Apple has been long known as an organization unafraid to discontinue technology they consider to be obsolete. Their moves have been almost prognostic; they were the first to retire the floppy drive, the first to discontinue providing wired accessories (keyboard and mouse) with their desktop systems, and now with the success of the MacBook Air it seems as though they will be the first to retire the optical drive (as I’ve previously argued).
When I opted to finally ditch my last home-brewed PC for an iMac (a decision I’ve been very happy with) I opted for Apple’s Magic Mouse instead of the just-released Magic Trackpad. At the time having a huge laptop trackpad instead of a mouse didn’t make much sense, and I’ve been conditioned to reach for a mouse not only by my prior PC experience but also because of my love for FPS gaming. I didn’t use the Magic Mouse long; I found it to be uncomfortable (too flat and unwieldy, even short use gave me cramps in my hand) and I switched back to my Microsoft Arc Mouse.
With the release of Snow Leopard Apple brought a slew of multitouch gestures to all OSX devices. Although handy, the new feature was limited by older hardware; some trackpads could sense multiple touch points but not enough additional information to make all of the new multitouch gestures possible. While the Magic Mouse was capable of performing multitouch gesture commands, using it in this manner was at best cumbersome as the mouse is designed to slide over a surface and must be held still with some fingers while others perform the gesture. Frustrated, I turned to Apple’s other control option: the Magic Trackpad. I was surprised to find just how useful the new trackpad is, especially when controlling my media center Mac Mini (usually done from an overstuffed leather couch, where there is little to no useable real estate for a mouse to roam). I use the trackpad almost exclusively with my iMac as well; the trusty Arc Mouse only comes out of it’s storage slot when I fire up Left 4 Dead or Half Life.
Apple upped the ante with OSX Lion, further integrating multitouch controls into the everyday use of the Mac lineup. As with the multitouch gestures in Snow Leopard some can be performed with the Magic Mouse, but it’s a clumsy alternative. Apple seems to have quietly decided to let the mouse slide into antiquity, focusing on developing a new control system centered on multitouch gestures and keyboard shortcuts that better mimics the environment offered by iOS. The newer gestures like the four fingered swipe to bring up the Launchpad or the host of three fingered swipes just aren’t doable on the small surface of the mobile Magic Mouse.
Unless a pundit points out the omission, Apple is happy to let their strategic decision to phase out a technology quietly ripple through their product line. While I think Apple with continue to support the mouse as an input device, I think it’s fairly obvious where they believe the future leads- to a decidedly non-mouse-centered user experience.
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As reported by MacGasm (great site, unfortunate name), Apple is giving luddites an incentive to join the rest of us that are enjoying the benefits of iCloud by offering a free upgrade to Snow Leopard . The holdovers that still run the venerable OSX Leopard must first upgrade to Snow Leopard before they can make the jump to Lion, hence the carrot offered by Apple. Even without the free upgrade those that are looking to run the latest and shiniest still have it better than our Microsoft-encumbered friends; upgrades from the venerable XP to Windows 7 Home Premium is still running well over $100 from the Microsoft website.
Provided your Mac is Lion-capable you really should look into upgrading; I did so on the day the latest version of OSX was available and haven’t been disappointed. Click through for more information; I think you’ll be glad you did.
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I’m not entirely sure when it happened, but at some point I became the tech support person for my parents. It began innocently enough with my father asking for help keeping the XP laptop he used for his consulting business going long after it should have been retired. Now I get calls regularly from both family and friends asking for help with various repair and upkeep computer issues, advice on software, help with purchasing accessories, and questions about various iOS devices.
By default the tech aficionado in any family tends to gravitate to this sort of function for their family and/or friends. There are a few universal things I’ve found need addressing when troubleshooting a Windows PC- making sure they have fully functioning antivirus running (not the limited introductory Symantec or McAfee that comes preinstalled), running the system update software (something that surprisingly is almost never done), and checking for conspicuous software downloaded from internet sources (I’ve seen installations of Internet Explorer with three browser bars stacked like a malware tiki totems).
Another common hurdle I’ve noticed is conditioned behavior and reliance on defaults. To this date my father tends to associate the internet with the big blue E of Internet Explorer- even referring to the desktop shortcut as “the internet”. While it’s been improved a great deal over the past few years I’m still not a fan of Microsoft’s browser and try to gently guide any that will listen to one of the alternative browsers available, making the possible transition to a non-Windows environment a little less daunting. Firefox and Opera are fine choices, and I use Safari on my Macs regularly (although I confess I’m one of the weirdos that uses multiple browsers, sometimes concurrently) I try to suggest Google’s Chrome browser as a first alternative. Chrome is one of the fastest browsers, is relatively light on system resources, has a track record of being one of the most secure browsers, supports a great selection of browser plug ins, and meshes perfectly with Google’s other online products. This synchronicity with services that many of us use every day is a big plus- my extended family is still learning about Google services like Google Chat and Picasa photo sharing, and anything that makes the experience more streamlined is a plus for them and something that will circumvent calls for help later.
The fine folks at Apartment Therapy have posted a short article on tips to make Google’s Chrome browser more accessible for older family members. Some of the tips address issues I wouldn’t have likely thought of initially, from adjusting the font size to something easier to read to stressing the advantage of learning keyboard shortcuts for easier navigation and control. More good advice for the Chrome newcomer can be had at Digital Trends and from Google themselves. While it’s not a vital change, getting loved ones to venture away from IE is a good first step in breaking conditioned behaviors and teaching them more about their systems and how to get the most from them.
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