AMITIAE - Monday 2 December 2013

Cassandra: Subtle Changes to Macs and Mavericks (Amended)

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


I sometimes do not understand why Apple does some things. There are the magnificent broad strokes that create new markets at the one extreme, while at the small end of things, changes to the ways that our computers operate sometimes dumbfound and exasperate.

Recently I have found a number of changes to both hardware and software that will cause changes in the way I (or others) operate. These are, in the main, not major, but do require adjustment on the part of the user. This is a feature not just of Apple and its operating systems. Other OS developers make changes and there is usually an implied, "deal with it": a faît accompli.

MacBook pro Many users have criticised the design of the interfaces for iOS 7 and Mavericks. They may not meet all tastes, but eventually most users will deal with the changes, in the end just ignoring the thin fonts, the sparse icons and certain missing features.

These changes were most noticeable in apps like Calendar and Contacts; but there were also some simplifications made to the operations in iWork. Like other apps that Apple has done this too, such as Final Cut, some features slowly reappear. With the updates that appeared on my computer for Keynote (6.0.1), Pages (5.0.1) and Numbers (3.0.1) on 22 November, the ability to customize the toolbar was returned. There were loud howls about that when it was earlier found to be missing. Other changes were also made in the same update.

The worst change for me was not the software, but hardware. With the new Mac that I took delivery of last month, I now have no Infrared sensor, so am unable to use the remote control for presentations. I am sort of saved by Apple's Keynote Remote and Remote apps that allow the same controls (more or less) via wireless.

MacBook pro

There is a clue there as the introduction to the MacBook Air earlier this year saw Phil Schiller take a minor detour within the presentation to introduce the new Airport Extreme Routers that can access the latest 802.11ac wifi standards. As the Macs sheds disk drives (and IR sensors), and even the most recent versions of OS X have been downloaded, it is clear that Apple is backing the wi-fi horse.

That may well see Cupertino releasing more devices that benefit from faster wireless connectivity which will benefit operations in the home and in the business environment.

[A reader - Rick Karrer - suggested that as well as a wifi network, the computer to computer network (Use Create Network in the menubar list) could be used to ensure a good connection when using the iOS apps.]

Also last week, a colleague was bemoaning the ability to switch keyboards (from English to Thai and back) with the single ` keystroke he had been using for years. I had fixed my choice here when Spotlight was allocated the same keys (Command + Space), by deselecting the Spotlight checkbox and carrying on as normal. My colleague was not so lucky and - by a process of experiment - I found that using a single key is no longer possible. When I selected Option + ` the keyboard switch occurred right away.

My colleague grumbled a little, but now uses the two keys: in a few days I expect he will have forgotten his older way of working. I also suspect that Apple refined the process here as a form of surety. Some users may actually want to enter the ` as a specific key stroke, so using a modifier key confirms that a keystroke combination is being used and that the user is not mistyping.

When Mavericks arrived, I was disappointed in the removal of a keystroke combination that I had used for years. Shift + Option + Command + Eject would put the Mac to sleep. There was of course the option on a notebook computer of just shutting the lid, but that is inelegant (even if it works OK).

A little less inelegant is the power button. By pressing that once, the computer will sleep. Hold it down and the power will go off. There is also the option of the Finder Apple menu.

When I looked at that menu, I wondered about re-assigning a keystroke to the command, as I had with the keyboard switching. In the Shortcuts panel of the Keyboard preferences, I was able to add a Sleep key combination to the Shortcuts, but this did not appear in the Apple menu. When I tried the command it did not work, so I deleted it. Apple really does not want me to use this.


While the older 15" MacBook Pro that I still own has an Eject key, the new 13" Mac does not have a disk drive, so there is no Eject key. The original command I had used on the Macs before, would not work at all with any of the latest Macs.

Perhaps this is why Apple is moving away from the original key combinations which might be confusing if they operated differently on different computers and have now consolidated the Sleep in the three ways (as outlined above):

  • A menu item
  • Pressing the power button
  • Shuting the lid

Whatever. . . . I am now used to the options and rarely try the older key combination.

Maybe I am on the right track. A few hours after I first posted the above, Allyson Kazmucha on iMore wrote an item on the use of the power button and how that is bringing the Mac closer to iPad behaviour.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



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