No Predictions, Just Observations on the Apple Tablet

Tomorrow is the big day, and by noon PT all will be revealed. I’m tossing my $.02 in the ring with some general observations about what Apple will announce. I’m not getting into detailed predictions — better men than I have failed miserable at guessing what Apple will do — but rather some overall comments I have after absorbing hype for the last few weeks.

The Name. I’d love Apple to avoid “tab” or “tablet” because those devices all failed. Why name after a failure? I can live with “Slate” or “iSlate”, though I’d prefer it be avoided since Apple’s competitors jumped on that bandwagon. Personally, I prefer “Canvas”, without the “i”. There’s a lot of talk about “iPad”, and while Canvas is better in my opinion I could live with that.

The OS. Yes, tomorrow we’ll see glimpses of iPhone OS (I’m convinced this thing will not run Mac OS) because they need to show the new features of the OS that allow the device to do what it does. Whether this is version 3.2 or 4.0 doesn’t matter to me. Of course it’ll multitask. No, I don’t think we’ll see a third specialized “tablet OS”. I think the iPhone OS (perhaps rebranded) will identify the hardware upon which it’s installed and act accordingly, much as Mac OS does with the multitude of Mac models now.

The Other Software. I’m sure we’ll see a new version of iTunes to support the new device. And we may see a new version of iWork if some of those apps have been modified to work with the device. I’m less certain of this one right now.

The Apps. Deal with it. There are going to be several demos of new or modified apps that show off the new device’s capabilities. If history is any guide there’ll be five or six of these, and many will consider it boring. But apps are what make any such device go, without them it’s just an exercise in hyperbole. Live bloggers will pander to their readers talking about how boring it is, but I say you shouldn’t be pro-developer when you’re courting favor, and then slam them when they’re actually showing their wares.

The Competition. I read books on my iPhone all the time (Kindle, Stanza, etc.). If this thing does it just as well but with the larger screen, I think even those who question book-reading on the iPhone will be swayed. Add to that the color screen, etc., and the Kindle, Nook, Sony devices are going to look like expensive jokes. I buy Kindle books, but I don’t care about the moves Amazon has done of late, and even if they offered a Scarlett Johansson lap dance there’s zero chance of me buying a Kindle for more dedicated e-reading now. (Sorry, Scarlett, it was really close.)

The Device. For the most part I’m staying away from this one. Partially because Apple is unconventional, and partially because it’s not hard to see why just about any given hardware feature could make sense. And yet, Apple will only implement a small number of them. It’s priorities. It’s Jobs saying “no” more than “yes”. It’s also about the new paradigm Apple is bringing to market. For example, why make it easy to use a keyboard if the new paradigm says you shouldn’t need one? Choice? It’s a fine line between “choice” and “legacy support”. If this device is meant to continue letting physical keyboards go (as the iPhone started), then you don’t have to make it easy to use one.

The Pundits. I would be willing to bet that, even as write this a day before the event, there are pundits writing their articles slamming the device. A few quick edits here and there and it’s published. If you think the heights of craziness peaked with the iPhone-slammers (teenagers dying while texting on a software keyboard), you ain’t seen nothing yet. Brace yourself for ridiculous punditry at it’s finest.

That’s it. Tomorrow the fun begins, and I look forward to the next step in computing even if I won’t know until later whether the device appeals to me personally or not.

Posted via email from The Small Wave.

IT PRO: 80 Percent Of Viruses Love Windows 7.

According to one leading security research lab, Windows 7 is vulnerable to an astonishing 8 out of 10 viruses it was exposed to during testing.


The author questions the test because no anti-virus software was installed, and new viruses were used to test the exposure. He seemed to think this might not be fair, but I strongly disagree.

This was the perfect way to test Microsoft’s claims that Windows 7 was über secure, hard to crack, etc. They’ve been bragging about security for Vista and Windows 7 for years, yet no one has done the obvious: test them on their own.

It should be obvious that anti-virus software masks the underlying operating system’s vulnerabilities. Such a test only shows how good the AV software — not the OS — is at protecting a PC.

What Sophos’ test proves is that MS was full of it regarding the security of Windows 7; that in point of fact an anti-virus solution is absolutely required to secure your system, because the OS itself is as vulnerable as ever.

Run the same test with a BSD, Linux, Mac, or other *nix system and they’ll kick Windows 7’s ass, and with no third-party solution as a band-aid. That’s because they’re already secure, thank you.

Posted via web from The Small Wave.

Though Windows 7 Taskbar Is No Mac OS Dock, You Can Put Folders On It.

