Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion – Overview and Observations

Apple is set to release its next update to the Mac operating system OS X tomorrow. However, I’ve been working with Mountain Lion for the past two weeks and here’s an overview of 10.8 as well as some observations.

The update is quite welcome. My Mac’s performance improved drastically over Lion which had caused my mid 09 Macbook Pro to experience some serious lagging. The most welcome update that I found myself is enjoying is actually Safari. I no longer need any other browser to get by and I haven’t bothered downloading any other the browsers I used to use on OS X Lion. And I’m especially fond of them integrating the google search function into the address bar (better late than never).

Another interesting feature in Safari, which is also present across the Mountain Lion, is some serious iCloud integration. Notice the cloud icon next to the address bar? Clicking on that will show you any tabs you left open on your iPhone or iPad so you can pick up your reading or work on your Mac.

Moreover, you can immediately add any page you want to your reading list and it will actually take some time to save the page for offline viewing. The page will then sync to your reading list on your iPhone or iPad as well.

The install process was quite smooth. I opted for a clean install so I simply turned a flash drive into a bootable drive and used it to erase my hard drive and install Mac OS X anew.

When the update is released via the Mac App Store tomorrow, you can simply opt to update without deleting any of your data. Having Time Machine backups is preferable though, although odds are nothing serious will happen. It’s a very streamlined process which only requires clicking a few buttons and waiting about 30 minutes and you’re set.

With the introduction of Notification Center and Notification Banners, you can opt out of having the dock showing all the time. Whenever you receive an email, a twitter notification or an iMessage, you will get a banner on the top right similar to the one below. It’s very neat.

 

 

Swiping left or simply clicking on the dashed button next to the search icon on the top right will show the notification center which aggregates all your notifications and they stay there until you clear them.

Of the new additions to OS X Mountain Lion, there’s Notes and Reminders, both of which also sync to your iDevices so your notes and reminders can be synchronized everywhere.

They have also added Game Center, which I think is useless.

 

One of the other cool features that were added, under the hood, is power nap whereby your mac goes to sleep but it stays up to date with your emails and notifications. They have also added dictation which you can activate by clicking the “fn” button twice. Yes, you will finally use that button.

 

 

iCloud integration:

As I mentioned previously, Apple is pushing you to use iCloud with everything they can in OS X Mountain Lion (and iOS 6 for your iDevices). In fact, the default saving option for your documents, modified pictures, etc… is, yes you guessed it, to iCloud.

I think the whole feature is seamless and streamlined. Anything you do on your mac gets synced to the cloud which sends it to your iPhone or iPad. It’s that simple and intuitive. It’s also nice to find something you had been typing out on the mac already on the iPad.

Twitter integration:

Facebook integration is coming later. But Twitter integration is already here. And the sharing button is everywhere. Mountain Lion even asks you if you want to allow other applications to use your twitter account the first time you set it up or even authorize an application to use your account online.

Sharing to twitter is also very simple and very similar to iOS 5.

 

Sharing:

In fact, it doesn’t stop at Twitter. Apple wants you to share things with Mountain Lion, be it to friends via airdrop or sharing your videos to Facebook or via email.

In fact Airdrop is now integrated, for example, into Quicktime itself to immediately share that file to your friends who are on the same network.

The show is The Walking Dead by the way.

And that’s a quick roundup of some of the main features that I, as a basic user, worked with on OS X Mountain Lion. Should you upgrade? I say definitely. It’s more than worth it and for a little more than $20, it’s very affordable.

An interesting tidbit though, the new wallpapers for OS X Mountain Lion don’t even have a picture of a Mountain Lion.

 

 

 

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13 Facts About Steve Jobs

I recently finished reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs titled, well, Steve Jobs. It was a fascinating read with more than a few insights into the life of this man that enchanted millions with his creations and who, like it or not, changed the world.

