This coming Sunday (19th June) is Father’s Day. It’s not an event massively celebrated in my family – I tend to present a token card and gift to my dad, likewise my kids present me a little throwaway something or other – but i thought i’d mark the occasion this year by sharing something with the world. Something that my dad made for me many years ago. So, here’s my castle…
This thing was one of my favourite toys as a child. I absolutely loved it – so much so that i don’t recall i ever showed it to anyone but my best friend for fear that it might get damaged. My dad made this for me in 1987 – well, that’s when he etched that badge above the castle entrance anyway – and it is, for the most part, constructed from plywood. Upon seeing the castle again recently i asked him how long it took him to build and he admitted it was something like 18 months. That might seem quite a long time but if you could see and feel the craftsmanship in person you’d have a better idea of why it might’ve taken so long. Even as a child i was impressed with the quality of the (working) drawbridge and portcullis and the level of detail in places, such as the jailhouse (look at that tiny brass lock!). All these years later and it seems an even more impressive piece of work.
Hand-building a toy for your son seems to be a bit of a tradition in my family (my grandfather build a toy car garage for my dad, and my great-grandfather something for my grandad) but i’m quite daunted by the prospect of it. Maybe i should just ask my lad how much money it’d take to buy his love and respect?
I was surprised at how often on twitter i came across two people using the same word, words or phrase at the same time, so i started taking screenshots of these occurances. Of course it’s all down to pure coincidence but this is the sort of stupid, insignificant thing that amuses me.
At yesterday’s WWDC Keynote event, Apple unveiled the next version of the Macintosh operating system (Mac OS X 10.7 – Lion), the next version of the iPhone/iPad operating system (iOS 5) and their take on “cloud computing” (iCloud). Lots of announcements, lots of things worth discussing and, thus, far too much for me to cover here1. I just don’t have the inclination to write about it all so i’m going to quickly pass comment on the new features of OS X and iOS that Apple highlighted2.
Mac OS X 10.7
We were told that the next version of Mac OS X, 10.7, AKA Lion, will include more than 250 new features. As ever with such claims from Apple, you’d be extremely hard pressed to find anyone that could name all 250+. You’d probably even struggle to find someone at Apple that could list 50. But i digress. Here are the 10 new features that were highlighted yesterday:
1. Multi-Touch Gestures
OS X Lion brings you a new way to interact with your Mac. Tap, scroll, pinch, and swipe your way through your Mac with Multi-Touch gestures, directly controlling what’s on your screen in a more fluid, natural, and intuitive way.
Yep, more trackpad gestures for the Mac. I like them. I’ll probably not use many of them in the long-term but the ones i do use will become indispensable.
2. Fullscreen Apps
For the first time, support for full-screen apps is built into OS X. So you can take apps full screen with a click and navigate between them with a gesture.
This is hardly revolutionary. In fact, the hyperbole of Apple’s marketing makes it sound quite ridiculous BUT i do imagine it will prove useful in some cases. Certain apps will be better suited to fullscreen than others – for example, i can see the point of using iPhoto in fullscreen, but not Safari. Similarly, some Mac hardware will better suit fullscreen modes than others. Fullscreen will probably feel like a god-send on, say, an 11-inch Air but not really be something you use that often on a 27-inch iMac.
3. Mission Control
Mission Control brings together Exposé, Dashboard, Spaces, and full-screen apps to give you one place to see and navigate everything running on your Mac.
I use Exposé a lot but Dashboard less so and Space hardly at all, so I welcome this evolutionary step.
4. Mac App Store
With the Mac App Store built into OS X Lion, getting the apps you want has never been easier. No more boxes, no more discs, no more time-consuming installation. Click once to download and install any app on your Mac.
The Mac App Store – which is presumably identical to the version we already have in Snow Leopard – is the future of software sales.
Say goodbye to hunting for the app you need in an applications folder. Launchpad gives you instant access to all your apps.
Launchpad makes looking through your Mac’s apps like looking through your iPhone’s apps.
Now apps you close will reopen right where you left off, so you never have to start from scratch again. And when you install software updates, you no longer need to save your work, close your apps, and spend valuable time setting everything up again. With Resume, you can restart your Mac and return to what you were doing — with all your apps in the exact places you left them.
Just like in an iPhone app. Fantastic.
It’s time to stop worrying about saving your work. Because now your Mac automatically saves what you’re working on so you don’t have to. It’s not just an improvement for OS X, it’s an improvement for anyone who’s ever lost hours of hard work after forgetting to press Command-S.
