Tag Archives: MacOS X

The Annual Mac Attack from PC Pro

Last year it was Vista v MacOS X that compared a shipping version of MacOS X with a beta version of Vista, this time around, PC Pro has rolled out “32 Reasons Why PC’s are Better Than Macsâ€? as it’s annual cover article bashing the Mac, and what a pretty pointless waste of paper it is too – however it is a further example of PC Pro’s schizophrenic relationship with the Mac.

Point number one is “Service Packs Don’t Cost £90â€? which is wheeling out their argument from last year that the MacOS X upgrades are service packs, and it then rolls through the familiar selection of PC owner grumbles including the one button mouse, which of course isn’t, but Apple defaults the Mighty Mouse to a single button configuration. Insecurity pops up too, with the standard PC retort that PC’s are perfectly secure if you get hold of a decent anti-virus application. They also pad out the list a bit with grumbles about the Mac startup sound, version numbers of MacOS X, and one whole item of the 32 is devoted to a whinge about Steve Jobs! In terms of the interface grumbles and ‘it’s not intuitive’ arguments that pepper the list, most boil down to the fact that it doesn’t work the same way as Windows – which means that anyone with a lot of Windows experience is still back to feeling like a novice trying to use a Mac. For example, the single mouse button doesn’t bother long term Mac users as everything that is on the right-click menu is able to be carried out elsewhere anyway. The menus being at the top of the screen is seen as consistent to Mac users, and so the list goes on. The article also waves Office 2007 as an advantage because Mac users are having to wait for Office 2008 for compatibility with some features. Of course as a look back over the releases will show, Microsoft always operates like this, and Office 2008 will bring new features that aren’t available on Office 2007 that will be included in the next PC release. Some of the points are just plain wrong. Number 28 compares memory handling, unfortunately taking a pop at the Classic MacOS memory handling and claiming that Mac applications crash from lack of memory. Certainly the old MacOS Memory Management was lousy, but certainly I’ve had no such problems with MacOS X.

To find the reason for this latest effort, you have to take a look at the editors column at the front of the magazine – it seems that Tim Danton is a little upset by the Get a Mac adverts, and is finding that the office Mac’s used to put the magazine together are crashing. I have to say that some of the Mac faithful are getting a bit fed up with them too, with even the occasional Mac magazine suggesting that a change in advertising would be a good idea. With regards to his unreliable office Mac’s he doesn’t say what they are actually running, or what age the machines are, certainly they could still be running MacOS 9 which is still widely used in the publishing industry. As to why they bother with these periodic efforts, I really don’t know. It’s true to say that the numbers of Mac owners are rising, but the numbers are millions behind the numbers of PC’s, and there isn’t any real chance of the numbers overtaking. Maybe it is this PC Pro Schizophrenia, as the magazine finds themselves giving good reviews to Mac’s they have to do these big Mac bashing articles to balance out!

However, whatever the article may say, it doesn’t change my experiences. Sat in front of me is a recent PC, and a similarly aged Mac. Both are running the latest versions of their respective operating systems. This, like most things I do at home is being done on the Mac because it is just plain more reliable, and just works. Compare this to the PC’s. As you know, I’ve got a love hate relationship with Vista on my laptop. Driver wise it is better supported, but the machine is noticeably more sluggish since I installed Vista, and, as I discovered on the Time and Talents day, more unreliable too. What I need in a home computer is something that is reliable and stable, and I’ve got that in the Mac. True I could probably build a PC that is as reliable with a bit of work, and by picking the right combination of hardware and software, but why bother when you can buy a Mac off the shelf that meets my needs?

To round off though, even PC Pro has to concede the one thing that sets the Mac apart. The article finishes off with highlighting the one thing that a Mac can do that a PC can’t, and the reason why a number of Microsoft staff are now running Mac’s. Whilst there are hacks to get MacOS X running on a PC, the Mac is the only official way to get the current big three operating systems, Windows, MacOS X and Linux running on the same machine, and schizophrenic to the last, PC Pro shows you how, even trumpeting the stability of of MacOS X when running four virtual PC’s and three virtual Linux boxes simultaneously…

Update: PC Pro are already starting to get feedback over this on their forum
– expect more when this issue hits news stands! It is worth noting that last time around they ended up defending themselves on their letters page.

Also, for a more detailed analysis, take a look at a point-by-point rebuttal over at themak.org. The first part is here, with the second part here, and the third and final part here.

