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What Was Announced at WWDC 2013

This video is a little late, but let’s talk about what Apple announced at WWDC

App of the Week: Mountain Tweaks

About a year ago, OS X Lion was released for the Mac.  It brought many great features to Lion, some from iOS and some brand new.  However, it changed up a number of things that annoyed some users.  An app called Lion Tweaks, which I reviewed for a previous App of the Week post, was released to help users tweak Lion to their liking.  With the release of Mountain Lion for the Mac, developer Fredrik Wiker has come back to help us tweak.

Mountain Tweaks is a new app that does essentially the same thing as its older brother with a few improvements.  Mountain Tweaks works to be compatible across both Lion and Mountain Lion, making it a one stop shop for Mac users.  Mountain Tweaks is organized into 4 tabs: “General”, “Lion Tweaks”, “Mountain Lion Tweaks”, and “Restore”.  The settings under each tab are as simple as selecting Yes or No under the setting you wish to alter.  The general tab shows several settings that range across multiple versions of OS X.  According to the developer, most of these settings can be used on Leopard (10.5) and Snow Leopard (10.6), as well as Lion and Mountain Lion.  These include settings like enabling a 2D- dock, disabling local Time Machine backups, hiding Spotlight search, and more.  The Lion tab shows items specific to the Lion system such as disabling Auto-Save, enabling Airdrop on old machines, changing the look of Address Book and iCal to aluminum, and more.  The Mountain Lion tab similar changes you can make to Mountain Lion, such as disabling Gatekeeper.  The Restore tab simply is a giant button that allows you to reset all the things you changed through Mountain Tweaks to their original states.

The app states that many of the tweaks available to Lion are also available to Mountain Lion, but only a few work the other way around.  The app has a wide selection of tweaks for Lion and for Mac OS X in general, but there aren’t very many for Mountain Lion at all.  However, Lion Tweaks didn’t have to many either but now has quite a few tricks up its sleeve.  It’s safe to say we can expect the same to come from Mountain Tweaks in future updates.

Mountain Tweaks is available for OS 10.5 and later, though it is best run on OS 10.7 and OS 10.8 (Lion and Mountain Lion respectively).  While it is a free app, the developer does ask for donations if you like the software, which I did.  You can check it at http://tweaksapp.com/app/mountain-tweaks/.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about this or any other topic, leave a comment below or email us at easyosx@live.com.  You can also check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube by hitting the buttons on the top of your screen.  And be sure to check us out on Google Plus.  Thanks!

App of the Week: PS3 Media Server

Technology is quickly evolving, game consoles included.  Besides becoming more powerful devices, gaming consoles are increasingly becoming the media centers for many homes.  All three major consoles have YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu Plus access, and Xbox and PS3 are gaining more services every year.  The PlayStation 3 can easily access any servers on your home network, but it takes a little set up to get that media directly from your Mac.  PS3 Media Server helps bridge that connection.

First thing to note is that PS3 Media Server is not necessarily for the faint of heart.  While the actual connection part is very simple, the settings to optimize and customize the connection are many and aren’t so straight forward.  Most people will not end up using the majority of options.  Setup works like this: first enable “Media Server Connection” on your PS3 under Network Settings and make sure your PS3 is connected to your home network, ethernet or Wi-Fi will do just fine.  Then connect your Mac to the same network and launch the PS3 Media Server app.  You may need to take down your Mac’s firewall for the initial setup, as I did, but afterwards you should be able to run the app with the Firewall enabled.  Then select the media folders you want to allow your PS3 to connect to; I chose my Pictures, Movies, and Music folder, as well as my Dropbox folder.  The only other settings I messed with were telling the app not to let my Mac go into Sleep mode when streaming and to adjust the audio to only play stereo sound rather than 5.1 surround sound.  After you finish tweaking, hit Save, and then Restart Server

When you return to your PS3, you can now go to the Music, Video, and Pictures tab and view your media through there.  If for whatever reason you don’t see the Mac’s folders, hit “Search for Media Servers” in any one of the tabs, then select your Mac when it pops up. As the names suggest, you can only look at pictures in the Pictures tab, video in the Video tab, and music in the Music tab.  While you’re in these menus, you can create playlists, create slideshows, and even copy the media to your PS3’s hard drive.  I would recommend doing this all over an ethernet connection rather than Wi-Fi because it is a faster and more stable connection.

Music and pictures played smoothly and cleanly.  Videos did all right, though I noticed times when the video would have to stop and buffer, but this was usually a result of my Mac being in a weak Wi-Fi zone.  Quality was pretty good during streaming, as I noticed very little quality degradation.  Likewise, copying of my Mac’s 6-gig Music folder to the PS3’s hard drive took about 1-hour over my network connection.

