WWDC 2011 Keynote: Mac OS X Lion

If you don’t like Apple products, you might as well skip over my next few posts. I’ll get back to more interesting things after a while, but for now I’m going to cover some of my thoughts on the announcements from Apple’s keynote for WWDC 2011.

First on the list is Mac OS X Lion (or 10.7, I’m not sure if they’re going to get away from numbering their OS from this point forward). Where 10.6 (Snow Leopard) was a great upgrade from the standpoint that it didn’t change much in the UI but tightened everything up and cleaned up a lot of legacy code (adios PowerPC), Lion is bringing a lot of new stuff to the table. You can find more information at http://apple.com/macosx. I’m going to cover just a couple of things that stood out to me.

Auto Save and Versions

This is a long time in coming, and it should have been something added a long time ago. Auto Save does what it says it does, it automatically saves your work for you without you having to think about it. I’m hoping that this will just become something that will become normal across all platforms because losing your work sucks, and this should make it suck just a little bit less.

Combined with Versions, it becomes quite cool. You can look back at your changes and bring stuff back if you need it on a per-document basis while working. That’s pretty cool. While there are a lot of specifics that are not known yet (how much disk space will this take up, what amount of work will it take on the part of developers to get this as well, can developers tie into this system), the idea as presented basically fixes many issues that people have about forgetting to save their work.

That’s a huge deal!

The idea that if one of my parents starts a document and it will continuously be saved while they are working so that I don’t have to go through the Microsoft Office recovery file rigamarole is very pleasing to my ears. I’m hoping it is as good as it sounds.


I currently use the Gmail web interface for my email, but the new Mail app looks pretty good. A better conversation view was definitely needed, and it has been provided. The search feature looks much improved, the interface looks nice and clean and there are probably other things I am missing. Will it be able to topple Gmail’s web interface? I don’t know, but I’ll give it a try.

One person on Twitter was asking for Apple to add in labels (Gmail labels I am expecting), but that seems odd to me. I like labels, but that is most obvious way Google has embraced email and then extended it beyond the standard, and by doing so, has caused people to be locked into Gmail’s interface and their service.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of Gmail, but sometimes I wish that Google would have instead focused on keeping the basics of Gmail more in line with the RFCs, but that is neither here nor there.

I’ll give the new Mail.app a try and see what I think.

UPDATE: So it seems that there are going to be labels in the new Mail app. I’m not sure if it is a 1:1 correlation to Google’s implementation, but it is another thing for me to try out.

Lion Server

$50 from the Mac App Store when it is all said and done. I’m wondering if there is a client limit on that, but I’m excited about the prospects of a $79 server edition of Mac OS X that will allow small businesses you see what can be offered.

Granted, you need to have a Mac to take advantage of a lot of this stuff, but I am now going to be actively looking for a Mac Mini to put this on in the near future so that I can play around with the idea of hosting some of my own stuff on Mac OS X.

I do wish that they would bring back some rackmount hardware.

Overall Impressions

Lion looks like another huge leap for OS X, which is always exciting. Any inkling that the Mac is dead can be quickly tossed aside when you look at the amount of effort that has gone into Lion. It is refreshing to see so much focus on fixing problems that have been plaguing people on computers for a long time.

There are a ton of other changes, but I will leave you to look at them.

Lion, at $29, is proof that Apple is a hardware company, and that their software strategy is to help them sell more hardware to people by making their products that more compelling. Will it work for everyone? No, of course not. However, Lion is shaping up to be another great release of the OS.

The main question I have is how we are going to be able to recover from complete hard drive failures in the future. As Lion is being distributed through the Mac App Store (I guess exclusively), will we be able to burn recovery media? How will I be able to wipe my drive clean and get Lion onto it? That’s the most important worry I have at the moment.

Next up will be iOS 5.

Life Technology

Note Taking Adventures at MinneBar

I was going to title this “iPad vs. Field Notes” … but that’s a little bit too dramatic for me. Really, it was just me using MinneBar as an opportunity to test out two different ways of taking notes and see which one worked the best for me. These are my overall impressions.


It actually worked better than I expected, both with and without the keyboard. The keyboard was nice, but it is big and took up space (both at a premium in a packed session). I just used the built-in Notes program and it worked just fine.

For the most part, I recommend using the on-screen keyboard to take notes and just take down what you need. The main problem, for me, was finding a comfortable position to sit and type in when there was no desk or table top. Typing, for me, is relatively fast but mistypings and misspellings were pretty common because I was trying to get down more notes than I could type.

One thing I did notice is that I spent more time concentrating on typing notes than on the speaker for parts of the session as I tried to get certain things down.

Field Notes

I’ve gotten into the habit of using a 48-page Field Notes notebook to take down my daily todo list and any thoughts I have during the day. I also tend to doodle or sketch in them as well, so I wanted to see how well it would hold up as a note-taking apparatus.

