Posts Tagged apple

iOS8 and OS X Yosemite

A week or so ago I succumbed to the hype (and the nagging from my devices) and installed iOS 8 on a second iPad.  As far as updates go it was smooth although the post-install setup wizard crashed before it could ask me about things like iCloud Drive, which made me wonder whether I might be due for later problems.  For the most part I was proving immune to the “this feature only works with Yosemite” bait but I knew it was probably just a matter of time…

Call it serendipity, call it fate, call it whatever you will… but yesterday I was looking at my OS X desktop and thought “y’know, I’m a bit tired of that Apple font”.  You can probably imagine my wry grin when I surfed to Apple’s OS X Yosemite preview pages to find that one of the key features of the “new design” is a very clean replacement for the old Finder font!  So that, along with the nagging of the devices… and in the spirit of “better late than never”, I decided to join the beta of OS X Yosemite.

Signing up was incredibly easy and well integrated into the App Store.  It only took a login and a couple of clicks and Yosemite was being poured into my MacBook.  I took the opportunity during the download to make sure that my Time Machine backup was up to date, and let it do its thing.  Around 20 minutes later it was finished.  One weird thing I found though was that during the installation — while the big grey X was on the screen, and the progress bar was still counting down — my other iOS devices started squawking that a MacBook had “logged on to FaceTime”.  I even heard VoiceOver alerts from the machine itself, complaining about things in my auto-start that weren’t set up correctly, despite the OS X Installation progress bar reporting 7 minutes to go!  I guess I’m used to the installer for an OS being a different environment entirely from the running system, not just a wizard running on top of a user logon.

While I was poking around things in Yosemite, the iOS 8.0.2 update was released… and was duly applied to the old iPhone 4S and the main iPad.  I am concerned about battery life on the phone — for example the Facebook app seems to take 1% out of the battery every minute it’s running — but in honesty I was having battery issues while still on iOS 7.  I think it’s to do with the age of the device, but at this stage the best I can say is that iOS 8 doesn’t seem to be that much worse than iOS 7 for me, plus of course I get the benefit now of being able to see battery usage by app.

It hasn’t even been 24 hours in Yosemite yet, but I’m impressed.  The update to the look and feel of the OS X desktop is well overdue (although we still can only choose Blue or Graphite for Appearance?).  I really like the iOS integration features of Yosemite, but haven’t had a chance yet to see them in action.  I have to say though, at least for this Little Black Duck™, Yosemite and iOS 8 have reinvigorated my interest in the Apple ecosystem.  I mean I like the iDevices, but the “wow” of some of the Apple tech had faded for me in recent times…  If features like Handoff and the call and message integration actually work as designed, this could put Apple back into the lead position when it comes to “devices designed to work together”.

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ppc Linux on the PowerMac G5

With Apple’s abandonment of PPC as of Snow Leopard, I began wondering what to do with the old PowerMac. It’s annoying that so (comparatively) recent a piece of equipment should be given up by its manufacturer, but that’s a rant for another day. Yes, we can still run Leopard until it goes out of support, but with S and I both on MacBook Pros with current OS I know that we would both become frustrated with a widening functionality gap between the systems.

I had always resisted runing Linux on the PowerMac, thinking that the last thing I needed was yet another Linux box in the house. I had tried a couple of times, but it was in the early days of support for the liquid cooling system in the dual-2.5Ghz model and those attempts failed dismally. I figured that by now those issues would be resolved and I would have a much better time.

I assumed that Yellow Dog was still the ‘benchmark’ PPC Linux distro, so I went to their site. I saw a lot of data there about PS3 and Cell; it seems that YDL is transitioning to the cluster and/or research market by focussing on Cell.

The next thing I discovered is the lack of distributions that have a PPC version, even as a secondary platform. My old standby Gentoo still supports PPC, as does Fedora (I think: I saw a reference to downloading a PPC install disk, bit didn’t follow it), but every other major distro has dropped it — openSUSE, for example, with their very latest release (their download page still has a picture of a disc labelled “ppc”, but no such download exists, oops). I guess that since the major producer of desktop PPC systems stopped doing so, the distros saw their potential install base disappear. Unfortunately for those distros, I can see the reverse happening: now that Apple has fully left PPC behind, plenty of folks like me who have moderately recent G4 and G5 hardware and who still want to run a current OS will come to Linux looking for an alternative… I guess time will tell who is right on this one.

So I went to install Gentoo, and to cut a long story short I had exactly the same problem as before: critical temperature condition leading to emergency system power-off. I found that if I capped the CPU speed to 2Ghz I could stay up long enough to get things built, but then the system refused to boot because it couldn’t find the root filesystem. Probably something to do with yaboot, SATA drives and OpenFirmware. So again I’m putting it aside.

My next plan was to treat it as a file server. Surely a BSD would support my G5 hardware: after all, Mac OS X is BSD at heart… Well, no. FreeBSD has no support for SATA on ppc, OpenBSD specifically mentioned liquid-cooled G5s as having no support, and I don’t think I saw any ppc support on NetBSD more recent than G3 [1].

This is one of the things that annoys me about the computer industry: that somehow it’s okay to so completely disregard your older releases. What if the automotive industry worked that way?

So I may yet try Fedora, or give the game away for another year or so and see what the situation looks like then.

[1] I may have mixed up a couple of these details.

Edit: Gentoo’s yaboot has managed to make it so that I can’t boot Mac OS X on the machine any more.  Oh dear.

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iPod touch: device lust

They’ve done it to me once more, those folks at Apple.  In 2003, while I was in the US for a residency trip, I fell in device-lust with the third-generation iPod.  I brought one home, and I’m still using it (on its original battery, I might add, although there’s a bit of a telltale bulge developing on the rear casing).  Now, a new range of iPods has been released, and I’ve got that familiar tingling in the back pocket… and an unexpected reflection on technology’s progress (or lack thereof).

