Feature Review – OS X 10.11 – El Capitan

Introduction

os_x_el_capitan_roundup

Security!

Stability!!

Give me these or give me, well… give me another operating system!

Out of the darkness and the despair, the cry of the people went up; and the benevolent wizards in the magic land called Cupertino heard them. They toiled long and hard. They worked day and night. They sent forth version after (public beta) version of their magic spells until finally on 2015-09-30, shortly after the final rendering that was heralded by the appearance of the blood moon… it was completed.

El Capitan… OS X 10.11… and the Wizards of Cupertino saw that it was good… and so, wishing to protect their progeny, they sent it forth…

If you have a Mac running OS X 10.10.x, then you can run Yosemite. Is it the operating system for you? Will it run well, even on a Late 2008 or Early 2009 MacBook? Does it offer the kind of performance boot and security enhancements that you’ve been looking for? Is it safe for you to upgrade, knowing that some apps might not be ready yet?

We’re going to take a look at these questions and others as we look at El Capitan and its natural progression and growth from Yosemite into, what Apple (and all the Wizards of Cupertino) hope will be the best version of their desktop OS yet.

Let’s see if we can wade through the hype (and yeah… my BS…) and take a look and see what El Capitan brings to the table. Is it worth putting on your Mac? Let’s find out…

Experience

It started with Yosemite; and Apple said it when they announced OS X El Capitan – they’ve called the name of the mountain; and given everyone a natural progression of what Yosemite was. El Capitan is what comes next.

I’m making a big deal about the name of the new OS and the name of the mountain that’s depicted as the default desktop wall paper in both OS X 10.10 and 10.11. The mountain is in the park; and the park’s most notable and biggest attraction is the mountain. By drawing this analogy between the mountain and both operating systems, Apple is basically telling you that OS 10.11 is a natural progression of OS X 10.10. And that’s basically true… at least from what I’ve been able to see of the new OS during the time that I’ve been able to use it.

Changes to OS X in El Capitan can really be divided into two different categories – Experience and Performance. El Capitan is a gives you even simpler, smarter ways to do the things you do the most with your Mac – Like working in multiple apps at the same time, searching for information, keeping tabs on your favorite websites, or checking email, or taking notes.

And there are some changes. All of them add value to the OS X experience. Some of them create issues and problems for users. I’ll touch on some of those later.

However, what you should take from this “tock” styled update, is that the El Capitan experience is familiar and something that nearly every Yosemite user is going to feel comfortable with; and (should be) instantly productive in (again, provided your core apps aren’t broken under El Capitan. I have more on that below…

Performance

Improvements under the hood make your Mac snappier and more efficient in all kinds of everyday tasks — from opening PDFs to accessing your email. And with Metal for Mac, you get faster and more fluid graphics performance in games, high-performance apps, and many other places.

In OS X El Capitan we’ve made all kinds of things run faster — like accessing email and launching or switching between apps. It’s these little things that make your Mac feel faster and more responsive. And we’ve brought Metal to Mac, so you experience more fluid performance in games, high-performance apps, and key system-level graphics operations.

Now things you do every day — like launching and switching apps, opening PDFs, and accessing email — are faster and snappier. OS X El Capitan makes your Mac feel more fluid and responsive.

  • Up to 1.4x faster app launch
  • Up to 2x faster app switching
  • Up to 2x faster display of first mail messages
  • Up to 4x faster pdf opening in preview

    Metal

One of the biggest developments and improvements in OS X 10.11 is Metal. Metal is a new graphics core technology. It gives games and apps near-direct access to the graphics processor on your Mac, allowing for enhanced performance and a richer graphical experience. Metal speeds system-level graphics rendering by up to 50%, as well as making it up to 40%more efficient on resources, compared with Yosemite, on equivalently speced Macs.

