge 74 per cent.
Follow release of the Q2 report, Apple held a web cast conference call with analysts to discuss it. You can replay the web cast using QuickTime. Some salient points are:
- Customers, all sorts of people, love the MacBook Air with low cannibalization of other portables (whew!).
- iTunes music sales peaked as Apple beat Wal-Mart with U.S. MP3 share of 73 per cent and 85 per cent of all legally downloaded music.
- Apple still thinks it will sell over 10 million iPhones in 2008. Version 2.0 software to be out in late June.
- At $210 million so far, Leopard is the best selling OS in Apple's history.
- Unlocking of iPhones remains significant.
Looking ahead to Q3 of 2008 (April-June), Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer stated, "... we expect revenue of about $7.2 billion and earnings per diluted share of about $1.00." The Q3 forecast is lower than for Q2 when, in fact, Q3 has exceeded Q2 in each of the past three years so it is probably conservative. Being conservative is consistent with all previous forecasts. [Bill Fox]
[4/17] Hand-On Report--Safari 3.1.1
Apple released Safari 3.1.1 and it is available via Software Update or as a stand-alone file from this Apple Web page. According to Apple,
This update is recommended for all Safari users and includes improvements to stability, compatibility and security.
The explanation is as vague as usual but Apple posted the details of the security fixes for Mac OS X 10.5.2 and 10.4.11, client and server editions, which are:
WebKit--CVE-2008-1025--An issue exists in WebKit's handling of URLs containing a colon character in the host name. Opening a maliciously crafted URL may lead to a cross-site scripting attack. This update addresses the issue through improved handling of URLs. Credit to Robert Swiecki of the Google Security Team, and David Bloom for reporting this issue.
I downloaded and installed Safari 3.1.1 via Software Update. No problems were encountered in several hours use. [Bill Fox]
[4/14] Stan Flack, MacMinute Publisher and MacCentral Founder, Passed Away
I just found out about the passing of Stan Flack through a note on Macworld (formerly MacCentral). Stan was the founder of MacCentral in 1994, one of the first Mac Web sites in the infancy of the Internet.
I started Macs Only! in 1995 when the rapport among Mac Web sites was very high. I corresponded quite frequently with Stan, who published MacCentral from Maritime Canada, and talked to him at Macworld Expos. He was a great guy and he made MacCentral into a commercial success as the advertising boom hit the Web. He even managed to become a sponsor for Macworld Expo and large banners noting such were hung throughout the halls.
Ultimately, Stan sold MacCentral to IDG who publishes Macworld magazine. MacCentral became Macworld magazine's Web daily news site. Eventually the name was changed to the current Macworld.
Afterward, Stan began publishing MacMinute, a publication that used our style of Mac news reporting, a short paragraph on the salient part of the news whether posted elsewhere or from a press release. But Stan was able to do it all day on the fly rather than each evening for the following day and built up a large readership as a result.
According to the Macworld note, Stan was a professional newspaper man before jumping onto the Web. This may partly explain his success--twice.
I checked MacMinute this morning to find strangely that it had not been updated since Friday. I am deeply saddened to learn the reason for this. I will miss Stan.
[4/11] Hands-On Report--MacBook Air Bluetooth Firmware Update 1.0
Apple released MacBook Air Bluetooth Firmware Update 1.0 and it is available for download in Software Update on a MacBook Air or as a stand-alone updater from this Apple Web page. According to Apple,
The MacBook Air Bluetooth Firmware Update 1.0 should be installed on all MacBook Air Systems.
which is more cryptic than usual.
I have not been having problems with Bluetooth connections to an Apple Bluetooth mouse and wireless aluminum keyboard but I downloaded and installed the update anyway. No restart was needed. My mouse and keyboard function as well as they did before the update. [Bill Fox]
[4/9] [Updated 4/10] Hands-On Report--MacBook Air Firmware Update 1.0--Excessive Fan Issue
Apple released MacBook Air EFI Firmware Update 1.0 and it is available via Software Update or as a stand-alone updater from this Apple Web page. According to Apple,
This update fixes several issues to improve the stability of MacBook Air computers.
Despite Apple's note, I have not been having any "stability" problems with my MacBook Air. Still, in the interest of science, I downloaded the firmware update via Software Update and installed it. After a shutdown and startup, a progress bar indicated the installation of the firmware update and when it completed my MacBook Air restarted again.
Now, I wish I had not done so. Prior to installing the firmware update, my MacBook Air ran much cooler than the MacBook Pro that it replaced and the fan rarely came on. The fan now runs at 5000-6000rpm during any and all use. An originally really nice and quiet computer is now irritatingly noisy.
I do not know what prompted Apple to provide a firmware update that causes such excessive and noisy fan activity. My advice is that if you are not having stability issues on your MacBook Air, you may want to think about installing this firmware update.
