OS X 10.10 Yosemite – Continuity is Cool

…but it’s not for everyone.   There are one or two key points that Apple didn’t mention.

The Apple WWDC Keynote provided a great look at Apple’s two very important, upcoming operating system releases – OS X 10.10 Yosemite on the desktop and iOS 8 on their mobile devices.   There are a number of new features that are pretty cool on each, but one feature on the desktop stood out, at least to me, and I wanted to take a few moments to touch base on it.

OS X Yosemite-578-80

Continuity.

If you’ve got a (recent/ compatible) Mac and a (recent/ compatible) iDevice, then Apple is going to give you a cool way of working where you want, when you want on any and all of their devices, regardless of platform.   However, there are a couple of gotchas that Apple really didn’t expound upon during the Keynote.

First and foremost, this is a Mac OS only feature. If you use Windows, even Windows via Boot Camp, you won’t get any kind of Continuity support at all. Continuity is a Yosemite feature, and support for it comes from the Mac OS, and not from the iDevice you’re using. There are also some Mac specific (as well as iDevice specific), hardware requirements that you’ll need to make certain you’ve got covered before the feature will work.

Continuity requires BT-LE or Bluetooth Low Energy in order to work, which is part of the Bluetooth 4 specification.   Not every Bluetooth equipped Mac that can run Yosemite or iDevice running iOS 8 will have this hardware built in; and then not every Bluetooth 4.0 equipped Mac supports BT-LE.   Generally speaking if you have a 2011 or later Mac, and an iPhone 5 or later, you have a chance of getting Continuity to work.   Specifically, Apple is supporting Continuity on the following Macs:
·    MacBook Air (mid-2011 and above)
·    MacBook Pro (mid-2012 and above)
·    Retina MacBook Pro (mid-2012 and above)
·    iMac (late 2012 and above)
·    Mac mini (mid-2011 and above)
·    Mac Pro (2013 and above)
Conversely, as I mentioned, the iDevice you want to use Continuity with will also need to support BT-LE. You’ll find BT-LE compatible iDevice hardware in the iPhone 5 and later devices. You have to have both sides of the hardware equation in order to make the feature work.

Some sites are reporting that you MIGHT be able to get Continuity to work on other Macs running Yosemite if you use a Mac compatible Bluetooth 4.0 dongle that also supports BT-LE; but this is unproven and untested as of this writing. If you’re running Yosemite Beta on an older Mac, you can try it throughout the beta period, but don’t be surprised or disappointed if it doesn’t work.   Currently, it’s recommended to wait until a few months after Yosemite is released. At that point, there may be a hack available if Yosemite doesn’t support Continuity via a dongle out of the box.

Continuity is one of the better features of the new Mac OS. It allows you to work with whatever (supported) app you want on whatever document you want, on any (supported) device. Theoretically, you can start on one device, close it down, and pick up exactly where you left off on any other supported device. The whole sync piece is handled via iCloud.   All you had to do was save the changes before you shut the first device down. It’s really that easy.

There’s a GREAT deal here to like about Yosemite – and Continuity in particular.   Unfortunately, most legacy Macs won’t be able to take advantage of these, or other hardware specific features within the as yet to be released, new OS from Apple.   You’re going to need to have all the right components in order to make it all work together, but it’s nice that anyone with the right equipment or anyone buying new equipment in the ecosystem will be able to take advantage of it all.

Are you a Mac user?   Will you be able to make Continuity work on your legacy Mac? If you’re not a Mac user, is something like Continuity enough to push you over the edge and make you buy into the Apple ecosystem if you’re Mac curious; or is something like Continuity just fluff and frosting and not something that most people are likely to use in the real world? Is the Mac ecosystem just too expensive to buy into regardless of how appealing it might be? Do you think that Apple will actually be able to make Continuity work as designed and as intended with any kind of consistency, or are features like Continuity just pedantic marketing, techno-babble that will turn into vaporware?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this.   Why don’t you join me in the discussion in the Comments section and tell me what you think of all of this.

