Opinion

Input Managers are not 'plug-ins'

From MDJ
With yesterday's release of Safari 3.1, and yet another round of broken Input Managers, there's once again an opportunity to point out a real problem in how the Mac press is covering programs like Inquisitor that work by patching the system or other applications. Traditionally, the name for code that runs without support in another process’s address space is a hack, or if you’re being nice, a patch. The purpose of such code is to intercept either an application or the system as it tries to perform a specified task, so the patch code can supplement or replace that task with its own action, and then return control to the original code.

What’s the problem? Sites like The Unofficial Apple Weblog, in its coverage of Inquisitor 3, insist on calling these Input Manager hacks “plug-ins,” implying a level of architectural and technical support that simply does not exist.

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How Apple Got Everything Right By Doing Everything Wrong

From Wired

By deliberately flouting the Google mantra, Apple has thrived. When Jobs retook the helm in 1997, the company was struggling to survive. Today it has a market cap of $105 billion, placing it ahead of Dell and behind Intel. Its iPod commands 70 percent of the MP3 player market. Four billion songs have been purchased from iTunes. The iPhone is reshaping the entire wireless industry. Even the underdog Mac operating system has begun to nibble into Windows' once-unassailable dominance; last year, its share of the US market topped 6 percent, more than double its portion in 2003.

It's hard to see how any of this would have happened had Jobs hewed to the standard touchy-feely philosophies of Silicon Valley.

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With the HD War Over, Why aren't We Seeing Blu-ray Drives in Apple Computers?

From I, Cringely
Now that HD DVD is dead and Sony's Blu-ray has apparently won the HD media war, why aren't we seeing Blu-ray drives available as a factory option, at least, for Macintosh computers? I think Steve Jobs is deliberately holding back in a high-stakes gamble for control of HD video distribution.

Apple has been a member of the Blu-ray camp practically since its inception. And remember 2005 -- Apple's "Year of HD," when the company declared allegiance at MacWorld in the company of Sony's chairman. So where are the drives, and what does Apple have to lose by providing them or not?

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Should Mac Users run Antivirus Software?

From TidBITS

When people find out I'm a security expert, I can almost guarantee the ensuing conversation will evolve in one of three ways. If they are technologically illiterate, I'll have to explain I don't know anything about trading securities and can't help them with any hot tips. If they use Windows, I'll tell them to back up their data and reformat the system. But if they use Macs, the discussion usually becomes a little more complicated.

There is a misperception among much of the security community that Mac users don't care about security. Since joining TidBITS I've learned that Mac users are just as concerned about their security as their Windows brethren, but they aren't really sure what they need to know. Even the most naive Windows user understands that their system is under a constant barrage of attacks, but the Mac user rarely encounters much beyond the occasional pop-under browser ad and, of course, their fair share of spam.

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Steve Jobs Speaks Out

From Macworld

In an exclusive interview, Apple's CEO talked with Fortune senior editor Betsy Morris in February in Kona, Hawaii, where he was vacationing with his family, about the keys to the company's success, the prospect of Apple without Jobs, and more. Here are excerpts.

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Gone, Without a Trace

From Newsweek
When something is thin enough to fit into an envelope, light enough to sit on your lap for a couple of hours without discomfort and so compact that it doesn't even bulge in an airline seat-back pocket, wouldn't it make sense that one could lose track of such a thing? Even if it is a computer?

Yes, it would make sense. Believe me. Please. Because I can't find my MacBook Air.

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The trouble with Steve Jobs

From CNNMoney.com

In October 2003, as the computer world buzzed about what cool new gadget he would introduce next, Apple CEO Steve Jobs - then presiding over the most dramatic corporate turnaround in the history of Silicon Valley - found himself confronting a life-and-death decision.

During a routine abdominal scan, doctors had discovered a tumor growing in his pancreas. While a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is often tantamount to a swiftly executed death sentence, a biopsy revealed that Jobs had a rare - and treatable - form of the disease. If the tumor were surgically removed, Jobs' prognosis would be promising: The vast majority of those who underwent the operation survived at least ten years.

Yet to the horror of the tiny circle of intimates in whom he'd confided, Jobs was considering not having the surgery at all. A Buddhist and vegetarian, the Apple CEO was skeptical of mainstream medicine. Jobs decided to employ alternative methods to treat his pancreatic cancer, hoping to avoid the operation through a special diet - a course of action that hasn't been disclosed until now.

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Reading Steve Jobs

From the New York Times
So despite all the criticism Mr. Jobs has taken for impugning American literacy, maybe he actually believes he can do for reading what he for listening to music? And despite the mixed reports on the success of the Kindle to date — there are reports that it has sold out, but the word from the publishing world is murkier — Mr. Jobs has to have taken note that the Kindle’s real genius was in borrowing a page from the iPod-iTunes business-model playbook.

