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ATPM 12.07
July 2006


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by Robert Paul Leitao,

Welcome to the July issue of About This Particular Macintosh! Hot summer weather covers much of the nation, as residents of the mid-Atlantic states are happy to see star-spangled evening skies after several days of continuous rain. Floods in the east and many wildfires in the west have made for an exciting start to the summer season. In a few days, the United Sates will celebrate the anniversary of the country’s Declaration of Independence. Each month we bring you an independent look at the state of the Mac. Come rain, fire, heat, or snow we offer the latest news and freshest reviews in an easy to read monthly format.


Our nation’s oldest ally is currently the iPod Nation’s most formidable foe. At press time, the French legislature adopted measures to compel Apple Computer to open its iTunes Music Store to music players from other manufacturers. More exactly, the legislation seeks to force Apple to sell songs in France that can be played on digital music players other than the iPod. That’s the news headline. How the law actually works following key amendments to water-down its impact may be another story. Apple has made hints the company will withdraw its music sales from the nation of France if such new laws threaten the iPod Nation’s dominance. It may take months before the implications of the new laws are determined.

Options and Fewer Options

Until recently, stock options have been a big component of tech sector executive compensation. Recently enacted regulations now require enterprises to “expense” the value of stock options–based compensation. Long shrouded from public view, stock options and the manner in which option dates are determined are among the latest high-profile scandals to hit corporate America.

Here’s an overly simplified explanation of the matter: executives are granted the right to purchase their employer’s stock at a pre-set price. The difference between the actual trading price on the day the options are exercised or used and the pre-set option price is taxable income to the executive and represents stock-based compensation. The pre-set option price is usually set on the day the options are granted. For years, the difference between the price paid by the executive for the shares at the pre-set option price and the dollars the company might have brought into its own coffers had the shares been sold at market price never appeared as a “cost” or “expense” on the company’s books. Now that the regulations have changed and the cost must be reported, fewer companies are issuing options, and companies who continue to grant them are granting fewer options.

The question now is: who selects the date the options are granted and how is the date selected? It seems rather strange that so many companies were able to select as the option date for their executive option grants the exact day (or close to it) during a fiscal quarter their company’s shares were trading at their lowest price, thus increasing the income for the executives when the options were exercised or used.

Before trading began on the last day of June, Apple announced the company had discovered some “irregularities” in the manner in which option prices were selected. Most analysts see Apple’s disclosure as minor compared to the actions of companies at which options had been aggressively abused. Companies now have fewer options when it comes to granting options.

Shake It Up, Baby

Apple Computer recently announced the release of Shake 4.1 at a dramatically reduced price of $499 for Mac users. This represents a significant reduction from the price of Shake 4 at $2,999. The latest version of the popular professional compositing product is also a Universal Binary application. This means it will run natively on both PowerPC- and Intel-based Macs. At the new price, Shake 4.1 will shake up the industry by providing access to one of the best compositing tools available at a cost many amateur moviemakers can afford.

New Products

Summertime is here, and with the warmer weather comes hot rumors of new Apple products. We expect to see new Intel-based Macintosh minitowers before Labor Day and new iPods in time for the Christmas shopping season.

There’s much talk of an iTunes movie store. Should Apple venture into online movie distribution, watch for subtle hints of new convergence products. We suspect Apple will leverage its leadership in digital content distribution with new solutions for the home.

Update Your Mac as We Update Your News

We offer a suggestion: each time the latest issue of About This Particular Macintosh arrives in your inbox, make it time to use the Mac’s Software Update utility. You’ll enjoy each issue of ATPM even more if your Macintosh is as up-to-date as each of our monthly issues. Welcome to summer.

Our July issue includes:

Bloggable: It’s Time to Say Goodbye

A prominent Mac user switches to Ubuntu Linux on a Lenovo PC, and sends the chattering classes atwitter. Plus, OS X kernel, Apple v. Does, and more.

MacMuser: How do I love Call of Duty? Let me count the ways.

Two-fingers salute to a couple of newcomers.

MacMuser: Wherefore Art Now, Jonathan?

A beige box is a computer standard that implies unremarkable specifications and questionable reliability. Beige is also the most popular shade of pantyhose. Therefore beige boxes are pants.

Outliners: Outlining Interface Futures

Ted Goranson’s ATPO does something a little different this month. It explores some unusual notions of outlining, and suggests futures for user interfaces.

FileMaking: Script Parameters and Results

This month, FileMaking continues its look at scripting capabilities.

Web Accessibility: The Clayton’s Web

“Once you understand the Visitor, it’s easy to notice that some visitors will see what’s on your Web site, while many will see and interpret only the coding behind it. And that’s why the coding is so important. Which is why Apple’s iWeb is such very disappointing software.”

How To: Maybe You Ought to Be Using Automator

Sylvester Roque makes good on his resolution to learn Automator, and takes us along for the lesson.

Desktop Pictures: Alaska

John Lowrey of Northern Softworks provides this month’s desktop photos from Alaska.


This month’s Cortland features a radical departure as artist Matt Johnson explores a corner of the Web comics universe.

Review: DiscBlaze 6.1.6

If the faster burning speeds and customization are of importance to you, DiscBlaze may be well worth the currently reduced price. Charles Ross, however, found that his simple process of using Disk Utility still suits him best.

Review: Dobry Backuper 1.5

Backuper seems to be in need of some maturing, though it does work as advertised, especially if you're backing up to a hard drive. Charles Ross’ advice: make use of the 30-day trial to see if it suits your needs.

Review: Google Maps Hacks

Wes Meltzer checked out the latest of O’Reilly’s Hacks series. He notes that “one of the big points of the O’Reilly books has always been that they are very nearly as usable by the novice as by the expert. This book did not seem to be.”

Review: XIII

Follow Agent XIII’s pursuit of the president’s assassin and his own past in this comic-styled first-person shooter. A conspiracy of 20 agents seeks to stage a coup and unseat the US government, unless you can recover from your amnesia in time to stop them. David Duchovny and Adam West voice characters in this action mystery, adapted from a popular French comic series.

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