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Living in the cloud

This past monday, Apple gave quite a long keynote at The Moscone Center during WWDC ’11. Some desperately needed iOS features, lots of OS X lion and, last but not least, moving to the cloud. It looks like it are going to be exciting times to be an Apple user.


iOS as it should be

iOS 5 is going to be the most important update of Apple’s mobile platform to date. It might just be that my fanboyism isn’t what it used to be but some of the announced features are so blatantly obvious I don’t think they need a big applause during a keynote. Things like the new notifications with the “slide down from the top” feature. Granted, it looks great and will be super efficient, but can we all admit that it’s almost exactly the same as what Android has had since it launched? Taking a picture with the volume up button? I’m sorry, but my Sony Ericsson did that back in 2004. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all great features, but they don’t really induce a big “keynote” applause in my case.

Another long awaited feature is task management. If it works as good as it looks and integrates as seamlessly with iCal as they claim, it looks like I can say goodbye to the 25 euro I spent on Things for Mac and iPhone. I’m especially looking forward to the location aware notifications (eg: “Don’t forget the milk” pops up when you’re about to pass your local super market). I know, Android fanboys, hold your horses. I know this sounds an awful lot like Locale.

A rundown of some other goodies you can expect:

  • iMessage: what appears to be iOS-only WhatsApp like messaging integrated right into the OS.
  • PC free: autonomous iOS devices: no more need for a computer to set up your device.
  • Twitter integration: one time login in system preferences to rule them all + integration throughout the entire OS.
  • Safari: tabbed browsing, reader (Focus on the text, remove all clutter. Already a feature in Safari for Mac).
  • Wireless sync: more on that further down this article.

King of the OS world

The next version of your Mac’s OS has been talking to it’s iOS nephews. Lion will incorporate even more touch gestures for your built-in or external “magic” trackpad.Combine that with the new Mission Control that gives you a complete view of everything that’s happening on our and you’ve got yourself Exposé on steroids. More system apps (and I presume API will also provide it for third party apps) will have a full screen mode, keeping you focussed on the job at hand,. Be it writing a text in Pages, obtaining inbox zero in Mail or taking silly pictures of yourself in Photobooth.

A combination of a new feature called Launchpad and the Mac App Store you might already be using today is going to give your Mac even more of the iOS look’n’feel. Buying applications and browsing through them will feel just like you’re on the iPad. For me personally, it makes the OS feel a bit, well, childish I guess. I know the way forward is simplifying interfaces to be more efficient and accessible, but I’ll need to get used to it.

My favorite new features are Resume and Version. Whether you’re writing a text or editing a photo, Lion will allow apps to constantly save every move you make and provides the ability to browse through past versions of your document. Kinda like Time Machine but throughout the entire OS. After you’ve restarted the app takes you right back where you left off. Students are obviously going to have one less excuse to not get their papers done in time. Finally, I’d like to mention Airdrop, a nifty new feature that’s integrated into the Finder and allows you to transfer files to any Mac in your vicinity. You don’t even need to be on the same WiFi network. I’m interested to find out if they use WiFi or Bluetooth to airdrop (hence the name) an important business document securely into your collegae’s Download folder. Sharing files never was this exciting.

Some other stuff to look forward to:

  • Conversations in Mail (Did anyone say Wave?)
  • You’ll be able to receive FaceTime calls,  even if you’re not running the app (Don’t worry, you can turn it off if you want to.)
  • Full screen Screen Sharing

Goodbye MobileMe, hello iCloud

MobileMe has always been one of those service that, if you use it intensively, is immensely useful but, if you don’t, feels like a total waste of money. Soon, everyone will be able to enjoy Exchange for the rest of us without having to pay for it. Mail, calendars, contacts, documents, photo’s, you’ll be able to sync them between you Mac, iPad, iPhone and iPod Tocuh without having to connect one single cable. On top of that, you can see all your past Music, Book or App purchases on all of your devices and download them instantly. Those purchases don’t even use your 5 GB of free cloud space. You can even set things up to automatically download new songs or apps you bought on your Mac to your iOS device(s).