So I’ve decided to list thirteen interesting facts that I learned about Steve Jobs from the book. Hope you find them as interesting as I did.

1) Romance: he was a hopeless romantic – at least when he wasn’t busy bossing everyone around. Steve Jobs fell in love with two women his whole life one of which was his wife, Lauren Powell, with whom he shared more than twenty years of married life. As a testament of his love and gratitude to Lauren, here’s what he wrote her on their 20th anniversary:

We didn’t know much about each other twenty years ago. We were guided by our intuition; you swept me off my feet. It was snowing when we got married at the Ahwahnee. Years passed, kids came, good times, hard times, but never bad times. Our love and respect has endured and grown. We’ve been through so much together and here we are right back where we started 20 years ago – older, wiser – with wrinkles on our faces and hearts. We now know many of life’s joys, sufferings, secrets and wonders and we’re still here together. My feet have never returned to the ground.

2) Middle East: He didn’t care about the affairs of the Middle East. In fact, he never bothered in pursuing a meeting with his father, even though he met him without either one knowing who the other was as Jobs was a frequent customer of his biological father’s restaurant. Regarding the Middle East, Steve Jobs had this to say: “I don’t think anybody really knows what we should be doing over there. You’re fucked if you do [interfere in Middle Eastern affairs] and you’re fucked if you don’t.”

3) Simplicity: His mantra in life, which he translated to Apple was: “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” In fact, all of his designs for Apple products had this theme as their basis: can we take off this part and keep full functionality? If he thought it was doable (and more often than not, his engineers disagreed), he pushed them to do it. And they always pulled through.

4) iPhone & iPad: The iPad was being developed prior to the iPhone. The multi-touch technology which Apple invented was kept hidden from Jobs for fear he would find the technology ridiculous. When presented with it, he was fascinated by it and immediately recognized the potential. In fact, the only reason Steve Jobs wanted to develop a tablet computer was to “stick it” to a Microsoft engineer who kept bombarding him with his stylus-using tablet, which Jobs found to be dead on arrival.

“This guy badgered me about how Microsoft was going to completely change the world with this tablet PC software and eliminate all notebook computers, and Apple ought to license his Microsoft software. But he was doing the device all wrong. It had a stylus. As soon as you have a stylus, you’re dead. This dinner was like the tenth time he talked to me about it, and I was so sick of it that I came home and said, “Fuck this, let’s show him what a tablet can really be.”

5) iCloud: The idea of iCloud was conceived by Mr. Jobs back in 2008 but he never found the proper framework to introduce the service in a fluid way. Apple had an attempt with “MobileMe” which Jobs completely hated. Soon after its introduction, he gathered the team responsible for it, reprimanded them and sacked their lead engineer. As he went back home to his family and looked at his son, he thought about the families of those he sacked and how their fathers would be coming with the bad news to their families. But he didn’t let himself feel bad because he knew that hard decisions needed to be taken and if no else did, he was the one who would.

6) Antennagate: His handling of the iPhone 4’s antennagate issue (where touching the iPhone 4 in a certain way on the lower left side would reduce cellular signal) was hailed by many professors as groundbreaking. Going on stage and proclaiming that the issue was blown out of proportion, that phones were not perfect and if anyone’s not happy with their device they can bring it back to Apple, Steve Jobs not only changed the context of the conversation from an opportunity of ridicule against the iPhone 4 but to one where he showed the shortcomings of smartphones across manufacturers. According to Scott Adams, created of comedy strip Dilber:

“If Jobs had not changed the context from the iPhone 4 to all smartphones in general, I could make you a hilarious comic strip about a product so poorly made that it won’t work if it comes in contact with a human hand. But as soon as the context is changed to ‘all smartphones have problems,’ the humor opportunity is gone. Nothing kills humor like a general and boring truth.”

