Keep track of local and remote weather conditions with The Weather Channel Desktop

Keep track of local and remote weather conditions with this must have Windows Utility

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Having local and remote weather at your fingertips is part of what makes the internet the internet. I mean, how good would the internet be if you couldn’t find out if it was gonna rain today either at the places you live and work, or where you were going to travel to? Its actually kinda silly… Its for this reason that I find tools like the Weather Channel Desktop so important, and a must have on your Windows desktop.

The Weather Channel Desktop provides one-click access to current weather conditions, local temperature, severe weather alerts, hurricane updates, maps – including radar and other precipitation tracking tools – ad well as hourly and10-day forecasts. Your local temperature is placed in the system tray, and many functions are accessible via this tray icon. An always-on connection keeps you informed of weather changes and allows you to plan ahead.

The Weather Channel Desktop is one of my most favorite applications. I often have a long commute to work and knowing what weather conditions I will encounter during that commute is very important in preparing for the day. While I really like what the app does, its graphs and maps, the fact that its adware supported and comes with some apps that I didn’t necessarily want installed when I installed the Weather Channel Desktop is a bit frustrating. However, these apps are easily removed via the Programs and Features Control Panel App. This is the only real blemish on what otherwise is one of the best system tray apps I’ve ever used.

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Recover lost data, drives and partitions with this must have 321Soft Data Recovery for Mac

Recover lost data, drives and partitions with this must have Mac utility.

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Keeping your data safe is important. I’ve had times when not only the source file, but the backups of the source data is corrupted and the only way to get anything back is to try to recover the data from a bad drive. I’ve been there, and its been painful. When you find yourself in a situation like this, its good to have tools like 321Soft Data Recovery for Mac. It just might be able to save your bacon.

321Soft Data Recovery is a full-featured data recovery solution for OS X that’s designed to recover lost, formatted and deleted files from hard drives, flash drives, Memory Cards, mobile devices, or any other type portable storage devices. Flexible parameter settings give you absolute control over data recovery. Regardless of how the data was lost 321Soft Data Recovery can still recover the data.

The app is VERY easy to use. You don’t need to have any previous data recovery experience in order to use the app effectively. The app’s File Preview will allow you to preview files before you recover or attempt to recover them.

In addition to being a full-featured recovery utility, 321Soft Data Recovery also includes a powerful RAID reconstruction utility that can repair lost or damaged RAID volumes. The tool also has a feature-rich hex editor, and a disk clone/imaging module that allows you to create disk image files to recover data from drives that have bad sectors.

Every computer owner should have an app like this around for emergencies. The biggest problem with it, however, is its price. Its expensive, and in normal use cases, you’re likely not going to use it very often. You’re going to have to really think about the importance of the lost data before you purchase. However, from a recovery and usability perspective, this is a must have, no brainer.

 

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Create animated GIF’s from your life pictures with PicGIF

Create animated GIF’s from your life pictures with this handy Mac tool.

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Some of the simplest movies that you can create are simply made from stills and stitched together with special tools. I’ve done this throughout my computing career for a number of different reasons. However, that’s mostly been on the Windows side of the house. Thankfully, you can do this just as easily on the Mac side of the world, and that’s one of the reasons why I really like PicGIF from PearlMountain Software. It’s an animated GIF tool for your Mac, and its really easy to use.

PicGIF for Mac is an easy to use and intuitive GIF maker that allows you to create animated GIFs from your photos and videos on your Mac. One of its really cool features also lets you edit existing animated GIFs. The program is simple and easy to use, and it makes animating your pictures a lot of fun.

One of the coolest things about PicGIF is that it doesn’t matter what format your source photos are in. If you’re Mac can open them, then Pic GIF can use them to make an animated GIF. The app also works with common video formats, allowing you to quickly and easily string videos together into a longer, larger movie that can be played over the web or by other computers. It’s a great way to quickly and easily share special moments with family members and friends who happen to live far away.

PicGIF is a great application. Not only can you take control of the entire animation process, but you can set the picture size, fill mode, frame delay and playing sequence. Because its on your Mac, you can do most of the things that you would expect you can do with pictures on a Mac. It supports full drag and drop, has a text editor that will allow you to add text to your animations as well as giving you complete font control. You also get a real time preview of the animation. The app is amazing.

