On Apple Macs

Apple Command Key by Fi20100, on Flickr

Apple Command Key by Fi20100, on Flickr

In late 2009, I finally purchased my first Mac. My five-year-old self-built PC was on its last legs, and I had coveted a Mac Pro for some time. Alas, this was somewhat out of my budget and I settled for a Mac Mini (since passed on to my parents when I purchased a MacBook Pro the following summer).

I had intended at the time to document the transition from Windows to Mac but never got round to it, so this will be a series of occasional retrospective posts on the practicalities of that transition.

Moving from a PC to a Mac did take some getting used to. As a power user, I found that re-learning keyboard shortcuts was most challenging – I continued to use a PC at work, and still do, which probably didn’t help. Most common shortcuts were pretty much the same, substituting  (Command) for Ctrl in shortcuts such as Ctrl + C (copy), Ctrl + P (print) and so on.

More challenging to commit to muscle memory were those that were more significantly different. The trickiest was getting used to ⌘ + O for open, rather than Enter/Return, closely followed by ⌘ + Tab to change between applications being distinct from ⌘ + ` to change between windows within an application. This is quite unlike Microsoft Windows, which makes no such distinction with Alt + Tab to cycle between all open windows, regardless of application. Other things such as the inability to cut files (only to copy/paste them) also initially threw me.

After a few months, this ceased to be an real problem – I guess my muscle-memory just adapted to using both systems on a daily basis. There are still moments when I curse that MacOS X doesn’t have something Windows has, or that Windows does something illogical when the equivalent is very straightforward on MacOS X. But generally I am well settled into the Mac world, which I generally prefer to battling with Windows, and when the time comes I suspect that this MacBook Pro will be replaced by a MacBook Air…

A Protracted Absence

More than four and a half years have passed since I last updated this blog. It’s about time that changed!

A fresh install of WordPress was first on the agenda, though the layout may change as I tweak the site. A number of the old posts were no longer relevant at all – such as a test of GNER Wifi when it was new – so I have not reinstated them. I have left are those that might still be useful (or simply quaint, such as my early thoughts on the iPhone and the iPhone 3G when it was announced).

More regular updates to both this blog and the site will be forthcoming…

iPhone 3G

Although I’ve been too busy to blog in the last couple of months, after my previous entry I was keeping a pretty close eye on the iPhone rumours as they trickled (flooded?!) onto the net.

The announcement of the iPhone 3G last Monday has created a bit of a stir, though the release of a 3G iPhone was probably one of the worst kept tech secrets this year.

So what of my predictions/wishlist, which included 3G, GPS, more memory, and a video camera, as well as a general comment on the cost of the device?

  • 3G: Check, though there is currently some debate which network speeds the “UMTS/HSDPA” listed in the specs will actually support (1.8, 3.6 or 7.2Mbit/s, though one of the first two seems more likely).
  • GPS: Check. Although the SDK states that “[a]pplications may not be designed or marketed for real time route guidance” amongst other things, I imagine that Apple could come to a suitable arrangement with well-known companies such as TomTom or Garmin.
  • More memory: No, and this surprised me somewhat at first. But a 32GB iPhone would presumably compete with the iPod touch, and I imagine bumping that up to 64GB to maintain product differentiation would make it prohibitively expensive and start competing with the iPod Classic
  • Video camera: No (and not even an upgrade of the existing camera).
  • Price: Slashed. On a £35/month contract (600 mins, 500 texts) with O2, the iPhone will be £59(8GB)/£159(16GB), whilst on a £45/month contract (1200 mins, 500 texts) it will be Free(8GB)/£59 respectively.

In addition subsidizing it on a contract, O2 will be offering a pay-as-you-go version, though the price has yet to be announced, and one of the key benefits of the contract is unlimited/fair use data which would probably cost a lot on PAYG. iPhone users will also have access to more than 9000 commercial wifi hotspots for free, with the announcement that O2 have also partnered with BT Openzone, adding a further 3000 wifi hotspots to the 6000 available through The Cloud.

There is also a suggestion that tethering the iPhone 3G to a laptop may be officially sanctioned by O2 – if so, this is fantastic. If not, I imagine that once jailbroken software is released, such tethering will be achievable sooner or later.

So, all in all, not a truly groundbreaking revision of the iPhone. The lack of Flash support is still a pain, as is the fact that there is still no cut and paste. I imagine these features could both be shipped in a software update, if Apple wants to…

Something which could not be upgraded like this is the capacity: it is a real shame there has not been an increase in capacity with the iPhone 3G. With the App Store on the way, in addition to personal music and video content, more than 16GB on the high-end iPhone would have been good. I imagine there will be a revision of the iPhone 3G, perhaps around Christmas, which will increase the capacity to 24 or 32GB.

So, will I get the new iPhone? I’m not too sure yet. My current phone is slowly dying, the lack of 3G – my major objection to the iPhone – has gone, and it is priced much more attractively than before. But I’d still have to pay off the remainder of my existing contract, and it would be nice to have more than 16GB of storage. I imagine I’ll sit it out until maybe a month or two after the release date and see how things look then. At least it should be jailbroken by then!

iPhone Developments

A pretty cool video presentation by Steve Jobs et al demonstrating the forthcoming iPhone 2.0 Software including Enterprise tools and the SDK.

I’ve held off the iPhone bandwagon so far. The main reasons were as follows:

  • iPhone cost (£269 + £35/month tariff on O2 with 200 minutes and 200 texts – very stingy).
  • Not enough storage – I would use it as an iPod as well, and 8GB does not cover my music collection.
  • No SDK, so unsupported hacks to run anything which isn’t a web application.
  • No 3G – ubiquitous Wifi is not a reality yet, resulting in slow web browsing… and web applications.
  • (Last, but not least) an existing phone contract that would need to be paid off.

Since its original release though, changes in O2′s pricing structure, a minor iPhone upgrade, and now the announcement of iPhone Software 2.0 have changed the situation significantly.

£35 per month gets you 600mins & 500 texts, in line with other phones. 16GB solves the storage problems for me, the initial extra cost of purchase being negated by the fact that it is useful as an iPod. The SDK opens the door to native iPhone applications which are not limited by the speed of the internet connection. The Apps store allows Apple to control the platform – and you cannot complain about the cost if you wish to release a free application! If you wish to charge, is a 70/30 split fair? Is it possible to make an app for personal use only – do you have to release it to the Apps store in order to get it onto your iPhone… and if so, will this stifle development?

I am still on my old tariff, so I won’t be getting a new phone just yet. If I did, the iPhone is now looking very attractive indeed – the only significant issue for me is its lack of 3G – without this, I’d be very reluctant to buy one. However, I am an optimist, so here are my wishes/hopes for the next hardware revision:

  • 3G – essential. If iPhone v2 has this and nothing else on this list, I am still likely to buy it as my next phone.
  • GPS – becoming commonplace in high-end phones, and with the SDK would allow some very cool applications.
  • More memory? Flash prices are falling and with (hopefully) lots of interesting applications being developed, a little more storage would be nice, though not essential.
  • Video camera? I’d not use it that much, but again a common feature on phones these days and nice to have now and again.

We shall see what happens… I think 3G is almost inevitable.