Probably the biggest negative about this app is the fact that it is not the most straight forward to set up.  Its look is somewhat intimidating if you don’t know what you’re doing, but the developers who support this app are constantly helping people to make sure you get the best results.  The community has several plugins to make your Media Server better, such allowing you to browse and stream content from Mac Smart Folders.

One last thing about the app is that it is a Java app.  This means that you will need Java on your computer to run, which many of the latest Macs don’t have at the moment.  To update your Java, click the appropriate links at the bottom of the article for your system.  PS3 Media Server is a free app available for OS 10.5 and later (Leopard and later).  It also runs on Windows XP and later,  Fedora 11 and later, and Ubuntu 8.10 and later.  You can check download the app at http://www.ps3mediaserver.org/.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about this or any other topic, leave a comment below or email us at easyosx@live.com  You can also check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube by hitting the buttons on the top of your screen.  And check out our Google Plus.  Thanks!

Java for Leopard (10.5): http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1359

Java for Snow Leopard: (10.6): http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1550

Java for Lion (10.7): http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1515

WWDC: For the Mac

This is a 2-part article series.  This first part covers what has been announced for OS X and the Mac product lines.

MACBOOK AIRS:

The new MacBook Airs have received a few notable upgrades.  First, the Airs are all getting i5 Intel Ivy Bridge Chips, as well as the Turbo Boost feature.  Each now come with 4 gigs of RAM upgradable to 8 gigs.

Apple’s Macbook Airs. No noteable design changes.

However, they can be upgraded to 512 Gigs of Solid State Memory on all but the lowest end 11-inch model.  You can also upgrade all but the lowest end 11 inch model to an i7 Intel Ivy Bridge Chip, starting at 2.0 Ghz.

All the Airs are also getting 2 USB 3.0 ports.  Apple has finally seen fit to upgrade to USB 3.0, and each Air will have a 3.0 port on each side of the Mac.  They still have the same Thunderbolt port, headphone jack, and power port.  Lastly, they will have a 720p front facing Facetime camera. You can begin buying them today and will get Mountain Lion for free.

MACBOOK PRO:

The MacBook Pros also see a minor spec update as well as a removal.  The 17 inch MacBook Pro has been silently discontinued, though you can still buy refurbished models from the Apple Store. The low-end 13-inch MBP will have a non-upgradeable 2.5 Ghz i5 Intel Ivy Bridge processor.  All the other MBP will be getting i7 Ivy Bridge processors. All the chips will have Turbo Boost.

The 13 inch MBP’s will also be getting the graphics upgraded to use Intel HD Graphics 4000 instead of the former 3000. The 15 inch model will be using NVidia GeForce GT 650M graphics cards.  The lower end models have 4 gigs of RAM, but can be upgraded to 8 gigs, while the higher end models have 8 gigs installed already. You can upgrade all but the low-end 13-inch models to a Sold State hard drive and up to 512 gigs.

All the MBP’s will be getting USB 3.0 and 720p Facetime cameras, just like the Airs.  They also still have their CD/DVD drives.  Like the Air, you can begin buying them today and will get Mountain Lion for free.

THE NEXT GENERATION MACBOOK PRO / RETINA DISPLAY MACBOOK PRO:

Apple announced a brand new MacBook Pro, which they call the Next Generation MacBook Pro.  It truly is the direction Apple is taking for the future.

The Next-Gen MBP will only be available in a 15 inch model.  The CD/DVD drive has been removed and the thickness decreased; this means the Next-Gen MBP is 4.5 pounds in weight and 0.7 inches thick.  It’s

The Retina display of the new MacBook Pro

about as thick as the MacBook Air, but still has the squared design rather than the tapered design of the Air.  Like the Air, it uses a Solid-State hard drive.  The low-end model has a non-upgradable 256 gig drive, the upper end model comes 512 gigs of storage, but it can be upgraded to 768 gigs of space, over three-quarters of a terabyte.

Both models also come with the NVidia GeForce 650M graphics cards, and i7 Ivy Bridge chips with Turbo Boost.  Both models also come with 8 gigs of RAM by default, but can be upgraded to 16 gigs of RAM, making this a power horse.  And both sport the 720p Facetime camera, an SD card slot, 2 USB 3.0 ports, 2 Thunderbolt ports and, for the first time, a HDMI port.

Most of the body is taken up by battery, almost half of it because of the biggest news.  The Next-Gen MBP has a 2880 by 1800 Retina Display, which is double the resolution of the standard MBP or Airs.  Between this high-definition display and the new graphics chip, the Next-Gen MBP’s screen look beautiful.  Apple showed off some Diablo 3, as well their updated Pro apps like Final Cut and Aperture.  It is available to order today.

