Apple to Release Mountain Lion Wednesday (and how to prepare):

Mountain Lion is about to be uncaged (Image from apple.com)

In their earnings call today, Apple announced that they will be releasing the next version of OS X, dubbed Mountain Lion, on Wednesday July 25th.  OS 10.8 will be sold in the Mac App Store for $20 (American), though people who have bought Mac’s since June 11th will be given a free update upon request.

In order to run Mountain Lion, your Mac will need to meet the system requirements.  According to Apple, and borrowed from Macworld, these Mac models will support mountain Lion:

  • MacBook (Late 2008 Aluminum, or Early 2009 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid/Late 2007 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer)
  • iMac (Mid 2007 or newer)
  • Mac mini (Early 2009 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer)
  • Xserve (Early 2009)

Apple says you will need at least 2 gigs of RAM (though I advise at least 4 gigs), at least 8 gigs of free hard drive space (again, I recommend more, maybe 20 to be safe), and an Intel Core 2 Duo processor.  Your Mac also needs to be running Snow Leopard 10.6.8 or any version of Lion, though it is advised you have the latest version of Lion to be safe.  To check if you have all of the requirements, go to the Apple logo in the top left-hand corner of your Mac, and select about this Mac.  This will tell you how much RAM you have, what version of OS X you are using, and what processor you have.  If you want to see what model or year number your Mac is, download the free Mactracker and find out.

There are some things you can do to prepare your Mac for the upgrade, so here’s a rundown.

RUN YOUR UPDATES:

This goes both for your Mac and your apps.  First go to the Apple logo in the top left-hand corner and select “Software Update”.  This will give you any updates needed for your Mac’s OS, plugins, and a few other apps.  Keep running this until there is nothing left for Software Update to install.   If you have purchased anything from the Mac App Store, go to the Updates section and make sure

Update your stuff (image from apple.com)

all of your apps are up to date, as most of them should have already been upgraded for Mountain Lion compatibility.

For any apps you bought outside the Mac App Store, for example Chrome, Firefox, Adobe Flash, etc.  Most should have built-in update processes that should at least notify or let you check for updates.  Make sure you run all of them.  You could also use a third party tool to check for updates, like Cnet Techtracker or AppFresh.

BACKUP:

Apple’s upgrades usually go smoothly, but it’s not uncommon for some people to have problems.  That’s why it’s best to have a backup of all your personal stuff so that you don’t risk losing it.  Even better is a bootable backup to restore from, which you can create with a tool like SuperDuper or Carbon  Copy Cloner.  The key part of this is to make sure that your backup works as well.  So if you’re using an external hard drive, for example, make sure you can access the files by plugging it into your Mac or another Mac and opening some of the files.  If you’re using a bootable backup solution, make sure you can boot off of your Mac; you can do this by plugging in your external hard drive, restarting your Mac, and holding the “Option” key when the Mac starts up.  Then select the external hard drive and if all is well, then your Mac shoot boot up from the external hard drive.

CHECK FOR ERRORS:

Your hard drive may or may not have errors on it.  To test this, open Disk Utility in your Utilities folder (you can also do a Spotlight search for it).  Select your Mac’s hard drive in the left sidebar, the select the “First Aid” tab (which should be selected by default) and then hit “Verify Disk Permissions” followed by “Repair Disk Permissions” when the Mac has finished the verification process.  Once you have finished

This is Disk Utility.

with permissions, run the “Verify Disk” protocol.  It should return with an “OK” message, but should it not then hit “Repair Disk”.

If the repair function cannot fix any problems with the disk, you will need to boot into the recovery partition (Lion user, hold the Option key down at boot) or run your recovery disks that came with your Mac (Snow Leopard and earlier, insert the discs, restart the Mac and hold down the Option key at boot).  From here, you will need to run the disc’s/partition’s Disk Utility or reinstall the OS.

REMOVE ENCRYPTION:

If you are using any form of an encryption tool on your Mac’s hard drive, such as the built-in FileVault, TrueCrypt, or any other similar program, you will need to remove this.  Encryption can cause problems for the update process when the Mac needs to reboot.  Encryption can be re-enabled when the update is done, but for the actual update process it needs to be removed.

