Mac OS X

Lightroom 6

Adobe has released a new version of its photo editing and cataloging software, Lightroom.

Version 6 adds a few capabilities, fixes bugs, but most importantly it uses the GPU chips in modern computers more than previous versions which increases its speed dramatically in processor-intensive tasks. Check out the chart in this review: Lightroom 6 arrives with performance improvements and new tools.

Personally, I’m no fan of Adobe. While I think Lightroom is the best tool available there are UI and UX design issues that have persisted in it since it was born and as you will see below, Adobe just does not get user experience at all and treats users like thieves.

I was hoping that Apple’s new Photos application that has replaced both iPhoto and Aperture might be good enough for me to leave the Adobe ship once and for all, but after using Photos for a week I can say for sure that while it will no doubt improve in future versions, and I’ve moved my entire iPhoto library into it and thrown out iPhoto, Photos is not a replacement for Lightroom or Aperture for serious work with images.

Lightroom remains the best image editing and organizing tool out there for my photographic process and I upgraded to Lightroom 6 yesterday.

How to buy and/or upgrade

Adobe would like you to subscribe to their “Creative Cloud” which, for $9.99 a month gives you access to Lightroom and Photoshop and apps that run on mobile devices and a small amount of cloud space to store images to sync to multiple devices. I was concerned that this was the only way they were selling Lightroom and as a long time user I’m only interested in having the software running on my computer, not my iPad or iPhone.

If you’re not logged into the Adobe site and you scroll to the bottom of this page you’ll see 5 rectangles, the one in the bottom right says: Lightroom 6: For desktop only. Mobile capabilities not included, Buy Now. It pisses me off that Adobe buries the stand-alone application and they really want us all to subscribe so they’re pushing one over the other. I was logged into the Adobe site when I first went looking for this and it was not to be found. If you don’t see it, make sure you’re logged out (you can log back in later in the process).

Once you hit “Buy Now” and are looking at your cart, you’ll see Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6 in your basket. Now comes the incredibly unintuitive part.

I was concerned that there was no upgrade path for users of earlier versions of Lightroom but in fact, there is but Adobe in all of it’s infinite wisdom (not) chose to bury it, again trying to force you to pay full price again. Ugh.

Click the “Edit” button on the right and you’ll notice that things will change on the left.

Where is says: “I want to buy: Full” note that “Full” is now a pulldown menu. Pull it down and choose “Upgrade.”

The next line is: “I own:” and a pulldown menu for the version of Lightroom you own. I own Lightroom 5.X so I chose it.

Lastly the click the orange “Save Changes” button at the bottom. The price will change from the full $149 price to the $79 upgrade price.

The orange button is now “Checkout” and once you click there you can pay for the upgrade and a screen or two later, download the Mac or Win version.

The rest is Adobe’s convoluted serial number entering process which, if you use their products you’ll be painfully familiar with.

Note: A big thank you to my good friend Edward for help with this. I had no clue it was possible to upgrade until he showed me the steps above.

Is it worth it?

In a word, yes. After opening my 8000 image library up (a mixture of Canon 5D RAWs, Ricoh GR RAWs and Sony RX100 RAWs) and moving through it I can say that on my mid-2014 Retina MacBook Pro (2.8 GHz Core i7, 16 GB memory, Intel Iris Pro 1536, 1TB SSD this upgrade of Lightroom is significantly faster at almost everything.

At some point this summer I plan to buy a Retina iMac for image editing and book creation and I was concerned that the rumors of Lightroom being slow on the huge, high resolution screen would be an issue. I’m pretty sure Adobe took care of that with this version which makes better use of the GPU to render images much faster.

All of my presets, both in the Develop module and the Print module are there and the application just feels snappier which is very nice considering I’m using it on a very fast computer.

For me and the kind of work I do this upgrade is worth it. $79 every two years might seem like a lot of money in this time where we buy apps from the Mac app store for $5 and they upgrade automatically for free, but in fact, Lightroom is a different animal and while I wish Adobe would put it in the app store with automatic .X upgrades, I don’t resent paying this kind of money for it as it’s a serious, industrial-strength application that does what it does well.