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Play your multimedia files where and when you want to with MPCStar

Play your multimedia files where and when you want to with this cool Windows app.

MPC-01

Multimedia is a big deal. Apple’s iTunes is a multibillion dollar business. Apple concurred the world because of the iPod and iTunes, so, having the right kind of multimedia player for your computing preferences and experience is important. This is one of the reasons why I like apps like MPCStar. It’s a freeware multimedia app for Windows.

MPCSTAR is an all-in-one multimedia app. It consists of a video player, an audio player and a number of different audio and video codecs, that coupled with its conversion utility will allow you to put your video where you want to play it, in the format that is best suited for it. You can also download content from the internet and play it with MPCStar. The app is user friendly and can play a number of different type of multimedia formats. MPCStar is also free and doesn’t contain any kind of spyware or adware.

MPCStar reminds me of the multimedia players that I used back in the in the Windows 95 and Windows 98 era, though the app works with Windows 2000 to Windows 7. The big things that you won’t see here are mobile device support of ANY kind and the complete and total lack of any kind of a content store. While MPCStar is good at playing your multimedia files, I wouldn’t expect too much out of it in terms of library management. The app really reminds me of WinAmp and other type players with basic album support for cover art and other file tags.

MPCStar also hasn’t been updated in well over three years, so don’t expect any kind of additional support for the app, either. It is the way it is. Its good at what it does; and the interface is really great, but what it does seems stuck in 1998…

Download MPCStar

 

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US Government Considering Tax Holiday

Of its $156B in cash, $138B (88.5%) is banked overseas…

TaxHoliday

Apple has a lot of cash. $156B USD to be exact, and $138B USD of it, or just about 88.50% is kept in banks outside the US. To the unfinancially initiated, like me, this seems curious. However, when you consider the 35% tax hit ($48.3B USD) that Apple would be charged to bring the money back to the United States, it’s no wonder they don’t think twice about it. Spending $$48.3B to bring back just $89.7B isn’t worth the hit. So, the money stays outside the US, and Apple deprives the US of the tax revenue.

Apple needs a place to park the money, and it – like nearly every other large corporate entity – banks a lot of it in Ireland. They have much kinder tax laws, making it more fiscally responsible for Apple to store it there. However, this makes it difficult for Apple to use it the way they want to; and it would be a lot easier for them to bring the money home.

As such, the US Government is currently considering a tax holiday that would allow Apple to make a one-time transfer of its cash hoard back into US banks. The last time this happened in 2004, the government lowered the tax rate to 5.25%. However, at that time, Apple was still three years away from releasing the iPhone and six years away from releasing the iPad. It wasn’t able to take advantage of the tax break.

Recently, Apple has been the target of a US government cash into its tax payments. This effort, and the resulting news coverage on Apple’s – as well as other organization’s – legal use of Ireland’s corporate tax haven, has caused the European Union to take a much longer, more scruitinous look at those laws. While Apple hasn’t broken any laws with its international tax policies – Apple paid over $7.0B in US Federal, corporate taxes in fiscal 2013 – the company wants permanent tax reform in the US.

The US Federal Highway Trust is out of money at the end of August 2014. With major road repairs to major infrastructure – like I-80, which crosses the Continental US from Coast to Coast, East to West – the US government must do something. For its part, Apple is willing to repatriate its large cash hoard, but won’t without a tax repatriation holiday and without permanent tax reform.

This particular issue is going to linger on for quite a while. While I’m not one for financial news, I will update this story if anything interesting develops over the next few months.

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Get your mail and read important articles with Sylpheed

Get your mail and read important articles with this cool Windows-based email client.

SYL-04

Believe it or not – and despite what other people might say about email dying – its not. In fact, most of what I do every day evolves around my email client both here at home and at the office. The biggest problem with email is finding an app that does what you need it to do without clogging up your computer with a bunch of stuff that you don’t want or don’t need. Its why Sylpheed is a good choice for a Windows mail client and RSS news reader.

