OS X "Snow Leopard"

About version 10.6.x

About version OS X 10.6...

Before June 2009, not a great deal was known about the latest OS X other than being called "Snow" or in some quarters as "Snow Leopard" (or even S10 for the really geeky person out there with nothing much better to do in life) and the fact that Apple has recommended users get the latest Intel Macs as they contain the latest graphics processing unit (GPU) to help give a performance boost to the OS. However more snippets of news had been leaked through in late June 2009 as follows:

What we do know is that much of putting customers through the beta testing period in OS X development from version 10.0 right up to OS X "Leopard" version 10.5.x may finally have come to an end. Well, we It is not clear whether this is because Apple Inc. has realised Steve Jobs will not be around forever and this could be a good time for Steve to leave behind a positive legacy to all his Apple supporters with one almightly and high quality OS. Whatever the reason, users may soon enjoy the much anticipated complete, refined, compact and fastest OS X everyone has been looking for.

And it is about time too!

Without the GPU upgrade, good performance improvements were noticeable among virtually all Intel-based Macs. Why? Because practically all of the old, bloated code (primarily the PowerPC code) since the first OS X 10.0 public beta version was released in July 2000 was stripped out. Furthermore testers of the beta release of OS X "Snow Leopard" not only noticed a 45 per cent decrease in the time to install the software compared to the previous OS, but also they are claiming a minimum of 1GB hard disk saving compared to OS X 10.5. The speed improvements are primarily because of less code resulting in shorter access times when grabbing information off the hard disk and running OS X in a RAM disk. And it won't be a perceived speed boost where some people think they might be seeing a faster OS X because it is newer. Everyone will definitely notice the extra speed. So Apple users will never have to worry about calling their OS X a "Slow Leopard" instead of "Snow Leopard". Even the rather useful Rosetta for running OS X PowerPC applications will not make a default appearance during installation in favour of a cleaner, more compact and faster OS X, although we understand it may remain an optional installation extra for those who may want it (not like the Classic Environment where there was no option to install for PPC users on OS X "Leopard").

However the speed improvements will not be massive enough to blow away every user. For that little extra umph, the latest GPUs will see slightly greater performance benefits. And even then, the true speed potential of OS X will not be known until Apple decides to build the first true consumer-based 64-bit logic boards for the mass market and all applications are built for 64-bit processing. Well, let's face it. Consumers are still purchasing the older 32-bit logic boards in the latest Macs thinking they are getting the latest, fastest and presumably the only best technology known to computer manufacturers. Just give these so-called latest Macs a bit of a performance boost in the graphics processing department to help encourage consumers to buy the latest 32-bit hardware Macs so long as they are not aware of the benefits of true 64-bit technology.

Fortunately, even without true 64-bit logic boards, users will be thanking Apple for the performance increase. In particular, the extra speed will help minimise one common problem with Macintosh laptops running OS X: the risk of file and directory corruption.

One of the major pitfalls of previous OS X versions is how slow they tend to run. And they get slower and slower over time after accumulating so much information (or garbage in our view) in cache files, log files, directory files, Application folders, User folders and more (1). The speed is so slow that users have wondered what was the benefit of OS X apart from the fancy icons and windows? But if it is really slow on older laptops and the machines suddenly lose power from the old battery at a crucial moment such as updating the directory files, you could experience the joys of file corruption and the loss of important data on your hard disk. The performance improvements of OS X 10.6 will hopefully solve this issue. And now that Apple has decided to release a new batch of MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops as of July 2009 with longer running battery times (up to 7 hours, although we must consider this figure to be highly optimistic and requiring optimal conditions ie. running nothing more than the screensaver) we should see less of this corruption problem in the future.

And now with Microsoft hot on the heels of Apple with its decision to refine, make more compact and release Windows 7 at the same time (is this a coincidence?), Apple will also need to lift its own game when it comes to a truly stable, reliable, useful and fast OS X if users want to stick to Apple's own OS. Because if they don't, professional users will move onto the Windows 7 platform.

If there is any good OS X to go for, most professional Apple users are currently waiting for this version to come out.

And at last, Apple's OS X "Snow Leopard" was released on 28 August 2009.

Hardware requirements

OS X "Snow Leopard" will install on all intel-based Macs (but not PPC machines).

To maximise performance of OS X short of getting the first true 64-bit Apple machines, you must have a Core 2 Duo processor and ideally one of the following machines:

MacBook Pro: Mid-2007 and later

MacBooks: Late 2008 models and later

Macs: Only the 2009 models and later

Mac Mini: Only the 2009 models and later

Mac Pro: All models require PCI Express v2.0 expansion card upgrades (e.g. Apple part number MB137Z/A for the GeForce 8800 upgrade kit) except for the 2009 models which does support it out of the box.

Why? Because these machines have the latest graphics processing unit (GPU) cards to handle the latest OS X features dubbed "OpenCL" and "GrandCentral Dispatch". The specific GPU cards mentioned as important for this performance boost are:

NVIDIA Geforce 8600M GT, GeForce 8800 GT, GeForce 8800 GTS, Geforce 9400M, GeForce 9600M GT, GeForce GT 120, GeForce GT 130.

ATI Radeon 4850, Radeon 4870

All other Macs are now considered "ancient" in Apple's eyes and the only hope these somewhat unfortunate users will have in benefiting from the OpenCL technology is for some clever dick out there to develop third-party software solutions to help enable the technology on older GPUs. Otherwise you can expect Apple to do its bit of helping the public update their Macintosh computers by offering the very latest range of MacBooks and MacBook Pros just released as of July 2009 which will be compatible with OS X "Snow Leopard".

Still want more grunt? For a genuine performance boost par excellence, only the true 64-bit machines running under OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard" will achieve this goal. It is likely these machines will arrive sometime in 2011 unless consumers kick up a stink and profits for Apple dive dramatically over the next year or so.

NOTE: The late 2009 iMacs, and MacBook Pro 15- and 17-inch laptops are being designed to allow developers to prepare their 64-bit applications and test it in 64-bit mode. To determine whether your machine is 64-bit capable, retart the computer, immediately press 6 and 4 before the chime and wait until it reaches the desktop. Use System Profiler in the Utilities folder and select Software. Next to 64-bit Kernel and Extensions it should say Yes if your computer is 64-bit active. If not, it will say No and your computer is purely a 32-bit machine. To switch back to 32-bit mode, restart and press 3 and 2.

1 July 2009

After gauging the reaction of audiences to Apple's WWDC presentation in San Francisco to the latest preview version of OS X "Snow Leopard", Apple may have decided to make some prudent decisions (and wisely too).

While the audience were generally impressed by the speed of the latest OS X (probably using the latest Macintosh laptops having the latest GPUs, so get cracking everyone in buying the latest Macs if you can afford it), they have realised the interface has not undergone any major revision. For all practical purposes, the latest OS X looks like the old OS X "Leopard" version 10.5.x. Well, apart from a few minor visual niceties, generally the audience weren't thrown off their seat by the latest OS X appearance as they may have in early OS X versions.

This observation reconfirms previous reviews of the beta release of "Snow Leopard" for testing in June 2006 as shown by the following quote:

"Very fast. A clean installation took about 13 minutes from start to finish, which is a world of difference from the hour or so that a clean 10.5 Leopard install takes. This has been potentially attributed to the significant reduction in the size of core applications (Snow Leopard's Mail application is under 100mb, whereas 10.5's was nearly 300mb). Other theories involve a removal of PowerPC support freeing up space and speeding up the install time. Other than the actual time involved, there are very few differences between the 10.5 and 10.6 installation processes in the current build.

Once you're up and running, it feels very similar to Leopard. I don't know how much this will change through Snow Leopard's development, but don't expect a terribly different interface. The subtle changes to the current Aqua definitely look good though. The biggest changes are under the hood. Snow Leopard is fast. Very fast. Like, surprisingly fast. From boot times to general application usage, Snow Leopard was noticeably quicker than Leopard when using the same system. Apple and 3rd party applications alike, they all launched faster and performed smoother." (OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Preview. Testmac.net. 26 June 2008.)

In the weeks that followed the presentation, Apple also realised Microsoft was about to release Windows 7 (a similarly refined and faster OS) and this may mean the sale of OS X "Snow Leopard" may not "shoot through the roof" so to speak. The only ones who may purchase it are the Mac-supporting geeks, and some professional business users who need faster Macs to perform their creative designing and publishing work for clients but so long as they can still run their existing or even slightly older Adobe software (e.g. Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator etc). As one professional user said on 26 June 2008 after reading an early review:

"Have you run any pro adobe/apple apps? is it stable? worth experimenting with?" (OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Preview. Testmac.net. 26 June 2008.)

But as another user said:

"Why wouldn't you even bother using ANY pro apps with a Beta of 10.6. That spells trouble. Just wait until it is released to experiment with it." (OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Preview. Testmac.net. 26 June 2008.)

And that's assuming professional users can see the stable nature of the latest OS X running their current applications beyond the benefits of a faster OS.

Thus Apple had promptly decided to set a release date for OS X "Snow Leopard" for around September 2009 according to vague information available at this time and will offer users of OS X Leopard and Mac owners who have purchased their hardware and/or OS X after December 2008 an upgrade to the latest OS X for around US$29, and US$10 if the older version is purchased between 8 June and 26 December 2009 (2). The price is designed to capture as many professional users as possible and avoid too many users going for a PC running the latest Windows 7. It will also force many users to register their OS software and latest hardware with Apple (especially for those who have not purchased extended Apple Care Warranty).

Does this mean OS X "Leopard" will end at version 10.5.7 or perhaps 10.5.8 by September? Probably not. Apple is probably holding out for the best 10.5.9 version of OS X "Leopard" to end off this old series with a bang and so make everyone think once more how great Apple software is.

And perhaps by then the first look at a truly stable and almost bug-free OS X "Snow Leopard" may be revealed as well.

Apple releases Snow Leopard

Apple decided on an early release of OS X "Snow Leopard" version 10.6.0, set for 28 August 2009.

As at time of writing this section, the date had past and we learn not a lot of fanfare was made over its release for international users. A little advertising in the US. But it seems Apple is not making a whole lot of fuss, other than to release it early and get the early adopters to give it the thumbs up, well hopefully.

Has Apple rushed the job in getting OS X "Snow Leopard" out?

The new operating hasn't been without a few glaring bugs (Already? That was quick! Where's the Apple quality check on this one?). For example, OS X installation has caused a peculiarity in that users cannot understand why OS X is unable to be installed on an available hard disk. It can have 100GB or more of free space, look like any other ordinary Mac hard disk (and was even formatted and initialised with a previous OS X installation disk) and may have had installed a previous version of OS X without a problem except this latest OS X manages to find something in the hard disk data header it doesn't like or there is an application still running in the background from the target hard disk that it cannot or hasn't quit and decides to stop installation, showing the infamous yellow triangle highlighting the offending disk. No explanation why this should be the case (as is usually the case from Apple these days). Some users have claimed the culprit is Apple's own Time Machine utility and the new OS X disk doesn't quit it properly. The recommended solution is to restart the Mac and try again (or boot into the old OS and turn off the utility). And if all else fails, try booting off the DVD installation disk (users have discovered how well this works).

Also, it is not recommended that users try the update option of the OS X Snow Leopard installation procedure if you are running an older version of OS X. It seems Apple wants everyone to do a clean install of the latest OS X as the following user named bangaioh has discovered on 6 September 2009:

"I'm having a horrible time with the update. My mac, reboots before the install is complete and spits out the Snow Leopard disk. It does the same thing, if I try to boot from it while pressing 'C' on startup. What's worse is that it's doing the same thing with my original install DVD as well now." (Kessler, Topher. Snow Leopard cannot be installed on Macintosh HD the disk "cannot be used to start up your computer": CNET News/MacFixIt.com. 1 September 2009.)

If you do, the only option is to reformat the hard disk (yes, and reinstall all your third-party applications and updates as Apple would love to see) with the new OS X disk and perform a clean install. And no, reinstalling an older version of OS X won't work either at this point until you have reformatted the disk. Nice one Apple! As one user commented at this time:

"Wow Apple is now worse than windows !

I read the work around and fixes and I don't understand any of it, not everyone that owns a Mac is a computer nerd.

I want to know WHY Apple wants me to pay good money for an operating system that won't even download to a Mac ! ? !" (Kessler, Topher. Snow Leopard cannot be installed on Macintosh HD the disk "cannot be used to start up your computer": CNET News/MacFixIt.com. 1 September 2009.)

Beyond that, the complaints have remained a relatively low key affair although this might mean it is too early to say for sure.

Compared to the previous OS X "Leopard" version 10.5.x, one has to say the few new features haven't been exactly riveting and it looks very much like the previous OS X version (could Apple be running out of steam for new ideas in an OS?). The rest Apple is relying on its speed to wow Apple users to this version.

Okay, so have all the bugs been ironed out in this OS X version?

Let's wait and see...

Avoid free downloadable copies of Snow Leopard

An article by Joe Aimonetti titled Mac Malware Update: Unauthorized downloads of Snow Leopard infested with Trojans published on CNET on 1 September 2009 claims web sites have sprung up offering a free copy of OS X "Snow Leopard" only to discover for the unsuspecting user how the presence of carefully-crafted malicious software are waiting in the wings for you to inadvertently install and potentially cause havoc to your Mac and/or your personal identity.

Essentially a Trojan called a DNS Changer script will be installed where your internet access is re-routed to a different server for interrogation, or force you to visit an unwanted web site where additional malicious scripts can be downloaded.

Previous to this, the latest version of the commercial applications iWork '09 and Adobe CS4 had been allegedly infected in a similar way within a matter of days of their release. Now it is Apple's OS X "Snow Leopard". Yet remarkably no other commercial software such as Mircosoft Office 2008 is said to be targeted.

It is not entirely clear whether these web sites are offering the full OS X installation software or are just a small install package with the name OS X "Snow Leopard" containing the additional malicious script. If it turns out to be the former and the install package and looks and behaves just like the original Apple installer, it may be an example of commercial software manufacturers convincing users to buy a clean version. Otherwise the installers are probably from a bunch of independent social misfits looking to steal your identity, or it could be a form of protest against Apple and Adobe for putting in too many restrictions in their commercial software (e.g. requiring users to activate and re-activate ad nauseum the software online or by phone each time the software is installed).

We are inclined to think it is the latter group of people as Apple has not made an official statement claiming to have put legal pressure on these web site owners to stop the spread of illegal copies of OS X from being made available for free.

Mind you, people who can upgrade to the latest OS X for a miserly US$10 or $29 and yet still choose the freeware option would have to be pretty dumb in anyone's language. Why take the risk? You would only have to provide your personal details to Apple when you buy (even if the thought does seem a little troubling in itself).

Update 10.6.1 released in September 2009

Sorry to disappoint readers, but it seems the bugs have started to roll in. Not quite a cascade, but enough to make people wonder, "What the heck is Apple doing?"

In fact, it didn't take long for Apple to release its initial 10.6.1 update to fix up the obvious ones they could see. In fact the original 10.6.0 release contained an unusual number of bugs for what should basically be a faster and more stable version of OS X "Leopard" version 10.5.8. And people were generally happy with version 10.5.8. Yet somehow Apple managed to make version 10.6.0 quite buggy.

Does this mean Apple had simply made a copy of version 10.5.8 of OS X "Leopard", added a few minor features and took away the PowerPC code and called it OS X "Snow Leopard"?

Perhaps the bugs have been lurking in the old OS X only to rear its ugly head ever so clearly in this latest OS X?

NOTE: This was the same time as when the iPhone OS 3.1 update was released and it too contained an unusually large number of bugs for some reason.

The major bugs to emerge from version 10.6.0 either don't appear in version 10.5.8, or are considered very rare and hidden in the older OS X versions. They include the following:

(i) Users will discover unexpected log outs of their account while in the middle of using applications. It has been claimed by Joe Aimonetti who reported the problem at CNET that it could be related to Rosetta (the application for running OS X PPC applications and for which Apple dearly wanted to have ditched in Snow Leopard). It may be due to the number of OS X PPC applications running simultaneously or when running an OS X PPC application (in particular Excel or Word 2004, but not Office 2008) in the foreground. A sample quote in support of this issue is revealed by Stu Baker:

"I am having spontaneous logouts while I am in Snow Leopard. This is happening a couple times a day and it is very annoying. When it logs out it instantly goes to a blue screen and then the login screen appears. When I log back in all my apps have quit and it is like I am logging in for the first time. I did have this happen in Leopard too, but very rarely."

Along a similar line is another more serious bug where the user's home folder can disappear after (suddenly or purposefully) logging out of a guest account. The folder is probably not deleted despite MacRumours.com claiming "...the affected users have been finding all of their user data missing and unrecoverable except from a backup". Assuming it is the former situation, the user folder is probably not visible at the login window stage, in which case an inspection of the hard disk (as Apple technicians would do) should show the user folder for the affected account. It is a rare bug as Apple has acknowledged. According to CNET News, an Apple representative has confirmed the bug in a statement issued on 12 October 2009:

"We are aware of the issue, which occurs only in extremely rare cases, and we are working on a fix." (Ogg, Erica. Apple acknowledges Snow Leopard data loss issue: CNET News. 12 October 2009.)

The guest account is set by default to "Sharing Only" which doesn't bring out the bug. But if you change this default, the risk increases slightly. If this happens to you, create a new user account with the same name to help you get access to the missing home folder (unless the problem is more serious as suggested by some users).

(ii) Graphic designers relying on a Mac to do their work are noticing a major problem in the way Snow Leopard renders fonts compared to the previous OS. The letters and words under certain font types and sizes do not appear consistent and correctly position on the screen with the appearance of extra spacing where it shouldn't. Rendering of text in certain fonts has been an issue under Leopard 10.5.x and Tiger 10.4.x through applications such as FileMaker Pro (try designing a layout with text in right alignment of a certain font type such as Times New Roman, it never looks properly right aligned with the appearance of extra spacing on the right depending on font size). The problem has gotten worse under Snow Leopard and now a large and growing forum thread has been established dedicated to this specific problem at the Apple Support Discussions.

(iii) The keyboard may stop working after switching Spaces in Snow Leopard using the keyboard shortcuts according to this CNET/MacFixIt article by Topher Kessler. Allegedly the mouse and other input devices will continue to work and the OS will not freeze. Perhaps there is a keyboard shortcut conflict between Spaces and another application (perhaps the Keyboard preference pane)? CNET suggests clearing the com.apple.Dock.plist and com.apple.Dock.db preference files located in /username/Library/Preferences/ folder as these might be corrupted or the Dock application was not quality checked for compatibility with the Snow Leopard environment. The problem is enough to affect some users as seen in the folloiwng quote:

"What the @#$$ did Apple do this time! Looks like somebody installed a new problem, oops I'm sorry I meant a new feature. Sure hope they get a handle (pun intended) on this, because it is mighty, mighty annoying, and that is being very kind. Folks that should not have broken like that, shame on you Apple."

(iv)The Finder can spit a dummy by deciding to show the infamous Error -10810. This seems to be a favourite among Snow Leopard users, although it doesn't happen to everyone. Allegedly the problem has appeared as early as OS X Tiger (despite all of our systems showing no signs of this error) and occurs when installing and running a third-party solution that Finder doesn't like. A MacFixIt user has given an example: Altiris software he uses to keep track of computers in his work place. Other third-party software could be at fault. However, as another user simply said:

"In fact, the Snow Leopard Finder seems remarkably unstable. I hope Apple fixes the problem. As for it being caused by third party apps, when these apps and the Finder [I] had no such problems in OS X 10.5.8. I have no doubt that Apple and Snow Leopard are to blame for the trouble. If I wanted an OS upgrade to break my existing applications I'd use Windows." (Aimonetti, Joe. Ongoing Snow Leopard issue: Finder Application cannot be opened (-10810): MacFixIt (CNET). 2 November 2009.)

