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  • Newsletter Issue #806

    May 11th, 2015

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

    Can Apple truly overhaul the TV industry? True, there’s not much talk anymore that Apple has a TV set waiting in the wings. That speculation has been around for several years with little to show for it. Instead, you wonder how the combination of a substantially refreshed Apple TV and that rumored subscription service can possibly change things for the better. After all, adding yet another video streamer and more subscription TV to the mix doesn’t change much, except for Apple’s more intuitive interface.

    Now some suggest we’ll know more at June’s WWDC keynote, and I suppose that might be true if there’s going to be an Apple TV store with third-party apps. After all, developers will require an SDK to get started, and Apple could use the occasion to preview the next generation product, even if it won’t be out for a while. Sure, it might gut sales of the existing model, but Apple already cut the price by $30, to $69, and that has to portend changes are coming. Customers who merely want to binge on new programs from Netflix may not even care.

    Meantime, on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, you heard from Susie Ochs, Executive Editor of Macworld, who covered speculation about the next Apple TV set-top box. What features is Apple going to add? Siri support, a touch-based remote, and what about support for the new higher-resolution TV format, 4K (Ultra HD)? Susie also recounted her experiences as owner of an Apple Watch, and how it’s become an important part of her digital lifestyle.

    You also heard from Jeff Gamet, Managing Editor for The Mac Observer, The topics of discussion included expectations for the next Apple TV, and the key issue of cutting the cable cord. How are existing cable and satellite providers reacting to the new TV landscape, and would some sort of a la carte scheme, where you only subscribe to the channels you want, present the best solution? Jeff also talked about the Apple Watch, and what Apple might reveal at the next WWDC, to be held from June 8-12, 2015 in San Francisco. What about the next versions of iOS and OS X?

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris present Red Pill Junkie, an outspoken blogger on the paranormal and a regular contributor for The Daily Grail, Mysterious Universe, the Intrepid Magazine blog. He also collaborates frequently with The Grimerica Show podcast and also lends a little hand on The Gralien Report radio show. On this episode, RPJ gives you his first-hand account of the Roswell Slides event in Mexico City, which occurred on May 5, 2015. Do they really president evidence to demonstrate they discovered two slides depicting an extraterrestrial? You’ll also hear a segment featuring UFO historian Richard Dolan, who also attended the event.

    Now Shipping! The Official Paracast T-Shirt! We’ve got swag! We’re taking orders direct from our 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.

    THE NEXT OS X: BIG CHANGES OR SMALL?

    The recent rounds of speculation about OS 10.11 suggest it’ll be a catchup release, in the spirit of OS 10.6 Snow Leopard back in 2009. Instead of packing in loads of new features, some seemingly barely tested, Apple may focus mainly on stability, performance, and some improved under-the-hood tools for developers. OS 10.6 was considered to be the true reference release of OS X and a true successor is overdue.

    Snow Leopard was also the last version of OS X that let you run PowerPC apps on Intel-based Macs courtesy of Rosetta. Lots of support for older Macs was removed. It was restricted to 64-bit Intel Macs, meaning the earliest supported Macs appeared in 2008. Quite restrictive indeed, but it made sense that Apple wanted to clean out past bloat, and move on.

    Now there are clear reasons why some Mac users stuck with Snow Leopard. One is the fact that they were not interested in ditching those PowerPC apps. Another is that they just plain did not appreciate that Apple added some iOS-related interface niceties to OS X, although the changes were mostly minor.

    Unlike Windows XP, the existing user base of Snow Leopard is below the noise level, but a lot of that is due to the fact that Apple is selling more and more Macs in recent years, and they are all loaded with later operating systems. The adoption rate of Yosemite, as of the time I wrote this article, ranged from 60-65%, ahead of Mavericks at the same point in time.

    Well, you just knew that Yosemite would only survive about a year before it was supplanted with a newer OS.  OS 10.11 is expected to be demonstrated during the June 8, 2015 WWDC keynote, and Apple VP Philip Schiller is promising new technologies for developers to explore.

    That statement creates a contradiction, or maybe not.

    Up till recently, speculation had it that Yosemite’s successor would be a cleanup release, sort of revisiting the Snow Leopard concept. After all, Apple isn’t charging for OS releases anymore, so there’s no commercial incentive to pack it with loads of new features in order to get more sales. When you examine the feature set for Windows 10 in comparison, you’ll see that some of the changes just revert to Windows 7 behavior, and others, such as multiple desktops, merely emulate OS X features.

