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  • OS X Yosemite: Closer and Closer, Inch By Inch

    July 22nd, 2014

    So Apple on Monday July 21 released the fourth developer preview of OS 10.10, also known as OS X Yosemite. As usual, some new features were added or modified, and there are loads of problems in the release notes that impact many significant parts of the new OS, including the Finder and Safari. Some may only be cosmetic, while others impact basic functionality.

    It is also rumored that the first public beta, available for up to one million users who signed up for the seed program, will be made available for download later this month, although there’s not much time left to fix a decent number of the most irritating problems. Indeed it has been confirmed that this release will be the first one available to the public on Thursday, July 24.

    While I do not know just how many Mac users have signed up, or if the one million threshold has been realized, I can tell you from experience that beta testing an OS is not a casual process. You would not, for example, want to deploy a preview edition, regardless of how reliable it seems, in a production environment. What’s more, you’ll want to have a full backup in case you want to restore the drive to the version of OS X you were previously using.

    In my case, one of the critical tools I use for my two radio shows is Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack Pro, designed to capture audio from such sources as Skype. But it is not yet compatible with OS X Yosemite, very probably because Apple made some big changes to the audio toolkit, so lots of reworking will be required. I do hope, however, that the app is fixed in time for Yosemite’s release. I hate to have to use two operating systems in my daily work.

    But such cautions hold true for most anyone out there, unless you have a spare Mac around that serves as a plaything. The key is this, however. You know that the first official releases of a Mac OS (or Windows for that matter) will have various and sundry bugs that might impact your daily routine. Some might be serious. Now imagine a release with far more problems, and you’ll see why you need to be cautious.

    On the other hand, making OS X betas available to a wider audience will allow for a more expansive test. Problems that might be discovered in the final release if only enough people had seen the beta may be addressed before they cause trouble. I expect that’s Apple’s hope, but the marketing value if the semi-public beta (semi-public because it’s not available to everyone) is tremendous. Apple isn’t charging for OS upgrades anymore, but if the test process goes well, more Mac users than ever will be lining up to download the final version when it appears.

    As of the fourth developer preview, however, I would not recommend anyone but a power user or developer touch it. It’s just not ready, not because Apple is doing anything wrong, but because a lot of work is left to be done.

    One thing we do know, however. The heavily-promoted Continuity and Handoff features, which, for example, allow you to start writing an email, a Pages document or something similar on a Mac, and have it pick up where you left off when you move to your iPhone or iPad — or in any sequence you wish — has a severe limitation. It apparently requires a Mac with Bluetooth LE, which excludes tens of millions of Macs released before 2011 and 2012. I suppose Apple could address this limitation by supporting third-party USB Bluetooth LE adapters, which are quite inexpensive. Whether Apple can or will provide that support is still an open question.

    In any case, the next question is when Yosemite will appear. I suppose the schedule could mirror Mavericks, where it came out more than a month after the arrival of iOS 7. This year, however, that might not be in the cards. The reason is that OS X and iOS are closely dependent upon one another because of Continuity. It wouldn’t make much sense from a marketing standpoint to release iOS 8 first and inform iPhone and iPad users that they cannot use the new feature on their Macs until Yosemite is out, which may be a few weeks later.

    Since the beta releases have been virtually simultaneous, I suspect Apple wants to get the final releases out on the very same day. That would be unique, but it makes sense in light of the fact that a key tentpole feature requires both to be fully functional.

    What I will say is that DP 4 is snappy and most things do work, despite the raft of lingering bugs. I look to the final release with anticipation, and, if the development process continues at a good clip and most remaining problems are resolved promptly, this could be the best OS X ever.

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