On this, the occasion of its 14th birthday, we’re gathered here to mark the passing of Mac OS X Hints.
While it can be hard to tell exactly when a web site has died, the signs are fairly obvious. It’s been over 45 days since the last new hint appeared on the site. There is no way for new users to sign up for an account. There’s been one new comment posted in the last two days. A sidebar box proudly proclaims Latest Mountain Lion Hints. The site design, logo, and icons were last updated when I worked for Macworld, over four years ago. To paraphrase a Star Trek character, “it’s dead, Jim.”
I worked on the Mac OS X Hints web site for many years. I got to know Rob Griffiths, who founded the site, way back when, probably a couple of years after he launched this site. I worked with him writing a few chapters of a book which collected hints (whose title was so dumb, I won’t mention it). Subsequently, I filled in for Rob when he took vacations, took time off when his kids were born, and then, when he left Macworld, I took over as site editor for a while.
I’ll miss the site. It had lots of great information.
I got my 5K iMac early this morning, and immediately migrated my data from my Mac Pro. My first impressions of this Mac are simply this: Wow!
I haven’t done much yet; nothing that taxes the processors to be able to see how fast it is. I did get the faster processor and better video card, though; I want this Mac to be future-proof for a few years.
What really stands out – and the reason I wanted this iMac – is the retina display. I’ve been using retina MacBook Pros for a couple of years, and I always missed the crisp display when I came back to my 27″ Thunderbolt display.
This display is simply amazing. If you’re thinking of getting this iMac for the display, you have to see it; it will blow you away. Finally, with a display like this, computing is moving to a new level. When you work on a computer all day long, as I do, especially with text, it should look like this.
I’m a bit perplexed about the number of pixels in the display. The Displays preferences say it has the same relative number of pixels as the 27″ Thunderbolt display, but when I fired it up, after transferring all my data from the Mac Pro, all the windows show more than before.
One thing I’ve had to do is up the size of the sidebar icons (System Preferences > General > Sidebar Icon Size) and the iTunes list font (iTunes > Preferences > General > List Size). It seems that everything, at the default resolution, is smaller than before, even though the Displays preferences says the relative resolution is 256 x 1440. On the other hand, I haven’t changed my font sizes in Mail; they look fine, perhaps because they are so crisp.
The display is also very bright. With my Thunderbolt display, I usually had the brightness at the highest setting (during the day); with the iMac, I’ve got it about two thirds of the way up.
I’ll do some real-world testing later, when I get the additional RAM I’ve ordered (I’m adding another 16 GB, though, so far, even with 8 GB, everything seems to run just fine; I could probably have settled with only adding another 8 GB, but I’m thinking ahead.) For now, if you have a chanced to see this Mac, go take a gander at the display. It’s amazing!
Update: I decided to convert a video with Handbrake and see what happens. The fan is quite audible; not “loud” as such, but getting there. The Mac Pro, on the other hand, is ventilated better, so even when doing the same type of activity, you can barely hear the fan. The vent is on the back of the iMac, in the center; this may have been the case with other iMacs; I haven’t had one in years, but my Thunderbolt display had a vent at the bottom left of the display.
The noise is loud enough that I wouldn’t want to do this kind of activity while I’m working, whereas, with the Mac Pro, it didn’t bother me. It quiets down within about 30 seconds after Handbrake stops.
Update: After using the iMac for a while with only 8 GB RAM, I started running into a few issues: I couldn’t past graphics into Messages without it beachballing; I had typing lags in an app; and there were some graphics glitches. I got my additional RAM late in the day, and now have 24 GB in the iMac, but this underscores an interesting point. Apple shouldn’t sell a Mac like this with only 8 GB RAM. Sure, they want to upset you on more factory-installed RAM at a high price, but this leads to a bad customer experience. The Mac Pro, which is a tad slower than the iMac (in its base configuration) comes with 12 GB; the iMac should come with more. I probably don’t need 24 GB; 16 would be sufficient. But 8 is not enough.