Sylpheed is a mail client and news reader that runs on the X Window System. It has a 3-paned display similar to the popular e-mail clients for Windows such as Outlook Express and Becky. In fact, after taking a look at it, that’s exactly what I thought – it looks a lot like Outlook Express. To top it off, its easy to use right out of the box.

The app is very stable. You can have tens of thousands of messages in your inbox. The app protects your data and still functions well regardless of how large your information store is. If something does go south and the app does forcibly quit, you won’t have to worry about the state of your data. It won’t get corrupted.

Its also easy to search for mail with Sylpheed with its filtering engine. You can also refer to messages matching your search criteria by saving the query to a search folder.

If you’re looking for a decent mail and news only app, then this is a decent choice. The app is easy to use and is basically rock solid. If you’re looking for an Outlook replacement, don’t come here, though. The app doesn’t do calendar or to-do’s at all, though it will handle your address book. It also won’t sync with your smartphone.

Download Sylpheed Free

 

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Bring down Wikipedia to your hard drive for offline viewing with Xowa

Bring down Wikipedia to your hard drive for offline viewing with this awesome app.

When I was growing up (I graduated from high school in 1984), my parents had a set of Britannica Encyclopedias THEY used when they were in school circa 1950-blah, blah, blah. Its what I had at home to help me with homework – a 25-30 year old, out dated set of reference books…and it was far better than most anyone else had at home. Google didn’t exist yet. In 1984 when I graduated from high school, Sergey Brin was in the 4th grade. That, my friends… is TOTALLY depressing.

Today, with the advent of Google and other search engines, the world is your oyster. Students today have access to information that I could only dream about back in the day…that is, as long as they’re online. Well, until now. XOWA is a cool Windows app that downloads any Wikimedia wiki to your hard drive for offline use; and unlike my stale set of smelly encyclopedias, can be updated at will.

XOWA is a free application that lets you download Wikipedia and Wikimedia compatible wiki’s to your computer. With it, you can access all of Wikipedia offline, meaning without an internet connection. You effectively rip it to your hard drive and then access Wikipedia via the app.

It works with any Wikimedia wiki, including Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikisource, Wikiquote, and Wikivoyage. It also works with other specialized wikis such as Wikidata, Wikimedia Commons, Wikispecies, or any other MediaWiki generated dump. Also works with any non-English language wiki (French, German, Dutch, etc.) compatible wiki.

When you search or find what you’re looking for, you can search for any page by title using a Wikipedia-like search box, browse pages by alphabetical order using special:allpages, or find a word on a page. You can also access a history of viewed pages and bookmark your favorite pages.

This application is really cool. Its something that every high school and especially college student should have, especially if you have a laptop, have to do some kind of a research paper and know you’re going to be some place that doesn’t have Wi-Fi (and you don’t have mobile broadband to burn – which is a very common state, especially among students here in the States).

With XOWA, you surf, download, storage and go. The app will even store data on a storage card or thumb drive, so you don’t have to eat up precious hard drive space. The app is also VERY difficult for first time users to get set up. You have to do a LOT of reading of instructions in order to actually get the app to rip something to your hard drive. Don’t expect to be able to flip a switch and start using it out of the box. Its going to take a bit of work to get going.

XOWA-01

 

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It was the WWDC 2014 Day!

Yesterday was the day we find out what Tim got many of us for Christmas..!!

Stijn-WWDC-iPhone

…and I must say I’ve been a very good boy.

Most of the tech world – or at least anyone with any mild interest in what’s up and coming in terms of Apple technology and innovation –yesterday was sitting on pins and needles. The Apple WWDC keynote was set to begin at  10am  Pacific Time, and can be found here.
Most of us will also, likely get some of the new hardware goodies that were announced yesterday for our loved ones, or ourselves, as 2014 Holiday gifts later this calendar year. You may have to continue to behave until then, kids… Santa doesn’t give the good stuff to just anyone.