 

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iOS 8 Beta 5 – Finally… PROGRESS!

iOS 8 Beta 5 has been released. Let’s take a look to see how (well) things have progressed…

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 Introduction

Over the past ten weeks or so, Apple has been releasing betas of iOS 8, their new mobile operating system. I’ve covered the first four betas with some rants that have left me (and I would assume other developers and testers) lamenting. You can read up on how things have progressed here:

Beta releases of iOS 8, to put it politely, have been a train wreck at best. They have been nearly unusable, crashing and causing issues and problems with nearly each and every core, as well as nearly every third party app I have had installed, too. Apple recently released iOS 8 Beta 5. Let’s take a look at how things are going and see if iOS 8 is (finally?) ready for a wider audience as well as some other third party app work by developers worldwide.

I’m also going to touch on a few OS X Yosemite Beta 5 issues, as I bumped into updates on them while looking at iOS 8 Beta 5. So much of what is cool about iOS 8 requires Yosemite and a Mac, that it’s hard to draw the line between the two devices and operating systems… at least when they are close by (and vice-versa)

 Installation

Installation of iOS 8 Beta 5 was only slightly smoother than previous versions of iOS 8. I did have problems with iTunes Match again (see Music, below), and almost had to blow the device and reinstall, but thankfully, have not… Yet.

There are still a number of know issues with iOS 8 Beta 5, and as always, caution should be used when deciding to install any kind of beta on any mission critical equipment. Generally, it’s not a good idea. For example in Beta 5, updating iCloud settings may appear to hang when you try to change them. The thought is that the device will eventually come back. Try to see if you can wait it out before you kill the app, or perform a hard reset (power + home button until the Apple logo appears), which will clear all settings and reboot the device.

While using Beta 4, I didn’t blow the device and rebuild it from scratch. I toughed it out and made it the entire two weeks. However, during the 2-3 days prior to the release of Beta 5, I REALLY did want to. I didn’t as I knew that I would be doing exactly that for Beta 5 soon. However getting to that release wasn’t a lot of fun (though it was mildly better than with Betas 1 – 3).

The question of stability of iOS 8 Beta 5 is still to be determined.

 Bluetooth and Wi-Fi

According to Apple’s release notes, there aren’t any known issues with Bluetooth in iOS 8 Beta 5. There weren’t any documented issues in Beta 4 either, but it was still a mess. I am pleased to say that things are a bit better here in Beta 5.

BT-LE (Bluetooth Low Energy) seems to be working and communicating with my Pebble Steel smartwatch. However, the Pebble app does seem to be sending some corrupted data, as the watch doesn’t always vibrate at configured intervals and the display often gets corrupted. I haven’t had to hard reset the watch (return it to factory settings), but I’ve wanted to at least once since repairing it with my iPhone 5.

Now, the only issue I need to verify is the secret sauce connection (Continuity and Handoff) my iPhone shares with my MacBook Pro.

Speaking of secret sauce connectivity, little to nothing related to Handoff or connectivity (both relying on Wi-Fi and home network connectivity) worked well for me in the iOS 8 Beta 4 – Yosemite Beta 4/Consumer Preview 1 combination.

There are currently two huge known issues with Handoff

  1. Handoff will not work on systems configured with multiple user accounts.
  2. Handoff icons may not appear in the Dock after using the corresponding app on another device. Trying another Handoff-supported app may resolve this issue.

At this point, Handoff should be considered a work in progress. Though when it does work, it IS pretty cool, especially if you’re using apps that save to documents in iCloud Drive.

 FaceTime, Phone and Contacts

In previous versions of OS X as well as iOS, Apple had a clear line of separation between the Phone app and FaceTime. With Yosemite and iOS 8, that line is SERIOUSLY blurred. This is both good and bad. Now, you have a choice in how you communicate with someone given the type and speed of the network you are connected to. On your Mac, all of your calls regardless of type – FaceTime or cellular – all show up in FaceTime. It looks like it wants to function as the main phone app for your Mac, though you can dial from just about anywhere you can find or see a phone number, Calendar, Contacts and Safari included. In Beta 4 of both OS X and iOS 8, this was nothing more than a total train wreck.

I have no idea if this is because of development issues with Phone on my iPhone 5, with Contacts on either my device or my Mac or with FaceTime on either my iPhone or my Mac. There are too many possible integration points for me as a tester (without direct access to design docs, code and/ or developer resources) to determine. I’m going to have to give this a shot when I get a moment back at the house.

Besides the “progress” made, above, Apple has also fixed the ability for users to use FaceTime in landscape orientations on your iDevice. In earlier betas, this didn’t work. It does now, in Beta 5. Fixed – at least somewhat – is also the ability to determine which number to specify as a Favorite, though the Favorite chooser in Phone. Favorites now provides a contact method picker, but force quits the Phone app when a contact method is chosen. We’re close, but no kewpie doll yet. Unless Apple has gotten the iPhone integration working correctly with both Beta 5 releases of iOS 8 and Yosemite, it’s going to be a very long beta period for both operating systems.