Win7 Desktop2While the taskbar in Windows 7 is huge improvement over the old one, it’s incredibly weak compared to Apple’s dock. The biggest disappointment to me is that you can’t put folders there, or at least you can’t drag them there.

As it turns out, there’s a process you can use to get a folder on the taskbar, and I did so for some of my common ones. Once you do it a couple times, it’s a pretty simple process, though it’s silly to have to go through such hoops.

Unfortunately, all you can do once the folder is there is click on it to open the folder. That’s it. You cannot see what’s inside via stacks or hierarchical views like on a Mac. You cannot navigate the directory like on a Mac. You cannot spring-load the folder like on a Mac. You cannot launch or view anything from the folder like on a Mac. Bottom line is having a folder on the taskbar saves me one click, and that’s all.

Still, for common folders I’ll take what I can get. Especially since, for all the bragging on Microsoft’s part, Windows 7 still requires too many clicks.

Finally, here’s a quick tip: For a custom look change the shortcut’s icon before you pin it to the taskbar. The file imageres.dll in the System32 directory contains a number of nice icons from which to choose.

Ars Technica Windows 7 Review

So while Windows 7 may not right all of Vista’s wrongs, it is absolutely superior to its predecessor. It has three years of improvements, so it can’t help but be better. But if you hated Vista’s UI, you’re going to hate Windows 7’s. Worse, in fact, because 7 forces you to use the new Start menu and taskbar, with no possibility of reverting to the old behaviour. If your applications didn’t work in Vista, they almost certainly won’t work in 7. Sure, 7 has some virtualization tools to help, but this was always possible in Vista too. If you felt Vista was too big and too slow, well, 7 isn’t going to provide much joy there, either. Marginal improvements, perhaps, but nothing more.

The above quote, from the closing summary, sure doesn’t sound impressive. Still, the entire review (it’s long and detailed) is positive overall.

The reviewer thinks Vista got a bad rap. Even though he agrees Windows 7 is actually “Vista R2”, he likes it a lot.

Posted via web from The Small Wave.

In Other Words, Windows 7 Is Just Windows

Iolo also says its tests indicated that Windows 7’s startup times, like Vista’s, degrade over time. After several “commonly-used” applications have been installed on a new Windows 7 box, for instance, its boot time — again, as measured by the company — slows to two minutes, 34 seconds, an increase of 64%.

No surprise. All anyone talks about is Windows 7’s new coat of paint, but underneath it’s the same thing as before.

Posted via web from The Small Wave.

Discoveries in Mac OS X Snow Leopard: It’s The Little Things (And What Have You Found?)


This discovery article is about things that, frankly, would make for a short post if written about individually. But there are a number of thoughtful touches sprinkled throughout Snow Leopard that make your work nicer, or more efficient, and I want to mention some of them here…

Text Substitution

The system-wide text substitution is great. Go to the Languages and Text control panel to select the ones you want, or add your own:


I’ve already added a few of my own, and they work perfectly in the Snow Leopard version of apps like Mail and TextEdit.

ShowSubMenuOne thing to note, however. Text replacement may not be enabled by default. Applications handle this differently, so you may need to turn it on for a given app. In an application’s Edit menu you’ll see a menu for Substitutions. Just check the ones you want to turn them on.

ShiwSubDialogAlternatively, select Show Substitutions on the menu to display a dialog box where you can control them all at once. Either way, check Text Replacement and you’re in business.


It took only the addition of a few features to vault TextEdit to my default word processor of choice:

  • Text replacement, as explained above
  • Correct spelling automatically
  • Smart dashes

These are all available in Pages, but with TextEdit I have them in a faster environment for most of my writing.

TextEdit Page

Keep in mind TextEdit already had plenty of desirable word processing features. Things like simple styles, lists, line spacing, tabs, paste and match style, find/replace, hyperlinks, hyphenation, and more. Heck, it even has kerning and ligatures.

Further, as an RTF editor it can contain graphics, and makes nice use of the new streamlined Services menu in Snow Leopard:

TextEdit PicServices

No, I’m not giving up Pages anytime soon. Sometimes I need columns, headers, TOCs, etc. But most of the time I don’t. TextEdit is fast and uncluttered, with more than just the basics, and yet so lightweight I think nothing of leaving it running all the time. With the latest improvements its become my word processor for blog posts, and where I’ll start most other writing projects as well.


My favorite new feature in iCal, and it practically brings tears to my eyes, is this:

iCal Prefs

Now when I double-click an existing event I don’t see this dreadful thing:


Instead, I get the thing of beauty below. Imagine that, an actual window I can type in, and move around, and everything.