While I, unfortunately, wasn’t able to Live Blog the speech yesterday as I have for other pubs in the past, I will do my best to recap the results. I will also have first look-styled reviews of both OS X 10.10 and iOS 8.0 as soon as I can get installations of them up and running on my Mac and iPhone 5, respectively; but it will likely be a few days before I can get that to happen, as I’m certain everybody and their brother with any kind of an Apple Developer’s account will be downloading the software as soon as its available.

Stay tuned to Soft32, as I’m certain it’s going to get very exciting around here in the coming weeks.

If anyone has any questions or items you’d like me to give special attention to regarding either OS X 10.10 or iOS 8, please do me a favor and leave me a comment, below. I’ll make sure that I do my best to at least mention it in the review of each OS.

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Smartphone 101 – Prerequisite 2: Setting up a Sync Relationship with iPhone

I’ve been working with mobile devices since 1996. I’ve had nearly every kind of mobile device from near every manufacturer on nearly every mobile OS…ever. The iPhone is by far the easiest to setup and configure. Like the other two mobile OS’ in use today, we’ll run through the default configuration and then see about adding another sync account to your iDevice. Apple makes this pretty easy…

Please note that these instructions were done using and iPhone 5 running iOS 7.1.1. As I don’t have an iPhone 5S, you won’t find instructions on using Touch ID, here. However, as you will see from the screenshots below, the configuration process is very easy. You shouldn’t have any problems configuring it if you simply follow the process and then work with the device when it wants to read your finger prints.

1. Turn on your iPhone for the first time. After the device boots, you’ll be greeted with a welcome screen. Place your finger just to the left of the greater-than sign (>) and slide it over the top of the words, “slide to set up” to begin the configuration process.
IMG_0001

2. Select a wireless network to connect to. If you have Wi-Fi in the house, using it over your mobile broadband bandwidth is preferable. Select your network from the list and tap it.
IMG_0002

3. The wireless network password screen appears. Type the password to your Wi-Fi network and then press the join button.
IMG_0003 IMG_0004

4. Turn on Location Services. You’ll want to make certain that they are configured correctly later, but for now, you’ll want them turned on so things like Maps and local search work correctly. Tap “Enable Location Services.”
IMG_0005next page

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Smartphone 101 – Prerequisite 2: Setting up a Sync Relationship with Android Phone

Android+Google Account

There are a BOAT LOAD of different kind of Android devices, from numerous manufacturers running about 35 or so active versions of the Android operating system. As such, there simply isn’t a standardized set of instructions for setting the device up. Android versions may also differ on the SAME device on a DIFFERENT carrier (adding to the confusion… I know.)

These instructions were done on an HTC One (M8) on the Verizon Wireless Network. As such, it’s going to have Verizon specific screens in its setup routine.  If this is your phone, then you have the exact instructions you need to get going. If you have, say, a Samsung Galaxy S4 or other Samsung Android device on Verizon, these instructions will be close, but not spot on. Unfortunately, there isn’t ONE single way to deliver Android; AND the way its implemented differs from device to device, mobile carrier to mobile carrier, so, if something in the instructions doesn’t line up for you and the store you purchased the phone can’t give you immediate assistance, leave a question in the comments.  I’ll answer it ASAP.

1.    Turn on your Android phone for the first time. After it boots and displays various splash and logo screens, it should stop at a welcome screen. This should be the beginning of a setup wizard or other setup app.
Android_ss_0001

2.    The HTC One (M8) uses the Verizon Cloud to back up your phone’s important information. If you want to use Verizon Cloud, click the “Next” button. Otherwise, click the “Skip” button.
Android_ss_0002

3.    Choose the data that you want to backup to Verizon Cloud. By default, all data types are selected.  Click the “Next” button when you’re done.
Android_ss_0003

4.    Choose what wireless networks are used – cellular and Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi only – when backing up data to Verizon Cloud.  Click the appropriate radio button and then click the, “Done with Cloud” button to go to the next step.
Android_ss_0004

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