• Newsletter Issue #660

    July 23rd, 2012


    Some sad news came my way the other day, about the recent untimely death of a pioneer Mac developer, Evan Michael Gross, creator of Spell Catcher, an application that had its roots back in 1986, when it was known as Thunder. I don’t have details of the reason for his passing, at age 51, but there is a tribute to him on a site run by the company he founded, Rainmaker Research.

    Over the years, I would meet Evan at Macworld Expo trade shows, where he was always holding forth on his latest and greatest apps. Even today, Spell Catcher is a must-have utility, offering loads of features that Apple still hasn’t considered for OS X. Spell Catcher, unfortunately, faces an uncertain future with Evan’s passing, but I do hope someone will be willing to take on development.

    On on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, Avram Piltch, Online Editorial Director of Laptop magazine, discusses the curious case of Dr. Steve Mann, who is considered the “father of wearable computing.” He’ll also discuss the differing visions of Apple and Microsoft when it comes to the Post-PC and PC+ eras.

    John Martellaro, Senior Editor, Analysis & Reviews for The Mac Observer, discusses a variety of subjects that include the ongoing integration of Apple’s iOS into OS X, and the patent lawsuit epidemic among tech companies, and a great new solid state drive for the Mac Pro from Other World Computing.

    Dan Frakes, a Macworld Senior Editor, offers a primer on Apple’s OS X Mountain Lion, including the system requirements and why some older Macs are no longer supported. You’ll also learn about some of the most important new features.

    Covering Mountain Lion is especially important, since OS 10.8 is expected to be released some time in the coming week, probably Wednesday, July 25th, the day after Apple releases earnings reports for the June quarter. As to the numbers, the expectations from the financial community are mixed. Some suggest Mac sales are flat or only slightly better, and iPhone and iPad estimates are really all over the place. Sometimes I wonder if tossing darts at a dart board that contains random numbers would be as accurate.

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris present a return appearance from long-time UFO researcher Greg Bishop, host of the “Radio Misterioso” radio show, who attempts to blow the lid off the “Aviary,” an ad-hoc group of individuals, allegedly connected to the intelligence community, who may have been responsible for ongoing UFO disinformation.

    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.


    Predictably, you’ll read lots of articles over the next few days about the proper Mountain Lion installation strategy. On the official day of release, you’ll read early reviews here and elsewhere as to whether OS 10.8 fulfills all or most of Apple’s promises.

    You may also hear chatter from early adopters who discovered the usual round of point-zero bugs. Some might be benign, others might be serious. Some people will report problems with anything, and there are still reports that Lion remains fatally flawed even as its successor is ready to launch.

    While I will always urge caution about any OS upgrade, even on a Mac where the process is supposed to “just work,” my own upgrade strategy tends to be more casual. Since I have a clone backup of my iMac’s startup drive — a complete duplicate — I would not lose anything but a few hours of time should the upgrade not go smoothly.

    I also expect that a fair number of the people who install OS X upgrades don’t follow any precautions at all. They just run the installer and let it do its thing. They trust Apple to figure out how to handle the entire installation process without requiring any extra intervention after the few initial setup screens.

    For recent OS X upgrades, you haven’t even had the options of a typical clean installation, which placed your original OS in a “previous” folder, so you can check over files you might want to bring over. That’s over and done with, and the installer ought to be smart enough to sort things out and make sure that only the right files are upgraded, removed, and replaced.

    Sure, Mountain Lion’s installer handles hundreds of thousands of files, totaling several gigabytes in size. That everything will work successfully for most of you must be a miracle. Or just the work of a development team of brilliant engineers who have labored extremely hard to make the difficult seem simple.

    But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a few precautions, and I’ll mention the usual.

    First of all, if you really depend on your Mac for your workflow, you may actually want to put off the Mountain Lion installation. Well, that is unless you do have the clone backup and the time to restore your Mac should something go wrong.

    At the same time, it doesn’t hurt to make sure your Mac’s hard drive is healthy. The simplest way is to run Disk Utility, using the Verify Disk function. Over the next few minutes, your hard drive will be examined to see if there are any problems. For most of you, you’ll see a clean bill of health, but if problems are reported, you’ll need to fix them before going on. Disk Utility won’t repair the startup drive, but there is another way. Just remember that attempting to install software on a hard drive with a damaged directory is precarious, and an OS installation involves a heavy-duty process of file copying and removal.

    If you are a Lion user already (as most Mountain Lion upgraders will be), you can use Apple’s Lion recovery feature to check and repair your hard drive. Just restart, hold down Command-R, and your Mac will quickly boot from the Recovery HD. You’ll find Disk Utility among the “Mac OS X Utilities,” where you can run the Repair Disk feature to set things right. With Snow Leopard, you can start from another drive, or your Snow Leopard installation DVD.

    If your hard drive can’t be fixed this way, you will want to restart your Mac, back up your data, and reformat the drive. True, there are other hard disk repair utilities that are more thorough in repairing damage than Apple’s, such as Alsoft’s DiskWarrior and Prosoft’s Drive Genius. There’s no guarantee any other solution will work, although they are certainly worth a try.