Windows Event

Sadly, this only works for existing events. If you double-click a date to add a new event you still get the “talking” editor, which you need to drag off if you want a window. Still, this feature makes me very happy.

For other people, their favorite new feature might be this:


You can now sync your Mac calendar with Google or Yahoo! calendars. The Address Book has a similar capability, so your contacts can be in sync between these services as well. I used Yahoo! for years and this would have been great, but I’m on MobileMe now.


Exchange support could be huge (I love it on my iPhone), but my company does not use Exchange 2007 so I cannot try this or comment on it.

Mail_SidebarHowever, the text substitutions mentioned above are extremely nice. So is the speed increase.

And I love that I can re-order the sidebar categories. For me, this means banishing Reminders to the bottom of the list.

QuickTime X

So much has been written about the new QuickTime X player that I won’t dwell on it other than to try to define a little bit better what this thing is:

  • QT XDo not confuse QuickTime X player with the actual QuickTime X technology. The player is the tip of the iceberg you see. QuickTime X is a refinement and tuning of Apple’s media technology as ambitious as Snow Leopard was to Leopard.
  • QuickTime X player is not QuickTime Pro. Pro allowed editing in the middle of a movie, combining multiple movies into one, better output options, and more.
  • QuickTime X player is more than the QuickTime 7 player it replaces. You can trim movies and then upload directly to YouTube or MobileMe. You can also output them to iPod, iPhone or Apple TV devices. It can also record your screen actions, and the performance is better.

The number of QT Pro users is relatively small. For the vast majority of Mac users what they’re getting is a sleeker, faster movie player than what they had before. One that also allows them to trim footage and upload it for sharing, as well as recording on-screen actions. That’s a pretty nice bonus as part of only a $29 software package.

And Even More…

Password GraceYour Mac goes to sleep, you immediately grab the mouse but it’s too late, you have to enter a password to get back in (if you’ve chosen that option). Well, in the Security preferences panel you can now set a “grace period” between sleep and requiring a password.

Network WakeYou want to be Green. Really, you do. But you can’t let your desktop Mac sleep because you might want to grab a file, or see a shared photo, or play a shared song, from your MacBook. Well, if you use an Airport Extreme or Time Capsule as your router you can set an option to Wake for Network access. Let the desktop get some sleep, knowing it’ll wake if you need it.

Day, date and time in the menu bar. You could do this before, but had to jump through hoops. Now you just check a few boxes:

Day Date

Where Does It End?

In this discovery series I specifically avoided the advanced technologies in Snow Leopard like Grand Central Dispatch and OpenCL. These are very important, but I wanted the series to focus on what most people could see and make use of immediately.

Yet there are more, many more, things to discover. I couldn’t begin to list them all. QuickLook now works in iChat for received a file. Safari now has “plug-in protection” so Adobe Flash (and others) won’t crash the browser. And on and on…

What about you? What have you found? I’d love for others to leave their own Snow Leopard discoveries in the comments below.

Previous Articles in the Snow Leopard Discovery Series:

Discoveries in Mac OS X Snow Leopard: Preview


I think most users are indifferent to Preview. They double-click a PDF or image file, view it, and then quit the app. In Snow Leopard there’s a reasonable chance they might notice it all happens faster, and the toolbar has changed, but nothing else. I think that’s a shame.

Snow Leopard’s Preview received enhancements that will elevate it from frequent use to a workhorse for me. However, the way some features were implemented seems odd…

PDF = Pretty Darn Fast.

Preview is fast. I mean, it’s really fast. It was always a quick little sucker, but in Snow Leopard’s 64-bit trim it opens images and PDF files (even large ones) extremely quickly.

For PDFs, other enhancements include:

  • Smart text selection (e.g., selecting just one column).
  • Open multiple documents in one window; you can search all at once (this can be very handy).
  • Speaking of search, it utilizes Grand Central Dispatch to increase speed.

You can also view a PDF as a contact sheet of pages, like so:

Preview PDF Contact

I trashed Adobe Reader the minute Preview first appeared, though admittedly my PDF needs are not extensive. (I don’t use Adobe Reader on my Windows machines, either). In Snow Leopard, even some die-hard Reader holdouts can probably let go of Adobe in this area.

Do I Have To Draw You A Picture?

Well, yes, sometimes I do. In Leopard, Preview gained the ability to annotate images with ovals, rectangles, arrows, and text. It also gained the “Instant Alpha” feature from Apple’s iWork apps. It’s useful to annotate pictures with text, or highlight a certain area. Preview’s newfound capabilities were welcome, and I utilized them often.

