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Business in Vancouver

Canadian Freelance Union- CEP

New Apple OS aims to leverage iPad technology

by  Alan Zisman (c) 2011 First published in Business in Vancouver August 9=15, 2011 issue #1137 High Tech Office column

Apple has always been good at cutting the cord on older technologies. It has moved Macintosh computers to new families of processors, dropped support for floppy and optical drives and replaced its classic Mac operating system with OS X.

First released in 2001, OS X has been continually revised; 2009’s seventh-generation OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) dropped support for older Macs built using PowerPC processors, but otherwise was – similar to Windows 7 – a modest release optimizing the previous version.

OS X 10.7 (Lion), released July 20, is more ambitious, with changes starting with the way it’s distributed and installed. It’s not available in stores and not sold on disc; instead, it’s a download from Apple’s Mac app store.

Priced at $29, the 3.5-gigabyte file takes about an hour to download. Especially nice – (Microsoft take note!) – users with multiple Macs only have to buy it once; it can be downloaded free for installation onto additional systems. Users can also save the installer onto a blank DVD disc or USB flash drive, but do this before running the installer; once you’ve upgraded, the install file vanishes. A $69 version on a flash drive is promised for some time in August.

Once again, Lion cuts the cord to older technologies. You’ll need a dual-core Intel-powered Mac with at least two gigabytes of memory, and Lion lacks support for software written for older PowerPC Macs. (Read this for help checking whether you’re using any of these older programs.) I was keeping financial data in an older version of Intuit’s Quicken, and needed to export my data prior to installing Lion. Afterward would have been too late!

A migration assistant imports settings, data and applications from another Mac or a backup; Lion’s version can also import Outlook email, photos and other data (but not applications) from a Windows PC.

Lion promises 250 new features. Several give your Mac some of the look and feel of an iPad or iPhone. A Launchpad icon displays icons of your Mac’s applications, mimicking the iPad home screen.

Applications can be viewed in full-screen mode, again à la iPad. And laptop users will discover new iPad-like gestures, including a track pad that scrolls in reverse: moving two fingers downward scrolls up – the opposite of how it’s previously worked. Don’t like it? Uncheck what Apple calls “natural scrolling.”

As on an iPad or iPhone, text auto-corrects, while holding down a letter like “e” pops up accented and other variations – finally, an easy way to make those sorts of additions!

However, you still can’t run iPhone/iPad apps on your Mac.

Other improvements are under the hood. Lion installs a hidden hard drive recovery partition. Along with Apple’s Disk Utility for hard drive repairs, it includes a built-in web browser so you can search online for solutions. (Hold down the “option” key at boot up for access.)

You can encrypt your entire hard drive and Time Machine backups; previously, you were limited to your documents. When you boot your computer, it will automatically load applications and documents that were running when it was shut down. There’s system-wide support for auto-saving documents and for accessing older versions. AirDrop is perhaps the easiest way to share files with other computers across a local network.

Boot time and performance seem on par with the previous version, despite all the new features.

Many of these new features, including full-screen mode and document auto-saving, however, require applications that have been rewritten to support them. Apple’s applications (mostly) are Lion-friendly; other applications will have to gain support in a future update. And AirDrop works only with recent Macs.

Assuming you’re not dependent on old PowerPC-era Mac software, Lion is an affordable and attractive upgrade for Mac users.

Something completely different: Vancouver is one of a dozen cities worldwide hosting Social Media Week September 19-23, a social media Olympics with events from seminars to soirées. You can get involved as a sponsor, panel speaker or volunteer (in many capacities): socialmediaweek.org/vancouver.

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