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  • Newsletter Issue #653

    June 4th, 2012

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

    Friday marked the beginning of Apple’s Mac App Store sandboxing program. Apps that are coded to support sandboxing means that they are walled off from other apps, which is designed to prevent the possible spread of malware. But it also restricts what those apps can do, beyond so-called entitlements, which Apple defines as conferring “specific capabilities or security permissions to your app.”

    But entitlements may be too restrictive for some apps, such as software that can capture audio streams from other apps. With Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack Pro, Ambrosia’s WireTap Studio and WireTap Anywhere and other products, you can record the audio from different apps, including your browser, iChat, and Skype. These apps are mission critical for many radio shows, such as mine. I’m also concerned about the fate of apps that make clones of your hard drive.

    Sure, such apps may remain successful as independent products. But Apple is clearly moving developers to use the Mac App Store, and it would be a real tragedy if software that won’t be allowed there gets short shrift by customers.

    Now on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, author and commentator Kirk McElhearn, aka “The iTunes Guy,” talks about the potential minefields for Apple’s sandboxing security scheme for OS X apps. What obstacles will it present to Mac developers? He’ll also talk about the failed iTunes Ping social networking service.

    Columnist Jim Dalrymple, Editor in Chief of The Loop, will be asked about what we can expect from Apple at the WWDC in light of his recent remark that the Mac Pro won’t be discontinued. He’ll also talk about the tragic state of Research In Motion and the BlackBerry.

    A new visitor, Kirk Hiner, Editor in Chief of AppleTell, will describe how he got involved in covering the Apple universe. He’ll also offer his feelings about the recent Tim Cook Interview at the AllThingsDigital D10 conference, his expectations for upcoming Mac hardware, and the next revision of the iOS.

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Discover the mysteries of vampires, ghosts, and other psychic phenomena as Gene and Chris present long-time paranormal investigator David Farrant, well known for his connection with the British Psychic and Occult Society and the amazing “Highgate Vampire” phenomenon, involving a strange being or apparition seen in a cemetery.

    Now Shipping! The Official Paracast T-Shirt — Now with New Design! We’re taking orders direct from our new Official Paracast Store, where you can place your order and pay with a major credit card or PayPal. The shirts come in white, 100% cotton, and feature The Paracast logo on the front. The rear emblem states: “Separating Signal From Noise.” We’ve also added a huge selection of additional special custom-imprinted merchandise for fans of our show, along with a redesigned storefront.

    HOPES GROW FOR POSSIBLE iOS 6 CHANGES

    During that widely published interview this week at the D10 conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook was coy when asked about future products. He also promised that Apple is going to double down on secrecy, so you were left with a few bread crumbs, and vague hints at what’s coming.

    This is part of the Apple playbook, so I didn’t expect to hear anything about, say, iOS 6, although you just know it will get heavy play at the Worldwide Developers Conference when it convenes later this month. The real question is what 100 or so new features will Apple introduce? Will they make major changes in the user interface? These are serious questions, and the possibilities are rich.

    If you use previous OS introductions as a guide, Apple will concentrate on a handful of “tent pole” features that they regard as being the most significant. Or the ones that are designed to get the most play in the media.

    Each version of the iOS has had key features that Apple regards as major selling points to spread the platform. With iOS 2, for example, there was the introduction of the App Store. Over the years, enhanced multitasking, Push Notification, Notification Center and other key enhancements helped Apple sell more and more mobile gear. Even if the Android platform powers more smartphones, those numbers are divided among dozens and dozens of models from several manufacturers. They compete in all price ranges, and it’s fair to say that salespeople may get spiffs to push a particular make and model. That’s not Apple’s game.

    Now wish lists for iOS 6 have appeared in recent weeks, and they address a fairly consistent set of issues. But most are simple enhancements rather than suggestions of innovative features. One article even compared certain iOS functions with similar capabilities on other mobile platforms, such as the failed WebOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and, of course, Android. It’s fair to say that Apple is not the only possible source of innovation. There are good ideas elsewhere, and few would disagree that the revised Notification Center took more than a few hints from Android.