[Update: Curiously, after sleeping the MacBook Air all night, the fan no longer turns on for temperatures up to at least 58C as it did right after installation and after several restarts. I will monitor the situation and provide another report if the excessive fan operation returns.]
[Update 4/10: I have now used my MacBook Air for another full day and two nights with several restarts and the excessive fan operation has not returned.] [Bill Fox]
[4/9] [Updated 4/11] Hands-On Report--Aluminum Keyboard Firmware Update 1.0
Apple released Aluminum Keyboard Firmware Update 1.0 but it did not show up in Software Update for me. Perhaps, this is because I did not have my wireless aluminum keyboard attached to my MacBook Air so look for it if you have an aluminum keyboard attached to your Mac. It is also available as a Stand-alone updater from this Apple Web page. According to Apple,
This firmware update addresses an issue with the aluminum Apple Keyboard and the aluminum Apple Wireless Keyboard where a key may repeat unexpectedly while typing. The update also addresses other issues. Mac OS X 10.5.2 is required before installing this update.
The update is for both the wired and wireless models.
I downloaded the stand-alone file and ran the installer by clicking on the .pkg file. It asked me to connect an aluminum keyboard so I connected my wireless aluminum keyboard and ran the installer again. I had to authenticate twice, once for the installer's .pkg file and again to actually apply the updater to the keyboard. It also required a restart of my MacBook Air. After doing so, no issues were noted in several hours use. I did not have the repeating key problem before installing the update so I do not know if it is fixed for others who had this problem.
[Update: I also applied the Aluminum Keyboard Update 1.0 to the wired aluminum keyboard attached to my Mac Pro. The update went without incident and, unlike the wireless aluminum keyboard that I use with my MacBook Air, no restart was needed.] [Bill Fox]
[4/2] Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.0 Public Beta has 64-Bit Support in Leopard
Adobe released a public beta of Photoshop Lightroom 2.0. It is available for download from this Adobe Web page. Lightroom is the professional photographer's essential toolbox, providing one application for managing, adjusting, and presenting large volumes of digital photographs.
An improved layout in the Library module allows for a more intuitive approach to image organization by simplifying the location of the features needed to find and filter photographs. A new feature called Smart Collections automatically updates collections with images that match desired criteria such as star-rating, keyword or other metadata.
Photoshop Lightroom 2.0 beta includes improved memory handling through
64-bit support for OS X 10.5 Intel Macs. Additional enhancements in Lightroom 2.0 beta include support for a dual monitor configuration that maximizes a photographer's workspace and can be easily adjusted to meet a particular workflow. Additionally, the Develop module has been updated to provide the ability to correct specific parts of an image without affecting other areas. Now, fundamental photographic techniques such as dodge and burn can be performed using the same non-destructive approach, allowing unprecedented control within the Lightroom program.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.0 beta is available as a 30-day trial for
free download on Macintosh. Existing Lightroom 1.0 customers will be able to test the beta for an extended period until Aug. 31, 2008 and can invite friends to take part in this trial period. Recommended system requirements are Macintosh OSX 10.4, 10.5 1 GHz PowerPC G4 or G5 or Intel-based processor. [Bill Fox]
[4/2] MacBook Air USB Ethernet Adapter Windows XP and Vista Driver
I installed Windows XP via Boot Camp on my MacBook Air. Unfortunately, there was no driver for the Apple USB Ethernet Adapter and I could not get wired ethernet to work. I need this functionality to use the Polycom PVX desktop video conference client (don't ask) with my MacBook Air from hotel rooms with only wired ethernet internet service.
Fortunately, "tnkgrl" has hacked a driver for the adapter. It is available as a free download from this Web page and it works fine. Now, I just need to figure out how to get PVX to recognize the built-in iSight camera. [Bill Fox]
[4/2] Mac Pro EFI Firmware Update 1.3 fixed Restart on Wake from Sleep--Update
After nearly a week's use following installing Mac Pro EFI Firmware Update 1.3 in my Mac Pro (early 2008), all wakes from sleep have been normal. There have been no instances of the Mac Pro restarting on wake from sleep during that time. The problem started after installing Mac OS X 10.5.2. [Bill Fox]
[4/2] New Apple Online Seminars--Apple Podcast Producer and Organize Your Work & Life
Apple just posted two new and free online seminars:
Podcast Producer--How to make it work for your business. Podcasting is now one of the most powerful tools you can use to market your business. Watch Stephen Tonna demonstrate creating and publishing podcasts using Podcast Producer.
Organize your work and life with your Mac. Get organized with Mac OS X v10.5 Leopard, Bento and FileMaker Pro!
The full list of Apple's free 24/7 Online Seminars is here. [Bill Fox]
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