Opinion

The iMac's new keyboard?

Oh lovely, apparently the new keyboard has been revealed to us through Engadget. What-ho. Anyway, this one at least seems more impressive than this piece of trash (I'm not a huge fan of MacBook keyboards).

Labels:

 

Posted on at  

Nice one, Sony

Wow, I'm actually impressed. That is a really good-looking PC. Why don't people pay attention to Sony like they do to Apple? This is what the Mac mini should look like (they already have the same specs 左右).

Labels:

 

Posted on at  

Quinn 3.5

Completely worth the wait. Love the new interface. Now Universal Binary.

Labels:

 

Posted on at  

Rumour: 6G iPod Interface Preview

I don't know how long this video is going to stay up, because, if it's real, it's probably going to be removed soon enough. However, I am not convinced by it.

Labels:

 

Posted on at  

From the Future

This is good.

Labels:

 

Posted on at  

Remote Desktop Connection 2.0 coming soon

Microsoft announced today that it would be soon releasing a beta of their new Universal Binary version of the excellent and extremely handy Remote Desktop Connection, which I use on a day-to-day basis.

They also said that, in the week of July 30, we will see an update to their XML Converter which converts Office 2007 files to the traditional non-XML file format so that they can be viewed and edited on the current versions of Microsoft Office for Mac. The version currently available is pretty feeble and only converts .docx to .rtf, and all the files that I have tested have come out very poorly indeed. According to Microsoft, the new beta will be a lot better at converting .docx files and will also include support for .pptx.

Of course, I just wish they hurried up and released Office 2008 for Mac. It's been more than three years since now!

Labels:

 

Posted on at  

iMac Doodle


It will be nice to see a detachable iMac with the same Multi Touch technology we see on the iPhone. This doodle gives a rough idea of what I want to see.
Rumors also suggest we might see a new might see a new Mighty Mouse with Multi Touch too. 

Comments (0) Posted on at  

Logitech MX Air

The gadget geek inside me is just bouncing back and forth between looking at that picture of the Logitech MX Air and its price tag ($150 + tax). It really does look rather spiffy.

Labels:

 

Posted on at  

But will it blend?

Some may regard this as criminal activity of course, but the answer is, as always, Yes.

Labels:

 

Posted on at  

Leopard: iChat

I can't notice any changes in iChat since I looked at it in last year's original beta. However, there are some additional screenshots I thought I would include - mainly that iChat gives two additional views for chats. Here are all four views:




 

Comments (0) Posted on at  

Leopard: System Preferences

Here's a brief look at the major changes in System Preferences in Leopard. Most of the screenshots are self-explanatory.

Network



Apple has simplified the Network pane and made it look better. All the features a normal person won't need have been neatly tucked away into the Advanced sheet.

Parental Controls






Security



Security and Sharing were fighting for the custody of Firewall ,and Security has finally and rightfully won the battle.

Sharing


Sharing really needed Leopard. I mean, simply look at the mess that is the Tiger Sharing pane. You've got an Internet tab for Internet sharing and the Services tab for everything else. What, is Internet not a service? Internet sharing has been shown its rightful place alongside everything else in Leopard. And what the fuck is Firewall doing in the Sharing pane? Thankfully, it has been moved to the Security pane. Thus, the Sharing pane, which has never needed tabs in the first place has now lost them.

Time Machine



.Mac


Print & Fax
I like the new Print & Fax pane. You know that the Tiger one, if you've ever used it, is simply there as a half-assed front-end and knows as much about dealing with printers as – forgive me for using the h2g2 analogy – a tea leaf knows the history of the East India Company. In Leopard's Print & Fax, you can manage printers without ever having to open the Printer Setup Utility, which, as you might have guessed, doesn't exist in Leopard anyway.

Keyboard


Just noticed that Leopard officially supports different sets of settings for different keyboards. I might attach my Bluetooth keyboard and test this out but I probably won't because it'd be a pretty boring test either way.

Spaces

Bluetooth







The new Bluetooth pane looks spiffy and to test it out I hooked my Razor up to my PowerBook and used some of Address Book's phone integration features to accept/reject calls from within Mac OS X when they come on your phone, to send SMS's from Mac OS X through my phone and to dial a phone number directly from Address Book. Now, I believe all this is supposed to work in Tiger also but I just could never get the Tiger Address Book to properly hook up with my phone. 

