Podcast #255

New Users of OS X (7): Some more useful maintenance utilities ; plus comments on this week's WWDC and related events

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pots Yesterday, Thai time, Steve Jobs made the keynote speech at the WWDC in San Francisco and this year I am stuck in Bangkok. I have a report on what was announced later. This week's Bangkok Post column looks further at useful utilities.

Some more useful maintenance utilities

I was going to wrap it up with this week's article and put the whole lot together as part of an eBook, but a report late last week on some malware had me adding another part on threats. Don't worry, everything I found when I did check my computer was for Windows.

I mentioned Flash last week and this weekend a new insecurity was announced by Adobe. It affects Flash on Macs, and Flash and Acrobat on Windows, and could let attackers take control of your computer. A fix should be coming soon we are told.

I started putting this together late last week, knowing that on Tuesday, Thai time, the Steve Jobs keynote speech at the World Wide Developers' Conference would be delivered.

Rumours at that time included new iPhone, new iPhone OS, Safari 5, a new download service, which along with the iPhone means a new iTunes. We also heard on Monday, a few hours before the keynote, of a totally new device that none of the rumours got before: a magic trackpad and some sources call it a slate. Anyone remember the slate rumour from last year when it was put forward as a name for the iPad and we all groaned? Now perhaps it makes more sense although it did not appear after all that.

I would not have been surprised to see an update to the Mac mini, or the Mac Pro, and we might as well throw in iPods: when was the last time they were refreshed. The reality -- what was actually announced -- is next.

river mosque The first thing I saw when I activated my computer on Tuesday morning was an upgrade. I was a bit surprised to see only one, but it was Safari 5: no OS X, no iTunes. iTunes is later this month.

There are several new features of Safari 5, which looked the same to me when I started it up, so I checked About Safari to make sure. These include almost 50 fixes and a reader for looking at articles on the web without distraction -- it removes extra content and clutter. Nice actually. There is a menu item in View, or we can use Shift + Command + R. There is no toolbar icon but in the address bar there is a reader button which we can click. This supersedes the RSS icon. Entering the reader, removes all ads and other stuff from a page and increases the font size to give a really nice display of the text. This will be useful in teaching.

MacDaily News also tells us that Safari is faster with the way it runs Java and Javascript and has other tricks with DNS to make loading better, particularly of previously loaded pages. It also adds several HTML 5 features for better media display.

We had seen some hints of this Safari update over the weekend when Apple released a few pages with HTML 5 enhancement features that are worth looking at.

I also see that Bing is now listed as a search engine in the General Preferences of Safari. AppleInsider is one site that has more information on the new browser and they confirm another rumour that sand-boxed extensions are now to become available for Safari.

I installed Safari while eating breakfast and reading the newspaper, then had a look at some email: one was asking me about AppleTV. It told me this had disappeared from the Thai store, but not others, and was not updated in Steve Jobs' Keynote speech. Not sure here. Another user mentioned during the week about the cost of batteries locally -- gone up considerably, especially in relation to the US price -- but these too are not shown on the Thai store pages.

With the first, I guess a switch in policy, either from Apple or local rules; while the latter may be due to the shipment via DHL. There were changes last year in the way batteries could be transported by airlines, so maybe the courier services have changed too.

Also in my early morning email was one from Apple featuring the new iPhone 4. There had been speculation on what it would be called. Four is straightforward enough. The image on the site is taken from the Apple pages.

The main advertised features are a way to see callers when you speak to them; the improved display of 960 x 640 which had been predicted; the multitasking which had been previewed a while back; and HD video recording. That sounds interesting.

It is set for release in late June for the US, UK, France and Germany. Another 18 countries, including Hong Kong and Singapore, are listed for July; with 24 more in August and another 44 in September. Guess which list we are probably in.

Apple's Hot News feeds also had the iPhone and an announcement that iAds would debut on 1 July. This runs on the iPhone 4 and will have ads from several well-known companies: already $60m committed. That will upset Google for sure.

Part of the trick is for developers to incorporate this into their apps and the press release mentioned iTunes 9.2. I only had 9.1.1 so that is coming somewhere, sometime. Another check with Software Update showed nothing so I tried the Check for Updates item in iTunes and that showed me as being up to date. Coming soon, I guess and that may be linked to the iPhone software update too which is now called iOS4. Rik Myslewski at the Register has some interesting facts on this and his own interpretation as well.

Some of the early reports I read, mentioned that there was a hitch in the presentation as the wifi ground to a halt. San Francisco at conference time is always poor and on a couple of occasions in the hotels, with deadlines approaching, I have been stuck with no connection. If even Steve got bitten by this, that shows how limits can be reached. The video has Steve a little frustrated but when he asks some of the bloggers to help him out and get off line, there is much laughter. But he also has backups, not that there was much improvement. "Well, Jeez. . ." he says at one point.

An added feature of the new iPhone is a gyroscope which is being used by some games we hear. More interesting for me was the video calls as this confirms the forward facing camera, and from the screen shots I have seen that looks like two cameras.