What would the reaction be to something about the same size and less than the thickness of the Macbook Air? Without a doubt the Apple industrial design department could do a better job than Amazon in conceptualizing a digital book.

Certainly stranger things have happened. Wouldn’t it be ironic if Mr. Jobs could ultimately claim to have saved reading books in the digital age?

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Apple's ranking in Fortune's "Most Admired Companies"? #1

From Fortune
It is a tribute to its CEO that Apple, which ten years ago seemed headed for the slag heap, is No. 1 on this list. Steve Jobs has always had a knack for weaving magic out of silicon and software. But who knew he could build a $24 billion (in sales) company on the strength of a portable jukebox and a computer with a single-digit market share?

His pitch, as he leveraged the success of the iPod, was very simple: Apple products work, and if you buy more than one, they work better.

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Time Capsule Initial Verdict: Smooth Sailing, No Surprises

From Gizmodo

We've been fiddling with Time Capsule since it arrived this AM, and so far it works as billed, clean and easy. The star of the show is really the new AirPort Utility software, which now comes with some neat tricks for the network-phobic. Most of all, we're learning the ins and outs of adding external drives, using networked printers, and setting up that potentially nasty initial data dump.

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From Macworld
Apple suggests that Time Capsule—its newly-shipping backup device—extends the simplicity of its Time Machine backup component in Leopard. Plug it in, use an assistant to walk you through configuration, connect to the device or connect it to an existing network, and select its internal hard drive as the Time Machine destination for your networked Macs.

In my first pass with the backup appliance, I found that Time Capsule largely lives up to this expectation of simplicity, with a few glitches. I had to restart the unit more times than I like, fix a few configuration errors in its "automatic" configuration, and deal with a glitch in getting Time Machine to select the right drive.

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What makes Apple Golden

From CNNMoney.com
The creator of the iPod and iPhone sets a dazzling new standard for innovation and mass appeal, driven by an obsessive CEO who wants his products to be practically perfect in every way.

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Apple's Seeds of Discontent

From CNBC

Last post I focused on Google, but much of the same fear and frustration swirling around those shares can be said of Apple as well, another of last year's high-flyers that have come crashing back down to earth.

In fact, Apple's fall from its high is actually more precipitous than Google's - and therefore might present an even better "buy" opportunity than Google.

Amazing to me that I even have to write this, but alas, such is the trading environment on the Street right now. And I stress the word "trading" because this certainly isn't "investing." If it were the latter, people would focus on the products Apple is selling, the pipeline it's developing, the innovation it's offering, and the market trends of which Apple continues to take advantage. More than that, if you believe that digital entertainment and easy-to-use, slick-looking computers that offer a great user-experience have any kind of future in the marketplace, then Apple offers up some true, longer term opportunities.

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Mac Case Designs: Nirvana Achieved?

From Macworld
When I first saw the “new” MacBook Pro models Tuesday, my initial reaction was one of indifference. That indifference wasn’t due to the features of the new models, which seem like well-thought-out and beneficial improvements, but rather, because the new machines look exactly like their predecessors. After many years with the same look for the PowerBook G4, er, MacBook Pro, I was really hoping for something new in the machine’s appearance—especially after seeing what Apple can do with a fresh sheet of paper, as evidenced by the MacBook Air. Alas, it was not to be—the new cases are identical to the old, as far as I can tell from the images on the Web.

But then, I came to a startling conclusion: it seems Apple has perfected the design of its Mac cases.

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Apple: The Angst vs. the Reality

From ZDNet
It’s open season on Apple these days. The stock is in a tailspin. Worries abound. The iPod market is saturated. The consumer wallet is pinched. It all adds up to an ugly stock chart. But it’s time for a reality check here. Is all this angst really warranted?

Apple’s business isn’t exactly limping along. Sure you can worry about the iPhone not selling 10 million units, or iPod profit margins and even whether the MacBook Air is that big of a deal. But what’s the point? Until proven otherwise most of us would love to have Apple’s business.

Here’s a look at the angst and the reality check that goes with it.

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First Look: Aperture 2.0

From Macworld
All it took was a cryptic message in Apple's Aperture forum last month for Aperture upgrade speculation to hit a fevered pitch. The vague post by an Apple senior product manager asked users to “stay tuned” for an upgrade that included support for more cameras “and other exciting new features.” The mystery of whether this was just a point upgrade or a major reworking was put to rest when Apple released Aperture 2.0 on February 12.

After spending the last week running Aperture 2.0, it’s safe to say that Apple has made a host of much needed improvements. The new interface is better organized, the program runs more smoothly, and a handful of necessary tool additions should staunch the flow of users who abandoned Aperture during the nearly a year and a half without a major upgrade.

