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Archive for the ‘Product News & Updates’ Category

by Tom Nelson

I was expecting a version of the macOS that would mostly be about security and performance, but while I expected a fastball, Apple threw us a curve. Apple announced that macOS Mojave not only included the expected security, performance, and privacy improvements, but also an OS loaded with new features.

I installed the developer beta of Mojave on an external SSD that housed a recent clone of my High Sierra startup drive. The upgrade install of macOS Mojave went without a hitch.

I also tried to install Mojave beta as a guest OS in my favorite virtual machine app. That didn’t go as well, but it’s the first beta, and the VM people will need some time to track down what appears to be graphics display issues.

I chose to test Mojave on a 2014 27-inch Retina 5K iMac with a 4 GHz i7 processor and 16 GB of RAM. Mojave will support most Macs from the year 2012 on, however, there are exceptions that can allow older models to work, as well as prevent newer models from being able to install Mojave. You’ll find all the details in A Complete List of Mojave Compatible Macs.

This is a first impression of macOS Mojave, which was just made available in a developer beta. As such, features we see today may not make it all the way through the beta, or they may undergo significant changes before a public release.

With the background out of the way, let’s move on to what’s new in macOS Mojave.

Dark Mode
One of the new features that’s getting a bit of press is Dark Mode. This system-wide theme is an extension of the current Dark scheme introduced with OS X Yosemite that can be enabled for menus and the Dock. The new version of Dark Mode extends the dark theme to most of the system, and applications that Apple bundles with the OS. The apps most of us routinely use, including Mail, iTunes, Finder, and Photos, have all moved to the dark side.

The new Dark Mode theme is applied not only to menus and the Dock, but also to most Apple apps; in the near future, third-party apps will be able to use the theme as well. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Apple is also making the Dark Mode API available to third-party developers, so your favorite apps will likely support Dark Mode sometime in the future.

Dark Mode is a user-applied theme; you can turn Dark Mode on or off as you wish, using the Mac’s General preference pane. You can also customize Dark Mode slightly by selecting from one of eight accent colors used to highlight menus you select.

Dark Mode can be helpful when working within certain apps and workflows. Generally, apps that benefit from having work surfaces, such as menus, toolbars, and palettes, blend into the background while the creative content you’re working on takes center stage, will benefit from Dark Mode. Other apps, such as web browsers, don’t seem to benefit as much. Give Dark Mode a try with Photos, video editing apps, audio production, CAD, CAE, and 3D modeling apps; even Apple’s Maps app seems to benefit from this UI change.

Dark Mode is a system-wide selection; you can turn it on or off across the entire system, but not by individual apps.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

Safari Technology Preview is yet another browser available for your Mac, but this special browser lets you see into the near future. Even better, you can bend the future to your will.

If that sounds a bit fantastic, it’s because it is. If that seems a bit ambiguous, well, that’s the problem with peering into the future.

Safari Technology Preview is essentially a beta of Safari, stuffed full of new technologies and features that may show up in future release versions of the Safari browser. Unlike most Safari betas that are only available to Apple developers, Safari Technology Preview is open to anyone interested in trying out new features and capabilities today that may make their way into tomorrow’s version of Safari on the Mac and iOS devices.

The crack about bending the future to your will is a bit of a stretch, but Apple hopes you’ll provide feedback in the form of suggestions for improvement, as well as information about bugs you may uncover. Apple really does read user suggestions for improvements. Those that are explained well and pique the interest of a reviewer may end up on the desk of an Apple engineer for consideration.

What’s New in Safari Technology Preview
Safari Technology Preview is updated on a fairly frequent basis, making it a bit difficult to specify what will be new when you download and install a copy. But in general, Safari Technology Preview concentrates on the following areas:

Web technologies: HTML, JavaScript, and CSS technologies will always be the most current, and in some cases, be ahead of the curve. WebKit, the rendering engine that powers Safari, Mail, and the AppStore, is almost always a newer version than what is available in Safari for the Mac.

Responsive Design Mode lets you see how your website will look on different devices as well as with different browsers. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Developer tools: If you’re a website developer, that may be reason enough to use Safari Technology Preview, with its access to the newest versions of the Web Inspector and Responsive Design Mode to allow you to modify, optimize, and debug your website.

Bug Reporter: This easy-to-use tool lets you send feedback to Apple. You can report issues you encounter or suggest improvements to make.

iCloud: iCloud, of course, isn’t new, But many of the new iCloud-based features are likely to be tried out using Safari Technology Preview.

Safari Technology Preview is completely standalone. It doesn’t make use of any of the normal Safari browser components, which allows you to run both concurrently without any interaction between them.