7) Illness: Steve Jobs’ cancer treatment was groundbreaking in the sense that more often than not, he was one step ahead therapy-wise. He had his full genome decoded, costing him more than $100,000 at the time, as well as the genome of his cancerous cells, and he had a molecular therapy approach that targeted all the little mutations of the cancer as it progressed. His pancreatic cancer had an early diagnosis as well but Steve Jobs refused to have the required operation because he didn’t want to open up his body and be violated like that. Six months later, he figured – under pressure from many people – that his alternative treatments and wanting to distort reality wasn’t working. So he had the operation, which was not a full wipple procedure. It was then that the doctors suspected the cancer had spread. This was the start of his physical demise.

8) iPad: Steve Jobs was very displeased by the press reaction to the initial iPad. He wasn’t sure what was the cause of the overall negative reaction and he decided that the iPad 2, which was conceived even as the first iPad was being introduced, would be even more groundbreaking. Soon after the iPad was released to immense success, his greatest reward came from a Forbes article by Michael Noer, who was reading off his iPad in a rural part of Bogota, Columbia when an illiterate six year old came over to him and was intrigued by the iPad. Noer handed it over. The boy managed to scroll around the apps and play a round of pinball – all on his own.

“Steve Jobs has designed a powerful computer that an illiterate six-year-old can use without instruction,” Noer wrote. “If that isn’t magical, I don’t know what is.”

9) Think Different: Steve Jobs wanted people to “think different.” If the idea to “think different” required them to use LSD or Acid, he didn’t care. He calls using those substances one of the most enlightening events of his life, getting him to see things more clearly and in a different light. Years later, this extra-depth, so to speak, that Jobs acquired would translate in his work first at Apple where he designed the Macintosh, in NexT and then in Pixar before returning to Apple and pulling out of the grave it was digging for itself with subsequent CEOs who cared more about profit than about products.

10) AppStore: Steve Jobs was against the introduction of third-party apps to the iPhone. He felt that would be a betrayal of some sort to the closed system that he envisioned. By having third party apps introduced on the iPhone, he would be creating a way for people to abuse the tightly engineered software-hardware combo that Apple made. However, after many people started pressuring him to allow it – including John Ive, designer of the iPhone and one of the few people Jobs trusted immensely. He decided to sleep on it before coming back with the idea of the App Store where developers would develop apps subject to strict rules and Apple would be testing all the submitted apps, which would give iPhone users a more enriching experience on their phones and wouldn’t relent the protective control Apple had over the device.

11) Closed Systems: Steve Jobs’ “need” for control is seen by many as contrary to the hacker mentality that he had as  Apple was launched – the rebel against the big brother establishment. And this is one of the main discrepancies between him and Bill Gates where the latter believes in openness while Jobs believed in closed systems for the simple matter that coordinating hardware and software delivers the best possible product to the user. When you start giving users room to do as they please with the product, the quality of the product dramatically decreases. Steve Jobs wanted to provide the users who opt for his devices the best possible experience and for that, he figured a closed system would be the best way possible.

12) Pixar: Steve Jobs is responsible for many of the animated movies that we consider as cartoon-gold in the last ten years. As CEO of Pixar, he gave us Toy Story, Toy Story 2′ A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo…. As head of Pixar, he got into many disputes with the CEO of Disney who saw them as dispensable animators while Jobs saw Disney as a mere distributor. Disney hadn’t given the world a decent cartoon movie in a long time and their major revenue was beginning to shift towards amusement parks. Their animation department was reporting losses… In a way, Steve Jobs also saved the animation industry from being overtaken by creatively blind CEOs at Disney whose sight was set only on the profit margin they made.

