Tag Archives: OS X

Microsoft should split Windows into two separate OSes

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This is Windows 8’s Metro mode. It literally doesn’t have windows anymore.

Microsoft is trying to walk back some of the polarizing aspects of Windows 8 with updates to the OS, but the real issue is the fundamental mistake of trying to make one OS that can run on traditional desktops and laptops, while also running on tablets and smartphones.

Microsoft needs to split Windows into two separate OSes. Windows 9 should look and feel like Windows 7 with new features and refinements. Forget Windows 8 and 8.1 entirely.

The Metro mode (the entire look on Windows smartphones) should be spun off into its own OS without the Windows name. It doesn’t have to be called Metro, but Microsoft needs to come up with a fresh name for its mobile OS.

I use Windows 8 every day at work. It’s not that bad as some would have you believe, but I like it less than Windows 7. Shouldn’t every release be more enjoyable and better? I consider Windows 7 to be the best version of Windows ever. It has a pretty clean windowing UI, it’s stable and secure and generally just works.

Windows 7 is an OS that really appeals to Microsoft’s core audience. Why mess with it?

I have my Windows 8 machine set to boot straight to desktop mode, and I have the start menu back; so it’s pretty similar to using Windows 7. But every now and then you accidentally open up an app or file in Metro mode, and it’s a really disorienting experience when one of my monitors is in metro mode and the other is in desktop mode. It really is one of the worst and most inexcusable computing experiences you can have today.

The core issue of Windows 8 is that it tries to merge two pretty good UI concepts together, and in the process makes both worse. I like Metro as a tablet and phone UI. I like the Windows 7 UI for desktop computing. It’s when you have to use Metro on a desktop or Windows 7 windowing on a tablet that it all goes to hell.

This is a pretty nice phone UI. I would not want to use this on my dual-monitor desktop in my office.

This is a pretty nice phone UI. I would not want to use this on my dual-monitor desktop in my office.

Microsoft has a new CEO. He doesn’t have to save face like Steve Ballmer might have tried to. He can simply say that Windows 8 was a mistake , and we’re going in a different direction.

The time is now to end this failed experiment to create one OS to rule them all.  Make Windows 9 the best traditional Windows it can be. Aim it at businesses and people who want to use the same OS they use at work at home. Focus on networking and cloud support (integrate OneDrive even further into the OS as a major selling point), improving multithreaded support (make it easier for developers to harness 4-12 and more core computers) and improving the file system.

The UI concepts of Windows 7 are pretty good. You can iterate on the UI and add new features like Apple does with OS X, but there is no reason to get away from windowing for desktop computing. It’s a conceptual model that works well, particularly for power users and work that benefits from multiple-monitors and multitasking.

Microsoft should then spin off Metro into its own OS without the Windows name, while still using the Windows kernel. This is what Apple does with iOS, and it works very well. Apple executives have recently come out and said that merging iOS and OS X into one OS would be a waste of time.

The needs of a user vary drastically by context. When someone is trying to edit two spreadsheets side by side his needs are very different then when they are trying to get directions while walking around a city. There is no reason to believe that tablets will replace laptops, so why not an OS that assumes that?

I use OS X at home, and think Mavericks is what Microsoft should be aiming for, not Windows 8. Mavericks is the best desktop OS I’ve ever used, and, while I really like iOS, I wouldn’t want to use iOS on my desktop computer.

Apple has shown Microsoft the path forward. Make the best desktop OS with windows you can. Make the best mobile OS without windows you can.

It’s that simple.

Episode 97: Mac OS El Camino (30 years of the Macintosh)

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We discuss 30 years of the Macintosh and what the Macintosh has meant to computing and  to us.

We also discuss if iOS and OS X will eventually become one OS. The Mac is stronger than ever today, and you can see a lot of the original Macintosh in today’s Macs. But will the 50th-year celebration still show that same linage?

Will the Mac be around in 20 years? Would we be where we are today if Apple had gone under in the 90s?

We also start off the show with a discussion about Google Glass and sex.

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Episode 88: Professor Bling

Yes, Jeremy got a Gold iPhone. Professor Bling.

