Since I first started using OS X at version 10.3 I’ve always felt that the services menu had great potential but badly needed some fit and polish to make it actually live up to that promise. It has been so bad that it is basically forgotten, and almost no one remebers that it even exists. In every application in OS X there is a menu item under the apps’s main menu (the one in bold with the same name as the app) called Services, that’s what I’m talking about. When it comes to the services menu both Tiger and Leopard were major disappointments because they didn’t bring any real improvement to the neglected services menu. SnowLeopard on the other hand is a totally different story. Similarly, when Automator first came out I thought it had great promise, but that it was a very 1.0 kind of offering, again, in need of some fit and polish to allow it live up to its obvious potential. SnowLeopard provides a lot of that fit and polish, and really brings Automator forward significantly. And what’s better, Apple have combined the fit and finish in these two apparently unrelated products together, to provide some exceptionally powerful functionality.
Yesterday Apple held a press event to release details of the next version of the iPhone software, called version 3.0. You can read some of the highlights and watch a video of the whole presentation at Apple’s website. I sat down and watched it late last night, and have to say I was impressed. I was expecting to finally get some of the things I’ve really wanted, but I was blown away by the scope of this new release, and in particular, just how many new tools they are putting into the hands of the developers. Apple are notorious for inflating numbers through generous interpretations of terms, but even when you bear that in mind, 1,000 new APIs for developers to use is impressive, as indeed is 100 new user-level features from Apple themselves.
NOTE: Although this post references experiences I have had in work, the opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone.
If you follow me on Twitter you may have noticed my anti-RHEL (RedHat Enterprise Linux) outbursts today. I could keep twittering to try make my point, but sometimes 140 characters is just not enough, so I figured I’d blog about it instead and then tweet out the link to the blog post when I’m done.
In work we run two kinds of Linux servers, RedHat Enterprise Linux, and CentOS. We pay for RedHat, we don’t pay for CentOS (because it’s free). CentOS is based off the RedHat code base, but has some of the fancy stuff stripped out. Clearly, you would expect RHEL to give you the better experience since it has more features and you pay for support. Unfortunately, in my experience that’s just not how things are shaping up. CentOS has been completely problem and stress free (as well as financially free), while RHEL has not been such a smooth ride. Sure, most of the time it works just fine, but it definitely generates more stress for me than CentOS does, and that’s paid-for stress!
The details released by Apple are sparse at best, but we know that the next version of OS X (10.6) will be called Snow Leopard. The name is very fitting precisely because it’s so similar to the current OS name, Leopard. Snow Leopard won’t be wedged full of new end-user features like Leopard was, instead the big changes will be under the hood, with a strong focus on efficiency and stability. This release would appear to be about consolidating what’s in Leopard already as well as laying the foundations for future big cats from Apple.
[tags]OS X, Apple, Mac, Snow Leopard[/tags]
Since upgrading to OS X 10.5.3 iTunes has developed a very annoying bug. When I’m in work I cannot download podcasts. Every time I do iTunes quits unexpectedly. Happens 100% of the time, without fail. At home, it works perfectly. The only difference I can see is that at work I use both a Proxy server and a VPN to get to the internet. It would seem that iTunes can’t deal with that setup anymore on 10.5.3. No solution found as of yet, if I find one I’ll post again.
[tags]Apple, OS X, Leopard, 10.5.3, iTunes, crash[/tags]
This week’s 10.5.3 OS X Leopard update has finally injected some much-needed common-sense into Spaces. Spaces is one of the new features in Leopard and had amazing potential from the start, however, it had one massive flaw. Spaces is basically a re-implementation of a very very old idea, virtual desktops. The idea is simple, you have a different work-space for each of your separate tasks and switch between them as you move from task to task. This idea’s been around in the Unix and Linux world for decades. Apple just implemented it in a more user-friendly and sensible way. With the older implementations you had to do the switching yourself, in Leopard the idea is that the vast majority if your switches will be automatic so you don’t have to think about it. The other innovate Apple added is massive concerted effort to evoke the idea of a virtual grid of desktops which you move around in. Everything about the implementation re-inforces this metaphor and it works very well.