If you’re a desktop computer Lightroom user this upgrade is well worth doing.

AirPort issues with Yosemite

In the old days (a few years ago) I’d be among the first to do Mac OS system upgrades. And, over the years Apple has gotten a lot better at making the process easy and reliable. These days I take a bit more time because I depend on various applications that don’t always get upgraded with the system. Best to protect your core applications until you’re sure their various developers have versions that run with a new version of the OS.

All of that said, I upgraded to Yosemite a few days after the free update went live. The process was painless and easy and on the first day I upgraded my various printer drivers (HP LaserJet 1022n, Epson Stylus Pro 3880 and Dymo LabelWriter 450) and never missed a beat on printing.

I heard that some had problems keeping their wifi connections working but I never experienced that.

Today, however, I decided to go through both my applications and utilities folder and run everything to see if and then how Apple changed their core applications (they haven’t really updated the Keychain Utility, too bad). When I ran Airport Admin utility it showed that I was connected to the internet but would not bring up my AirPort Extreme base station. So, I was connected to it but could not see it in AirPort Admin.

I ran AirPort Admin on my iPad and the base station showed up, so, this was a problem with either my new MacBook Pro and/or, the Yosemite upgrade.

It seems others are having similar problems: OSX Yosemite Wifi issues.

My friend Edward (and others) sent me an article that contained numerous possible fixes, here’s the one that worked: Intel-based Macs: Resetting the System Management Controller (SMC).

The SMC controller is a chip that holds settings that sometimes needs to be reset. For new MacBook Pros with non-removable batteries, holding down: Shift + Control + Option (on the left side of the keyboard) and the power button at the same time for 10 seconds, then letting go, then powering up, will reset the SMC.

Once that was done Airport Admin recognized my AirPort Base Station.

This is less of an issue for me as I never had problems connecting to wifi, but if I had a Time Capsule (an AirPort Base Station with built in hard disk running Time Machine) I’d be out of luck for backups and many are having that problem.

I don’t know if this SMC reset will work for every instance of the problem, but it worked for me.

Personal disruption

John Gruber wrote a piece the other day on the iPad Air but more importantly, in discussing it, he discusses how the evolution of this product is not just disrupting computing for casual users but for users like him (and me) as well. His piece is well worth reading.

The iPad Air

Let me preface this post with this: I don’t like change. I like to construct processes for doing things and get facile enough with them so they fall into the background. I have no idea how people who are constantly changing computers, app mixes, and the like get anything done. Same goes for cameras. I like my cameras to be simple enough to fall into the background but deep enough to do what I need them to do (the Ricoh GR is my current fav and only camera). It takes me a while to come up with stuff that works for me but once I do, I stick to it, sometimes for too long but certainly as long as it enables me to get done what I want to get done. So, in short, things that disrupt the way I’ve been doing things successfully for a while take a while for me to digest.

Even with what Gruber has said about the iPad Air and what I’m about to say below on my iPad use, there is no way that any iPad could replace this computer for me. But, of course, it doesn’t have to.

I’m writing this on a 15-inch, Early 2011 MacBook Pro with a 2 GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM and a 512 GB Apple SSD running OS X Mavericks. This computer is one of the best I’ve ever had (and I’ve had many Macs) and has kept up with OS upgrades and the load I put on it with Lightroom (5) and other applications I use to process images, support blogs, and the like.

I could have constructed this post on my iPad or even on my iPhone and with dictation being as good as it is, the need for a keyboard is now up for grabs for many people. I touch type and I’m still more comfortable with a hardware keyboard on a computer as well as a mouse for editing and I like the 15″ screen on this computer for keeping lots of windows open. So for me, at least for the time being, a 15″ MacBook Pro is an important part of my process and at some point I’ll no doubt upgrade to the retina version. I don’t need my computer to be as portable as it can be, that’s what I use an iPad for but I do like to carry it with me when I travel (in the overhead bin).