    When it comes to switching apps, the WebOS lets you tap one of a set of cards spread out across the screen, each of which represents an app. Consider the way you switch pages in Safari for the iOS, with an overview of thumbnails that you can examine by swiping back and forth. Just tap to select the one you want. Apple could, I suppose, consider that scheme as an alternative for app switching, or even to choose multiple documents in a single app, such as Pages. For the iPad, there seems little reason why you can’t place two document windows side by side, particularly in the horizontal mode. Don’t forget how many of us dealt with multiple document windows, and even apps, on PowerBooks with screen sizes that were similar to the iPad.

    One app that still needs plenty of work is Mail. Think for a moment how you’d attach a document to a message on your iPhone or your iPad. Yes, you can open an app, such as iPhoto, and send a file via Mail. But it doesn’t work the other way around. Say you are writing something, and you realize you need to attach a photo. See what I mean?

    At the same time, I think that the iPhone and the iPad are powerful enough to handle junk mail processing and message filtering. Otherwise, you have to depend on your desktop email app to manage both (and that it’s running when you use your iPhone or iPad), unless you can set rules and have good spam filtering in your chosen email system. Well, at least Gmail handles both chores well, but don’t expect your ISP’s email system to necessarily provide powerful spam filtering, and flexible filtering.

    I’m also wondering why Apple isn’t making it possible to have multiple signatures in Mail for the iOS. They cannot assume we all have just one email account. And, yes, I’ve tried third party solutions, but they weren’t satisfactory. The real answer should come from Apple, the simple ability to apply a custom signature to each of your email accounts. I can’t imagine it would present a serious programming obstacle. It’s just a matter of placing this option high enough on Apple’s priority list so they make it happen.

    Meanwhile there are published reports that Apple plans to integrate Face-book with the next iOS release. There were strong hints of such possibilities in that Tim Cook interview. It still depends on the strong personalities from Apple and Face-book making a deal that allows it to happen. Based on Cook’s comments, it’s very possible Siri will leave beta too.

    I’ve kept this piece basic, and I’m focusing on things I’d personally like to see in iOS 6. I’m sure you readers have even better ideas to present. Certainly if, as expected, the new iOS is previewed at the WWDC, the feature set is already set in stone, so we have to hope Apple has read the wish lists through the years, in addition to coming up with their own ideas.

    One more thing: I do not expect the aging iPhone 3GS, still being sold by some dealers, to be supported with iOS 6. When the next iPhone comes out, the entry level model will be the iPhone 4.

    HOPES RISE FOR MOUNTAIN LION

    It’s fair to say that history may not be super friendly to OS 10.7 Lion. Apple’s first attempt to integrate elements of the iOS into their desktop OS has been a hit or miss proposition. Sure, Lion probably has as many users as its predecessor, Snow Leopard. Sure, those numbers seem extremely favorable, representing one of the fastest Mac OS adoption rates ever.

    At the same time, Mac users, in general, are probably not warm and fuzzy about the benefits of some of the iOS-inspired changes, such as the thinner scroll bars that only appear when you mouse over, unless you kill that option in System Preferences. Reversing the direction of scrolling, making it more “natural” to mimic the approach taken in the iOS, can be downright confusing to some, although it, too, can be switched off.

    On the whole, Lion does appear to be pretty stable. Unlike previous versions of Mac OS X, it didn’t ship with show-stopping bugs that could destroy your files, or anything near as serious, although there was the usual run of defects that had to be squashed, such as erratic Wi-Fi networking. As of the recent 10.7.4 update, Lion works extremely well from the standpoint of performance and usability.