Comments (1) Posted on at  

Leopard: Speed, Stability and Compatibility

Even though this is a beta version of Leopard, I've been using it pretty fairly regularly for the past few days and I do have a brief report on how usable it is and I've split it up into how fast, how stable and how compatible it is.

Stability
I'm afraid to say that I have had four Kernel Panics (grey screen curtains down and asks you to restart by holding down the power button) since last Thursday. And, even more interestingly, they seem to happen at the most random times when I am doing nearly nothing with the computer. The last one happened after I began using the machine having left it idle for nearly 12 hours and opened Safari; midway through the second bounce, the machine panicked.

However, apart from the kernel panics which I have to deal with every now and then, application-level stability seems to be high. Apart from two iChat crashes, Safari crashing on particular web pages, and Mail and Time Machine just being immature pieces of software, I really haven't faced too many issues of weird app behaviours in Leopard. But, as long as the kernel panics exist, there's always a thought at the edge of my mind that this machine can go down at ay time and without a warning; so, that makes me uncomfortable while using it.

Speed
I measured the start up times for both Leopard and Tiger installed on the same day on this same computer from the appearance of the grey Apple logo to the appearance of the login window and the results are: 23 seconds for Tiger (10.4.10) and 32 seconds for Leopard (9A466). So yes, the results for Leopard are impressive considering that it is still a beta and are considerably better than all the previous betas of Leopard I've tried. The login times for Tiger and Leopard have about the same margin of difference - Leopard is slightly slower.

But what about the feel of the system with all the new effects, translucency and reflectivity? I feel that, on today's machines, users probably won't feel any difference in performance with all the extra effects in Leopard. However, my Mac represents the lower end of the spectrum as far as Macs go (notebook, single G4, 64MB graphics) and running the Leopard beta on this machine has told me that Apple's minimum requirement of 800MHz is actually very generous. Unlike Vista, Mac OS X does not scale back any cool graphics on slower computers (it will scale back some cool GPU-dependent animations though). And there are a lot of new effects in Leopard (which will only increase in number by the time it ships); with the addition of Core Animation, anything that can possibly be animated has been animated in Leopard. Any kind of movement, growing or shrinking, etc. – it's all fluid and animated. And yeah, it does bog down my Mac. Resizing windows, launching applications, etc. is noticeably slower in Leopard. Also, although my Mac deals fine with small stacks, the larger stacks in the Dock (such as the one for my Applications folder) are not exactly as fluid as the demo you saw at apple.com. So, in short: I would recommend Leopard only for the last generation of G4's for decent performance and nothing less than a G5 for really good performance, because, even though this is beta, performance isn't likely to take any huge leaps between now and October.

Dashboard: Dashboard deserves a special note in Leopard because, even from the first Beta, it has been remarkably fast in Leopard as compared to Tiger. The cause for this seems to be that all the widgets are launched under a single thread as opposed to each one being spun off in its own thread by the Dock. This way, the system doesn't need to create a separate stack for each widget and there's no context-switching involved between widgets. It's like Dashboard on afterburners. The initial launch of Dashboard after a fresh boot is now much more bearable and this is one feature that I would love to have in Tiger now. It's probably the only thing that's actually faster in Leopard.

Spotlight and Time Machine: Sure, I mentioned in the previous Leopard post that Spotlight had caught up to Vista's Live Desktop search in terms of speed, but what about indexing? As you may know, on a fresh install, Tiger and Leopard both have to index your hard drives. Unfortunately, although Tiger did this unobtrusively, Leopard was barely usable while Spotlight was indexing or Time Machine was performing backups on my Mac. Also, from my testing, it seems that Leopard's and Tiger's Spotlight indices might not be compatible, because, after doing a full index, when I booted up into Tiger, it started doing its indexing and once that was finished and I booted back into Leopard, it began reindexing. So, I've told Tiger not to index the Leopard drive and vice-versa.