As the iPhone has improved (I now have a 5s) its usefulness as a serious adjunct has increased. The 5s with its better processor and better antennas has tipped the iPhone into a much more serious tool that for many tasks can keep up with a computer. This is amazing to me.

I have an iPad 3 (retina, 64 GB) and have used it since it came out, mostly for feed reading on the couch but while on the couch for email and other less formal things. I use it on my monthly trips to California for watching movies on the plane and for this its been a godsend (coupled with a set of Bose QuietComfort 15 noise canceling headphones).

When Apple announced the iPad Air, retina iPad mini and a price reduction on the older 16 GB iPad mini, the price reduction on the old mini caught my eye. I’ve wanted to try out a mini but using one in an Apple store without my stuff on it isn’t a real test. The best test is to get one, get it home, get your accounts and apps on it and use it to see how it compares with a regular size iPad. The fact that a few of my friends have completely moved from the larger iPad to the mini has made me want to try one even more, so, I bought an iPad mini for $299 and set it up.

In a word, it solves the weight problem with iPads older than the new Air which by comparison feel like bricks. The iPad mini is light enough to hold up with one hand and read like a book (or a Kindle). This is something you have to experience to understand, that weight factor is very meaningful. I don’t know yet if the size factor is as meaningful: if the new iPad Air and mini were the same weight, would the size of the Air make it awkward in some situations. No way to know until I get my hands on it.

Now, my iPad mini has been rendered “ancient” with the new model coming out, its in the same speed class as my iPad 3 and it doesn’t share the iPad 3’s retina screen which would no doubt make small text a bit more readable on it but still, for most of what I use my iPad for, I can use the mini easily.

For me, the iPad disruption is interesting and unsettling and great all at the same time: I’m a serious Mac user who, over the years has become comfortable with the slow evolution of Mac hardware and OS. When the iPod came out I was comfortable using it as an appendage of my extensive iTunes music library. As iOS has matured and iCloud and other cloud services have allowed us to synchronize lots of information across Mac OS and iOS devices, these devices have evolved into equal partners and even more than equal partners for many people. Most of us have been considering this disruption over the years the iPad has been out, but these new models change the speed at which this disruption is happening.

Check out these CNET benchmarks of the various models of iPad: iPad Air benchmarks show 80 percent speed bump over iPad 4. This latest bump applies to both the upcoming iPad Air and the new iPad mini which both share the same A7 processor. Between a processor speed bump and better antennas, these iPads are truly substitutes for computers for many people and according to Gruber, are better values than the MacBook Air for many people. This is significant.

So, I’m left with an older MacBook Pro that still works fine and I probably won’t upgrade until next year (if then), a 64 GB iPad 3 and a new (old) 16 GB iPad mini that I got to experiment with.

My plan is to not pre-order an iPad because I want to feel the weight of the Air next to the new mini. If it’s light enough for me, that’s the way I’ll probably go because the bigger screen will be better for movie watching on planes and can’t hurt for reading web pages. If it still feels awkward to hold relative to the mini, I’ll order a 64 GB retina mini. Either way, I’m pretty sure I’ll be recycling my iPad 3 in the next few days.

Notes on iPhone 5S and iOS 7

Both my wife Anne and I upgraded our previous iPhones (her a 4, me a 4S) as well as our iPad 3s to iOS 7 when it came out so we were familiar with it before we upgraded our iPhones to 5S’s. Like many, we’ve been exploring, learning, groaning, grinning, squinting, and getting comfortable with the new look and functionality of an OS both of use daily on iPhones and iPads.

I’ve been keeping some notes on my experience with both the new OS and the new iPhone and they follow, in no particular order.

Lightning Connector
Oh my god, how could we have ever lived without this new cable system for iOS devices. Incredible technology and design, and for us, with iPad 3s, another important reason to upgrade to a newer model iPad so we have one cable type. I can now see why Apple released the iPad 4 to get their entire line on this cable, it’s an incredible piece of technology.

iPhone 5S
Anne wanted a new iPhone mostly for the ability to use talking navigation in the Maps app. The 4S has it and I love it, the 4 doesn’t (thus the “S”). I wanted a new iPhone for the improved antennas, both wifi and cellular.