Yes, Jeremy got a Gold iPhone. Professor Bling.

We discuss going with contract free smartphone service in the U.S.

As Jeremy says, “Unlocked phones are the way to go.” We further discuss his experience buying unlocked iPhones and why he decided to go contract-free. He is going to save money in the first two years. After that, he may save a lot of money.

We also further discuss OS X 10.9 Mavericks.

We’re both getting big battery life with the upgrades, and this is the No. 1 reason to upgrade your Mac laptop to the latest OS. We also discussing how background app updates could be a really big feature for a lot of users.

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Episode 87: OS X 10.9 Mavericks review and drone journalism

Yes, OS X 10.9 Mavericks is named after a surfing spot in California.

Yes, OS X 10.9 Mavericks is named after a surfing spot in California.

We discuss OS X 10.9 Mavericks and how we like running it so far.

The short review is that we like it. It’s been a very smooth upgrade. I recommend it for most OS X users, but it can’t hurt to the first major point release, 10.9.1.

We also discuss the 2013 Online News Association conference. In particular, we discuss drones for journalism.

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Episode 45: OS X Mountain Lion review

Our OS X Mountain Lion review is here.

We like it. We think most Mac users should upgrade. It’s the best version of OS X yet.

Listen to find out what we like and don’t like about Mountain Lion.

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Making text editing faster and easier on the iPad


Daniel Hooper made the above demo to show how text editing could be made much faster and more efficient on the iPad.

The iPad is a good device for writing text (I start a lot of the posts that appear here on the iPad), but it’s not great for editing text. It’s much slower than a standard keyboard and mouse setup for editing text, especially for the rearranging of text, as Hooper points out:

Tapping directly on text to move the cursor works well for small portions of text, but we don’t just write short portions of text anymore! When performing lots of edits in larger documents the direct interaction metaphor falls apart for cursor control. Even short portions of text can be painful to edit when you need to move the cursor to a precise location. Would you ever want to write a document on your computer without using the arrow keys? This is the reality iPad users face because they do not have the equivalent of arrow keys. There is a better way.

I think it would be difficult to write a long paper or article on the iPad because text selection is so slow to do, and a large part of writing is figuring out where the pieces fit.

That’s a shame because I do like to use my iPad to edit and proofread longer posts that I start on my computer, and I know the editing process could be even better. There is just something about editing writing on a separate device in a different atmosphere. I might do the bulk of my writing at my desk in my office, but I really like to sit back and relax on the couch with the iPad for editing.

The above prototype shows how Apple could make editing text much faster. I think Apple’s current setup should stay, but they should add something similar to what this video is showing for power users. Apple”s current text editing capabilities are very obvious, which is important, but they are too slow for power users.

Offering provisions for both power users and regular users is what Apple has been doing for years with OS X. It’s about time we started seeing the same with iOS.

iTunes should be split into 3-4 smaller, more focused apps

Should iTunes be split into smaller, discrete applications that focus on specific tasks? iTunes being bloated and slow is not a new meme, but there has been a lot of discussion recently about breaking iTunes up into separate applications for different tasks.

It’s important to note that iTunes began just as a music jukebox app. All it did was play music files, and it was very good at that. It was also a very good companion to early iPods, but as iTunes aged and took on more tasks, it became a poor application for most uses.

By making iTunes into several small apps, Apple could deliver more features and granularity without overloading users.  Imagine iTunes with more features and granularity. That sounds like a terrible proposition.

Doesn’t iTunes already do too much?

iTunes has the paradoxical distinction of both doing too much and too little. It does too much because it handles too many discrete function. But it also does too little because it often doesn’t delve that deeply into what each discrete function can too. iTunes is a music jukebox application that also plays movies; iTunes is also movie management software that has almost no movie management controls.

iTunes is a bloated piece of software that does a lot (Apple bills it as an application that has “Everything in one place,” which is sadly too accurate). Adding more features to it — even features that make a lot of sense — comes with the cost of making the application needlessly more complex and slow. As long as iTunes is one giant application — almost an operating system for digital media — Apple will hesitate in adding too many features for a specific area of the application.

