Is your Mac safe?

Ask Mac fans why we prefer the Mac to the Windows PC, and you’ll likely get long lists of reasons. Most of those lists will have one item in common: we don’t have to worry about viruses, spyware, and other digital pests that plague our PC-using counterparts. But is that sense of security really warranted? That was the question we set out to answer in March’s “Mac Security: Fact and Fiction” feature. Judging by the responses to that story, many of you aren’t feeling so complacent.

Security Insecurities

John Hale - Your article on Mac security (“Mac Security: Fact and Fiction,” March 2005 ) is the kind of thing I subscribe to Macworld for. However, the section on antivirus software missed the mark. Security software should follow the medical dictum “First of all, do no harm.” But that’s exactly what many Mac antivirus utilities do—something the article did not address. As a visit to almost any Mac forum will confirm, the biggest offender appears to be McAfee’s Virex, but Symantec’s Norton AntiVirus and Intego’s VirusBarrier can also cause problems. Protecting your Mac without creating even more problems is a real dilemma.

Andy Peters - I don’t get it. In “Mac Security: Fact and Fiction,” you say, “No virus outbreaks affected Mac users in 2004.” But then, in “Select Your Shield,” you tell your readers that “the programs did a good job of finding viruses” on your test drive. If there are no Mac viruses, what exactly did these programs find? Maybe they found a Windows virus attached to an e-mail message in your Junk folder—but that virus can’t do anything to your Mac, so who cares? You conclude, “Any of these programs will provide the basic protection every Mac user needs.” Seems to me that not buying any of these programs will do the same thing. What do I get if I spend $60 on a highly rated Mac antivirus program?

No software is perfect, but flaws seem particularly glaring in antivirus apps that touch all your files. And while it’s true that the average Mac user may never see a single virus, it isn’t safe to assume that this will never change. Also, Mac users who work in a multiplatform environment (meaning most of us) are doing Windows colleagues a big favor by keeping workspaces free of viruses.—Ed.

Mac Carter - As a longtime user of Virex and Norton AntiVirus, I think both programs are ineffective at best. So I was elated to see that Intego’s VirusBarrier was your Editors’ Choice for virus protection. But when I bought and installed VirusBarrier, I discovered that in addition to the $60 price, Intego charges $30 a year for virus-definition updates after the first 12 months. Your article makes no mention of this extra fee.

You’re right: the effectiveness of antivirus apps depends on having current virus definitions. And every antivirus vendor charges for those definitions, typically after the first year.—Ed.

Mini: How Sweet Is It?

Manolis Kroussaniotakis - I just want to add my two cents on the Mac mini and its installed RAM (“Small Miracles,” March 2005 ). Based on my experience with my iBook, 256MB of RAM is enough for most of the applications I use—Adobe Photoshop and Apple’s Mail, Safari, AppleWorks, Preview, iCal, and iPhoto, usually all open at once. Sure, Photoshop and iPhoto sometimes take a few extra seconds to complete some actions, but you can’t have instant gratification all the time.

Linda Wunner - I was at first really excited about the Mac mini. I thought it would be perfect for me—until I read the specs. How can Apple put only 256MB of RAM and one slot into this machine? It’s insane! The price for RAM upgrades, the difficulty of adding AirPort networking and Bluetooth, and the slow 4,200-rpm hard drive add insult to injury. Do you really think you are fooling anyone, Steve? When we do the math, we can figure out the final cost. No, I don’t think I will be buying a mini.

Mellel versus Nisus

Dr. Ron Rhodes - You should reconsider your ratings of Mellel 1.8 (   ; March 2005 ) and the significantly more expensive Nisus Writer Express 2.1 (   ; March 2005 ). As the author of over 30 books, I’ve tested all the word processors for the Mac, and I’ve found that while Mellel performs flawlessly, Nisus has so many bugs that it’s impossible to use. For example, if you double-space footnotes in Nisus and then close the document, those footnotes appear single-spaced when you reopen it. If you try to reorder paragraphs that have endnotes by selecting and dragging those paragraphs, then the endnote numbers and their content at the end of the document vanish into oblivion and won’t reappear until you close and restart the program. I could go on. Nisus is not ready for prime time.

So Long, AppleWorks?

Brian Smith - As a longtime AppleWorks user, I was intrigued by the announcement of the new iWork suite (“Sweet Software Suites,” Mac Beat, March 2005). After having a closer look, though, I have to say that Apple may have a winner here—but iWork ain’t AppleWorks, that’s for sure. Gone is the spreadsheet, gone is the database, gone are the paint and draw sections—all sacrificed for the sake of Apple’s competition with Microsoft PowerPoint. Fortunately, I can still use AppleWorks for my accounting and membership-mailing routines—for as long as it will run on whatever new OS Apple foists on us. But how long will that be?

Picking on Eddy

Matthew Mignault - I recently purchased an iMac G5, and now I understand why Apple users have always been such a proud group: the G5 is an elegant machine, and I can’t see myself going back to a PC. But I’m disappointed by the amount of fan noise the G5 emits. Take a look at the discussion forums on Apple’s own Web site, and you’ll find plenty of documentation of the problem. So I was surprised to read in “The 20th Annual Editors’ Choice Awards” ( February 2005 ) that the iMac G5 system is “whisper-quiet.” Who are you kidding? The G5 is not a quiet computer—let alone whisper-quiet—by any stretch of the imagination.

The iMac G5s we reviewed had fans that were commendably quiet. But you’re right—there have been many reports to the contrary since then. We’re looking at those reports now to see whether they merit coverage.—Ed.

Simon Ringsmuth - The computer held up by the Editors’ Choice figurine (February 2005) appears to be a Mac SE. Why the SE? Macworld doled out the first Eddy Awards in 1985, when the hottest Mac around was the 512K. The SE didn’t debut until 1987. The 512K or the original 128K would be a better choice.

The original Eddy was holding up a Mac Plus. At a later date—around 1990—we revised the statue to use the form factor of the Mac SE and Classic. It has remained so ever since.—Ed.

Stop Your Sobbing

Scott Brown - What is it with your Feedback column? In every issue, it’s mostly complaints. For example, in the March issue, 11 of the 12 letters were negative in tone, if not outright complaints. I don’t want propaganda, but I’d like to see some balance in the column. Otherwise, you should call it “Whine Bar.”

It’s Just a Tool

Ray Schoch - A Harley-Davidson is only a motorcycle, and a computer is only a tool, folks. Sure, I prefer the Apple version to the Microsoft version of this particular tool, but that shouldn’t mean I have to spend a month’s income every year to replace it. It makes neither economic nor ecological sense to toss aside expensive and perfectly serviceable tools simply because they’re not the latest and shiniest.

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