MaCinJay’s Musings

another case of inverse vandalism

Posts Tagged ‘Leopard

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.

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Written by macinjay

February 13, 2008 at 9:08 am

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Mac OS X Leopard: Mail

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I’ve tried a few email clients for the Mac but always come back to OS X’s built-in solution – known simply as Mail – due to its superior user-friendliness. On the downside Mail isn’t as fully featured as rivals such as Entourage, which is bundled with Microsoft Office for Mac. However the Leopard version of Mail has a number of new features that make it a lot more powerful.

In the past one of Mail’s biggest shortcomings in my opinion was its lack of a “follow-up” feature; it wasn’t possible to take, say, an invoice sent by email and flag it for payment on a specific date. In the new version of Mail this can done by selecting the relevant text in the body of the message and selecting the “To Do” icon in the toolbar, which creates a to-do note in the “Reminders” section of the redesigned sidebar. (Incidentally the Mail sidebar is – much like the new Finder – reminiscent of the familiar iTunes interface, another example of Apple’s move to a unified theme for Leopard.) After selecting the to-do note a follow-up date can be entered via a contextual menu (activated by CTRL-mouse click).

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Granted it’s a slightly long-winded approach, but it does have a certain elegance about it. I also find the new notes feature to be a more convenient alternative to Apple’s Stickies application.

More impressive perhaps is the new “data detector” feature that identifies email addresses, telephone numbers, dates and so on in emails. Again a contextual menu provides the user various options – for example telephone numbers can be added to the address book. Naturally this is far more convenient than having to copy and paste the information.

The new version of Mail also comes with a whole range of useful templates for things like birthday greetings, special announcements and so on, which are a great way of whipping up snazzy-looking messages.

My only complaint about Mail in Leopard are the nondescript toolbar icons; I much preferred the OS X Panther icons, to the extent that I used a third-party application to bring them back when I bought my last Mac running OS X Tiger. Regrettably though the developer hasn’t come out with a Leopard-compatible version yet. I can’t say I regret the sacrifice though because the new version of Mail has so much more to offer.

Written by macinjay

December 13, 2007 at 10:31 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:

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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

Mac OS X Leopard: Stacks

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One of the new features that I really like in Leopard (although I appear to be in a minority here) is Stacks. In the past my Desktop used to be cluttered with files and folders, which had to be periodically cleared away in a virtual Spring-cleaning exercise. No longer!

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Essentially Stacks are folders placed in the Dock (which sort of acts like the strip at the bottom in Windows where you can launch programmes and files, only in a lot more user-friendly way) in order to access your favourite files. Leopard has two default Stacks, one for Documents and another for Downloads, but these can be removed or added to. When you click on a Stack its contents spring out fan-like from the Dock. If there are more files than can be accommodated in the fan there is a “Show in Finder” option. Alternatively you can revert to a grid view by right-clicking on the Stack (or by pressing CTRL/COMMAND with the mouse button for those with a one-button mouse) and choosing that option from the pop-up menu. There is also an “Automatic” option which will switch from the fan to grid view in need, as well as alternative file-sorting options.

It could be argued that Stacks is one of the more underwhelming features in Leopard. After all it was possible in the past to place folders in the Dock. (In fact Apple has been criticised by many for removing the ability to navigate hierarchical menus. I don’t share this point of view because I have always found it easier to navigate files in the Finder, but each to his own.) While there is some truth in this, Stacks scores points in my book for enabling this feature out of the box. Others may not appreciate the eye candy of the fan effect but in my opinion it is an elegant solution for those who want quick access to their favourite files without having to revert to the Desktop.

Written by macinjay

November 24, 2007 at 10:32 am

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Return of the Mac

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My worst fears were realised after C3 (the name of the Apple authorised service centre I took my iMac to) eventually diagnosed the problem with my G5. By the way, if you ever have a similar problem DON’T take your Mac there – their service is shoddy. It took them the better part of three weeks to fax me a quote for repairs. Anyway, according to them it was indeed a blown logic board that would cost me close to R8000 to replace.

I had already been agonising whether there would be any point in spending that sort of money to repair it. Due to the rapid advance of computer technology these machines are quickly outdated by newer and better models. For a thousand or so more than the cost of the repairs I could have gone out and bought a brand new MacBook. Much as I love the iMac, it just didn’t seem cost-efficient to revive it. Also now that we are living in a bigger place a laptop is more appealing; it can be carried around the house whereas the iMac was restricted to our study in the loft.

However the MacBook line has a glaring disadvantage, namely integrated graphics. As a result they are not suitable for things like heavy video-editing and serious gaming. The MacBook Pros on the other hand have NVIDIA GeForce dedicated graphics and are prized by more demanding users and gamers. So, after further soul-searching I decided that the MacBook Pro was the computer that I really wanted. I ended up getting a nice deal on a 15″ 2.2 GHz shop demo last week, which I am using to write this post.

I haven’t looked back since. In contrast to my iMac the MacBook Pro handles Leopard with aplomb. I heard somewhere that Leopard had been optimised to run on Intel’s multi-core processors and I can well believe it. The MacBook Pro’s extra RAM (2 GB to the iMac’s 512 MB) also makes a big difference.

No longer am I restricted to using my Mac in the study; now it can go wherever I go. All I need to do now is figure out out to access the Internet using my cellphone as a modem.

In any event the most important thing is that I now have a Mac again after having to make do with my wife’s Windows laptop for the last few weeks. Now I can carry on exploring the new features in Leopard, as I promised to do before I broke my iMac.

More to come…

Written by macinjay

November 22, 2007 at 10:03 pm

Mac nightmare

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After I installed Leopard I decided that it was finally time to upgrade my RAM, as my iMac was noticeably slower. So I bought a 1 Gig stick of memory from a supplier on the West Rand. Of course when I tried to install it that night it wouldn’t fit into the expansion slot, despite me having given the assistant the exact specifications that I needed. In my naiveté I managed to get the module in anyway.

Needless to say, after I restarted my Mac emitted a series of loud beeps. The white light in the bezel came on but the screen remained ominously dark. I turned off the machine and restarted it again after removing the RAM module – same result 😦

So this morning I dropped it off for repairs. The consultant told me that she thought it sounded like a blown logic board, which would put me back between four- and eight-thousand rand. That is if I decide it’s worth fixing; I can buy a new MacBook for less than 10k.

Lesson learned: leave the technical shit to the technicians.

Written by macinjay

October 31, 2007 at 8:24 pm

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Leopard

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So, I bit the bullet and traded in my Mac’s Tiger stripes for Leopard’s spots. I’ll be honest and admit that I was too impatient to back my system up before taking the plunge. After the install I had a bad moment when I thought it had wiped out all my files and applications until I realised that it had rebooted into an empty user profile. I switched into my default user profile and was relieved to find all my stuff.

I haven’t really had time to explore all of Leopard’s features yet. When I do I’ll record my experiences here.

Written by macinjay

October 28, 2007 at 8:08 pm

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