Last year, after I had had my iPhone 5s for a while, I wrote about how I want Touch ID everywhere. I have a new iPad Air 2, which has Touch ID, so the two mobile devices I use most let me unlock them with my fingerprints. It’s not as big a deal on the iPad, because I don’t use it anywhere near as much as my iPhone, but it’s nice to have.
But I want Touch ID everywhere (at least on all my Apple products).
I’ve been wondering how Apple can implement Touch ID on Macs. The sensor is very small; the size of a home button on an iOS device, so it would fit on the corner of a trackpad; I can imagine Apple release the Magic Trackpad Touch with this feature.
Some have suggested using an iPhone to unlock an Mac. While this is an interesting idea, I think I could do it faster by typing my password on my Mac. Using the phone, you would have to a) unlock the phone with Touch ID, then b) activate something that lets you then choose to unlock the Mac. With the Handoff technology built into iOs 8 and OS X Yosemite, this is certainly possible, but I wonder if it would save any time.
I can imagine that future Mac laptops may have a Touch ID sensor built into a power button; it’s about the same size as the old power buttons on MacBooks Pro of years past. But that wouldn’t work with desktop Macs.
I hope Apple does something in that direction. It would make life easier, saving just a bit of annoyance when I want to access my Mac.
I’ve loved my Mac Pro since I got it back in June. It looks cool, it’s fast, and it’s really quiet. But I’ve recently noticed a smell in my office; a burning smell, the kind you get when you turn on a light bulb that’s been off for a long time. Yesterday, I picked up the Mac Pro – something I hadn’t done in a while – and saw that there was a lot of dust collected outside the vents on the bottom. I leaned over the top of the Mac Pro, and breathed in the air coming out the top, and it did, indeed, smell a bit of burning dust.
I took off the cover, and held it by my window, then blew through the vents from the bottom to the top; a lot of dust came out. I’m going to get a can of compressed air, and try and give it a good cleaning. Any dust that goes in the bottom may accumulate inside the “unified thermal core,” and that would be what smells a bit.
The problem with the Mac Pro is that it sits flush on a desk or shelf. Dust settles on flat surfaces, and having the vents directly on a flat surface means that this computer will likely pull in more dust than, say, an iMac, where the vent is on the bottom-right of the display, a few inches above your desk.
If you have a Mac Pro, you might want to look at the bottom vents, and see if they’ve got dust around them. I could blame Titus the Cat, whose hair is certainly everywhere in the house, but, since he doesn’t go on my desk, I’d say it’s not really his fault. The design of the Mac Pro is such that it’s going to pick up any dust on your desk, and slowly pull that dust inside the computer.
AirPlay is very cool. You can stream from a Mac to various devices, such as an Apple TV, or to standalone AirPlay-compatible speakers. You can stream from an iOS device to an Apple TV or to standalone AirPlay speakers. But one thing I’d like, which currently isn’t possible, is to stream from an iOS device to a Mac.
The reason for this is, in my case, to play podcasts that are on an app on my iPhone, and not on my Mac, through my Mac and its speakers. There could be many other uses, such as playing someone’s music on your Mac when they’re visiting, or to view an iPad screen on a Mac while playing a game. You can do both of these to an Apple TV, so it shouldn’t be hard to do them to a Mac as well.
I wouldn’t use this feature a lot, but trying out Marco Arment’s new Overcast podcast app, with its great smart speed and voice boost features, I realized that, when I listen to podcasts in my office, I’d rather use that app than iTunes. So I’d like to just stream them to my Mac. The alternative is to connect an AirPort Express to my stereo, but that’s expensive for just streaming occasionally.
But you may even want to stream something from one Mac to another; again, since you can do this to an Apple TV, it should be trivial to do it on a Mac.
Update: I was reminded by a few friends that there are third-party apps that can act as AirPlay receivers on a Mac. I have one, X-Mirage, which I got in an app bundle, but never used. I’ll try it out.