I Got Through the Scoble Vista Debate!

Since he started with the Scoble Show, Robert Scoble has taken quite a lot of flak over the length of some of his videos. Now whilst I certainly think that some of the ones I have watched could do with some editing, I’m not massively concerned if the videos are of different lengths – if the people on the video have something interesting to say then I’m happy to watch.

Perhaps the ultimate example of the long video, is the Vista v MacOS X debate that he posted to coincide with the launch of Windows Vista which is in two parts, as it lasts just over two hours.

The video is long because in essence Robert just brought a group of friends together, pointed the camera at them, and got everybody to start talking. As such they quite often go off at interesting, but unrelated tangents. However there is a lot of interesting discussion. Participants alongside Robert and Maryam include Fred Davis, who co-founded Wired Magazine, Harry McCracken, editor in chief of PC World Magazine, Sam Levin, who founded the Stanford Mac User group, and Jeremy Toeman, who used to work for Sling Media.

This is the first hour:

Interesting stuff in this hour includes a discussion of TV technologies, including quite a heated debate between Jeremy Toeman and Fred Davis over whether broadcast TV, or TV over IP is the better medium. Toeman argues that because of bandwidth issues, broadcast is still the best way to offer large scale distribution. Davis argues that IPTV is the only way to make multi-view sporting broadcasts for example viable. Now whilst it may be true that in the US people aren’t seeing that, anybody with UK digital TV will know that both the BBC and Sky are doing what Davis says needs IPTV right now…

The second hour is here:

This is where more of the Vista related stuff can be found. Interesting points is that nobody seems to recommend that the average consumer should be rushing out to upgrade, and also an interesting discussion about which platform is right for which sort of user.

Certainly well worth a watch if you’ve got a spare two hours!

Wow – Apple Joins the Smartphone Arena

So after all the rumours, and all the predictions of an Apple mobile phone, a widescreen iPod, and a small form factor Mac tablet, today in his keynote, Steve Jobs announced all three – but in one device, the iPhone.

iphoneannounce.jpg

Essentially this is Apple does the smartphone as it thinks it should be done, diving straight into the market that is currently being dominated by the various Symbian models, primarily from Nokia and Sony Ericsson, and with competition from the multitude of Windows Mobile devices. Certainly it is a very competitive market for Apple to enter, so the iPhone needs to be something pretty special and stand out different to compete.

Certainly on paper the iPhone seems to be exactly that. In terms of looks it is more PDA like than phone like – being just slightly smaller than my existing Dell Axim PDA. Resolution wise the screen is only half VGA at 320 x 480 – an interesting choice as high end PDA’s such as my existing Axim have been shipping with VGA screens for a while. Like a PDA it doesn’t have an extensive number of keys – indeed like the classic Mac mouse designs, it has precisely one – on the front. This is apparently the home key, that takes the user back to the main menu.

There are a couple of other buttons on the side, but essentially the whole thing is driven by a touch-screen interface. However again, it’s a bit different from the normal. Whereas most other PDA devices come with some sort of stylus for pointing, this is an interface designed to be used with fingers.

Now whilst this is probably easier to use in some ways, the real test will be how resilient the screen is to sticky, mucky fingers – certainly a big question mark over the design.

The software is definitely more PDA like, with web browsing provided by a version of Safari, the desktop browser that ships with MacOS X. More than that, the whole device will be running a version of MacOS X too, I’d expect one without the overheads of Aqua and the rest of the full scale MacOS X on the top – but the keynote certainly highlighted that a lot of the OS is still there. So whilst you won’t be loading desktop Mac applications onto it, it has the benefits of multithreading, pre-emptive multitasking and memory protection. Alongside the phone and internet functions, the software also includes a full raft of iPod features too, including the ability to play videos in widescreen mode, and also it appears, a version of the Cover Flow interface that turned up in the most recent revision of iTunes. On top of that it also has a hookup with Google Maps, plus a photo management application.

The widescreen mode, or more specifically how the phone changes is one of the really stand out features though. Whilst my Axim, like a number of other PDA’s can operate in both portrait or landscape modes, it usually requires manually clicking a couple of options to rotate the screen. Apparently the iPhone will do it entirely automatically. If you’re holding the device in a landscape position, that is how it will display – if it is in portrait then it will display in portrait mode.