 

Some of you may just want to wait a few weeks before upgrading, especially those who run servers or high end apps like Adobe, etc.  This will give others a chance to find bugs between the new OS and any other major apps and you won’t get bitten.  Likewise it means these bugs will be taken care of by the time you do decide to upgrade.  For the average user, however, as long as you follow the above steps then you should be fine.

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!

Games4Mac: Diablo III Beta

This seems like a wonderful time to get back into Games4Mac, and why not start with the Diablo 3 Beta.  Free for this weekend from Blizzard, the guys that bring you Starcraft and World of Warcraft, Diablo 3 is the third title in the Diablo franchise.  You need a Mac running 10.6.8 or higher and a free Battle.net account:

Download the game here: https://us.battle.net/account/download/index.xml

Sign up for Battle.net here: http://www.battle.net

App of the Week: Raven Browser

It seems that the world of internet browser is growing more and more daring. A few weeks ago, I reviewed the Sleipnir browser’s release for Mac, which had a very surprising twist to the browser interface, specifically where tabs and the URL bar were concerned. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been trying out the newest beta Mac browser on the scene, called Raven. Like so many new upstart browsers to the scene, this one runs on the Webkit engine, the same one that powers Safari and Chrome. As such, most browser testing sites see Raven as Safari. That being said, it feels very light, fairly responsive, and only takes up a little over 7 megabytes.

What first sticks out at you when you first run Raven is the left sidebar, called the SmartBar. You can install into Raven what are called webapps, which really are nothing more than glorified versions of websites. However, where other browsers like Firefox and Chrome simply let you pin the tab,

Screenshot of the Raven Smartbar

when you install a Raven webapp, it really acts like an app. For example, if I install the Facebook app, upon subsequent opening, the app’s icon opens up to reveal quick access to my news feed, messages, friend requests, and calendar. Likewise, other apps have appropriate shortcuts that open up under the app’s icon. If you navigate away from the webapp, you’ll see a a small little light to the right of the icon, much like the OSX dock, to show that the app is still running. These webapps are different from tabs. The tabs are found at the top, just under the URL box. But just like Safari, the tabs are hidden until you have multiple open tabs, or you re-enable them. The tabs also aren’t open in every webapp; so if I open a link in a new tab on my Facebook webapp, and then switch to the YouTube webapp, I won’t see those tabs anymore until I switch back to the Facebook app. Depending on who you are, this may be annoying or convenient, I however did not find it all that distracting. Also, most links opened from outside sources, such as a mail client, will open in the main app, which just looks like the Raven logo at the top of the Smartbar. It is also from this tab that you can easily access your history, downloads, and bookmarks.

Bookmarks also are treated a little differently in Raven. Bookmarks are organized as bookmarks and favorites. Confused? Favorites are websites that you might visit frequently. Bookmarks, are websites that you want to have for reference later or to read the articles on later. It seems a bit of an odd choice to do so, but then again many people have done this before. If you do bookmark a lot of items to be read later, you can link Raven to an Instapaper account so that you can read it later from there. Raven takes a page from Apple’s book, and then makes it better. Raven gives you a visual history of your web activity in a two-paned window style. One pane shows the link and the headers of said links that you clicked. Once you click on one of them, the second page shows you the page itself as when you visited it. I find this nicer than Safari’s visual history because it gives a nice chance to read over the page, so you don’t have to open a whole new tab if you just want to reread an article or quote a small portion of it.

The control bar, which is the main bar of the browser, also has some interesting features. On the left side of the URL/search bar, you have the standard back, forward, and home buttons, but also the add bookmark button. Here you can add the current page to either your bookmarks or favorites. On the other side of the URL/search bar, is the favorites button, for quick access to your favorites, a tab reveal button that will hide of show all your open tabs in the current window, and a mobile view switcher. I find it strange that the favorite button and the add bookmark are not closer to each other. The mobile view button allows you to switch the current webpage from a desktop browser mode, to a mobile mode that you would see on a smartphone or tablet, including the width. I can see this being handy for people testing websites, but I found the idea buggy when trying to exit mobile view. Sometimes it took a restart of the browser to fully exit mobile mode.