The problem is that the features were deficient. It didn’t take long to identify what was missing:

  • It draw ovals, but not circles.
  • It draw rectangles, but not squares.
  • It draw arrows, but not lines.
  • No control over arrow thickness.
  • It has any color you like, as long as it’s red.

(That last one isn’t so bad, since red is superior to the other, lesser colors of the spectrum. Still, the lack of choice was odd.)

New and Improved

Lines Thick and DashedThe best news about the new Preview is that it addresses the above deficiencies:

  • Hold down Shift while drawing an oval or rectangle to make it a perfect circle or square.
  • You have control over arrow heads, placing them at the beginning, end, both ends, or none. (The latter option, of course, makes it a line.)
  • You can choose line thickness, which includes an option for dashed lines.
  • You can choose a color for annotated items.

Having discovered the above, I tried some other keyboard tricks:

  • Hold down Shift while drawing a line to constrain it to 45 degree angles.
  • Hold Option while drawing circles, rectangles, and lines to draw them from the center.

Very good, Apple.

Meet Me At The Bar

Annotation ButtonThe annotation bar, that is. Previously you could add some annotation tools to the regular toolbar (images and PDFs had their own toolbars). Now there’s just one standard toolbar, and a button on it brings up a new “Annotations Toolbar”. It’s different for PDFs and images:


PDF Annotation


Image Annotation

This makes it easier to access annotation items, and only displays when you need them. It’s very nice, though a bit incomplete.

You Got What You Wanted, What’s The Problem?

The devil’s in the details, and I’m a bit puzzled by Apple’s implementation of the new stuff.

The annotation toolbar is at the bottom of a window. Why? Who decided I should mouse up for menus and most toolbars, but mouse down for other controls?

Annotations Inspector ArrowsI like the annotations bar, so I’ll take it where I can get it, but why doesn’t it hold all the annotation controls? For example, draw an arrow. Its color, thickness, and dash can be modified from the annotations bar, but what about arrow heads? You’ll only find them on a new tab in the Inspector.

Show the Inspector, and next to the tabs of document information is a new tab for annotations. Here you’ll find the options for arrow heads.

Annotations Inspector BubblesFurther, you’ll find two more features not on the annotations bar. One of them is the choice of fill color. The other applies when you have a text box selected. You can pick a style of “Speech Bubble” or “Thought Bubble”. (Yes, now we can make our subjects talk, which is handier than one might imagine.)

I love these features, but Apple had a whole new annotations bar to work with and couldn’t fit them on it? Oh well, they’re not that hard to get to when you need them.

“Eight-by-ten Colored Glossy Photographs With Circles and Arrows and a Paragraph On The Back Of Each One Explaining What Each One Was”

(Sorry, but there was no way I was writing this article without the above reference.)

For me, the new tools have many uses:

  • My most recent cry for circles was when I did the image at the top of this article. The thought bubble would have taken 20 seconds with circles, but took a couple minutes because I had to make ovals circular, and occasionally started over when I wasn’t happy with the results.
  • Of course, I hadn’t even dreamed of the thought bubble actually being drawn for me, which is now the case.
  • As for lines, there are times I’d rather underline an item, but put a rectangle around it instead because lines were not an option.
  • I’ve already used the line thickness — along with a more neutral color — to draw over sensitive information in a screenshot I posted elsewhere.

In short, the new features will get a lot of use. Meanwhile, the occasional trip I made to Skitch will no longer be necessary. Skitch has now been retired; dead to me even before it was born (it’s still beta).

I could complain that I can’t create a new blank document, or duplicate an object, or group/ungroup items, but I think that would miss the point. I’d hate to see Preview’s speed and convenience sacrificed to make it more of a drawing program it doesn’t need to be.

Minor quibbles about implementation aside, the new Preview adds much-needed tools for better annotation of images. It’s not meant to be a “true” drawing program. Rather, I view the changes as Apple simply finishing the job they started in Leopard when they decided it would be useful for Preview to have markup tools. All this, and it’s faster, too. I’d call that a job well done.

Previous Articles in the Snow Leopard Discovery Series:

Discoveries in Mac OS X Snow Leopard: The Dock, Exposé, and Spaces


If you’re wondering why I’m writing about these items together, it’s because Exposé and Spaces are both related to window management (with Spaces at a higher level), and in Snow Leopard they built Exposé into the Dock so it comes along for the ride.