You’ll find plenty of experimental features to try out in the Develop menu. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

How to Download and Install Safari Technology Preview
Safari Technology Preview is available from WebKit.org, an Apple sponsored open source developer of the Safari rendering engine. You can find the Safari Technology Preview download at the WebKit Downloads page.

Select the Download for macOS link.

You’ll be taken to the Downloads for Safari page at the Apple Developers site. You do not need to be a registered Apple developer to download the Safari Technology Preview. Other downloads from the developers site may require you to register as a developer.

Make sure you select the version of Safari Technology Preview for the specific version of the macOS you’re using. Apple usually provides versions of the preview for the two most current versions of the Mac operating system.

The download consists of a disk image saved to the default download location, usually your Downloads folder. Double-click the SafariTechnologyPreview.dmg file.

Installing Safari Technology Preview is straightforward and won’t have any effect on an existing copy of Safari. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

This will mount the disk image on your desktop. Inside you will find a .pkg file; double-click the .pkg file to install Safari Technology Preview. Follow the onscreen instructions to complete the install.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

Programmable robot kits for kids are a great way to introduce your children to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). Programmable robot kits can be a fun and educational experience for just about anyone, regardless of age.

Working with these robotic kits can foster a sense of accomplishment, and inspire the mind as kids work out new ways to program the robots to perform a desired task. Programmable robot kits teach many skills besides the obvious ones, such as learning basic programming. They also help hone skills used to assemble the robot from a collection of parts into a working device waiting for the builder’s command. Assembling a robot helps show that patience and fortitude outweigh the instant gratification of a pre-assembled gadget. The skills learned in assembly come in very handy when it’s time to customize the robot to meet a new challenge.

Nervous Bird, one of the many robots that can be built with the mBot Ranger robot kit. Image courtesy of Makeblock Co., Ltd.

5 Programmable Robots You Should Consider

Our list of programmable robots concentrates on kits, so some assembly is going to be required. Robotic kits are a great way to learn about multiple aspects of robotics, including design, assembly, and programming, and modifying a robot to meet new goals.

The kits are appropriate for just about any age, though there are some considerations for the very young. Some robot kits require soldering a few electronic components, and while soldering is a good skill to learn, all but one of the robots in our list can be assembled without pulling out a soldering iron.

Other considerations are the type of programming language that is used. Graphics-based languages can be easier for those just starting out, while text-based languages can provide more opportunity to expand on the robot’s capabilities.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

Every summer, Apple announces a new version of the Mac OS (now called macOS) at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). Along with highlighting what’s new and improved in the operating system, Apple provides its developers with a beta version of the new macOS, followed up in a few weeks with a public beta for everyone.

The public beta of the macOS is popular, with many Mac enthusiasts participating in the beta program to both try out the new OS, and try to help Apple find bugs before the final release in the fall.

Since the public beta is open to any Mac user, you can join the beta program and participate in the fun of discovering all the new features, as well as one or two new bugs. In fact, it’s kind of fun to track down a bug and report it to Apple. If you want to participate in the beta, you’ll find information about how to do it at the end of this article.

But before you hop on the beta bandwagon, there are some important steps to take to keep your Mac safe and trouble-free during the beta process. Forgetting these steps can lead to disastrous events, including having your Mac lock up or fail to boot, as well as loss of data, and for those of you who rely on your Mac for your work, loss of income.

Even though the above may sound terrifying, it’s actually pretty easy to put safeguards in place to ensure participating in the Apple beta program is, for the most part, a fun undertaking.

Get Your Mac Ready for the Apple Beta Program
This article is going to concentrate on what you need to do to safeguard your Mac while you participate in the beta program. I won’t be covering how to install the beta version of the macOS, mostly because I’m not a member of the super secret Apple developers group that has early access to the most secret of secrets.

Heck, at this point I don’t even know what the name of the new macOS will be. If you have a guess you would like to share, add it to the comments below. Once the beta is released to the public, the Rocket Yard will be posting a full install guide to help you with installing the beta.

In the meantime, you can get ready for the macOS beta with these tips to keep your Mac safe during the beta program.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

The new macOS Sierra made a number of changes in managing a Mac’s storage. Perhaps the biggest announcement was the hint at a new file system, APFS (APple File System), to replace the 30-year-old HFS+ that we all know and put up with.

HFS+ and HFS (a slightly earlier version of the Hierarchical File System) was an update to the MFS (Macintosh File System) that originally shipped with the Mac in 1984.

Both file systems were created back in the days of floppy disks, which were the primary storage medium for the Mac, when spinning hard drives were an expensive option offered by third parties.

In the past, Apple has flirted with replacing HFS+, but APFS seems like it’s the real deal. Here’s why.

