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Apple iMac review (2012)

Apple iMac review 2012

Better, faster, stronger. The new iMac claims to be better in all the ways you'd expect a refreshed product to be better: it steps up to Ivy Bridge, and packs NVIDIA Kepler chips for stronger graphics performance. It sports an improved display that cuts down on glare by 75 percent.

But thinner? For the first time in the product's history, the iMac is missing a built-in optical drive, which allows it to measure just 5mm thick around the edges. We can't say we've been waiting for a desktop quite that skinny, but if the new iMac delivers substantive improvements over the last-gen model, we won't begrudge Apple a little eye candy. So, does the iMac do more than just sit pretty? Are the performance and display as good as we've been led to believe? In a word, yes. Here's why.

Continue reading Apple iMac review (2012)

8 Mac OS X Annoyances (Yes, They Exist!) Resolved

mac os x annoyancesMac OS X computers are the very model of simplicity and usability.When you plug one in and try to do something, it just works. There's no need to mess around with anything. Everything is in it's right place and works just as you would expect it to. Except when it doesn't just work. Yes, you heard that right. Mac computers come with those little quirks, those small Mac OS X annoyances, just like every other operating systems.

Whether the features introduced in Mac OS X Lion have you on edge, or you recently switched from Windows, sometimes you won't find a setting where you'd expect it—or worse, you may not find it at all. Below are some of these issues, completely resolved!

1. Finding Downloaded Files

If you're unable to find your downloaded files, open Finder and select the Go menu from your menu bar. Right away, you'll see a shortcut to the Downloads folder. However, we can also put a shortcut in the sidebar of Finder for easier access. Select Go -> Home, and drag the Downloads folder onto the favorites section of your Finder sidebar.

mac os x annoyances

You may want your Downloads to be accessible through your Documents or Desktop folder. Rather than changing the default download location in every single web browser and download client, just create an alias (like a Windows shortcut) to your Downloads folder in these locations. Hold the option (alt) and cmd keys while dragging the Downloads folder to another location to create an alias.

2. Disable Autoloading Applications

Are you annoyed by an application starting unprompted at computer launch? (Skype, I'm looking at you). Open System Preferences and go to the Users & Groups preferences pane. Select your account from the left hand side column, and go to Login Items. Listed here are all the applications that are set to start  when you log in to your computer.

os x annoyances

There are two ways to deal with annoying applications in this list. Tick off the checkbox in the first column to start these applications hidden from view. This is an option for an often used application you nevertheless don't want bloating your desktop at launch. Alternative, delete an application from this list to keep it from starting unprompted.

3. Files Opening In The Wrong Application

Are your files not opening in your application of choice by default? There are two ways to fix that. First, right-click (or CTRL-click) a file of the right file type and select Open With -> Other. A Finder dialog will pop up, allowing you to select an application to open the file with. At the bottom of the dialog, tick off the checkbox "always open with" to use the selected application as the default choice for the file type.

os x annoyances

Alternatively, right-click (or CTRL-click) the file and select Get Info, or press the CMD + i keys to launch the info pane shown in the screenshot above. Here, too, you can select the application to open this type of file. Press the Change All button below to apply the changes to all similar files.

4. Not Enough Screen Real-Estate

Not enough room for all your applications? Your workflow feeling a bit cramped? Mac OS X comes with built-in support for multiple desktops, but it's a feature that can be a bit hard to find on your own. You can view the open spaces in Mission Control, which can be opened by using three fingers to slide upward using the multi-touch interface, or by pressing option (alt) and the upwards arrow on your d-pad.

os x annoyances

You can add a new single-application space by clicking the arrows icon in the top right corner of a supporting application. This opens the application full-screen in a space separate from your desktop.

To create more than one desktop (as in the screenshot above), open Mission Control and hover your mouse over the top right corner of the screen. Click the faded desktop icon that appears to create a new desktop space. Drag windows across different spaces by dragging them against screen borders, or using drag-and-drop in mission control.

5. Tap-To-Click & Reversed Scrolling

The biggest annoyance of any Windows user that tries to use my laptop is either the missing tap-to-click interface, or the reversed scrolling. Luckily, both can be adjusted in the preferences.

To enable tap-to-click, open System Preferences and go to the Trackpad preferences pane. In the first tab, Point & Click, toggle the first checkbox to enable or disable clicking by tapping the trackpad with one finger, as it works in more recent Windows versions.

Dragging with two fingers over your trackpad either scrolls by dragging the page with you – also called natural scrolling – or by dragging the scroll bar with you. You can toggle natural (a.k.a. reversed) scrolling in the second tab, Scroll & Zoom.

6. Auto Brightness Adjustments

Mac OS X uses your webcam to sample the lighting of the room you're in and automatically adjust the brightness of your screen. Although this is one of my favorite features, I can imagine it being annoying if you've got inconsistent lighting.

os x annoying

To turn off the automatic brightness adjustments, open System Preferences and go to the Displays preferences pane. Select your computer screen and, under the Display tab, toggle the box below the brightness slider.