My guess is, the iPhone 5, 5C, and 5S are very similar in feel. Not just the same shape, but a lighter, taller, and thinner design that has a different hand feel than the older models. My guess is that the biggest antennae improvement came with the 5 although I didn’t have one so I can’t say for sure. But, both of the antennas in the 5S and the software that controls them has been improved significantly. No more dropped calls and much better signal strength in our rural part of the world. But, in places like Los Angeles and New York with faster cellular networks, using the 5S on a cellular network is like using a 3G on wifi; it’s extremely fast. We’re not just talking the faster processor here, we’re talking faster cellular connections.

The iPhone 4 had a great new camera, the 4S improved it a bit but had Siri, the 5 had all of this and great reception and the 5C and 5S continue that with great improvements everywhere.

TouchID
For us, TouchID on the iPhone 5S has been a mixed bag and I’ve been reading that others are having issues with it too. I’m not throwing in the towel and my guess is as I train more fingers (I’ve got 3 trained) and learn tricks to better training things will improve. However, at least for Anne and me, TouchID feels rough around the edges. Could be our old skin (my thumbs are totally munged from years of outside work and rock climbing) or just an early version of the firmware. Hopefully in time it will work first time, every time. But, for now, it takes at least a few tries to unlock my iPhone, Anne may have turned it off already.

But, both of us are extremely happy with our iPhones 5S’ even with the TouchID hiccups.

I use Pages on my Mac but don’t share documents with my iOS devices so the problem with iWork in iCloud crashing the iPhone 5S hasn’t happened to me. As a matter of fact, neither Anne nor I have crashed our iPhone 5Ss at all, ever.

The form and function of iOS 7
iOS 7 is a different story and while I applaud Apple and Jony Ive for a thorough gutting of the old iOS, it feels to me like iOS 7 is a bit too long on form, not long enough on function.

The form/function discussion has been going on for as long as anyone can remember, maybe brought into the light a bit more during the Bahaus period by the various designers (both in and out of Germany) who were experimenting with minimalism.

I’m all for minimalism, but not for its own sake. There are elements in iOS 7 that feel like they’ve been stripped of usability to make them work visually with an overall look, and this bothers me. I’ve always considered Mac OS and iOS perfect balances of both usability with a clean aesthetic but it seems to me that iOS 7 may have pushed a bit too far into cleanliness for the sake of a particular look.

A piece of me wishes there were a Settings slider with “Form” on one side and “Function” on the other and we could set up our various personal spaces to suit ourselves.

But, it’s too soon to go nuts over this stuff, I’ve only been using iOS 7 for a month now so time will tell and no doubt some of my complaints will be addressed in future updates.

iOS 7 Typography
I’m at the place in my life where I have reading glasses but only use them for reading and at times like right now when I’m working on a computer. I prefer not to have to put them on for casual use of my iPhone to answer a call, to answer a text, to adjust the countdown timer, and for other quick things like that.

However, the thin Helvetica typeface used in much of iOS 7, coupled with it’s flatter graphical design elements have made some pieces of the process of using both iPhone and iPad a bit tougher for me.

If you’ve never used Apple’s Timer in their Clock app, check it out while you’re reading this. The time adjustment piece has remained similar to the way it was: you turn a wheel up/down to move minutes and hours. The thinner type makes seeing the times on the wheel tougher but it’s doable. The space that you have to grab to move the wheel has gotten smaller/thinner but it’s not a big problem.

However, the two circle/buttons that Start, Stop, and Pause the clock timer are much tougher to see than the denser 3D buttons they replaced. This is a place where the more nuanced look of iOS 7 may not be working well. Compare the timer buttons to the big, red bar with “End” on it when you end a call. While I liked the old “End” call bar a bit more, at least the new End bar is easy to see and a nice big target to hit. The timer buttons need work and they’re an example of a bit too much form, not enough function.

You can make the type in iOS 7 a bit easier to read in a few ways.