13) Genius: Steve Jobs was not super smart. He was a genius. The difference between the two is subtle and yet existent. He did not have raw processing power, which is intelligence, but he was genius in the sense that he was able to see what others couldn’t. He was able to think outside the box set by the corporates of our time to deliver great products that would help bring humanity forward, which was Steve Jobs’ goal all along. His invention of the iPod was not groundbreaking in the sense that music players existed before. But it was groundbreaking in the sense that he saw the shortcomings of all those music players and was able to use resources that he did not have to change the music industry forever. Sony, for example, has a music recording branch as well as a technology branch but they never got the idea to make the iPod. He also saved the music industry by launching the iTunes Store, which lessened the blow of the mass hemorrhages due to piracy. With the iPod and the Macintosh before it, Steve Jobs managed to create a need for a digital hub that many thought they didn’t need. His business strategy was not one based on market research but on insight. He didn’t care what customers needed now. He cared about what they would need tomorrow. That’s how he made the iPhone and subsequently the iPad. That’s why Apple is the world’s leading company today – all because of this man who saw out of the box, by standing on the “shoulders of those that preceded [him].

And one more thing…

Steve Jobs was the biggest business executive tycoon of our time. There is no doubt about that. Anyone who is trying to discredit him based on some non sequitur argument is delusional. If our legacy as people is to bash the accomplishments of those that preceded us, helping us move forward, then I have no idea where we are heading.

If you are in Lebanon and want to buy the book, it is available at Libraire Antoine from whom you can buy the book online. If you’re outside Lebanon, you can buy the book off amazon.

Our Experience With iOS 5

Ever since Apple unveiled the new iOS 5 features about two weeks ago, I was itching to try them out. The beta was released and I had refrained from updating, thinking it was too buggy. But I couldn’t hold out anymore and I took the plunge. And I have to say, it was a good decision on my part.

I am the type of people who hate jailbreaking because I don’t see its use. I was forced to jailbreak my original iPhone in order to be able to use it in Lebanon and felt its performance get affected a lot. Therefore, I refrained from doing so to all iPhone updates that I purchased.

And even though iOS had many shortcomings (no operating software is perfect after all), I felt it was enough considering what I used of the phone. Flash-based games or websites are almost useless to me and, well, I felt the negative aspects about iOS could be compensated for by the wide array of brilliant apps, most of which were free, as well as the top-notch hardware that was running the OS.

I’m almost against people who like to jailbreak just to get cracked apps for free. I’d rather pay $0.99 and keep my phone’s operating system intact, but that’s just me.

This post was written with extensive input from a friend of mine that I met because of iOS 5. David Schoborg’s input will be present along with mine, although his will also hold comparison to the other leading platform: android.

David:

Like Elie, when I heard about new feature set in iOS 5 I was quite excited. I have a pretty extensive history with Android, and was pushed into this Apple universe when my wife wanted a smartphone. I’m not just an end user, I’m a power user. I’m that guy that gleefully flashed ROMs, kernels and alike on a plethora of Android phones. Bricking my phone? A risk worth the reward. Yep, I admit it, I’m a gadget geek.

Her desire to join me in the age of mobile presented a bit of a problem. Was I going to be able to survive in, what I considered at the time, this dumbed down experience?

All in all, I’ve had a great experience with my iPhone and iPad. Great applications, great hardware, best in class battery life, but lacking in one major area: the notifications are the worst I’ve ever had to deal with!

SMS? I’m being interrupted. IM? Again, interrupted. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like having your camera app ready to go, getting ready to capture that perfect picture and being interrupted with an IM reminding you to pick up milk on the way home. Trust me, it stinks.

So, I resulted to jailbreaking my phone, because it was so bad that I couldn’t deal with it, especially after using Android, and enjoying unobtrusive notifications.

Then came iOS 5. I’ve been running it for 2 weeks, jailbreak free, and the little things here are what make it great. I’m going to share some of my experience with iOS 5 and compare it to my Android experience.

– iMessage:

I cannot stress how easy and smooth the whole iMessage process has been. You go into messages in settings, set it up with a simple click (yes, it’s an on/off button) and a few minutes later, you’re good to go. You can enable iMessage to work on many IDs: phone number, different emails and you can also set your caller ID to be any of those verified emails or phone number.