Take the iTunes Store; it exists as one section of a big application. Giving it more features and granularity would only increase the feeling that iTunes is overloaded (and would make the application even slower to load). But, there are a lot of features missing from the store that would make it easier to shop and find interesting content.

There is no way to search for movies by rating — either customer ratings or Rotten Tomatoes ratings. I’d love to have the ability to find out the highest rated movies by genre, decade and overall. Or how about seeing reviewers and users lists of which movies to check out? But if that functionality was added in today, it would make iTunes seem even more complex.

Without features like this, it’s difficult to discover great movies. The only thing that the iTunes Store is good at is showing what is popular right now. It’s not good at showing me historically popular movies or highly rated movies (or music or TV shows).

This is what happens when one app tries to do the job of three-to-four applications. What does purchasing movies have anything to do with making music playlists? What do music playlists have to do with syncing content between my Mac and my iPad?

iTunes tries to do too many things. When I plug in my iPhone to sync files, it launches iTunes, which then triggers automatic downloads of video files that I may have available for download. When I’m trying to sync my device, I don’t need video files from TV shows that I purchased on my Apple TV to automatically start downloading.

Because iTunes does so many things, it feels slow. It takes several seconds for the app to launch and for me to finally be able to do something. If I just want to listen to music, why am I being greeted with the iTunes store or my movie collection?

Whenever I open iTunes it opens to the last section of the application that I had open. Considering that iTunes does so many different things, this can greatly impede my ability to do what I want to do. If the last thing I had open for the iTunes Store, the application has to load, than the store and then I can finally do what I want to do in the application. If all I want to do is listen to music, having the iTunes store load first makes no sense. But when you have an application that does so much, how do you even decide what should be the first thing that people see when they start the program up? If an application ever has a big identity crisis where it can’t decide what makes the most sense to start with each and every time, that application has become too bloated and is trying to do too many things.

An application like that lacks focus.

When I open up Sparrow, I’m shown my inbox. When I open up Twitter for OS X, I’m shown my Twitter feed. With Safari, I get my homepage. With iTunes, I get whatever I had open the last time I closed the app.

There are a bunch of ways that it could be broken into separate, discrete apps. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer when it comes to how to do it, but the right answer is surely to separate iTunes into distinct apps.

Syncing should have always been a separate app for iOS devices. iTunes not only handles syncing of my music files but it also handles syncing of movies, TV shows, applications, photos, contacts, preferences, etc. This makes no sense. Apple is moving away from iTunes as a syncing platform towards iCloud, and eventually anything but iCloud syncing could be eliminated, but that won’t happen for years.

iCloud is not, nor is much of the world’s Internet infrastructure, in the right place to only allow cloud-based syncing and backups. Thus, the syncing portion of iTunes should be an entirely separate application. Something lightweight, easy to use and with plenty of granularity.

And something that I only see and load when I’m trying to sync.

After separating syncing into a new app, there are several routes to go. Apple could simply break up the rest of iTunes into two applications: One for playing media files and one for purchasing media files. All of the sudden the store area of the app would be gone from iTunes (iTunes Store, iTunes Match and Ping), as well as Genius and the Devices section. This has significantly pared down the left-hand navigation column, while also removing a lot of code and bloat from the application.

Where Ping, iTunes’s built in social network, fits in is anyone’s guess. It speaks to how hopelessly lost iTunes is as an application that it also comes with a social network. You can’t search for movies in the iTunes Store by best rated, but you can share the latest song you purchased in a ghost town of a social network.

The other major option would be to split iTunes up into separate audio and video applications. iTunes is a pretty good music player. Yes, it is missing some functions that more dedicated music playing applications have, but it’s pretty good for playing music and this is where iTunes is at its best. iTunes, however, does the bare minimum for storing and playing video files.

iTunes doesn’t have a good way for people to store large video collections in different ways. Nor does iTunes really work for any video management and playback for files not purchased in the iTunes store (imagine if iTunes only handled audio files that were purchased through the iTunes Store). iTunes functions as the most bare minimum video storage software that you can think of, but there is no reason that it isn’t more full featured like the music portion of iTunes.

