OS X Yosemite: thoughts

I have often complained that Apple’s lack of innovation is showing lately, and it is hard to argue with that: the company’s last trademark introduction was the first iPad back in 2010 — if you count the Newton MessagePad 100 as their first tablet, then their last introduction would be 2008’s original MacBook Air. From then on, everything was a fuzzy, confused release of hardware and software that consistently failed to impress.

It took them till June 2014 to give any further promising signs, but it is here at last — as far as software goes. OS X Yosemite, the eleventh iteration of OS X, brings in the concept of continuity to the iEcosystem, in effect strengthening Apple’s core business strategy — to craft an experience for its users.

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How to use Alfred on Mac — an introduction

OS X is certainly built around getting things done in a straightforward manner. The workings of the operating system, its user-friendly approach to everything and the clean interface makes working a pleasure.

However there is still room for speeding up interactions; not the system itself, but the way we go about getting things done. What takes several clicks and wading through window after window to initiate or terminate can be reduced to a handful of clicks.

Alfred is an extremely popular app on Mac that can help you get nearly everything done with just a few clicks, often just two. But a lot of people are either still unaware of it or hesitant to try it out owing to its slightly steep learning curve. That was why I wanted to go over Alfred in this quick introductory article, and share my own experiences of how I became a consistent user of the app.

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5 simple ways Apple could vastly improve iCloud

Apple took the world by storm when it rained on its users access to a thundering 5GB of lightning-fast storage space on the cloud. Now before I get ahead of myself using more weather puns, let us step back and see where Apple’s cloud storage service, iCloud, should be standing, considering it led the cloud storage movement.

But it is simply not where it should have been: iCloud is nowhere near perfect, but unfortunately it is nowhere near useful either, especially if you use OS X and not iOS.

By contrast, Google’s Drive storage is not only superior, but it does not create a fuss about OS. It simply works, much like an Apple product is supposed to. It is the same case with Box, SugarSync, Copy, Dropbox (of which I have never been a big fan) etc. So what can Apple do with iCloud to to make people take notice of it?

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7 OS X Terminal commands you should know

Having been a Windows and Ubuntu user, joining the Mac tribe was extremely refreshing for me. And one of the things I noticed was that somehow, my Mac seemed to be made for me out of the box — leaving me with only a couple of minor tweaks to make.

That is not to say Macs are perfect; but they are a lot more understanding of humans than Windows. That means a majority of Mac users never explore the Terminal that comes with their computers: a lovely UNIX footprint available on the Mac.

But using the terminal, while not strictly necessary, is fun to do once-in-a-while. So whether you hope to get started or just see what the fuss is all about (and if you have a Mac) then these are seven OS X Terminal commands you should know.

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MacBook Air

Today, as we move from an age of utility to portability, we find an increasing need to carry devices around with us that can do everything yet weigh no more than a pebble.

My powerhouse laptop is a great looking Lenovo Z500 customised with a 2TB hard disc, 6GB RAM, 2GB NVIDIA GT645 series graphics card, Dolby and the whole nine yards; it even runs Windows 8 64-bit smooth as silk. But it weighs close to 3kg. With it tossed into my dSLR bag, I end up carrying around 7kg on my back. Continue reading

Apple vs Samsung: an explanation and an in-depth look with the latest updates

Since Apple sued Samsung in the US in April last year — and Samsung sued Apple in return in Japan, Korea and Germany — the Apple vs Samsung feud has been under keen watch in tech circles around the world.

While we have, inevitably, seen people taking sides, we have also seen several funny memes and other, more serious, discussions for both sides. And there are enough grounds to justify all of them.

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Apple sues fridge for looking like an iPad
Image courtesy, original artist/s: as seen on TechlineInfo

In this article we will take a look at what exactly the biggest lawsuits are all about so you can make an informed decision before picking sides (you know you want to!) We will see what Apple and Samsung are fighting over, in common man’s language; what is at stake here; and how, as the two biggest technological companies in the world battle it out, the rest of us turn out to be the biggest losers.

If you are legally inclined, you can also read the latest lawsuit filed by Apple, Inc., but it’s alright, because we will be talking enough about that right here!