And then you just chat with whoever you want. In my case, I’ve been extensively chatting with Dave (our iMessage thread has like 500 messages so far). And the whole thing goes without a hitch (unless you factor in Lebanese internet but that’s not Apple’s fault).
This is basically how iMessage works. You type in the name of the person you want to text and the iPhone checks if this person’s number or email is registered in Apple’s database as a user of iOS 5. If the number or email check out, the phone switches to iMessage. It’s that simple. No extra iMessage application, it’s all integrated.

– Notifications:

Elie: Unlike popular belief, I was never bothered by the iPhone’s notification system. It could be that I never used – nor do I intend to – android but, even though it was intrusive, I went without a notification system for over two years with my original iPhone.
But when I started using iOS 5 along with its new notification system, my whole use of the iPhone got so much better. I no longer had to press the “dismiss” button whenever someone texted while playing Doodle Jump or Whatsapping someone.
There was simply a thin bar at the top of the screen with whatever notification I got inside it.

And if I missed the notification, I could pull a notification center screen from the top by dragging it down and it would have all my notifications there. I could simply click on one of them, go to the corresponding app and respond accordingly.

Moreover, the lockscreen allows you to answer specific notifications by sliding across them.

And David agrees with me as well.

David: In all honesty, iOS does a better job than Android here. The concept is similar to Android, creating a notification pulldown from the status bar where you can see what’s occurred, and deal with it on YOUR terms. You drag down from the bar, and it’s all there.


What I like about this approach more is that the notifications give you more information that what you currently get from Android. You can read the first few lines of an email, message, or that alert from CNN that used to interrupt your round of Angry Birds, can now be read and dealt with at your leisure.

Also, you have a couple of Apple provided widgets (Stocks, Weather) that are pretty helpful as well. Weather is finally geolocation aware, so no going in and switching cities around to figure out what the weather is going to bring.

Ultimately I hope Apple gives developers access to produce widgets as I could see this being really useful for them in providing more functionality for their apps.

And what’s even cooler? You get this on the lock screen too.


You can slide to read the incoming notification, or deal with it later. No more having to open the email application to see what’s been delivered. This is something Android doesn’t offer currently, and is very helpful to see what’s happened, without having to unlock the phone.

PS: The style of notifications you get on the lockscreen for receiving a text has changed with iOS 5 beta 2 to something that looks like this:

 

– iCloud:

I have yet to fully harness the powers of iCloud, mostly because of our ridiculous internet. But I can see the potential. The other day, I downloaded the Lebanese iPhone camera app Dermandar on my Mac. Then, moments later, I saw that it was downloaded on my iPhone as well. I also set up an @me email, which I have yet to use extensively as I’ve gotten way too used to gmail for my liking. But, hate or like iCloud, the potential is definitely there. How Apple advances with this will determine whether this is something people will love or not.

David, on the other hand, isn’t as positive about iCloud.

David: Apple also introduced iCloud with iOS 5. iCloud promises “cloud services done right.”

I’ll have to disagree. Don’t get me wrong, there are some really nice additions, but I feel it ultimately falls short.

Having contacts, calendars, and documents able to be backed up and synced in the cloud across all of your iDevices is great. However, anyone really interested in this is already using Google via their mobile sync for iOS to accomplish this task.
Photostream is my personal favorite added feature. It’s similar to Google, backing up your photos in the cloud, but I just love the feature of adding a folder to the PC or Mac and the photos just show up. (They sync when you connect via WiFi and then are permanently backed up on your personal computer. The last 1000 photos are backed up in the cloud, unlimited on your PC/Mac.)

iTunes in the cloud is basically allowing you to re-download the songs you’ve already purchased to your other devices on the account, or back to your phone. Let’s be honest, this should’ve been in place already. It’s nothing more than a glorified history of your music purchases.