Compatibility
There are only a couple of pieces of software that I have tested which just haven't worked, such as Google Earth and OnyX - the former crashes on startup and the latter shows a message telling me my Mac OS X version is inappropriate. Other than that, I have been using a lot of run-of-the-mill Tiger software (none of it is system-level software) and it has been working fine. I'd hazard a guess that anything that attaches a daemon, a kernel extension or something of that sort is more likely to run into compatibility issues. I also haven't tried Unsanity's Application Enhancer-based applications but I'd be willing to bet a decent sum that they're incompatible with Leopard. In general, anything that has a drag-and-drop installation has a very high chance of running just fine in Leopard but anything that needs to use an Installer probably also needs to be updated for Leopard. The only software I miss the most while running Leopard is Apple's Remote Desktop which really is the killer app for me - I just can't use Chicken of the VNC as a permanent replacement and unfortunately, Apple won't come out with a new ARD until Leopard has shipped. Sigh. 

Comments (3) Posted on at  

  • » Well this review shows that Leopard is definitely not a Vista-like-upgrade. So as long as you have a decent computer configuration, you can switch to Leopard and enjoy the core-animations. And I am sure the instability would be resolved by the time the final leopard is released. 2 things I would like to know.. how much RAM demanding is it? (Vista demands a lot) secondly How much space does Time-Machine take up to back up all the data?
  • » > how much RAM demanding is it?
    I wouldn't run it on anything less than 1GB.

    > How much space does Time-Machine take up to back up all the data?
    The first backup will duplicate your hard drive on to the external one basically, so it will be equal. After that, it will keep adding any files to the backup that you add to your computer without deleting any that you delete. So, it will take more and more disk space over time until the Time Machine backup drive is full. Once it's full, it will start deleting old files to make space for new ones. Basic story: For Time Machine you dedicate a drive to it.
  • » If this is a developer preview, it's likely that it was compiled with debug symbols enabled and without any optimizations. If this is the case, the final version should end up being a bit faster and a bit smaller.

My 5 minutes with the iPhone

Today I went down to the nearest Apple Store to have a look at the iPhone myself and see whether it's all it's hyped up to be. Here're my thoughts:
  • The size and weight are ideal - not too big.
  • All the animations are fluid and actions occur as soon as you press something.
  • Typing isn't that bad. Typing in the vertical mode is considerably harder than the horizontal mode.
  • There is no Hindi support while viewing web pages, although Chinese rendered correctly. (this is something I had to test myself as no one in the US would normally test or mention this)
  • From the videos, I could not get a feel of whether the pinching action would be fast and effective enough but my worries were unfounded.
  • It'll sell.
 

Comments (1) Posted on at  

  • » I wonder if you had to push through a huge crowd to get hold of one!!

Leopard Preview: UI, Finder and Dock

Welcome to the first of what I hope will be a series of "Leopard Preview" posts that give you a better glimpse at Leopard than Apple has provided on their website.

My test machine is a PowerBook G4. Here is the obligatory About This Mac window which introduces the specs of this machine:


As you can see, the specifications are not very beefy at all, so my testing will show me how Leopard works on older machines instead of the Mac Pros that Steve Jobs uses for his demos.

Desktop


You might also note that, in the menu bar, there are quite a few changes. For one, the menu bar now "fills up" the entire screen and is not rounded. The Apple logo has undergone its most dramatic colour change yet and is now in trendy black; hey, iPods and iPhones sell well enough in black, why not Mac? At the opposite end, the Spotlight icon loses its blue background and pretends to be just like a normal menu (which it still isn't of course).

Your keen eyes will also perceive an icon for Time Machine. It is not directly activate-able from System Preferences but browsing to /System/Library/CoreServices/Menu Extras and double-clicking on the suspicious candidate did the trick. The Time Machine menu extra is pretty plain; clicking on it tells you the last time your system was backed up, gives you the option to Backup Now, Open Time Machine and Open Time Machine Preferences. It doesn't even animate when a backup is taking place. Its lack of usefulness is probably why it has not yet been exposed in the UI.

(For the curious, the icon to the right of Time Machine is for HomeSync, which is not a new feature in Leopard but instead it is a menu extra for the network-based Home Folder Syncing facility that is there in Tiger.)