The personal computer has existed for, what, 30 years or thereabouts and someone has only just implemented this? Crazy.
Versions is a new feature that charts the history of your documents, taking snapshots in time, and displaying them side by side with the latest versions in an easily browsable timeline. You can review the past iterations of your compositions, restore a previous version, or copy and paste from old versions to new ones.
Basically it’s Time Machine for the documents you’re working on. A potential life-saver.
Looking for a fast way to share files with people nearby? With AirDrop, you can send files to anyone around you wirelessly — no Wi-Fi network required. And no complicated setup or special settings. Just click the AirDrop icon in the Finder sidebar, and your Mac automatically discovers other AirDrop users within about 30 feet of you. To share a file, simply drag it to someone’s name. Once accepted, the fully encrypted file transfers directly to that person’s Downloads folder.
Apple would have you believe this new function marks the beginning of the end for USB flash drives. It does look good but unless they produce an Airdrop app for Windows that won’t happen anytime soon.
OS X Lion introduces a whole new take on email. Mail puts your entire display to work with a gorgeous widescreen view featuring a full-height message and a message list that includes snippets. Conversations presents messages from the same thread in an elegant timeline showing each communication as it was sent while hiding redundant text. Mail also features search suggestions and search tokens, which help you find the messages you’re looking for fast. And a new favorites bar gives you easy access to the folders you use most often.
The new search option does look pretty good. Other than that… meh.
Lion will be released through the Mac App Store in July for $29.99 (i guess that’ll mean about £25 for the UK). The only downside? It’s a 4GB download. And that’s the only option. No DVD. No USB stick.
The next major release of iOS will include “over 200 new features” but we’ll have to focus on the 10 new additions that Apple highlighted in their presentation.
You get all kinds of notifications on your iOS device: new email, texts, friend requests, and more. With Notification Center, you can keep track of them all in one convenient location. Just swipe down from the top of any screen to enter Notification Center. Choose which notifications you want to see. Even see a stock ticker and the current weather. New notifications appear briefly at the top of your screen, without interrupting what you’re doing. And the Lock screen displays notifications so you can act on them with just a swipe.
The new notification system doesn’t interrupt what you’re doing. Hip-hip! You can view all the notifications as a list and don’t have to clear every individual notification message. Hip-hip! Quick access from the lockscreen. Hooray!
iOS 5 organizes your magazine and newspaper app subscriptions in Newsstand: a folder that lets you access your favorite publications quickly and easily. There’s also a new place on the App Store just for newspaper and magazine subscriptions. And you can get to it straight from Newsstand. New purchases go directly to your Newsstand folder. Then, as new issues become available, Newsstand automatically updates them in the background — complete with the latest covers.
Looks quite handy… if you buy subscriptions.
iOS 5 makes it even easier to tweet from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Sign in once in Settings, and suddenly you can tweet directly from Safari, Photos, Camera, YouTube, or Maps. Want to mention or @reply to a friend? Contacts applies your friends’ Twitter usernames and profile pictures.
In a Venn diagram of my phone contacts and my twitter friends the overlap would be barely perceptible. No doubt useful for some people but i’ll just stick to Tweetbot, thanks.
iOS 5 brings even more web-browsing features to iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Safari Reader displays web articles sans ads or clutter so you can read without distractions. Reading List lets you save interesting articles to peruse later, while iCloud keeps your list updated across all your devices. On iPad, tabbed browsing helps you keep track of multiple web pages and switch between them with ease. And iOS 5 improves Safari performance on all your iOS devices.
Reader is one of those functions that i love the idea of but almost never use on the Mac version of Safari. I suspect the same will apply on the iPhone. Reading List could prove useful but as i tend to read articles via RSS it’s probably something that, again, i’ll never use. The addition of proper tabs on the iPad is nice – just a shame they don’t think it’d work well on the iPhone. In the Keynote they also mentioned a new “Email” function in Safari that sends not just a URL but the actual page content to the recipient. That could prove handy.
Reminders lets you organize your life in to-do lists — complete with due dates and locations. Say you need to remember to pick up milk during your next grocery trip. Since Reminders can be location based, you’ll get an alert as soon as you pull into the supermarket parking lot. Reminders also works with iCal, Outlook, and iCloud, so changes you make update automatically on all your devices and calendars.