In a nut shell, Metal allows your Mac’s CPU and its graphics processor to work more effectively together, boosting high-performance apps. The most obvious benefit of Metal will be to games, but any high performance app – like Photoshop, iMovie, or any other graphic or video intensive app – will benefit from its up to 10x performance boost

Core Application Issues

When I say “core application” I really don’t mean apps that Apple has written, like any of the iWork components or Mail or iTunes. What I’m really talking about is Office 2016 for Mac. When El Capitan was released, it was released AFTER Office 2016 for Mac hit the streets. If you upgraded Yosemite to El Capitan with Office 2016 for Mac installed, you were – unfortunately and unknowingly – in for a very serious problem.

Office 2016 for Mac doesn’t run on El Capitan 10.11.0.

Since I started writing this review AND since the release of OS X 10.11.1, both Apple and Microsoft have released updates to the OS and to the suite to resolve the issues. However, it got dicey there for a while…

Features & Improvements

Security Updates

OS X 10.11 builds on the security model in Yosemite and takes it to the next level. Security is a big part of the El Capitan Update over OS X 10.10. Here, I’m going to touch on three of the biggest updates that Apple has made to its flagship OS’ security underpinnings.

System Integrity Protection (SIP)

Over the years, Macs have enjoyed a bit of anonymity. Hackers and malware writers didn’t target them because, quite honestly, they didn’t have the user base for most of these bad guys to bother with. That’s changing now.

In earlier versions of OS X, Apple introduced things like Sandboxing and Gate Keeper to help protect users from malignant code. Sandboxing requires programs to run in a defined memory segment, without the ability to write code to other parts of the computer. Gate Keeper effectively limits application installs from everywhere but trusted sources. In El Capitan, Apple is hardening its security model with System Integrity Protection (or SIP for short).

SIP prevents programs or users with insufficient security credentials to writing any files to /System, /bin, /usr (except /usr/local), and /sbin. This prevents malignant programs from In other words, it provides a type of root-level protection to the Mac similar to what the iPhone and iPad have benefited from for years.

Code injection and runtime attachments are no longer permitted, though expert users who really want to will still be able to access the system as deeply can still make system level changes that will allow them to do so. If you run apps like or TotalFinder, you’re going to find that they either do not work now, or you have to either fully or in part, disable SIP.

You can find instructions on disabling SIP here.

Some apps like Bartender, only need SIP disabled during install. After that, SIP can be reenabled.

System Integrity Protection helps keep your computer secure by preventing unwanted and malicious, privilege escalations.

App Transport Security

Web apps are gaining in popularity. Apps like Outlook.com and Gmail are hugely popular, and that TYPE of app are only going to become more prevalent. In order to insure that the data transmissions between your computer and the web server that the app is actually running on are secure, Apple added Application Transport Security to OS X. In El Capitan, that’s TLS 1.2, but as stronger transports become available, ATS will push everyone towards them as well. This type of security is insanely important in that without this secure layer, not only will productivity apps like Gmail and Outlook transmit data in the open for nearly everyone with a packet sniffer to see, but shopping apps that use the same secure transports will also pass insecure payment and credit card data back and forth.

Security protocols like this help make the future of online activity – whether that’s mail, or productivity (like Google Apps or Microsoft Office Online) or shopping apps safe to use

Privacy

El Capitan helps make computing more secure by protecting your privacy. Apple inverts the current cloud computing model by bringing the cloud down to your Mac, and not the more traditional model, which is the other way around. The easiest way to see a tangible example of this, is Spotlight.

When you search for data through Spotlight, you simply type a question and the search results are brought to your desktop. In a more traditional search model, you go to a web site – say Google or Bing – and search for something. You… go to the data, putting your security and your privacy at risk. In the Mac model, this is reversed. The data, comes to you, as it should be.

The best thing here is that when you use an Apple Online service, your personal data and the data you searched for and retrieved isn’t shared with any online service. You just get your results. This lowers the risk of your personal and/ or private data being inappropriately or inadvertently shared with other individuals or other companies. How well this works over time in terms of service quality and what you can and cannot search for based on what’s shared and retrieved, remains to be completely seen.

Feature Updates

El Capitan makes several updates to many of OS X’s key features. I’m going to highlight some of the more visible and more important feature updates in OS X 10.11.

