Writing on the wall for MacBook
By Stephen WITHERS
Rumours that Apple is working on a 13in variation of the iPad make me wonder how much time is left for the MacBook family.
At present, we have the MacBook Air in 11 and 13in models, and the MacBook Pro in various 13 and 15in configurations.
But an iPad with a 13in screen, a "desktop class" ARM processor and a vaguely Surface-like keyboard cover plus the gradual unification of OS X and iOS would seem to provide a substantial overlap with the MacBook Air territory - whether or not the big iPad had the UHD display being mooted in some circles.
Trouble is, I'm still far from convinced that such a design is workable. I've been using an HP Split x2 during the last few weeks, and while it's a nice piece of kit in many respects, reaching up to the screen just isn't comfortable. For those who like to learn from history, that was one of the main reasons why light pens fell out of favour when mice and trackpads - and to a lesser extent graphics tablets - came into vogue.
Maybe you can do everything from the trackpad and keyboard, but for some operations Windows 8 seems to really want you to touch the screen. Once you do that, smudges become a nuisance. Curiously, those fingerprints don't bother me when I detach the Split's screen and use it as a tablet. What might be happening is that I slightly and subconsciously adjust the way I'm holding it so the smudges are less noticeable.
Using a stylus designed for touchscreen operation would avoid the fingerprint problem, but unlike a mouse or trackpad it doesn't remain where you last used it (thanks to gravity).
Touchscreens are fine for devices that you hold in your hands, but I'm far from convinced that the marriage of touchscreens and notebook-like devices is going to be a long and happy one.
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Turn Back Time
By David HAGUE
I had seen it once before, but it was worth watching again. ‘It’ being a TV series on the ABC called ‘Turn Back Time’.
Its premise was to take an English marketing town centre that had become unloved in favour of local shopping centres, and for a couple of days at a time, convert a few of the shops into their original use in a particular period of time. The town they used was Shepton Mallett.
For example, in the first episode, a bakery, blacksmith and butcher were among those re-created in the late 19th century and populated by folk in period costume serving food and items particular to the period.
The aim was to see who could make money and survive.
This was then done again for periods of the roaring 20’s, during WW II, in the 50s, the swinging 60s and then in the early 70s.
As well as seeing who could survive – and a number of the businesses did not, to be replaced by other shops of the era with new proprietors – the reaction of the general population which had promised to shop there during the period of the series was monitored.
At the end, the results of the experiment were interesting to say the least. As the era changed, and the shops went more and more from being totally personal in their dealings with customers to utterly self-serve, or that businesses folded as they didn’t keep up with the times (eg a record store), the general population bemoaned long and load the trend to lack of service.
BUT, when in the experiment, two shops that somewhat competed, with one being self-serve and the other being personal service, albeit with higher prices to compensate, were allowed to trade simultaneously, despite this preference for personal service, the majority went for the convenience and savings of the self-serve!
Then went the personal service business went belly up, those same folk were ‘how sad’, ‘you don’t get shops like that anymore’ and so on.
In essence, they blamed everything but themselves for the situation!
In the wake of the recent CHOICE Magazine finding that in short, the service and product knowledge levels of our major electronics stores such as HN, JB, Dick Smith etc is sadly lacking, I see a similar situation today.
People are preferring the convenience and price saving (whether perceived or not) of the internet, and then complain about a lack of service locally!
I see it often in relation to video gear where it is bought overseas and then the local vendor is blamed if something goes wrong, or warranty is refused.
Let’s face it; we can’t have it both ways. And the person that loses their job as a consequence is your neighbour, brother or sister, or best friend.
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To-do or not to-do? That is the question
By Ian GRAYSON
As someone always on the lookout for ways to achieve maximum results in the smallest number of working hours, having a to-do list that works is vital.
Now I've written about this quest before, pointing out how over the years I've tried a range of tools and apps, usually then discarding them and returning to the old faithful pen and paper.
But my attention has now been caught by a relatively new offering called Wunderlist. With a version for virtually every operating system platform, this stylish software allows you to create and sync to-do lists quickly and easily.
Wunderlist's intuitive design lets you maintain multiple lists (for, say, work and personal tasks) add categories, priorities and email reminders.
You can even share lists with co-workers - very helpful when working on collaborative projects.
I've been using the software for a couple of weeks now, and feel no urge to return to my paper-based past.
Let's see how long this new burst of electronic organisation lasts!
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PlayStation 4 and Xbox One – retro gamers need not apply
By Adam TURNER
After building up extensive libraries of download-only retro games, Sony and Microsoft won't let you play them on their new consoles.