This is sort of how i tend to use the existing Notes app on the iPhone. I absolutely love the idea of location-based reminders for tasks. I suspect that’ll be one of the first things i play with once i get iOS 5.
6. Camera / Photos
Since your iPhone is always with you, it’s often the best way to capture those unexpected moments. That’s why you’ll love the new camera features in iOS 5. You can open the Camera app right from the Lock screen. Use grid lines, pinch-to-zoom gestures, and single-tap focus and exposure locks to compose a picture on the fly. Then press the volume-up button to snap your photo in the nick of time.
Turn your snapshots into frame-worthy photos in just a few taps. Crop, rotate, enhance, and remove red-eye without leaving the Photos app. Even organize your photos in albums — right on your device.
These updates to the Camera app are very, very welcome. So too are the basic photo editing tools. I can’t imagine the people behind Camera+ will be too happy though – most of their editing tools are now redundant, they had focus and exposure locks first and, most painfully of all, they were booted from the App Store for months for publishing an update that allowed you to use the volume button to take a picture. I’ll be very interested to see whether they’re allowed to reinstate that feature now Apple have broken the very same rule.
Your inbox is about to receive some great new features. Format text using bold, italic, or underlined fonts. Create indents in the text of your message. Drag to rearrange names in address fields. Flag important messages. Even add and delete mailbox folders on the fly. If you’re looking for a specific email, you can now search in the body of messages.
No doubt welcome additions to some. Nothing here that i’ll make use of though.
8. PC Free
With iOS 5, you no longer need a computer to own an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. Activate and set up your device wirelessly, right out of the box. Download free iOS software updates directly on your device. Do more with your apps — like editing your photos or adding new email folders — on your device, without the need for a Mac or PC. And back up and restore your device automatically using iCloud.
Great news for those people that don’t have, or no longer want to bother with, a traditional computer. Personally, i was more pleased with the (sort-of-related-but-didn’t-get-its-own-item-number-on-the-agenda) “Wifi Sync” announcement. That is to say, from iOS 5 onwards you don’t need a USB cable to sync with iTunes anymore – you can just do it over wifi. Lovely.
9. Game Center
With iOS 5, you can get your game face on with even more Game Center features. Post a profile picture. Meet your match with new friend recommendations based on the games you play and the players you already know. Discover new games without leaving Game Center. And size up an opponent on the spot with new overall achievement scores.
Any updates to the currently lacklustre Game Center are welcome.
With iMessage, we’ve created a new messaging service for all iOS 5 users. You can send unlimited text messages via Wi-Fi or 3G from your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch to anyone with one of those devices. iMessage is built into the Messages app, so you can send text, photos, videos, locations, and contacts. Keep everyone in the loop with group messaging. Track your messages with delivery receipts and optional read receipts, see when someone’s typing, and enjoy secure encryption for text messages. Even start a conversation on one of your iOS devices and pick up where you left off on another.
After the fixing of notifications, i think this will be biggest and best new feature of iOS. Blackberry-BBM-style instant messaging for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. They say this is built into the Messages app so i’ll be curious to know how you determine whether you’re sending a traditional SMS or MMS or a iMessage message but presumably it’s sort of obvious when you’re faced with it. At least, i hope it’s obvious. I mean, i get unlimited text messages on my mobile contract whereas i only get a fixed amount of data usage – i don’t want to find myself using that up on stupid little snippets of text. (I note that this reaction is quite the opposite to that of most Americans, who seem to have to pay extra for a texting package – they’re now all cheering about being able to cancel that part of their phone contracts.)
iOS 5 is scheduled for a release in the autumn. Presumably free of charge. And presumably to coincide with release of the next version of the iPhone.
Please don’t think that by choosing not to comment on iCloud here i’m dismissing it. I’m not. I think it is going to be a VERY BIG DEAL™. Right now iCloud is only about storing contacts, calendars, mail, some apps, some music, some photos and some documents. In the future though, when bandwidth allows, it will inevitably be able to store everything. EVERYTHING. ↩
I’ve seen a fair bit of snarking in blogs and on twitter about the new Dell XPS 15z, and how remarkably similar it looks to Apple’s MacBook Pro.
Which is fair enough – just look through Engadget’s photo gallery in their review of the XPS 15z – it does look quite similar to the MacBook Pro. But, let’s face it, it’s not the first PC laptop to take “inspiration” from Apple’s hardware, is it? And i don’t believe it’s even the worst offender. For me, last year’s HP Envy line-up looked much more Apple-like than the Dell…