Tag Archives: MacOS X

Spot the Difference

Safari/Firefox Compare

The announcement of a Windows version of Safari, the default browser under MacOS X has provoked a good deal of discussion.

Personally I’m of the opinion that it’s existence is primarily about providing a platform for iPhone development on Windows – very much that they need a platform, rather than any deep seated belief that the Windows platform needs another browser.

From my point of view that is made even more clear by the lengths to which Apple have gone to make it look and operate exactly like the MacOS X version, even down to the look of the buttons and scroll bars.

The identical behaviour even extends to how the browser renders fonts and graphics. If you take a look at the picture above, this shows the blog open in Firefox and Safari on Windows. Looking at the fonts, you’ll notice that the text looks subtly different – some people regard it as more blurry – this is because the browser is eschewing the usual Windows Cleartype in favour of the algorithm used by MacOS X. In theory, the MacOS X algorithm is intended to produce fonts that are as close to the original typeface design as possible, whilst Cleartype fits to the pixel grid – better screen wise – at the expense of accurately rendering the typeface. Coding Horror has a good article explaining the differences – ultimately it comes down to personal taste.

The other thing to note from the screen shot is the differences in the colour of the sunset picture at the top of the page. This is because Safari on Windows also treats graphics containing embedded colour space information differently. The sunset picture on the top of the page contains the colour space information from the original picture I took – Safari finds this and renders the graphic differently (although not necessarily correctly – ironically only the now defunct Mac Internet Explorer correctly interpreted colour spaces) resulting in the more vibrant orange hues that can be seen in Safari.

All of these duplicate features make it clear that alongside converting Safari, large amounts of MacOS X have been ported too to make it all work! Hence if you compare the memory usage of Safari with other browsers on Windows you’ll find it’s using a lot more than anything else…

Finally, one irony of Safari on Windows though is that whilst I don’t tend to use the browser much on MacOS X – preferring Firefox, I’m using Safari on Windows quite a lot because the text looks way better on the machine at work…

Update: The Safari on Windows debate rolls onward. With the news that the browser has been downloaded over one million times in the forty-eight hours since release, there is an interesting article from a Microsoft employee who initially is bemoaning the fact that Safari does everything itself, and then having read a posting by Joel Spolsky and the Coding Horror posting I mentioned above realises that it is unlikely that things will change!

The Spolsky posting is a good read in terms of the history – the Apple philosophy is very much about wanting to make fonts look as close to the printed original as possible – Joel explains in more detail why this is important to the desktop publishing and design communities. Choice quote of the posting has to be this:

“Typically, Apple chose the stylish route, putting art above practicality, because Steve Jobs has taste, while Microsoft chose the comfortable route, the measurably pragmatic way of doing things that completely lacks in panache.”

He also gives some opinions which go to explain why I’m preferring Safari on Windows – which are as much to do with familiarity as anything else!

How to Get Flamed by Mac Zealots

Mary Jo Foley couldn’t have done any better at igniting a flame war if she tried with this posting titled “Leopard Looks Like… Vista“. Number 4 is just plain wrong, and is probably worth explaining to any worried Mac owners out there. Unlike the PC’s, Mac’s have had 64-bit processors for a number of years with the G5 and G4 processors – so Leopard isn’t cutting out owners of those Mac’s. It is also worth bearing in mind that Tiger is partially 64-bit already – Apple has taken a phased approach with a single version – none of this 32-bit/64-bit version incompatibility confusion that people encounter on Windows. The current version of the OS, Tiger is 64-bit in parts anyway (check out this Apple explanation for more detail) – Leopard is merely the next phase in the process. The 64-bit business is purely for the techies, as a Mac end user it has no bearing.

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.