Archive for Mac-OS-X tag
I came home from work today to find my family pack upgrade version of Snow Leopard. It’s been a few hours, so here are impressions so far.
Packaging & installation
The packaging was very small and lightweight and eco-friendly compared to the big-plastic-box-monsters that come out of Redmond.
Installation went mostly smoothly apart from an abort-and-restart that seems to have been caused by my DVD drive flaking out on me. It’s been trouble since it came back from the Apple Store.
I had to run the separate Xcode installer to update that – it wasn’t automatically detected – which left me wondering if I need to manually install anything from the optional installs or not. Running Xcode before updating it not only failed to launch but left a background process I had to force quit with Actitity Monitor to let the installer upgrade it.
The less-is-more-approach followed through to disk space which freed up another 10.5 GB – impressive given that I had purged all the non-English language resources already using Monolingual and I elected to re-install the Rossetta PowerPC binary support.
Despite being an optimization release Apple squeezed a few features in to sweeten the deal the majority of which are documented at their site and in proper reviews. The ones I’ve encountered so far are:
Location services, detect time-zone
Great for travelling users like myself, it found my nearest city instantly.
AirPort status in menu bar
Pop-up menu now shows signal strength of all other networks. (Hold down alt when popping up this menu to see detailed connection stats)
Gone are the Automatic, light, medium and strong options replaced with a single “Use LCD font smoothing when available” option that isn’t too good at detecting third-party displays but you can activate the old hidden options.
The rendering just looks plain wrong when booting. It has that awful colour-fringe that you see from time to time, the cause of which seems to be related to the default gamma (the curve on which digital colours become analogue levels) on Mac OS X changing from 1.8 to the PC compatible 2.2.
It seems however that the sub-pixel rendering algorithms haven’t been updated to correct this. There is absolutely no point in posting a screenshot as either your browser, screen or OS would make it appear different to how it did here.
Help is at hand though, you can head into the ColorSync Utility in your Applications folder and calibrate your display – just follow the instructions and set the gamma back to 1.8. It’s worth turning on “Expert” mode and spending a few minutes setting it up properly though.
Unable to open NIBs
I used to love opening up other people’s NIB files. You could in theory create your own customised versions of an applications interface. Localise it for yourself. Maybe even create a UK English version where Colour is spelt correctly.
Whether this was to save space or to prevent such hacking is anyone’s guess.
So far I’ve had a couple of things break:
- Cyberduck quits on launch – beta replacement is out
- Xbox 360 controller extension (I don’t use it anymore anyway)
- iStat Menus fails to launch – I need this to replace menu time with timezones and a drop-down calendar
Features I was expecting
Given the lean-and-mean plus sensible small refinements I was expecting…
- Login Window keyboard shortcut – come on, seriously, with the secrecy at Apple surely you need this too?
- Uninstaller – AWOL since the transition from OpenStep to NextStep and sorely needed
- Language purging – I still don’t want French etc. on my laptop, odd omission given the reduction goals
- System update framework – Other apps could use this too you know guys – and put clever delta’ing support in
- Grab – STILL only saves in TIFF format. So I save it there, load into preview then into PNG. WTF??
- Safari – should have an option to force new windows to open in a new tab
I’d also love to see being able to pin documents to their dock icon and being able to push a window to an edge to tile like as these were two features I found useful in Windows 7. Talking of which when you hold the mouse button down on a dock icon it greys everything else out for a truly UAC-like moment every time you want to quit an app from the dock…
The Menlo font
Apple needed to replace the ageing Monaco as it has poor international unicode support, has just a single style and poor hinting (it uses embedded bitmaps to look good without anti-aliasing in Terminal).
In 2003 Bitstream released the family Bitstream Vera under a free licence which included a great Sans Mono with bolt, italic and bold-italic variants. It even has some capable hinting so looks pretty good without anti-aliasing although could do with a few delta’s to clean that up. While it was short on the unicode support several forks filled in the gaps such as Deja Vu and Apple took Vera Sans Mono, grabbed some of these additions (adding 2900 glyphs) and tweaked some of the existing ones. Specifically they moved the vertical bar up on EBH, widened MN, shifted il, changed 0 from dotted to crossed and move/resized punctation then packed it up in a True Type Collection file that stores multiple TTF’s in a single file.
While these changes themselves look quite good – it seems they were optimizing for 14 point – in the process they destroyed the hinting for these glyphs despite the tiny amount of change made.
Spot which ones Apple modified on these screenshots (curiously Windows refuses to use the TTC file as it believes it is corrupt).
Apple is obviously aware it’s not a good job as the option to turn off anti-aliasing in Terminal when using Menlo is curiously disabled – this seems to be something hard-coded into Terminal.app as it doesn’t affect TextMate.
Installation here was a little tricky as initially the installer told me that Boot Camp 64-bit was not supported on my computer model.