Split View

Everyone is used to running multiple apps on their computer or laptop screens. I mean, we’ve been doing this really since 1990 blah-blah-blah and Windows 3.x. You get from one open app to the other by using ALT-Tab. Its very easy.

On the Mac side of the world, it’s the same way. We’ve been able to swap bits between apps since 1984 and Finder 1.0, if you really want to get down to brass tacks. You get from one app to another by using Command-Tab. Its also very easy here.

The big problem is that some times, all the other apps you might have open are nothing more than noise. Yes, you can try to Tile your open windows, but in many cases, if you don’t watch it, you can wind up with every open app window sitting next to every OTHER app window on your computer screen. When all you wanted was two apps side by side, this is hugely annoying.

Split View 01

In El Capitan, Apple takes a queue from Microsoft’s Snap feature and has given us Split View. With Split View, you can automatically fill your computer screen with two apps of choice. To get to Split View, you can either get there from Mission Control or from a full screen app. If you already have an app running full screen, you can drag another Split View compatible app to its desktop thumbnail at the top of the Mission Control Screen. Both apps will appear in Split View.

The other way is to click and hold the green full screen button with your mouse. The left half of the screen will become shaded in blue. Release your mouse button to open the current window on the left half of your screen. Any other compatible, non-minimized apps will show up on the other half of the screen as thumbnails. Simply click the other app you want to use in Split view.

Microsoft does this on the Windows side with Snap. You can get there in a similar fashion, and popping content back and forth between apps is just as easy via Windows Snap as it is with OS X Split View.

Mission Control

Mission Control 01

A streamlined Mission Control makes it easier to see and organize everything you have open on your Mac. With a single swipe, all the windows on your desktop arrange themselves in a single layer, with nothing stacked or hidden. Mission Control places your windows in the same relative location, so you can spot the one you’re looking for more quickly. And when you have lots of windows competing for real estate, it’s now even simpler to make more room for them. Just drag any window to the top of your screen, and drop it into a new desktop space. It’s never been this easy to spread out your work.

Mission Control 02

 

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Apple Releases iOS 9.0.2

Apple continues to swat at bugs with its latest iOS release

ios9

Wednesday 2015-09-30 saw the release of iOS 9.0.2, Apple’s latest update to its mobile operating system.  Released a week after iOS 9.0.1, this latest update comes just two weeks after the initial release of iOS 9.

IOS 9.0.2 is another minor update – a bug fix, really – and also addresses other performance enhancements.  The following were called out in the release notes for this update:

  • Fixes a screen lock vulnerability that allowed Siri to be used to bypass the lock screen to access photos and contacts on a locked device
  • Fixes an issue with the setting to turn on or off app cellular data usage
  • Resolves an issue that prevented iMessage activation for some users
  • Resolves an issue where an iCloud backup could be interrupted after starting a manual backup
  • Fixes an issue where the screen could incorrectly rotate when receiving notifications
  • Improves the stability of Podcasts

IOS 9 focuses on productivity and performance, with some major updates to both Siri and Spotlight.  Notable among its new productivity enhancing features is a split-screen multi-tasking view that allows more modern devices, like the iPad Pro, to share and pass information back and forth between apps (like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other productivity apps)  iOS 9.1, also due later this year, and anticipated during the month of November with the general availability release of the iPad Pro, is meant to focus on productivity for the new enterprise capable tablet and the AppleTV.

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The Biggest Thing Missing in the iPhone 6S

Well, that’s a bit of a misnomer… Honestly, its missing on every new mobile device you buy.

iphone-6s-rose-gold-vs-nexus-5-20154

Working with mobile devices as long as I have, you get to learn a few things about how things really should go. I’ve been writing for a long time, and honestly, I’ve reviewed a great many different mobile handsets. Some of them have been PocketPC’s/ Windows Mobile devices. Some of them have been Palm devices. I’ve also reviewed Android, Blackberry, and of course iPhones.

In fact, I’ll be doing an unboxing of the iPhone 6s Plus as well as writing a first impressions document on it based on my wife’s personal interaction as well as my own when it arrives for her on 2015-09-25.