Communications wise, a surprising omission is 3G support – it is only using EDGE, an enhanced version of GPRS. However it is quad-band GSM, so should be able to roam pretty well everywhere. It also has wi-fi and Bluetooth to add to the communications choices. It can also, not surprisingly dock and sync with a desktop.

A camera is included, but it doesn’t seem that it is regarded as a major feature, and it is only 2 megapixel, putting it on a par with other smartphones, but certainly not one to get if one of your requirements is to take good pictures.

So in summary, it certainly looks like an exciting entry into the smartphone market, with a good looking interface and a number of innovative features. Although the lack of a stylus is being pushed as a plus point, I’d certainly wonder quite how resilient to finger marks it’s actually going to be. In terms of being used as a PDA, the big advantage from a Mac users point of view is that it will use the same calendar and contact database designs as the desktop iCal and Address Book so hopefully synchronisation will be much less of a pain as with other smartphones. Having said that, currently it has only been announced for the US market – quite how long we will have to wait for a UK version remains to be seen. Many of the answers probably won’t become clear before the official release in June – and thus far it seems that only David Pogue has really had that much of a play with it.

Looking at the other major announcement, the Apple TV (or iTV as it was know before) was shown – and is pretty much as expected, although there is some surprise that it can’t produce the top HDTV resolutions. Essentially it is a simple wrapper around Front Row moving it off the desktop and into the living room.

Notable by their absence however was any mention of software, for example more details of Leopard, or an overview of the ’07 revisions of iLife and iWork – more to come maybe?

Update: Time Magazine have a very good iPhone article which alongside some descriptions of functionality also has some interesting background tit-bits. For example, Apple has been working on the touch screen for a number of years in response to the Tablet PC hype, but the research ultimately went into the iPhone interface rather than a tablet Mac.

The deal with Cingular is significant, as Apple effectively forced the network to adapt to fit what they wanted to do with the phone – usually it works the other way around with the network calling the shots. A good example of this is the iPhone voicemail functionality that works through a screen based list of messages, not the audio menu that is used on existing phones.

Certainly I’m expecting a long wait for it to appear in other markets, as Apple will have to do precisely the same with every other network – force them to conform to how the iPhone works – certainly it seems that this will extend to the availability of additional software for the device too. Whilst Cingular were willing to bend to what Apple wanted, wider availability around the world will be entirely down to whether other networks will do the same, and that I suspect will come down to how well the device sells in the US. If they can see that the investment in modifying their networks to cope with the iPhone is worthwhile, then they’ll go for it – but I suspect we’ll be paying a goodly amount for the pleasure too to cover their costs.

Windows Vista – First Experiences

So this afternoon I decided to give Windows Vista a go, to be more precise, Windows Vista x64…

After a bit of messing around with Partition Magic, and some deleting of installed software I managed to clear enough space for a new partition, with just enough space for an install, but not much else. Since I have a backup of the machine anyway, and the machine is not my main computer, I decided to get the full experience I should just go the whole hog and install onto the main partition – after all there is not much point in having the OS installed if I have no space to install software!

So I set the installation going. Helpfully it detected my current Windows XP install, and moved it to a folder called Windows.old. Upgrading wasn’t an option since as a quick look at the upgrade matrix published back in July my existing XP64 installation won’t upgrade.

Now I guess this is proof that I’ve been in MacOS X too long, as something like this isn’t usually a problem, as the recommended way to upgrade MacOS X is to do a clean install, and then use the migration assistant described in detail over at Mac Dev Center.com to pull all the relevant settings and applications out of the backed up folders.

Now I’m aware that the PC equivalent can’t do applications, but it seems that even though the install creates the Windows.old folders, it can’t cope with pulling settings from it – it only works with another machine.

Ok, not too much of a problem, I can just mount up my backup image in a virtual machine using something like Virtual PC or Virtual Server – but no, neither of these can run under Vista. In much the same way as with the various editions of Visual Studio (even Visual Studio 2005 – their current version), they don’t work, the best option is to run a beta version of the upcoming release.

Having said that, it’s not all bad news. The driver support in the 64-bit Vista is better than XP64. All but the sound driver and the wireless networking installed off the installation DVD. The sound driver the OS found online, and it was only the wireless networking that had me rummaging around on the internet.