A little while back I decided that my next portable audio device would not be an iPod.  I really don’t want to be tied to the Mac for something as simple as music and podcasts, and figured that I must be able to do these things with Linux.  To this end, I experimented with using Amarok to talk to my iPod but it just didn’t work well — corrupted playlists, Amarok refusing to simply unmount the iPod without giving it a soft reset, which caused it to reboot and remount again.  Tools like Rhythmbox and gtkpod were no different, which is hardly surprising since they all use the same libraries for actually talking to the iPod.  So, I decided that as long as the iPod still lived it would be enslaved to the Mac, and my music would stay managed by iTunes until such time as I could justify replacing the iPod.

Creative nearly had me a few months ago: the Zen Vision:W (I think that’s what it’s called, their wide-screen video device) has a good feature set…  but it just didn’t look right.  The 60GB version was too chunky — too thick, mainly — and the interface just felt wrong (although I concede that a little bit of time cleansing myself of iPod interface conditioning would probably have got me right).

Now, Apple has released a new range of iPods… and has again made the competition look old.

Many of you out there will be unfamiliar with the hype around the iPhone — as it is a North-America-only (USA-only?) device at this time, that’s not surprising.  However if you have seen it (or even only pictures of it) and you are outside iPhone-owning territory you may well have wished that the iPod functionality of the iPhone was available as a standalone device unencumbered by the regulatory crap that a phone has to comply with.

Well, wish no longer — that’s pretty much what the new iPod touch is.  All I’ve seen about this thing is on web pages — firstly on Wired and then on Apple’s web site — but I am head-over-heels in device-lust with this thing. 🙁

There isn’t much I can say about the features that Apple can’t say better (besides, this wasn’t meant to be a ra-ra post for the thing).  Check it out at Apple’s site: locally to me, that’s here at Apple Australia.  Of note though are the fact that it has Wi-Fi built-in, and comes with the Safari web browser, integrated YouTube browser, and integrated connectivity to the iTunes Music Store (you can buy music from the Store on the iPod, and when you next sync to iTunes it will merge the purchased music into your iTunes library).

I have to say though, the biggest surprise I got was when I went to the Apple Store to check the price.  While waiting for the page to load, I did a swift estimation and figured that the 16GB version would be over AU$800.  I nearly fell on the floor when the figure came up: AU$549.  My current iPod cost me around US$420 at a time when the Aussie dollar was lucky to fetch 60 US cents.

The one feature which took my breath away is probably one that I will never see though.  Apple has penned a deal with Starbucks to hook the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store component of the iPod touch into Starbucks free Wi-Fi.  Whenever you walk into an enabled Starbucks, the iPod touch automatically recognises Starbucks’ Wi-Fi network and hooks up.  Wait, it gets better.  When this happens, your iPod touch will show the details of the song playing in the store at the time, and give you a link to the iTunes WiFi Music Store to buy the music.

Why did that take my breath away?  Because right back to when I was at Uni, this kind of integration has been foretold but has always been “somewhere in the near future”.  The petrol pump that would automatically register the car’s chip and charge the fuel to the owner’s account.  The food packaging, fridges and pantries that would update the shopping list on your wristwatch, and the supermarket trolley that read the shopping list and displayed the layout of the supermarket with the locations of your needed items shown.  This is the “vision of the near future” that I was given by technologists (and instead we got RFID).

I was once standing in the Borders bookstore in South Yarra and heard a lovely song that moved me deeply (and no, I’m not prone to being overcome by store music).  A fortnight later I was in Singapore and heard the same song while having breakfast with Susan in the hotel restaurant.  On both occasions there was no-one around who would have been able to assist me locating the song — such is the way of telco-piped ambiance — and I was left to Googling remembered fragments of lyrics (successfully, I must say, for that’s how I was introduced to The Sundays).  I’ve never bought music online, but if I could have looked at the device in my pocket and instantly known what that song was, they’d have gotten a sale for sure.

Thinking about the technology behind it, it really is madenningly simple (says he with perfect hindsight).  Something like a DAAP server (wouldn’t even have to be one in each store) streaming to the store’s Wi-Fi, and an AirPort with an amp and speakers attached (instead of the usual piped music affair) picking up the same DAAP stream.  Regardless, to think that at least a little bit of that “vision of the future” is at last a reality is, well… nice.  I feel a little older, but in a good way. 🙂

Alas, the iPod touch guided tour video shows the start of the rollout of the “Starbucks” feature: a map of the continental USA, with New York City marked for September, Seattle in October, then LA February 2008 and Chicago in March.  Apple’s iTunes Starbucks site says “major metropolitan areas in the US by the end of 2008”.  No mention of internationals.  Sigh.  Oh, but the feature works with iTunes on a PC and with the iPhone too (so now we have three ways to miss out, right?).

The new iPod range is available now, with the exception of my new objet d’adore which is on the Apple Store for advance ordering with availability at the end of September.  Other newcomers are massive capacity iPod Video: now called “iPod classic” and starting with 80GB capacity or go to a whopping 160GB version, new iPod nano that’s shorter and wider than the old one but now does video, and new colours for the iPod shuffle.

So much for my tech spending freeze…  I figure I’ll spend the next few weeks researching what life would be like with one of these — whether going down to 16GB storage would actually hurt or not; how movies really look in H.264; whether I’d have to re-encode all my movies, or worse, encode them in H.264 as well as MP4 (since the few times I tried to play back H.264 encodes using XBMC were less than joyous); whether the video functions would even be relevant since all I ever do is listen to podcasts.  Then, when the thing is actually in stores… just go and get one anyway.

Tech addiction sucks like that.

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