As for solutions to these problems, Update 10.6.1 has not addressed the unexpected log out issue as yet. It is recommended a complete re-installation of OS X "Snow Leopard" 10.6.0 with Rosetta included be performed and do an immediate update to version 10.6.1. Finish it off with a file permissions check and hopefully the problem will not return. Or the other solution is simply to wait for a proper fix of the OS as one user suggested:

"Absolutely wish I'd waited before installing 10.6.1."

In the case of the missing user folder of a guest account after logging out, there is no solution until Apple releases update 10.6.2 sometime in November 2009.

Better news for the keyboard problem. It can be fixed by force quitting the Dock application using the Process Activity utility. But if this is a pain in the you know where, consider turning off Spaces until Apple releases a fix.

As for the font rendering problem, there is no solution. Apple is allegedly aware of the problem. But with many graphic designers trying to earn an income from their work and have to rely on a Mac (the preferred graphic designing tool), all of them have been forced to downgrade the OS to version 10.5.8. Nice one!

And the Finder error -10810 may be fixed by deleting in the user folder:



and within the root Library folder:

/Library/Caches/com.apple.LaunchServices* (the * means anything)

and reboot (no this doesn't mean putting another boot into it, but rather a restart) the computer. Or use OnyX to clear and rebuild the LaunchServices database (the easiest way). If necessary, find the offending third-party application and get rid of it as Apple doesn't provide a stable enough OS for third-party developers to rely on and Apple won't do the quality control work with third-party software solutions. This deleting of the LaunchServices solution has been suggested by a MacFixIt user.

Not a bad effort from Apple for what should be a flawless OS at this point in time.

Does anyone know when a stable OS X is likely to arrive (we can feel our bones poking through our wrinkly skin already)?

5 November 2009

The bugs keep rolling in as users discover other oddities of OS X "Snow Leopard" 10.6.1. For example, users have reported a problem opening up multiple files downloaded from the internet, extracted from a compressed file, or dragged as file attachments from an email to the desktop. It affects any file type. As one user reported:

"This is very annoying when trying to import mp3s into iTunes by double-clicking too, and seems to affect not only files downloaded individually, but expanded zip files and rar archives too. Irritating!" (Aimonetti, Joe. Snow Leopard: Trouble opening groups of downloaded files: MacFixIt (CNET). 5 November 2009.)

And then there is the date detection bug in Apple's Mail application which doesn't seem to work properly. A user named Jaymz reported on the Apple Discussion board under the topic Email Data Detection Stopped Since SL Upgrade:

"I receive emails for events all the time and they have the following date format (example shown)

2009-09-19 19:30:00

Apple Mail used to recognise this as a date and time in the email so I could make a quick iCal addition. This seems to have ceased with the SL upgrade. It still detects more obvious dates and other data but I need it to detect this type as before.

Any ideas?"

Short of downgrading OS X to Leopard or Tiger? Not really. User jeff-IT has given some further details for Apple to work out in their own time (what's the name of the next OS X upgrade?):

"I have found that all data detection has stopped working, together. I have check on a upgraded machine from 10.5.8 to 10.6 and I have a second macbook pro that I did a clean install and it has the same problem. I get nothing on dates and contacts. I would love for a resolve as this is a small feature that I used daily. It is killing me not to have it."

Perhaps users will have to become nerdy to find a Terminal/UNIX command to switch on the right feature in the latest OS X?

These are just a couple of bugs to keep the users on their toes. More bugs have been reported and many more are expected to come. Can someone out there remind readers what's the benefit of buying OS X "Snow Leopard"?

Apple better have the 10.6.2 update out soon before we all die of laughter.

Microsoft released Windows 7

Microsoft Windows 7 was released on 22 October 2009 (only UK users benefited from an earlier release date than the rest of the world). This was an opportunity for users to try the alternative new OS considered by some observers as likely to grab more professionals away from OS X (would it also include graphic designers?). And it needs to. The reviews of Microsoft Vista were shocking to say the least and most PC users (mainly business and IT professionals) had been forced to stay with Windows XP for the last 8 years (the poor buggers).

Most of the less than riveting review of Windows Vista was levelled at the monstrosity of the OS in terms of its bloated size and generally poor performance. As Chris Matyszczyk of CNET News described Vista:

"...[the] injury-prone [John] Elton brand" (Matyszczyk, Chris. Windows 7: Whose idea was it really?: CNET News. 24 October 2009.)

At last Microsoft has learned a few things and customers have come to expect a much better product this time around. And we know Microsoft will as news has seeped through revealing the bloated code has been stripped out for a much faster OS. Some observers are even touting the new lean machine of a Windows OS will be at least as fast as OS X "Snow Leopard" if not faster in some areas. And if Microsoft has paid attention to better rendering of graphics on the screen with accurate colours and so on, it could even give Apple a run for its money.

So much so that it is claimed Apple is allegedly sensing the pressure from Microsoft with rumours the Senior Apple Vice-President Phil Schiller will target Windows 7 release through a series of negative (or showing the advantages of MacOS X) advertisements combined with lower prices for Apple's laptops and desktop machines to better compete with the new low-cost PCs available in the marketplace. The claim is made by Business Week in an article titled Can Apple spoil Microsoft's Day?.

In fact, the one headache all PC users will enjoy with Windows 7 is how they will be required to backup all their personal data, reformat the hard disk, and reinstall applications and data after Windows 7 is up and running. Apple will naturally target this weakness. As Schiller said:

"Any user that reads all those steps is probably going to freak out. If you have to go through all that, why not just buy a Mac?" (Burrows, Peter. Can Apple Spoil Microsoft's Day?: Business Week. 14 October 2009.)

However, once it is installed, what then? For the pain of installation (not even "Snow Leopard" was free of installation glitches), Microsoft will deliver a much better Windows experience. So how will Windows 7 compete with MacOS X "Snow Leopard" after installation and running real-world applications? This is perhaps the more important question of all and one to interest professional users more than anything else.

Microsoft is focussing its attention on this aspect. Also Microsoft is targeting Apple for its expensive computers stating the latest new PCs with touchscreens are coming out with an average price of US$537 compared to US1,434 for an iMac. So why buy a new Mac when a perfectly good XP machine can run Windows 7 or allow users to purchase cheaper and more powerful PCs to run the latest OS? It makes total sense.

Apple knows this and will consider a price drop for their products in anticipation of Windows 7 official release.

So while Apple may be able to control their own products and the software contained therein even after customers have bought them (e.g. the iPhone), that's just about as far as it can go. Now PC users and a number of professional Mac users are seriously considering a switch or show a greater focus on the new Windows environment.

Apple is facing stiff competition. And deservedly so.

Apple has to provide a lot more benefits for the price the company is asking of its customers compared to PCs running Windows 7. And so far the only thing Apple can show for itself is a fancy looking OS X and how a Mac can run two OSes — that is, a Windows and Mac machine. Is that it?

But how many people will choose to stay regularly in the Windows 7 or MacOS X "Snow Leopard" environment? And far more interesting question to answer in the coming months.

Benchmarks on Windows 7 and MacOS X "Snow Leopard"

A test benchmark on the two dominant OS claims MacOS X "Snow Leopard" will edge out slightly in the performance stakes according to this CNET article. Of course, the results will depend on the computers used. While efforts were made to set up two similar spec Mac and PC machines, the test benchmark could be more accurate if the tests for each OS were carried out on the same machine, which in this case should be an Intel Mac (the only machine to run both OS).

Assuming the tests are accurate, it would appear the ubiquitous shutdown and boot operations a user is likely to experience and using Apple's own proprietary iTunes software for PC and Mac to encode (i.e. compress) music files gives MacOS X "Snow Leopard" the slight edge in speed, with slightly greater performance to be had in multimedia multitasking. On the other hand, when it comes to running games and performing 3D rendering work, Windows 7 benefits from the optimisations PC software manufacturers employ in this field. In fact, because many games rely on 3D image rendering, a Cinebench R10 Benchmark by Dong Ngo at CNET suggests Windows 7 has significantly better performance over MacOS X "Snow Leopard".

More interested in using the Mac as a workhorse?

When it comes to doing your everyday work on say Microsoft Word, Excel and other similar applications, the performance difference isn't significant enough to be noticed by around 99 per cent of users. Therefore the choice of which OS to go for will come down to a question of money, useability and software compatibility. Windows 7 has the edge on compatibility when it comes to running more software (including the legacy Windows 95 stuff) and has greater options for you to choose when customising your PC machine, and Windows just happens to run on cheaper PC machines including the latest touchscreen laptops and mobile devices; whereas MacOS X remains "nicer looking" and more intuitive to use. And yes, a Mac can run both operating systems. But the Mac computer still remains more expensive to purchase than the average PC.

For people who are undecided or need to run both operating systems for their work, having a Mac makes perfect sense so long as you have the cash to splurge. And only spend more money if you must have the fastest Mac (i.e. the Mac Pro) for intensive 3D rendering work because Mac software is the only thing you have and you are comfortable using a Mac.

Otherwise on a purely economic sense and if you have been using a PC for a long time, a PC running Windows 7 makes better sense.

In conclusion, it would appear not much will change between Microsoft and Apple in their OS to consumers. While the OS from both companies are better optimised and runs faster, Windows will remain the choice for PC users wanting to run a wider range of software on cheaper PCs, whereas the fancy looking OS X will remain the choice for trendy upmarket Mac users who think it is the best thing since sliced bread.

The only thing to change will be the PC manufacturers as they enjoy once again another resurgence in consumers buying new PCs for Christmas 2009 and beyond. Microsoft is helping in this regard by making sure the price of a fresh install version of say Windows 7 Ultimate is almost the cost of the average new PC.

Truly significant improvements and radical designs to the OS resulting from true competition and benefiting the consumers will only come when governments legislate software companies to make their OS run on all computers having full compatibility with all software. Unfortunately this will have to remain a pipedream.

22 October 2009

Described by one CNET user as "scraping the bottom of the barrel" kind of effort, the latest Apple advert to target Microsoft's Windows 7 had focussed on "broken promises" by Microsoft implying you can't trust Microsoft. Apple then asks Windows XP users why they would go for Windows 7 when the Mac is number 1 for customer satisfaction.

Yes, satisfaction in so much as OS X looks prettier and easier to use than Windows XP (and possibly Windows 7). However satisfaction, as Apple should know by now, also includes an OS that doesn't have bugs in it (the latest "Snow Leopard" still has bugs).

And no customer can be completely satisfied with OS X without a computer to run it. And guess what? You have to buy an Apple computer to run OS X. This means customer satisfaction must also include an Apple computer with accompanying Apple's proprietary magnetic power cord that doesn't fall apart in a short period of time, with aluminium paint coming off the keyboard, the sudden appearance of vertical coloured lines on the screen, and a hinge system that won't break and so on after 2 to 3 years of normal use.

These hardware problems are not uncommon among Apple computers.

Of course if you are rich enough, such hardware problems won't phase you. You will be the type of person who will always be satisfied with a Mac — just keep buying a new Mac as soon as you see a problem and pretend the next OS update will fix all the latest bugs. And if other bugs do suddenly creep in, all you have to do is wait for the next update (or the update after that, or perhaps the next OS upgrade?).

And if customer satisfaction was based purely on the number of OS units sold, then the following sobering statement from a CNET user might be in order:

"Macs sold 3.05 million units last quarter, all computer shipments were about 75 million. That means Mac were chosen by less than 4% of purchasers.

Linux figures weren't available because no one cares enough to record them.

Most people want Windows. OS X and Linux [are] small potatoes." (Matyszczyk, Chris. Apple spits at Windows 7: You can't trust Microsoft: CNET News. 22 October 2009.)

Which means not a lot of customers find satisfaction from paying the high price for a Mac with its fancy looking OS.

And we know Apple can show great customer service when it wants to if it realises you are going to buy a Mac. Of course what happens afterwards is another story.

Yes, we can see this is Apple's idea of "number 1 for customer satisfaction".

The whole Apple advert can be summed up by one user:

"Consumer response has spoken, they no longer believe the I'm a pc/mac ads. They're tired of apple's flamefest." (Matyszczyk, Chris. Apple spits at Windows 7: You can't trust Microsoft: CNET News. 22 October 2009.)

Only time will tell if Microsoft has learned from the folly of its previous OS incarnations, or whether people will waste more money on buying new PCs and applications to run the latest Windows 7 as well as access their own personal/business data.

The problem with Windows 7 and OS X

Will Windows 7 become the people's choice?

Even if Windows 7 does become the people's choice, it is probably because PCs to run Windows 7 will be a whole lot cheaper compared to Macs. However, if people had a choice, would they go for Windows 7 or Mac OS X "Snow Leopard" (free from bugs, of course)?

A review online of users' thoughts on the issue strongly suggests the trend is for users to go for OS X. Why? Because when it comes to getting work done (and certainly not so much about playing games), OS X is better designed, more intuitive, and is easier to use. We see almost universal agreement on this aspect. For example, TheDefiler54703said:

"More people might be willing to try MacOS if u didn't need to buy a whole new "proprietary" system to use it. Apple should unlock MacOS from the hardware and sell it as a stand alone OS. I would be willing to use it." (Matyszczyk, Chris. Apple spits at Windows 7: You can't trust Microsoft: CNET News. 22 October 2009.)

And another user agreed saying:

"Yeah, and more people would be willing to try a Lamborghini if you didn't have to purchase a new motor or tires to go with it. They should sell the Lamborghini name as a stand alone. I would be willing to buy one then." (Matyszczyk, Chris. Apple spits at Windows 7: You can't trust Microsoft: CNET News. 22 October 2009.)

There was no one in the comments list who disagreed.

There are clearly enough users out there willing to buy OS X for the PC because they know it is a top product. In fact, there is no technical reason why OS X could not be run on any PC as some hackers have already done as noted by this user:

"You can install OS X on any PC hardware - just google it and you'll see many people are doing it. The problem is that it isn't legal, and Apple will not support your PC, nor should they have to.' (Matyszczyk, Chris. Apple spits at Windows 7: You can't trust Microsoft: CNET News. 22 October 2009.)

Although this other user is probably right when he said:

"It's not illegal to install OS X on a PC. It may be violating the EULA, but there isn't a court in the US that's going to do anything to a dude that installs OS X on his own machine in his home as long as he paid for the software." (Matyszczyk, Chris. Apple spits at Windows 7: You can't trust Microsoft: CNET News. 22 October 2009.)

OS X can, and is being, installed on any PC if users choose to (right up to version 10.6.1). The knowledge is there for those who know, or want to know. It is only that Apple chooses not to. And perhaps wisely too given the dominance of Microsoft in the PC market. It would be no surprise if there is indeed a secret gentlemen's agreement going on between Apple and Microsoft which the public isn't privy to and designed to ensure one company does not tread into the market of the other (NOTE: Apple may also have a secret partnership with Adobe in return for providing PDF services within OS X while helping Adobe to minimise software piracy problems). Who knows? In return for letting Microsoft profit from selling the latest Windows OS in the PC market, Apple could be benefiting from having extra business Mac users running the Mac version of Microsoft's flagship business productivity suite known as Office and/or Windows 7 on a Mac (through Boot Camp).

There is also another reason. Should Apple decide to properly compete in the PC market, how many users would actually buy an Apple computer to run it? Apple computers are still expensive compared to PCs. Many consumers don't see the benefit of paying more for a fancy-looking Apple computer (even less benefit if there are manufacturing faults) if a cheaper and latest model PC can do the job just as well. Users will buy OS X and reduce the market dominance of Windows software. As far as the computer itself is concerned, it will just make Apple computers more expensive and force Apple to put in the quality controls and use high quality components and materialsto make it outlast PCs by a country mile (the only Unique Selling Point), or simply get out of the computer manufacturing business.

But there will always be a small market for these high quality and well-designed machines that outlast any PC. It would force Apple to consider the ultimate in environmentally friendly computers that are fully recyclable and allow internal components to be updated without throwing the entire computer into landfill.

Apple knows its bread and butter is not just in selling OS X. Bigger profits are to be had by selling Chinese-made Apple computers, as well as Final Cut Pro and other Apple-made software. Take the computers out of the equation and Apple is no different from, say, Adobe Systems Inc or Microsoft Inc. Apple would be just another software company vying for your money.

So by not properly competing against Microsoft by making OS X available in the PC market, Apple can continue to enjoy its own market dominance of the Apple computer and its Apple-specific OS and software where it can afford to thumb its nose at consumers who complain about manufacturing faults and software bugs unless they are smart enough to use the magic words: "not of merchantable quality" and "the Trade Practices Act". Then Apple may pull its thumb out of its arse and do the right thing by the consumer.

It is true. Any form of genuine competition in the OS market will almost certainly result in Apple having to work much harder in producing a better constructed and longer lasting computer with greater innovative designs and top-notch features and an OS free of bugs (much like the early days of Apple in the 1980s and early 1990s). Given the growing list of manufacturing faults such as poor display hinges and the poor choice of certain materials such as low-grade, scratchable and low-temperature plastics especially among first generation Apple computers, iPods and iPhones since 1996 and how the latest OS X is still riddled with bugs, Apple would definitely not survive in this new competitive environment. The company would have to step up to the plate and start to treat its customers better by providing quality products. Unfortunately this would result in the price of Apple computers and OS X going up to cover the cost of quality control and choosing the best components. And we all know the budget-conscious consumer will not pay this extra money if they know OS X can be run on cheaper and more reliable PCs. So it is better for Apple not to step on Microsoft's shoes.

The alternative for Apple would be to join forces with (or be bought out by) Dell Computers (if not by Microsoft unless government legislation would stop Microsoft becoming the dominant player in the OS market). Then Dell can finally manufacture decent-looking PC computers at a cheaper price and with better quality control and manufacturing standards running what is arguably the world's best OS from Apple. Now that's a thought. But it will still require Apple to bow down to the consumer when it comes to providing a quality product with good features in OS X.

Not such a bad idea after all?

The best case scenario for Apple in a world of genuine competition in the OS market is for the company to join with Dell to create a new Apple PC company, or lift up its game and decide whether or not it can produce cheaper and higher quality computers, or stick to being a software company like Microsoft or Adobe Systems Inc by supplying OS X and other software (eg, Final Cut Pro) for PCs. The worse case scenario for Apple could be that it is bought out by Microsoft (or Dell and the CEO of Dell chooses to do away with OS X in favour of Windows; in which case you might as well make OS X open source where it will become the true people's choice OS).

Until the competition in the PC/Mac market is properly opened up and consumers get quality and low-cost products, we are stuck with PCs running Windows, and Macs running OS X (with minor additional tools to run Windows and Linux thanks to Mr Jobs decision to switch to the Intel processor for all Macs). In the meantime, it is up to users to decide which OS and consequently which machine to go for.

19 January 2010

Microsoft appears generally happy Apple is making a reasonable effort to prevent PC users from running OS X. Apple has just released Boot Camp 3.1 (274.5MB) allowing Mac users to update Windows XP and Vista to the latest Windows 7 plus a few extras for greater compatibility with the latest Apple products (e.g. the Magic Mouse).

19 May 2010

The acquisition of Sun Microsystems by Oracle Corporation has seen some interesting changes, and with it an updated new freeware virtual machine software tool for the Mac known as VirtualBox. Initially designed to run any PC computer and corresponding OS you like (i.e. Linux and PC) on a Mac, Oracle has gone one step further by allowing Mac users to create a virtual OS X machine. So any Mac user wishing they could run one of their old Mac software on an early version of OS X but couldn't for whatever reason can now do so. VirtualBox 3.2.0 will run any version of OS X you like on a Macintosh computer, even the likes of "Snow Leopard".