Settings/General/Text Size: drag the slider to change system type size

Settings/General/Accessibility: Turn Bold Text on. Consider turning Larger Dynamic Type on and dragging the slider.

These changes have worked well for me, especially Bold Text. They have not, however, made the Clock timer easier to see and use.

iOS 7 Lock Screen
While I’m no fan of the spindly Helvetica type of the time on the lock screen, here’s a great new feature in iOS 7 that I use often: If you use the timer in the Clock app (I use it for baking and cooking) the time remaining will be displayed under the time of day on the lock screen. Very handy in case you can’t get TouchID to work!

By the way, if you use Passbook for travel or purchasing things passes appear on the lock screen as well and you can get to them without unlocking your phone. Very useful touch.

Weather App
I like Apple’s new Weather app in iOS 7. Like Passbook and other modern apps, the Weather app is now using lateral strips for the various places you want to track weather at. If it’s night at a place, the strip will reflect that (stars) and if it’s raining, the strip will reflect that. The images on the various strips are animated: clouds move, rain falls. Part of me is looking forward to seeing what the strips look like with snow on them (part of me can wait).

I’ve had a collection of weather apps over the years and each has great things about it but Apple’s new Weather app in iOS 7 is worth using for a while, it’s good.

For radar I use the Dark Sky app (thanks Gary), it’s one of the coolest weather apps out there and will ping at me when rain is 20 minutes away, among many other cool things.

iOS 7 Status Bar
I’m not sure what the top of iOS’s screen is called but we’re talking where the cellular connection strength, wifi connection strength, time of day, and battery level are at the very top of the screen.

The type of the various elements of that bar has been reduced in size and in various apps, it’s not well differentiated from the type and other elements of the apps. Now I can’t really remember how this looked and worked in earlier OS versions but to my eyes, it’s tougher to scan and see. I do like the green battery level color and I know the decision was made to give more screen real estate to foreground content but still, things that are on the screen ought to be big enough to see .

Videos
I routinely rip (digitize) movie DVDs that I own and move them onto my iPad to watch on plane trips. This is an important thing for me as I fly cross country monthly and enjoy watching a movie on at least part of each five hour trip. In the last version of the Videos app, ripped movies were listed as both a screen grab (not useful for identifying the movie until I figure out how to make a “poster” part of the rip) and as a text title. Somehow, the text title is gone in the iOS 7 version of the Video app and some of my movies are now categorized as “Home Movies.” I can live with odd categorization but without title text, there’s no way to differentiate one movie from another. I’ve searched online and others are having the same problem so hopefully Apple is working on it. While they’re at it, how about allow us to make a simple list rather than a matrix of odd shaped screens.

I also have videos in my Videos library that I bought from iTunes and as far as I can tell, there is no way to delete them in this version of Videos. Hitting “Edit” allows deletion of any of my ripped videos but not the ones that came through the Apple store. Again, an annoyance that Apple should clean up with an update to this app which no doubt few use but is important to me.

Spotlight Searching
One of the best but probably least used new features of iOS 7 is both how Spotlight searching works physically, and how it works under the hood to both index and learn what you’ve been searching for.

In earlier versions of iOS, Spotlight was the left-most screen on the home screen. If you have multiple screens of icons on your iPhone or iPad, you might have noticed small bullets at the bottom of the screen to denote the number of pages of app icons you had. The left-most one wasn’t a bullet, it was a magnifying glass and pulling to the right enough times got you there. Once there you could search for things, like, someone’s name so you could call or text them.

One problem with locating the search screen as the left-most of all of one’s various home screens is that if you find yourself on screen 4 of 4 home screens, you have to swipe right 4 times to get to it. Still, this never stopped me from using it over the years and I mostly left my iPhone on screen 1 of 3 because that’s where I park my most used apps.

I find it interesting how few people use this feature but instead, go to either Contacts and search, or go to their Phone list and search, or go to iMessages and search. This is very much paralleled on the Mac where few people use Spotlight to search for things but rather, mine hierarchies of folders to find what they’re looking for.

