Tag: Apple

aboutSLIt’s now been close to three weeks since Snow Leopard arrived in stores, and the Internet has now had a chance to go through the entire system and find the good, the bad and the barely changed. I’ve been using it since that time too, and like some of the subtle changes. Since Engadget, Gizmodo and even David Pogue have all weighed in with lengthy reviews, I’m going to avoid that here. Instead, I’m going to go through some of the changes I’ve seen and whether I think it’s worth the $35CAN upgrade fee.

This is the first of 3 operating system comparisons. Windows 7 and Ubuntu 9.04 will be up shortly.

The Improvements

I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to upgrade my MacBook from 10.5 to 10.6. I inserted the DVD while logged in, the menubar and Dock faded away and I returned 50 minutes later to my original desktop. There were options for installing additional languages, printers or Rosetta, but the default installation seems to provide all the required data, with the notable exception of Rosetta. If you still run PPC based applications, be sure to click that checkbox.

animatedwifiAfter it was installed, I took a look around and found very few changes to the interface. Sure, Stacks can now scroll when using the tile arrangement, and some menubars have more function, but by and large, the upgrade is behind the scenes. The Airport menu is slightly animated when not connected to a network, as shown on the left. Doing an option+click on the menu items now brings up a condensed system preference panel with the most important functions front and centre. The Sound menu item brings what is probably the most convenient small update, with the ability to choose the audio input and output on the computer with entering System Preferences.

Snow Leopard also seems to change the behaviour of computers exiting from sleep as well. On my MacBook, sleeping the computer for an extended period of time (about 2 hours or so) sometimes causes it to go into deep-sleep mode. That means when it wakes again, you must load the contents of RAM from the hard drive, which can take an extra 30 seconds or so. I’ve yet to determine if this is a change to the OS itself, or simply a flaw with my computer.

Ideal customer

Apple has taken a new strategy here with Snow Leopard. By keeping the interface familiar and improving the underlying technology, they allow users to gain familiarity with the software. As a $35 CAN upgrade, it is easy to recommend, but for regular users of Leopard who use their computer more for email and web than pushing the boundary of computing, it’s probably not all that necessary.

Interestingly, I think Snow Leopard works better as an upgrade for those users still running pre-Leopard installations. As a move from Tiger, or even Panther, SL offers many new features that make computing much, much easier. I’m excited about the new applications that will be released shortly that take advantage of this new technology — it just looks like I’ll have to get a new computer to fully use all the new tools.

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The time has come for a new Macintosh operating system. Mac OS X 10.6, or Snow Leopard as the cool kids call it, will arrive in stores this coming Friday and bring a host of new features with it. The name of the OS differs very little from 10.5, which was just Leopard, and that is exactly what Apple wants to convey.

OS X 10.0 was by most accounts, a good start, but far from perfect. Through 5 other iterations, the software has grown from novelty to mainstream, with advanced features added with each new release. Snow Leopard takes a slightly different approach in that it forgoes the usual list of blockbuster features and instead improves the existing codebase significantly. This new version will be faster, lighter (on hardware) and will offer new ways for developers to take advantage of the latest hardware.

The big new features of Snow Leopard involve the graphics card and CPU. With the advances in technology of these two components, programmers can take advantage of the new power by using Grand Central Dispatch and OpenCL. Grand Central Dispatch is a suite of tools available to developers to use every core in the multi core systems Apple sells today. OpenCL does something similar with the graphics cards. When these tools are included in new software, they will be much more powerful than today’s applications.

Buying opinions

The most important new feature of Snow Leopard is the cost. At just $29USD, it is priced like an upgrade, and even in Canadian funds it works out to much less than other software ($35). Based on this price point, and the new features that will be available, I will be purchasing a copy soon after it is released on Friday. I may even spring for the family pack, which comes with 5 licenses for only $59 CAN.

For the benefits to users, and the price point of $30, this will be a very popular upgrade, and is highly recommended for users of Leopard, and especially those with older machines. If you’ve been holding out for a solid version of OS X that you can build on and use for many years to come, this may be it.

Look for more information about Snow Leopard here next week.

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It has happened. After 2 solid years of service, my MacBook has cracked on the top case, in the above picture.

I thought I was being careful with my computer, but even with careful usage, it seems that a combination of the monitor spacers and palm pressure cracks the case on the edge. Naturally the new unibody MacBooks don’t show this problem.

If this problem has happened to your computer, Apple now repairs the case free of charge, regardless of warranty. Take it to the Genius Bar and it should be taken care of.

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The newest version of Apple’s iPhone operating system was released a few weeks ago, and since I made the upgrade to my first-gen iPod touch, I’ve been using the system off and on. It does an excellent job of polishing what was already a very good system. Since I haven’t been using it consistently yet, I’m going to hold off on a real “review” until I have a chance to go through it more.

Briefly, here are the main things that Apple has brought to this update (which are all available in detail on Apple’s website):

Cut, Copy and Paste
Copy and paste text, images and other items from one application to another. Should be a great benefit when browsing the internet, Twittering or sending email messages. Very basic implementation, which only requires you to hold your finger over the screen, slide the in and out points, and choose from the menu.