UPDATE: While this article was being written, a new <a href=”http://appleinsider.com/articles/14/08/05/apple-to-hold-iphone-6-media-event-on-sept-9—report”>rumor was breaking</a> regarding a reported Apple media even scheduled for 2014-09-09. <a href=”http://recode.net/2014/08/05/codered-apple-to-hold-iphone-event-on-sept-9/”>Re/code</a> is reporting that both new iPhone 6 devices – the 4.7″ and the 5.5″ iDevices – will be announced with a projected order rate of 80M units. It is not known if the iWatch will be announced at the same event or not. However, you can expect new iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina models to be announced with TouchID sensors.

UPDATE 2: The integration between iPhone with iOS 8 Beta 5 and OS X Yosemite Beta 5 is MUCH better than in the Beta 4 release of both operating systems. Previously, while a call could be established by your Mac through you iPhone, no audio would come across. In short, the feature was only partially implemented and didn’t work.

Now, not only is the connection established, but I was able to use my Mac as a speakerphone as intended without too many call quality issues. There does seem to be a volume issue for the person that you’re talking to. The caller I spoke with initially had trouble hearing me, though the call quality for them did improve over the length of the call.

Provided that audio quality and reliability improves on both sides of the call, I can see where this would be very usable as a way to conduct conference calls in a home office. I have my doubts however, how this kind of feature would work in the enterprise. Unless Apple builds some kind of partnership with, say, Cisco, Avaya or some other VoIP vender where the feature was totally integrated into their server(s), I’m not sure how this would be considered valuable or usable in any kind of corporate setting. The feature (even if mic and volume issues were totally resolved and call quality was continuously in the upper 90th percentile), as currently implemented doesn’t seem well suited for anyone else other than regular consumers or SOHO users.

However, it was really kinda cool to be able to get up away from the computer and still be able to converse with the caller without having to wear a Bluetooth headset. This is an area where I will need to do further testing, however, as its clear that this is a work in progress for Apple as well.

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OS X Yosemite Beta 4/ Public Preview Beta 1: Apple Core Apps

Beta 4 of Yosemite was recently released to the public as a Beta 1 public preview. In part 3 of this 3 part series, I’m going to talk about some of Apple’s Core Apps and I’ll wrap everything up, too.

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If you remember last time, I talked about Yosemite and iOS 8 integration. Here, I’m going to talk about some of the changes to some of Apples core apps, and will wrap everything up with my opinion of the current state of things in OS X Yosemite Beta 4/ Public Preview Beta 1.

Apple Core Apps
I’m going to hit these very quickly. Most of what you will see here shouldn’t be a surprise. Most if not all of Apple’s Core Apps are in flux and need work.  These should be considered usable for the most part, but also represent a work in progress. Things are still a bit bumpy here…

·    Safari
Everything that I’ve seen of the new Safari is pretty cool. It has a tool streamlined toolbar, and makes better use of screen real estate. The app is also faster and gives you more control over your privacy.  I haven’t had any issues with the app, and I use it for banking on my Mac.  I’ve been pretty pleased with what I’ve seen of Safari so far. It is perhaps the most usable of all the apps that I’ll cover, here.

·    Mail
Mail is one tool that I don’t use very much, if at all.  I could use it with my Gmail account, but since I have Chrome installed on my Mac and use it to work with all of my Google Services (read: Google Apps and Google Drive), there hasn’t been much need to do so.

The new features in Mail, however, let you send larger attachments more easily.  You can annotate documents, fill out forms, etc. right in a Mail message. The app is also supposed to be quicker, too.

The thing that gets me here is that sending attachments, even large ones is not so much mail client dependent, its mail SYSTEM dependent.  This means that regardless of how big of an attachment my mail client may support, the thing won’t send if either my mail service or the recipient’s mail service rejects that large attachment.  Sending any kind of attachment via email is also not secure, so if you send accounting info, or any kind of document with sensitive data, unless you’re using something like PGP on both ends to encrypt and decrypt mail, anyone sniffing packets between you and the destination can intercept and steal your data.

I like that Apple is making improvements to Mail.  I just don’t know how valuable they are in the larger picture of the whole, new, OS.  If you have an opinion here, I’d love to hear it as a comment in the Discussion area, below.

·    Messages
I’ve already given you the lowdown on Messages. You can see that in Part 2 of this series on Mac and iOS 8 Integration.  Messages is a great service and I use it quite a bit. Once Apple gets the inter-OS connectivity issues fixed, things will be much better.  This is going to be a huge gain on the Mac and OS X side of the fence… once things are working, that is.