7. Applications Resuming After Restart

Some apps are able to resume their application state after being quit and reopened. This can be quite annoying if you want quit the application every once in a while to wipe the slate clean.

os x annoying

You can circumvent the application resume by quitting it a different way. Open the application's drop-down menu, and hold the option (alt) key. The lowermost option will change from a standard Quit to "Quit and Close All Windows".

8. System Resuming After Restart

Recent iterations of Mac OS X come with the ability to restore the state of your system after restarting your computer (or after a crash). This includes opening the same files and applications. Similar to the above, this can be annoying if you restarted your computer to clean up your overly populated desktop and free some memory.

mac os x annoyances

Using the Apple drop-down menu, select Restart. You can toggle off the checkbox next to "Reopen windows when logging back in" if you want a clean restart. Just don't forget to re-enable it if you want to take advantage of the resuming capabilities of Mac OS X under normal circumstances.

What are your main Mac OS X annoyances, and what did you do to solve it? Let us know in the comments section below the article!

Image credit: David Castillo Dominici /

Intel Looking to Cut Power Consumption on Future Ivy Bridge Chips

CNET reports that Intel is hard at work on reducing the power consumption of its Ivy Bridge chips, opening the door to use of the chips in mainstream tablets and reducing battery needs on small notebooks such as the MacBook Air.
Intel will cut power consumption "significantly" for future versions of the chip, an industry source familiar with the chipmaker's plans told CNET.

Intel's most power efficient Ivy Bridge chips today -- used widely in Windows ultrabooks and Apple's MacBook Air -- are rated at 17 watts.

A future version of Ivy Bridge would be rated well below this, the source said.
Intel has already previewed its next-generation Haswell chips that will push power consumption to as low as 10 watts initially, but it seems that Intel is moving to reduce power needs for its chips even before Haswell hits the market.

With future Ivy Bridge and Haswell chips becoming feasible for tablets with their reduced power consumption, there have been rumors that Apple could consider Intel chips for at least the iPad, although Apple seems dedicated to its own ARM-based chip designs for its mobile devices. But with Apple said to be looking to shift away from Samsung for production of its A-series chips, the company is said to be looking at TSMC and Intel as future chip foundry options.

In a research note issued last week, RBC analyst Doug Freedman claimed that Apple is already in talks with Intel on a deal that could see Intel producing A-series chips for the iPhone while Apple shifts to Intel's x86 platform for the iPad.

Apple Seeds Third iOS 6.1 Beta to Developers

Apple today released the third beta of iOS 6.1 to developers. The release has a build number of 10B5117b, versus 10B5105c for the second beta of iOS 6.1 that was released on November 12.

Screen Shot 2012 12 03 at 12 20 19 PM
As with previous betas, Apple mentions a number of changes from iOS 6.0.1, including several related to how developers can integrate Apple's new mapping service in their apps, as well as an improvement to how boarding passes are handled in Passbook, and a few minor changes to Safari.

Apple also released a beta of the Apple TV software, as well as Xcode 4.6 Developer Preview 3. Registered developers can download the betas via Apple's Developer page or via Software Update on iOS devices with a previous iOS 6.1 Beta already installed.

Is there some secret iMac assembly plant in the U.S.?


From iFixit's ritual iMac dismemberment yesterday we learn that the particular 21.5-inch iMac they bought says it was "Assembled in USA". The moniker isn't new – we've seen it since at least a few iMac models back on the packaging.  But as far as we can tell, "Assembled in USA"  wasn't etched in the actual machines' aluminum leading people to believe that the iMacs that were shipped were "refurbished in the USA". However, this forum shows that some were actually assembled and sold new with the "Assembled in USA" label.


Regardless, Apple is shipping new iMacs "Assembled in USA". We've also heard that other new iMacs say "Assembled in China" as you'd expect.

Still, it makes for an interesting question:  Is Apple building some of  its iMacs in the US? Is that percentage growing since it seems that many of the first line of iMacs are coming with USA labels?

The "Assembled in USA" label doesn't just mean that foreign parts screwed together in the US either. The FTC assumes that a "substantial transformation" must happen in the US for the label to be used.

The US Federal Trade Commission states that the label "Assembled in the USA" should be the following:

Assembled in USA Claims

A product that includes foreign components may be called "Assembled in USA" without qualification when its principal assembly takes place in the U.S. and the assembly is substantial. For the "assembly" claim to be valid, the product's last "substantial transformation" also should have occurred in the U.S. That's why a "screwdriver" assembly in the U.S. of foreign components into a final product at the end of the manufacturing process doesn't usually qualify for the "Assembled in USA" claim.

Example: A lawn mower, composed of all domestic parts except for the cable sheathing, flywheel, wheel rims and air filter (15 to 20 percent foreign content) is assembled in the U.S. An "Assembled in USA" claim is appropriate.

Here's where it gets more interesting. The FTC gives the specific example of computer manufacture.