The thing that’s got me excited though, is iTunes Match. For $25/year you sync up to 25.000 songs (even the ones you ripped from CD’s or got through some other sneaky way). Wirelessly over all your devices. You’ll even get Apple’s 256 kbps version of the songs you own. When you get to a charger in a WiFi hotspot, just plug in your device and the Cloud will do the rest. My biggest concern is whether SABAM and the Belgian music labels are going to block this feature just like they did with movies and shows on iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, … you get the picture. Only time will tell …

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Mac server slowing down your network?

I had only been tinkering with MacOS X for a few days when I had my first annoyance yesterday. It might have been just my fault, but judging by the amount of Google result on this problem, I thought I’d just quickly write out my solution.

The symptoms:

– Server Admin takes 5 minutes to actually appear, before that it’s shown as “not responding” in Activity Monitor.
– Server has a working internet connection, but you can’t load updates or a web page in Safari.
– Overall, all computers in your network are taking forever to load web pages, almost looks like your ISP put you on limited bandwidth.

The cause (in my case):

– I had done a few consecutive installs of the OS to dial in the ideal settings. When you select some of the options under “What is this server going to be used for?”, the wizard starts up DNS service automatically. Apparently, this new DNS server is stored in your Airport Extreme base station.
– With every page you load, your computer goes knocking on your server’s door for DNS info which obviously isn’t there, resulting in a prolonged load time.

The solution (in my case):

– Open up Airport Utility > Manual Configuration > Internet and delete the local DNS server (10.0.1.x).

Your Airport base station will automatically reboot, relaying all updated DNS info to the computers in your network. Et voila … your at full speed and your server will respond normally once again.

I hope this post will help frustrated users restoring faith in their MacOS X server. If not, good luck looking for your particular solution.

Birth of a server

Thanks to a mac shuffle throughout the house (the misses got a new laptop), I found a new candidate in my never-ending search of a pet project. I decided to turn my old first generation white Macbook (FLASHBACK!) into a Mac OS server. I have very little experience with servers, none actually, so I’m curious to see how it’ll go along. The goal is to host my own portfolio/company website, as I’m (hopefully) going to graduate next month. To start it all off, I went ahead and registered http://www.gilplaquet.com (powered by Priorweb).

What I’ve done so for:

– Installed Snow Leopard server
– Installed Insomniax to keep the Macbook awake (for some reason that particular model doesn’t like waking up with the lid closed since Snow Leopard)
– Installed Sequel Pro for editing MySQL databases (I know, I know, real geeks do that stuff in Terminal)
– Exploring the server OS, probably ruining stuff all over the place

What I’m not sure about / would like to know:

– WordPress, Drupal or … ?
– Will Telenet start bitchin’ (I know they block port 80)?
– What are absolute essentials when running your own (Mac) server?

Stalken met stijl

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Afgelopen woensdag kon ik dankzij @whocares0 van Partyreporters.be mee naar een Blackberry-event in het poepchique Lux in Antwerpen voor de voorstelling van de nieuwe Urban Tours applicatie. Deze software toont je de favoriete plekjes van een hele hoop nationale en internationale sterren die nooit zonder hun Blackberry de deur uit gaan. Urban Tours heeft alle capaciteiten van je crackberry mee: zo kan je meteen bellen voor een reservatie, de route uitstippelen in Google of Blackberry maps en kan je je ter plaatse met een op je GPS gebaseerd kompas naar de ingang navigeren.

Allemaal heel leuk, maar waar ik vooral naar benieuwd was, was wanneer App World bij ons beschikbaar zal zijn. Meer dan een sneak preview, welke er zeer indrukwekkend uit zag, en een geruststellende “Het komt … binnenkort.” kwam ik echter niet te weten. Als RIM uiteindelijk toch beslist om het in ons land te lanceren zal het met applicaties als Urban Tours en nog vele anderen zich naast haar trouwe aanhang van suits en geeks nog meer op gewone consumenten kunnen gaan richten.