·    iCloud Drive
When Apple announced iCloud Drive at WWDC, many thought Craig Federighi was describing a service that was very much like Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive. It’s not.

iCloud drive is similar in that you can store any kind of files you wish to store on it, not just a file that was created by any iCloud compatible app.  You could conceivably store ALL of your documents there, and access them on your Mac, or any of your iDevices. You can even add tags and such, so it supports Finder related functionality for documents stored there.

From what I’ve seen so far, however, documents are transferred there, and then the local copy is removed. With services like Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive, that’s not the case.  The local copy remains to allow you to make changes when you’re off line.

If someone out there is having a different experience than I am, please leave me a comment in the Discussion area below. I’d like to hear your experience and perhaps try to troubleshoot a bit…

·    iTunes 12 Beta
I was seriously disappointed here.
The functionality of iTunes hasn’t changed, but the UI has slightly. Getting to the Store is now done via a number of different links available with each media type you are working with in your library as opposed to the current way of crossing a line between your library and the iTunes Store once.  The whole experience is more local library focused, regardless of where you media is actually stored – on your hard drive or in iCloud.  I can see where it makes sense; but it is something to get used to.  Again, you have to think “media type” and not “my stuff” vs. “stuff in the iTunes Store.”

The problems I’m experiencing with iTunes 12 Beta aren’t due to the new interface, however. Again, Apple seems to be optimizing and changing code.  The app often freezes and has issues during synchronization with my iPhone 5.  I’ve had to hard reset my device (wake/ sleep button + home button until the Apple logo appears, then release) a couple different times due to either iDevice freeze or iTunes freeze or both.

The only way to get the app to come back on my Mac at that point is to force quit. Even without an iDevice burp, iTunes can still unknowingly lockup. I’ve noticed that the app can prevent my Mac from either restarting, logging out or shutting down if my iPhone is connected via USB cable and I try to do any of those three activities.  Even if you pull the iPhone before actually starting any of those processes, if iTunes is running, it can freeze when you try to restart, log off or shutdown.

You won’t know anything is wrong until you try to do one of those and your Mac just doesn’t do it. There’s work to be done here, and this is one area where I’m certain both developers and consumers will see an update before the app is ready for final release.

·    Spotlight
This is one area where I am really going to have to make a bit of a paradigm switch before I get used to new functionality here.

Spotlight has gone through a number of really big changes.  You click the magnifying glass and you get a spotlight bar in the middle of your screen. When you search for things, you now not only search your Mac, but you search Wikipedia, Bing, Maps and “other source” simultaneously.  This is huge, as Apple has effectively brought the entire internet to your desktop. Instead of having to open Safari or another browser to search for something, you just… search.  Spotlight goes out and fetches everything for you and then presents the results on your desktop.

I’ve never been much on Spotlight. I’ve used it in a pinch here or there, but I come from the old MS DOS 1.x – 6.x days, and I’m used to searching my document store folder(s) for content on my own. I’m very meticulous about how I organize my 3-4 NAS devices (I have over 12TB of storage on my home network) and can figure out where I have things pretty quickly.  However, I am a HUGE exception to the rule.

Apple doesn’t want you to do what I’ve done. That’s why they designed iCloud as they originally did.  They don’t want you to think about where you’ve stored stuff in iCloud (or anywhere else on your Mac, for that reason), they want you to use the right tool to do the job you need done, and your Mac will manage the data.  Spotlight complements this paradigm as it (truly) finds what you need (URL, document, text message, media, etc.) regardless of where it is now.

Conclusion
Here it is in a very clear sentence or two: OS X Yosemite is clearly still in beta at this point. With previous consumer previews from Microsoft for both Windows 7 and Windows 8, the OS was a little more consumer ready in my opinion.

That doesn’t mean that Yosemite isn’t usable at this point. However, the current state of things has me seriously considering reactivating my OS X Developer’s account.  Yes… I installed Yosemite on my only production machine; and yes, I did NOT install it as a VM.  This is what I get when I turn my Mac on and try to use it.  I don’t have an alternative Mac to install this on, and I don’t want to run anything in a VM at this point. That’s not a true use case for me, and honestly, I wouldn’t have gained as much insight as I’ve regurgitated here.

This is not what Apple recommends.  They don’t want you to lose or jeopardize your productivity or your data. I’m a big boy and decided to wing it, anyway. Unfortunately, that means I have to put up with all of Yosemite’s pitfalls and growth points until it’s more stable.