On the current Mac OS (Mountain Lion), Spotlight isn’t smart about searches: if I search for a Numbers document that I use to keep track of my Visa card: Command/Space, type “v…” that Visa card doesn’t come up first no matter how many times I search. In other words, Spotlight on the current version of Mac OS doesn’t learn. This is the appeal of the free system extension for Mac OS called Alfred (thanks Edward). Alfred sits on top of Spotlight and uses the same index, but it keeps track of searches so that if I search for my visa card once and it’s the 20th hit and I choose it, the next time I search and type “v…” my visa card will be the top hit.

Alfred is a killer app and it makes searching on the Mac a dream. It does a lot more but that’s enough for me.

The new Spotlight in iOS improves two things:

You get to it by pulling down from any home screen. It’s not a pull down from the top, that would be the Notification Center but from within the app icon area. A small field pops up from any home screen and you can search.

The new Spotlight learns: things you look for often will work their way to the top and you can find them with a single keystroke. It’s like the Spotlight team at Apple are all Alfred users. No doubt the new Mac OS X: Mavericks will have this feature as well and at least some Alfred users will stop using Alfred (for this, to be fair, Alfred can be used for much more).

Unfortunately for me, text indexing happens within Apple’s Notes app but not within the SimpleNote app, which I use to sync writing between my Mac, my iPhone, and iPad. I really like using search and it would be great if every piece of text in every single app in iOS, not just the ones from Apple, could be indexed and searched.

Calendar
Both Anne and I dislike the new Calendar app. Again, a bit too much form, not enough function. The Swiss Clock look is nice but not always the most functional look. Fortunately for me, I use and love Fantastical on both my Mac and my iPhone and it has a great user interface element called “DayTicker” which has become my calendar view of choice. Fantastical uses your Mac and iOS built in calendar data so you can enter events anywhere but use it to view those events. One great feature of Fantastical is its natural text input: “lunch with Anne at two o’clock tomorrow” will put an event where it needs to be. Siri will do this as well but I like having both text and speech inputs available to me.

Last words, for now
Both Anne and I are enjoying our new iPhones and while there are pieces of iOS 7 that we both find irritating they haven’t stopped us from using our iPhones a lot, maybe more than ever.

Neither of us has gotten dizzy with the 3D layered effect on the home screen (it took me a while to like but now I love the water/foam/beach image) and the iPhones feel solid, work fast, and are a joy to use.

Oh, Anne got a Silver 32GB model with a red case, I got a Grey 64GB model with a black case. Neither of us considered Gold for even a second. Boy, are we out of it!

Apple announcements today

I watched various Apple folks present the keynote at the Apple World Wide Developers Conference today and I have to say, I got really excited and was cheering like many do watching sports games.

You can watch it here: WWDC. June 10, 2013.

I wasn’t really looking for new stuff, I was looking to see how Apple was going to refine and enhance the things they already have out there.

Mac OS X (Mavericks) looks fantastic with lots of integration with life outside of one’s computer (namely, one’s other Apple devices). But, little things like tabbed Finder windows and tags at the system level look extremely useful to me. Maps is now an app on the Mac with easy syncing to iPhone and/or iPad and something that I’m very much looking forward to is iCloud Keychain: passwords and logins are shared between all devices immediately and automatically. Oh, and iBook is now an app on the Mac. Yes!

iOS 7 looks great to me and while the new flatter look isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, the integration of the design throughout the OS and standard apps is apparent. A lot of thinking went into the small stuff and these kinds of things won’t be apparent until we get our hands on it. I noticed and particularly liked the new Photos app. Very nice update to an app that was in sore need of one.

I particularly liked the demo of iWork for iCloud: Open or create iWork documents (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) in a browser window on iCloud and share them easily with all your devices. Even work on the document on a machine running Windows 8 in IE. Very cool.

I’m a fan of Pandora so iTunes Radio looks great to me and it will integrate well with my existing iTunes library. I doubt I’ll leave Pandora over it but I see no reason they can’t coexist.