MOUNTAIN LION:

Apple talked a lot about Mountain Lion at WWDC.  Apple showed a little of Notes and Reminders, two iOS apps making their way to OS X.  Reminders and Notes sync with their counterparts on the iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch so that you always have access to your notes and reminders.  Reminders also integrates with iCal.  Apple showed off Messages, allowing you to iMessage anyone in your contacts list from your Mac.  It also means you don’t always don’t have to pull out your phone to answer an iMessage.

Apple is always bringing in a unified notification system, just like they did with iOS 5.  With a quick swipe to the right, you can see all of your active notifications such as Calendar appointments, new email,Notification Center's sidebar Reminders, App Store Updates, and more.  Apps that integrate with Notifications will also pop up in a small box in the upper right hand corner, similar to how the app Growl works.

Another cool feature is called Power Nap.  Power Nap allows you to put your Mac to sleep and still allow it to fetch information.  Your Mac will still be able to sync through iCloud, fetch your mail, and run Find My Mac, among other iCloud features.  Your Mac will also be able to back up with Time Machine and run software updates.  All of this will happen without your mac having to wake up, turn on the fan, and will use minimal battery.  Hopefully other apps will implement this feature soon after release.  It is also unclear whether updating means updates to OS X and/or Mac App Store apps.

Apple also brought over Voice Dictation, using the same style technology as the iPad.  It works in Japanese, English (U.S.,  U.K., and Australian), German, and French.  They also have worked to make sharing information from everywhere a reality.  Share Sheets, as Apple calls it, allows you to share text, pictures, websites and documents with a variety of services.  Apps like Safari, as well as Finder, allows you to Tweet, email, message, and post to Facebook any of these items.

Facebook link sharing from Mountain Lion’s Share Sheet.

This also shows that you can post to Facebook or just update your status directly from OS X, though this doesn’t mean you can check your wall or timeline from OS X.  You will be able to comment on what your friends post and you will get Facebook notifications in Notification Center.

Mountain Lion also brings Game Center and AirPlay to the Mac.  Game Center allows you to play games with anyone on a Mac, iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch that supports Game Center.  You can also track high scores, achievements, and more.  This leads us into AirPlay; Mountain Lion allows you to mirror your Mac’s screen through an Apple TV, meaning you can beam your Mac’s display to a HDTV.  You can browse the web, play games, and stream media all to a bigger screen.  Apple also is allowing you to share a screen in Game Center with your friends through AirPlay.  So if you’re playing a game on your Mac, and your friend wants to play the same game against you on their iPad, you can play split-screen through your Apple TV.

Apple also showed off Safari.  Safari now will have their search bar integrate with the address bar, allowing you to search from the unified bar.  Safari also has updated the way tabs work.  First, you can use a gesture to visually see and sort through all of your tabs.  The style look very similar to the way it works on an iPhone and iPod Touch.  Also, Safari now allows you to sync your open tabs through iCloud to any of your Macs or iDevices.

Apple did not talk much about Gatekeeper in their discussion of Mountain Lion today.  Gatekeeper is their service in Mountain Lion that allows you to limit where you can install apps from on your Mac.  There probably wasn’t anything major enough to update and talk about, as the feature is pretty straight forward.

iCLOUD:

A lot of the news about iCloud on the Mac focused specifically around the apps Apple was bringing from iOS to the Mac, as well as Safari.  Two items were specifically highlighted though.

First is Photo Stream.  Apple is updating Photo Stream so that you can share and combine Photo Streams with other people and share them.  You can select Photos from your Mac or iDevice and create a shared Photo Stream album.  This could be useful for people wanting to share photos from a family event taken with their own iDevices.  However, this functionality is not yet implemented and likely won’t be until the release of Mountain Lion and iOS 6.

The second was Documents in the Cloud improvements.  When Documents in the Cloud was originally debuted, people thought it would work like Dropbox in the sense that you could edit documents on one Apple device and then it would automatically sync to another.  In reality, it only worked for iOS devices, not for Mac.  Apple has come back and improved this functionality.  Apple showed off Pages on Mountain Lion being able to pull and edit documents from your iCloud document library and edit them, then have them immediately upload back to iCloud when you’re done.  They also said this functionality would be in Keynote and Numbers.  This is exactly what iCloud has need, and hopefully it will work just as functioned when Mountain Lion and iOS 6 are released.