Om de applicatie te downloaden surf je met je Blackberry Browser naar www.urban-tours.com

Another N by Nokia

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The misses got a Nokia N85 in the mail this week asking to share her view on it. I managed to snag it from her and take it for a little spin. Here are my impressions:

  • The design of the phone looks really great. However, coming from a full qwerty keyboard it took a little while getting used to a T9 phone again. Also, the 1, 2, and 3 button were really hard to push for me as I had to cram my thumb under the sliding mechanism.
  • I like the double slider design. One side gives the numeric pad in portrait view, while the other gives you audio and photo controls.
  • The display is bright, clear and great for watching video’s both off and on line.
  • Sadly enough not much mac support for syncing (plug-ins for iCal are available though). You have to sync your media by mounting the memory as a disk and performing some good old drag-and-drop action.
  • It has about every connection you can think of: EDGE, 3G, HSDPA, Wifi and even GPS with voice guided directions (be it that this is a 30 dollar a year subscription service).
  • A hot-swappable micro SD card allows for vast ammounts of interchangeable storage, without having to reboot the deivce.
  • The OS is very expendable when it comes to apps but sometimes it’s a bit laggy and not very intuitive. Setting up an APN for my data connection took quite some digging in various menus.
  • The music player is very intuitive and has a clean interface. I personally liked the podcast support, enabling the user to subscribe to and download podcast from his or her phone.
  • The N85 also has a buit-in FM transmitter so you can play your tunes over your home our car stereo without any wires with very decent sound quality. I wasn’t able to check it, but I’m pretty sure you can use this connection for the voice-guided GPS as well.
  • Besides the FM transmitter, you can also use an composite cable that comes with the phone to play your music and video’s on your tv or stereo.
  • This phone packs a 5 megapixel camera with video support and a flash on the back while housing a second VGA cam on the front for video-conferencing.

Overall, the N85 is a feature-packed phone and another great addition to the Nokia N-series in which we, over the years, have seen some very cool and innovative phones. My only hope is that nokia puts just a little more time in every single phone to perfect it instead of releasing a new ultra-cool yet not perfect N phone every few months or so.

Do you poken ?

Poken

Yesterday I got my very own Poken (special thanks to Clopin for ordering). A Poken is a sort of virtual business card that comes in various designs (bee, alien, skull, panda) and can be wirelessly exchanged with another Poken over RFID.

Here’s how it works:

  1. You go to www.doyoupoken.com and buy one or, even better, gather 11 friends and order a batch of 12 like the belgian twittosphere has been doing. The damage: 10 euros.
  2. Your Poken is being shipped. In the meanwhile, find something else to do. Like, for example, reading your feeds or taking a very long walk.
  3. Your Poken arrives. Unpack it, plug into the nearest USB port you can find and start up the file “start_poken.html. You’ll be redirected to the www.doyoupoken.com website to create an account. This is where you add you’re picture, contact information and link your Poken account to your various social network accounts.
  4. Start up that html file one more time to log in and link your Poken device to your account.
  5. And that’s it … you’re done ! Congrats ! What are you waiting for ? Get out there and start Poken …

PS: And another thing: the Poken has 1 gig of memory built in, so you can also use it as a memory stick if you’d like.

Soocial, it’s got my vote !

 

Was suprised to find an invite for soocial.com in my inbox today. Soocial is an online service that delivers what it states on it’s website: “hassle”-free contacts.

What this all boils down too is that this (for now) free service syncs all yours gimo’s so that you have all your contacts wherever you go.

Here are the various way to sync:
– macs: a pref app that automatically syncs your adress book with soocial servers
– mobile: sync your cell phone (anxiously awaiting the blackberry app, which is in development)
– Gmail: sync your Gmail adress book
– soocial.com: acces your contacts from any computer
– highrise: a CRM I myself am not familiar with

Setting up is really and the best part is that it’s free.

Feel like checking it out yourself ? Head on over to soocial.com.