If I was going to give one bit of advice about using a notebook it would be to get a GREAT writing utensil. Buy as many different pens as you can find and try them all out, you are bound to find something that you love and you need to in order to make it worth the effort to use a notebook.

I’m going between three at the moment, but that is for another time.

The Field Notes notebook was perfect for many things like writing down short little notes as quickly as possible. Sadly, I had a substandard pen with me at the time so I can’t read some of the notes because the ink becomes too light. Maybe the best thing is that the notebooks are small and the feedback immediate. You can write down a short little blurb faster than on an iPad and then set it aside until the moment you need it again. It is also easier to sketch things in the notebook.

It is hard, however, to write with certain pens if you can put the notebook against something (like your leg) so you get into the habit of sitting in funny ways to get around it.

You should always have a surface to write on at conferences.


Neither and both. Both worked well and I liked using both but you really just have to try out the different options and choose for yourself.

I choose the pen and Field Notes. Now I just need to find a better pen.

Life Technology

Another Technological Change in Direction: Week One

So it has been one week since we dropped our Mac Mini into someone else’s lap and picked up a used MacBook for my wife to use. I thought I’d post some quick thoughts on how things have done so far. Yes, it is a list, so bear with me.

  • I spend far less time in my office at the moment now that I have all of my stuff on my MacBook Pro. Granted, part of that has to do with me ditching caffeine as well and needing more sleep. I am interested to see if that will change as I get more and more into the development side of things again.
  • My wife uses her laptop A LOT, which is great.
  • The speed increase between Late 2009 and Early 2011 for the MacBook/MacBook Pro is pretty amazing, but the MacBook is still REALLY usable. Actually, more than that, I would still use it as a main development machine if it was mine.
  • An SSD really can make all the difference. I don’t have any right now, but my old MacBook Pro was fast ONLY because of the SSD I had in it.
  • OS X is worth the “price of admission” for me and my family. The amount of time I spend fixing things is nil now, which is great.
  • The glass screen of the MacBook Pro might be glossy, but it is SO strong that it is worth it.
  • I can’t believe I missed it, but purchasing an entire cable (instead of just an adapter) to run from my monitor to my MacBook Pro is worth it. So much simpler.
  • Mice are a crapshoot. The Magic Mouse is a great mouse, but you will need to try out a number of mice to find one that works for you.
  • I really wish Apple was still making the smaller USB keyboard (the one that looks like the Apple Wireless Keyboard).
  • The iPad is still incredibly useful. I was worried that its usefulness would go away with the purchase of another laptop, but that has not been the case. The experience is still completely different, and different in a good way (both using a laptop and using the iPad).
  • Apple’s MagSafe adapter might be my favorite change to laptops along with LED-backlit screens. A minor thing overall, but it makes a HUGE difference.
  • We really need to get a desk just to hide the power adapter. Would really like a roll-top desk so that we can hide the MacBook from our son.

That’s about it. More later!

Life Technology

Another Technological Change in Direction

Where the confluence of life and technology meet, I waver back and forth. I’ve always been this way, for better or worse, but it seems to be at pandemic levels at the moment as I waffle back and forth on my technology setup for the future.

If you’ve been keeping track for long, you’ve seen me go between Windows, Mac, Linux, Mac, Linux, Mac and then Linux again. I probably missed one or two transitions in there, but you get the general idea from that list.

One positive has been my ability to stay rather neutral as far as file formats go, and moving between platforms has been relatively painless for me since my initial move to Mac back in the Spring of 2005.

However, I’m set to make another course correction in the near future, one necessitated for a number of reasons. I’ll split them into Work Reasons and Home Reasons.

Work Reasons

Work purchased me a new 13″ MacBook Pro, so that really made the decision pretty easy. I had my T61 set up pretty nicely for the time being, but when the opportunity presented itself I jumped ship back to Apple pretty much as fast as I could. I have no scruples when it comes to technology and right now Apple provides me with what I both want and need.

There is also the little bit about how I’m unofficially/officially the “Mac guy” at work as well. Part of benefit of my Genius training I suppose. So, having a Mac, using one and thus, keeping up with what is happening on the platform is probably a good idea. I’ll also get to keep up with Linux because I interact with them at the server-level every day.

So, I’m ditching my T61. If you are looking for a T61, let me know.

Home Reasons

Since I now have a Mac portable, I’m going to go ahead and consolidate on that single machine for ease-of-use. It makes sense for me, and the power of the Core i7-powered MacBook Pro is WAY more than I am used to having, so it works rather nicely.

However, that leaves a wonderful Mac Mini sitting in my office not getting used anymore. That’s not 100% true, as it does get used for pictures and videos and music at the moment for the family, but not as much as it did and not even as often as it should because of its location in the basement of our house.