Where I think Apple really missed the mark is with the iTunes Match service. For $24.99 a year, anything in your iTunes library on your PC/Mac is able to be accessed in the “cloud” via your iDevices, even stuff you haven’t purchased from Apple. Sounds great! (I have over 20,000 songs that could potentially be offered to me even though I’ve only purchased literally 30 of those through iTunes)

Here’s the problem.

Let’s say you are out and about with your iPhone. You look at the selection on your phone, nothing’s doing it for you. So you reach out to iTunes Match to grab a song off the cloud that’s on your library at home. Stream it right? Unfortunately that’s not the case. You have to fully download the song. Compared to Google Music (beta) and Amazon’s Cloud Player, it’s really a disappointment in comparison.

I, personally, see David’s point with iTunes Match. But we need more info about the service to fully judge it. If Apple will in some way “iTunes-ize” all our songs and we get to keep them after the year is up, then I think iTunes match is a great service. If the songs get deleted after a year, then I think streaming them would have been a much better option.

Other notable additions include the total integration of twitter in the iOS which I’ve only used so far to tweet a few pictures. Wireless syncing is also there and it has been activated in beta 2, as were OTA updates.

However, something that wasn’t advertised and that I found was interesting, especially while making calls, was a pop-up screen about how unsecured my call was.

Not sure if this is only exclusive to my Lebanese carrier but I figured it’s worth to note the existence of such a thing.

David: WiFi Syncing and No PC set up are in iOS 5 as well, and honestly, these are long overdue: a nice enhancement, but nothing groundbreaking. Being able to back up into the cloud and restore your settings and app data is great too, but again, a little late to the party.

All in all, I think iOS 5 does somethings better than Android, it’s also falls short in some, particularly the cloud offerings.

iOS 5 brings some much needed enhancements, offer some really cool new features and shortcuts (You can now get to the camera from the home screen by a double click of the home button. Yay!), and bests Android in notifications.

It’s a worthy upgrade that all of you should jump on as soon as you can.

And here it is folks, our experience with iOS 5 so far. And as David said, the moment the update is available for the public, you absolutely need to update! It’s that awesome!

David can be contacted via his twitter account or his Facebook account.

iOS 5 Rumor Roundup

With the WWDC set in less than 12 hours, I have decided to make a rumor round-up of what to expect in the upcoming update of iOS: iOS5

1) better notification system and widgets:

The iOS’ notification system has been the center of criticism since it was implemented. Many felt it was intrusive and not practical. Moreover, many feel the interface has gotten bland after 4 years of looking at pretty much the same home screen design. iOS 5 is expected to introduce a better notification system, as well as widgets, such as the weather app updating it’s icon (yes, I’m sick of seeing it sunny when it’s snowing outside).

2) Deep Twitter integration

With twitter launching its own photo-sharing service in the coming weeks, Apple is expected to integrate twitter in all sides of its upcoming iOS. It will allow users to share things directly from the iPhone/iPad/iPod touch to their twitter accounts.


3) Automatic App updates

A leak with iTunes wording has revealed that Apple is introducing an automatic update system for the apps on the iDevice, which you can turn off. What’s this option supposed to do? Well, as the name implies, it automatically updates your application so you don’t have to constantly check for updates via your iDevice or computer and with iOS being the unparalleled #1 platform when it comes to apps, this would definitely be handy.

4) iDevice Support

As with previous updates, iOS 5 is expected to have certain options not available for the iPhone 3GS and the third generation iPod touch. The iPhone 4, iPad and iPad 2 should have all iOS options available to them, as well as the upcoming iDevice updates, set to come in September.

Apple will also introduce the final version of the new Mac OS: OSX Lion, along with its new service: iCloud, which will allow users to stream purchased music via 3G or wireless, without syncing them to their device.

Regardless of what actually comes true, for any Apple fan, the WWDC is a very exciting time because it shows what this ingenious company is up to. And it’s always great!