Here is a nice quote of the late (and awesome) Steve Jobs, to begin with:

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We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas

– Steve Jobs, ex-CEO of Apple

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How it got here: a very brief but interesting history

Back in April of 2011, Apple, Inc. moved a North California district court against Samsung Electronics Co., on three (among other) major charges: trademark infringement, unfair competition and unjust enrichment (meaning Samsung was benefited technologically — yes, we all know they really mean monetarily — by the efforts that Apple put in because Samsung copied Apple.)

As you can see, these are pretty huge accusations and Samsung was not one to keep quite. CEO Lee Kun-hee of the South Korean electronics giant led the charge and his company filed suits against Apple in Japan, Korea and Germany less than a fortnight later. They would eventually go on to with two of the cases and lose in Germany.

However, by then Apple had lost their first case as the evidence they had supplied was proved to have been tampered with. It included two images, one of the old iPhone 3GS and one of its contemporary Galaxy S, side-by-side; but the image had been resized to make them look exactly similar in all ways.

A couple of months later, Samsung filed more lawsuits: they had approached the British high court, the Delaware district court and the US International Trade Commission (ITC) by June of 2011.

At the heart of all these cases was really a simple truth: the United States being the largest consumer of gadgets from either company, it mattered little who won a case elsewhere. The verdicts that mattered had to come from courts in the United States and Apple had a clean upper hand here (although no juror would like to confess to this,) what with Apple being an American company.

It soon turned out to be true and Samsung began losing a whole slew of cases in the US, one after another. But what exactly were these companies fighting about?

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Apple vs Samsung: Design patents

There are several things from its devices — hardware and software alike — that Apple seems to strongly believe Samsung has knowingly copied. Let us take a look at the most important of the lot.

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Body design

Apple Patent Body Design_VHBelvadi
Fig 1

This one has perhaps been making the biggest circles around the internet.

Apple has a patent that protects a doodle they made about their iPhone (see Fig 1.) Perhaps it isn’t a doodle, and is more of a fairly accurate design, but the factors in play here are that this level of depiction is all the patent office needs and this actually patents a lot: the shape, the corners, the steel rim and the button layout.

And below it you see the Samsung Galaxy phone they have filed a case about (Fig 2.)

What is the moral of the story? If you are ever making a phone, make sure it is not rectangular, longer lengthwise, does not have rounded corners, does not have steel surrounding it anywhere, and, not to mention, no buttons at the bottom centre. Right now, Apple owns exclusive rights to all that courtesy of an ingenious US patent office.

Apple Patent Body Design Samsung_VHBelvadi
Fig 2

I am not an Apple-hater, and you can feel free to erase out the last bit you read, but that is the hard truth in lay man’s terms. Refer Apple’s D790, D016 and D677 patents for a legal version of what I just said.

It gets worse from here on.

[P.S. We will talk more about body design in the Trade Dress section of this article later.]

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Icons

Another important ground on which Apple is suing Samsung is its use of icons. Once again, like the body design, there seems to be an outright grant of exclusive rights here too.

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The 10 best upgrades from Apple at WWDC 2012

A LOT HAPPENED AT WWDC this year, and taking centre stage were Tim Cook’s promised slew of upgrades from Apple (which kept telling people it was the industry leader with almost every other product, for some reason.) And, of course, Siri cracked a few jokes.

We’re going to take a look at the top 10 things to watch out for (some released, others promised) in the coming months so you’ll know where to invest your money in an Apple product. While there were a host of things introduced, these ten really stood out.

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[highlighted]iOS 6[/highlighted]

Hands down the best upgrade  yet, this new mobile OS is supposedly going to come with about 200 new (many minor) features, competing with Google’s upcoming Android 5 OS. Developers were given the beta version to test and come up with new things to be finalised before the official release later this year.

While all devices will get the new OS — including Apple’s long time masterpiece, the iPhone 3GS — iPad 1 will not be getting an upgrade owing to support issues. It seems Apple has got back to snubbing its older devices, but when hardware gets laggy and unco-operative, there is very little even Tim Cook and his men can do.

View Apple’s iOS 6 Preview

[highlighted]Apple Mapping Software to rival Google Maps[/highlighted]

For some reason Apple has chosen to get rid of Google Maps — which was originally a permanent pre-installed app in Steve Job’s time — to replace it with their own new mapping software. Some wonder whether this foray into Google territory will not raise the Search engine-cum-maps-cum-analytics-cum-open source ware-cum-weird innovations giant with a lashing fury.