Funny thing there – I ordered my wife’s iPhone 6s Plus on Saturday 2015-09-12 at approximately 11:30am, well after the early rush after the Store opened online at 12:01am PDT. My initial ship WINDOW was between 2015-10-06 and 2015-10-26. As of Wednesday 2015-09-23, I was still looking at waiting about another two to four weeks before the device shipped. Surprise, surprise… I got a note from AT&T this morning indicating that it would arrive on iPhone 6s Day, 2015-09-25. (I got her the standard yellow gold tone model, by the way.

So now, the point of this column is even more spot on. The iPhone 6s – and every other new mobile device – is missing a huge, HUGE “thing.”

A “How to use all the new hardware and OS features” document.

Now, I know I probably lost a few of you there, and you’re likely looking to jet… but stick around for a sec. You’ve come this far. Its not gonna hurt you to see it all the way through at this point….

There are a lot of new features in iOS 9.x, some of which you get with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. However, a lot of them you DON’T get unless you get an iPhone 6s/ 6s Plus. However, without knowing what ALL of the new hardware is, AND without knowing what all of the new features are, AND without knowing what requires what AND how to use them, you’re kinda left to figure it out yourself.

Some people rise to the occasion and figure it out. However, most people, don’t even know where to start and a lot of what makes a new device new and great, gets ignored.

It’s a shame, too.

Most people will get their new iPhones and fumble around with the new hardware and with iOS 9, and try to work it out; but they won’t get it all. They’ll get some of it. They may even look to the web and find something about what they’re interested in, but they may not find it all.

How can this be rectified? Its fairly easy, really; but then again, it requires that people actually use the tools that may be provided to them. Apple… Google… Microsoft… and every other hardware manufacturer that modifies or enhances a mobile operating system can provide a startup sequence or other getting started app or setup process that shows you the new stuff and is required to be reviewed before the device can be used.

Apple does something like this already, but all it does it configure the device. It doesn’t review the latest features and how to use them. It just runs through the required configuration settings. If however, it peppered new feature tutorials in between the configuration settings, it could inform as well as configure. That would be one of the best ways to resolve this problem.

However, I’m not certain that something like that is ever going to happen. If it was likely, it would have happened already. This isn’t rocket science…

I’ve got an iPhone 6s Plus in the house. It arrived on 2015-09-25 – iPhone 6s Day – and I plan on building some how to’s and some fact finding articles on how to use some of its new hardware features and those of iOS 9.

So I invite you to do me a favor and stick around, close to Soft32 and give me a hand. Let me know what you’d like to see and hear about with the new feautres of iOS 9.x. Let me know what you’re curious about when it comes to the new hardware of the iPhone 6x and 6s Plus. I’ll do my best to provide a good intro to the latest flagship iDevices and we’ll see what we can come up with.

So do me a favor, please… take some time and join me in the discussion area below and let me know what you’d like to know about first. I’d love to hear from you. Give me your thoughts, please. There’s a lot going on with not only the iPhone and iOS 9, but the iPad as well. I’m certain that everyone would love to hear about both. Wouldn’t you…?

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The iPad Finally Goes to Work

It finally seems like the iPad can pay the rent…

I’ve been trying to bring my iPad to the office since its initial release in 2010. I’ve tried to write an “iPad at Work” series with nearly ever iteration of iPad hardware, but even with the iPad Air 2, the digitizer type hasn’t changed at all. …And that’s the big problem.

iPad

The iPad has a huge issue with palm rest technology. While you can draw or even write on an iPad screen, the digitizer can’t ignore your palm as it rests on the screen. It thinks that your palm and whatever writing instrument you’re using – be that your finger or some kind of capacitive stylus – are part of a multi-touch gesture. As such, you really can’t use the iPad to take hand written notes in meetings without hovering your hand over the screen, and that gets tired and old quickly.

I know. I’ve tried many, many times over the past few years with OneNote and Evernote, to name just a couple of note taking apps. Neither work well with handwritten notes on an iPad. And it’s a real shame and a huge pain. The iPad is popular, easy to work with and use, and with the right keyboard – now with the touch version of Microsoft Office for iOS, the iPad is a competent productivity tool… but no meeting notes, unless they’re typed, that is…

At least, that’s the way things USED to be with the iPad.