Optimized for Today and Tomorrow’s Storage Technology

Did I mention that HFS+ was implemented when 800 kb floppies were king? Current Macs may not be using floppies, but spinning hard drives are beginning to seem just as archaic. With Apple emphasizing flash-based storage in all of its products, a file system optimized to work with rotational media, and the inherent latency in waiting for a disk to spin around, just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

APFS is designed from the get-go for SSD and other flash-based storage systems. Even though APFS is optimized for how solid-state storage works, it will perform quite well with modern hard drives as well.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

The 2009 Mac Pro (model identifier MacPro4,1) was introduced in March of 2009, and was discontinued with the arrival of the 2010 Mac Pro in August of that same year. The 2009, 2010, and 2012 versions of the Mac Pro are still sought after as they represent the last truly user-expandable Macs.

They offered easy access to the interior, where users could add RAM, access four built-in drive bays, and easily add or change PCIe expansion cards, including graphics cards.

 macprodrivetray1

Photo © Coyote Moon, Inc.

They also offered access to the optical drive bay, which many used as a fifth storage bay. The processors were mounted on easily removable trays, and could be upgraded by the end user.

However, the 2009 version of the Mac Pro has a few things going against it. While the processors could be upgraded, they require the use of special Xeon processors that have no metal lids. This was done so the mammoth heat sinks could be attached directly to the CPU die. Finding compatible processors can now be a bit of a scavenger hunt.

On the plus side, there is a firmware hack available online that can allow the older 2009 Mac Pros to make use of 2010 or 2012 Mac Pro processors.

With the above as a bit of a background, let’s take a look at the original buying guide for the 2009 Mac Pro.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

October is typically an important month in Mac history. It marked the first release of the Mac PowerBook models in 1991 and this October it marked a fundamental change in the portable Mac lineup: the introduction of the new MacBook Pro in 13-inch and 15-inch models, sporting the new Touch Bar and Touch ID.

macbookprotouchbar

Image courtesy of Apple

The new MacBook Pros have some amazing new features, but they’re also shaking up the entire MacBook product line.

Gone is the 11-inch MacBook Air, leaving the 12-inch MacBook as the smallest of the MacBooks when measured by screen size. The MacBook Air 13-inch remains in the lineup, but only as a low-cost entry point into the portable Mac family.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

In all the operating systems running on all of the computers in the world, there is likely nothing easier than performing an upgrade install of macOS Sierra on a Mac. While not quite push-a-button-and-go, it comes close.

DefaultDesktopSierra

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

So, you may be wondering why there’s a need for a step-by-step guide to performing an upgrade install of macOS Sierra. The answer is a simple one. Readers like to know in advance what to expect from the macOS Sierra install process, and, since the name for the Mac operating system has changed, whether that also means there are any new requirements for the install.

Read more on About: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

macOS Sierra, the first of the new macOS systems, includes the ability to create a bootable installer on a USB flash drive, or on a drive you have connected to your Mac.

The advantage of the ability to create a bootable installer of macOS Sierra can’t be overstated. It allows you to perform a clean install, which completely replaces the contents of your Mac’s startup drive with a brand-new, fresh install of Sierra.

macOSSierrabootable

Image courtesy of Apple

The bootable installer can also be used to install macOS Sierra on multiple Macs, without having to resort to downloading the installer app from the Mac App Store each time. This can be a pretty nice feature if you have a problematic or slow connection to the Internet.

OS X and macOS have had the capability to create install media for quite a while, but this isn’t widely known, for two reasons. First, the command to create the bootable installer is well hidden within the installer that’s downloaded from the Mac App Store; and secondly, the installer you download has a really annoying habit of automatically starting up once the download is complete. If you then click the install button, you’ll find that the installer you downloaded is automatically deleted as part of the normal installation process, preventing you from using it to create a bootable macOS Sierra installer of your own.

Read more on About: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

macOS Sierra will see its first public beta release in July of 2016, followed by a full release in the fall of 2016. Along with giving the operating system a new name, Apple is adding a lot of new features to macOS Sierra. This isn’t just a simple update, or a bunch of security and bug fixes.

macOSSierraSiriRedSox

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Instead, macOS Sierra will add brand new features to the operating system, including the incorporation of Siri, expansion of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi based connectivity features, and a whole new file system that will replace the venerable but quite outdated HFS+ system that Macs have been using for the last 30 years.

When an operating system encompasses such a wide range of new features and capabilities there’s bound to be a few gotcha’s; in this case, the list of Macs that will support macOS Sierra will be trimmed back by quite a bit. This is the first time in five years that Apple has removed Mac models from the list of supported devices for a Mac OS.

The last time Apple dropped Mac models from the supported list was when OS X Lion was introduced. It required Macs to have a 64-bit processor, which left the original Intel Macs off the list.

Read more on About: Macs.

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