Actually, it already has. In reply to Apple’s new Maps software, Google has overhauled its entire Maps database and made it fully 3D. So Apple is now looking to one-up the game introducing Siri to Maps (and redirection based on traffic, some say.) Either way, this looks like a nice game to watch from the sidelines (like I always do) and only time will tell if Apple will ever be able to topple Google Maps, but as a user, all I am looking for is new features that are of use to me. So far, both these companies have satisfied us all.

Read More About Apple’s new Maps Software

[highlighted]Mountain Lions to attack this July[/highlighted]

While iOS 6 is reigning over Apple’s mobile devices (and the mobile industry, as Apple likes to believe) the latest Mac version, code named Mountain Lion, is set to come with Apple’s laptop and desktop lineups this July onwards. It’s is believed to cost about $20 if you are interested to upgrade straight from the App Store.

The Mountain Lion OS boasts AirPlay, Game Centre, better (and hopefully a more useful) iCloud, iChat and a lot of other typical Apple iThings to entertain users. Two interesting functions, though, (which do not have cool-ish names for some reason,) are reminders and notes similar to the stick-it available on Windows 7 taskbars; and, lastly, a voice-to-text translation app that comes pre-installed — not to mention takes users back to the 1960s dictaphones (which, by the way, are among my favourite devices.)

Find out what is new in Mountain Lion

[highlighted]All-Round Retina Display [/highlighted]

It was hardly unexpected in tech circles that Apple would put its signature Retina Display on all its devices.

Migrating from the iPhone and the new iPad, Apple is releasing its latest laptop lineup with full Retina screens; from the Macbook Pro to Air to anything else you can think of, the screen is going to be a Retina. While this is analogous to companies supplying laptops with Gorilla(R) Glass, what remains to be seen is what this addition can really do; how useful will a Retina Display prove to be on a laptop such as the Macbook Pro, for instance?

Read More About the New Retina Display

[highlighted]The New Macbook Pro[/highlighted]

For years we saw the Macbook Pro as Apple’s leading product in its category and we also noticed that major upgradation — except, perhaps, the OS — was more or less stagnant. So this time Tim Cook has decided to give customers a lot more eye candy with a full High Quality Retina display.

The science is simply that the Retina, SuperAMOLED and LG‘s rumoured new screen type have such high resolutions that it would make it pointless to increase it because it would cross human visual capabilities: we would not be able to notice it even if there was any pixellation. So how would that look on a laptop? Is it useful at all? Why don’t you buy a Macbook Pro and let us know? (It costs, on average, a paltry $2,000 so what are you waiting for?)

Oh, and did I mention it is as thin as a Macbook Air now?

Read More About the New Retina Display

[highlighted]Deep Facebook Integration[/highlighted]

It appears Apple is trying to make a statement to Samsung by asking LG to make screens for it too (which Samsung does not seem to be bothered by much,) and it is trying to make another statement, this time directed straight at Google, by integrating Facebook into iOS 6 and leaving out Google+. Needless to say, like Samsung, Google does not seem to care either. To me, it just seems like Apple took to Facebook just to stab at Google+, in turn Google, and in turn Android, and in turn benefit itself. Like a linchpin. (Yes, that is a Castle S04 hangover.)

But the point remains: if you are a heavy user of Facebook you will find lots to drool over in your next Apple mobile or tablet. Following the same footsteps as they did with Twitter, Apple has almost every screen at every step of the way somehow connected to Facebook — called Depp Facebook Integration. In other words, no matter what you are doing, where ever you are doing it, Facebook can know. Hm.

Find out more about the Apple-Facebook connection

[highlighted]Advanced (but better?) iCloud[/highlighted]

When Apple launched iCloud with all that flourish, the end product seemed rather below standards. But now the company has decided it was time to upgrade their cloud hosting service (which still costs a fortune, mind you) with support for documents, both reading and editing, as well as sharing your photo stream across all Macs and iOSes via drag and drop.