In my opinion, Yosemite Beta 4/ Consumer Beta 1 isn’t ready for the average consumer just yet. If you’re curious, wait for the full release.  Most of the cool stuff isn’t even available yet because it requires an iDevice running iOS 8.  In the meantime, I’ll have updates as things progress.

If you have questions, or are curious about something, leave a comment in the Discussion area, below, and I’ll do my best to answer it or write a full response as a column.

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OS X Yosemite Beta 4/ Public Preview Beta 1: Mac and iOS integration

Beta 4 of Yosemite was recently released to the public as a Beta 1 public preview. In part 2 of this 3 part series, I’m going to talk about Mac and iOS integration.

If you remember last time, I talked about Yosemite Installation and Setup. Here, I’m going to talk about integration between a Yosemite enabled Mac and your iOS 8 enabled iDevice.

Yosemite

 Mac and iOS integration

There is some pretty cool stuff going on with Apple’s Mac + iDevice pairings under Yosemite. However, please note that in order to get some of this stuff to work, especially when everything is released, you’re going to have to run not only Yosemite on your Mac (these features simply will NOT exist under Windows…), but iOS 8 on your iDevice. If your iDevice gets left behind at iOS 7, I don’t care what kind of Mac you have Yosemite install on, this kind of integration won’t exist. Be aware both new operating systems will be required on both ends.

FYI – Please note that these features will always require at least matching beta versions during the Beta Period. For example, Yosemite Beta 4 and iOS 8 Beta 4. They’re both going to be revved at the same time (though the public won’t get newer beta versions of Yosemite, but WILL receive some minor OS updates via the AppStore; and the only way to get iOS 8 is via the iOS Developer Program), so the versions will have to match. You won’t be able to have Yosemite Beta 4 and iOS 8 Beta 3 or vice versa on your gear and have this stuff work right now.