Since this is a beta browser, there are some flaws in the system. The browser still seems slow in some areas, such as loading the YouTube homepage, though overall it is faster than Apple’s Safari from the feel of it. I also found that it had occasional problem properly loading Flash video, meaning that my mouse arrow would sometimes vanish from screen, and the when moving to a different part of the video that hadn’t been rendered yet, Raven would get stuck loading that page. While this seemed to be fixed in a recent update to Raven, the browser still seems to struggle with Flash content. Raven also has an abundance of preferences, but it seems most of them can’t be turned on or off. For example, while there is a setting to turn on or off JavaScript being run in a page, the setting is grayed out so that I cannot change the setting

Grayed out preferences

if I want. And while Raven does have a rudimentary Ad-blocker, there are still several ads that it still seems to miss. This also relates somewhat to download. Raven automatically sends and downloaded files straight to your Downloads folder. While this isn’t necessarily bad, I prefer that it pops up a notification asking at least if I want to download the file. Once I was on a merely reading a forum when it automatically started downloading a file. What that file was, I don’t know, but that is a security flaw to me if there were any chance of getting some Mac malware or unwanted crapware on my system. The browser, like most beta browsers do, also does not support links opening the browser from an outside source. So if Raven is closed and I try to open a link from my Twitter feed, I have to click the link once to open the browser, and a second time once Raven is open to actually open the link. One last request would be the addition of notification badges in the webapps, that way I could know if something important changed on the page without always flipping to it (say like a notifications badge for Facebook, new tweets badge for Twitter, etc.).

The browser is still in beta, so it would be no surprise that most of these issues should be resolved with future updates before the final version is released. It is worth the try and is a step in the right direction, but I wouldn’t recommend using this browser just yet for work or for any sensitive web browsing. Raven is a free download from raven.io and runs on Mac OS 10.6 and 10.7 (Snow Leopard and Lion). And 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. You can also check out my Google Plus Page at https://plus.google.com/107817518299218190319. Thanks!

App of the Week: TWiT Live

Ok, I admit it, this is an app that’s pretty geeky, but I think people who aren’t even that in to technology can find something to like with this.  If you look at the “Recommended Sites” section, you’ll see the site twit.tv.  TWiT stands for This Week in Tech (note: they had the site before Twitter existed) and has set the standard for podcasting, especially in technology.  Their topics range from Macs, to Windows, to general tech news, law, etc.  They are practically their own Internet TV station, hosted and owned by the famous Leo Laporte.

However, if you don’t want to listen to the podcast, you can always watch their live feed at live.twit.tv.  Scrolling through the Mac App Store one day, I saw the TWiT logo.  Clicking on it, I found it to be an app that streams the TWiT live stream.  It streams in all the video formats that TWiT uses, from BitGravity, to Justin TV and more.  There seems to be no audio only stream, but I guess you’d want to download the app for video anyway.

Besides streaming video, the app also allows me to access the TWiT chatroom in a side window, as well as hit a button for quick access to the programming (as in shows) schedule for TWiT.  Next to those buttons, I can also see what show is playing if it is live, or know immediately that it is a previously recorded show.  In the menubar, I can see how many people are watching TWiT at any given moment.  If it is a special event, say a major keynote, the menubar item will turn red.  Lastly, if I have the app running in the background, whether or not it’s playing video, it will notify me when the next show is scheduled to start.  Of course, the key word here is scheduled since the shows tend to start a little later than they are supposed to, but that’s not the app’s fault.

So what makes this different from launching up your browser and going to TWiT itself.  Well not much to be honest.  The benefit of using the browser is that it is easier to access link or articles you might see in TWiT faster than being in the app alone.  However, I’ve found that the TWiT app is much faster at loading that going to the website (being a dedicated app and all) and that it is usually lighter on my system than the browser is overall.  That being said, if you want a more desktop-integrated style way to watch the TWiT network, download TWiT Live from the Mac App Store.  It’s a free download for Mac’s running 10.6.6 and higher.