    Assuming your hard drive is healthy, and it usually is, you will also want to make sure you have recent backups of all your data. You can use Apple’s Time Machine or a third-party backup utility with an external drive. Or both. My backup routine nowadays includes Time Machine and Carbon Copy Cloner, on separate drives. I also use a cloud-based backup system for additional protection. So, for example, if my Macs were stolen, or damaged due to fire or flood, I’d be able to get back to work with a new computer and the offsite backup. Yes, I do have insurance that covers all my gear.

    Before you run the installer, you might want to spend a few moments with your favorite search engine to check whether the apps you use are compatible with Mountain Lion. While I cannot personally recommend any particular resource, I ran into one site that appears to be doing a credible job tracking whether many popular apps are Lion and Mountain Lion friendly.

    If your most important apps aren’t ready — and it’s good to confirm directly from a developer’s site just to be sure — you’ll want to reconsider Mountain Lion. Maybe wait until the app is compatible or look for something else that is. Don’t forget the problem with a number of Lion installations, where Mac users who dived in without checking, discovered that Rosetta, the PowerPC translation software, was no longer supported. Some older apps, such as Quicken 2007, didn’t work until an upgrade finally arrived.

    But the early chatter on Mountain Lion from developers and some Mac sites makes me feel reasonably confident that the early release problems will be few. But stay tuned.


    It’s really easy to get so caught up in the tech conversation that we don’t realize that most people out there seldom check out sites like this, or even read the tech columns in a daily newspaper or online publication.

    Sure, if there’s a lot of coverage about an expected new product from Apple or another major tech company, more people will be listening. Reports about the next iPhone have grown in number, with stories claiming that Apple is already in the early production stages of the next version.

    But with iOS 6 promised for the fall, what you can expect is that an iPhone upgrade will follow in just a few days. The separation is designed to give you sufficient time to install iOS 6 on your current iPhone and not clog Apple’s servers. Apple has learned the pitfalls of simultaneous releases of major OS upgrades and new hardware.

    The expectation is that, as more and more people anticipate the arrival of a new iPhone, sales will taper off on the existing model. That’s true enough, but the situation may have been exaggerated last year when the iPhone 4s arrived several months after it was actually expected. So it was likely that more potential customers were on the fence than usual, which explains lower than expected iPhone sales in the September 2011 quarter.

    This year, you expect sales to drop in the last quarter and the current one, but Apple has reset expectations, and the timeframe for the arrival of iOS 6 pretty much tells the tale. Unless production problems arise, Apple will probably get the new iPhone — whatever it is actually called — out by early October. But if you need one now, it’s not as if the iPhone 4s will suddenly become obsolete. All of the features of iOS 6 will be supported.

    The situation is shakier with the iPhone 3GS, the 2009 model that’s still being sold by some carriers for free or close to free with a two-year contract. Although it seems to work well enough with iOS 5, based on my recent brief facetime with one owned by a friend, it is destined to vanish by fall. At the same time, existing owners will be pleased to discover that iOS 6 should run reasonably well, although certain resource demanding features won’t be supported.

    The iPhone 4 is fated to become the entry-level model, followed by a cheaper configuration of the iPhone 4s. Indeed, other than the lack of Siri, it’s not as if the iPhone 4 is altogether so different from the iPhone 4s. It may run a tad slower and all, but, when I moved from the former to the latter, it was truly hard to see the difference. At the same time, buttressed by Siri, which has become somewhat of a cultural icon, Apple recorded amazing sales, beyond what most analysts expected.

    Now once Apple’s revenue numbers are released on Tuesday, it’ll be more clear whether sales of the iPhone will drop precipitously, or will just slow down gradually. Assuming Apple keeps to the expected schedule, it’s certainly clear that customers will have expectations about the next model and the possible arrival date.

    We are already reading about rumored new features, such as a thinner form factor, and perhaps a larger screen with a different aspect ratio. Support for LTE wireless networking appears to be a given, since Apple went there with the new iPad. A larger battery is also reasonably certain, since the LTE chips require more juice. I also suppose there will be a better camera, and perhaps even some surprising innovations that aren’t being predicted just yet.

    In 2011, Siri was brand new. What will the fall of 2012 bring with the iPhone 5 or whatever it’s called? Regardless, Tim Cook will remain under tremendous pressure to produce another miracle, to show once again that he deserves to be the successor to Steve Jobs.


    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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    3 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #660”

    1. A Friend says:

      I can pretty much assure people that there are no major problems of software compatibility with Mountain Lion. Lion did away with Rosetta and, much more important for many users, Lion did not run 32-bit software (which is why items like Quicken 2007 and Office 2004 do not run on it). There’s no similar change in Mountain Lion that affects compatibility. As a Mountain Lion beta tester, I’ve found a that couple of minor utility items break (most notably Smart Scroll) so we have to wait until the developer puts out an upgrade. But when it comes to the kind of workhorse software people need to keep up their productivity, you can pretty much assume that anything that runs on Lion will keep running on Mountain Lion.

    2. Mike says:

      “I also use a cloud-based backup system for additional protection.” What do you use and do you recommend it? Thanks!

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