  • Phone Calls
    This is probably the neatest thing I’ve seen yet when pairing a Mac and an iPhone running iOS 8. If you have iOS 8 on your iPhone and Yosemite on your Mac, you can use your Mac as a speakerphone. Calls coming into your iPhone will cause your Mac to ring and a notification of the call to display in the upper right corner of your default monitor. You can answer the call, decline the call or reply with an iMessage if needed.You can also place a call from your Mac. Open Contacts, Calendar, Messages or Safari and click a phone number you see displayed. Your iPhone will place the call and your Mac will act as a speaker phone. Dialing into conference calls is super easy now, and totally hands free. Where was this a year ago? I really could have used it then, as conference calls were my life…The cool deal here, though is that you do NOT need to have your iPhone physically tethered to your Mac for this all to work. Through the magic of Wi-Fi, there’s nothing to setup. As long as your iPhone and Mac are connected to the same network, you’re good to go. This means you get this feature at home, at work or at Starbucks…which is cool. Wi-Fi is the magic sauce.
  • Messages
    When you have Yosemite and iOS 8, you can also send and receive text messages with individuals running not only iOS, but Android and Windows Phone – or any other OS that can send and receive SMS/MMS messages – all from your Mac. All messages that appear on your iPhone, appear on your Mac, and vice-versa. You can also begin a text message conversation on your Mac by clicking a phone number in either Safari, Contacts, or Calendar.Unfortunately, I had a lot of trouble with this. I’ve tried this with a couple Android users over the past couple of days, and they never got any of the messages I sent from my Mac. None of those messages ever synchronized with my iPhone. Messages sent from my iPhone got to the user I was texting with, and eventually synchronized to my Mac; but none of the messages that I typed on my Mac in the Message conversation actually sent or were received by the users I was communicating with. There’s obviously still work to do here, as it appears the “send” functionality for non-iMessage users is broken in Yosemite.I have a lot of hope for this feature, as it makes Messages and iMessage a universal way to communicate via text with anyone, on any device, with any mobile OS, at any time. This is a natural progression for the iMessage service, and I’m very excited – or I will be – to be able to use this feature.
  • FaceTime
    While I am on contract with a state government agency and out of town, I use FaceTime as a major communications tool with my family. We speak via cell during the day; but we visit with each other via FaceTime at night. Everyone either has a Mac, iPhone or iPad to communicate with, provided they can get the target iDevice away from my 22 month old granddaughter, that is. She likes to talk to papa, too; but unfortunately, she doesn’t like to share, or can’t necessarily remember where she put her mother’s or grandmother’s iDevice. It makes for an interesting time…I’ve noticed that the new version of FaceTime for Mac has issues searching through large Contact lists. There’s always a huge delay – 30 seconds or more – when typing in a contact name, address or number in FaceTime. It improves slightly after the first search is completed, but there are still lags, especially with larger Contact lists like mine (I have nearly 3000 contacts in my Contacts list).
  • Instant Hot Spot
    One of the coolest features of iOS 6.x and later is the ability to use your iPhone as a mobile hot spot. You turn on the feature, set a password, and then turn on Wi-Fi on your phone and on your Mac. The feature was supported in Lion, Mountain Lion and is supported in Mavericks. Further, if you physically connected your iPhone to your Mac, with the hot spot feature turned on, your Mac connected to the internet automatically without the need to have Wi-Fi on or to configure any password.Apple has taken the feature a bit further now with Yosemite. Now, your Mac can use the personal hot spot feature on your iPhone via Wi-Fi just like it did via USB cable – no setup is required. Your Mac will also display the signal strength and battery life of your iPhone as well. You don’t have to take your phone out of your pocket, bag or anything else. The feature…just works; and now, you don’t even have to turn on the feature on your iPhone beforehand. Your Mac will list your iPhone in the network list of the Wi-Fi menu on your Mac. Selecting your iPhone will turn on the hot spot feature and you’re on the internet.I’m still experimenting with this feature. I haven’t played with it too much yet. However, I would suspect that the bridging technology is not necessarily accomplished not by Wi-Fi, but by BT-LE. You’ll also need to make certain that you’re logged into your iCloud account on your iDevice in order to make all of this work. So here, you need to mix both BT-LE and your iCloud account in order to create the secret sauce. Your cellular carrier will also need to allow the hot spot feature on their network, but that’s really a given…In the end, this looks like a much better implementation of the instant hot spot feature than in previous versions of OS X and iOS. In the end, it’s just on, click, connect and surf.
  • Handoff
    I know when I get home after a long day at the office, the last thing I want to do is get behind the desk in my home office because I HAVE to. Having a laptop makes it easier to compute in places other than an office, but having a hot laptop on your lap for a few hours is neither good for you NOR the laptop. Thankfully, Handoff allows you to use another device.Again, when you pair an Apple iDevice and a Mac running OS X Yosemite, your Mac and iDevices will automatically pass whatever you’re working on between them. You can start working on one device – say your Mac at the office (but it could be the other way around…) – and when you’re ready to go home you save your work to iCloud. When you get home, you can pick up what you were working on at the office on your iPad, at the exact spot where you left off… the availability of the file and the spot where you left off is instantaneous (or as soon as the information get saved to iCloud)…And that’s the secret sauce here – iCloud. As long as your iDevices and Mac share the same iCloud account, the information is traded back and forth with every save. Now you can go to meetings with confidence that the latest information you put in your presentation will show up on the iPad you’re presenting from; and you don’t’ have to do anything else other than save the file. This… is TOTALLY cool; and something that is WAY overdue as a feature not only in OS X, but in Windows AND Linux. Something like this should be available on every platform and computing device; but that’s just me, and probably way too Star Trek for everyone…Currently, Handoff works with Mail, Safari, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Maps, Messages, Reminders, Calendar, and Contacts. What is even more important, is that app developers can easily build Handoff into their apps. This is a feature of the OS and not necessarily just Apple’s Core Apps.

Do you have any questions about OS X Yosemite’ integration between your Mac and an iOS 8 enabled iDevice? Let me know in the Discussion area below, and I’ll do my best to give you a hand.

Come back next time, and I’ll talk about changes to Apple’s Core Apps and I’ll wrap everything up.

Go back to First Impressions | Go to Apple Core Apps

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OS X Yosemite Beta 4/ Public Preview Beta 1: First Impressions

Beta 4 of Yosemite was recently released to the public as a Beta 1 public preview. In part 1 of this 3 part series, I’m going to talk about Installation and setup.

I’ve been a full blown Mac Switcher since about 2010 or so. Snow Leopard and Lion really got me hooked and I’ve just about made a full transition over to the Mac side of the fence.  The only thing I really still run Windows for (aside from reviewing Windows-based apps) is Outlook. However, I’m hoping that with (what should be) Office for Mac 2015 – if and when Microsoft decides to get off its lazy duff and release it – I’ll be able to make a full transition over to Mac.  I have too much invested in Outlook over the past 14-15 years to leave it totally behind…at least just yet.