The new Mac Pro looks fantastic, especially its size (when compared with the existing Mac Pro). Note: It’s small. I have no use for it myself being a MacBook Pro kinda guy but I have friends who are drooling over this thing. And, one of its nice new “attributes” is that it’s assembled in the USA. I hope Apple sells a ton of them.

There’s an upgrade to the MacBook Air which looks great and a redesign and upgrade to Apple’s wireless router: AirPort Extreme and router/backup device, Time Capsule. The new AirPort Extreme appeals to me as it has a smaller footprint, is taller and has better (and faster) coverage. I’ll probably be getting one.

I have to say, I loved today’s announcements and while Wall Street seems to have been disappointed, I’m done thinking that there’s any coincidence between AAPL and Apple, Inc. I’m a user first, an investor second and as a user, I’m totally psyched.

Mountain Lion’s new document model explained

The Very Model of a Modern Mountain Lion Document

Matt Neuburg does an outstanding job of describing Apple’s new document model in Mountain Lion, how it improves upon Lion and how both of them are vastly different from document models in earlier versions of Mac OS.

I’ve been struggling with “Save,” Save As…” and auto save since the Lion upgrade and while I’m not completely comfortable with the new model in Mountain Lion, reading Matt’s piece enabled me to make the changes in my System Preferences General Pane that I need to to feel comfortable, for the time being.

All of this is OS X being influenced by iOS, for better, worse, or who knows?

These are the details that Mac and to a lesser extent iOS users sweat over and I’m glad of that. Apple sweats over them too and that’s what makes this stuff work so well.

Fascinating time to be using these tools.

Mountain Lion first impressions

I upgraded my 15″ early 2011 MacBook Pro to Mountain Lion yesterday morning. Here’s what I’ve been using and loving so far:

Dictation. Works great, just like in iOS. Dictated chat messages in new iChat, some emails, and some notes as well as this sentence.

Notification Center: I love notification Center in iOS and I really like it in Mac OS now. Works better than badges in the dock and notifications interrupting things in the middle of the screen for me. I see incoming emails, texts, reminders and more, all in one place and I can snooze or close them. Great.

Mail.app: Before Sparrow was bought by Google I switched back to using Apple’s native Mail program for email and it’s working fine for my two email accounts (gmail and .me). The small upgrades to this application in Mountain Lion are excellent: better threading of related emails and no doubt much more as I find it.

AirPlay: AirPlay is now on the system menubar. We have an AppleTV and with a simple menu command I can see my screen on our big 52″ HD TV. Sweet. So, I see a fun video I want to share with my wife, just send it to the TV and she can see it. Very cool. We’ve been using AirPlay in iOS on iPad and iPhone for a while now, great to have it on the Mac too. AirPlay is an incredible technology and the way it works with AppleTV is a great example of what makes Apple such a great technology company. Fantastic stuff.

Safari: I love the unified url and search fields and how Safari intelligently deals with text entered there. I also love the Sharing button for tweeting, sending pages in email and more. Excellent, saves many steps for me. The Sharing button is system-wide and I’m finding it in other places as well. Wow, very cool.

Messages: I was using the buggy beta of the new Messages app but switched back to the older iChatAV until because it was too rough around the edges. The finished version works extremely well and allows me to connect with contacts via AIM, Google, and Apple on any computer and iOS devices. I love that I can now send a message to a phone first over wifi and then over cell. Works seamlessly.

I’d be using the new Notes application with iCloud syncing to the Notes apps on the iPhone and iPad but I already use SimpleNote and JustNotes on the Mac to sync with it and at this point I’m going to stick with the third party system because it’s more full-featured and works faster.

Here’s Apple’s intro video on Mountain Lion in case you haven’t seen it.

Here’s a list of all of Mountain Lion’s new features.

I think Mountain Lion is a hit and well worth the $19.95 cost to upgrade. My friend Gary who’s visiting did the upgrade right after me, no problems and he’s loving it.

Thoughts on Apple’s recent announcements

I was traveling the day of the Apple keynote presentation at their annual World Wide Developer’s Conference so I didn’t see the announcements live but the next day I watched the event as you can here:

Apple Special Event, June 11, 2012

If you’re an Apple user (Mac, iPhone, or iPad) and are interested in what’s coming in the year ahead you might enjoy the presentation.