[tags]Apple, OS X, Leopard, Spaces, virtual desktops, 10.5.3[/tags]
This week’s Leopard update from Apple sparked a thought in my head that’s been brewing for a while now. Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie seem to have been on to something when they sang Every OS Sucks a few years back (lyrics – video).
[tags]Leopard, OS X, Mac, Apple, Vista, Microsoft, Linux, Three Dead Trolls and a Baggie[/tags]
It’s hard to believe it’s only been six months since Leopard’s release. At this stage most of the commentary and reviews have been done and dusted for months and people are just getting on with using Leopard. Although it’s only been six short months we’ve already had two major updates to the OS and we’re expecting a third any day now. The reviews ranged from un-fettered admiration to utter condemnation. Reality is of course somewhere in between. I’ve heard a lot of comparison’s made between Leopard and Vista and at least one of them is correct. Like Vista, the first release version of Leopard should have been called a public Beta. Like Vista Leopard was late yet still only half-baked when it did finally ship. However, other comparisons to Vista don’t hold. Leopard has delivered substantial new functionality and it has done so without adding significant bloat. Sure, Apple’s list of 300 changes was hyper-inflated but there were still some real gems in that list. Also, Leopard runs just fine on my first generation Mac Mini which was underpowered even when it was new over three years ago!
The ultimate question is whether or not Leopard was enough of an improvement on Tiger to warrant the price of the upgrade? Are many of the new features actually useful or are they just eye-candy and fluff? Six months on I’m taking the time to reflect and ask myself which Leopard features I’d really miss if I was forced to down-grade to Tiger in the morning.
[tags]OS X, apple, Leopard, Tiger[/tags]
Well wha’ d’ ya know, Apple DO listen to us when we complain. They’ve removed the excessive transparency in menus, they’ve made the translucent MenuBar optional, and they’ve added some nice options to Stacks. If, like me, you thought that having a pile of icons super-imposed upon each other was a terrible way to represent a Stack, then you’ll be happy to hear that there’s now an option to have a stack be represented by the icon for its folder. If you used to like the way Tiger let you navigate a folder in the Dock then you’ll love the newly added ‘List’ view for Stacks, it basically lets you do things the way you used to. Another nice usability improvement is that addition of a MenuBar icon for TimeMachine. This means you can it out of your Dock where it wastes way too much room IMO and just work off the MenuBar. You can now see when TimeMachine is working its magic at a glance and also easily stop an on-going backup or trigger one at any time. Needless to say there are also a myriad of bug fixes, security updates, and a few other tweaks. You can get more details in the uncharacteristically detailed release notes from Apple. 10.5.2 is like a Microsoft Service Pack, it gives the OS a really significant update.
Oh, BTW, if, like me, you were too impatient to wait on Apple to fix the stupid MenuBar transparency and applied the fix I suggested a few months ago you’ll notice that toggling the new checkbox for MenuBar transparency doesn’t work. To roll back that change just issue the following command in the Terminal and then reboot (courtesy of John Gruber on Twitter):
sudo defaults delete /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.WindowServer 'EnvironmentVariables'
[tags]Apple, OS X 10.5.2, Leopard[/tags]
In one of my early Leopard posts I was happy to report that my Epson scanner was working perfectly. However, yesterday when I went to scan it wouldn’t work. It kept telling me there was an error communicating with the scanner. I checked the connections and all seemed normal. The only real change there has been on the system since the last time the scanner was used was the update to 10.5.1. I can only conclude that that’s what broke it.
Regardless of who is to blame I did eventually find a solution. First, go to the Epson site and download and install the latest drivers for your scanner, the description should explicitly say that it supports Leopard. Then reboot. It doesn’t tell you to but I couldn’t get the scanner back into life without a reboot. At this stage I found that the Epson Scan utility wouldn’t even launch. However, the TWAIN drivers themselves do work so you can scan using Preview.app. I’d never used Preview to scan before and I have to say I’m impressed with the interface. You can scan from within Preview by going to
File -> Import Image ....
I have to say I’m a little disappointed with Apple over this, 10.5.1 was supposed to fix things, not break them!
[tags]Hardware, Scanner, Apple, OS X, Leopard, Epson[/tags]