Landscape mode in more applications
A controversial move by Apple with the original iPhone was the onscreen keyboard and many users seemed to resist the device because of it. While the original iPhone did have the ability to use the full width of the screen for the keyboard, many primary applications did not include this feature, which made typing significantly easier and more accurate. Apple seems to have addressed this by enabling the landscape mode in more of the built in applications. Mail, Notes, Messages (on the iPhone) and Safari all get the landscape treatment, with better support for 3rd party applications as well.

Full Spotlight searching
This is a feature I have noticed in my brief time using the new software. Usually, when on a secondary home screen, a press of the Home button brings you back to the primary screen. Now, once you are on the primary screen, another press of the Home button brings up the Spotlight screen, which a basic search field. Start typing, and every match is added to the results below the text box. In fact, it operates almost identically to the Spotlight function on Mac OS X. Additionally, this search field is now present in more applications like Mail, Music and Videos.

Other features include MMS messaging, internet tethering, better automatic WiFi login and Voice and Video recording (when using the new iPhone 3G S).

With more time spent on the new iPhone software, I’m sure I’ll find out more about the hidden bonuses and add-ons. From what I’ve seen so far, it is a worthy update and is definitely recommended for nearly all users.

Happy birthday to me!

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Not much comes close to setting the interwebs ablaze than an Apple keynote. Fanboys everywhere were glued to their computer screens yesterday to learn what new things would come out of Cupertino this summer. While the WWDC is a developer’s conference, there were many intriguing announcements that are of interest to the general Mac-using public.

Here are some of the big points from the keynote yesterday:

iPhone 3G S
The iPhone 3G — and, it could be argued, the iPod Touch — have been fairly revolutionary for mobile computing. Apple tries to continue that with the iPhone 3G S, which they are touting as the most powerful iPhone yet. According to the keynote, nearly all the standard operations done on the phone are faster and more responsive. Things like launching messages, webpages and basic applications all seem to be quicker. Hardware wise, a new 3 megapixel, autofocusing camera makes an appearance, which even includes video recording. Hardware encryption and voice recording were also added.

Prices vary by carrier, naturally, but Apple’s price is $199USD for 16GB storage, and 32GB goes for $299USD. Is it worth it? While I don’t use an iPhone myself, I think the benefits over the iPhone 3G are subtle, but if you jumped in with the original iPhone, or have even held off purchasing the phone since the beginning, now is certainly a great time to join the party.

iPhone OS 3.0
The big deal of the keynote was more detail about the iPhone 3.0 software. Since the entire convention is for developers, most of the announcements were for the SDK included in the new software. The biggest news is that the new software includes support for copy and paste right on the phone. Additionally, landscape mode has been added to multiple applications, Find My iPhone and an undo function have been added. The latter is available just by shaking the phone — sort of like an Etch-A-Sketch function, and Find My iPhone is a feature of MobileMe that enables users to track their phone should they lose it, and optionally wipe the data remotely should it be stolen.

Phil Schiller and Scott Forstall (those taking Steve Jobs’ place presenting the keynote) had a few digs at AT&T about functions added to iPhone 3.0, that may not be available from AT&T until later. Tethering is a feature many people have asked for, now that most phones are connected to the internet with a speed almost equal to a home DSL line. It is a way of connecting the phone to a computer through USB or Bluetooth so that the phone can be used as a modem to get the computer online. The other jab at the American provider was that multimedia messaging service won’t be able to share your photos, videos and sounds with other people until later in the summer. This feature, which is available on nearly every other handset in the world, will finally bring the iPhone on part with what can be considered an essential service.


New MacBook Pros
In what I thought was a somewhat unusual move, Apple announced that the 13″ aluminum MacBook would now be a MacBook Pro, making the white polycarbonate model the only remaining MacBook. Besides the natural speed increases, the hardware changes made to the whole line were SD card slots instead of ExpressCard and a new, longer-lasting internal battery that cannot be removed. The battery situation is one I think may see some strong opposition. For a computer that is a “pro machine”, where the user is in the field for a long time, the inability to swap out a battery and get another 4 hours could be frustrating. The fact that all the previous MacBooks could have batteries swapped while the computer is sleeping means that with enough batteries, users can work continuously. Fortunately, though, I think that the power and design of the computers mean that the batteries may be an afterthought.

Snow Leopard
My personal favourite announcement of the keynote was the announcements about the newest Cupertino cat, Snow Leopard. As previously shown, Snow Leopard foregoes hundreds of new features in favour of making OS X faster, smaller, more efficient and more stable. The big news was the addition of technology to take advantage of multi-core processors and advanced GPUs. Grand Central Dispatch makes it very easy for developers to use every ounce of power from advanced Intel CPUs. This is because early versions of OS X were not optimized for multithreading, preventing software from using all available horsepower. To take advantage of GPUs, Apple has spearheaded an initiative to create a new language that threads operations in a way that GPUs can handle. Best of all, nearly all the major manufacturers have jumped on board.

Breaking from tradition, Apple has decided that this new upgrade should be available for $29USD for Leopard users, making it the cheapest 10.x upgrade yet. A family pack for 5 users will be available for $49USD, which is a full $150 off the Leopard price. If a value pack is available with a Snow Leopard license, iLife 09 and iWork 09 for ~$100, I know where I’ll be when it’s available in September.

As we’ve come to expect from Apple’s keynotes, a wide array of new products and services will be available from Apple this summer, making it yet another exciting time to be a fan of the fruit company.

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