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Apple releases Mac OS X 10.6.5, Security Update

Apple has released Mac OS X 10.6.5, the latest update to its Snow Leopard operating system for Macintosh computers. Although speculation had Apple getting ready to launch AirPrint—wireless printing for iOS devices like iPhones and iPads—the update makes no mention of the technology. Mac OS X 10.6.5 instead rolls out a number of comparatively low-key feature enhancements and bug fixes, but the most important content of the update might bge a mammoth number of security fixes, nearly half of which are related to Adobe Flash.

Apple has been less than enthusiastic about Adobe Flash for some time: the company has steadfastly kept Flash off its iOS device platform, and Apple CEO Steve Jobs famously claimed Flash is the number one reason Macs crash. The security update components of Mac OS X 10.6.5 seem to bear out some of Apple’s trepidations about Flash: while about two-fifths of the security patches included in the update apply to Apple’s own technologies like QuickTime and AFP Server, an essentially equal number of security holes existed solely within Adobe’s Flash platform. Apple is updating the plug-in to version 10.1.102.64, but who knows when Adobe will release another security update for its technology: lately, the company has been running a race to keep up with zero-day exploits in Flash.

With Apple’s new MacBook Air notebook computers, the company is no longer including Flash as default software on the systems, although users are free to download and install it themselves.

Mac OS X 10.6.5 also bring better graphics performance to applications like iPhoto and Aperture, improves reliability with Microsoft Exchange servers, improves Ethernet reliability, and offers TLS/SSL support for transferring files to iDisks. The update also adds support for a bevy of new digital camera models, and fixes display and spacing issues with some OpenType fonts.

Mac users running earlier versions of Mac OS X can get the bulk of the security updates via Security Update 2010-007, available as a separate offering via Software Update. However, not all security holes are patched on all versions of Mac OS X, and owners of older Macs (such as PowerPC-based systems) may still be vulnerable to some exploits.

The next version of Mac OS X, Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, is due to ship in mid-2011, and will focus on bringing interface innovations from Apple’s mobile devices (like the iPad) back to Mac OS X.