It does look rather pretty too, with some font changes, and various bits of MacOS X-ish eye candy. As with Office 2007 if you scratch at the new paint job a bit, you can quickly find bits of classic windows peeking through. Quite often if you click through some of the nice user friendly screens, or go for an advanced option you find a decidedly familiar window popping up, scarcely changed from Windows XP.

The new security features are rather amusing at the moment, but I suspect will become rather annoying. As Coding Horror highlights, referring to an original article by Paul Thurrott, Microsoft have opted for their traditional security through warning dialogs – as in a number of previous products, when something happens that could be potentially risky, it displays a warning, with the option to allow, or cancel what is happening. However it rarely gives much detail about what is going on, and pressing allow will allow it to carry on. Ok but these dialogs come up so frequently, even for really basic tasks, that I am sure most people will just ignore them. Bear in mind that I’m running as an Administrator currently – if I were a normal user it would be asking for passwords all the time. The other security feature that had my jaw on the floor was when I tried to delete an empty, but protected folder on my hard drive. Vista correctly informed me that the folder belonged to another user, and was protected. However it then offered to unprotect it for me. Without asking for a password or anything, it took ownership of the folder, changed the access rights and deleted it! True you can turn this off – but it somewhat defeats the object, and if it’s off, the machine keeps complaining about the fact too. Hopefully I can try and find some happy medium between the annoyance of totally on, and the complaining of totally off, but I doubt it.

So will Vista have me switching back full time to a PC – not a chance. On a positive note it is better than XP, but still it is not a patch on MacOS X, and that is even before we see Leopard…

Update: Ironically, and totally coincidentally it seems Dave Oliver has been giving Vista a try too. The big difference is that he’s using Vista 32 – where the upgrade advisor works (on 64-bit it suggests running it, and takes you to the download page. It’s only when you download the thing that it says it won’t work on 64-bit operating systems.) It seems he’s had many more driver issues than me, significantly that it failed to recognise his graphics card.

I’m currently seeing how various games run under Vista – annoyingly the security features are coming in to play and the OS is asking again for permission when I insert every new CD of a multi-CD installation, despite it being the one installer running the whole process.

Proof that Americans Don’t Get Sarcasm?

David Pogue did a very funny, and very sarcastic video on Windows Vista where he attempts to prove that the new Microsoft operating system isn’t just a rip off of a load of ideas in MacOS X. What is even more funny, is that according to his blog he has had complaints from people that some of his differences aren’t really different…

Memory Upgrade

iMac G5 Opened Up

So I’ve finally got around to upgrading the memory in our iMac G5. Back when we got our first Mac, it was recommended as pretty well the first purchase for the machine. At that time, Apple shipped their consumer machines with a paltry 256Mb of memory on board, so it was pretty well essential to avoid a lot of waiting around. When we got this machine, they were shipping with 512Mb of memory, which is pretty much adequate, and it only really causesproblems when we you try to multi-task a lot of applications, or load something big.

Unfortunately, as time has gone on and our iPhoto collection has grown, and our iTunes database has expanded, loading either application tended to result in a large lump of the active memory disappearing, and then a good deal of disk activity as the operating system starts swapping memory off to disk, so I decided that it was about time I upgraded. MacOS X, like Windows XP likes as much memory as it can get.

Anyway, I pointed my browser at Crucial Technology, and stepped through their useful Memory Advisor tool that makes sure you get the right memory modules. The iMac has two memory slots, each of which can take up to 1Gb, and ships with a single 512Mb module in one slot. Although it is quite happy to take different types of module in each slot, it runs better with a matched pair, so after some going back and forth, I decided to go the whole hog and get the full 2Gb upgrade. My figuring is that iPhoto and iTunes are only going to get larger, so whilst 1Gb may be adequate for now, we may as well do it in one step, and then there is only one redundant module rather than two.

The upgrade turned up in the post yesterday, and I grabbed a copy of the Apple Upgrade instructions. Because of the compact design, the upgrade is a bit more involved than the equivalent upgrade for an eMac. To do the job on an iMac G5 you have to loosen three screws, and flip open the entire back of the machine, giving a good view of the whole of the innards of the machine, including the processor, the hard drive and the motherboard. The memory slots are pretty obvious and easy to get to, and the actual process of putting in the new memory is pretty quick. The only slightly complicated bit is ensuring that the clips at the top of the back slot back into place.