Spaces hasn’t really changed in Snow Leopard. Where the real change comes is Exposé itself, which is slicker than before, and some Dock changes to invoke it.

How I Organize

The screenshots below make more sense if you understand how I organize my apps/windows. Put simply, I use six spaces as an integral part of my work. Each space generally only has 1-3 apps in it, so clutter in any one space is minimal.

Exposé Alone

Let’s say I’m in space #5 and invoke Exposé. I use a gesture (upper right screen corner) to invoke the “All Windows” option, and see this:


This shows me “all windows” for the space I’m in; you can see I’ve got three windows in this space.

It should be immediately apparent what’s different about Exposé in Snow Leopard. Instead of lining up willy nilly, the windows are lined to a grid. Further, instead of being unlabeled until you move the mouse over them, they have permanent labels. Finally, there’s a dark blue border around the “selected” window under the mouse (in this case, iPhoto). Aside from clicking the selected window to switch to it, there’s a new feature you can perform that we’ll get to in a minute.

Spaces Alone

Now let’s say I go back to space #5, and instead of invoking Exposé I invoke Spaces (gesture to the lower-left corner). I’ll see this:


I’ve got a lot running for the purposes of this article (yet at this point it’s not all displayed). Notice that space #5 has a darker background than the others. That’s because it’s the currently “selected” space (i.e. under the mouse).

So now you’ve seen each feature invoked on its own. Click on a window in Exposé and you go to that window. Click on a window in Spaces and you go to that window and space. Simple enough.

Exposé and Spaces: Together

The beauty of Exposé is that it works with Spaces. if I’m showing all my spaces, and then invoke Exposé’s All Windows option, I see everything. (Obviously, if  you don’t use Spaces then Exposé’s All Windows option always shows everything.)

Go back to the spaces picture above and imagine if I invoked Exposé from there. In other words, if I quickly moused to the lower-left and then upper-right corners (a natural movement since I’m right handed). I get this:


Now I get a picture of all opened windows on the Mac. Notice the mouse is over a window in space #4. The space has the darker background, and there’s a dark blue border around the selected window. A cool new feature in Exposé is that the selected window can be previewed for a closer look. Just hit the space bar to see this:

Expose Window Zoom_SL

This is really nice when using Spaces and Exposé together because the displayed windows can get small– especially on my 13” MacBook. Sometimes the window title will be enough, but with similar titles the preview feature is a great way to ensure you’ve found the window you want. Just click the preview to move to that window.

(Windows 7 provides previews, too, but if you click it the whole thing disappears. Instead, you must click the small tab from which you generated the preview. Not a very wise implementation.)

And It’s Only $29. But Wait, There’s More!

Exposé’s additional polish and window previews are great, but there’s even more, and here’s where the Dock gets involved. Let’s say I’ve done some work in the Finder, and then from any space or application I just click and hold on the Finder icon in the Dock. I see this:

Finder Dock Expose

Three windows displayed, and in a similar style as we saw before. But one of them is drawn below a fine white line. What’s this?

Dock Minimize PrefWell, there’s a new preference for the Dock that allows windows to minimize to the app’s icon instead of a separate slot in the Dock. If you choose to use this option (I love it), minimized windows display in Exposé below a line on the screen.

Once Exposé is invoked you do not need to continue holding the mouse button down. This allows for some other great features. For example, assume I’m still at the screenshot above, and I click on the TextEdit icon in the Dock. I get this:

TextEdit Dock Expose

So I can quickly switch Exposé from one app to another. In fact, I can cycle Exposé through every open app by repeatedly pressing the Tab key. Sweet.

Whether alone or with Spaces, and no matter how you invoke it (gesture, the Dock, keyboard, or mouse), the bottom line is you click an Exposé window (or its preview) and you’re there.

It’s Too Much! My Head’s Gonna Explode!

Well, yes, if you tried to use every method you’re head might explode. But the way you work will lend itself to certain methods that make the most sense for you.

Personally, I think Apple added the Dock access so more people would discover Exposé. The Dock makes invoking it more accessible. And by making the windows line up neater, with labels, usability is enhanced no matter how you invoke it.

As for me, I’m a Spaces guy, too. The lower-left and/or upper-right corner gesture as needed is easy and natural. I can quickly have a space’s — or all — windows right in front of me. Yet as I’m working I rarely have more than a couple apps’ “clutter” to deal with at once.

I don’t think I’ll use the Dock for Exposé very often, I love using the gestures. But the neater grid, labels, and previews are something I’m already taking advantage of.

Previous Articles in the Snow Leopard Discovery Series: