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Archive for the ‘Product News & Updates’ Category

by Tom Nelson

For some reason, it seems as if iTunes is the app people love to hate. So when macOS Catalina drove a stake through the heart of the iTunes app, splitting it into three different apps, I expected peals of joy from the masses. Instead, it seems more like a bit of gloom and doom. Many are worried about their vast collections of music already stored in iTunes becoming inaccessible, or that the new Apple Music app is going to cut them off from music not originating with Apple.

Fear not; the Music app is akin to iTunes, retaining many of the same features, though the interface has been modernized, requiring some effort to adjust to for diehard iTunes users.

Using the Apple Music App

When you upgraded to macOS Catalina, the Music app acquired your existing music collection. Every song you purchased, ripped, or uploaded; no matter how you acquired the tune, if you imported it into your old iTunes library, it will be available in the new Music app. You’ll also find your playlists, ratings, and any music file metadata, such as composer, writer, lyrics, or artwork, that you may have.

You may notice some content appears to be missing. Actually, Apple just reorganized things a bit, and some media types are now handled by the new Podcast and TV apps, as well as the Finder.

The Music app is dedicated to music, including content stored locally on your Mac, as well as music you may have in the cloud, such as from iTunes Match or from the streaming Apple Music service (subscription required).

MusicLayout640.jpg

A typical Music app display showing the user’s music library organized by album. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The Music app interface is much easier to use than the cumbersome iTunes app. It has three basic panes:

Toolbar: Located on the top of the Music app window, the toolbar contains the basic playback controls: volume control, current track info, and an Up Next menu and Lyrics menu.

Sidebar: Located along the left side of the window, the Sidebar is used to control the type of content that will be displayed in the main viewing pane. Currently the sidebar allows you to select from the three basic Music app services: Apple Music, the subscription streaming service; Library, which allows you to access both local music and music you’ve stored in iCloud; the iTunes Store, which lets you purchase new music.

There are other optional categories that can appear in the Music app sidebar, depending on how you use the app. If you have playlists, they will be listed in a Playlist category, and if you connect an iPod, iPad, or iPhone, it will be listed in the Devices section. CDs or DVDs will appear in the Devices section as well.

Main Viewing Pane: This centrally located windowpane lists the content of whatever function you’ve selected in the Sidebar. You can browse Apple Music content, select Apple Music Radio channels to listen to, see your music library lists by artist, album, song, or by recently added, visit the iTunes Store to purchase new music, or manage your playlists.

Playing Your Music Library

Use the sidebar to select one of the possible Library functions: Recently Added, Artists, Albums, or Songs.

The main pane will display your library content as selected in the sidebar.

  • By Album: Hover over an album title to display a Play button.
  • By Artist: Select an artist’s name to view all of their content. You can click the Play button and select individual albums and songs, or click the Play button at the top of the page to play all of the artist’s content.
  • By Song: Double-click or tap an item from the song list to start playing the music.

You can also use the Sidebar to select a playlist, which will provide the options to play the playlist in the current order, or to shuffle the list when it plays.

Playing the Apple Music Service

If you’re an Apple Music subscriber, you’ll find the usual controls for the streaming service in the Music sidebar:

AppleMusicBrowse640.jpg

Apple Music’s subscription service is available from the Music app’s sidebar. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

For You: Apple Music can use your musical history, that is, the songs and artists you’ve already been listening to, to suggest new artists or songs you may enjoy.

Browse: The Apple Music subscription service has over 30 million song titles. Go ahead and browse through them. Apple Music will lend a hand, guiding you through the vast music collection, organizing music genres, tastes, what’s new, recently added, or updated. Or, you can plow ahead on your own.

Radio: Beats 1 is the primary radio offering, with DJs from around the world programming music content to match your preferences; or, you can be bold and strike out to find new curated selections of music, interviews with leaders in the music industry, music news, and more.

The Radio offering is much more than just a music channel. It’s a great way to be exposed to new music as well as listen to your old favorites.

iTunes Store

Not much has changed with the iTunes Store; you’ll find the usual Best of the Week, Top Songs, Top Albums, featured new music, and music by genre. You can still buy and redeem gift cards.

You can access the iTunes store from the Music app sidebar.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

 

 

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by Tom Nelson

macOS Catalina has some interesting new features, including Screen Time and Sidecar, and new apps, including Music, Podcasts, and Apple TV, that essentially replace iTunes. But behind the scenes, macOS Catalina has a number of new security features designed to ensure the Mac remains a safe and secure environment, protecting users from exploits and malware without creating obstacles or placing limits on how you can use your Mac.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the security changes in macOS Catalina, and how they’ll affect users and developers.

macOS Catalina Security

Catalina’s security is spread across a number of areas, including:

System security: Protects the foundation of the operating system.