For instance, why doesn’t iTunes show all of the TV shows and movies that I have available to stream through iCloud? With movies and TV shows in the cloud, the idea of locally storing video files on my Mac is going away. Rather, I’d like to have a good interface to see all the movies that I have purchased and am storing in the cloud.

Because I’m much more apt to buy movies and TV shows now that I don’t have to handle local storage, I could really use a way to categorize my video content and make playlists. One day when I have a 100 or so movies from iTunes in the cloud, I’d greatly appreciate the ability to sort and categorize movies the way that makes sense to me.

From this audio/video split two different directions can be taken: the store functions can be kept on each app or the store function could be its own app. The biggest question is how much does being able to purchase music from the same app as you listen to it help consumers buy and enjoy music?

From a usability perspective, it’s very convenient to purchase music from the same app that you listen to it in. The iOS App store, however, seems to suggest that people understand the difference between an app for buying something and an app (or OS) for using something. Users are downloading a lot more apps than songs these days.

Seeing how successful downloading and running apps on the iPhone and iPad are makes me realize that average users clearly understand how to use two separate apps that work together. Because of this, I’d recommend that the iTunes Store become its own application, no matter how the rest of iTunes is split up.

This leaves us with two good options for splitting up iTunes:

  • iTunes (for music and video management and playback), iTunes Store and iOS Sync application.
  • iTunes (for music playback and management only. Back to its roots), iTunes Store, iOS Sync and a much more robust video application (for file management and playback).

Both of these options are much stronger than what we have today. These apps would be small, lean apps that could support additional features that iTunes couldn’t dream of adding it its bloated state. This is the kind of win-win that a company that focuses on usability and focus should do.

These apps could finally have UIs that make sense for each distinct function that iTunes tries to do. Why exactly would you use the same general UI concepts for music management software as you would for a store to purchase movies?

iOS and the Mac App store have proven that people enjoy using smaller discrete apps (I prefer using Instapaper to Safari’s built in Reading List because I get a lot more features with Instapaper without adding bloat and complexity to Safari itself). Perhaps the reason that Apple made iTunes do so many things was that in the past the average computer user didn’t buy and install a lot of new applications. Before the iOS App Store and the Mac App Store, it was a hassle for a non-geek to get new software.

Now it’s easier for me to purchase a new application on my Mac than it is for me to make coffee in the morning. I’m talking about real software from big-name companies and great upstarts. And keeping all of my applications up to date? Dead simple.

Apple itself has shown that users will embrace smaller, more focused applications. It’s time for Apple to focus iTunes.

Episode 33: Should computers and computing systems auto update?

2010 Ford Edge - Sync 3

We discuss the purchase of Instagram by Facebook.

Jeremy is concerned. I’m taking a wait and see approach.

Then we have a big discussion about computers and computing systems automatically installing updates and patches for users. Most users don’t keep their computers and computing systems up to date. So doesn’t it make sense that more computers and computing systems are auto updating? Won’t this lead to less malware and a better user experience?

But what happens if that computing system being updated is within the car you’re driving?

It’s a serious usability discussion. Both sides have drawbacks and benefits. Perhaps the answer comes down to the user and the use case.

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Episode 26: An OS X a year keeps the doctor away?

We discuss the big news that Apple is releasing a new desktop OS this year.

Most of us did not expect to see a successor to OS 10.7 Lion for several years. To our surprise we’ll be seeing OS 10.8 Mountain Lion a year after Lion debut. The big news is that Apple is going to a yearly release cycle.

There are several features that we are excited about, most notably AirPlay streaming, which allows users to wirelessly stream their computer’s screen to their TVs.

We have concerns, however. Releasing an OS a year is a lot of work. Will more bugs creep into OS X? People are still complaining about Lion’s bugginess, and it usually takes several patches to get a new OS to be really stable.

We talk about this and much more.

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Episode 12: Our Steve Note

We celebrate the career and genius of Steve Jobs this week.

This podcast would not have happened without Steve Jobs and Apple. No other tech company celebrates the humanities and liberal arts like Apple does.

We also discuss life at Apple beyond Steve Jobs. Is Tim Cook up to it? What will Steve’s role be at Apple moving forward?

What will Steve be most proud of about his time at Apple?

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