A full review is in the works. Until the review is ready, here’s a first look at some of Aperture 2.0’s key features.

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Sophos selling Mac Vulnerability

From The Baltimore Sun
Have you ever had an auto mechanic you didn’t quite trust tell you that your car needed a repair “just to be on the safe side”?

The latest alarm bell from U.K.-based security software firm Sophos reminds me of just such a circumstance. Last week Sophos announced results of a self-admittedly unscientific poll conducted on the company’s Web site. Of the 350 people who responded, 93 percent said they believed the Mac will be targeted more in the future, up from 79 percent two years ago.

Sophos was one of the companies to make a big deal out of OSX/RSPlug when it was first detected, trumpeting how Mac users of its security software were protected.

Now Sophos offers a “poll” indicating rising fear among Mac users that the platform is increasingly likely to be targeted by hackers. Hmmm … I wonder who’s been contributing to that?

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Drobo and DroboShare

From Andy Ihnatko

Cartoon characters have it so much easier than we do. Laws of cartoon physics say that if you run out of space on your hard drive, you can just jam a funnel into the top, dump in a few more drive mechanisms from a big metal bucket, and then you’re right back in business.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, I present the Drobo storage system. This $499 USB storage device is made by Data Robotics, Inc. (Drobo.com), but I’m pretty sure that DRI is actually a wholly-owned subsidiary of the ACME Corporation.

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Starbucks Deal Brewed with AT&T has Hints of Apple

From TidBITS
I'm not an oenophile, but I do like wine. I've never mastered the vocabulary of oaky, brawny, tannic, and so forth. But I do know a whiff of fruit when I smell it. The recent announcement that Starbucks would switch its in-store Wi-Fi provider from long-time partner T-Mobile to AT&T had a strong smell of Apple about it.

In fact, I think the putative 3G iPhone plays a part here as well, and that we'll see the 3G iPhone rolled out as part of a larger play that involves downloading movies in Starbucks over AT&T's new network. That puts the 3G iPhone launch between March and June of 2008.

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Is Time Machine all You Need?

From Macworld
Although any backup is better than no backup at all, Time Machine may not protect your data to the extent or in the way that you need. A few significant weaknesses offset its impressive strengths.

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Apple Shares Rolling Downhill

From BusinessWeek
For the better part of last year, a bet on Apple stock was a sure thing. Propelled by seemingly unquenchable demand for iPods, iPhones, and Macs, Apple shares surged to a record 199.83 on Dec. 28, after starting the year at 83.80 on Jan. 3. Analysts nudged price targets ever skyward; Piper Jaffray's (PJC) Gene Munster said Apple stock could reach $250 a share in 2008. By the end of 2007, Apple's market value had swelled by $100 billion.

But since the start of the new year, Apple's stock has hit an air pocket, spiraling $75 from its high point and giving back two-thirds of the gains it made in 2007. It closed Feb. 12 at 124.86. Part of the slide can be attributed to disappointment with products unveiled at the annual Macworld Expo in January. In the two days after Jobs announced the ultraslim MacBook Air, movie rentals through iTunes, and software upgrades to other products, Apple stock fell more than $19. By contrast, the shares gained $11 in the two days after Jobs announced the iPhone a year earlier.

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Backstage at the Grammy Awards, Macs Run the Show

From Macworld
To present the annual music industry honors to the attendees at Los Angeles’ Staples Center and to home viewers on CBS, show organizers use more than 450 microphones, 155 tons of lighting, 13,000 amps of power, 19 video screens, 94 speaker cabinets—and an endless amount of Macs.

You may have assumed that Macs played a large role in putting on what has become the largest audio production on television. But until you sit in on a rehearsal for the telecast, as audio engineers are hard at work mixing the 35 songs that will be performed during Sunday’s ceremony, and see how extensively Macs are involved in the process, it’s hard to fathom just how central the Mac has become to the Grammys.

During Thursday’s rehearsal, it was easy to lose count of the number of Macs in the production truck. But there are 14 Macs on board, according to Joel Singer, audio engineer in charge for XM Production/Effanel. That includes MacBook Pros, Mac Pros, G5s, and a G4 capturing video from the stage.

“Windows frightens me to death,” said Singer. “I know it, and I know it well—that’s why we chose the Mac instead of Vista or XP.”

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What does $1,300 Extra really get You?

From Ars Technica
The MacBook Air is nice, but as we discovered in our in-depth review, not everything is sunshine and roses—at least with the hard drive model. But there's a higher-end Air as well—1.8GHz with a 64GB solid-state flash drive instead of your traditional ATA hard drive. We picked up an SSD Air so that we could try it out, run some benchmarks, and report back to you on how much (or little) of a difference that extra $1,300 makes.