Data protection: Protects user data from unauthorized access.

App security: Protects a Mac and its users from malware, and ensures apps run in a secure environment.

Device management: Prevents unauthorized use of Macs (and other Apple devices), and allows data to be wiped on lost or stolen devices.

The security features included with macOS Catalina are designed to address one or more of the categories noted above.

System Security

There are a number of changes to the system designed to protect the integrity of the system and keep it safe from malware and wayward apps.

Read-Only System Volume: The startup drive is no longer a single volume; it’s now made up of two APFS volumes: a read-only system volume that contains the macOS, and a data volume that contains all of the user’s data, documents, pictures, user installed apps, just about anything that isn’t part of the macOS.

ReadOnlyVolume640.jpg

Disk Utility shows that the single Macintosh volume you see in the Finder is actually made up of a read-only volume (orange) and a data volume (red). Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

By mounting the system volume as read-only, it’s nearly impossible for any type of malware, or for that matter, a wayward app, to change or compromise the system.

One way to think of this is as an enhancement to SIP (System Integrity Protection), which was used in previous versions of the OS to protect specific directories used by the OS. With Catalina, the entire system volume is protected; not just individual directories.

The read-only system volume prevents any changes to the system, other than those delivered by signed code from Apple, which can perform updates to the volume.

The read-only system volume and the data volume are part of an APFS volume group and appear as a single volume in the Finder. The Mac performs this trick using a new type of file linking system known as firmlinks. Firmlinks have many uses, but one that is used in Catalina is to map various files and directories on the system volume to writeable shadow locations on the data volume.

The read-only system volume and writable data volume, along with the new firmlinks, have implications to how backup systems perform. Make sure your preferred backup system is macOS Catalina-ready before committing to using Catalina beyond a testing or evaluation phase.

Kernel Extensions: Kexts (kernel extensions) are slowly being replaced with system extensions, which will exist outside of the protected system volume. Catalina will be the last macOS that will run existing kexts. Developers working on new drivers (a common use for kexts) will need to use system extensions, which run in user space instead of within the system kernel.

Existing kernel extensions that were installed prior to the installation of Catalina will be able to run, though they may be subject to User-Approved Kernel Extension Loading. Even if you were using a kext previously, you may need to obtain an approval the first time it’s loaded.

Installing kexts or system extensions will likely require a restart of the Mac.

Moving kexts to system extensions that run as separate processes outside of the system ensures that if something is wrong with an extension, either from poor design or an attack from malware, the system itself is not affected.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

 

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by Tom Nelson

If you’ve been using Macs for a while, you may remember when Microsoft was offering Internet Explorer for the Mac. There was even a 5-year period (1997 through 2003) when it was the default browser for the Mac. Microsoft stopped developing Internet Explorer for the Mac in 2003 when Apple released the Safari browser. The last non-security update of Internet Explorer occurred in the summer of 2003.

It’s been sixteen years since Microsoft has actively been involved in the Mac web browser market, but in late spring of 2019, Microsoft unveiled the Edge browser for the Mac during its developers conference

Microsoft Edge Browser Versions

The preview of the Edge browser for the Mac is currently available in two versions, with a third to be offered soon:

  • Microsoft Edge Canary: This version represents a nightly build incorporating bug fixes, feature enhancements, and performance tuning.
  • Microsoft Edge Dev: This is a weekly build incorporating the most stablechanges to the Edge browser that occurred during the week.
  • Microsoft Edge Beta: Not yet available, this version will be on a 6-weekupdate cycle, and will contain the most stable changes to the Edgebrowser.

The Canary, Dev, and Beta versions of the Edge browser can be downloaded from the Microsoft Edge Insider website. I’ve noticed that there are a number of other download sites offering versions of the Edge browser for the Mac. I advise only acquiring the preview or beta versions of the Edge browser directly from the Microsoft Edge Insider site.

Microsoft Edge Canary

We’re going to use the Canary version of the Edge browser for this mini review and benchmark because we want to have the most current version with as many bug fixes in place as possible. This also means we’ll be working with a version most likely to have issues of some type. But that’s OK; we knew before we started that Edge is currently in a pre-beta state.

Edge has multiple layout options including the Inspirational one shown here. This layout option includes a background image and quick access to often used web sites. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Speaking of bugs or issues, I was pleasantly surprised at how robust the current version of the Edge browser is. During benchmarking and daily use it distinguished itself as being very stable and performed well in our basic benchmarks.

