Snow Leopard arriving this northern winter?
By Stephen WITHERS
When Apple revealed its plans for Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard at the WWDC in June this year, the word was that it would ship in about a year.
So far, there has been little or no reason to expect it any sooner. But when Jordan Hubbard, director of Apple's Unix Technology Group spoke at the Large Installation System Administration conference last week, he revealed that Snow Leopard should ship in the first quarter of 2009.
Just so there's no confusion, he clearly meant the first calendar quarter - not the first financial quarter. A table from his presentation [PDF available here] shows 10.6 being released "14+ months" after 10.5's October 2007 debut.
This suggests we are almost certain to see a feature-complete version of Snow Leopard at Macworld Expo in January.
You can bet that Apple will be working hard to maximise the splash by releasing 10.6 on the same day, but I suspect most users would rather wait a little longer if that's what is necessary to minimise the number of bug fixes in the inevitable 10.6.1.
Snow Leopard is expected to work only on Intel-based Macs. While Apple is positioning it as an 'under the hood' revision for quality and performance, the promised support for Exchange 2007 in Mail, Address Book and iCal will be significant for many business users.
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Three Free iPhone Apps
By Anthony CARUANA
If you've got an iPhone it's a sure bet that you've had a wander through the App Store. The range of applications is quite incredible. What I've been amazed with is the quality of the free software. This week, I'm taking a look at three freebies; a game, a work tool and something a little off the wall.
When it comes to games, you can't go past good old Solitaire. Sol Free has five different varieties of Solitaire that you can play totally gratis. The software is reliable and has never caused my iPhone to freeze or crash. Game play relies on the touchscreen with my only criticism being that some of the cards are a little tough to hit with a fingertip as they're quite small. However, it's been very hand when filling in a few spare moments when standing in a queue or when my brain's too fired for anything taxing.
FTP on the Go
I've recently configured my NAS to be a FTP server so that I can access my files remotely. FTP on the Go is an easy-to-use FTP client that supports secure connections. It uses the iPhone's file viewer so that you an remotely read files and also boasts of the ability to be able to remotely edit text files. In other words, this can be handy if you have to do some on-the-fly website maintenance. It can also be used to upload photos shot with the iPhone's camera.
A Free Level
Every now and then I need a spirit level. It might be when hanging a picture or if I move the fridge. Given that I am something a lazy bugger I usually can't be bothered walking back to the shed to get a level. A Free Level is exactly what the name says. It uses the iPhone's accelerometers to make the iPhone into a spirit level. It's very accurate (I tested it with a real level) with my only criticism being that it makes an annoying sound. Otherwise, it's very useful.
All of these can be found by searching for the application name in the App Store either on your iPhone or in the iTunes Store.
So, what iPhone apps have you discovered that are hidden gems in the App Store?
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Looking for something new under the sun
By Graeme HAGUE
[Sitting in for David Hague]
Next time you’re sitting in front of the proverbial “blank page” and trying to come up with something new, have a thought for the creative folk responsible for the more mundane things in our lives. They really do have to re-invent the perfectly good wheel.
How many blades are in razors these days? Once they’ve done the whole gamut of ergonomic handles and swiveling heads it’s back to the ol’ “let’s add another blade” idea to keep the razor blade genesis ticking over. The same applies to toothbrushes. You can only redesign the brush bit so many times, before we get a little suspicious (I know! A “tongue cleaner” on the back! Brilliant!)
I watched an episode of CSI the other night. I don’t know which one - New York, Miami, Widgemooltha… they all look kind of the same now. In fact, they always did. That’s the whole point of expanding on an existing, successful formula to make it more successful. Just a few tweaks here and there, such as a different location, will give the show a new look that’s enough to satisfy the fans while the other ingredients don’t really change. Actually, when it comes to bodies on morgue tables being tinkered with by eccentric doctors… well, Edgar Allan Poe was doing it a hundred and sixty years ago.
It seems there’s no new ideas. We just keep finding new “angles” on the old ones, sometimes not so well. At the recent Screen Producer’s Association of Australia (SPAA) it was lamented to the shock and horror of the audience that Australian films are, in the main, unwatchable failures that are dark and depressing. I have to agree. Is it because our film makers are just a gloomy lot? Nope, I reckon it’s simply because everyone is trying to emulate Wolf Creek or Saw these days - the latter which is inexplicably up to its fifth incarnation. Twenty years ago everyone wanted to copy Crocodile Dundee. Ten years later it was The Castle.