Unlike others who seem to have been let down by the presentation, I loved it and it gave me a clear picture of Apple’s direction in the near and probably the mid term, maybe even the long term.

Mac OS X.8 (Mountain Lion) and iOS 6 both look like wonderful upgrades but the bottom line is this: Apple’s various devices are becoming simpler, more streamlined, and most importantly, better integrated with each other and with various social and informational services outside of Apple’s domain.

iCloud is better integrated into more Apple applications and it looks like there will be built in functionality that will compete with Simplenote, Dropbox, and Instapaper, to name a few.

Dictation, which was initially only on the iPhone is now on the iPad (3) and is coming to the Macintosh. No doubt Siri is coming to the iPad and at some point to the Macintosh as well. Think about this: it wasn’t long ago that speech to text and/or speech commands and text to speech were novelties and didn’t work all that well. Now they’re both reliable, understandable and work on small, handheld devices. This is revolutionary. Apple is betting heavy that speech will be a big part of using all of its devices going forward.

Apple’s computers are starting to move in a bigger way toward flash storage (SSDs): the new MacBook Pro model is a solid state device with no hard disk. While I’m not in the market for a new computer at the moment, I’d buy this machine in a heartbeat if I were. Solid state storage is the future of computing and no doubt more of Apple’s computers will move to it as it becomes more affordable.

Neither AppleTV nor Apple’s plans for a television were mentioned during the presentation. No doubt the next step is to tie AppleTV into this mix in a bigger way and my guess is that it will happen incrementally as it has been for a few years now. Here’s an idea for a next step: Add Game Center to AppleTV. I don’t play games on computers or iOS devices but if I did I’d be using Game Center and it seems to me it’s just a matter of time before Game Center is on AppleTV, another iOS device that will no doubt run at least some iOS apps in the future. When that happens AppleTV will essentially be an “iOS Mini” driving an HD TV and computing will have truly entered the living room.

While Wall Street and the pundits may be disappointed that this particular keynote didn’t announce much that wasn’t already known, I found it exciting to see the way the new operating system for the iPhone and iPad and the new operating system for the Macintosh work so well, individually and together.

Simpler is better and Apple is definitely moving in that direction.

Messages beta

Apple has finally started to unify their instant messaging universe. Many of us have been using iChatAV for years and have come to depend on it. Not everyone signed up and had an AIM account in the early days (AOL was and remains disdained by the power user types) although in time Apple allowed the use of a .mac address to use iChatAV and it worked and works well to this day.

In the iOS world Apple has had texting via cellular networks on the iPhone and with iOS 5 they’ve combined texting over cellular with an iChatAV-like application called Messages that unifies both cellular texting and IP-chatting. It works extremely well on both the iPhone and the iPad saving a considerable amount of money when one is on a wifi network by not using cellular minutes during that time.

There was no way to connect iChatAV on the Mac and Messages on iOS devices until now. Apple has finally released a beta of Messages for Mac OS X Lion that will ship for real with the next Lion update called “Mountain Lion.”

I’m using the beta now and it’s a wonderful improvement over the old iChatAV. I’m connected to my iPhone, my AIM buddy list, and all my cellular contacts. Very cool.

[via Zapong]

Lion on a stick

Lion on a stick

For those of you who are Mac users, this is a self-made Mac OS 10.7 Lion install on a USB flash drive. I could have gotten a 4 gig drive but the 8 gig was cheaper.

Why do this? Because Apple is phasing out optical drives and this will boot any modern Mac and do a complete Lion install from scratch or as a recovery. I back up daily with SuperDuper so I made this to install Lion on my wife’s computer and as a backup for us. We do have optical drives but at some point in the future we won’t.

I have lots of these little flash drives but this one impressed me with its bright color and rubberized coating.

Making one of these is simple and if you’re a Lion user or future Lion user you should have one.

Earlier discussion here: Installing Lion on multiple Macs.