APPLE’S PRO APPS:

Apple showed off a little of their updated Pro apps, specifically Aperture (their professional photo-editing software) and Final Cut X (their professional video-editing software).  While new features weren’t really announced, Apple did say they were being updated to support the Retina Display of the Next-Gen MacBook Pro.  This elicited a lot of excitement from several professional editors in the crowd.  Any other major updates weren’t talked about while the Keynote was going on.

CONCLUSION:

Apple had a lot to talk about on stage and they were really excited to announce it.  The biggest news from the Mac side of things has to be the Next-Gen MacBook Pro with the Retina Display, though improved iCloud integration, Facebook in OS X, notifications, and Power Nap also really stick out in my mind.  Tell us what you think below about WWDC.  What did you like, what did you dislike, and what do you wish Apple had talked about/shown off?  Let us know below, or hit us up on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.  Thanks!

App of the Week: FBContacts

Thanks to iCloud, it’s easier than ever to sync your contacts and their info from your Mac to your iOS devices, and back.  Facebook also allows people to share that contact info with friends, sometimes more than they realize.  But the information on Facebook is not always the information you have in your contact book.  Facebook users tend to put their birthdays on the social network, as well as other important information, things that tend not to always be in your Address Book.  FBContacts steps in as the intermediary.

FBContacts works by letting you pull your Facebook friends information and add it into your Mac’s Address Book.  The app can pull things like their website url, phone numbers, email addresses, and more.  It also allows you to use your friends’ Facebook profile pictures as the picture in your Address Book.  Of course for this to work your friends have to be posting reliable information, and not saying they were born in the 1800’s or that their hometown is the bottom of the ocean.  If this is the case, FBContacts can pull down that information and add it to your contact information.  Fortunately, FBContacts has you covered; from the information FBContacts pulls from Facebook, you can choose which of that is added to your contacts list.  That way you don’t have a false birthday listed or don’t want to see everyone’s homepage listed as their Facebook page.

Two concerns immediately come to mind: user privacy and contact overload.  For the first concern, people may be wondering about all that information being pulled off of Facebook so easily.  First, I would point out that if you didn’t want it to be widely known, you

A pretty straight forward interface. Of course I’m not willing to show you my Facebook friends.

probably shouldn’t have put it on Facebook.  That being said, however, FBContacts can only pull the information that you allow your friends to see.  This means some of my friends who have more private settings enabled on Facebook won’t have those bits of information synced to me.

The second concern is by syncing these contacts from Facebook, your Address Book could unnecessarily huge.  This leads me to one of the neat features of FBContacts.  The app can scan the names of people your Facebook friends and intelligently match them up with people of the same name in your Mac’s Address Book.  That way you don’t risk having duplicate contacts, or having all of your Facebook friends listed in your Mac.  After sorting through your Facebook contacts, FBContacts organizes your friends into “Matched”, “Collision”, and “Unmatched”.  Matched are all the contacts it was able to match, and unmatched are those contacts that had no listing in your Mac’s Address Book.  “Collision” is a handy feature for when some information doesn’t add up about a contact, or FBContacts is unsure about syncing information about a certain contact.  From there, you can tell FBContacts whether or not sync a person from any of the three lists, and what info should be synced.

FBContacts has to log into Facebook to pull the contact info and scan through them.  This of course means that the more friends you have, the longer FBContacts will take to pull all the information.  There is another problem regarding how you list people in your own Address Book.  I had a few contacts that I only listed by their first name in my Address Book, but I had multiple friends with that same name on Facebook.  FBContacts, unless you catch it beforehand, will attempt to sync all the people on Facebook of that name to that one contact on your Mac, creating some confusing when you see one person’s picture when you’re trying to call another person of that name.  I did note that I had two contacts with the same first name, we’ll say “Beth”, but I had only attached a last name to one of the “Beth”‘s. FBContacts was able to attach the proper Facebook info to the “Beth” with a last name, and did not attempt to attach it to the other “Beth”, a testament to FBContacts relative intelligence.  Also, if your friends don’t have their birth year listed on Facebook, but their birthday or birth month, then FBContacts lists them as being born in the 1600’s.  A rather strange, but humorous glitch to be sure.

FBContacts icon

Overall, FBContacts is a good way of keeping information synced between Facebook and your Address Book.  While the app doesn’t have an iOS counterpart, iCloud syncing of contacts will allow you to transfer that data between your devices.  FBContacts isn’t an app you’re likely to run everyday, or even every week, but good for a sync every once in a while.  FBContacts is made by Lord Of Software and is available in the Mac App Store for $1.99 (American) and runs on OS 10.6 and higher (Snow Leopard and higher).

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about this or any other topic, leave a comment below or email me at easyosx@live.com  You can also check me out on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube by hitting the buttons on the top of your screen.  And check out my Google Plus.  Thanks!

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