Lots of things have happened since my last update. Time to catch you all up. This is for users of Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard and Lion.
Hard drive prices to soar
A recent typhoon in Thailand destroyed four hard drive plants. This has already raised prices by $20 or $30; by the end of the year they may simply be hard to find at all. If you are thinking of getting a backup drive or upgrading your internal drive, I recommend you hop on this NOW.
It’s almost over. Apple supports two systems into the past, and now that Lion is established, that means Leopard is all that will receive updates from Apple. This doesn’t mean you have to leave Tiger if everything still works for you, but it does mean that some web sites will not work with the newest possible version of Safari (4.1.2). If yours is older than that, it is okay to update Safari now. The .2 version fixes all the bugs and screwups that were introduced in version 4.1. But you will still be excluded from some of the latest places. You can still run Chrome or Firefox, though. Other updates you should get, if they are offered, are Security and Java updates.
G-Macs with the PowerPC chip can move a little closer into the present with an officially hacked version of Firefox called TenFourFox. Google it, and download the version designed for your chip (G4, G5).
You can’t sync the new iPhone or iPad because iTunes needs to be the latest version (10.5) to sync to the Mac. Minimum requirement is Leopard 10.5.8. However, the iPhone 4S can work without linking to a Mac at all and just stand alone. Its version of Mail can access your ISP directly, has its own Safari and can buy from the iTunes App Store. It can back itself up through iCloud. You have to maintain your address book within the phone. When you do upgrade your MacOS or get a new one, you can then sync things up.
Still supported with current updates to Safari 5. The current version is 5.1, which is for 10.5, 10.6 and 10.7. You can use the latest version of Firefox and Chrome as well. Be sure to get the latest security updates, and it’s also okay to get the current version of QuickTime and iTunes. At the moment, if you are on 10.5.8 there are no problematic updates out there. Leopard is the end of the line for G-Macs.
Snow Leopard 10.6
Just a few printer updates plus iTunes 10.5. The current version is 10.6.8, which is a version updated two weeks after the first one came out, to fix some bugs in that release. This is why I always say to wait a week or two before installing updates. I had not had any problems myself, but the blogs were full of complaints, later resolved by the 10.6.8 v1.1 update. Now that is included in the normal 10.6.8 update. Check with Software Update and see if there is a Supplemental Update; if so, get it.
Current version is 10.7.2. If you are running Lion you need this update. Lion was the most troublesome upgrade we have seen in some time. It’s been working pretty well for me, but I don’t really push my Mac very hard. The MacFixIt blog is full of comments and complaints, and reports of icon placement bugs that were fixed in the update, others claiming still weird.
Safari 5.1 had a text-rendering problem that has been fixed in the 5.1.1 update. Otherwise the new Safari has been fine. You must update 1Password to work with it, however.
I am still searching for alternatives to the apps I lost in the move to Lion. At MacCamp earlier, two classes focused on Lion and one on alternatives to Quicken. I will be very happy to leave the Intuit company behind for good, because they have always been hostile to Mac users and put less effort into their products. One pro-Mac company is IGG Software, publishers of iBank, which is Mac-only and also makes a version for iOS. I will be reporting on how well it works after I have tried it out for a while. It comes with a free trial period so you don’t have to buy it until you know it works for you. It can import Quicken files directly from the exported .qif format, supported in Quicken 2007 or earlier. Quicken Stripped to Worthlessness, aka Quicken Essentials, doesn’t even do this kind of export so avoid it at all costs, even if it is Lion compatible.
Speaking of 1Password, although it has a complex learning curve, I recommend it as the solution to the multiple-password problem so many Mackers have. You create a simple but difficult-to-guess passphrase and it creates almost-uncrackable passwords for all your web sites. It saves them in a format that you can look up whenever you need to see them, but it does the login for you whenever you go to a password-requiring site. You can also store your bank info in it, and your personal form data so when you find a site where you want to fill in your name, address, phone and other info, it will do it for you in one click. Used in tandem with the free Dropbox to archive and protect your 1Password data file, you can eliminate all worry about losing passwords again.
I like to keep a human-readable text file stored in its Secure Notes section so I can just open the program and read the info whenever I need to say my credit card info on the phone, or otherwise use a password in a non-Web browser context. Dropbox can also copy that file to your iPhone or iPad, and there is a version of 1Password for the phone as well.
Some people report failure to install this update to their phone or pad. My iPhone 4 had no problems with the update, and I like the new features it brings. I’m in no hurry to get the 4S, although it would be fun to play with the Siri feature. One thing I like a lot about the update is the fact that the camera shutter can now be triggered by pressing on the sound-up button on the side, making the phone work more like a real camera. Very convenient. Auto-correct is still a good source of mirth and frustration, which makes really bizarre and incorrect assumptions about what you want to type. I turned mine off immediately in Settings.
To experience some of the fun others have had, visit the Auto-cowrecks section of FailBlog.
Part of Lion 10.7.2 and iOS5, this replacement for MobileMe automatically stores desired files on Apple’s servers (what marketers call “the cloud”) and syncs contacts and bookmarks, among other things, between your Mac and your iOS device. Although I am using it now, I have not really experienced it because I have not had to recover any files from it. It is nice to have my Apple Address Book info always updated in my iphone without having to wait for a manual sync through iTunes. There is talk of bringing iCloud to Snow Leopard through a 10.6.9 update, but that has not happened yet. MobileMe will go dark next June, so if you are using it, start planning your migration away from it now. iWeb has been discontinued, and any photos or other web pages you have created on MobileMe should be moved over to Flickr or some other photo-hosting service.
Byword; Mac Power Users
This post was composed in a new $9.99 word-processing program designed for writers who are sick of Microsoft Word and find OpenOffice too complex for just plain old writing. Another, more expensive, program called Scrivner has a lot of fans too. Byword supports the Markdown format of coding pages, which is a much simpler way to create coding for blogs, or html for your web site. Markdown is a world of its own and I must learn more about it, which I am starting to do with this app. Once the page is composed, it can be exported to the Clipboard in HTML, ready to be pasted into your blog-site composition window.
I learned about this on the podcast MacPowerUsers, which you can subscribe to through iTunes. It’s not just for power users; it’s to help all Mac users become power users. I recommend everyone subscribe to this and listen. Each episode discusses a specific topic - the last one was about a writer's workflow and his favorite writing applications. There is always something to be learned in the discussion-format program; you will want to keep a pen handy. The show notes, with links, are on the site, where you can play any episode of the show.