However, being careful not to tread the legal toes of Apple Inc., Oracle made it quite clear the PC version of VirtualBox cannot run the virtual OS X client machine because of a hardware restriction. But since version OS X 10.6.1 could be run on a PC by hackers before Apple put a stop to it, it seems the restriction is primarily in the ROM chip that sets out which microprocessor and perhaps other hardware features it will accept when running OS X, which explicitly excludes all PCs for now.

Until government legislation finally opens up the IT industry to true competition, we will have to live with the so-called "hardware restrictions".

So what about the Classic Environment OS9? Can VirtualBox achieve this? One can only wish it can happen soon to stop being dictated by Apple on what users can do as OS X evolves.

Would users buy OS X or Windows 7?

As news of Windows 7 seeps throughout the market, we can say Microsoft is cashing in heavily on the sale of the OS by separating the OS into a plethora of "options" for consumers. These include Home Premium, a Professional version, and an Ultimate version. Furthermore, you have to pay extra if you want the 64-bit version or else stick to the standard 32-bit. Well, at least Apple has been generous enough to make OS X "Snow Leopard" 64-bit ready and will run on 32-bit or 64-bit processors (all the latest top-end Macs can switch to 64-bit mode at any time). With Microsoft, you just have to pay to have one or the other in three Windows 7 flavours.

So now the choice is clear. When it comes to a good OS, most people know and are quite willing to try Mac OS X on a PC should the opportunity present itself simply because of its well-designed, intuitive and easy-to-use interface, and will run in 64-bit mode when the PC has a 64-bit processor. Very nice. Unfortunately they can't. So users must painfully choose. This is the reason why a number of PC users have, over the past decade after using Windows 95 right up to XP, switched to OS X. The OS from Apple is considered very good especially when it comes to getting work done quickly and easily (once the bugs are ironed out with each successive upgrade), far more so than the old Windows OS. As one CNET user said:

"Most people just don't understand that Windows is not the only option. From Windows 3.0 to XP I was one of them, then after getting totally fed up with MS crap OS I tried Mac. I kick myself for not trying Mac earlier... Within 6 months of getting a Mac that was half the specs my Windows machine was - that underpowered Mac became my main computer. It did what I needed done and gave me a fraction of the headaches Windows did. And the Mac was fun to learn and a joy to use." (Matyszczyk, Chris. Apple spits at Windows 7: You can't trust Microsoft: CNET News. 22 October 2009.)

The release of Windows 7 may have stemmed the flow a bit. But it isn't without some pain in the price for a descent OS and re-installation of older XP software. Well, not even OS X was free of hassles during the installation. Perhaps OS X version 10.6.2 installation disk is more robust? Nevertheless many people do understand there are alternatives to Windows. Unfortunately users preferred choice won't migrate from the Macintosh computer. And not everyone will buy Apple computers given their ridiculously expensive prices (even with the price coming down slightly you would still think twice) and comes with a lot of risk of the machines breaking down if the quality control measures are not in place by Apple.

This is the fundamental problem with the Mac, and is why Apple can never make significant headway into the Microsoft Windows/PC market share. It's pure economics for the majority of computer users. You just don't pay more for an Apple when a cheaper PC running Windows will do.

And now, with the advent of Windows 7 and cheaper new PCs, the reverse switching effect could easily take place among long-time professional Mac users and those who previously made the switch from PC to Mac. The latest Windows is turning out to be a significant improvement from previous OS versions and those who can afford it are making the decision to switch back to Windows. It will quickly come down to a choice of the right PC with better manufacturing and quality control measures given the lower price compared to Macs. And there are lots of choices.

You can even design and build your own high quality PC. Not even Apple allows users to build an Apple computer. You have to accept whatever Apple gives you, warts and all.

This is probably why Apple is so getting stuck into Microsoft's Windows 7 when it was released (repeating its old sometimes funny Microsoft bashing adverts since 1995 instead of focussing on what Apple should be good at and can do well as users should be able to testify) because of this potential risk of losing enough core base of solid Mac users. Apple needs the core base of long-time users to maintain the Mac. Otherwise Apple must make the computer and OS look even more attractive and different to help attract newcomers to the Mac platform.

It is the way it has worked, and will continue to work while competition among OS manufacturers on existing machines remains lame.

Until the monopoly of Microsoft and Apple is broken by government legislation and true competition begins where Apple can provide the best, bug-free Mac OS X it can possibly produce for PCs and likewise Windows 7 on Macs, there will always be Apple and Microsoft doing their bit to look like they are both competing with one another and coming up with statements to suggest their product is better than the other.

Consumers should be the ones deciding the OS they want to run on their computers (whether Mac or PC) and not be restricted in any way by the type of computer they are forced to buy when running their preferred OS and associated applications.

Consumers, when given real choice, should be the ones to speak with their wallets on the things they find best, not Apple and Microsoft deciding how consumers should buy through the size of their advertising and marketing budgets.

If Apple thinks competition is getting tougher, or is pretending to think it is, one thing is certain. It can no longer rely on ads such as the one it broadcasted in the US in late October 2009 to keep its customers (or even attract new ones as it may have to do). It will have to show a unique selling point.

Obviously a unique selling point should not mean making the Macs more expensive (unless there is a clear environmental advantage and will last a lifetime and look good for that timeframe). Given the features and quality of Windows 7 and the existence of cheaper PCs on the market, it would be financial suicide for Apple to do so. Apple will have to do the opposite, and that means being serious about lowering the price of all Macs. At the same time, it will have to be coupled by adding considerable new features to the OS and Macs. And no, we don't mean adding more bugs into the OS. It means looking for things to make life easier and nicer for consumers. So start adding touchscreens to the next generation of Macs, put in a decent flash memory storage unit exceeding 250GB, get the bugs out of the OS, and make sure the computers don't fall apart after 2 to 3 years.

Finding a unique selling point is something this CNET user has hit upon precisely in his brief analysis of the situation:

"Windows 7 is definitely no Windows Vista. Apple can have its laughs, but I think it's pretty clear that most Windows home users who have skipped over Vista will be quite happy with Windows 7. There are early indications that enterprises are willing to move toward Windows 7 and no longer feel they have to back-grade to XP as they did with Vista. In other words...I think this is a new game and Apple marketing is going to have to adjust to the new players on the board. As an IT guy I've recommended everyone to not buy Vista. If those Windows XP users wanted something new...I whispered OS X or Linux. However, with the Windows 7 launch I won't hesitate and say to current Windows XP/Vista users that Windows 7 is where they need to be now.

I'm a Mac, Windows, and Linux user...and to tell you the truth from a feature stand point of view I don't think the three operating systems have been as similar to each other in features and reliability as they are now. When features are similar among products...it's the price that then matters most to consumers. Apple either needs to really do something original and evolutionary to their Mac line or start looking at the price of their products. Beyond the magic mouse...Apple introduced [/] brought very little new to their Mac and Macbook lineup. Time to step it up Apple or lose the momentum that you had with Vista." (Matyszczyk, Chris. Apple spits at Windows 7: You can't trust Microsoft: CNET News. 22 October 2009.)

The world awaits Apple's next move...

OS X 10.6.2 Update

The 473MB OS X 10.6.2 update file released on 9 November 2009 has addressed two key bugs of greatest concern to users: (i) the bug for losing guest user data after logging in and logging out of a guest account; and (ii) the unexpectedly logging out of the system for some users. Another 14 bugs were thought to be quashed with this update.

Dozens of security-related bugs were fixed including "domain spoofing", and an unspecified number of "general stability improvements" according to Apple for the applications iWork, iLife, Final Cut Studio, Aperture, MobileMe and iDisk. Further details can be found here.

The security-related bugs are substantial (approximately 40 per cent of the total OS X 10.6.2 update file size) and apparently weren't noticed in OS X Leopard after issuing a separate and large 143MB security update file for this OS. Makes one wonder what Apple was doing when the older OS was considered the flagship software?

This update is characterised by an effort to make Apple look like they are improving the OS X product so as to give users greater confidence in upgrading and using the software.

Any more bugs?

19 November 2009

While it may not be a bug in the true sense of the word, perhaps losing features should be. The news at this time suggests Apple has the knack of annoying users with loss in features during an OS X update. Apple has been known to do this between upgrades (e.g. loss of Classic Environment between "Tiger" and "Leopard"). Yet Apple has felt it necessary to lose a feature during an update in the middle of OS X "Snow Leopard". So rather than enhance and make more stable the features already there, Apple will choose to drop support without consulting the users.

The example here are those users who relied on the older AppleTalk protocol to communicate with older (but perfectly usuable) Apple laserprinters. Following the 10.6.2 update of OS X, users have discovered this has been removed. Apple cites the move as a way to remove the legacy protocol in favour of faster and better printing protocols. Of course, users will have to pay extra for new printers to benefit from this.

It is almost like Apple hasn't heard of the economic recession.

Users would discover this after updating to version 10.6.2 of OS X "Snow Leopard". So while users could quite happily print on AppleTalk with version 10.6.0 and 10.6.1. Apple has decided it was time to remove the protocol from version 10.6.2.

Naturally some users are not happy.

Okay, Geordie Korper claims Windows 2008 servers have dropped support for AppleTalk. But why OS X as well, and without warning too? As Korper said:

"As a developer I certainly understand the need to embrace new standards and the cost of supporting old ones but it still can be a pain for people when a product that you like cannot be used because of a need to upgrade some other piece of equipment."

The best solution is for users to establish an IP address for the printer and use IP printing through the LPD/LPR protocol assuming the printer will accept this. For further information on how to do this, download one of the Apple LaserWriter manuals from http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=50128. As a further recommendation, users are strongly encouraged to choose "Select Printer Software" from the "Print Using" menu after clicking the "+" button to add a new printer in the Print & Fax system preferences. This is how you add the printer driver. And hope at the same time OS X "Snow Leopard" will accept the driver. Otherwise, without the proper driver, printing will be a bit of a hit and miss affair with users no longer able to fully control their printers for their specific features under this new regime imposed by Apple.

Or the alternative is to get another computer running an earlier version of OS X and set this one up to share the printer (i.e. to become the printer server) on the network. Apple must think everyone has two or more Apple computers, two or more cars, two houses, or basically two of everything so users can afford to do this?

Here is a typical response from a user to this issue:

"The Snow Leopard (SL) printing problem is proving a nightmare. Previously, I used a postscript enabled Ricoh Aficio 1224c with 10.5.8 on my old Mac and everything was tickety-boo.

After installing SL, the printer vanished from my network. I could still print to it via its IP address, but as SL had removed the driver, I could only get grey blacks and muddy colours.

I set up my previous computer as a server.... Now I can see the printer and print to it. but, unfortunately, SL still won't allow me to install the driver for the Ricoh, so colour control is rather hit and miss and other printer features are simply missing.

If I can't get this working so I can simply print from my workstation, I will have to try to return to 10.5.8."

And then the true 64-bit machines will come out and you can be sure users will have to upgrade every software for full compatibility as well. No wait! It's Rosetta that will disappear in the next OS X upgrade. And then in the upgrade after that it might be the time when users have to move away from 32-bit software.

And we haven't gone into the changes made by Apple to stop users from hacking their fully purchased OS X Snow Leopard to run on Windows machines with the new Intel Atom microprocessor. This has been done to be in the good books with Microsoft. Apple wants approval to update Boot Camp to run the latest Windows 7. Any chance PC users can run OS X on a PC would be enough for Microsoft to deny Apple this opportunity (and possibly consider discontinuing the availability of new Mac versions of Microsoft Office in the future).

You wonder why users get ticked off by Apple.

20 November 2009

Another oddity to emerge from version 10.6.2 is best summed up by a user after complaints from other users surfaced as to why they cannot double-click a file to open it under the Finder:

"Another possibility may be in how the Finder handles inactive Windows. In Leopard, when you clicked on a file in an inactive window that file would be highlighted. Therefore, a double click on a file in an inactive window would open the file. With Snow Leopard, the first click on a file in an inactive window merely activates the window. Thus, if you double click a file in an inactive window, the second click only selects the file, requiring a third click to actually open the file.

While I can see good reasons for doing this, it is a significant change in Finder behavior and takes some getting used to." (Aimonetti, Joe. Snow Leopard: Finder not opening files when double-clicked: CNET News. 19 November 2009.)

Another user has been enlightening enough to explain the reason as due to a new method employed by Apple to open a file through the right application. It is now believed the Finder under OS X looks at the file name suffix (the three letter extension) first to determine the likely application it thinks the file should be opened in and, if not available, the Type and Creator codes stored in the file. The latter approach is how a specific application should be selected by the Finder. But sometimes the Finder may make its own assumption of the application to open via the file suffix irrespective of the creator and type codes available in the files. And if the application does not exist, the file may not open with no message to explain why or provide options. The files can be opened any other way including dragging and dropping the files onto your preferred application icon in the Dock or Window. But not by double-clicking on the files.

If this happens to you, you will have to search every file with the same type and creator codes and use the Get Info (press option key and select Summary Info) to tell the launchservices database of Finder which application to associate with the files.

Just another minor annoyance for users.

Any more to be found?

29 December 2009

For what should be a faster OS X, "Snow Leopard" has somehow managed to slow down the display of icons for files, folders and applications (and sometimes not show the correct icons even after clearing any custom icons). Users have wondered whether this is an isolated example of their own machine configuration. However this CNET article has blown that idea out of the water.

The number of users noticing this problem is quite significant and while there has been a few reports of the previous OS X versions including "Leopard" having had this problem, "Snow Leopard" is particularly notorious for this issue.

Solutions have ranged from using OnyX to clear caches and deleting .DS_Store to booting into Safe Mode and seeing whether OS X repairs itself.

Or there is, of course, the ubiquitous Apple OS X update 10.6.3 to come as a more permanent solution.

Here is one user's comments on the issue:

"I've had a variety of problems with icons since Leopard. I use a little utility called Refresh Finder (http://www.soderhavet.com/refresh/) to get the Finder to redraw custom icons. I put it in the Finder window toolbar (drag and drop) so that whenever an icon doesn't show up properly (typically after copying a file from one place to another) I just click Refresh Finder at the top of the window and it forces an icon refresh. This is simpler and less time consuming than quitting and restarting the Finder app itself. There's clearly something wrong with the Snow Leopard Finder, given all the different problems people are having with it.

Another issue I have is that custom icons on folders in the Sidebar will disappear, to be replaced with generic versions. For awhile I was removing and restoring them to get them to display again; but I found that if I ignore the problem the proper icons will return after awhile. Frankly I find these niggling problems reflect badly on Apple's quality control efforts. They let too many of these things linger on. Sometimes they get fixed - and sometimes they don't. I was having icon problems in Leopard. They weren't fixed there and have only gotten worse in Snow Leopard. Considering that the Snow Leopard Finder was completely rewritten for OS X 10.6, it would seem they ported the problems and then applied some multiplier affect to make them worse." (Kessler, Topher. More icon troubles for Snow Leopard users: CNET News. 29 December 2009.)

6 January 2009

Battery life for users of older Intel and PPC laptops upgraded to OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.x is said to be reduced slightly. Users with the latest laptops claim a better battery life.

19 January 2010

If you are a PC user wanting to install and run OS X on any PC, stick to OS X "Snow Leopard" version 10.6.1. Apple has decided to stop PC users from running version 10.6.2 or higher on a PC probably at the request of Microsoft Inc. in return for a better mac version of the upcoming Microsoft Office 2012 flagship product, and allow Windows 7 to run on a Mac through products such as Parallels 5.0 and Boot Camp.

1 March 2010

In the age of OS X "Snow Leopard", Adobe Systems, Inc. is turning into a lazy behemoth of a software company as it looks for the simplest and most inept ways to save money and force users to upgrade to the latest version by (i) introducing minor but annoying bugs in older software (Adobe Acrobat 7.1.4 update and the Crop tool); (ii) lose interface improvements and time-saving features are now seen as awkward to use; and (iii) not doing a proper job in security.

Adobe may be learning to do away with updates for older software by allowing Apple to create bugs for Adobe software such as the regular and unexpected quitting of Adobe Acrobat 5/6/7 on OS X "Snow Leopard" just to see how many complaints Adobe receives and whether it should do any more work or leave the poor bastards to find a way to upgrade, but there are other issues that simply make this company lazy, not customer-focussed and too big for its own good (even if the alleged reason for doing all of this is to presumably reduce software piracy).

A classic example is the terrible security feature provided with Adobe Acrobat (virtually all versions). For example, Adobe Acrobat 7.0 might claim a PDF-protected file cannot be resaved as a Word document when extracting the text because of the alleged password security feature. But, in fact, there is no true security. The message you get from Adobe is a standard dialog box claiming you can't resave. But, lo and behold, a third-party utility called BatchConvert PDF2Text 1.0 comes along. And guess what? You don't need to enter a password. The utility converts the PDF file into fully readable and editable text for any application.

When Adobe claims a PDF file is password-protected, it should encrypt the entire text properly and should only be unencrypted with an unecryption tool built into the PDF file (perhaps created uniquely each time a PDF file is protected and saved) when the right password is entered. None of this silly dialog boxes making users think the PDF file is properly protected when in reality it isn't.

There are numerous other examples one could give specifically about the Adobe Acrobat software. Indeed, one could write voluminously on issues relating to Adobe Photoshop 7 and up to version CS3 in terms of the slow process in providing a native application for OS X and for Intel Macs resulting in numerous incompatibility issues with various upgrade versions of OS X and on Intel/PPC machines. One CNET user suggested this may be because Adobe is lazy and was holding Apple hostage during the slow development of Adobe software products. As the user said:

"Adobe was a huge supporter and the Mac needed Adobe to stay afloat. When Apple came out with OS X, Adobe took their sweet time to support, like 5 years to build a native app. Apple was basically being held hostage to Adobe considering how important Adobe products were to OS X acceptance. When Apple came out with the iPhone and then iPad, they no longer wanted to be held hostage to the whims of Adobe, so they require all developers to develop using Apple tools so that future changes won't break. Apple is doing the right thing to protect the user, Adobe is looking out for their bottom line, they know this could equal lost revenue." (Dalrymple, Jim. Report: Apple developing a Flash alternative: CNET News.com. 8 May 2010.)

Yes, but a company focussed on the "bottom line" is not likely to risk slowing down the software development phase (unless the company cannot find improvements for their products). The company knows it has to churn out new software, and software upgrades with good features in order to retain high profits. It will try to buy out the competitors such as Macromedia with similar products. But at the end of the day, it has to improve the Adobe software product range.

If Adobe doesn't improve the software, there has to be another reason.

This is why there is good reason to believe Adobe is choosing to slow the software development process down for OS X users possibly with assistance from Apple as a method of combating software piracy and force users to "give up" by paying the full retail price for new Adobe software and/or upgrades. And if consumers find out, the two companies will go to extraordinary lengths to show how they are not working together.

Whatever the truth, the existence of these incompatibilities is something Adobe (and probably Apple) knows all too well.

Wake up and produce quality software that users are proud to own for as long as they need it and for the money being asked of them by Adobe. And don't force users to upgrade expensive Adobe software just to remain compatible with the latest OS X and vice versa.

14 May 2010

It is rumoured Apple will allow some Adobe CS3 applications to open in the upcoming OS X "Snow Leopard" version 10.6.4.

Summary of OS X version 10.6.2

While there are improvements to be had from making the transition to 10.6.1, version 10.6.2 still has some glaring bugs. For example, the new QuickTime 10 for "Snow Leopard" version 10.6.2 is remarkably buggy (compared to the stable and latest version of QuickTime 7) when handling multiple movies at the same time, and it can't open GIF files (you have to use QuickTime 7). This is clearly not a straightforward interface change and a removal of the registration window of QuickTime 7 kind of programming work from Apple. Something has gone awry. Preview application can't open all image files even when the file format is acceptable. Also Copy command can fail first time until you try a second or third time (perhaps a keyboard problem?). Safari 4.0.4 and/or Adobe Flash plug-in will quit unexpectedly when a previous version under an older OS X performed better (try Safari 4.0.5 for a solution). Applications running with Rosetta are more likely to experience this unexpected quit and occasionally will not insert PDF pages from another file after a short period of use (e.g. Adobe Acrobat Pro 5/6/7). And things don't run as fast as it should under the Finder application (i.e. not displaying the right icons, not able to highlight files with the mouse quickly enough after moving a file from one location to another eg. the Trash) despite the alleged stripping of the old PPC code for a faster OS X experience. Nothing like keeping customers on their toes and constantly updating while crossing their fingers in the hope their applications can run without a hitch (and business professionals with Macs can still earn an income). Users should be patient, but not for long if Apple can't deliver on a stable, reliable, less-bloated and faster OS for the 21st century. It is time Apple shows how professional its software really is when the latest stable OS X is released.

At this level of OS X, updates are necessary to address the QuickTime bugs, Rosetta instabilities (unless Adobe Systems, Inc. is working with Apple to test to see how many users complain about bugs with older Adobe software and so decide which software version to support) and Finder issues. But overall, it seems Apple could be paying more attention to details in this version of OS X in early 2010.

We can only hope Apple learns from Microsoft and decides to issue one bulk update for everything perhaps once a year or longer, and maybe two or three updates in the first year when a new OS X is released although it would be better if Apple spent the time putting in the quality control measures before releasing any more semi-beta software to the public.

NOTE: Graphic designers may have no choice but to put up with whatever Apple dishes out in its OS (and Macs).

One could be forgiven into thinking OS X version 10.6.3 will address these issues. Unfortunately the trend from Apple in the past has not been so kind to the users. As one user said:

"I think I'll wait until all the error reports from users start coming in before updating this time." (Aimonetti, Joe. 10.6.3 Preview: Apple seeds developer build 10D558: CNET.com. 19 February 2010.)

OS X 10.6.3 Update

Apple has paid more attention to details in OS X version 10.6.3 released on 30 March 2010 followed by another release known as OS X version 10.6.3 v1.1 on 12 April 2010 for users running OS X version 10.6.0 which needed the complete files. Under this version, Finder and a handful of other Apple applications (mainly Mail, iCal and iMovie) have become more stable, some interface oddities fixed, improved reliability of third-party USB input devices and added a few more security-related improvements. Any more security-related updates and users will be thinking just how vulnerable they really are with OS X. Two days later, Apple released iTunes 9.1 (98.2MB) (updated to version 9.1.1 on 27 April 2010) and iPhoto 8.1.2 (13.9MB) together with QuickTime 7.6.6 (the version down from QuickTime X but with the proper Pro features you need for the serial number you already have). And a day later, the AirPort Base Station Update 2010-001 5.5.1 (also called AirPort Utility 5.5.1 just to confuse users who want to manually download from the Apple web site instead of through the Software Update under OS X).

And if you are still not busy enough receiving the updates (must have been lots of fixes since the previous version), you can always download the 270.9MB MacBook Pro Software Update (more appropriately called the MacBook Pro Graphics Card Firmware Update for the mid-2010 laptop version). It must all be part of getting users to purchase broadband connections of a fast enough speed for some upcoming new Apple service to be announced soon. Although confidence in the latest MacBook Pros must be waning thin considering an update was already needed so soon after its very recent release. Perhaps the third-party graphics card manufacturer was a bit slow off the mark in updating the firmware before the laptops went out?

And how can we miss the 6.2MB size Security Update 2010-003 for everyone else released on 14 April 2010. Well at least it is a bit smaller to download this time around. Apple gave some details of the purpose of this security update when it said:

"Viewing or downloading a document containing a maliciously crafted embedded font may lead to arbitrary code execution. This issue is addressed through improved index checking. Credit to Charlie Miller working with TippingPoint's Zero Day Initiative for reporting this issue."


Yet heaven forbid if you purchase the 3-year extended warranty. Because if you do, you will get an envelope with a CD containing TechTool Deluxe 3.1.3 (14MB) and a couple of web address shortcuts to the Apple web support page. But it isn't the complete version. That's right! If you should find a problem on your hard disk, you will need to download the full 570MB TechTool Deluxe version from the Apple web site containing the OS X files needed to boot your computer (which necessitates you burning the files on another disk). So why couldn't Apple have it all on the CD? The excuse is that Apple wants you to have the latest TechTool Deluxe from their web page. But that doesn't stop Apple supplying CDs and DVDs of iLife, OS X and other applications and for you to download the updates as you need them.

Could this be a major push by Apple to get users ready for downloading all software from the Apple web site (forcing people to register their Macintosh computers and software as they download) instead of the company supplying CDs/DVDs to customers?

Anyway, going back to the OS X update, we do notice the big one getting the special treatment from Apple: QuickTime X. For the first time you can open and run multiple QuickTime movies and not worry about the application suddenly quitting/crashing. Amazing!

The other is a more responsive Finder. Files and their icons appear in windows more quickly. General file organising operations under the Finder has improved considerably.

There is slightly more flexibility in the names you can choose for files you want opened in Rosetta applications. For instance, you can use # and & characters in the filenames and the files will open in Rosetta applications. It's nothing like a little arm twisting to get this flexibility going in an Apple software product.

More compatibility with Windows file servers in terms of being able to copy files to the servers from an OS X Mac. A bit slow in coming but at last it has arrived.

The 64-bit microprocessor mode of selected 2009/2010 Mac computers has benefited from improved performance when running certain 64-bit ready applications. Apple has chosen to improve the performance specifically for Logic Pro 9 and Main Stage 2. We hope the performance will translate to other applications as well.

Some colour issues addressed in Mail and iMovie with HD content. iCal behaves better when connected to a Microsoft Exchange server so you can now rely on the application.

More reliable iSight camera operations in terms of viewing video from it without the odd "glowing, stuck, or dark" pixels getting in the way.

Adobe Acrobat 5/6/7 doesn't unexpectedly crash after a short period of use. However the applications will continue to sometimes fail to insert a PDF page until you try a second time. So always check your PDF documents. Other issues such as a loss of some features (e.g. page cropping) through the latest Adobe updates have to be fixed by Adobe so long as enough users complain to the company.

And you can presumably print to your favourite printer in a much more reliable manner.

In addition to this, users will notice an improved diagnostic and usage data collection system. Well, improved to the point where now you can have the reports automatically and quietly sent to Apple and after your prior consent is given. It involves sending anonymous details (Apple has emphasised the word anonymous more than once so we have to assume they are serious about your privacy) to Apple about OS X and, for the first time in OS X 10.6.3, third-party devices and applications (e.g. Adobe) as well. You will notice the changes when an application quits unexpectedly, a system error occurs that requires you to restart your computer, or you choose to force quit an application. You will be asked how to report the errors to Apple. It can be automatic reporting, no reporting or ask each time. And you have the option to turn off the feature in the Console application's preference section (located in the Utilities folder). Furthermore if you are logged on as an administrator, you can view the data collected for all users by launching Console. For further details about this new feature, see this Knowledge Base article.

Naturally users can't help wondering whether Apple will pay attention to these error reports? Probably. Although there is every possibility the company may choose which ones to fix and which ones to leave at a later date just to ensure users continually update OS X and purchase the upgrades. This may explain why one user said:

"Does anybody at Apple actually read the crash reports that are sent? I've been sending them for years yet nothing has ever been done about the same problems cropping up." (Kessler, Topher. Diagnostic and usage data collection in OS X 10.6.3: CNET.com. 7 April 2010.)

Part of the problem seems to be that Apple will not acknowledge every distinct crash report from users with an official number and a note saying thank you, followed by a web page containing the latest OS X update and all the report numbers Apple has fixed. The only ones Apple will acknowledge are the official "Bug Reports", so long as you are registered as a "developer" to use the dedicated bug report system at http://developer.apple.com/bugreporter. As another user responded:

"I have a son at Apple and he says they do read/compile/use these reports. But an even more 'attention getter' is one sent as a "Bug Report." You will get a response with one of those. It will not be "personal", but there should be a tracking number included, even if it is a previously reported problem." (Kessler, Topher. Diagnostic and usage data collection in OS X 10.6.3: CNET.com. 7 April 2010.)

No doubt customer service from Apple will improve in the coming years in the wake of these comments.

And for all these fixes plus a few more and you will have to download a minimum of 719MB and preferably the 784MB full combo OS X 10.6.3 update (uncompressed 822MB, or 823.4MB for v1.1). Fortunately Apple was kind enough not to throw in the iTunes and iPhoto updates which would have increased it to 834MB or 899MB respectively. Or probably a sign of not being too confident about having these updates included in case users decide to downgrade? At any rate, it sounds like these were the fixes that should have been there in version 10.6.0 if Apple didn't do a rushed job with its latest OS.

It will be interesting to see how big version 10.6.9 update will be. The full combo update for version 10.6.2 was already around 450MB. Version 10.6.3 in the uncompressed form is 822MB. At this rate, the final OS X update should exceed 2GB. Perhaps Apple may be gearing for some extra profit in a few years time when users start to get fed up and choose to pay for the Apple DVD containing the full combo update.

Overall, we have to assume we are heading in the right direction with these updates.

2 April 2010

Numerous little issues have cropped up after this update. Apart from the Adobe Acrobat bug, virtually all have not appeared in the previous OS X version:

1. Clicking Command D in the save dialog window may sometimes not get you to the Desktop. You may have to click the expand arrow button next to the file name text box to make it work again.

2. Launching Microsoft Office 2004 applications may fail. It may occur after you have quit say Word (and all other Microsoft applications) and then run iTunes 9.1 for a while. Afterwards, relaunching any Microsoft application may suddenly quit. It will not go much further than showing the Splash Screen. Quitting iTunes and all other applications will not solve the problem unless you restart the computer. It is likely Microsoft will have to issue a new update for compatibility with OS X 10.6.3 an iTunes 9.1, or vice versa. Indeed Apple could have done something to make iTunes 9.1 more unstable and affecting other applications. We recommend you try the latest iTunes 9.1.1 as a possible fix to this problem.

3. On immediately launching Adobe Acrobat 7.1.4, the application will almost certainly fail to insert a PDF file into a currently opened PDF document. This can be an issue when the PDF document is small and the speed of PDF file insertion seems about right. It is only when you have a larger PDF document do you notice something doesn't seem right. So you check and soon realise the PDF file was not inserted. You will need to check every PDF document to ensure PDF files have been inserted correctly.

4. The list of external USB drives shown on the left of the Open dialog window may not update itself to indicate a USB drive has been ejected from the desktop. Once the USB drive is gone, clicking on the eject arrow in the Open dialog window of the missing USB drive icon will not make it disappear.

5. While Apple has managed to improve compatibility of third-party USB input devices (e.g. keyboards, mouse etc), this OS X update occasionally causes slow or pauses for 10 to 15 seconds of the USB input devices for no apparent reason. It is likely a third-party driver update will be required for compatibility with the latest OS X.

6. Immediately after installing OS X 10.6.3, plugging a third-party external monitor from Samsung, BenQ and Dell may experience an unexpected change from the native resolution to another resolution making the images and text look larger and blurry. Unfortunately there is no way to fix the resolution until the monitor manufacturers issue a driver update.

Interestingly, all these errors do not activate Apple's improved diagnostic and usage data collection system suggesting that maybe these are errors to be rectified by third-party software and hardware manufacturers, or Apple is hoping not to receive too many complaints from users.

Otherwise, if these are all the errors to be discovered for OS X 10.6.3, this may turn out to be the first time in living memory where problems following an OS X update is minimal. Is this going to be a common event or just a fluke effort?

NOTE: It seems one more update is required to wipe these errors off the list. But what other errors will creep into the next update?

4 June 2010

Applications run sluggishly after a period of OS X version 10.6.3 use. Microsoft Excel may not launch and quitting applications is a must (e.g. Adobe Acrobat 7). Also Finder has a hard time surviving a major multi-gigabyte sized file manipulation. If you try to create a disk image file using Disk Utility of, say, 30GB, and you also get Finder to copy a 2GB file onto the hard drive, as soon as you close a folder, the Finder suddenly quits and relaunches. Disk Utility continues with its work. This current iteration of OS X is not as good as previous versions. The problems are less obvious, but it is there and more work is needed to improve stability.

After all the fanfare with Snow Leopard, it would appear the removal of PowerPC code has had no real impact on improving the long-term speed of the latest OS X. Regular cleaning of caches, logs and other files and fixing file permissions may provide some relief. Maybe this is all in anticipation of the release of OS X version 10.6.4, which is just around the corner. Unfortuntely there is no way of being certain OS X will consistently be at the highest speed possible and in the most stable form. Even worse if you happen to have older Adobe software.

Apple and Adobe following each other on download statistics to determine when to stop supporting their old version software

We have seen how Adobe can become lazy in its updates of what it considers to be older software in favour of enticing users of its software to upgrade to the latest. Unless there is enough downloads of Adobe's updates for a particular version of an Adobe flagship software or users make sufficient complaints, it is unlikely Adobe will do anything to make older software compatible with the latest OS X.

Recently a user has come forth to explain Apple is also following a similar trend with respect to its own software. As user macprolynx said on 5 September 2009:

"If you want to use Rosetta, don't custom install it from the Snow Leopard install disc. Leave it uninstalled - the first time you try to launch a PPC app it will automatically download for you. The reason this is better is that it will create a log on Apple's servers that you downloaded Rosetta, and let them know that you're using it.

Apple has to be aware that people are using Rosetta, or they will remove it in a future version. Downloading Rosetta instead of installing it from the disc helps prevent them from using low downloads as an excuse to axe it in a future version of Mac OS X." (O'Grady, Jason D. The impact of installing Rosetta on Snow Leopard (Spoiler: none): ZDNet.com. 28 August 2009)

Perhaps this is the reason why the Classic Environment was dumped in OS X "Leopard" version 10.5.x and higher for Intel (even though SheepShaver can emulate the Classic Environment on Intel Macs) because it was available on the OS X "Tiger" installation DVD but not as a download from an Apple web site? If it was made available online, the Classic Environment could still be available today.

Improving the performance of Apple software: Safari 5.0

Apple has quietly released Safari 5.0 on 7 June 2010. Not a great deal of fanfare on this occasion. Indeed, this is one of the quietest releases of a major software update to what is arguably one of the better browsers. Perhaps Mr Jobs doesn't want users to focus too much on the application in case they discover something they don't like? Or maybe Apple is gauging the reaction to the new features?

On first appearances, Safari looks like the original version. Yet first appearances can be deceptive. In fact, something has changed under-the-bonnet. Users will be pleasantly surprised by the immediate improvements to the speed of downloading pages and performing other functions within Safari. Apple claims the impressive speed is due to refinements that have allowed the execution of Javascript to be 25 per cent faster than on Safari 4. Not only this, but there is also better page caching and a thing called Domain Name Server (DNS) prefetching (probably means quietly and invisibly gathering information of other pages linked to the current page you are viewing) for a faster browsing experience. And all done without any form of distraction and fuss for the user. Good!

The speed is said to be marginally better than the latest Chrome 5.0 released recently. According to Apple's press release, about 3 per cent faster. How they managed to determine this precise figure is a little bewildering. Perhaps an Apple employee had consistently lower reflexes in stopping the stopwatch when testing the speed of Chrome 5.0 but somehow manages to be quicker with Safari 5.0? At any rate, most users will never notice the difference. As for other browsers, Safari will make everything else look old and sluggish thanks to this improvement.

Safari 5 is also going the full hog in terms of incorporating the latest HTML5 (as well as CSS and Javascript) including a new Geolocation, the ability to watch HTML5 video in full screen mode, new sectioning elements for web page designers to help create a nicer looking HTML page, perform forms validation and other useful features. Fortunately users can switch off the geolocation services in the Preferences section to protect their privacy. As for everything else, you only need to wait and see how web developers will incorporate these new features into their web pages.

Also included for developers is a Safari Extensions Builder for creating package add-ons (or plug-ins). Any add-ons produced will have to be signed by Apple and must meet a certain level of security. This has come about after the debarcle with Adobe's Flash plug-in and the slowness in getting a secure, stable and fast plug-in ready.

A date has been added to the search history to let everyone know when the pages were viewed. Good for auditing no doubt (just depends on who is doing the auditing).

At last Apple shows an icon in the Smart Address Field when you are in Private Browsing. Unfortunately the icon does not stay on when Private Browsing is off. Not sure if this is intentional. In other words, you still have to make the extra effort to choose Private Browsing under the Safari menu command. This improvement is mainly to make it easy for you to turn off Private Browsing rather than turning it on by clicking on the icon when it appears (and doesn't stay on). Somehow Apple doesn't like users having Private Browsing on all the time.

Better security can be found in terms of filtering out "potentially malicious scripts used in cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks". Javascript has also been tightened for better security.

Now we await Apple's new Flash-based replacement based on HTML5 and Javascript. Maybe Safari 6.0 will have the solution? Or will Apple have a change of heart for Adobe and start to work together again (but in a more subtle way to avoid been seen as enticing users to upgrade their Adobe software on a regular basis)?

As for the annoying "Community Toolbar" message after updating to the latest Safari (the message will claim it is not compatible with the latest Safari), do the following:

1. Open the Library folder at the root level of the startup disk.

2. Open the InputManagers folder

3. Drag the CTLoader folder to the trash and enter your admin password to complete the move.

4. Empty trash. You may have to resart in order to empty trash.

No more Community Toolbar warnings!

You should also delete the Toolbar folder in the Applications folder. Or better still, open up the Toolbar folder and double-click the uninstaller and it should remove these items.

NOTE: You may have installed the FaceBook reader or some other third-party software to get this Community Toolbar alert.

11 June 2010

It's been slow in the coming but at last Adobe Inc. has made available a preview release of the Adobe Flash Player known as "Gala" for OS X 10.6.3 designed to play H.264 encoded movies and with hardware acceleration using the available graphics processing chip. The Flash player is also available for Solaris and Android OS, but not the iPhone OS (or iOS as Apple has decided to call it). Final release version should be out by the start of the financial year.

Now if only Adobe can see the light in making the plug-in flexible enough to handle different situations (e.g. what's happens if no graphics accelerator card is present?)

We know Adobe has issued a non-hardware accelerated final release version of its plug-in called Flash Player 1.1.0. Can the two be combined instead of forcing users to once again update the plug-in? The only major technical feat here is to add an If...Then...Else to its coding and insert the code related to the hardware accelerated version.

Too big for the plug-in? It is not as though people will notice on their 500GB plus hard drives are they?

Or let users decide whether they want a complete and universal plug-in and allow geeks and others to choose what they want. How hard can that be these days?

23 June 2010

CNET.com claims users are reporting Safari 5.0 as occasionally crashing rather than the more frequent amounts in past versions. The most likely culprit are the third-party Safari plug-ins.

CNET has recommended removing SIMBL (SIMple Bundle Loader) known as SIMBL.osax as an extra precaution as there could be an issue with the current version at this present time. As CNET mentions:

"1. Remove SIMBL

SIMBL is a small scripting addition program called "SIMBL.osax" that is installed in the /Macintosh HD/Library/ScriptingAdditions/ folder. In addition, it uses a Launch Agent file that is located in /Macintosh HD/Library/LaunchAgents/ and is called "net.culater.SIMBL.Agent.plist." Removing these files will effectively remove SIMBL. If you just remove the launch agent, the program will still be around, and if you remove the program only, the launch agent will continually try to launch it.

2. Remove SIMBL plug-ins.

If you wish to keep SIMBL installed, you can locate and remove specific SIMBL plug-ins from the following directories: /Macintosh HD/Library/Application Support/SIMBL/Plugins/username/Library/Application Support/SIMBL/Plugins/" (Kessler, Topher. Safari 5.0 sometimes sporadically crashing: CNET.com. 23 June 2010.)

You would also be wise to remove "com.conduit.loader.agent.plist" from the LaunchAgents folder as this has no benefit to the user (i.e. not installed by Apple through the OS X installation disk).

1 July 2010

Adobe has once again done a good thing by providing stability and speed improvements in its latest flagship Adobe Photoshop CS5 software. The update should bring it to version 12.0.1. And the improvements total 11.3MB in size. Much better than Apple's own updates.

So now comes the earlier versions. Will they get an update? As one CNET user said:

"Now if they would fix CS3 from crashing every time I shut it down. Photoshop crashes, Dreamweaver crashes. You mean I have to upgrade now for that bug fix? I hope to never buy another Adobe product.

...Actually I meant CS4. Someone asked me today about a CS3 crashing problem." (Kessler, Topher. Adobe Photoshop CS5 12.0.1 update fixes crashes and performance bugs:CNET News. 1 July 2010.)

6 August 2010

Another update is released. This time for Adobe Illustrator CS5 bringing it to version 15.0.1. Fixes "Out of memory" problems for computers having more than 4GB of RAM; a number of crashes during launching and quitting of the application, and several other issues. Unfortunately bugs in other versions of the applications will not be addressed. It is time you upgrade your Adobe software.

OS X 10.6.4 Update

Hot on the heels of Adobe's Flash player update is Apple's own OS X update. Released on 16 June 2010, the full combo OS X 10.6.4 update (930.5MB) provides a little more stability in selected Apple applications (i.e. DVD Player, iPhoto and Aperture) and, in particular, the ability to launch a number of Adobe Creative Suite (CS) 3 applications.

Also included is a greater responsiveness of trackpad and keyboard inputs. An issue noted by users (especially on laptops) since "Snow Leopard" was first released, it was generally accepted as something people had to live with as it didn't interfere too much with the work they had to do. At last, everyone will appreciate this extra level of attention to detail.

The latest Safari 5.0 has been added. But there is a separate installer for the latest iTunes 9.2 (106.9MB). And you will still need to install (if you haven't already):

AirPort Base Station Update 2010-001 5.5.1

iLife Support 9.0.4

Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 2

Remote Desktop Client 3.3.2

And you would also be wise to update Adobe Flash player plug-in to version 10.1 to get rid of the nag message in Safari about the plug-in crashing or quitting unexpectedly.

Never mind. At least some other reliability issues have allegedly been resolved for VPN connections and the ability to copy, rename and delete files on SMB file servers through the OS X 10.6.4 update.

Overall, not a major update, but a welcome one indeed. With a bit of luck, most users should be able to get on with the really important things in life rather than have Apple constantly on their minds and usually in a not so flattering form.

NOTE: You may lose your preferred third-party or personal desktop picture (Apple may revert back to its default deep space picture). Just a little extra work for you to do after the update (we recommend sucking up a teaspoon of sugar to get the energy you need to fix this one).

If you own a Mac mini (mid-2010) model, there is a separate OS X 10.6.4 update (403.38MB) containing fixes relating to compatibility and performance in the graphics rendering department and a little more compatibility with large-format SDXC memory cards. Maybe Apple will be able to combine these two big updates and install the appropriate packages for the type of computer users have in the next OS X update?

Maybe the future on a Macintosh will be lots of big updates to download and install just to get that extra piece of mind of a more stable and secure OS X, and its Apple applications?

20 July 2010

OS X 10.6.4 suffers greater instability after waking up from sleep. For example, on rare occasions the Dock would pop up but suddenly will not hide again when not required. It will constantly stay visible. Selecting "Turn Hiding On" in the Dock again will resave a new Dock preference file with the fresh and correct settings.

Microsoft Office 2004 package is affected by an OS X bug. When Office applications are closed and sometimes after a wake up of the computer from sleep mode, double clicking on a Microsoft Word or Excel file will not open the application properly. Application splash screen may appear, but will hang afterwards and no toolbars appear. You will have to force quit the application, then re-open the application first before opening the files. As of 24 July 2010, Microsoft has provided a large 201.6MB Office 2004 11.6.0 update which seems to have quashed this bug. Thank you!

20 July 2010

Do you have a mid-2010 iMac? Have you noticed your graphics is looking a bit weird lately? Well, Apple has released the Apple iOS X 10.6.4 Update. It also comes with the relevant files needed for compatibility with large-format SDXC memory cards, and support for Magic Trackpad. Less number of update files. Just one great big 452.6MB file to hopefully fix all remaining issues with your computer.

So what's in the next update?

28 July 2010

Safari 5 was starting to look a bit old and tired in Apple's eyes. The time had come for a Safari 5.0.1 update just to keep users amused for a little while longer. This one is presumably to patch up the latest security bug discovered in the browser. Of course you must have the latest Safari version to benefit from any latest security bug fix (i.e. a real bummer if you are still running Tiger OS X).

The browser does appear to run a little snappier than before. But then again, it could all be psychological.

At any rate, we do see how a number of Apple users can still come up with comments saying the latest browser crashes. Yet a PC user will manage to make the comment:

"No crash for me on Safari for Windows after update :)" (Topher, Kessler. Safari still crashing after update?: CNET News. 28 July 2010.)

And Apple users who don't add anything special to the browser have nothing to report as being odd or needing special attention from Apple.

These crashes on the Mac involve primarily the Flash plug in and a handful of other third-party add-on solutions according to the error reports. To Apple, fixing up any browser in response to any crash may seem to be a proverbial problem while the internet provides so many threats. But can't Apple find a way to extract the information from the error reports and use it to isolate the offending plug-ins and give users the option to quarantine them from Safari until an update for the plug-ins come (or Apple can provide a universal browser that can handle anything third-party software manufacturers can throw at the browser)? Surely Safari 5 must have a certain level of robustness to handle the wider world?

For details on the add-ons to look out for and what to do with them, read this CNET article.

19 August 2010

The graphics glitches in virtually all the latest 2010 models of iMacs, Mac mini, MacBook and MacBook Pro; early 2009 MacBook and Mac mini; and the late 2009 21.5-inch iMac continued to haunt users at this time. At last, Apple may have resolved all remaining issues with another patch known as the Snow Leopard Graphics Update 1.0. This one probably covers previous graphic updates and adds some more to handle what is believed to be a screen refresh or frame rate issue when running specific applications such as Portal and Team Fortress 2 (mostly games), and overcome an unexpected quit or become unresponsive in Aperture 3. This one is nearly 65.7MB in size.

We recommend you just download the update and see what happens. Apple should have by now included the tests needed to determine whether you computer needs the update or not.

But beware, the subsequent update has left at least two known residue problems. The first issue may require the Flash plug-in to be updated by Adobe Inc. to make some web pages work properly. And you may notice difficulties uploading file attachments through Yahoo mail on the latest Safari (but works fine with FireFox) showing Apple needs to update its browser and/or the Java components once again.

Other reports have allegedly emerged of minor flickering in the Mac displays of iMacs and MacBook Pro systems and occurs randomly enough to make it harder to track down the cause. Hopefully the problem can be resolved with yet another Apple graphics update.

24 August 2010

The Apple Security Update 2010-005 (80.6MB) has shown up in the long listing of many security updates as another relevant update needed to be performed by users, especially if you are likely to be on the internet a lot or use the computer as a server, or you open maliciously-crafted PDF files. Apple describes it as:

"[Fixing] a buffer overflow... [where] an unauthenticated remote attacker may cause a denial of service or arbitrary code execution by sending a maliciously crafted packet..."

But as CNET user MEPace quite rightly asked:

"So why is it that so many security flaws are related to buffer overflow errors that can result in arbitrary code execution? Can't they teach programmers how to deal with this issue from the beginning and get it right?" (Kessler, Topher. Apple Releases Security update 2010-005 for OS X 10.5 and 10.6: CNET News. 24 August 2010.)

On the positive side, at least Apple is addressing some security flaws. How many more is anyone's guess at this stage. It could end up being the fundamental carrot that drives many Apple users to update and upgrade OS X for centuries to come.

Further details available in this KnowledgeBase article.

15 September 2010

Apple has provided a 5.0.1 update to its flagship Safari internet browser. Some issues may have been resolved with this update. But it doesn't fix the file attachment upload issue (clearing all caches, history and just about everything else using OnyX will not fix it) suggesting Yahoo! Mail may need some adjustments to its web site. Or perhaps there is a new feature that has to be activated on Safari?

The only issue to come to the forefront of CNET News regarding the latest Safari appears to be a slow or partial page load, or no page loaded at all, which may be related to the DNS (Domain Name Server) settings on your computer or router. Disabling DNS prefetching is said to be a solution. Although no guarantees this is the cause for your page loading woes. But if you need to set up a DNS server, try alternative DNS servers such as OpenDNS and Google's DNS.

Extra work is definitely required here for the user with recommendations of upgrading the firmware to your router, setting up alternative DNS servers to help bypass Apple's own DNS server, or try disabling DNS prefetching using the Terminal command:

defaults write com.apple.safari WebKitDNSPrefetchingEnabled -boolean false

NOTE: To enable DNS prefetching, type:

defaults delete com.apple.safari WebKitDNSPrefetchingEnabled

Or wait for the next major OS X update for a solution (sounds like it will have to come very soon).

Adobe still showing its lazziness through its numerous and difficult to apple updates

Adobe is trying hard to release updates for its latest flagship software products such as Adobe Photoshop CS 3-5 and Illustrator CS 3-5 versions in the past couple of months. Today (i.e. 19 August 2010), the company has released the Adobe Acrobat 9.3.4 update.

Yet this brings out another problem. If you look closely at the update files this company provides (even the older versions right back to say Adobe Acrobat 7.x and many of the CS versions of updates), we find very little evidence the company is willing to provide a single update file to its customers suggesting Adobe does not want to lift its game in terms of providing quality customer service via a complete, standalone and error-free update of any version of the Adobe software right up to the latest version. As an example, the Adobe Acrobat 9.3.4 updates follows a long tradition of supplying tiny incremental updates that a user has to apply individually before the latest update can work. And even if you have not modified the Adobe software by moving files around or whatever and have applied all the updates faithfully and in the correct sequence, applying the latest update can still cause headaches to users by stopping the update process on the (false) assumption that files have been modified. Then users are forced to reinstall the software from the CD and spend enormous amounts of time updating the application for each minor update before the final update file will work.

As a CNET user going by the profile name of DavidRavenMoon said:

"The updater said my version could not be updated due to it being modified. It wasn't. I had to install from scratch and download and run all NINE updaters!

Now it works fine. Adobe needs to fix this situation." (Adobe Acrobat 9.3.4 Update file made available through VersionTracker.com since 20 August 2010.)

And fix it fast for this is characteristic of a lazy software company focussing on minimising costs by not providing a single and complete update file that works first time and every time, and at the same time maximing profits on the assumption there are many people pirating Adobe software and it is better to give them hell (as well as for the rest of us) by making the updates difficult so perhaps they may buy the software properly.

Wake up! The behemoth that is Adobe really does need to lift its game when it comes to good customer service.

The same could also be said of Apple and Microsoft with their flagship software and why their software is so hard to update flawlessly with just one single and combined update file.

NOTE: Microsoft has released a combined Office 2004 update file since this part was published. Keep up the good work!

Apple provides Express Lane for users looking for solutions

Apple has made available as of September 2010 the Express Lane service for users wanting to find solutions to common problems. Although you do need to bear in mind one thing: to use this service, you must enter a hardware number for the Apple product you have.

Apple is definitely looking for hardware numbers as a means of linking your hardware to your registered details, your IP address and, ultimately, to the range of problems in its database. In that way, Apple can learn more about you, where you are, and can see you definitely have genuine problems to solve. Apple is also particularly keen to see those problems that the user can't find solutions to during a search as this would give Apple the opportunity to find solutions, or give better solutions, in the next batch of computers and/or software updates should the problems be unfixable by any current method available to Apple. Once the solutions are found, Apple will write them down in the database for all users to see. Indeed, there is likely to be someone at Apple who will investigate the more challenging problems and take appropriate action should the solutions require a hardware or software update that doesnt exist as yet. If the update does exist or there is a simple explanation, it will be written on the web as the solution for all to see so long as it doesn't reveal manufacturing problems or wrong decisions by management. Hence the reason why Express Lane is heavily focussed on simple and common problems. But if there is no obvious solution to a common problem, Apple must find the solution first before letting users know about it and then it may publish the solution. It is all part of presenting a positive image of a great company with excellent customer service to help convince other consumers that Apple products are really okay to buy.

If you don't like this level of scrutiny when you use the Express Lane service, we suggest visiting CNET.com or other web sites for free access to all information relating to Mac problems.

The infancy of this new service has already revealed a niggling problem. After a number of people were asked to enter the hardware number, many received the infamous "no-can-do" message because either their machine is unregistered or not registered under their name. Yet the users don't understand why. The solution is for users to register their product with Apple first before entering the hardware number and use the exact same name as you have indicated in your registration details. This is, unfortunately, the price you must pay to receive the Express Lane service.

Alternatively, visiting third-party web sites containing Apple-related information is likely to provide the same service for free and without all the spying techniques thrown in as well.

Why you must register, or if you have but can't understand why you can't get through, is not entirely clear at the start of the service when you visit the web site. But if you do exactly as you are told by registering your products first and use the exact name you have specified in the registration process, then you should be able to enter the hardware number and give you access to this service.

No doubt Apple will improve this part of the service very soon.

On the positive side, at least Apple is trying to do something to help customers after a purchase even if it heavily controls what it says to its customers.

Adobe shows more effort to plug security vulnerabilities in the Acrobat 9.x family

Adobe has released sooner than expected, much to the delight of users of the latest Acrobat software version (i.e 9.x), a hefty security update totalling 69.72MB to plug a reported 23 security vulnerabilities. Wow! Is this a world's first for Adobe? Apparently the reason for being quick in releasing the update on this occasion (will it continue?) is presumably because Adobe had discovered a number of hackers exploiting one crucial security glitch in the Acrobat application. Adobe recommends users update to version 9.4.0 or higher to benefit from the security fix.

Updates from Adobe is said to be provided on a quarterly basis. On this rare occasion, Adobe has seen the need to supply the security update very fast and early. Well done! It is a pity Adobe can't be quite as quick to do the same for other products (even for version 8.x). Supposedly this is the way to encourage users of older software versions to upgrade and pay their money to Adobe for the privilege?

And still the company finds it hard or pressed for time to provide a single and complete update file for each of its Adobe flagship products, including the older versions. Indeed, the very long list of updates can be observed for the Adobe Acrobat family by visiting this page. And we won't mention Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator now will we, Adobe?

Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 3

Emphasizing stability, security and compatibility to a wider range of environments, Apple has released Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 3. This one updates Java SE 6 to 1.6.0_22 and is recommended for all users when running Java applications and access to Java-rich web pages (e.g. to do your online banking etc).

Good to see Apple has provided similar improvements for users on OS X 10.5 with their own Java for OS X 10.5 Update 8. Unfortunately everyone else still running Tiger OS X 10.4 or earlier are being viewed as really old and decrepit in the eyes of Apple or are just not rich enough to afford the cost of upgrading to the latest computer. Either way, no Java updates are heading the way of these users.

The most stable OS X "Snow Leopard" version

History has revealed how Apple has had its usual bout of bountiful bugs to fix in the early release of any new software upgrade. OS X "Snow Leopard" has been no exception to this rule. Indeed the experience of OS X "Snow Leopard" has been somewhat mixed in the early release right up to version 10.6.4 with many users enduring regular updates and putting up with long-standing bugs and some new ones. As of OS X 10.6.4, this situation has improved considerably but is not quite perfect.

Apple has also combined this with better customer relations through a service called Express Lane where users can ask questions and get solutions to the most common OS X problems (even if problems are carefully screened for suitability on the Apple web site).

Whether accidental or otherwise, one has to say the number of bugs for OS X "Snow Leopard" in the early stages were unacceptably high for what should essentially be a stable OS X given how long the OS has been around. For example, the appearance of the names of files and disks on the desktop showing up occasionally in a corrupted fashion after users were on the internet until the computer is restarted had to be resolved. And while a fresh copy of "Snow Leopard" may seem relatively fast, the boot and shutdown times have gotten worse over time.

Fortunately, while the OS X is running, we can say that when combined with the Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 3 and the graphic firmware updates for the latest computers issued in mid-2010, most bugs have been fixed as of October 2010.

And now with news of the next OS X update (version 10.6.5) scheduled for release before Christmas 2010, the number of bugs should be virtually non-existent. Until then, we will have to assume OS X 10.6.4 with its additional subsequent updates is the most stable and secure version ever produced by Apple so far. Or wait for OS X 10.6.5 to combine all these updates and any extra improvements.

In fact, the only thing one could ask for the next version is a speedier Finder to allow quick finding of files in a folder. For example, when a folder is opened and you see the list and you immediately type a few letters, the first letter can often be missed by the Finder. The result is that you end up going to the wrong file starting with the second letter you've typed. So you have to retype the letters again to scroll down to the file you want.

Also the boot and shutdown times are unusually slow as if it has to do a lot of record-keeping in the background. Why? As one user reported:

"Snow Leopard is slow. If you are still with Tiger, then stay there. I am very happy overall with Slow Leopard, despite the very slow startup, shutdown and wake times. All of the print/scan issues I have had with Leopard are finally resolved in Snow Leopard. It took them too many years to fix their problems. Apple has become Microsoft. They are too big and too controlling." (Aimonetti, Joe. Apple seeds new Mac OS X 10.6.5 version to developers: CNET News. 14 October 2010.)

Overall, OS X "Snow Leopard" is getting to be a much better experience for most users and especially on the latest Macs (if you can afford one).

Still want to take the plunge with OS X "Snow Leopard"? Remember, if your computer is sufficiently fast enough and compatible with the latest OS X, always check and repair the hard drive on your computer for errors using Disk Utility or Disk Warrior and repair all file permissions before installing any new software and security updates. And always backup your critical data in case something goes wrong.

What will be the future for OS X?

So long as users are not forced to view advertisements in applications as is the case on the iPhone 4.0, there should be considerable stability and performance boosts in OS X.

The main drawcard will be the default use of 64-bit processing for all applications including OS X. Apple has been kind enough to prepare OS X Snow Leopard for full 64-bit processing at no further cost to users. Users can now boot up in 64-bit mode on the latest Macs to test OS X's general stability. But true speeds won't come until all applications take advantage of the full 64-bit processing of your latest Mac.

As for the bells and whistles of OS X, this is likely to increase after each upgrade. Look carefully to see if such features are necessary, although usually you may have to put up with them as a standard feature of OS X during the installation phase.

On the same token, the more technical features of little or no benefit to consumers are likely to be removed. For example, it is alleged that Apple is considering the option of stopping support for Java in OS X 10.7 and later versions. The presumed rationale for this is that consumers on the whole don't usually run Java applications or, if they do, are generally low quality in terms of their interface designs and features despite the advantage of providing cross-platform compatibility of the applications for PC, Linux and the Mac. So it seems on the surface like a natural progression for Apple to reduce the clutter and complexities of OS X for which the company is famous for. Although it might also be closer to the truth to say that it may be a way for Apple to have greater control of the things they can manage rather than worry about third-party programming languages installed on OS X that could one day be used to bypass Apple's intended aim of locking down OS X for consumers.

There is every indication Apple could be heading to a mass-production, thrown-away society of laptops with the new MacBook Air wth the aim of supplying a locked down version of OS X for the consumers similar to iOS on the iPhone. Developers, IT professionals, business professionals and anyone else wanting to do more on a Mac may have to pay more to open up OS X and allow other technologies such as Java to be installed (but not supported by Apple to keep costs down). And should developers want to sell their software to consumers on the Mac, they may have to go through a similar approval process to Apple's own App Store for the iPhones.

13 October 2010

Apple CEO Mr Steve Jobs has a need to present a slogan to the public to spark up the imagination and sum up the aim of the upcoming OS 10.7 release. The big boss is suggesting something like "Back to the Mac". Could this be a serious attempt by the company to return to the old days of keeping things simple and less bloated with features compared to the current version in order to attract more consumers? If so, maybe the slogan should have been "K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple Stupid)".

Only one problem: Mr Jobs is also looking into the idea of locking down OS X for consumer use in the not too distant future. It will be like iOS for the iPhones (which is constantly facing threats of being jailbroken). Combined with further removal of third-party technologies such as Java for OS X 10.7 in the same way as Adobe's Flash, and maybe the slogan should be "Apple World (no third-party raspberries please)". Perhaps this is a back to the Mac of features held in iOS?

Why the enormous push into the world of consumer electronics with emphasis on locking down (or gluing if the reliability of Apple products reach the level needed) everything?

Something is suggesting the greedy shareholders of the company are looking to push their share price in the company to above their current all time high. And Mr Jobs is thinking to do that would require a focus more on the consumers. Well, let's face it, the number of consumers out there are huge. And they are looking for something that is compact, easy to use, and will do amazing things in a short-space of time or with little effort. Time is short for people. People need to look good, feel like they are the centre of attention when having the latest cool gadget, and can get results in the least amount of effort through the right product. When a product can do this and priced just right, profits will soar.

At the same time, Mr Jobs doesn't like people looking inside Apple products and fixing them when the reliability or longevity is not great or the warranty is no longer there. That's what Apple-approved technicians from a Mac shop are meant to be there for (well, at a cost, of course, or pay your extended warranty to Apple as the company would love). At the same time Apple likes to see what users are doing with their products when they are returned for a repair, upgrade or replacement.

And while we are at it, why not stamp out software piracy as well?

Indeed, there is every indication the OS X development phase of adding and tweaking, using consumers as guinea pigs to test the "improvements" and making the OS open for anyone to install just about whatever they want (paid or otherwise) is coming to an end and now Mr Jobs is looking to simplify and reverse the complexities in order to bring the company back to the roots of how it all began and why the OS had been popular in the 1980s while ensuring profit is maintained for Apple Inc. and help anyone else who produces software to get paid for their efforts through the introduction of a new OS X App Store so long as their software meets the approval of Apple and won't compete against Apple's own software.

But for this to be successful, Mr Jobs will have to lock down and provide a simplified version of OS X for consumer use.

Don't like the idea?

Well, there will probably be an alternative. Indeed most businesses and software developers will probably not miss out. It is likely a much more expensive OS X version (and set of corresponding new Apple hardware solutions) for corporate and professional users will be produced. People will have to pay more for the privilege of using a flexible OS X in order to install extra features and achieve the kind of more technical and complex things they want to do.

Whatever the future will bring, it seems Mr Jobs will try to strike a balance between "Back to the Past" for consumers (by way of simplicity and making it look more like iOS) and "Back to the Future" for businesses and creative professionals (but with no further support for third-party solutions as a further cost-saving approach and to prevent jailbreaking the consumer version of OS X at some point in the future) by making two types of OS X versions. One will be priced so high that you either have to accept the consumer edition of OS X or move to a PC or Linux machine (or get rich). While the other will be so simplified that most consumers won't care less if it achieves the basic things they like to do with it.

The current OS X is likely to go through this next level of refinement to suit the kind of business model floating around in the CEO's mind (and so future protect his company's profits for all time).

One shouldn't be surprised if Adobe already knows about these changes and are rubbing their hands with glee and patting the back of Mr Jobs for a job well done knowing there is the possibility they could make more money with a locked-down consumer OS X version and more consumers will be forced to purchase the latest consumer edition Adobe software.

OS X Update 10.6.5 (not recommended)

It seems the number of changes and new features was considered too great (or just not ready) for one update file, or so we are led to believe. Therefore Apple has decided to break up the new update features for OS X into OS X "Snow Leopard" OS X version 10.6.5, and left the introduction of the less stable Mac App Store features for OS X 10.6.6 (a beta version has already been seeded to developers) which is likely to be released early in 2011 (most probably late January or February).

The update for OS X 10.6.5 contains numerous graphic fixes to help improve performance within iPhoto and Aperture as well as resolve spacing issues with OpenType fonts; there is a more secure method of transferring files through the iDisk service using SSL support; more reliable operations with Microsoft Exchange servers; printing issues and delays resolved for general print jobs and of the range of HP printers connected to an AirPort Extreme; more reliable Bluetooth pairing with Magic Trackpad; and lots of general interface and general usage issues resolved with Address Book, iPhoto, Aperture, MainStage and Preview applications.

Further details about the update is available from this Knowledge Base article. We recommend manually downloading the full Combo Update and avoid the Software Update option.

However the delay by Apple in providing access to the combo update file on the web site for the first 24 hours has seen a number of users choosing the Software Update option where the update first appeared. As Softpedia.com said:

"The Mac maker's Downloads section is yet to be updated with the manually-downloadable Mac OS X 10.6.5 update, but our software updaters are showing availability of the update, hence the screenshot at the top left corner of this report."

This may suggest an attempt by Apple to determine how many users would use the Software Update option should a manual download option be removed in the future (and gives Adobe Inc. some clues as well). If enough users are forced to use the Software Option, the manual download service could become a thing of the past.

Certainly Apple is pushing in this direction by reducing choice to users. For example, Apple has stopped users from keeping a copy of the update package through the Software Update option. And since people weren't initially given the option to download manually, it would not be surprising if plenty of users were forced to use the Software Update option. At any rate, those who had to use the Softare Update will eventually have to manually download the full combo update file again sometime in the future. It just seems a bit silly not to get both options available.

Unless there is something added to the very early release of OS X 10.6.5 through the Software Update by Apple that we don't know about.

Nevertheless, should Apple ever succeed in pushing OS X to follow in the footsteps of iOS on the iPhone, there is likely to be a public uproar. We only have to see the class action taking place for iPhone 3G users to see what we mean. In other words, a number of users are claiming they were enticed to upgrade on the assumption iOS 4 would work and be an improvement only to find after the upgrade to be much slower and causes regular crashes and freezes (most likely on those phones with limited RAM). Yet the worse part is that these users are still forced to stick with the latest iOS 4 because Apple chooses to deny users the option to downgrade to an older iOS. The only option is to send back the iPhone 3G to a reseller to have the storage wiped clean and a factory restore to an older iOS made possible (and potentially at a cost if the unit is out-of-warranty). So just imagine the fiascoe and public backlash this would cause if a similar situation is seen with OS X. Apple will definitely need new customers to keep the company riding through this storm of controversy among existing customers.

Ignoring the statistical gathering activities by Apple for the start of this update release, on general impressions OS X 10.6.5 installed within 24 hours through the Software Update option appears just as slow to startup and shutdown (and actually gets worse over time). No obvious performance improvements to the Finder either. If anything, it feels a little slower than the previous OS X version. However, applying the full combo update instead has made the Finder and startup/shutdown operations more snappier. But again over time the speed is lost. It is not clear why this should be so. The performance is also atrocious when launching applications but tends to dramatically improve within the applications, especially where graphics processing is necessary.

There is a general sense of stability and reliability in the use of the Apple applications (ignoring the Finder for the moment) such as Preview, Address Book and iPhoto to name a few, considered crucial for keeping users sticking with the company's own recommended software. Things like looking at Wikipedia information in Dictionary appears to work much better with a more correct displaying of information.

According to MacLife.com, if you had been a fan of AirPrint for accessing shared printers, Apple has kindly decided to remove support for this feature in the latest OS X update resulting in one user named Twitchy76 asking:

"So how do we HACK this missing PROMISED FEATURE back into OS X?"

Fortunately, someone has found a solution and saved many users the tedious work of typing Terminal commands to help activate AirPrint on OS X 10.6.5. Try a utility called AirPrint Hactivator 1.7.1. Further details available from http://netputing.com/airprinthacktivator/.

Also the DHCP networking option when getting onto the internet is affected to the point where it is either shockingly slow or there is a problem with it altogether. Only manual IP addressing will immediately get around this problem. Or possibly you could try deleting the preference file for holding the IP configuration settings, and retype the IP addresses (yet again!) in order for OS X to re-create a fresh and correct XML-standard preference file for this OS X version.

Beyond that, Apple will later release the much needed improvements to iTunes via version 10.1 after a number of users were left a little disappointed with the changes in version 10.0.

Overall, we have to see this update as an improvement. But users should be prepared for the expected full integration of tools for allowing Apple to see and manage virtually all your existing applications and as the company entices everyone to purchase new applications through the new OS X/Mac App Store starting from OS X 10.6.6 onwards (or from 7 January 2011 as latest news indicates). It is important for Apple to see exactly what you have running on your computer while you are online. And don't be surprised if eventually OS X will be locked down like iOS on the iPhone to ensure all applications are purchased and installed through the App Store using iTunes (and helps Apple and other software manufacturers to see what you have installed). The new corporate and professional version of OS X to get around this restriction will probably have to come (and be horrendously expensive to purchase), or Apple will take a massive dive in the price of the company's stocks on the sharemarket and possibly face takeover or demise of what was once seen as a solid, popular and unbreakable company.

The updates from OS X 10.6.5 leading up to the upcoming release of the next upgrade known as OS X "Lion" OS X 10.7 will be a series of steps to help make the transition to the new operating system seem flawless and painless until the final step arrives in the upgrade where it will be designed to collect information about all your applications you have installed and possibly use and try to force you to use Apple's own application navigation system (looking just like iTunes) to help with this statistical gathering and snooping around on your hard disk.

The future of OS X is probably starting to take shape as we speak under the disguise of greater compatibility, stability, reliability and security. Well, Apple has no choice. A number of users are already working out the big picture in Mr Jobs grand plan and they are not entirely impressed by what is taking place, especially if they cannot choose alternative means of purchasing and installing software. It means Apple will have to be quick in getting the OS X updates out and perhaps to release OS X "Lion" 10.7 sometime in 2011 to make a fast transition.

The genie has been let out of the bottle and people are having to realise the hard pill they must swallow, naturally sugar-coated with the usual stability, reliability, compatibility and security improvements as well as the marketing fanfare of how great OS X is. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the users take this latest offering and the upcoming 10.7 release. Let's wait and see...

18 November 2010

The Finder under OS X 10.6.5 is unstable. After a period of use on the internet, opening a folder and viewing files in list mode will show all the header names for the columns corrupted and revealing only a random single letter. Even the Date Modified column (appears as a single letter "D") has lost all the modifications dates of each file. File size column appears okay. File name appears okay. Restarting the computer will restore this information to the correct format and names.

And if a USB memory stick is ejected by a third-party tool, the Finder doesn't register that it is no longer in the USB port. The icon will continue to appear in Open/Save dialog boxes. Nothing can be done to tell the Finder it is gone.

Finder is unusually slow at the moment of launching an application or file as if it is trying to do something in the background. And it still can't handle large.dmg files when opened. In the latter case, the Finder likes to quit and relaunch itself before it decides to settle down and allow access to the.dmg file.

Not only that, but OS X will also attempt to automatically add passwords to.dmg files directly into the Keychain file without displaying a dialog box notifying you if this is what you want.

And using the Get Summary Info on a group of files and specifying which application to use to open them can cause the Finder to lock up in an endless coloured spinwheel. Quitting the Finder and relaunching and then trying again will work much faster. It is miraculous what a bit of quitting and relaunching of the Finder can solve.

And Steve Jobs wants to incorporate an OS X App Store and a new application navigation system into the windows of the next OS X upgrade (and certainly not much else). Yeah, sure! Perhaps he would be better off paying more attention to rock solid stability of his OS X before putting in fancy new features of little, if any, benefit to experienced Mac users.

19 November 2010

Safari 5.0.3 has been released. We recommend installing this update to get greater stability and slightly improved performance in the Finder as well as the browser. Also trashing com.apple.help.plist and com.apple.helpviewer.plist may solve a new problem generated by OS X 10.6.5 where selecting Help could display help text in a different language or no help text at all even though users know fully well there has to be some Help text available. And the error message claiming JavaScript is disabled when selecting the Apple Help menu is solved by clearing the same preference files. Any other Help-related problems in, say, iTunes 10.1 should also have the plist help file trashed.

However, it is highly recommended users stick to OS X 10.6.4. It is more stable, faster and shutdown/restarts quicker. Also beware of updating to the latest version of the most popular commercial applications such as Microsoft Office 2004. If you have a clear and insurmountable problem with the applications that need addressing, only update to the next major full combo update. Never update using one of the smaller incremental updates from the commercial software manufacturers. In the case of Microsoft Office 2004, version 11.6.0 should be the highest version. Ignore Update 11.6.1 and 11.6.2 as they can freeze the Finder and put the system in a continuously busy state as it struggles to handle certain Word documents.

These problems are probably designed to make you, the consumer, think the older software has a problem and need upgrading (at a cost to you) to the latest software version.

If you do downgrade OS X, we suggest you keep a copy of the latest updated Apple applications installed by the OS X 10.6.5 combo update and put them into OS X 10.6.4. With the exception of a couple of applications (you will need, for example, iTunes 10.1 to run the latest Address Book, but the version supplied with OS X 10.6.4 doesn't require iTunes), everything else will work fine with OS X 10.6.4.

This should give you the stability and greater security of the Apple applications while benefiting from a quicker and more responsive Finder of OS X 10.6.4.

10 December 2010

The lazyness of Adobe Inc never ceases to amaze consumers with revelations that its latest Creative Suite 5 (CS5) software still can't be updated with a manually downloaded Adobe updater file unless the applications are kept in their default locations at time of installation (and even then users have complained of the same issue despite not touching the files). Although Adobe may allow users to move the applications to a different location, launching the applications and clicking the Update button to tell the Adobe Application Manager where applications have moved will still not work for the update files. You are forced to download the updates directly from within the applications while connected to the internet for the updates to work. It doesn't take much for Adobe to make sure that when you click the Uninstaller application it has no trouble finding the applications and removes them. But try to apply a manually downloaded update file to an Adobe application (which it knows it can update but refuses to achieve this basic task) to make it more stable and reliable and for some reason it complains long and hard about the application being moved despite everything running okay. You are better off re-installing the applications from the original Adobe DVD disk and then applying the update file(s) before moving the applications to where you want them. It is all part of Adobe's attempt to combat software piracy by making life as difficult as possible. Wake up and get the applications and updates working harmoniously and with ease for all consumers.

20 December 2010

Apple Inc. is doing it can to encourage users to update and stick to OS X "Snow Leopard" version 10.6.5 or the latest OS X "Leopard" version 10.5.8 by targeting users of the popular Aperture 3 and iLife 2011 (within iPhoto 9) with Raw Camera Compatibility Update 3.5. The update provides access to the latest Nikon D7000 RAW digital file format access. But for some reason access to the camera's RAW file format is denied to users of OS X 10.6.0 to 10.6.4 — already considered obsolete technologies in Steve Jobs' eyes as we are led to believe. And don't try to be a smart arse by extracting the two updated plug-ins inside the update file and manually installing them. OS X 10.6.0 to 10.6.4 collapses immediately after restarting.

If you want a minor update to access an additional external device, be prepared for a major update to your OS X.

OS X Update 10.6.6 (not recommended)

As we suspected, Apple Inc. has quickly released OS X 10.6.6 on 6 January 2011 with more stability issues fixed from the previous version, and some more security improvements. Ignoring the carrot being dangled in front of users to get them to update, the only major difference in this version is the introduction of Mac.app. This is the official application users will need to access Apple's own Mac App Store. Here you can purchase virtually any software from developers. And if popular enough, Adobe Inc. and other commercial big guns in the software industry may make it a mandatory download link of their software for users who have purchased with no CD/DVDs ever provided to users. However, it will be important for software manufacturers to make sure people can still keep a copy of the software installer in case they need to re-install the software. If people have to download again in order to re-install, a lot of users will dislike the Mac App Store. On the other hand, should things go right, it would be nothing more than an opportunity for the big software manufacturers to save money on packaging and compete more effectively with freeware and shareware developers.

And it would be an opportunity for Apple and other major software manufacturers to gather statistical information about the applications you have installed and use.

The full Combo Update for OS X clients is available here (1.06GB). A separate update to fix Apple Remote Desktop incompatibility issues with OS X 10.6.6 and its new Mac App Store is also available. Download links are:

Apple Remote Desktop 3.4 Client (4.25MB)

Apple Remote Desktop Dashboard Widget (1.31MB)

Apple Remote Desktop 3.4 Admin (53.13MB)

The size of the OS X update is a little deceptive. But 98 per cent of the changes are updates from previous OS X versions. The transition from OS X 10.6.5 to OS X 10.6.6 has only updated the Finder and System file, added half a doxen system extensions to handle the latest Radeon ATI 3000 graphics chip, minor changes to QuickTime 10.0, update Boot Camp Assistant.app, add the Mac.app for accessing the Mac App Store, and a handful of other files. You won't miss much if you decide not to update.

In fact, if you want the updates to Apple applications in OS X 10.6.6 for use in an older version of OS X "Snow Leopard", grab the following files:

QuickTime Player.app 10.0 (118)

DVD Player.app 5.4

Boot Camp Assistant 3.0.4

And ignore the rest as they won't work. Certainly the new Mac.app will not work even though technically it should, as well as the half a dozen system extensions in the System folder (mainly to handle the latest Radeon ATI 3000 graphics processing chip).

Mixed feelings about the OS X 10.6.6 update. A number of users think it is great to have the Mac App Store feature. As CNET user neves0202 said:

"really excited about the store....

this day will change how we use computers

just bought the mind node app and it is super easy." (Kessler, Topher. Apple releases OS X 10.6.6, Remote Desktop updates: CNET News. 6 January 2011.)

However, another user named brodoff has thought the opposite by saying:

"I really don't like this Mac app thing being integrated into the system.

Seems like a way to control our computers

Will we have to Jailbreak our own computers in the future in order to use them wihout Big Brother Apple controling what applications we use?" (Kessler, Topher. Apple releases OS X 10.6.6, Remote Desktop updates: CNET News. 6 January 2011.)

Another issue noticed is how users are forced to enter their personal payment details via a credit card, PayPal or other method before access is given to the Apple Mac Store. And the way the interface of the Mac Store is designed when viewing a software title, it is very easy for users to click the wrong icon resulting in an immediate charge to your credit card. Even if you try to cancel the download of the software, the charge is not cancelled. You must contact the Mac App Store Support page to dispute the charge. The problem is caused by a very small icon sitting right next to the Buy button. When people want further information, they have to click the tiny icon. But tiny movements of the cursor with the finger on the trackpad can easily move the cursor over the Buy button and accidentally click this larger icon. Further details are available from CNET. Apple will again be making improvements to the Mac App Store to help resolve this issue in the coming weeks.

10 January 2011

The usual kinks in the Mac.app software are revealing themselves. For example, some people have found that by removing the third-party OS X plug-in FruitMenu 3.8.2 (which allows the Apple menu to be customized) users will be able to log-in to the Mac App Store. Apart from the interface oddities left behind by Apple Inc., the rest are just annoyances such as third-party software such as FireFox, Snow Leopard Cache Cleaner, and Boot Camp needing an update to work properly.

Some users have claimed a problem with launching iPhoto and a few other iLife applications after installing OS X 10.6.6. CNET recommends that you go into the Mac App Store to send the electronic receipt needed to tell your OS X that it is okay to run iPhoto. But is it necessary to log-on to the Mac Store, type your payment and personal details, and wait for the electronic receipt to come through to tell OS X to let iPhoto launch even when you already have the installation disk? You shouldn't. The receipt should be automatically generated and stored in the Receipts folder by the installation disk.

But will some applications that never generated a receipt after installing from a disk suddenly require a receipt or else stop users from using the application on OS X 0.6.6 or higher until you get on the Mac App Store to say it is okay?

Maybe this will be the question?

11 January 2011

For a further insight into how the Mac App Store will gather information about your applications for various purposes, you should download the utility called MacKeeper 1.0.2. In it you will find a feature to check the version number of all your applications. Press the Scan button and in a matter of seconds, your outdated applications are shown and tells you what is the new version for you to download. The only good thing about this utility, apart from the ability to clean up your hard disk of certain files and keep only the relevant PPC or Intel code suited to your machine as a way of improving the performance, is you have a choice to click a button to find out what needs updating.

Apple Inc., on the other hand, won't not need your input. Once you are online and browsing through your folders of applications and/or launching them (or you won't have to do anything), the Mac App Store will know the applications you have. Then, at appropriate times, you will be told what needs updating and whether adverts should be shown for upgrades to any of your commercial software you use.

All this will be recorded together with your personal details you have supplied with the Mac App Store and your IP location when the applications have been checked.

And should some commercial software manufacturers feel what you have might be a little suspect and worthy of further investigation, expect to receive a visit very soon.

Don't like the Mac App Store concept? Trash Mac.app (Apple Store.app or App Store.app, whichever takes Apple's fancy at the moment of installation in the Applications folder. This should revert some of the menu commands in the Finder to the previous form, such as the Apple Menu showing "Get Mac OS X Software" with the link to the original Apple software downloads page. But it is unclear what other changes have been made and how information on your applications might still be gathered.

Please note the following suggestion will only work with OS X 10.6.6. The next version, OS X 10.6.7, will not start up properly without the CommerceKit.framework folder and associated files inside in their correct position. Apple has decided to put a lock on this aspect. If you have OS X 10.6.6, we suggest you look for the "Commercekit.framework" folder in OS X and trash it (you may have to restart after moving it into the Trash). Or at least delete the StoreAgent:


And also remove:


In fact, trash the whole CommerceKit.framework folder for that extra piece of mind.

It would appear the Mac App Store definitely needs the "StoreAgent" (the name appearing in the Activity Monitor when launching Mac.app) to run at both the login stage for a few seconds (the most difficult time to check using tools like Little Snitch — a freeware tool for sniffing the packets of information going out of your Mac through a network port) or when launching the Mac.app.

If the StoreAgent is able to run and you can sniff the packets to see this, it will probably look something like this:

#1. "storeagent" wants to connect to ax.init.itunes.apple.com on TCP Port 80 (http) IP address reverse DNS Name a184-84-247-72.deploy.akamaitechnologies.com Established by /System/Library/PrivateFramework/Versions/A/Resources/storeagent User Marika (UID:501) Process ID 22770 #2. "storeagent" wants to connect to phobos.apple.com on TCP port 80 (http)

Which tells you it is trying to contact Apple Inc. and the iTunes Store to see if a connection can be established. Then it is just a question of waiting for the right moment to send information about your applications to the Mac App Store.

Also remove the plists for Mac.app at:



and also at:


Will this affect the iTunes Store? It shouldn't as previous versions of OS X has never had the Commerce Kit framework installed and yet people can still purchase music through iTunes. As for the.plists, they are meant to do nothing more than store preferences for the user abd application so no harm in removing them. And the Mac.app is like any other application you can trash when you don't intend to ever use it (although that could change in the future should every software manufacturer decide to make all software downloadable from the Mac App Store).

When you do decide to make the move to accept the Mac App Store, you will do it in your own time and with the least errors and problems from Apple to worry about.

23 December 2010

Apple Inc. along with several commercial app makers are currently being sued by iPad and iPhone users for allegedly collecting personal information and sending it to advertisers without consent from the users. The breach in privacy could also extend to the latest OS X in the case where your personal information could be sent to software manufacturers without your consent. Filed in a federal court in California on 23 December 2010, the lawsuit claims:

"None of the defendants adequately informed plaintiffs of their practices, and none of the defendants obtained plaintiffs' consent to do so."

Apple did at one time , apparently in April 2010, follow the privacy laws by getting developers of apps for the iPhone and iPad to adhere to an Apple policy not to pass on personal information to a third-party except where it is needed for the functionality of the app (e.g. when a contacts database sends personal information because the user has explicit given approval to do so by presisng the appropriate buttons, or when there is a bug and the user permits personal information to be sent with the bug report to the developer). Now it is alleged Apple has changed its mind in order to appease advertisers and increase the potential revenue of developers' apps.

It will be interesting to see how this will develop over time. Will Apple be forced to make its iOS and OS X software more transparent and clear to users to ensure the company does adhere to strict privacy laws in the wake of this latest lawsuit.

OS X Update 10.6.7 (an improvement from 10.6.6)

Has Apple listened better to its users? Realising that users are not going to update OS X whenever Apple feels like providing an update and may choose to remove the CommerceKit.framework needed by the App Store application, the company has had to show more significant and useful incentives for users to do as they are told. The biggest one has to be the decision to make full use of the 64-bit capabilities of iMac and MacBook Pro by re-writing and updating a number of Apple applications including the Finder. In plain English language, it means a faster OS X experience (so long as you have told your computer to run in 64-bit mode). Although whether this means OS X will be more stable is still another question. For the moment we must assume this is the case with some indications that Apple has tried to focus on making its software slightly more reliable in some specific areas.

One thing that hasn't improved is the sudden quitting of the Finder when opening and accessing large.dmg files. After the first or second time it happens, the Finder should behave okay. Likewise if you have run a large application and quit it and then try to perform a Get Summary Info on a large number of files on the desktop or any window and then specify Open With when choosing another application to open the files, the Finder can lock up with a continous spinning multicoloured pinwheel cursor icon, forcing you to quit the Finder. Afterwards, performing the same action should work properly again. Modifying the Finder to handle the 64-bit kernel has absolutely no effect on OS X stability.

Anyway, speedwise it is hard to say exactly the sort of improvement one can expect as users of the latest i7 15-inch MacBook Pro were not noticing a remarkable speed jump. As Simon Dixon claims:

"Just tested 10.6.7 with Cinebench 11.5. With 10.6.6, I got 5.39 CPU. With 10.6.7 I get 5.07 (the same as what I get in Windows 7 BootCamp)! Has anyone seen any change in their score?

Re-run CPU again and got 5.10, so seems consistently lower on my machine. My MacBook Pro is the stock i7 2720QM 15" model, for reference." (Melanson, Donald. Apple releases OS X 10.6.7 with fix for MacBook Pro display issues: Engadget.com. 21 March 2011.)

Or wouldn't it be funny if people didn't realise they must enable their computers for 64-bit processing to see the benefit? Might be worth a visit to one of those software download sites to search for a utility to enable 64-bit processing on your computer. Certainly there is evidence to suggest a 64-bit enabled MacBook Pro or iMac with a fresh copy of OS X installed does indeed feel a little snappier and faster when launching and running applications, as well as start up and shutdown of the computer according to a growing allegiance of Mac users for this update.

But what happens after several months of OS X use? Will the speed be maintained?

Another thing Apple has taken onboard is the massive annoyance people have had to endure in the past in terms of the number of questions being asked during an installation about where, have you read the license agreement, should you continue to the next step in the installation process, how about putting in your administrator privileges password and so on. The new OS X installation DVD for version 10.6.7 will address the issue by asking only one question. After that the installer can finally think for itself. Unfortunately you won't see this benefit through the delta or full combo update.

And where would you be without the mandatory security updates? Should be a standard part of the package these days. The question is, therefore, whether Apple does actually makes an effort to find security loopholes and plug them up in one foul swoop, or wait for users to mention security issues and Apple may plug them up.

But there is another incentive for updating. And a biggy too. If you happened to have the latest March 2011 Thunderbolt MacBook Pro, it seems incredibly timely to see a fix provided for what users have described as a flickering of certain external display monitors and another fix for the rather annoying "freeze of the Finder" effect. The former fix has been mentioned by Apple in the Software Update window under the words "Improve graphics stability and external display compatibility". The latter fix for the Finder is probably hidden under the 64-bit rewrite of the Finder talk from Apple. So if, and when, you do upgrade your computer, you can pretty much give OS X 10.6.6 and earlier versions the flick. Exactly as Apple had wanted.

As one user named Kamiya reported:

"It doesn't fix the blackouts from external LED ACDs...only reduces the frequency. The positive is there are no mare graphical glitches nor are there freezes, crashes from putting the machine under heavy load." (Melanson, Donald. Apple releases OS X 10.6.7 with fix for MacBook Pro display issues: Engadget.com. 21 March 2011.)

A nice way to encourage some form of mass public updating to the latest OS X "Snow Leopard" version even if Apple hasn't got much else to offer until OS X 10.7 is finally released.

You will need to be on your toes for the right update for your 2011 Thunderbolt MacBook Pro. Apple has kindly provided a dedicated OS X 10.6.7 update file and recommends you should only use this file as it contains additional changes needed to fix the above problems.

And for MacBook Air users having "an issue that makes the system unresponsive when using iTunes", Apple has released a supplemental update (461.18KB) specially for you. Install the standard OS X 10.6.7 update followed by this supplemental update. Are we there yet?

Not quite. Users of Mac Pro machines gave their own views on OS X 10.6.7 after discovering Quattro 4000 video card manufactured by nVidia has suddenly gone unstable with claims of slower performance and "odd graphical quirks when scrolling or viewing video, and some problems with managing and running secondary displays."

As one user said:

"I'm experiencing full screen white flashes/screen redraws after invoking certain GPU targeted functions in PS CS5 and Final Cut Pro (latest)averages about every 20-30 secondsstops when above operations stop [using an early 2008 Mac Pro with a Quadro 4000]." (Kessler, Topher. Tackling nVidia Quadro 4000 graphics issues with OS X 10.6.7: CNET News. 15 April 2011.)

The solution is to download and install a new and updated driver from the nVidia web site.

It sounds like Apple wants users to update yet again to get all these updates merged into a single OS X 10.6.8. This is what usually happens when Apple releases an update too quickly because of hardware problems with the latest MacBook Pro. We can only hope users can relax after OS X 10.6.8 and use their Macs for what they are intended for. Updating (or even upgrading) OS X really shouldn't be part of the equation when using a Mac these days (apart from the security updates).

As for Apple needing an incentive to get everyone to OS X 10.6.7, we can see one good reason: the company doesn't like users removing the CommerceKit.framwork folder. Because, in OS X 10.6.7, you won't be able to trash the CommerceKit.framework folder from within the PrivateFramework folder as required to run the App Store application. OS X 10.6.6 yes, but not now. Removing it and restarting will cause OS X to stall or stay forever locked in the booting up phase and will probably never get to the desktop. Fixing file permissions and checking the disk will not help. But copying back the CommerceKit.framework folder will make OS X restart and reach the desktop properly. The best alternative so far is to trash the StoreAgent, Store Helper.app and Mac.app, and:


Do a restart before choosing Empty Trash and all should be well. In fact, to be more privacy protected, don't enable Spotlight to index all your files and their content. It is claimed this is how the App Store can determine what you have installed in a matter of seconds plus any other information you may not know about. Use alternative third-party utilities such as Find Any File 1.5.4 or Easy Find 4.7.1 to do your searching. Or if you do allow the Store.app and Spotlight to check your applications, make sure your computer has anonymous personal registration details and do it from a public internet location.

And if you are really looking for more incentives to update from a user perspective, we hear the MacBook Pros will run slightly cooler when it is not doing anything (or perhaps doing a bit of word processing work and nothing much more). As Joshua K. said:

"Just installed. Hopefully this helps. This model runs a lot quieter and cooler than my old macbook pro though, but I haven't been doing much of anything heavy duty." (Melanson, Donald. Apple releases OS X 10.6.7 with fix for MacBook Pro display issues: Engadget.com. 21 March 2011.)

So for the guy wanting to protect his investment between his legs when placing a laptop on his lap, this may be a good enough reason to update. As one user stated:

"Agreed, first time in 5 years you can put a mac back on your lap without f*cking up the ability to have children." (Melanson, Donald. Apple releases OS X 10.6.7 with fix for MacBook Pro display issues: Engadget.com. 21 March 2011.)

And yet another improvement is in a piece of technology called OpenCL. This is for the software developers (or geeks in the old vernacular) where they can save a mountain of programming code when it comes to processing graphics on the screen. Now, for the first time, any developer can make full use of the onboard video/graphic processing cards with very little programming necessary. It makes for smaller software applications when you download them from the developers and with greater reliability using the more stable code. On the other hand, the disadvantage is that once you make the move to the latest applications, they may not be able to run on older OS X versions (i.e. 10.6.6 or less). This is the moment where once you make the transition to OS X 10.6.7 or higher there is no turning back.

In the meantime, users must once again decide whether it is worth the effort to move to OS X 10.6.7 after its release on 21 March 2011 or wait for the next major, and hopefully, trouble-free upgrade to 10.7. It will probably depend on how many annoyances users are experiencing on their Macs right at this very moment.

23 March 2011

OS X 10.6.7 may cause problems in the launching of Microsoft Office 2004. Restart the computer again. If it persists, perform the above StoreAgent, Store-Help.app, Mac.app and apple.com.storeagent.plist trashing and restart. It should work.

23 March 2011

OS X 10.6.7 is incredibly slow to startup (unless you have a fresh and brand new OS X installed on your computer, in which case the shutdowns are incredibly fast as well). It appears to be worse if your computer is connected to the internet. So if you are not sure what's happening, remove the internet connection for a faster startup experience.

7 April 2011

The rapid release of OS X 10.6.7 has resulted in another bug. Fortunately this one can be fixed by the user. The bug involves the latest version of iTunes (now 10.2) crashing at the moment of launching the application because of insufficient access privileges. To solve this problem, you need to check to see that you have the invisible "SC Info" folder inside the /Users/Shared/ folder. If so, make sure the permissions for the /Shared/ and /SC Info/ folders are correct. They should be Read/Write enabled for all users. The users are "system", "wheel" and "everyone". You should be able to see this when you "Get Info" the folders. Use your administrator password to make the changes to the users' privileges. Finally, run the following Terminal command for OS X 10.6 to set the permissions on the folder and ll enclosed items to everyone has read and write permissions:

sudo chmod -R 1777 /Users/Shared

For OS X 10.5 or earlier, run the following command instead:

sudo chmod -R 777 /Users/Shared

Another good reason to update OS X yet again to 10.6.8 to avoid this issue for the less technically-minded user.

7 April 2011

Sufficient changes to the printing architecture while moving everything to the 64-bit version from OS X 10.6.6 to 10.6.7 has meant considerable work by printer manufacturers to update their range of printer drivers and answering enquiries from users about why their old or current printer driver doesn't work. Classic example are those from Canon when printing to professional image-Runner (iR) photocopiers.

As of 14 April 2011, Apple has released Canon printer drivers for the consumer range of Canon printers. The more professional range (e.g. the image-Runner machines) will come as soon as Canon can keep up with the changes.

15 April 2011

More security updates with the release of Safari 5.0.5 and Security Update 2011-002 for Snow Leopard. Fortunately the update is also available for Leopard users. This one fixes a "fault on the Certificates Trust Policy that Safari uses" in which:

"...an attacker could use fraudulent SSL certificates to perform a "man-in-the-middle" attack on the local network to redirect connections and potentially get user credentials and other personal information" (Kessler, Topher. Apple updates Safari, iOS, and OS X to address security flaw: CNET News. 14 April 2011)

8 May 2011

Apple released the Snow Leopard Font Update 1.0 (4MB) to help improve the display and printing of certain OpenType fonts. Only available to OS X 10.6.7 users (naturally enticing others to update and upgrade where appropriate).

Apple Support Communities

Apple has launched a revamped version of the Apple Discussions board where you can continue to post questions and get responses from other Mac users. Nothing too original other than Apple doing a bit more market research to determine how to make the new social-based site more user-centric and likely to get more people to use it. The new name for this service is called Apple Support Communities. Nothing like grabbing a few more users to join the party and give their one cent worth of advice to novices who may not know how to do something on a particular Apple product.

There is a different layout and feel to the new web site compared to the old discussions board, but should prove to be adequate for the purposes of posting questions and getting responses. Perhaps the aim is to see how Mac users are linked to whom in a proper social setting so that any Apple leaks by one anonymous Apple worker could be identified by where the leaks end up and with whom.

Despite the changes, the one that is not likely to get changed is the decision by Apple to remove postings by users at any time should the questions and responses presented by users be found to embarress Apple and could affect profits even if the Apple products are found to be defective or not of marchantable quality. Otherwise, all postings will be organised by the type of Apple product they relate to in order to help Apple to determine if a better product should be produced in the future.

23 May 2011

Apart from the increasingly slower startups and shutdowns after a period of use of OS X "Snow Leopard" 10.6.7 (roughly a few months), you will also notice a slowdown in the launching of applications as if OS X is trying to record something before getting to the task of opening the applications. But if you transfer the exact same files and applications to a fresh copy of OS X 10.6.7 and perform the same launch/shutdown/startup, it is amazing how everything runs fast and snappy once again. The big question is, Why? What's in OS X to slow things down over time?

OS X 10.6.8 Update

We see a number of improvements in Apple's OS X 10.6.8 Update 1.0, only to be improved further with OS X 10.6.8 Update 1.1 (but you'll need to reapply the Safari 5.1 update if you do choose this option since the Combo Update v1.1 has Safari 5.0.9, although Safari 5.1 has been noted as having a few too many bugs and has a mind of its own such as automatically opening a new tab for a link users have not clicked on and therefore people might be better off sticking to Safari 5.0.9). And if that is not enough, Apple also recommends you install the next set of updates (released in late July 2011) for a slightly faster experience of OS X and probably with greater stability and security:

Migration Assistant Update for Snow Leopard 1.0

Safari 5.1

MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.1 (especially for 2011 models)

Apple Remote Desktop 3.5.1 Client

If you also see the OS X 10.6.8 Supplemental Update 1.0 (10MB), ignore it if you have installed OS X 10.6.8 Update 1.1. Although given the fact that you need to reapply the Safari 5.1 update, you might be better off keeping the Supplemental Update and the original 1.0 version of the Combo OS X update. Certainly if it is the 1.0 Combo OS X update you've got, do download and install the Supplemental Update as this will fix:

"...printers not working properly and going into a paused state when printing, and system audio not working properly when an HDMI or optical audio output is being used." (Kessler, Topher. Apple fixes OS X 10.6.8 problems with supplemental update: CNET News (MacFixIt). 25 July 2011.)

And it seems the latest Migration Assistant Update 1.0 is included in the Supplemental Update (and, by implications, the OS X 10.6.8 Update 1.1) according to CNET:

"In addition, the [supplemental] update includes the latest version of Apple's Migration Assistant software to ensure a smooth transition from a Snow Leopard Mac to a newly purchased one running Lion." (Kessler, Topher. Apple fixes OS X 10.6.8 problems with supplemental update: CNET News (MacFixIt). 25 July 2011.)

