MaCinJay’s Musings

another case of inverse vandalism

Posts Tagged ‘Apple

Mac OS 10.5.2 update released

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Back in December I picked up on a rumour that Apple would make changes to Stacks. Sure enough, Apple has responded to criticism by adding a list view option as part of the 10.5.2 update released earlier this week, making it possible to navigate the contents of stacks placed in the Dock using hierarchical menus. There is also an option to display stacks as folders; many (including myself) found the appearance of stacks in the Dock to be confusing. For instance, the Downloads stack would (depending on your preferences) show the most recently downloaded file, making it difficult to distinguish from other stacks in the Dock.

A lot of people also took a dislike to the transparent menu bar in Leopard. It is  now possible to turn this feature off.

Full details about the update can be found on Apple’s website. The sheer length of the list of bug-fixes there certainly adds credence to the theory that Leopard was rushed out of the door to avoid further delays to its release date.

Written by macinjay

February 13, 2008 at 9:08 am

Posted in Apple Mac

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Updates to iPhone, iPod touch

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On the eve of the Macworld Expo I speculated that Steve Jobs might announce a 3G iPhone during his keynote but it was not to be. However today Apple announced that it would be releasing a 16 GB version of the iPhone, as well as a 32 GB iPod touch. Both will cost $499. I’m sure that this will please consumers with large media libraries or those that prefer lossless playback.

Existing owners of these devices will be looking forward to the SDK, which is due for release this month. It’s going to be really interesting what third-party developers will come up with, especially considering the incredible variety of iPhone applications that have been developed without Apple’s support.

Written by macinjay

February 5, 2008 at 7:57 pm

Mac OS 10.5.2: Changes to Stacks?

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There is a rumour making the rounds that Apple has made changes to Leopards’s Stacks feature based on criticism from Mac users for its next Mac operating system update, due at the beginning of 2008. It seems that, in addition to the current grid and fan views, Tiger’s hierarchical folders will be making a comeback.

As I stated previously I liked the way Apple implemented the Stacks feature. On the other hand more choice never hurt anyone – hopefully this rumour turns out to be true.

Written by macinjay

December 31, 2007 at 2:44 pm

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Mac OS X Leopard: Spaces

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The other day I shared my impressions of Stacks, Apple’s new addition to the Dock. Now it’s the turn of Spaces that, in a sense, is to Exposé what Stacks is to the Dock. (For those not familiar with OS X, Exposé allows the user to review all open windows on the system with the click of a button.) In fact Apple has paired the two applications in its System Preferences, as shown in the screen-shot below:

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The reason for this is that Spaces provides another way of handling open applications by bringing virtual desktops to OS X. Virtual desktops have been around a while for the Mac in the form of third-party applications but this is the first time that Apple has included this functionality in the Mac OS.

Spaces allows the user to sandbox applications, thereby making it easier to manage them when there are multiple applications open at the same time. This is achieved by assigning applications to different spaces, as shown in the screen-shot, but it is also possible to allocate an application to work in every space. There are four spaces by default but it is possible to create sixteen in total, although I’m not sure that it would be practical to effectively manage so many (more on that presently).

Leopard provides several ways to activate and manage spaces. Firstly there are the keyboard shortcuts, which can be changed in System Preferences as shown above. (Strangely the default settings in System Preferences indicate a combination of SHIFT with arrow and number keys to switch to different spaces but the default on my MacBook Pro is actually the CONTROL key.) Secondly there is an option to access spaces from the menu bar.

Pressing F8 activates the following view:

spaces-f8-view.jpg

It is then possible to reassign applications by dragging them between the different spaces.

So far I have found Spaces to be an excellent way of managing my work-flow. For example, now when I am surfing the Internet and want to check my email I simply press CONTROL and my right arrow key, then CONTROL and the left arrow key to go back to my browser.

I do have a couple of gripes though. First up, switching spaces from the menu bar would be a lot more useful if it was possible to give my spaces a name. I imagine that this would also make it more practical to manage a larger number of them. Secondly it would be nice if applications assigned to specific spaces launched automatically upon switching to that space; sometimes I find myself switching to a space only to find an empty desktop because I forgot to open the application in the first place.

Notwithstanding these small criticisms I believe that Apple has scored a hit with Spaces, which will no doubt become even better with future updates.

Written by macinjay

November 29, 2007 at 8:37 am

Firmware updates

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Apple has released firmware update 1.1.2 for the iPhone and iPod touch. This has inter alia added support for international keyboard layouts and – in the case of the touch – the ability to add and update events in the calendar. The latter feature addresses the touch’s most glaring weakness from a software point of view.

I’ve had a chance to use the touch for a week now and have been really impressed. For my money the best feature isn’t the music player, it’s the Safari Internet browser. I’ve always been lukewarm about the desktop version of Safari, preferring Firefox’s greater flexibility, but it works great on the touch. A nice feature is that when using your finger to scroll up or down in a web page there is a “bouncing” effect when you reach the limit of the page. It’s an effective way of showing that you can’t go any further – like hitting a wall in real life, only without the pain. A small touch but one that nicely showcases Apple’s legendary attention to detail.

