Sunday, July 24, 2011

What's New, Pussycat?

What is Tom Jones crooning about this week? Lion, the new Apple operating system, (10.7 if anyone is keeping track), hit the virtual shelves this week, and though Apple was very up front about it's new features (and lack thereof), people were still caught off guard. I guess they didn't watch the Keynote address at the WWDC or read any of the press releases. But I am here to set the record straight.

The major talking point is that this OS is an amalgam of OS X and iOS, Apple's mobile OS. So there is greater support for multi-touch gestures either by trackpad, MagicMouse, or MagicPad and some of the look and feel in regard to program access and launching.

The biggest down side? Dropped support for Rosetta, Apple's PowerPC emulator. Say goodbye to Microsoft Office 2004 and any of your other venerable PowerPC apps. One user put it "It may cost only $29.99, but will cost you thousands to upgrade." That may be overstating it a bit. I mean c'mon, I think 7 seven years is long enough to wait between upgrades, but there may be some independent developers that haven't leapt on the Intel boat (although most likely they probably switched first). But as Capt. Kirk would say, "I'd like to think that there are always possibilities." Anyone using Office 2004 could move over to the free NeoOffice, OpenOffice or LibreOffice office suites. And there are options for almost any kind of app. True, they may not all be free, but they won't set you back thousands, perhaps not even hundreds.

Another interesting item to note is that Lion is only available through the App Store. This means no waiting to purchase but depending on the speed of your network connection and the traffic on the App Store, it could be a long wait to download the 3GB+ installer. That also means no DVD, so you'll need to download this onto each computer separately, though I heard rumors Apple was providing a way to store it on DVD. On an excellent note, Lion follows the App store guidelines and legally allows you to install copies on each machine you have an authorized user account on.

Reading through some of the user comments on the App Store, many people seem to genuinely like it. There are a few complaining about the loss of Rosetta, or the decreased performance. In general, assume it's YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary). If you have a current Intel processor, at least 4GB of RAM and a decent hard drive, Lion should work at the minimum "ok" for you. It depends what kind of apps you have running both in the foreground and behind the scenes. And excellent way to check would be to launch the Activity Monitor found in the Applications --> Utility folder. That will give you a rundown on everything currently running on your computer and what is and is not compatible with Lion.

When you open it, you'll see a display like the one above. Look at the far right column under "Kind." Anything marked Intel or Intel (64 bit) is fine, anything marked PowerPC won't run under Lion. Another way to check is to look at the System Profiler (Either from the Utility folder or from the More button in the About This Mac in the Apple menu), under the left selection Software. This inventories all the applications on your computer, running or not.

Move the columns to the right or open the window wide enough to see the Kind column again. You also might see "Universal" here which means it will run under PowerPC or Intel. Oh oh, got a few PowerPC apps here... No, not my Quicken 7!

I may download Lion onto my laptop and check it out. I am less concerned about compatibility issues here than I am with my desktop, I have way more apps on that system. But for now, on my main system...

If I'm Lion, I'm dyin'.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Delete, Delete, Delete...

No, that isn't the computerized cry of a Cyberman coming to get you, it's me trying to figure out which apps to hold on to, update or upgrade. A while back (in time and space), I blogged about an app that tracks your installed software for updates, allows you to browse new shareware, freeware and commercial apps, as well as download and install them. This of course, was Bodega.

Since then, in Apple's latest OS release, a new player has come to town, the App Store. It's modeled after the App Store on the iPod and iPad. My purpose for this article is to compare the two as well as TechTracker from CNET and MacUpdate from of course, MacUpdate.

Interface - You've heard it from me before, the interface is the thing. Who couldn't love the wonderful roll-up security door on what looks like the corner store? It manages to covey a sense of uniqueness and fun without overwhelming your desktop.

Features - Shades of iTunes, just enough to make it easy to navigate. Vertical panel on the left, products displayed on "shelves" on the right. Reviews and current news feeds on the bottom. Double-click to view a product in detail, get options for download and/or purchase, read reviews.

Pros & Cons - It's free! No user account required. Easily track your installed software regardless of how it was purchased, receive notifications of updates even if the app is closed, allows you to purchase, install and update right within the app. Unfortunately, if the developer hasn't registered with them, their updates may not be available. Major commercial software unavailable. Doesn't track plugins, Preference Panes, or Dashboard widgets. Also, they don't differentiate all the time between updates and new versions. Should be an option to ignore version upgrades for an app after one notification or separate the version upgrades into a separate pane. Might be nice to have an "exclude" option as well to help with the versioning issue. No release notes.

App Store
Interface - Familiar iOS/iTunes interface.

Features - Browse categories, top-free, top-paid, review, purchase, download, auto-install. Programs appear on your Dock.

Pros & Cons - Can install apps on any computer that you use your account on. Tracks your App Store installs only (no other software), notifies you of updates (only when open), easy removal process. No license keys. Requires account. Locks you into App Store. Since this is an Apple product, it would be cool if it used the Software Update feature to track your downloaded software or at least Growl-ed a notifcation to you. Familiar iOS/iTunes interface. Yes, a downside, since it feels like the typical push promoted products in your face, rather than the nice browsing experience of Bodega.

Interface - A Preference Pane which automatically checks for updates at a time you specify.

Features - Accesses the TechTracker website to display the results, though I'm not sure that could be considered a feature.

Pros & Cons - Tracks all software on multiple systems. Uses acombined app/web interface. Doesn't list your current app version. Doesn't distinguish between updates and upgrades. No release notes. Can ignore apps. Tech Tracker Plus is $19.99 for the first year, $29.99 after that. However, the paid desktop app apparently is coy, because I couldn't find a way to access it on their site, I just kept getting the free version.

MacUpdate Desktop
Interface - What a shock, looks like iTunes. Still, though, very clean and functional with commonly used filters as buttons at the top.

Features - Tracks everything. Shows release notes. Maybe overkill. Do I really need my ScreenSavers updated? lol

Pros & Cons - Requires $20/year fee. Requires free MacUpdate account. Apps takes time to "prepare" prior to downloading, but downloads quickly after that. Crashed a couple of times on download of multiple items. Sometimes the upgrades require user intervention, but a result of the installing app rather than MacUpdate.

Conclusion. It's better to have at least one app that tracks your software and let's you know when there is an upgrade or update. Any apps bought in the App Store pretty much take care of themselves and while I like everything about Bodega, it simply doesn't track everything I would like. However, if I want to save some moola, that's the one to go with. Otherwise, I think I will give the nod to MacUpdate Desktop. Even with installation quirks, this keeps track of everything. Have you had any experiences with these apps? Tell me what you think.