I hate to be a pull down, but when you take a second look at it, iCloud is actually behind its time. All its features are already on Google Drive, which is much older (it just had a different name, so what?) But if that does not satisfy you, how about Dropbox and Box and Sugarsync? They all had drag and drop, instant syncing across all devices, from Apple to iOS to Windows mobile. So, in a way, iCloud is not really helping Apple any.

What else is new in the new iCloud?

[highlighted]Siri is going to be everywhere. Oh dear![/highlighted]

If Siri’s strange voice irritates you, you have another thing coming: Siri. Yes, this time on an iPad too! Maybe that last exclamatory mark was misplaced, maybe not, but the fact is, Siri is also coming without any options for different voices/tones/pitches.

Siri can also crack jokes (apparently it cracked one right at the start of WWDC) but, in her (its?) own words, she (it?) loves us all, but “[she (it?) is] still not programmed for emotions.”

That is a good thing, if you are unable to decide. And, given that statistically, iPads are used far more than iPhones for ridiculous but cool things like controlling stuff at home via wireless and also in cars via dangerousness, it makes sense to have a virtual assistant on hand. And that again if you actually like to talk to a phone all day. (And you thought Facebook was killing real-life social interaction?)

In any case, Skynet Google does not seem to be interested in coming up with their own, official version of a Siri counterpart on Android mostly because they are busier in cooler stuff like glasses with integrated TV viewing, raising $2,718,281,828 on IPO, tweeting things like I’m 01100110 01100101 01100101 01101100 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01101100 01110101 01100011 01101011 01111001 00001010, renting goats and owning a personal dinausaur pet they call Stan. But, yeah, Siri is cooler.

Find out (a lot) more about Siri

[highlighted]Macbook Air gets airier[/highlighted]

As Phil Schiller, Apple’s SVP of Worldwide Marketing put it, they have “made the world’s best portable family even better.” In a phrase, he is absolutely right. The new Macbook Air gets core i5 and i7 processors on it 11″ and 13″ versions; alongside this is a powerful graphics processing unit making it 60% faster.

There is a 720p capturing capability on the new FaceTime camera (that is Apple’s supposedly cool name for what we commoners call the front-facing camera — which is more descriptive in any case.) Although why anybody would want to video chat at 720p HD is beyond me. But what is useful, though, is the new integrated USB 3.0 port that also supports USB 2.0, and along with this, topping of the list, is the equally high-end price tag of $999 for the 13″ version.

Compare the Macbook Air 2012 and the 2011 model

[highlighted]Safari[/highlighted]

I simply had to put this on the list because this Safari upgrade brings so many important things to the browser. In fact it was because these things were missing that I ended up opting for other browsers, but — I hate to spoil the moment — nothing in here is not already present on Chrome or Firefox as we will see.

Apple loves to give things names: presenting the new Omnibar. What does it do? The same thing Firefox and Chrome were doing ever since their beta versions, years ago. The difference is, neither Firefox nor Chrome gave it special names like Omnibar. Anyway, this is just that long white text block where you used to type in website addresses and, if you remember (or have ever done this like me) typing a google search like Redskins vs Panthers would take you to some weird looking website like http://redskins%20vs&r&20pathers%2f&.com. Now it takes you to Google (at least they did not ditch Google here.)

There is also another named feature called iCloud Tabs on the new Safari which lets you access tabs you have opened on your Mac on your iPhone or tabs from your iPhone on your iPad and Mac etc. This again is a feature already in Chrome (unnamed, of course) so the major upgrades for Safari, like iCloud itself, are more to bring the product up to industry standards than to cross it.

The new pinching-tabs view looks pretty much like it does on Chrome on Android or Dolphin Browser or the ICS task manager, which means it is very useful even if not entirely new (except the pinch gesture of course.) Lastly, it also has a feature to save webpages for offline vewing — something that is present in Android since 2.2 Froyo and on Chrome and Firefox desktops since much before that. So, right now it all sounds good, but Apple will have to make things even better if it wants to lead the pack; and again, as some would argue, getting to the same page of the competition is how you go on to the next.

Will Apple go on to the next page before Google and the others make it? Only time will tell.

Read more about the new, improved Safari
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What we do together is much more important than any set of numbers could reflect. Our goal has always been to do great work and make a difference in other people’s lives.

– Tim Cook (CEO) Apple, Inc.

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