If you use your PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 for anything more than playing games, you really need to do your research before you upgrade to their successors. The PlayStation 4's dearth of multimedia features is particularly frustrating if the PlayStation 3 currently sits at the heart of your lounge room and you were hoping to replace it.
Even gamers will be frustrated that neither new console is backwards compatible with game discs from its predecessor. Worse yet, they don't have access to the extensive library of old games found in the PlayStation Store and Xbox Live Arcade. If you've gathered a collection of download-only retro games, such as Street Fighter II and Galaga, don't expect to have access to them when you log into your gaming account on your new console. You don't even have the option to buy them again, they're simply not there. At least not yet.
Perhaps I'm spoiled by the mobile device ecosystems, but I don't think I'm being unreasonable in expecting access to the digital-only titles which I've spent good money on. In Sony's defence the PS4's new architecture would complicate the process of playing old code, but surely it could be done – it wouldn't be the first time a PlayStation console emulated its predecessors.
For now Sony and Microsoft want you to buy new games at $90 a throw rather than enjoy your existing library, which is frustrating, but I guess if you weren't prepared to do that you wouldn't be buying a gaming console on day one anyway. There are a handful of download-only titles available for the new consoles, but not the old games which you love and have probably already paid for.
To be fair, on day one you're buying these consoles for Killzone: Shadow Fall or Forza Motorsport 5, not for anything else. Meanwhile Microsoft and Sony are working on new cloud gaming services, which might restore access to the classics while further lightening your wallet. Until then, don't buy a shiny new game console expecting your old favourites to be ready and waiting.
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Calling OS X 10.8.6
By Stephen WITHERS
One of the things that makes Apple hard to work with is the absence of a timetable for ongoing support of old versions of its software, in particular OS X.
Up to the release of OS X 10.8.5 (Mountain Lion), the unstated policy seemed to be that Apple would provide security updates for the current and previous two major versions. So the 10.8.5 updater was accompanied by Security Update 2013-004 for 10.7.5 (Lion) and 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard).
OS X 10.9 Mavericks delivered an extensive list of security fixes covering various aspects of the operating system, but more than a month has passed and there is no sign of Security Update 2013-005 to apply these patches to older operating systems.
Some of the issues are a bit worrying, as they sound relatively easy to exploit: the SSL implementation was open to a man-in-the-middle attack, maliciously crafted PDF files could cause arbitrary code execution, applications could log keystrokes entered into other applications even when they used secure input mode, and a hibernated Mac might not ask for a password on wake.
So where's 10.8.6 or Security Update 2013-005?
Here's my theory: since Mavericks is free of charge, Apple feels it has met its responsibility to deliver security patches to users of older versions of OS X.
Yes, there is a lot to be said for getting as many users onto the latest OS as quickly as possible, both for Apple and Mac software developers.
But from a user's point of view there are several reasons (some better than others) for staying with older versions of OS X. Here are a few that came to mind - feel free to mention others in the comments.
1. Some people are still using Macs that are too old for Mavericks. Obviously Apple would like them to buy new computers, but if those Macs are still up to the job, why shouldn't they remain in use?
2. Snow Leopard was the last version of OS X to support Rosetta, allowing the continued use of PowerPC programs. Such programs are getting long in the tooth, but again, why replace them if they are still doing the job? And in some cases (eg Canvas), users argue that there is no real replacement.
3. Using version X.0 of an operating system is asking for trouble. I'm usually quite gung ho when it comes to installing OS X updates and upgrades, but after reading some of the problems people have experienced, I'm glad I held back this time.
Generally speaking, I go along with the school of thought that says it's a bad idea to get too far behind the curve, as it runs the risk of a forced upgrade - eg, when a Mac fails and cannot be economically repaired, and so must be replaced - which can be expensive if you have to upgrade several pieces of high-end software. Such exercises also tend to be painful.
Virtualisation can be the answer to some of these problems, but Apple seems to be stubbornly refusing to respond to its customers' desire to virtualise Snow Leopard - Snow Leopard Server may be virtualised, the regular version cannot. If that ever made sense, it doesn't any more. All it would take is to modify the terms of the Snow Leopard licence, and the developers of virtualisation software would almost certainly make it easy to install 10.6 in a VM.
But that's an aside. To get back to the main topic, I'd really like to see Apple release a security update for Mountain Lion and Lion as soon as possible to maintain the informal "x-2" policy, and preferably also for Snow Leopard as that version is still an important bridge between the PowerPC and Intel eras.
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