As part of the upgrade, there is a new iMovie app, as yet unavailable, but when it comes it will be sold for $5. I guess this will only be for certain phones too.

A rumour suggested that the iWork app might soon also become available for the iPhone. Someone saw a screenshot that may have been an error, but nonetheless, this has some potential.

files As we mentioned last week, the iBook application is available here if you have an iPad and so, we are told, is access to the store, although I have no confirmation of that. During his keynote speech, Jobs announced that there had been 5 million downloads since the store has been online.

Chris Rawson made an interesting discovery about the iPhone by looking at the tech specs and some other sources. The antenna with the new iPhone is multiband which means it can now be made available for other networks that had not been able to use it.

Michael Gartenberg has had a look at the iPhone -- lucky he -- and he describes it as nothing short of stunning. He runs through his hands-on look and does mention the use of the same processor as the iPad, something which is not really surprising, but does add to the performance aspects. He also confirms that the new iOS 4 will be released in late June -- actually 21 June -- just before the iPhone itself is released. The processor, by the way is made by Samsung and is also used in the Samsung Wave S8500.

Also commenting is John Gruber of Daring Fireball who also got some hands-on time with the new iPhone and as well as some of the main points he looks at the manufacturing process which is new and adds to the design aspects. His was the first report that mentions the use of stainless steel for the iPhone rather than aluminium. Like others I have read he also is impressed with what the new screen display can do and raves about the new iMovie. It was possible to do some basic editing on the 3Gs but the addition of an app makes this much more usable.

Actually, you just have to watch the video that features Facetime to fully appreciate its potential -- its emotional potential. I showed this to a friend with the 3Gs and he was ready to dump his phone for this one today. Now. "Some people won't need Camfrog with that", he said. Skype would take a hit too.

The video goes straight for the heart, but although some sources attribute it to Sam Mendes, this is apparently not the one by him. That is coming soon we hear.

For younger listeners (and readers) the singer is Louis Armstrong: Satchmo. Note the different races in the video, which is typical of Apple's appeal to universality, the soldier clearly on assignment, and the Matt Damon lookalike near the end (was that Matt Damon?).

The video of the Keynote presentation came online on Tuesday evening here and was in the iTunes podcast list late that night.

We later found some notes on the iOS4 update and it is free for iPhone owners and for the iPod touch, but not all features will be available. So I won't get multitasking, wallpaper or Bluetooth keyboard support for my 3G; while the original iPhone and the earlier iPod touch will not be able to have the upgrade at all. More details are provided by Leanna Lofte.

The All Things Digital Conference was last week and there were some interesting comments by Steve when he was interviewed and, according to some sources, Ballmer could not match the tenor nor the ideas. All of the videos are available online and this may be worth spending a lot of time with.

bird With Steve Jobs basking in the limelight as he has done for a while now, it is useful to remember it was not always like that and some of us can remember the time when he was sacked from Apple. Of course he went on to put NeXt together and that OS now forms the basis for OS X, as Gil Amelio -- who is often criticised -- had the foresight to buy that company and bring back Jobs. We were reminded of how things go by an interview this week in The Daily Beat, by Thomas E. Weber, in which John Sculley (the Pepsi Man) is interviewed and admits some mistakes in his dealings with Jobs, all with the benefit of hindsight of course. We all know he could have done it better, but that was then, and this is now.

One thing we saw last week with a bit of concern was the news that AT&T is to cut the unlimited data plans that it offers users currently; and some iPhone users are not happy about this. These open plans will be replaced with a number of plans that charge for different levels of data use. We have been down that road ourselves and it often ends up that the user simply turns over more money as the limits are reached.

I was talking to some students this week and one has recently come back from studying in Australia where, he moaned, every thing is based on data charges and these are high. Malaysia has some similar plans too. If this catches on, it will just make the carriers lazy: instead of making their networks lean and mean and capable of carrying the data that will be needed, they will sit back and let the cash flow in.

Almost lost in the Apple news was an update for Lightroom from Adobe for both Windows and Mac versions. It apparently has a new engine and some other improvements including speed and tethering.

I am forging ahead with my eBook preparation and also went into the Computer Engineering department this Monday to chat to staff and students. I managed to get a couple of the Mac using group to think about the eBook format and Thai characters. Thus far they do not work effectively probably because of fonts. One of the students looked as if he might take this project up.

We rather like Mobile Me here, particularly for its Find My iPhone feature which I have used a couple of times when I am in the house and cannot find the iPhone: the last time it was in the bathroom. A tale this week when it took on a new importance for one user who had spent a lot of one day looking for the device with the help of his wife. He reported this on the Apple forums.

Dialing the phone did no good as it was in silent mode. Using Mobile Me he was able to confirm that it was on his property right away. He sent a text message with the sound feature and tracked it down to a freshly dug hole in his flowerbed. The dog had found it in the driveway and buried it so well that he claims he never would have seen it or recovered it if not for MobileMe.



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