Apple introduced the iPad Pro on 2015-09-09 and that whole landscape has changed… potentially. I say potentially due to two major reasons:

  1. I’ve not used the iPad Pro and haven’t seen it, and I don’t know how well its palm rest technology works
  2. Little is known on how well it can be used as a writing instrument. I have no idea how bad the drawing/ writing latency is on this thing.

Drawing or writing latency is basically the amount of lag experienced on the device when you draw or write on its screen. You’ve passed over a certain area with the pen, and the ink doesn’t show up on the area you’ve drawn or written on for “X” amount of time after the pen has moved on. That’s latency.

This can be a huge issue if you’re trying to take notes in a meeting or in class, and you’re trying to keep up with the person who’s talking or teaching. If they’re moving quickly and your device (in this case the iPad Pro) can’t keep up, it can be a problem.

The palm rest tech seems to be acceptable on all of the demo video that has been played. There are a number of demos and videos out that show people drawing with the Apple Pencil on the iPad Pro, and they have their hand resting on the device’s screen.

Just an FYI – the new 13″ iPad Pro starts at $799 (32GB model). With the Apple Pencil ($99) and the Smart Keyboard ($169), the whole thing is $1057. With 8.25% tax, the grand total is $1155.28. The high end iPad Pro is $1079 (with the same accessories and after tax, its $1458.13).

To put that in perspective,

  1. The entry level MacBook is $1299
  2. The entry level 13″ MacBook Air is $999
  3. The high end 13″ MacBook Air is $1199
  4. The entry level 13″ MacBook Pro is $1299
  5. The entry level 15″MacBook Pro is $1999
  6. The entry level 21.5″ iMac is $1099
  7. The entry level 27″ iMac is $1799

The new iPad Pro is as expensive or more expensive than the 13″ MacBook Air, the new MacBook, the entry level MacBook Pro and the entry Level 21.5″ iMac. For the price of the high end iPad Pro (after Pencil, keyboard and taxes), you’re just $50 bucks shy of the price of the mid-range 13″ MacBook Pro (before taxes).

The use case for the iPad Pro is going to be very similar to that of the Surface Pro 3 – a business user (be they corporate, SOHO/ SMB, or creative) who needs basic productivity (MS Office for iOS), the ability to take hand written or typed notes in a meeting, or perhaps needs to do some quick brain storming and quickly sketches something out (on what in the past, would have ended up being a paper bar napkin) to make a point or capture an idea.

Consumer based use cases for the iPad Pro are few and far between. However, many consumers may fall into this particular use case, if the iPad is their primary computing device AND they’re looking to buy a new computer. The iPad Pro with its new keyboard can function as a notebook computer – the A9X processor is desktop class in its performance – with a minimal footprint. The only issue that many users may have with it is that the device – like the Surface Pro series – isn’t very lapable. The design of the keyboard may not be sturdy enough to type on or support itself without some sort of firm, flat surface under it. A lap, just may not cut it, and that may change the way some people want or need to interact with the device… at least until Apple comes out with a different keyboard or allows 3rd parties to market keyboards for the iPad Pro.

Is the iPad Pro in your future, or is it too expensive? Does its new features and desktop class hardware mean that an iPad will finally find its way into your daily work process? Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and give me your thoughts on it?

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Upgrade Fever – Smartphones and Tablets and Laptops

Oh my..?   Yeah, I’ve noticed you only catch it if you want it…

Ever since the release of the first iPhone in 2007, there seems to be an annual hullaballoo that’s expected to take the world by storm. Every August or September, we’re expected to sit in front of our computers, drooling on our F5 keys as we wait for the guy at the other end of the keynote to update his live blog so we can see the latest version of Widgets on Parade.

Apple does it every year, and it’s become the gateway into the Holiday buying season.   Every major electronics manufacturer from Apple to Samsung has some sort of great product whose-whats-it that’s designed to create upgrade fever with that manufacturer’s fans. They also hope to win over nearly everyone else, too.

