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Entries in OS X (135)


OS X 10.9 Mavericks - Review

Last Tuesday Apple officially launched OS X 10.9 Mavericks. Unlike previous versions of OS X, this update is available for free via the Mac App Store for all Mac users.

OS X used to be a premium upgrade (like Windows), however thanks to Apple's vertical business model they are able to subsidise the cost of software with the sale of hardware. This is an issue for other companies such as Microsoft, as their hardware footprint is small and therefore they must rely on software licensing to make a profit.

The other reason this approach makes sense for Apple is that OS X updates have become increasingly evolutionary over the past few releases, in fact you could argue that OS X has not seen a major update since 2007 with the release of Leopard. However, with a "free to upgrade" policy for all users, this lack of innovation is made easier to accept.

As a result Mavericks is a subtle upgrade over Mountain Lion, brining a number of "under the hood" features that focus on improving battery life, performance and security. The user interface itself remains mostly unchanged (see my minimal desktop below):

One thing that Apple has done with Mavericks is reverse direction on the use of skeuomorphic design, for example removing the linen stitching from Mission Control and the Notification Centre. This delivers a cleaner, simpler user interface that I personally believe is a significant improvement. The screenshot below shows Mission Control and it's texture-less background.

The same "flat" design philosophy has been followed for the built-in OS X applications. For example, Calendar no longer has the unnecessary leather user interface, replaced with the classic OS X grey. In my opinion these subtle changes help unify the operating system, delivering a consistent look and feel.

Unfortunately the team working on Game Center must have missed the memo as it's the one application that retains its skeuomorphic design. As a result it sticks out like a sore thumb and in my opinion is a stark reminder of what a miss-step this design approach was. Thankfully I (and apparently Apple) rarely use Game Center and therefore it does not negatively impact the overall experience.

The only major user facing feature upgrades are part of Finder, which now finally supports tabs, removing the need for third party applications such as Path Finder. Finder also supports tagging for all folders and files, which improves search and enables a more versatile way of managing your file system. Both features are a welcome addition, but otherwise Finder usage remains unchanged from Mountain Lion.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that not only is Mavericks more power efficient at its core, but it also allows the user to better understand application energy usage. For example, Activity Monitor has been redesigned to include an "Energy" tab which allows the user to see which applications are negatively impacting battery life. This is great news for all users as Mac notebooks are rapidly moving towards the vision of "all day usage on battery".

Overall OS X Mavericks is a solid update! It feels fast (booting and shutting down in seconds), reliable and appears to be compatible with all existing applications. Even historically troublesome applications such as VMware Fusion (5/6) work fine and you will likely find your Mac App Store applications have already been updated to leverage the new core capabilities of Mavericks. As a result I would not have any issue recommending Mavericks to all Mac users, especially as it's a free upgrade. 

Check out more screenshots of OS X Mavericks in my gallery and once you're convinced head over to the Mac App Store for your free download!


The New Apple iPad Air

Today Apple officially revealed the new iPad, know as the iPad Air. Unsurprisingly it's faster, smaller and lighter, however does not include Touch ID which was recently introduced with the iPhone 5S.

I happened to be in San Francisco during the announcement and my hotel was opposite the Yerba Buena Center. I therefore snapped a quick image before I set off for work (the calm before the storm).

Alongside the iPad Air, Apple also announced a new iPad Mini with Retina Display. This is arguably a bigger deal than the iPad Air, as it now competes spec-for-spec against the Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle range. The iPad Mini also receives the same 64-bit A7 processor, making it a viable alternative to its bigger brother and less like "the cheaper option".

Other announcements included the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display, with the main change being the move to Intel's Haswell architecture. Expect better performance, with longer battery life! The 13-inch model also got a minor redesign which is slightly slimmer and lighter, as well as now including a 16GB RAM build to order option (something I was personally hoping for). 

Finally, Apple officially launched OS X 10.9 Mavericks, which can be downloaded now for free from the Mac App Store. Apple have been dropping the price of OS X updates over the past few years and we have now hit the inevitable free upgrade for all. This is actually incredible, when you consider that a similar upgrade from Microsoft costs £100+. This is one of the advantages of Apple's "vertical model", where they can subsidise the cost of software with the sale of hardware. Expect a review of OS X 10.9 Mavericks soon.