Example: All the major components of a computer, including the motherboard and hard drive, are imported. The computer's components then are put together in a simple "screwdriver" operation in the U.S., are not substantially transformed under the Customs Standard, and must be marked with a foreign country of origin. An "Assembled in U.S." claim without further qualification is deceptive.

That means one of two things: Either Apple or its contractors have some sort of significant manufacturing operations in the US, or it is being deceptive in its marketing (something that sadly, isn't out of character)…

Apple, up until 2004, manufactured some of its Macs in its Elk Grove plant at which time current CEO Tim Cook moved all operations to China (with some in-house work being done in Cork, Ireland). Interestingly, Elk Grove has seen a hiring spike over the last year with its headcount increasing by over 50%. However, none of the job positions we found were in manufacturing – at least those officially listed as being for Apple, Inc.

Screen Shot 2012-12-02 at 10.37.09 AM.

Apple has also ramped up its Austin campus, near where Samsung manufactures its A5/6/X processors but it is unlikely that it has begun manufacturing there.

Perhaps Apple is still outsourcing the manufacture to Foxconn and others but they are actually assembling the products in a US plant? To the surprise of some, Foxconn has a few locations in the US, but it isn't known if they are actually making anything here.

"@CNETNews: Is a U.S. address in Foxconn's future? Don't bet on it" Bet:…

Three Ways To Tweak Hidden Settings In OS X

hidden settings mac os xMac OS X and user-friendliness are two subjects not shy of each other's company. In general, using a Mac OS X computer feels intuitive, natural; everything feels the way you expect, and your screen real-estate isn't wasted on unwanted meta-features and overly bloated interfaces. This allows you to focus on the important things.

When you don't want your computer to work as it would out of the box, you can start playing with the system preferences. This allows you to tweak the settings to adapt your computer to your specific way of use—you make it fit in your office habitat.

It's only when these tweaks are especially specific and low-level—changing the intrinsic behaviour of your operating system and interface components, like the Finder behaviour and Spotlight indexing—you may not find a resolution in the system settings. That doesn't mean there's no solution, though. Using the command line, or one of several third-party tools, you can tweak hidden settings in Mac OS X. We'll go over these below, in growing order of complexity.

1. Mountain Tweaks + Lion Tweaks

If you're using Mac OS X Lion (10.7) or Mountain Lion (10.8), you should take a look at Lion Tweaks and Mountain Tweaks, respectively. These apps provide a more user-friendly way of tweaking your operating system—an easy graphical user interface, rather than using Google and Terminal. Use the app to revert to a 2D-Dock, show the use library folder, disable GateKeeper, remove the new leather interface in the Calendar application, and more.

hidden settings mac os x

Mountain Tweak shows three tabs. The first tab—General Tweaks—shows tweaks that can be applied to both Mac OS X Lion and Mountain Lion. The next two tabs outline Lion Tweaks and Mountain Lion Tweaks, respectively. The developer warns that although most Lion Tweaks will work properly on Mountain Lion, the reverse is not true.

One problem with these apps is that it doesn't keep track of the tweaks you apply. This may be trivial in some cases, but may require you to do the accounting in more complicated scenarios. That said, if anything goes wrong you can always go to Restore (the fourth tab), which helps you revert any applied tweaks and restore your computer to it's original state.

For a full review, and a more complete overview of the available tweaks, take a look at Tim Brookes' article on Lion Tweaks and Mountain Lion Tweaks.

2. Deeper

A more advanced and in-depth application comes courtesy of Titanium's Software; the same team developing Onyx. Deeper is one of the best applications to tweak obscure operating system settings of the Finder, Dock, Safari, Spotlight, and more; the specifics of course depend on your operating system version.

hidden settings mac

Among other things, you can enable the animated desktop, make your version of iTunes less store-reliant, change the specifics of the Finder File menu, and (as in Mountain Tweaks and Lion Tweaks) toggle the 2D dock to improve overall desktop performance.

At the time of writing, you can download Deeper for Mac OS X Lion, Mountain Lion, and a number of older operating system iterations. Check to make sure you're downloading a version of the application corresponding to your operating system. For more information, and a better overview of the available tweaks, check out last year's article on Deeper from Bakari Chavanu.

3. Secrets

The two applications mentioned above both provide an easy way to tweak obscure operating system settings. Most of the time, they provide an interface to low-level settings that are reachable through the command line. Maybe you see where we're going—instead of using one of the aforementioned applications, you can tweak the same (and more) settings using the Terminal. Mind you, if you don't know what you're doing, this is not the place to learn.

hidden settings mac os x

On the other hand, if you're not afraid to get your hands dirty, a great place to pick up those obscure operating system commands is at Secrets—a self-proclaimed database of hidden settings for Mac OS X. Browse through the commands to find new gems, or search for something specific. There are sure to be some interesting Terminal commands you don't already know.

Have you ever tweaked hidden settings in Mac OS X? What did you (try to) achieve? Let us know in the comments section below the article!