By Collin Allen

Tiger Fast User Switching

June 15, 2005

“In Tiger, Mac OS X 10.4, fast user switching gets a related feature. When a user session is switched off-screen, if a screen watching program such as OSXvnc-server is running, the off-screen session will get a virtual framebuffer so that it can be remote-operated while another user session or a login window is on the hardware console.”

So now you can remotely control a Mac while someone else is logged in as another user. [via]

Update: More information available at

Tiger Tweaks Won't Kill Folders

June 13, 2005

This story made me laugh. I can’t, for the life of me, figure out how it got onto Wired’s website. The article claims that the “experts” at Silicon Valley’s Frog Design say that the Mac OS X Finder is dying and will be removed from the system altogether in the wake of new search technologies like Spotlight.

“Spotlight changes the landscape fundamentally – how people manage and organize things on their computers,” added Mark Ligameri, also a frog creative director, who formerly worked at Microsoft on the user interface of Windows XP and the forthcoming Longhorn. “Spotlight is a good alternative to the hierarchical organization of information.”

I can’t speak for everyone, but since the introduction of Spotlight, absolutely nothing has changed in the way I organize my files. I still use categorized folders as well as the appropriate places in my user’s home folder. I really can’t see Spotlight being an alternative to a good hierarchical layout. It’s certainly great addition to good organization, but replacing it entirely is extreme. Can you imagine having 10,000 files all in one place on your computer and simply letting Spotlight manage them? What if you just want to browse? That would just be hideous.

Another sign of the Finder’s decreasing relevance: The increasing incorporation of file-management functions into applications.

iTunes and iPhoto provide immersive environments to allow users to better manage their music and photo files,” Ratzlaff added. “Both of these developments are indications that the Finder is not meeting people’s needs. I think and hope that the Finder as we know it will go away in the next two years, likely with Mac OS 11.

I think the arrival of iTunes and iPhoto simply arise out of the need for applications that fit specific media management purposes. One can’t expect the Finder (or any single program) to handle all the duties of media management programs like those mentioned because there are too many different functions associated with each file type. Some file types have a distinct separation, as well. Aside from music in slideshows, I want my tunes to have nothing to do with my image files.

Secondly, the time frame described is way off. Ratzlaff talks about the next two years and Mac OS X 11 as if they will coincide in some way. Mac OS X 11 (or whatever Apple decides to call it) is way ahead in the future. In two years, we’ll likely have Mac OS X 10.6.

Wired notes, “Apple begs to differ. ‘The Finder is far from dead,’ said Wiley Hodges, a senior product line manager for the Mac operating system. ‘It is still an extremely familiar metaphor that’s logical, putting related and relevant data into folders. Spotlight extends the Finder with queries for frequently used folders.’” Search and organization go hand in hand, not against each other. A good organizational layout combined with desktop search is what the Mac OS X Finder is all about. Folders are a standard that have been around since the very early days of computing and will be here for a very long time, even if only for backward compatibility with the rest of the non-Mac world.

The problem, he says, is:

We tend to organize data by hierarchical folder. But we may want to view the data many different ways, organized by different criteria, often through ad-hoc searches…. These new search tools offer multiple ways to find things according to changing context.

I tend to keep my files separated by type – movies, music, pictures, etc. When I want to view them in a different way, I let the files’ metadata and some simple search algorithms do the work. iTunes organizes my music using embedded data, and iPhoto using my own photo album structure. When I want to work with the files directly, I use the Finder. Spotlight is a great new technology, but it in no way endangers folders or heirarchical layouts. It’s main purpose is, as Apple puts it, to “Find stuff.” If the Finder had such a slogan, it would be “Manage stuff.” While the Finder isn’t my choice for Mac OS X “app of the year,” claiming that it and folders themselves are on their way out is simply ridiculous.


June 10, 2005

Concierge is a handy little bookmarks drawer which attaches to Safari windows as if it were a built-in function. It allows you to view your browser history sorted by domain, edit your Safari bookmarks without using an entire window or tab, as well as temporarily store links. Personally, I have a habit of throwing links into my Dock and letting them accumulate. After a week goes by, I may end up with a dozen identical-looking URLs in my Dock, each pointing to a place I meant to visit but didn’t have time. Concierge seems to be a great solution for me, and may help you out too. More information is available at Concierge’s homepage, as well as MacUpdate.

QuickTime AC3 Codec

June 9, 2005

For those who have problems hearing audio in some AVI videos, I recommend trying out this AC3 codec for QuickTime and DivX 5.2.1. DivX and XviD videos are extremely common, and the audio codecs they use are generally either MP3 or AC3. With DivX 5.2.1 and this AC3 codec, you should be able to play most AVI videos on the net.

Thoughts On Intel

June 8, 2005

I never really expected Apple to make the jump to Intel x86 processors. Even after the rumor mill was ablaze over the weekend, it wasn’t like we all haven’t heard the stories before.

I’ve talked to a number of Mac users who expressed concern about spyware and viruses coming to the Mac starting with the introduction of Intel-based machines. I’m positive this won’t happen. Why? The x86 architecture has little to do with viruses. The fault lies in the operating system, and this is the Mac’s strongest area. As I put it to those people, Linux doesn’t have virus problems and it runs on a vast array of processor architectures, including x86. Mac OS X is designed similarly, and I am confident that the Mac experience we all know and love will be just the same, if not better, than it is today.

On the subject of moving operating systems around, Apple has already stated that Mac OS X won’t run on off the shelf PC hardware. While this may be true, I’m sure there are many who are willing to attempt the Mac OS X to PC transplant. Personally, I would love to be able to install OS X on standard hardware and build some cheap Macs, but this option would certainly impact Apple’s hardware sales. Right now, it’s just too early to tell how hard this feat will be. Like it or not, though, there will be people trying their best to make it happen. If this upsets you, be aware that Apple knows what they’re getting into. The decision to switch to x86 hardware wasn’t a bright idea Steve had one day – they’ve likely been planning this since, well, NextStep days. As for dual-booting Windows on an Intel Mac machine, Phil Schiller has stated that Apple will not support it, however, they won’t be doing anything to prohibit you from doing so. Again, it’s too early to tell. The Developer Transition Kits announced yesterday will be shipping in two weeks, and people will by trying everything they can think up.

Apple has clearly made a tough choice which may significantly impact hardware sales over the course of the next few months, but the overall goal is to provide customers with cooler, faster, and (hopefully) more affordable hardware. If this is true, I’m all for it – my 1.25 GHz PowerBook gets mighty hot. I wholeheartedly agree with Steve, though, that “the soul of the Mac is it’s operating system.”