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From the Lab: The Fastest Mac Ever

From Macworld

We’ve published our review of the standard configuration of Apple’s recently revised Mac Pro line, but that’s not the final chapter in the Mac Pro story.

In addition to the eight-core, 2.8GHz model we reviewed, Apple offers three other build-to-order configurations. We’ve already tested the 3GHz, eight-core Mac Pro and the 2.8GHz, four-core system, and we finally received the last piece of the Mac Pro puzzle—an eight-core 3.2GHz model. As you might expect, this machine, powered by a pair of 3.2GHz 4-core Xeon processors, is the fastest Mac we’ve tested yet.

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From the Lab: Measuring Office 2008's Performance

From Macworld
Last month’s release of Microsoft Office 2008 not only introduced new features to the widely used Mac productivity suite but also delivered a version of Office that runs natively on Intel-based Macs. While Office 2004 would work on a Mac powered by an Intel processor, it required the Rosetta translation technology to do so. For many applications, running under Rosetta meant a performance hit, so Intel-based Mac owners were understandably eager to see what kind of performance gains the native version of Office might yield.

We’ve already reviewed the features and enhancements in Word 2008, Excel 2008, PowerPoint 2008 and Entourage 2008. But what about the performance of the Office 2008 update?
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iTunes Movie Rentals: What You Need to Know

From Ars technica
Apple introduced a new feature to its iTunes Store, iPod, and Apple TV ecosystem last week at Macworld '08 that was a long time coming: movie rentals. Every major studio is on board for the debut, which starts with a 1,000-movie catalog (with 100 of those in HD) that is sure to expand if this early offering takes off as a success.

The rentals work on the most recent iPods including the iPod classic, 3G iPod nano, iPod touch, and iPhone. And once the Apple TV "Take 2" software update arrives in another week or so, iTunes Store movie rentals will also work on your living room TV. Now that I've had some time to play with this compelling new store feature, I have some thoughts on the pros and cons of renting popular films through the most popular digital download service on the 'Net. iTunes Store movie rentals are no doubt a big step forward for both the industry and for consumers, but everyone should be aware of the drawbacks.

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Apple at $135: Low Hanging Fruit

From Seeking Alpha
Apple Inc. has enjoyed being a cornerstone of the bull market of recent history. Between July 2006 and the end of 2007, AAPL shares experienced dramatic and impressive price appreciation from about $50 to nearly $200. However, as is true of the market in general, 2008 has not been kind to Apple. At present, Apple is trading just above $130, an almost 35% drop in just over 3 weeks. This selloff has brought Apple shares back into an attractive enough level that it is now on Ockham’s buy list.

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The Skinny on the MacBook Air

From Newsweek
"...In service of slimness, something had to go, and depending on how you use computers, these compromises might either be negligible or deal killers.

These omissions are troubling--especially to someone in a down-turning economy deciding whether to spend a premium sum for a computer with subpremium storage. Still, simply using the MacBook Air, as I'm doing right now in writing this review, is rather copacetic. Though I can quibble with a few of Apple's choices of what to take off, the product's dimensions and design make the case that the losses were not in vain. The things that Apple left on were the ingredients for a quality computer. And did I mention how thin it is?

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MacBook Air: First Lab Tests

From Macworld
It was clear from the moment the MacBook Air was unveiled at Macworld Expo that it was a Mac laptop unlike any we’ve seen recently, if ever. In exchange for dramatically lighter weight and an extremely thin profile, Apple has definitely compromised when it comes to the MacBook Air’s tech specs. And the results of Macworld Lab’s preliminary tests of the MacBook Air reflect those compromises.

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MacBook Air: Beautiful and Thin, but Omits Features

From the Wall Street Journal

Apple finally has entered the subnotebook market, introducing a lightweight laptop meant to please road warriors. But, typical of Apple, the company took a different approach from its competitors. The result is a beautiful, amazingly thin computer, but one whose unusual trade-offs may turn off some frequent travelers.

It's impossible to convey in words just how pleasing and surprising this computer feels in the hand. It's so svelte when closed that it's a real shock to discover the big screen and keyboard inside. But there's a price for this laptop's daring design.

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Are Investors Unfairly Sour on Apple?

From BusinessWeek
Usually, on days when Apple Inc. (AAPL) reports earnings, giddy investors have a chuckle about the company's famously conservative forecasts and proceed to load up on the stock—confident that Apple's closely guarded pipeline of new products will keep sales and profits on the rise. But in a reflection of the gloomy mood on Wall Street over the prospect of a recession, investors found little to laugh about in Apple's latest forecast. After the company said earnings in the March quarter would come in 14% below analysts' expectations, the share price fell more than 11%, to $137.93.

Yet on closer inspection, there are signs that Apple can not only weather an economic contraction but emerge stronger than ever.

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