February Blog Bits: From Safari 4 to iPhone Headsets

It's time for another edition of Blog Bits. This is where I gather several items, each one too brief to merit an entry of its own, and combine them into a single blog posting.

Safari 4: Top Sites and tabs. Safari 4 (beta) is now available. I truly like the new Top Sites feature. I find it a great way to access and keep up with the latest updates to my most frequently visited sites.

However, I really dislike that Tabs have been moved to the top of the window. For starters, whenever a Safari window is in the background and I want to make it the active window, I most often seek to click the top of the window (which may be the only part that is visible if I have used a utility such as WindowShade X to roll up the window). With the new tab arrangement, clicking the top shifts the display to whatever tab I happen to click. Usually, I want the window to stick with whatever page was currently showing. Instead, I too often wind up with it shifting to some other tab. It will take some getting used to. There is a similar issue if I simply want to double-click the top of the window to invoke the WindowShade effect.

[ADDED: There is a simple way to revert to the old tab behavior: Just enter the following line of text in Terminal: defaults write com.apple.Safari DebugSafari4TabBarIsOnTop -bool NO.]

On updates and restarts. Speaking of Safari 4, why can't Apple come up with an update procedure that doesn't require restarting so often? When I first tried to install the new version of Safari, I was told I needed to install the latest Security Update first. Doing this required that I restart my Mac (which is precisely why I hadn't yet installed it; I hadn't wanted to take the time). After installing the Security Update, I could now install Safari 4, which required a second restart.

At least on my Mac, shutting down and restarting takes several minutes. Not to mention that it also forces me to close all that I am working on (from checking Web pages in Safari to editing documents in Word). It's bad enough when I need to restart once. Twice is pushing it. I know there are some tricks I can usually use to avoid the multiple restarts. Still, I would prefer if Apple offered this as an official option. Even better, find a way to install the needed updates without requiring any restarts at all.

Installing memory in 17" MacBook Pro. When Apple first announced the 17" MacBook Pro, I had an immediate question: The description of the laptop, with its non-removable battery, sounded as if it were a closed box, with no user-accessible door to its insides (as exist for the other Mac laptops). Yet, the specs implied that the user could upgrade RAM. So how exactly did the user get access to the RAM slots?

We now have the answer. An Apple article explains that you need to remove ten screws, of three different sizes. The article advises: "Note the screw lengths and locations so you can replace the screws correctly." With the screws removed, you next remove the entire back cover of the laptop. The same basic procedure is required to install a replacement hard drive (as noted in this article).

As it turns out, a similar hassle (but with only 8 screws) is needed to upgrade the RAM for the new 15" MacBook Pro.

The upgrade procedure for prior generations of MacBooks and MacBook Pros is considerably simpler. Is it time to start longing for the "good ol' days"?

Apple claims jailbreaking is illegal. A couple of weeks ago, Apple made it clear that it has no plans to declare a truce with those who want to jailbreak their iPhones. The Electronic Frontier Foundation requested that the U.S. Copyright Office "recognize an exemption to the DMCA to permit jailbreaking in order to allow iPhone owners to use their phones with applications that are not available from Apple's store." In a brief, Apple replied:

"The computer programs referenced in the proposed Class #1 are colloquially referred to as 'jailbreaking' software because they 'break' (i.e., circumvent) technological protection measures surrounding the firmware contained on telephone handsets. Handsets to which such circumvention acts have been applied are referred to as 'jailbroken' phones. Apple is opposed to the proposed Class #1 exemption because it will destroy the technological protection of Apple’s key copyrighted computer programs in the iPhone device itself and of copyrighted content owned by Apple that plays on the iPhone, resulting in copyright infringement, potential damage to the device and other potential harmful physical effects, adverse effects on the functioning of the device, and breach of contract."

Whew! The brief goes on to expand on this position in great detail. It's worth reading in full if you want to get a inside look at Apple's thinking.

If you've read my previous columns on this subject, you already know my reaction. I agree with those, such as the EFF, that view Apple's logic as faulty at best. If Apple wants to declare that jailbreaking voids their warranty, that's fine with me. Beyond that, I should be free to put whatever software I want on my iPhone or iPod touch, in whatever manner I want. Apple has no more legal right to prevent this than it would if it tried to apply the same arguments to restricting what I could put on my Mac.

Are expensive iPhone headsets worth the price? I've been testing out a pair of Shure SE420 headphones (I received them last month with my Macworld Expo speaker swag). These are expensive headphones. On Amazon, you'll have to pay $350 for them (the cheapest I could find them online is for around $200). They sound great. But I can't see paying $350 for them, or any other iPhone headphones. Maybe I'm just getting too old and my hearing is going. Or maybe I am not that much of an audiophile. Clearly some people find value in these high-end headsets. But once headphones start costing more than about $100, I no longer hear improvements in the sound that are sufficient to make it worth the added cost. My enjoyment of the music remains largely the same.

The Shure headphones also don't include the built-in microphone and controls that allow it to be a complete substitute for the standard iPhone headset. In that regard, if I really wanted to spend more than $100 on an iPhone headset, I'd get the Etymotic HF2 for about $160 on Amazon (and as low as $120 elsewhere online).