And while I kinda say that “get off its lazy duff” thing with a bit of tongue-n-cheek, it’s really said out of frustration. It’s been FAR TOO long since the release of Office for Mac 2011; and I’m actually afraid to give Outlook 2011 another go.  The reasons for that go back to a review I TRIED to write of the “new” app back in late 2010-early 2011. After 2 weeks and well over 24 database corruptions (where Outlook 2011 crashes, says it can’t read your data and then redownloads your entire data store from your Exchange server again – leaving the original, unusable database still on your hard drive) I gave up. I also didn’t publish the review – it was, and is, too critical – for Microsoft, and when something is THAT bad, a good reviewer says nothing. Sometimes silence is more damning than screaming and yelling; BUT I digress…

So, I’ve been very interested in the next version of OS X, code named Yosemite, since its announcement at WWDC.  What really caught my attention was the amount of announced integration between a Mac and an associated iDevice. Effectively, your Mac can become your iDevice while you’re on your Mac, at least according to the demos at WWDC and all of the documentation we’ve seen so far.

I’ve got the Public Beta of Yosemite installed on my MacBook Pro. Let’s take a look at some of my first impressions to see if the hype stands up to scrutiny.  I’m going to cover a number of different areas here, and will likely point out some opportunities for improvement that I hope Apple will address, going forward.  I have let my Mac Developer account lapse at this point and I don’t plan on updating Yosemite with Developer Beta 5 unless things prove to be a total train wreck.

OS-X-Yosemite-578-80

FYI – Please note that the only way to go back from Yosemite to the latest version of Mavericks is to nuke your drive and reinstall Mavericks from scratch.

Installation and Startup
As of this writing, this is probably my biggest pain point. Installation went fairly well. That wasn’t too much of a problem at all, really. It was smoother than I thought it would be, especially for a public beta release. Those can often be problematic at best, because you never really know what you’re going to bump into in the wild, and end users often have the GOOFIEST computer configurations… Managing beta programs and feedback is often a huge headache. I applaud Apple and other major vendors like Microsoft, for doing this when and how they do.

As I said, installation was fairly painless. The new OS downloaded from the Mac AppStore, installation started, and everything went smoothly. However the experience after installation has been less than stellar. I have a number of startup issues with Yosemite and 3rd party apps that I know from the developer are supposed to be Yosemite compatible, but are showing signs of hangs, bugs and issues; and even force quits.  Unfortunately, this behavior isn’t limited to 3rd party apps. There are also issues with some of the Apple Core apps, as well. I’ll cover issues with those, below.

The biggest issue I have, however, is really with startup.  I have two external monitors hooked to my Mac – a 27″ Thunderbolt Display and a 22″ wide screen VGA monitor.  I’ve got my Thunderbolt Display setup as a docking station (I’ve got peripherals and cables plugged into the back of it) and there are issues with device startup, especially with the displays.  I’m not certain what the issue is; but for some reason, neither wants to activate with the notebook closed.  My Mac not only has to start up, but be logged in with the lid up before the other two external displays will activate, allowing me to close the lid. I need to do more troubleshooting here before filing an issue in the Yosemite feedback app.

However, this is really driving me crazy. I’m also having trouble with the Thunderbolt Display flickering; and it wasn’t behaving that way prior to installing Yosemite on my MacBook Pro. I have no idea what the issue is; but knowing the way Apple is apparently remaking nearly absolutely everything with this latest release, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a driver issue. It seems the most common explanation.

I am also having a huge issue with my fans. They are usually pegged at 5700-6200 RPM’s and stay that way 20-30 minutes after I turn my Mac on. I’m not certain if this has anything to do with external monitor use (i.e. a graphics driver issue) or if it is caused by increased network traffic on my home network (i.e. a network driver issue) or something else.

However, while they don’t make a lot of noise for me, I’m told that my family can’t hear me speak over the snow-like noise they create during a FaceTime call.  While I had this problem with Mavericks, its worse with Yosemite. I’m not certain what is going on here, but it’s creating a communications issue for me and my family, and I’m not happy with the results. I have filed a bug report with Apple on this, and I’m waiting on feedback from them.

Do you have any questions about OS X Yosemite installation or setup?  Did you bump into problems?  Let me know in the Discussion area below, and I’ll do my best to give you a hand.

Go to Mac and iOS integration

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Windows 8 is the New Windows Vista

Microsoft on Windows 8 – You don’t see anything…

Windows8 is the new Windows Vista

I think it’s safe for nearly anyone and everyone to say and agree that Windows 8.x is a total train wreck. That’s sad, because it isn’t the OS itself that’s horrible, it’s just Metro, or what Microsoft officially calls “ModernUI” (though I fail to see much that’s “modern” about it. It’s very similar to Windows 1.0 in look and feel…). Microsoft is officially looking forward to putting Windows 8 far, behind it, much as they did with Windows Vista.