    There are clearly irritating bugs in Yosemite, still. Some Mac users continue to complain about Wi-Fi connection issues. The Continuity feature, allowing for more interactive communication between iOS and OS X, is ragged. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and that goes against a worthy concept.

    When you drill down to Handoff, for example, when it does function, it has its limits. Macs before 2012 aren’t supported, in part because most of the older gear (but not all of it) lacks support for Bluetooth 4.0 LE. The niceties aren’t important, but Apple won’t consider whether third-party USB adapters might solve the problem. The solution is live without, or buy a new Mac, and I suspect the feature isn’t important enough for most of you to consider the latter solution if your computer is otherwise just fine.

    I’m sure many of you can create a long list of lingering OS X issues, some of which arrived with Yosemite. It does appear the maintenance updates are slower to appear, and only recently have reports surfaced that a 10.10.4 is under construction. So will that be the final update, meant to gather the most serious bugs, fix them, and get things ready for the next release? Good question, but when the needs of Mac users appear to be ignored, you have to feel frustrated.

    For me, I haven’t noticed too many issues of note with Yosemite. It has been a long while since anything crashed, although I did encounter a runaway memory issue of two where the iMac’s fans ran real fast and real loud. I suspect it may all be traced to an errant Adobe Flash site, and closing all Safari windows usually sets things right. But that would appear to be Adobe’s fault, so I won’t make an issue of it.

    I can see the wisdom, however, in Apple promising more OS stability at a developer’s event. They can couch it in terms of introducing new technologies that allow the OS to run more efficiently, using less memory, allowing things to behave in a more stable fashion. Perhaps there could be a Continuity 2.0 that adds to the feature set and refines existing features. That might present a politically correct way to fix what’s wrong but take the glass half-full/half-empty approach of offering it as a better version.

    Developers would also appreciate not having to cope with a flood of new technologies, and just focusing on refinements to existing features and maybe a handful of things that allow for better integration while providing more tools with which to enhance their apps.

    One change sorely needed is to allow sandboxed apps to tap more system resources. Does it make sense for a third-party disk repair or even a malware protection utility to be blocked from the App Store? Just as important, such apps as Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack ought to be allowed. This app serves a key function in my workflow, allowing me to capture audio from multiple sources, such as Skype and my USB-based mic mixer. To accomplish that chore efficiently and reliably requires lots of smart programming, and some clever legerdemain in handling system audio so flexibly.

    Now I understand Apple wants to tighten security, and sandboxing allows apps to be essentially walled off from one another, so they cannot create potential hazards. That makes perfect sense from the safety point of view, but there are apps that can never be included in Apple’s online storefront because they have taken on too many tasks. How does that advance the platform?

    My feeling is that Apple should figure out a way for virtually any Mac app to function with all features intact and still work within the sandboxing constraints.

    On a positive note, Apple has loosened up sandboxing restrictions in iOS, allowing apps to better communicate with one another. Of course, the biggest feature was allowing you to use third-party keyboards. OS X developers are aching for Apple to loosen restrictions.

    Of course, I’m scratching the surface here. Despite expectations that Apple has saturated the possibilities for improving OS X, Yosemite, imperfect as it is, is clear evidence that there is life left in the Mac. And what about the venerable Finder? Are new and better solutions possible with Apple’s venerable file browser?

    I’m keeping my wish lists brief, since the first demo of the next version of OS X is four weeks away as you read this column. Certainly improvements to Continuity, more freedom for a developer’s creativity, and just getting rid of the lingering issues, such as Wi-Fi networking glitches, make for a good start. Even if new technologies are, as Schiller promises, waiting in the wings, I would hope the changes will be sensible and improve OS X’s fading reliability. It’s been a rough ride for some.

    Over the years, some Mac users have clamored for the return of cherished features from the original Mac OS. That means a more customizable Apple menu, a more inclusive Location Manager and other relics of the past. Apple, however, is very much forward-looking, and discarding older features, or changing them radically, is very much part of the process.

