While most people are aware of the big-name software titles for the Mac—Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, and the like—there are many great products out there that don’t get the recognition, or even the awareness, they deserve. That’s where we come in. Macworld mines the Web, sifting through inexpensive and lesser-known products from developers big and small to find those products that are worth your time and hard-drive space—the inexpensive software that, once you’ve tried it, you can’t imagine using your Mac without. We call these programs Mac Gems, and we cover them in our “Mac Gems” column in print and on the Mac Gems Weblog here on Macworld.com.
If you’ve been watching the site recently, you may have noticed that we’re well into “GemFest 2009,” this year’s installment of our annual celebration of gems, where we feature a new Gem every day instead of the usual two per week. But there’s another reason to celebrate Mac Gems this week: We’ve given Mac Gems the Macworld Superguide treatment.
In case you missed the news, the WolframAlpha search engine recently went “live.” In the run-up to the site’s launch, there was lots of buzz on the Internet about how it could be something that “challenges Google’s dominance” or may even be “the next Google.” As discussed in our prior coverage, however, WolframAlpha isn’t really a direct competitor to Google.
While Google’s strength is its ability to find your search terms on relevant Web sites, WolframAlpha’s strength lies in analyzing your query and trying to return a result that answers the question you asked. In other words, Google uses its massive site index to find matches for your search terms while WolframAlpha tries to intelligently figure out what it is you really want to know.
To get a sense for just how different these two search engines are, I spent some time playing with them over the last couple of days. As a demonstration of the intrinsic differences between the two services, consider this simple query, submitted as shown below:
As we noted earlier, there’s a rather large security hole with Java in Web browsers in all versions of OS X. Because of the way Java applets work, you can be attacked by simply visiting (not even clicking a link on, or downloading a file from) a Web site containing a malicious Java applet.
In addition, as Intego points out in its security memo on this issue, “malicious Java applets can also be circulated by other means, for example, as attachments to e-mail messages. A program called Applet Launcher allows users to run Java applets by double-clicking them.”
Regardless of how a malicious applet is launched, the damage it can do is very real. For example, a malicious applet could easily delete everything in your user’s home folder, change permissions on files and folders, and who knows what else. In short, it’s bad; really bad.
Ever since his triumphant return to Apple in 1998, Steve Jobs has been synonymous with Apple. Business reporters have, for years, used Apple and Steve Jobs interchangeably to describe what’s happening at the company.
The close association between Apple and its CEO has its share of positives and negatives for the company. Jobs is an incredible showman and very charismatic. His keynote addresses at events like Macworld Expo—which Apple is no longer participating in—and WWDC, have kept audiences in thrall and have generated huge buzz and mainstream media coverage for the company. That’s certainly contributed to some of the successful launches enjoyed by the likes of the iMac, the iPod, and the iPhone.
When a new OS X update is released, I’m often the one who digs into it for Macworld, attempting to see what’s new and different. Such was the case with the recent OS X 10.5.7 update. Before diving into such a project, though, I like to make sure that the update doesn’t cause any catastrophic issues, so I upgrade at least one machine in the house. I don’t, however, upgrade all of them, because it’s very useful to have a previous-version machine to compare with the just-updated machine while investigating the changes.
So after upgrading the Mac Pro and the MacBook Pro to 10.5.7, I used both machines for a while to make sure everything appeared to be working. Once I was confident there weren’t any major issues, I started working on the article, using our 12-inch PowerBook G4 as the 10.5.6 comparison machine.
After the article went online, I updated the PowerBook, and that went well. That left just one machine, our year-old iMac. This machine is used mainly by the kids for fun and games, and for our household bills, inventory, and other such tasks. It is, by far, the most “stock” machine of the four in our house, not being subject to Mac OS X Hints work, nor sporting additional hard drives and/or partitions for Boot Camp and other versions of OS X. It was, in short, the machine I expected the least trouble with.
Tuesday’s release of OS X 10.5.7, the latest update to the Leopard operating system, weighed in at 449MB on my MacBook Pro; the combined updater (which will update any version of OS X 10.5 to 10.5.7) is a whopping 729MB. Even on a super-fast FIOS connection, it took about a few minutes to download the update, and quite a few more minutes to install—it seems that the “writing files” step takes longer and longer with each update.
After waiting through the install phase and requisite reboot, my machine came up in 10.5.7, ready for use. On the surface, there’s nothing visually different about this update. Apple notes only a few changes that may be noticeable at a glance—more RAW image support, better video playback and cursor movement on recent Nvidia-powered Macs, and the ability to grant non-admin users to add and remove printers via the Parental Controls System Preferences panel.
Most of the changes here are below the surface, and as you’d expect with a nearly half-gigabyte update, widespread. To see what Apple has modified, I dug into the update’s BOM file (for more on BOM files; see this older hint; in 10.5.x, you’ll find the BOM files in the /Library -> Receipts -> boms folder).
I have been writing Apple news on these Web pages for the better part of 15 years and enjoyed every minute of it. Sadly, I am writing my last story as an employee of Macworld. It is time to say goodbye.
It’s been a long journey. I came to Macworld from MacCentral in 1999 when the company was sold to Mac Publishing. In fact, my 10 year anniversary working for Macworld is in three weeks, on June 1.
I remember the days when every other story on the news referred to Apple as a “beleaguered” company. Speculation that it would fold at any minute or be swallowed up by someone else.