There’s one thing that I’ve noticed over the past few years, especially with Apple and the iPad.   It’s important to note too – especially right now – just 8 or so calendar days from Black  Friday  (or the day where most retailers sell enough stuff to take them and their balance sheets into the black for the year) because it may really dictate where you put your dollars:

You don’t have to catch upgrade fever.

I’ll say it again – You don’t have to upgrade your iPhone if you don’t want to. There are a few reasons why.   Most of them are common sense, but they may get lost in all of the excitement surrounding the new hardware release.   Let’s take a quick look, though.

The hardware is less than a year old

I think it’s actually amazing. I really do. Apple is a great example here, because they’ve been able to not only do this successfully, but do it consistently as well, to the point where their stock price will fluctuate if the iDevice announcement is delayed or doesn’t happen when the press expects it to.

But let’s take a quick look at not only the iPad Air, but the iPhone 5S/5C.   The iPad 4 and the iPhone 5 are just now out of factory warranty, if you got one on or near launch/release day 2012. I got my iPhone 5 on 2012-10-22. That means that as of this writing, my iPhone 5 is not quite 13 months old…and there’s not a bloody thing wrong with it.

Let’s leave aside the fact that I treat my gadgets very well and all of them are in pristine condition.   I’m likely the exception, there. However, unless you’re drop kicking your phone or tablet across the room at any and every opportunity, there’s very little chance that you’ve worn out the hardware. While this isn’t 1950 blah-blah-blah, things don’t wear out THAT quickly. Unless your very hard on your device, then it likely hasn’t gotten enough wear on it to justify the purchase of a new device to replace it based on use.

In fact, a whole new industry based on certified used devices or device resale has been created based on Apple’s annual product cycle.   Businesses like Gazelle, Amazon’s Used Device Purchase Service came about because of Apple’s rapid hardware update cycle.   Even Apple and the wireless carriers got into the game.   However, you need to understand that you’re going to take a bit of a hit on is resale value. The “depreciation” after only a year is a lot more with these companies than you might experience if you sold the device privately.

However, simply based on your device’s age and its condition, it’s still very usable. Getting rid of it just because the new version is now available isn’t always the smartest financial decision either.   Which brings me to my next point…

Only the guy on the uninsured motorcycle is actually made of money

Let’s face it – iDevices are expensive. The high-end cellular iPad costs nearly as much as an entry level MacBook Air.   An entry level iPad costs as much as a mid-range notebook or desktop. These things aren’t cheap.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford a new iPad every year. I’m not even certain I would want to buy a new one that often. Given the (potential) high cost of entry, keeping up with an annual, hardware refresh cycle isn’t realistic…unless of course you’re “financially independent.”   At the end of the day, I know I’m not that uninsured guy riding a motor cycle, littering the highway with $20’s.   Whether I wanted to or not, the point is moot. Buying a new iPad every year isn’t in the cards for me; or most people, for that matter.

Your Use Case probably hasn’t changed

When I bought my iPad, I bought it for a few specific reasons – I want to watch movies. I want to watch TV shows and I want to read eBooks.   These are “lean back” activities that I will likely do for quite some time with that device. In short, my needs haven’t changed and likely won’t for quite some time.

As the needs haven’t changed, I haven’t found the need or justification to upgrade my device.

Conclusion

I purchased an iPad 1 in December of 2010, and it’s been working very well since I put it into service. That device is perfect for what I want to do with it, and I likely won’t need to replace it unless and until it breaks or my use case changes.   The iPad 2 is still available for purchase at $399 USD.   It’s got almost twice the processing power as the original iPad, and is also thinner and lighter. If you have a similar use case in mind and want to buy “new,” an iPad 2 is likely your best iDevice of choice. If you’re going to do more with it – perhaps light computing or image editing – then an iPad Air or iPad 4 might be a better choice.

However, just because its older, doesn’t mean that it can’t do exactly what you need it to do.   This is true for nearly any and every electronic device available for purchase in any market today. Figure out what you want to do, and then find the best device to meet that need.   If your needs are like mine, then you may not have to have the newest device out there. In many cases, the original one you purchased can still meet the needs.

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