Having said that, it’s made a big difference to the performance, especially with iPhoto which comes up noticeably quicker. My thought is that with the lower amount of memory iPhoto is loading and almost immediately swapping memory out to the disk, resulting in a good deal of the disk access. Certainly it will be interesting to see what else runs faster, but if you’ve got a Mac with 512Mb memory I can certainly recommend beefing it up a bit.

PC Pro Schizophrenic Over Apple?

I’ve commented before over the changing attitude of PCPro to the Mac. Since then, the MacBook has even turned up, and done relatively well in a comparison of budget laptops in the magazine. However in the November issue, that turned up in the post this morning, they are getting increasingly schizophrenic. Of course this is quite obviously because they give their columnists a large degree of editorial freedom, but it still makes interesting reading.

Leafing through the new magazine, the first indication was a big two page advert for the MacBook, with the black version on one page, and the white version on the other. It is a typical Apple minimalist creation compared to most PC adverts, in that it doesn’t have masses of machine specs, nor does it even have a prominent Apple logo. In the past you’d occasionally find adverts for Apple products like the iPod, but I have rarely seen adverts for the computers in PC magazines, perhaps it is an indication that Apple is looking more seriously at going after PC owners as a potential market.

The next thing I came across was an opinion piece by Ross Burridge, the magazines reviews editor. Now if bits of this had turned up in a Mac magazine, I would have regarded it as sarcasm, but as it is in a PC magazine, I’m sure he is quite serious. The point of the article was to counter the complaint that Microsoft hasn’t really done much with Windows XP. It is a familiar practice to look at the Windows platform, highlighting that the last major OS release was Windows XP back in 2001, and then compare this with the multiple OS releases that Apple have released over the same period. Not surprisingly he turns this argument around, pointing out that there have other versions of Windows XP released in the intervening period, for example the various tablet and media centre editions. He compares this with the ‘nominally improved’ versions of MacOS X that have been released over the same period. Whilst you could argue that only nominal improvements were needed because the original was pretty good anyway, his statement is incorrect. The version of MacOS X that was around when Windows XP was first released was version 10.1, Puma which was regarded by many as not being stable enough to use as a main operating system, and missing a number of key features. Indeed at that time, Apple were still shipping Macs with MacOS 9 as boot up default. Certainly I’d challenge anybody to compare Puma with a current version of MacOS X and only find nominal improvements. Finally he caps it off by quoting £400 as the amount that a Mac user will have spent on upgrades over the same period which is also somewhat of an exaggeration. True the more frequent big number upgrades will cost more in the long run, but £400 certainly seems like he’s including iLife upgrades too, something which the same magazine said wasn’t part of the OS for the purposes of their comparison article. Oh and he also uses the classic argument that Windows is safer because it has lots of anti-virus software, making it safer if some mythical really bad MacOS X virus comes along.

However the schizophrenia really kicks in when you get to the Jon Honeyball Advanced Windows column. He quite frequently mentions his Apple machines in the column anyway, but this month he starts off talking about his visit to the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, where he was asking questions about the upcoming version of MacOS X, Leopard. The two features he particularly picks on are Time Machine and the updated Spotlight. With Time Machine he raises concerns over the frequency of full backups as opposed to incremental backups, something that is controllable through the backup software included with Vista, however he concludes that because Time Machine is so well integrated into the OS, whilst the Vista backup solution is hidden away (backup software is not even installed as part of an XP Home install, you have to manually install it from the CD) and so is unlikely to be used by an average home user. Moving on to Spotlight he focuses in on the new network search functionality, and concludes that it will be unlikely to scale well, however for the home market with a small network of machines it is fine. He then uses this as a starting point to compare the attitudes of Apple and Microsoft to the home/SoHo user. Interesting points he makes are that Apple have a straightforward policy whereby everybody gets the same version, whilst Microsoft have an array of options, with some features missing from the cheaper versions. Indeed he quotes one of his friends as saying that the Microsoft attitude is to “make it so complicated that hopefully they’ll all buy the most expensive version out of fearâ€?. Ultimately he concludes that the battle for the home market is about to heat up again, and that in his opinion the wining product is not the one from Microsoft, indeed he even goes so far as to highlight that he is advising home users to upgrade to Apple machines – something that is quite a surprise from an Advanced Windows column!

So can we expect PC Pro to become a Mac magazine any time soon? I doubt it – PC Pro has a primary focus on business computing. However, if Jon Honeyball’s predictions about who will win the home market come true, it will certainly be interesting to see how the magazine changes…