    I would also hope Apple would refine the public beta process. While there were reportedly over a million testers for Yosemite, it doesn’t seem as if Apple seriously considered the problems Mac users must surely have complained about. So if such a program continues, as I expect it will, there ought to be more information about the process, including detailed release notes. What was fixed, what’s still misbehaving? The information Apple releases is sparse, even for developers who ought to get the fullest possible picture of the state of the betas.

    In short, I hope Apple will learn from the mistakes of previous OS X releases, and put out something that won’t remain broken even after several maintenance updates.

    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
    Sales and Marketing: Andy Schopick
    Worldwide Licensing: Sharon Jarvis



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    4 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #806”

    1. DaveD says:

      One thing I noticed that OS X Yosemite 10.10.3 update was very big. Based on experiences with past Unix-based Mac OSes that it was better to wait for the third update to upgrade.

      However, my MacBook Air got it second spontaneous reboot in the third update. The first one was in the initial release or first update. Don’t recall what I was doing on the first spontaneous reboot, but the second occurred when I was paging down in QuickLook. All of a sudden, the Mac froze for a minute, went dark followed by the startup chime. The system log did show any distress just a gap from what it was doing to the boot up. Besides these two reboots, I initiated one in early Yosemite, the problematic WindowServer besides being a CPU hog became a memory hog with over 3 GB taken up. So I killed WindowServer and the Mac performed a reboot. Which led me to believe that it is the main suspect in the spontaneous reboots.

      Another memory hog is Safari. I don’t know what Apple is doing with it or what strange experimentation is being done to it. In early Yosemite, it was the bad interaction with WindowServer as I see the spinning beachball going from tab to tab. Lately, the have been improvements as the spinning beachball may appear. However, Safari 8.0.4 has crashed a few times while the instability is unusual, I see it as a good thing. Safari is one of the problematic app that I have to close and reopen to regain the taken memory. Closing all windows in the browser never released the memory. I’m hoping Safari 8.0.6 has gotten the fixes.

      In early Yosemite the Wi-Fi connection was not an issue. In update 10.10.2, I had to turn off/on Wi-Fi to regain connection a few times. Hopefully in update 10.10.3, Wi-Fi is back to normal.

      OS X Mavericks was a very good release. Then, Apple went to monkey around in the belly of the OS and broke things with Yosemite. My hope is for Apple to clean up the mess in the next release, time for a reboot.

    2. dfs says:

      I. m. h. o. another “Snow Leopard-type” OS, focusing on improving what the OS already has rather than introducing a lot of innovations, is sorely needed. I am one of the many users who suffers from wi-fi and Bluetooth issues. I can’t pair my Mac and my iPhone, my Mac and my AppleTV refuse to communicate with each other, and there’s one Mac on our family LAN which can’t be accessed by Screen Sharing. In my case, therefore, “it just works” is isn’t an advertisement, it’s a tauntingly bad joke, and I’m certainly missing out on some of the device-interactive experience that I paid for and that Apple touts so highly. Okay, forget about me, I’m only one individual and maybe I’m some kind of sorehead chronic complainer. But multiply me by the thousands of other owners who are reporting the same or similar problems and you can see that Apple has a huge image problem on its hands. Whether its senior management is conscious of this or not, its corporate reputation is on the line. The next OS offers a fine opportunity to polish it. If Apple neglects this opportunity, it may be in for some bumpy times down the road.

      B. t. w., I participate in the Yosemite public beta program. I’ve repeatedly complained about these communication failures, and I’m sure many other testers have too. In every interation of the beta they go marching on. We complain, but I don’t have any reason to think anybody’s listening. Again, by having the corporate arrogance to think that beta testers’ feedback can safely be ignored because its engineers of know better than we do, Apple may be creating future problems for itself.

    3. David says:

      I ran every version from Snow Leopard to Yosemite on the same 2010 MBP and rate the current OS second from the bottom ahead of only Lion. Even with all the eye candy disabled Yosemite is still slow to perform very simple, basic operations. It reminds me a little bit of Word 6.0 in which I could type an entire sentence before the first word was completely displayed on the screen. Of course Yosemite is nowhere near that bad, but that delay between doing something and having it reflected on screen is the same. It’s a problem I don’t recall ever experiencing at an OS level before.

      Luckily I only experienced a few of the other widely reported Yosemite issues before switching hardware and going back to Mountain Lion. If not for a few compatibility issues and the fear of having been left out in the cold security wise I would still be running Snow Leopard.

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