For more information on all the announcements I suggest you head over to The Verge or MacRumors.


Apple October Event

This evening Apple sent out the invites for a media event on the 22nd October to be held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.

The rumours point to a number of hardware updates, specifically:

If true, this would certainly be a lot to cover, but I imagine the event will focus on the iPad.

I will actually be in San Francisco during the event, attending a CSC Leading Edge Forum Study Tour on The Next Generation of Consumerization. Therefore I might see if I can sneak into to Apple event.


Leap Motion - The Future?

Over the past few years we have seen a number of companies attempt to position a new human interface device. For example, natural language voice (like Siri), motion sensing (like Kinect) and most notably multi-touch (across a number of different device types).

I think it's fair to say that only multi-touch has been a true success, dominating the smartphone and tablet markets, but even with this momentum multi-touch has failed on the traditional desktop. As a result the trusty keyboard and mouse continues to rule supreme.

However, in May 2012 a new contender entered the market, known as the Leap Motion Controller. This simple device is similar in concept to Microsoft's Kinect, but instead of working in the living room, it's been specifically designed for a closed environment, such as your desk.

A few months ago I received my Leap Motion Controller and I've been using it on and off since then on my PC and Mac. As a result I thought it was about time I shared some of my initial thoughts.

Let's get the big question out of the way first. Can the Leap Motion Controller replace the traditional keyboard and mouse? The short answer is no, at least not yet.

The Leap Motion controller is about the size of a stick of gum and connects to a PC or Mac via USB 2.0.

The installation is fast and painless, with a simple driver installation for your chosen platform. At which point the Leap Motion becomes available for use as an input device (for compatible software).

Leap Motion have (thankfully) realised that new hardware is only as good as the software that uses it, therefore they have launched their own application store known as the "AirSpace Store". Here you will find hundreds of applications for Mac and PC (free and paid) that support the Leap Motion controller.

I have tested a number of the available applications, ranging from simple games to computer controls and productivity apps. My main finding is that the quality of these these applications varies massively. Some, like "Cut the Rope" work very well, adjusting perfectly to the Leap Motion Controller. Unfortunately others, like many of the Computer Control applications are less successful and require a steep learning curve. For example, I tried "BetterTouchTool" for Mac and "Touchless for Windows" and although both are functional, I found them to be more frustrating than useful. In my opinion it worked a little better in the Windows environment, simply because Windows 8.1 is more touch friendly than OS X, however neither option is something I could recommend for daily use.

To be clear, the issue is not the hardware. The Leap Motion Controller works great! It's responsive, sensitive and accurate. The issue is that most software (like OS X) was not designed to use this type of control mechanism and as a result everything feels a little forced.

I'm sure this experience will change over time and I'm confident that as new software is released that is specifically designed for the Leap Motion Controller it will really shine. Unfortunately I don't see OS X or Windows ever truly supporting this control mechanism. Therefore it will likely always be relegated for specialist software and not as a replacement for the traditional keyboard and mouse.

Overall the Leap Motion Controller is a great piece of hardware! It looks great and has impressive design and build quality. The drivers for PC and Mac also seem to work well, with no obvious limitations. This leaves the main challenge being software. Thankfully this is something that the developer community and time will hopefully fix. Therefore I plan to keep a close eye on the Leap Motion Controller as I eagerly await its "killer app".


OS X Mavericks Bootable USB Drive

With the development of OS X 10.9 Mavericks finally finished and the release only a few weeks away, I thought I would share the quickest and simplest way to create a bootable USB drive. This process will allow you to complete a clean install of OS X Mavericks once it's publicly available.

I had previously shared a manual process to clean install the developer preview, but this is my new preferred method, requiring only one command.

To start you will need an 8GB USB drive and access to the Mac App Store download of OS X Mavericks. Once downloaded it's simply a case of inserting the USB drive, opening Terminal and running the following command:

sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ --volume /Volumes/LifeinTECH --applicationpath /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ --nointeraction

The only part of the command that must be changed is the name of the USB drive (e.g. bold and underlined above).

This command will automatically erase the USB drive and install a bootable version of OS X Mavericks. The entire process can take up to 15mins without any indication, however it will prompt once the process is complete (see the image below).

You can now restart your Mac and hold the "Option" key during startup. This will allow you to boot from your newly created USB drive and clean install OS X Mavericks. Enjoy!