There were a few blips; a few times, Edge wouldn’t quit without being forced to, and some preference settings don’t seem to actually work yet. But overall, it’s a very impressive preview.

Some of that isn’t surprising; after all, at heart, Edge is running an open source Chromium engine, the same rendering engine that powers Google’s Chrome browser. Microsoft is adding interface elements for the Windows and Mac versions, and tweaking performance for a good fit with Microsoft’s own family of web apps.

Edge Features

Although this is just a preview, Edge has been developing at a fast pace. The current version of Edge has Touch Bar support, updated keyboard shortcuts that match up to what Mac users will be expecting, and media casting, which allows you to play videos or audio on an external device.

You’ll find all the usual browser features, including bookmarks/favorites, tabs, private browsing, muting tabs, pinning tabs, a download manager that can track downloads by file types, and a handy Task Manager which conceptually is like the Mac’s Activity Monitor, but only tracks Edge-related processes. Also recently added is basic support for the Mac’s Dark Mode.

Edge’s Task Manager allows you to keep track of browser performance; it also provides the ability to end individual processes that may be causing issues. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

I tried a few Edge extensions available from the Microsoft store without running into any issues. I didn’t try it, but Edge also allows you to use third-party add-ons/extensions, although that feature is turned off by default. Once the feature is enabled, most Chrome/Chromium-based extensions should work with the Edge browser.

One interesting feature, so far only seen in Edge, is Collections, a tool for allowing users to collect text, images, just about any information you may come across while browsing, and save it in collections. Collections maintains links back to the original website where you found the interesting tidbit.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

macOS Catalina, the new Mac operating system, was announced at WWDC 2019. It has so many new features and changes to existing ones, that it really can’t be summed up in just one article.

So, we’re going to start by telling you how you can get your hands on macOS Catalina, and then we’ll tell you about the features that caught our eyes.

Apple Beta Software Program

There are two ways you can participate in the beta program for macOS Catalina. First, you can become an Apple developer and receive the beta for evaluation. Apple developers already have access to macOS Catalina, as well as a number of other beta software apps. But if you’re not a developer, and you don’t have an app you’re just waiting to unleash on the world, you can still take part in the Catalina public beta program.

macOS Catalina with auto dark mode enabled. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The public beta program is open to just about everyone. You just need to sign up for the program, download the software, and give the beta a try. But remember, this is beta software and can cause issues for you and your Mac. You can find out how to get your Mac ready for beta software in the Rocket Yard guide: How to Get Your Mac Ready for the macOS Mojave Beta.

And yes, that’s for last year’s Mojave beta, but the same principles apply.

The macOS Catalina public beta is expected to be available sometime in July, so if you’re interested in trying out the beta, sign up for the Apple Beta Software Program now.

And now, some of our favorite new features.

Sidecar

Using multiple displays with your Mac is nothing new; even the ability to use an iPad as a display has been around for a bit, using third-party apps such as Duet Display, Luna Display, or Air Display.

Now Apple is getting into the act with Sidecar, a feature of Catalina that allows you to use your iPad as a secondary display for your Mac. Sidecar can work wired or wirelessly with your iPad, and will also allow the iPad to be used as a drawing tablet and touch input device. The touch input can be used with any app that supports touch-based input, including those that make use of the Touch Bar found in the newer MacBook Pros.

Project Catalyst

Project Catalyst is not a feature you’ll actually see, but you’ll make use of its capabilities. Project Catalyst is a development tool that allows developers to easily port their iPad apps to the Mac OS.

The News app is an example of an iOS app making the transition to the Mac. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

If you’re using macOS Mojave, you’ve already seen what Project Catalyst can do; it was the method Apple used to bring News, Stocks, Home, and Voice Memos iOS apps to macOS Mojave.

Now Apple will put Catalyst in the hands of Apple developers and allow them to take their existing iOS apps and transition them to run under the Mac OS.

What Catalyst is not is an iOS emulator that can run iPad or iPhone apps on the Mac. Developers will have to do some work to allow their apps to make use of Mac features that aren’t available to the iOS version of their apps.

Catalyst is by no means a simple recompile, where the developer hits a few switches and the iPad app magically becomes a Mac app. But it does make the process easier by reusing the vast majority of an app’s existing code.

Look forward to a flood of great iPad apps making the transition to the Mac.

Music, Podcast, Apple TV apps

Say goodbye to iTunes; it’s dead, an ex app, it’s pushing up the daisies, and not a minute too soon in the view of many Mac users, including me. In its place, Apple announced three new apps: Music, Podcasts, and Apple TV.

The Music app is focused on organizing and playing back your music no matter what the source. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The Music app gives you full access to your existing music library of both purchased music and tunes you added via other methods.

The iTunes Store is available for buying new content; access to the Apple Music subscription service is still available, too.

Podcasts allows you to access the podcast library that was once part of iTunes. The Podcasts app adds browsing, viewing chart toppers, and seeing curated content from Apple.

Apple TV is a lot like the Apple TV app found in iOS devices, or in the Apple TV streaming device. The new Apple TV app gives you access to TV and movie content that used to be in your iTunes library. You can also browse new content and TV channels, such as HBO, Showtime, or Starz, rent or buy new release movies or TV shows and watch content in 4K HDR format.

Apple TV gives you access to all the TV shows and movies you may have rented or purchased, as well as an ever-expanding collection of Apple-curated content. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

If you used iTunes as a method to sync content between your iOS device and your Mac, that function has been picked up by the Finder, which will now have syncing options in the Finder sidebar.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

The 2019 edition of the Mac Pro saw the light of day at the WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference) last week. It’s a remarkable powerhouse that does justice to the Mac Pro model line, and certainly to its name.

At a starting price of $5,999, the Mac Pro is targeted at multimedia pros and those with scientific computing needs. And while at first glance the starting price may seem steep, it’s actually in the ballpark when compared with competing products from other manufacturers.

And that $5,999 price is only the beginning; the keyword for describing the new Mac Pro is expandability. Apple may want to call this a modular design, but the rest of us recognize this Mac Pro as the logical extension of the older Mac Pro, where expandability was one of its chief assets.

In this Rocket Yard guide, we’re going to delve a little deeper into what Apple has revealed about the new Mac Pro to see if it is the Mac pros have been waiting for. Since Apple hasn’t released all of the technical details about the Mac Pro yet, we’re going to be doing a bit of speculation, so with that in mind, let’s take a look.

Return of the Tower

Gone is the cylindrical form over function design of the 2013 Mac Pro. Some have even said the 2019 Mac Pro’s tower case is a return to the earlier cheese grater design that has been around since the Power Mac G5. There’s certainly a resemblance, but the new Mac Pro goes well beyond just looking like the older and much loved Mac Pro models.

The new Mac Pro uses a stainless steel space frame chassis and aluminum case to provide tool-less access to its internal parts. The motherboard is designed with the processor and PCIe expansion bus on one side, and memory and storage on the other. Removing the aluminum case provides 360-degree access to all the internal modules, no matter which side of the motherboard they reside on.

Mac Pro with case removed showing PCIe expansion and MPX modules, cooling fans, and memory slots.

The case is removed with a simple turn of a recessed handle in the top, and lifts off easily, revealing the Mac Pro’s elegant modular design. By the way, turning that access handle also performs a shutdown, and turns the power off to the case, so no hot swapping of internal components.

Measuring 20.8 x 17.7 x 8.5 inches, the Mac Pro at first glance seems large but it’s a relatively compact tower case when you consider it houses a 1.4 kilowatt power supply, and can contain a quad set of graphics cards and still have free PCIe slots available.

If at 40 lbs., the new tower weight seems a bit much, you can optionally add wheels to allow you to roll the Mac Pro about your studio or lab as needed.

The front and back of the case use a perforated panel resembling a cheese grater. Those perforations are not a design element but are used by the cooling system: three large fans that quietly push air from the front, across the CPU and GPUs. An additional blower pulls air across the memory, storage, and power supply, exhausting heat out the back of the case.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

Safari Technology Preview, often referred to as STP, is a web browser for the Mac. STP was designed as a testbed to evaluate new browser technology that Apple is considering using in future releases of Safari. Think of it as a public beta for the next generation of the Safari browser, but with a few important differences over conventional beta software.

First off, STP is amazingly stable, which is a pretty amazing thing to say for an app that is, at its heart, a framework for Apple to plug in modules to test out various concepts. At any time, STP may be running an updated version of WebKit, the rendering engine that powers Safari. It could also have a new or updated JavaScript engine, updated CSS technology, new features, developer tools, and security measures. With all these new or updated components, you would think STP would be prone to errors and crashes, but in actual use, Safari Technology Preview remains very stable, a testament to the developers and the testing process being used with this beta browser.

Second, frequent updates ensure that bugs, once found, are quickly fixed. Likewise, new technologies that are being developed are likely going to be first publicly seen in STP, at least for Mac users, and updated frequently with each STP release.

What Are STP’s Features?
A better question would be, what are the recent features since STP is updated so frequently. In the two most recent updates (STP 71 and STP 72), Safari Technology Preview has seen new additions to its list of experimental features:

Web animation can be used to bring life to a web page, or simply to animate a galaxy of swirling points of lights. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

  • Web animation: STP gained support for Web animation, part of the W3C standard. In addition, STP can translate older CSS animation to the newer and faster web animation standard.
  • Web authentication using USB security devices: This set of programming APIs allows USB-based security devices to be used for authenticating login credentials. Apple is testing the Client-to-Authenticator protocol part of the FIDO2 standard that would allow a hardware key, in this case in the form of a USB stick, to be used in place of passwords as a login credential for web services.
  • Dark Mode support: Safari gained support for Dark Mode in Mojave.
  • WebGPU: A future standard, still being worked on, that allows a computer’s GPU to be used to accelerate rendering of both 2D and 3D graphics images within the browser.
  • WebMetal: Similar to WebGPU but specific to the Metal-enabled GPUs used in some Macs (mostly 2012 and later models).
  • WebRTC: Web Real-Time Communication is an open-source standard that allows audio and video communications to work within a web page using direct peer-to-peer communications.

Safari Technology Preview contains many additional features and capabilities, way too many to list here. You can discover more by stopping by the Safari Technology Preview developer’s page (developer membership is not required).

General features of STP include:

  • It allows you to try out the latest web technology.
  • If you’re a web developer, STP contains a wide collection of developer tools.
  • Independent of the standard version of Safari, you can run STB and Safari side-by-side, with no interaction between them.
  • STP Bug Reporter not only allows you to report bugs you encounter, but you can also make enhancement and feature requests.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

In a bit of a surprise move, Apple unveiled new 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pros on Thursday, July 12. The surprising bit is the hush-hush update occurring just over a month after the annual WWDC event, where new products aimed at developers and pro users are usually revealed. This has us wondering why the new 2018 MacBook Pros weren’t part of the WWDC keynote event.

While they didn’t make the keynote, they do pack quite a wallop over earlier models of the MacBook Pro, especially the 15-inch model, which we’ll look at in detail here.

15-inch MacBook Pro (2018)
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, I want to point out that this isn’t an in-depth review of the 2018 15-inch MacBook Pro. Instead, we’re looking at the specs and how they compare, and what kind of improvements and changes the new MacBook Pro models bring.

First off, the 2018 MacBook Pro isn’t a typical speed bump update. Instead, it brings new features and benefits to those lucky enough to be upgrading at this time. Instead of just dropping in a slightly faster processor, or perhaps a different battery, Apple added a number of new features and capabilities.

Eighth-generation Intel Core i7 and i9 Processors
The 15-inch MacBook Pro leaps from quad-core i7 processors to new six-core i7 and i9 Intel processors in the Coffee Lake family. The Coffee Lake processors have a good deal going for them beyond just two extra cores. Both the i7 and i9 processors support hyper-threading, allowing two threads to run concurrently on each core for a total of 12 active threads. Level 3 caches have also been increased to 9 MB for i7-equipped MacBook Pros, and 12 MB for i9-equipped MacBook Pros.

Eighth generation Intel Core i5, i7, and i9 processors used in the new MacBook Pro product family. Image courtesy of Intel.

The increase in level 3 caches should speed up overall performance, especially when instructions or data are being shared between cores.

The Coffee Lake processor equipped MacBook Pros are offered in speeds of:

  • i7: 2.2 GHz with Turbo Boost speed of 4.1 GHz
  • I7: 2.6 GHz with Turbo Boost speed of 4.3 GHz
  • i9: 2.9 GHz processor with Turbo Boost speed of 4.8 GHz

Sharp-eyed readers may notice that the 2017 models of the 15-inch MacBook Pro had slightly faster base processor speeds, clocking in at 2.8 GHz and 2.9 GHz. But the earlier generation i7 Kaby Lake processors had smaller level 3 caches, two fewer cores, and slower memory architecture than what is present in the new Coffee Lake models.

With the processor and memory architecture upgrades in the new 2018 MacBook Pro, Apple claims a 70 percent increase in performance. We haven’t been able to put the new MacBook Pros through any benchmarks, but a quick perusal of the GeekBench Benchmarks shows an i9-equipped 2018 MacBook Pro with a 5289 Single-Core score and a 22201 Multi-Core score. Compared to a 2017 2.9 Ghz i7 model with a Multi-Core score of 15252, that works out to just a bit more than a 68.69 percent improvement, at least in artificial benchmarks. Real-world usage will be quite a bit different, but the performance increases in the benchmarks are impressive.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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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.

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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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