Apple ships first OS X Mavericks update, tackles more email issues

Stiffs Snow Leopard users; no Safari update for them

Apple on Monday updated OS X Mavericks for the first time since it released the free upgrade eight weeks ago, patching a handful of security vulnerabilities in Safari and addressing issues with Gmail and Contacts.

OS X 10.9.1, which weighed in at about 243MB, was couched as a combination of security, stability and compatibility fixes, and followed a narrow Nov. 7 tweak that targeted only Mail, Mavericks' email client. It appeared significantly later than previous first updates: Mountain Lion's 10.8.1 and Lion's 10.7.1 shipped approximately four weeks after the original.

Apple called out several non-security changes inside 10.9.1, including additional fixes to Mail and how it handles Google's popular Gmail email service; improved support for the VoiceOver tool on Facebook; and resolutions of multiple problems with Contacts, OS X's address book.

On the security side, 10.9.1 patched nine vulnerabilities, all in Safari, with eight rated critical by Apple, which declines to assign threat scores but instead tags such bugs with the phrase "may lead to ... arbitrary code execution." Three of the vulnerabilities were originally reported by Google's Chrome security team, which continues to contribute to the WebKit open-source browser engine project, which powers Safari, even though Google has moved to its own WebKit fork, dubbed Blink, as the foundation of Chrome.

In a separate security-only update, Apple patched the same nine vulnerabilities in 2012's Safari 6, pushing the version number to 6.1.1, which became the most current edition for OS X 10.7, aka Lion, and OS X 10.8, or Mountain Lion.

The omission of an update to Safari 5, which debuted in 2010, is a clear signal that Apple has retired OS X 10.6, better known as Snow Leopard, from support. Safari 5.1 is the newest version that runs on that 2009 operating system, and was last updated in September 2013.

Snow Leopard has faced the chopping block for more than a year, but as its users have resisted upgrading -- some because it is the last version of OS X able to run old applications designed for the PowerPC processor -- Apple has continued to ship security updates for the aged OS.

Last month, 20% of all Macs ran Snow Leopard, according to data from Web analytics vendor Net Applications.

OS X 10.9.1 and Safari 6.1.1 can be retrieved by selecting "Software Update..." from the Apple menu, or by opening the Mac App Store application and clicking the Update icon at the top right. Mavericks 10.9.1 can also be downloaded manually from Apple's support site.

Mavericks 10.9.1 info
Mavericks 10.9.1 patched a handful of Safari vulnerabilities, but was billed as a stability and compatibility update for Apple's free OS X.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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