When Windows 7 was released, Microsoft went on a huge media blitz. They contracted with a company called, House Party – a company that does classic “Tupperware” styled parties for just about everything – to help them get people across the country to host Windows 7 Launch Parties. If you were chosen to host one, you got a party kit, which included a free Windows 7 license so you could demo the new OS and talk up its new features. I actually got a local newspaper – The Aurora Beacon – to help with the coverage and started a 12 week freelancing stint with them where I started off with a cool series on Setting up Windows 7 for the first time. In the end, they really did great job on moving the limelight away from Windows Vista – the old and busted – to Windows 7 – the new hotness.

Microsoft would very much like to repeat that kind of activity with similar results. In fact, I’d wager that their tactics will be nearly identical. They’ll do anything and everything they can to make the public forget Windows 8.x, and especially MetroUI.

For example, in the months leading up to Windows 7’s release, Microsoft did everything it could to make users forget about Windows Vista. All formal communications released from Microsoft either downplayed the former OS release and/ or played up the new OS release. Microsoft did everything it could to help users forget that Windows Vista ever existed.

For Windows 8, it’s going to be a little more difficult, but in the end the results will be the same. Microsoft has one more major update to Windows 8.1 scheduled for release on 2014-08-12. Windows 8.1 Update 2 (or whatever they end up calling) was supposed to be the update that had the new, revamped Start Menu in it. However, that update was pulled from the release many months ago and will instead come as part of Threshold, largely believed to be called, Windows 9. New – read reinstated – Start Menu with a revamped – read MetroUI removed – user interface, plus some other, yet to be announced, features = new version of Windows that Microsoft hopes everyone will embrace. In an effort to help that, Microsoft will likely have little to no press or released information about the 2014-08-12 Patch Tuesday and the release of Windows 8.1 Update 2 (if, in fact, that is what it called).

Another tactic, as noted by ComputerWorld would be to change the naming convention of the next version of Windows. As I stated above, the next version of Windows is rumored to be called Windows 9. When Microsoft released Windows 7, instead of giving it a name – like XP or Vista – Microsoft instead switched to a numeral based designation. They did this because XP was the OS that just wouldn’t die no matter how hard they tried and Vista was the marketing and sales thud heard round the world. Since Windows 8 is just as much of a dud as Windows Vista is, Microsoft may decide to remake the brand entirely and leave the numeric designations behind.

Perhaps they’ll move back to a product name. The next version of Windows is codenamed, “Threshold.” So, for example, calling it Windows Threshold, or something else may help Microsoft move away from the failure of Windows 8. Perhaps they’ll return to a year designation like they did with Windows 98 and Windows 2000 and call this version of Windows, “Windows 2015,” as the OS is supposed to become available for download and distribution in the early Spring of 2015.

Whatever its name, Microsoft is going to have to put some heavy marketing capitol behind it in order to reduce and remove the market share that Windows 8 has. Windows 7 had three to four years of exclusivity before Microsoft started talking up Windows 8.x. Microsoft is hoping to bury Windows 8 after only 2-3 years of exclusivity. Yes… it’s really that bad for Windows 8.x.

(BTW, it’s not the OS itself that’s bad, just MetroUI, which unfortunately, is nearly everywhere within the OS. While you can’t get away from it, with tools like Stardock’s Start8, and other very cheap utilities, you can nearly turn Windows 8 into a Windows 7 look alike. The OS in and of itself, is fast, optimized, and it will run on cheaper, more affordable hardware. That means your older notebooks and netbooks can use it too, extending their value and life.)

Some pundits – as well as many people in the tech circles that I frequent – that are talking about this issue are saying that Microsoft needs to do something spectacular to help remove Windows 8 from the annals of history. Some feel that giving away Threshold may be the best way to do that. Those that ARE saying that are calling that the, “smart thing to do.”

Nearly every version of every distribution of Linux is free to end users. Apple is making OS X Yosemite free to all Mavericks users. For Microsoft to continue to charge end users for upgrades and new versions is becoming problematic. Only Macs can run OS X, but nearly every Windows machine can run Linux, and their user interfaces are becoming more and more Windows-like and end-user friendly than they were before. With online versions of Microsoft Office and other online office suites that run on any and every OS that has a web browser, a compelling reason to pay for Windows on your PC is quickly disappearing, despite any reasoning behind Microsoft’s One Windows vision and streamlining.

What do you think of all of this? Is Windows 8 a boat anchor drowning Microsoft and holding them back? Should they do their best to erase it from history as they did with Windows Vista? Should they give Threshold away? Let me know in the Discussion area, below. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the whole issue.

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