Menus
You can appreciate that the corners in Leopard menus are rounded. Another tiny tidbit about menus is that, holding down the Option key while opening the Apple menu now causes the "About this Mac" item to change to "System Profiler...".

One reason why I chose to show this particular menu was so that I can bring to your attention the icon used for "Computer". Until Jaguar, it always used to be the picture of a G3 iMac, which changed, if I am not much mistaken, in Panther, to an iMac G4 and has remained so since then. Leopard, however, is intelligent enough to detect which model of Mac you have (oh the advantages of making all the hardware yourself!) and use the appropriate icon for Computer.

Active and Inactive Windows



The first and most glaring change in Leopard will be (aside from the translucent menu bar and reflective-tray Dock, that is) the change of the default look from the pinstripes in Tiger to the metallic grey in Leopard. This change of colour will cause problems in some applications as they assume the background colour to be a certain shade (see if you can spot this graphical anomaly in the screenshots above). Also, you will appreciate that the inactive window is a radically more subdued shade as compared to the active window, and this was less markedly so in Tiger. In addition, the drop shadow for an active window is of gargantuan proportions. If the active window in Tiger seemed like it was floating half a centimetre above the bottom of the screen, in Leopard it seems to be more like an inch. (I switched to the default Tiger wallpaper for those screenshots because shadows come out better in it - also, the menu bar looks nicer in blue.)

Spotlight


The only noticeable change in the Spotlight menu has been its change of colour from blue to grey. I think grey looks terrible on it, but I don't care enough to press the point any further. Spotlight is much, much faster in Leopard and is a very usable application launcher. By the time I type out the first three letters in the name of an application, the result is there and I can hit Return to launch it. In fact, I've now become accustomed to just trusting Spotlight; I hit Apple+Space, type 'ter' and hit Enter without waiting for the results and Terminal faithfully shows up. This speed boost is very welcome because the Spotlight in Tiger is significantly slower than Vista's Live Desktop Search and Leopard bridges that gap.

[UPDATE: Also note how small things about the GUI such as the Spotlight icon not inverting colour like it should when you click on it have not yet been implemented.]

Stacks



In the WWDC '07 demo, you saw Steve Jobs' girly Applications folder which hardly contained any applications and so looked half-decent in the Stacks view. However, above you can see what a real Applications folder will look like (72 items). In one word – ugly. I hate how the names are all abbreviated with ellipses; it looks plain disgusting. Also, the ability to open a folder in the Dock as a menu is gone (basically, any folder in the Dock is now a stack, regardless of whether you want it to be or not). Instead, if you right-click a folder, you'll get a menu that lets you choose your sorting criterion for the items in the Stack, remove the folder from the Dock, open the folder at login, reveal it in the Finder or open it. Also, you can't choose to display the folder's actual icon in the Dock. No, the icon is always the view of the Stack. This is really ugly for Applications because I want to see the nice Applications folder icon, not the Address Book icon, which simply happens to be the first application alphabetically.

Finder

In Leopard, you can choose to share an entire user's home folder or just specific folders. This "Shared Folders" functionality has been exposed in the Finder directly as you can see above. Below is what a shared folder looks like in the Finder, with that little banner above its contents.

List view gets pinstripes.

All Finder-based search results are currently shown in the Cover Flow view (sigh) and if you will notice, the word "Computer" in the search filters has been changed to "This Mac". More friendly, I guess. Unfortunately, unlike Tiger and Panther, the Finder neither remembers that I always wish to view results in List view and also does not remember that I wish to search only the current folder. Bugs that will most probably get fixed by October.


The icon for folders in general has been changed to something that I feel to be a bit less professional as compared to Tiger but still good looking enough that I won't complain. The icons are decidedly less colourful, though. In fact, special folders are more like logos etched into leather.


Folders containing music and movies will show the album art and first frame of the movie respectively. Fear not fear not, because, if the first frame of the movie is blank, the Finder is intelligent enough to detect this and use some other frame as the poster frame. In all the movies I tested, this happened to be, to the best of my observation skills, at the 10-second mark.

Connecting to network shares from within Finder (a) actually works (although I was only successful in connecting to Mac shares - it doesn't look like connecting to Windows shares is working properly yet, which is perhaps why Steve Jobs didn't demo it) and (b) is dead easy and frightfully convenient. The Finder is also, in my cursory examinations, more perceptive and less crash-prone when it loses a connection to a network share.