So effectively you only need to install the following updates:

  1. OS X 10.6.8 Update 1.1.
  2. Safari 5.1
  3. Apple Remote Desktop 3.5.1 Client

And for users of MacBook Pro 2011 models, the MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.1.

Plus the bug-ridden and rather atrocious iTunes 10.0.0 to 10.4.0 needs to be updated to iTunes 10.4.1 to get any reasonable relief in terms of stability. However the ability to play music without interruption (i.e. breaks in the music) when working with the hard disk in other applications still remains lost compared to iTunes 9.x.

Anything else to update? Well, expect more updates to come in the near future (see below for additional problems).

Quality assurance issues in the OS X Combo update and in getting everyone coordinated to have a single launch of just one update has not been a strong point for Apple, Inc. in recent times. This latest update is definitely no exception.

At last, after doing all of this work, hopefully you will be free and relaxed to do your work. So, getting back to the improvements made by these updates, we see the most notable fixes have to do with wiping out errors noticed by users in the Preview application (especially printing), VPN, IPv6, timezone data in iCal for Lisbon-Portugal, importing media files into Final Cut Pro, OpenType font behaviour, PDF files having trouble opening in third-party PDF viewing applications, invalid font errors when printing to PostScript printers, and more. Plus the update expands the flexibility of some features to allow users to do more such as adding Kerberos authentication to a Web proxy server, more RAW image support for additional digital cameras, and enhancements to the Mac App Store so users can see the benefits of moving over to OS X "Lion" when the Appe Store interface looks the same.

Apple has also kindly added extra code to OS X to help automate the process of identifying and removing the known variants of MacDefender malware. An excellent decision.

Although Apple is working hard to coordinate these updates into a single update file, we can say the improvements are reasonable. General launching and accessing menus is a tad faster with the OS X 10.6.8 Supplemental Update 1.0 (or OS X 10.6.8 Update 1.1). Faster shutdowns and startups are still needed and it is unlikely Snow Leopard will ever provide a solution to this, even though a clean install of Snow Leopard will dramatically improve shutdown and startups. One can only imagine what OS X is doing during these particular moments.

24 June 2011

The main issue to report regarding OS X 10.6.8 appears to be two third-party software applications known as Parallels 6.0 and the security tool Hands Off 1.3. The latter software causes kernel panics and is likely an update from the third-party developer is required (version 1.3.1 is believed to have fixed the issue). Whereas the former software is suggesting the preference file for the Dock located at:


should be trashed and the DOCK process in Activity Monitor quit. When the icons of third-party applications you want to see on the Dock are added again, users should no longer report a 100 per cent hog of the CPU by Parallels 6.0 causing an overheating of the computer. Technically this is not a bug but a change made by Apple resulting in a slight incompatibility of Parallels 6.0 for the new OS X environment. A relatively simple solution for those who know what to do. For novices, it is just another example of an annoyance in a long list of annoyances.

Hopefully there shouldn't be too many incompatibilities creeping in as Apple should by now have OS X virtually complete and able to run any of the latest OS X software on the market for as long as users want to run them (perhaps many decades from now). That should be the ultimate aim for OS X if it is to be of any use to anyone.

27 June 2011

Well, almost no more annoyances. OS X 10.6.8 has managed to also stop some third-party applications from storing user preference data in preference files. For example, some scanner software will remember the location users want to store their scanned images (whether it is the default Pictures folder or the Desktop). Under OS X 10.6.8, and despite running a file permissions check using Disk Utility, the scanning software will somehow forget the location after a re-launch of the software. It is probably recommended the preference files of the offending third-party applications be cleared and a new one re-created to see if the problem persists or not.

And there is definitely a slowness about OX 10.6.8 in certain operations performed through the Finder and between applications despite using the latest 2011 Macintosh computers. For example, switching applications seems to take time. And when you are in the other application, it can take up to 10 seconds to wake up and perform an action. There is still a remarkable amount of bloated programming code locked away within OS X 10.6.8 when trying to perform whatever it has to do (presumably for the users' benefit) despite the removal of PowerPC architecture and trying to get everything to make full use of the 64-bit processing architecture.

25 August 2011

Apple has released Boot Camp Software Update 3.3 to fix incompatibilities found by users after applying the OS X 10.6.8 update and running the 10.7 "Lion" upgrade.

26 August 2011

Reducing the input level to zero for the Microphone Input in the Sound system preference does not effectively turn off the microphone. Tap on the computer or table and the sound meter will still jump to the noise. This is clearly not how the average user would interpret zero in the input level. Your other option is to switch the sound input option to Line In. This forces the meter to read nothing. But does it actually turn off the microphone input? Nobody knows for sure.

9 September 2011

A useful Security Update 2011-005 to install. Details of the update:

Impact: An attacker with a privileged network position may intercept user credentials or other sensitive information.

Description: Fraudulent certificates were issued by multiple certificate authorities operated by DigiNotar. This issue is addressed by removing DigiNotar from the list of trusted root certificates, from the list of Extended Validation (EV) certificate authorities, and by configuring default system trust settings so that DigiNotar's certificates, including those issued by other authorities, are not trusted.

18 September 2011

This is a good time for "Snow Leopard" users to enjoy a few luxuries where possible. Apparently there are some 32-bit commercial software from commercial software manufacturers who are willing to give them away or at very low cost as we speak (since the software manufacturers know the software will no longer sell, so they might as well make the most of this opportunity to attract new customers and turn them into loyal users of the latest 64-bit software available for purchasing simply by giving away old software). Need an example? Try downloading DAZ Studio (an easy to use 3D figure posing and animation tool) basic edition valued at US$45. It is absolutely free (yes, your wallet will love you for it) until 31 October 2011. And you can see if this software will help you to achieve whatever you need to do. If so, feel free to purchase the company's other interesting software.

13 October 2011

It is not recommended users download and install the Apple Security Update 2011-006 for OS X "Snow Leopard" users at the present time. It is better to wait for the final OS X 10.6.9 update which should contain the security update and any other final tweaks. Although one has to say OS X 10.6.8 is pretty stable and secure enough. The question is, is it worth updating the system? As for other updates, Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 6 looks reasonable with hardly any problems to report, and there might be some benefit of downloading and installing the MacBook Pro SMC Firmware Update 1.5 for those with a MacBook Pro should they ever need to upgrade to OS X 10.7 "Lion", not that there is a significant need to do so unless you are one of those users who believe he/she will "get ahead of the game" with a copy of the latest OS X 10.7 upgrade.

NOTE: If you don't want to have trouble logging into Yahoo email, we suggest you don't install Apple Security Update 2011-006. If you discover this problem has occurred after installing the Security Update, your only chance to re-establish the connection is to reinstall OS X "Snow Leopard" from the CD installer (it won't be fixed using the OS X 10.6.8 Combo Updater), or make sure you always keep a basic OS X version installed on your external drive and do a block-level clone of the disk to a fresh and clean hard disk partition on your computer. Then clone the third-party applications you've installed from the old hard disk partition to the new one, drag and drop the relevant preferences for these applications (remember to copy any music, movies and other data from your User folder to the new location), and be prepared to re-enter a handful of serial numbers for some utilities where the preference files might be invisible. Should take no more than 30 minutes to do (and beats reinstalling all the software from scratch).

Users re-establishing support for older scanners

Speaking of providing support to Mac users, developer Mattias Ellert has kindly filled in the gap left behind by Apple and Adobe by providing for free the backend and SCSI/USB system extension library and a frontend TWAIN interface and Preference Pane to re-establish support for older scanners requiring the TWAIN drivers to run these devices and extract digitised data acquired from your scanned documents. Known as TWAIN SANE 3.0, you can download and install the following items in the order shown:

  1. libusb 0.1.13 beta (172kB)
  2. TWAIN SANE backends (7.5MB)
  3. TWAIN SANE Interface (274kB)
  4. TWAIN SANE Preference Pane (168kB)

The links shown here are for Snow Leopard users only.

Source files are supplied for your convenience should you ever want to ticker and improve the code.

Thunderbolt Software Update 1.1

Thunderbolt software is in need of further refinement and tweaking by Apple, Inc. with the release of the Thunderbolt Software Update 1.1 for Snow Leopard. Apple explains the improvement as:

"This update addresses an issue that causes some users of the Apple Thunderbolt Display to experience intermittent black screens. It also includes stability improvements for Thunderbolt devices."

You will need OS X 10.6.8 and the Thunderbolt Software Update 1.0 for this latest 1.1 version to work.

Safari 5.1.2 Update for Snow Leopard

Safari 5.1.2 is available for download. As MacWorld.com explained the improvements:

"Specifically, version 5.1.2 of Safari now makes it possible to view PDFs within web content. It also addresses bugs that caused web pages to flash white, as well as issues related to excessive memory usage and overall stability" (Chang. Alexandra. Apple releases Safari 5.1.2 with PDF Viewing Support, Bug Fixes: MacWorld.com. 30 November 2011.)

Thunderbolt Display Firmware 1.1 Update

It is definitely not quite right inside the firmware software for running Thunderbolt displays, so Apple has released on 12 December 2011 the Thunderbolt Display Firmware 1.1 Update. Hopefully this time around things will be looking up for the Thunderbolt technology! Enjoy a relaxing Christmas everyone.

The above update works for Thunderbolt-enabled Macs running OS X 10.6.8 or higher or 10.7.2 or higher. Also, if you run the update as a Snow Leopard user, it may tell you to install the 50MB Thunderbolt Software Update 1.1 (Snow Leopard). And even then you have no way of telling if the 50MB update is suitable for your computer. From our experience (to save you on bandwidth costs), it seems these updates are designed for the mid-2011 or later Thunderbolt models.

App Store will impose restrictions on developers applications that do not support the Lion Sandboxing system architecture

Either not enough users of previous OS X versions are upgrading to OS X "Lion" or Apple Inc. believes OS X "Lion" is so popular that the company can force other users to upgrade, but it seems the App Store will only sell third-party applications for older OS X versions until March 2012. After that date, if the application does not support the Lion Sandboxing system, it will be deleted.

Some developers have decided to get around this by going into the application's info.plist file located inside the application at:


and setting the Minimum System Version to "10.7" so Apple Inc. thinks the software will only work on OS X "Lion" (i.e. supports the latest Sandboxing system). But users, if they are really clever, will change it to "10.6" to make the application work on OS X "Snow Leopard". To see this mysterious Contents folder, press the Control key and click on the application with the mouse button. A pop-up window will be shown. Select "Show Package Contents" and the folder will open up into a window where you can navigate within the sub-folders or open files as usual. In the case of info.plist, try BBEdit or Xcode to edit the XML text file and look for Minimum System Version.

Printing problems under OS X 10.6.8

A not so commonly mentioned repair patch needed for OS X "Snow Leopard" 10.6.8 (and certainly not easily accessible under Apple's Support page) is the printing bug. If you have experienced a situation where a printer was correctly set up under the Print & Fax preference pane and tried to print a test page or any document and for some reason the job does not get printed because the printer suddenly wants to pause despite clicking the Resume button, run this printer repair utility. It will do nothing more than replace some CUPS backend files needed to print your files with the ones from OS X "Leopard" 10.5.x. These files are stored in the /usr/libexec/cups/backend/ folder.

Apple Software Update Installer Update 1.0

Apple has released late on Monday 19 March 2012 the Apple Software Installer Update 1.0 for OS X 10.6.8 users only. Hardly anything is known about what is fixed by this update. One can only assume it has to do with the Software Update function under the Apple menu where under rare circumstances Apple software may not get properly installed in certain places (perhaps a file permissions issue?). So far, the update has not caused problems for users at the present time. See this Knowledge Base article for slightly more details.

Safari 5.1.5 more backward compatible for Mac users running it in 32-bit mode

Safari 5.1.5 has been released on 26 March 2012 to fix a bug when running in the 32-bit mode (but not critical if you are running your machine in 64-bit mode) that prevented users from running older 32-bit version plug-ins and accessing a variety of web sites. Enough Mac users (PC users running the Windows version of Safari have been happy with its backward compatibility while running on Windows XP SP2) had requested the improvements and Apple has kindly listened. Thanks.

Apple Java for OS X 10.6 Update 7

A new update to make all your Java experiences on the web and elsewhere seem stable, secure and reliable. This one is suppose to stop the Flashback Trojan from automatically downloading after users visit websites infected by it. The trojan attempts to steal your username and passwords to web sites you have visited in cookies. Download from here.

Apple Java for OS X Lion Update 7

A new update on 7 April 2012 to make all your Java experiences on the web and elsewhere seem stable, secure and reliable. This one is suppose to stop the Flashback Trojan from automatically downloading after users visit websites infected by it. The trojan attempts to steal your username and passwords to web sites you have visited in cookies. The improvements were slow to come since the Java update was available since mid-February, but better late than never. Originally the first update came out as Apple Java for OS X Update 7, but Apple has had a quick turnaround on 13 April 2012. In fact, the file you should now download is Apple Java for OS X Update 8. Probably the same as Update 7 except Apple may have added a Flashback Trojan Removal Tool for users who are already infected. Further details about Update 8 are available here.

Hopefully all sorted now.

Or you could always upgrade your OS to OSX "Mountain Lion" when it gets released later in 2012 for a hopefully more secure experience (no guarantees!). Certainly the availability of a technology called "sandboxing" in OSX "Lion" will help to keep running applications playing within prescribed limits as another level of protection to make things seem more secure (although it won't stop a user from choosing to download something that is infected and run on his/her OS). Obviously good for Apple and Microsoft to know people are likely to be encouraged by trojans and other electronic nasties to upgrade their OS if it means making more money. However, there are many things you can do right now on your existing OS to protect yourself and be just as effective. See at the end of this article for advice.

And you probably can't go wrong installing the latest Securty Update 2012-001 v1.1 for that extra peace of mind. Further details about the update available from here.

Is there any good security available on a Mac?

Hmmm. That's a tough one to answer. Apart from upgrading to OSX "Lion" version 10.7.3 or better still OSX "Mountain Lion" verion 10.8.2, and using FileVault 2 for the first time (see the latest security flaw for OSX "Lion" versions 10.7.0 to 10.7.2) and running the new integrated "sandboxing" technology designed to keep all applications playing safely and within certain prescribed limits (a bit like the kids playing in a "sandbox" at a playground but never allowed to go outside the box to play where they shouldn't), there isn't a lot more you can do.

Under OSX "Snow Leopard", you can benefit from this "sandboxing" technology by downloading the right software such as the latest Google Chrome browser. Beyond that, the only effective security solution available from Apple for consumer use is to use Disk Utility to create DMG files with a minimum of 256-bit encryption level and never use the Keychain Access to store the passwords. This leaves only those people in the military and in certain clandestine organisations with the tools to bypass these encrypted DMG files. And even then, there are third-party solutions that will provide well over 1,024-bit "military-grade" encryption.

However, for most people, the DMG encryption method, together with secure trashing, remains the only effective solution you have for now under OSX "Snow Leopard".

If you want greater security in terms of your internet access, it is recommended that you disable Java, use Private Browsing in Safari, keep your anti-virus software running up-to-date and all the time, and consider installing a powerful utility like Little Snitch to prevent those invisible outgoing information from being sent to third-party servers (it effectively stops Trojans from stealing your personal information too).

Apple Security Update 2012-004

A heft 256MB Apple Security Update 2012-004 update released on 19 September 2012 will presumably make your computer safer to use and harder for others to gain unauthorised access to your computer. Well, that's the theory anyway. Apple is certainly counting on the idea with this latest update. This update seems to primarily fix up some serious Java-related vulnerabilities according to this Knowledge Base article. Could be other weak points in OSX but Apple is sensibly keeping quiet, although it makes one wonder just how vulnerable OSX "Tiger" 10.4 and OSX "Leopard" 10.5 users must be feeling with no further support from Apple to help them in this area. Just another good reason why Apple likes users to upgrade.

The update is only required if you access the internet regularly and use Java for access various web-based technologies (such as internet banking). If not, it probably doesn't matter since the update will tell the Java Preferences.app to automatically turn off Java after a period of inactive use (roughly 35 days) as the main security weapon Apple is recommending. To turn it back on, you will need to go into the Utilities folder in the Applications folder and launch the Java preference app and place a tick in the Java kit version you want enabled.

Apple Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 15

Another Java security update, and possibly the last for Snow Leopard. This one will bring Java to version 1.6.0 _ 45. However, if you want the latest Java 7 to be installed, you will have to find a way to open up the Oracle installer and manually move files into position, and then run a file permissions check. At the present time, Oracle does not want Snow Leopard users to benefit from the latest Java 7 updates. Unofficially, users are claiming Java 7 can be installed. All you have to do is change the OS requirements and the installer will work (use PackageMaker, part of Apple's Xcode tools), or try Pacifist and manually move the files into their correct locations. Doing this after running file permissions check will have no ill-effects on your machine and software and with the Java Preferences.app and Oracle's own system preference pane working perfectly. The question is, why? Interesting to see the official response from Oracle about this restriction.

Good luck!

Is it worth your trouble to update Apple (Xerox) printer drivers for OSX 10.6, 10.7 and 10.8?

We say this since the old motto, "If it ain't broke, don't fix" usually applies in the IT world. It is not a critical security update or anything. Just something to increase the compatibility of your computer to handle different Xerox printers. This Apple (Xerox) Printer Update 2.3 may only be useful if you have purchased the most recent Xerox printers and need your Mac to properly communicate with them. If you have a trusty old Xerox printer that works fine, do you want to risk creating more problems by applying this update? Our guess, probably not. But if you do want to update, try installing the update on another OSX startup disk partition and connect your printers. Does the update work? You lucky person, Apple has been good to you this year.

Why aren't enough users upgrading their OSX?

Good question. Apple have noticed quite a number of people still sticking to OSX "Snow Leopard" 10.6.8 (and a few happy with the older versions). No surprises here. This version has less of the iOS fanfare of newer OSX versions, less memory requirements, less poking around at your personal details in Apple applications (or at least is more controllable), less surreptitious contacting of Apple servers to transfer data from your computer, and "Snow Leopard" remains reasonably quick and responsive compared to OSX "Lion" and OSX "Mountain Lion" 10.8.0 to 10.8.3. Version 10.8.4 has improved somewhat in speed through some kind of undocumented changes done by Apple, but it is not likely to be enough to lure users of this older OSX version to the latest. Apple will have to do a lot more for these tough nuts.

So far Apple users with Macintosh computers are generally divided into three camps: OSX "Snow Leopard", OSX "Lion" and OSX "Mountain Lion", with most sticking to OSX "Snow Leopard" while around 10 per cent or so of users are sufficiently satisfied with the next version down (well, at least people can still run older applications when they want to).

Perhaps an interface facelift similar to the one planned for release in the next iOS 7 update might help, but it has to be really good. If the changes are successful, OSX may well get the same facelift treatment for OSX 10.9. Then it will be interesting to see how many OSX "Snow Leopard" users will think. OUR TIP TO APPLE: Try putting in some really great features to save time in our work and people will undoubtedly upgrade.

Until then, it is back to more important things in life.

Java 1.6 Update 16

Apple has kindly provided Snow Leopard users a Java 1.6 Update 16, raising it to version 1.6.0_51. Nice to see these users are not quite forgotten by Apple, Inc. Thank you. More details are available from here.

Apple Java 1.6 Update 17

Released as of 16 October 2013 is this update, thought to be essential for improved security and reliability of Java-based apps and Javascripts on web pages. Perhaps a bit unusual for Apple to be supporting this version of OS X, but goes to show how many people are still sticking to this version despite the so-called improvements made since then. Is Apple doing too much with OS X?

Apple Security Update 2013-004

Apple Security Update 2013-004 released in September 2013 is the last security fix for this OS. Any other improvements will have to be done manually by the user.