The basement means having to go down a flight of not-quite-awesome stairs and also putting yourself farther away from the rest of the family. Since the machine will now be used mostly by my wife, and she can really only use it when our son is asleep (and will be able to do it even less-so when our next child arrives in July), she doesn’t get down there often. You also can’t hear much when you are in my basement office.

What does it all mean?

It means I’d like to get a machine into the main part of the house for my wife. However, we don’t have a desk to set it on, and if we did we really don’t want a huge monitor staring us straight in the face somewhere in the main living area. It also only draws our son’s attention, which we don’t want either. The boy loves looking at pictures, videos and just pounding on the keyboard as well.

Because of those needs, I am working on selling the Mac Mini and we are going to use the money to purchase an inexpensive Apple portable for my wife to use (used, refurbished, won at a drawing, etc.). This makes sense for a number of reasons.

First, it can be closed so it is not staring our son in the face the whole day. Second, it can be stowed away in a case or a roll-top desk (which we would like to get) so that it is not always out for people to look at. Third, because of the above two, it can be in the main living area so that she can use it more often to get her pictures up on Facebook or edit some video for various groups.

Now, the idea is to use any money we get from the Mac Mini to purchase the laptop so that it is an equal trade. We might have to trade some processing power for the size and portability, but that is a choice we’ve made.

I don’t know when this is all going to happen, but I’m hoping relatively soon. Sometimes things just keep on changing.

Life Technology

Technologists Anonymous

I have come out and just say it.

I’m addicted to technology.

Alright, that might be an overly broad statement, so I’ll specify it a little bit (but I’m not going to change my title).

I’m addicted to changing laptops.

It started way back into 2001 when I built my first computer from nothing but parts. I still remember the exact model numbers of what I used. ASUS A7V266-E/AA motherboard with an AMD Athlon XP 1800+ processor coupled with two sticks of 128MB of DDR RAM. A Sony CD-RW drive and a 60GB Seagate hard drive. Finally, an 8MB ATI Rage XL graphics card topped it off. All of it sat in a beige Antec case with a 300watt power supply. Oh, there was a floppy involved as well.

A week of my summer was spent putting it together and troubleshooting all of the problems I had. When you offset the power cable of the floppy drive by one pin, it will short out the system so that it will not boot. Learned that one the hard way.

Through the process I learned about formatting a hard drive, installing an operating system and just how computers are put together. It was wonderful. It was enlightening. I still marvel at the fact that my parents put up the money for me to build a computer for them, knowing full well that I had never done it before.

That computer lasted them eight years. EIGHT YEARS! Eight years with the most impressive updates being an ATI Radeon 8500 graphics card and 256MB of extra RAM. It still boggles my mind that the machine lasted that long.

I tell you that story so that what I have to tell has more effect. In 2005, I bought my first computer with my own money. It was a 15” Apple PowerBook G4. It was beautiful. It was powerful. It was fast.

It also was only the start of my laptop purchases over the next six years. Here is a list:

  • IBM Thinkpad R50
  • Apple Black MacBook
  • IBM Thinkpad X40
  • Apple 13”  MacBook Pro
  • Lenovo Thinkpad T61

I’ve been pretty consistent with one laptop purchase a year (including the PowerBook). Granted, each of new purchases has normally been bracketed by used laptops, but that is still a lot of change going on over time. That’s also just six years.

My parents used the same machine for eight years and I change my laptop every year. During the same time, I’ve had three different desktop machines (that includes the Mac Mini that we currently have right now). A better track record, but still worse than a single machine in eight years.

So, I have a problem, a huge one, when it comes to the tools that I use. A laptop is a tool. I have purchased more tools than I have actually created piece of software. I have more hammers than houses built. More spatulas than omelets . You get the picture.

Now, if each one of those had broken, for whatever reason, then I wouldn’t feel so bad. However, that is not the case. All of those, except for the R50, are still in working condition and I personally know exactly where three of them are (family and friends).

I have a problem. Now what is the solution?

I’m going to set a goal for myself, and then I’m going to probably break it so that I can keep it. The goal is to keep a laptop for three years, and that goes for each machine in my house.

Three years is the limit of AppleCare, and what I consider to be the reasonable lifespan of a computer. At that point, you tend to start to wonder if it is worth it to fix a machine because of its age, availability of parts, and speed increases available with newer hardware. At three years, even purchasing nice, new hardware from Apple, I would end up spending less money (far less) than I would if I keep up with my current Apple => used Thinkpad => Apple => used Thinkpad routine.

With my tool, I will then work on actually building usable software and providing some value besides new bells and whistles. If I would have followed this, here is what it would look like:

  • Apple PowerBook G4 (2005)
  • Apple Aluminum MacBook (2008)

That’s it! I would still have a perfectly usable Aluminum MacBook at my disposal with the AppleCare running out shortly and new MacBook Pros (or Airs) to choose from. That sure looks and sounds a lot nicer, doesn’t it.

It isn’t eight years, but it is a lot better than what I have been doing, and I know I can do better. Now I just need to.