    I have some problems, though. Spaces, the ability to create virtual desktops, appears broken to me. An app might move to one workspace, and then find itself in another. I want most apps to be separated from one another on my desktop, except for ones designed to work together. Mail and Safari should be separate, but the audio apps I use for my production workflow should all share their own desktop. In the real world, it’s a mess, and I don’t see a compelling third party solution (I welcome suggestions).

    But Lion is fast becoming yesterday’s news. It’s all about Mountain Lion these days, as it enhances the integration of certain iOS apps, or at least app naming. The Notification Center is the most impressive feature of all. For years, developers have had to roll their own notification schemes, or use an open source product, Growl, to accomplish their goals. Inspired by the iOS, Apple has integrated this feature into the OS in a way that comes across as exceedingly effective.

    Early chatter from the developer community about Mountain Lion is quite positive. On this week’s episode of my tech show, The Loop’s Jim Dalrymple says he uses it as his full-time OS on a MacBook Air, and, even though it’s still weeks from release, he finds it fast and stable. That’s an extremely positive development. I will admit I’m not ready to commit my desktop iMac to a beta OS, but I might reconsider when, as expected, Apple presents a release candidate at the WWDC.

    The most important element of Mountain Lion, to me at any rate, is that it makes the integration with the iOS more consistent. Lion always had a bit of an unfinished feel to me, as if Apple had a ways to go, but ran out of time before the release date. OS 10.8 takes the process further along, and rather successfully it seems.

    Meantime, I’m more and more curious how Apple will handle Mountain Lion marketing. Will they, as I’ve suggested, make it a free upgrade to Lion users, or keep the $29.99 purchase price? I don’t hear other commentators saying much about this, as they appear to assume that the price policy, having been established with Snow Leopard and Lion, must inevitably continue with Mountain Lion. At the same time, Apple is releasing an OS upgrade a year after its predecessor, same as the early days of Mac OS X.

    I would think, if Apple wants to take a cue from the iOS, they will make Mountain Lion free, particularly if they plan on annual OS X upgrades for the foreseeable future. Yes, Apple is probably putting several hundred million dollars in revenue on the table, but if they hasten adoption of new OS features from developers who can reach larger and more predictable audiences, the entire platform benefits.

    And Microsoft executives freak, which may be the best benefit of all. If Microsoft decides to offer Windows 8 upgrades in the $100 to $200 range, they will have a difficult argument to make. I’ve already read some fairly detailed reports on the final Windows 8 beta, and it’s all coming across as an incoherent mess that the enterprise will reject as a dreaded disease.

    THE FINAL WORD

    The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.

    Publisher/Editor: Gene Steinberg
    Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
    Marketing and Public Relations: Barbara Kaplan
    Worldwide Licensing: Sharon Jarvis



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    4 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #653”

    1. […] Continue Reading… Related Posts: Newsletter Issue #634: The Apple Integrated TV and the Bandwidth Land Mine […]

    2. Doug McDowell says:

      Have you tried TotalSpaces? It’s beta but seems to fix a lot of what people don’t like about Mission Control.

      • @Doug McDowell, I have downloaded it, and I’m putting it through its paces. One limitation is that you cannot make a new desktop in Total Spaces. You have to do it via Mission Control, so you can configure it in Total Spaces. But it does restore Spaces to function very much in the OS 10.6 vein. After a couple of hours, I’m encouraged, and I’ll keep you readers posted after I’ve had extended face time with it. I do hope it’ll work with Mountain Lion.

        Peace,
        Gene

    3. paul says:

      I remember the old days when all Mac OS versions were free… you could copy and swap to your heart’s content. Go to a local dealer with some floppies and copy them.

      It was automatic… upgrade immediately.

      But I always thought that Apple lost some much needed revenues…

      So, how about a compromise between your desire for a freebie (and the argument it would help the platform– as if it really needed any help!) and the need for revenue and consistency.

      $15 and will upgrade Snow Leopard, too.

      Note: Microsoft clearly doesn’t care what Apple prices its OSs for– $30, $50, whatever, it always charges much more!

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