Whether they don’t support 64-bit Windows on a late 2007 MacBook Pro 17″ (MacBookPro3,1) or whether it was complaining about Windows 7 isn’t clear as there are no Windows 7 specific drivers on the disk.
All is not lost however as if you navigate into Boot Camp\Drivers\Apple folder you can run the BootCamp.msi or BootCamp64.msi from there and it does not seem to perform the check. All the drivers installed without complaint and the trackpad, mouse, audio etc. is working just fine.
The word is out that Snow Leopard will be about trimming down Leopard – likely Apple’s effort to switch to lower-capacity solid-storage such as found in the MacBook Air and perhaps future iPhones and maybe a tablet.
Mac OS X binaries have always been on the large size containing as they do multiple human languages and processor code (PPC, X86, X64) and it will be good that you don’t need to keep running TrimTheFat or XSlimmer to get them down.
Given this is such a system-oriented release, here’s what I want to see:
- More detailed system information such as RAM SPD details, processor revision etc. (Manufacturers are offering faster RAM but you have to run a tool in Windows to find out what you have)
- Option for ZFS system-partition with intelligent fast compression.
- Support for flash memory as a cache/page-file – 32GB ExpressCards are cheap but useless on OS X.
- Uninstaller to clean up installed/created files squirreled away in /Library etc. (Present in NextStep but had disappeared by OS X now space is a priority it’s time to bring it back.)
- System notification API with standard responder that can be replaced by Growl for more customisation.
- Show package contents to work on ZIP files and other supported archives. Ability to drag files in/out.
- Core compression API to complement core video and core data API’s with plug-in ability for extra compression algorithms and archive formats.
- Optimization of the OpenGL drivers and API to get frame-rates for Mac games on par with their Windows equivalents.
- Smart play-lists in Font Book – come on I want a list of English fonts… or monospaced ones. Why should I have to manage them?
I’d be very surprised if Blu Ray support doesn’t show up too and it might be time for DVD Player to just become Movie Player and gain some features from QuickTime which would then become just an API and the missing authoring features exposed to CoreVideo or iMovie.
Bundles are a concept in Mac OS X whereby a specially named folder becomes what appears to casual users to simply be a file that can be copied as usual and often launched by double-clicking on it.
Other operating systems have file formats that are little more than containers for other files and in doing so keep those interesting resources out of your reach. (Okay, we have DMG but that’s more of a transportation mechanism like ZIP, TAR etc.)
To see the contents of one a bundle select it and just choose Show Package Contents from Finder’s context menu (hit the Task button in the toolbar, ctrl-click or two-finger click).
The ones I find most interesting or useful are…
All sorts of great resources can be found in here including icons, templates, sounds and the NIB’s for the user interface. Great for learning but consider the licence before you take resources for your own application.
Garage Band project/template (.band, .wand)
Audio files of the instruments and output can be found inside.
Safari Download (.download)
An absolute gem if you are downloading audio or video files and want to watch or listen to what has downloaded so far.
Slideshow Screen Saver (.slideSaver)
Various images used in the slideshow.
iDVD theme (.theme)
Various images in tiff format and Quartz Composer compositions you could try using as screen-savers.
Time Machine (.inProgress)
If you have a partial backup with Time Machine and need a file it my have backed up this could be a life-saver.
Your original and modified photos from iPhoto and the XML data behind them.
iMovie project (.rcProject)
Contains a QuickTime movie of all the still images used in the project.
There are others to be found scattered across your file-system too:
|.xcDataModel||Core Data model|
You might also want to check out this guide to examining bundles.
To clarify there are a number of pieces of software which make running Windows on a Macintosh, they are:
- EFI firmware update with legacy BIOS support
- Boot Camp Assistant (partitioning tool)
- Apple’s Windows drivers (iSight, touch pad, Apple Remote etc.)
- Apple’s Windows software (Software Update)
- Third-party drivers (Intel, ATI, NVidia, RealTek etc.)
The licence to use Boot Camp will apparently expire when Leopard is released however the Boot Camp Assistant will expire 1st January 2008. To repartition your disk after this date simply set your clock back to any time during 2007 then launch the Boot Camp Assistant. I have tested this and it works just fine, just remember to set your clock back afterward ;-)
Other components are unlikely to expire as:
- the EFI firmware update was never part of the Boot Camp package but a separate prerequisite
- the third-party drivers are available directly from the vendors
The only real question is whether the Apple-provided drivers and software for Windows will continue to function. I believe they are unlikely to expire and if they do it only covers non-essential functionality like the keyboard back light, iSight driver, Apple Remote etc. many of which were not even present in earlier versions of Boot Camp. The touch pad functions as a standard input device (albeit in a more basic mode) without Apple’s drivers.
As Douglas would say Don’t Panic.