My only real complaint is that it is too easy to accidentally activate links, which I mentioned in my last post. (That and the fact that it would be nice to have a larger viewing area – is there an Tablet Mac in the works?) It makes me wish that it the touch was not reliant on Wi-Fi so that I could use it all the time. When oh when will Apple release the iPhone in South Africa?

Written by macinjay

November 13, 2007 at 10:20 pm

iPod touch

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Yesterday my mother returned from a two week trip to the UK and brought back an iPod touch for me. The touch is essentially of course an iPhone without the calling and emailing features although it is possible to use web mail via the touch’s Internet browser (providing you have wi-fi access). But I am jumping ahead of myself as I mean to recount my experience with the touch from the beginning.

First of all the supporting documentation is sparse to say the least, just a warranty and a very short quick start guide. The lack of documentation isn’t really an issue though, as the touch is really easy to use. Also there is no iTunes install disk so be prepared for a long wait if you don’t have version 7.4 loaded on your computer or a fast Internet connection; you have to use this version to set up the touch before you can start using it.

Once the iPod was registered on iTunes I was able to access the touch’s menu by pressing the Home button under the screen (this can also be done by a brief push of the Power key located at the top left-hand edge of the casing) and swiping the onscreen slider. The iPod’s applications and settings are activated by touching icons on the screen. Another set of icons provide access to music, photos and videos, as well as Apple’s new wi-fi iTunes feature. Regrettably though this last feature will not work in South Africa due to the lack of a local iTunes Store. The resolution of the screen is excellent – it’s ideal for viewing photos and video. (There was an problem when the touch was first released with the quality of video playback but this seems to have been resolved.)

The touch’s stripped-down Safari web browser provides a convenient way of surfing the Internet when you don’t feel like lugging your laptop around. Unlike the iPhone though the touch is not EDGE-enabled so you will need a wi-fi connection. It’s easy to zoom up web pages by “pinching” and “unpinching” the surface of the screen with thumb and fingers. However I found that occasionally my digits would inadvertently activate a hyperlink when trying to zoom in – it would be nice if there was a “Deactivate Links” feature. Also the browser doesn’t support Flash, although this is probably as much a blessing as a curse. Otherwise the touch delivers a surprisingly good web browsing experience given the limited dimensions of the screen. You can even use it for blogging and posting using the onscreen contextual keyboard. A caveat here though: it is easy to select incorrect characters on the keyboard due to the lack of tactile feedback.

I didn’t delve too much into the YouTube application due to my limited Internet bandwidth but video looked crisp and sharp.

The weakest application on the touch is the calendar, which is completely passive due to the lack of an event-creation feature. Hopefully this will be rectified in a future firmware update.

Contacts on the other hand is one of the strongest applications and for my money is more user-friendly than Address Book in Mac OSX. It’s going to be a lot easier to access my contacts’ information once I have loaded them onto the touch.

The Clock includes world times, alarms, a stopwatch and a timer. Curiously though the time and date is set via Settings. (In fact, all settings are adjusted here rather than in the applications themselves.) Also the touch’s external speaker isn’t all that loud, which hampers the effectiveness of the alarm.

The Calculator has limited features but is very effective for the basic maths functions.

When Steve Jobs demonstrated the iPhone at January’s Macworld in San Francisco I believe he called it “the best iPod ever” and he wasn’t wrong, at least until the touch came along. The iPhone and touch may not have the huge capacities of the Classic iPods but they present a massive step forward in terms of the user interface. To be honest I haven’t had a chance to listen to a lot of music on the touch yet but the sound quality is at least on a par with our nano.

As mentioned the touch’s hi-res screen is great for viewing photos. The Photo Library has a refreshingly simple look, with pics closely arranged in a grid. Individual photos are selected by a tap and can be zoomed up by spreading your thumb and finger apart over the screen’s surface. There is also a slideshow option.

And that in a nutshell is the iPod touch. It has a few minor flaws but these are far outweighed by the positives. I am looking forward to the promised software developers’ kit that should be available for the iPhone and the touch in the early part of next year. This will give developers the tools to produce some really exciting applications for these devices.

Written by macinjay

November 8, 2007 at 10:50 pm

SDK for iPhone

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steve-jobs-and-the-iphone.jpgIn September I wrote that Apple would need to consider officially endorsing the development of native third-party applications on the iPhone as the lack of these was regarded as a handicap in some quarters. Apple also received a lot of bad press following the iPhone’s recent firmware update, which disabled third-party applications that certain users had installed on their handsets by hacking the iPhone’s software.

Now I see that CEO Steve Jobs has written an open letter on Apple’s website promising an SDK by February next year that will give developers the tools to produce applications for the iPhone. He writes: It will take until February to release an SDK because we’re trying to do two diametrically opposed things at once—provide an advanced and open platform to developers while at the same time protect iPhone users from viruses, malware, privacy attacks, etc. He goes on to say that the threat of cell phone viruses has been understated and that companies like Nokia have already taken steps to combat the problem. According to him Apple are working on an advanced system which will offer developers broad access to natively program the iPhone’s amazing software platform while at the same time protecting users from malicious programs.

I think that the phrase “broad access” is a telling one. It will be interesting to see what sort of restrictions Apple will impose on development and whether it will bar certain applications that may negatively affect their revenue, such as VoIP and instant messaging. But at least now there is an SDK in the works.

Written by macinjay

October 18, 2007 at 6:38 am