There are some additions to the Advanced tab in the Finder preferences that are beneficial to me and other power users and their absence in Tiger seriously drives me nuts. One of the minor changes is that Connected servers are, by default, neither displayed on the Desktop nor in the Sidebar. This can be remedied with a couple of check boxes, but I believe it has been done because, with the new Shared item in the Sidebar, network shares are going to be dealt with a much lighter hand in Leopard than they are in Tiger. I am already doing so and not actively disconnecting network volumes when I am done with them simply because they are not staring me in the face all the time.

The contextual menu grows ever larger in Leopard. The little buttons for the colour Label are bigger and easier to click in Leopard - someone has finally read a book on designing a usable UI! The verb "Archive" changes to the verb "Compress" (thoughtful) and all the important options in the View menu have descended down into the contextual menus so that doing all that icon management is easier in Leopard, especially on large screens in which it can be a pain to go all the way up to the View menu - guess all the Apple engineers finally have 30-inchers (monitors, that is, not the other thing) and appreciate the difficulty.


The Open (and Save) dialog boxes get an Icon view, which is useful in certain circumstances. Why didn't you add the freaking Cover Flow view to the Open dialog box while you were at it, Apple? Eh? Freaking Cover Flow – so not useful!

I'm not even sure how I noticed this last one, but they've changed the Save/Don't Save sheets in Leopard to have slightly different wording and corrected the "Save" to a "Save...". As you may already know, the presence of the ellipsis implies that a window of some kind will open if you click the button or menu item.




[UPDATE: Keeping the Shift key pressed while hovering over the Dock now activates magnification while the key is held down if it is disabled and disables it while the key is held down if it is enabled.]

All right, that's it for the general overview of Leopard that went over the significant changes in the overall UI, Finder, Dock, and Spotlight. Look for more Leopard Preview articles going over the other major changes in Leopard, app by app. 

Comments (7) Posted on at  

  • » Excellent review. Those additions in Finder's Advanced tab are welcomed indeed. I was hoping you could choose to display the folder's icon for a stack rather than the first icon but sad to know you can't. Oh and it does look really ugly with the abbrivated names and ellipses. They should've taken some inspiration from Overflow when designing the Stacks UI.
  • » Man u got eyes!! How could u spot such minor changes!! Nice waise. But the stack for apps you shown, it has only 72. Well I wont call it ugly but stuffy. And I have 109 items in apps folder, and CS3 is yet to be installed...
  • » One thing I'd appreciate calling some attention to - the translucent menu bar makes many desktop pictures completely unusable. Anything that has high contrast tends to make the menus completely unreadable. Rather ironic that a change intended to "show off your desktop picture" makes it impossible to use a large chunk of them. I can send samples, if you'd like.

    Completely agreed on stacks. I like them - some of the time, definitely not all of the time, and the icon changing as you mentioned is a mess. One nice feature of them is you can navigate down folders in them (and up, using Cmd-Up).

    Final nit - the rounded menu bottoms look wrong when Spotlight is indexing multiple drives. Each drive gets a rounded bottom, rather than just the last item.
  • » Great review!

    How is the overall speed compared to Tiger? You wrote that spotlight is faster, which is great news, how about Finder, Dashboard, Quartz and CoreAnimation (well that's a new feature :)?

    Also, how does the memory usage seem compared to Tiger?

    --Jonathan
  • » Oh yeah - Dashboard's supposed to have become much faster (combining all the widgets into a single process or something) so do review that.
  • » Very nice info! As usual, it seems like some old things are finally working right (networking) while the new stuff is a bit rough (stacks). I never was a fan of the Finder sidebar but it looks like it is getting a useful overhaul.

    I wish there was an option to hide only the ".app" extension. But the "Show warning before changing an extension" checkbox will be worth the upgrade all by itself. :P
  • » You missed the significant functionality change in Spotlight when used from a finder window. Instead of searching, by default, just the contents of that folder and subfolders, it searches the your entire mac and searches file contents. I wish I could revert that feature; it is annoying having to do 2 extra clicks to search just the folder in question and just filenames.

News