If you have any apps you would like to suggest, comment below or send an email to easyosx@live.com.  And be sure to check out my Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter pages by hitting the big logos on top of the page.  Thanks!

App of the Week: Spotify

I’ll be honest, I don’t download music that often; I’m not buying songs left and right like some people do.  If I buy a song, it’s either because I really really like it, or I’m about to leave on a trip.  9 times out 10, I open iTunes to listen to a new podcast episode, not music.  It’s not that I hate music, far from it, but it’s because I prefer the radio style of listening to songs, like Pandora (laziness also factors in here).  There certainly are some great songs (both that I own and don’t own) that I listen to over and over, but it does get boring after a while.  So since its American debut, I’ve been trying out Spotify for my music needs.

Spotify is music streaming service that has taken most of Europe by storm.  It recently has come to America, to many people’s excitement, with deal from the major record labels.  Imagine it as iTunes meets Pandora.  After creating your account, you download the desktop client and login to your account.  From there, you can listen to the music on your hard drive just like you would on iTunes, or make playlists out of Spotify’s collection of 15 million tracks.  
The music streams over the Internet sound great (and that’s not even the higher quality streaming).  I found almost every song that I looked for, including some I had forgotten.  However, there were occasions when I couldn’t find some random songs or albums, but the rest of the band’s stuff was there.  Also, people who have more of a taste for indie music or homegrown hits may have trouble finding some songs.

You can then connect your Facebook account, that way you share music with your other friends that use Spotify, making it a lot easier to be social.  Then by connecting with them through Faceboook, you can update what song you’re listening to on Facebook, or share music and playlists with your friends.  You also have the Spotify profile, where you can tell the world what songs you like, playlists, etc.  Likewise, it also syncs to Last.fm, allowing you to scrobble tracks your hear in Spotify.

There are 3 prices for Spotify: free, unlimited, and premium.  The free version does all of the above mentioned stuff, has some visual adds that you occasionally see floating around, as well as audio ads that you’ll here about hot playlists and new music.  There aren’t too intrusive, much less of a shake-up than other ads (like Pandora), as they’re all music oriented and for Spotify, though I’m glad I finally don’t have to see the visual ad anymore for Katy Perry’s “Friday Night”.  That ad just never left my screen.  I think Spotify could benefit from culling ads to be similar to the playlists they are in, such as ads for rock bands in playlists composed or rock music, etc.  The Unlimited version ($4.99 a month) pretty much just gets rid of ads and is supposed to allow unlimited streaming, but more on that in a minute.  The Premium version ($9.99 a month) does the same as unlimited, but adds high quality streaming (really really sounds great), offline caching on devices (kind of like downloading the song temporarily for when you don’t have a great Internet connection or don’t want to use bandwidth), get early listening rights to new releases, and allows streaming to your smartphone with the Spotify app.  The app is free, you just pay for the service, so free and unlimited users can sync their own tracks (in iTunes library) with it and browse the catalog, but can’t stream music.

Now about that unlimited streaming.  At the moment, Spotify allows all users to stream music without limit in America, even free accounts.  But if it follows the path that our European friends are on, then free users won’t have this for much longer, before being cut down to 6 hours a month.  When or if that will be, nobody seems to know yet, but my bet is that it won’t last more than a year since the release date.

One thing that gets me down about Spotify’s free version is lack of a radio mode.  I like that you can build playlists of your favorite songs, but sometimes I just want to listen, not build.  I was hoping there was a radio mode, much like Pandora or Slacker Radio do, but it seems this is only available to Unlimited and Premium users.  Fortunately, you can get around this by listening to other people’s or Spotify’s own playlists, as well as getting Spotify extensions.

Spotify is available on Windows XP, Vista, and 7, Mac OS X 10.4-10.7 (Tiger through Lion), and has mobile apps for Android, iOS (iPad and iPhone), Symbian, Palm, and Windows Phone as a free download.  Spotify, as of this post, is on an invite only basis, but you can request an invite at www.spotify.com