The music business isn’t much better. One chart-topping hit will spawn a dozen clones as everybody scrambles to cash in on the latest fad. Even book publishers aren’t beyond casting about for their own version of a best-selling author.
So not only is it difficult to come up with a new idea, it’s hard to get anyone to listen to it. They’d rather chase someone else’s tail. That’s why today a moment of genius inspiration isn’t enough. You have to come up with the whole package - the “pitch”, the marketing concepts, target audiences, advertising… the complete hard sell for your “idea” to break through barriers and convince someone - usually with the bankroll - to take a risk.
The good news is, it can happen. Add a large lump of persistence to the inspiration and clever ideas will see the light of day. Some people are out there looking for them and not only interested in adding extra blades and tongue cleaners.
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Five ways IT can help you ride out the global economic crisis
By Ian GRAYSON
With daily news reports full of share slumps, layoffs and government bailouts, it’s easy to succumb to depression. But, rather than throwing in the towel and preparing for bankruptcy court, consider ways that technology can help you survive.
Whether an employee or business owner, a downturn actually presents a great opportunity to take stock of where things are at. By taking proactive steps now, you’ll be in much better shape when the good times return. Here are some examples:
Critically examine internal processes
When things are busy, it’s a full-time job just meeting the demands of clients or managers. But often times the way things are being done is not the most efficient. Run the ruler over the processes you use each day. Chances are that many can be streamlined with judicious use of technology.
Cut back on communication
Email is a great tool in the world of work, but it’s also become a monumental pain in the hard drive. Actively work at cutting back on the number of emails you send every day. Can it be done more effectively with a phone call? Does it need to be communicated at all? Trust me - your colleagues will thank you.
You probably use only a small fraction of the capabilities of the software that’s sitting on your PC. Read the manual or do a short course to find out what else it’s capable of doing. Anything from creating invoices or reports to filling in spreadsheets and databases will be far less time consuming if you know all the tricks.
Crank up IT utilisation
Industry research shows many companies use only a portion of the IT resources they already have. Rather than shelling out for new servers, storage or PCs, make sure you’re getting maximum value out of what you’ve got. Virtualisation tools can help here – ask your resident tech expert for help.
Tell the world how good you are
In slow economic times, active promotion can be the difference between sinking and swimming. Cast an eye over your web site. As your window to the world, is it working as hard as it should to promote your business? Go for a redesign and update the content to give it a fresh look. If it results in some new customers or business it’s well worth the effort.
Got any any other ways in which IT can be put to work in these challenging times? I’d be interested to hear.
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Sony's Z series Bravias close the gap with plasma
By Adam TURNER
There's 46 inches of Full HD, 200Hz Bravia goodness sitting in my lounge room, and I like what I see.
I'm still putting the KDL-46Z4500 through its paces, pitting it against some old school Bravias to see how the evil geniuses at Sony have managed to improve what was already considered by many to be the best range of LCD TVs on the market. My initial impressions are very positive.
One of the biggest criticisms of LCD, when compared to plasma, is motion blur. After just a few hours with Sony's KDL-46Z4500 Bravia, which is the first TV to hit the shelves with 200Hz "Motionflow" picture processing, I've concluded that this television redefines what an LCD is capable of.
Fire up a high-def demo disc with scrolling text on a screen, and the new 200Hz Bravia blows the old 100Hz and 50Hz Full HD Bravias out of the water. The old Bravias already reduced motion blur more than other LCDs I've seen, but the new KDL-46Z4500 eliminates the blur. The only television I've seen to match the new Bravia in terms of motion blur is a Pioneer plasma.
Switch to action movies or fast moving sport and the improvement over the old Bravias isn't as striking, but discerning eyes will still pick it up.
This is the first LCD TV I've seen that would make me think twice about plasma. Given the choice I'd still opt for a Pioneer Kuro plasma, but the new Bravia LCDs can certainly hold their own against the plasma giants.
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