Wednesday, August 6, 2014

An In-Depth Look At OS X Yosemite Beta (10.10)

DISCLAIMER: DO NOT INSTALL THIS ON YOUR MAIN MACHINE UNLESS YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE WORKING WITH BETA SOFTWARE, OS X LIBRARIES, DARWIN, OR UNIX. THIS IS AN EXPERIMENTAL OPERATING SYSTEM AND IS NOT MEANT FOR DAILY USE UNTIL FINAL RELEASE IN THE FALL. 

Mac OS X was released on March 24th, 2001 to Apple customers running PowerPC Macintosh computers in a world before 9/11 occurred, or a war on terror, or iPhones and iPods even existed. Mac OS X 10.0 Cheetah was perhaps the most advanced Operating System to ever erupt from a company- way bigger, more intuitive, and much more beautiful than Microsoft's Windows XP, also released August that year. It was the first Apple OS to include protective memory, preemptive multitasking, a UNIX-based kernel, and the ubiquitous and delicious "Aqua" user interface. Here's a picture of what it looked like, compliments of Wikipedia.


As you can see, Mac OS X was beautiful back then. And it's beautiful today too. Here's a picture I just took from my MacBook Air, now running OS X 10.10 Yosemite Beta.


What a difference, looking at OS X (no longer Mac OS X) running on a modern laptop. Here's the difference between these images in terms of computer hardware:
  • Mac OS X 10.0 Cheetah required a 233 MHz PowerPC CPU
  • Mac OS X 10.0 Cheetah required 128 MB of RAM (256 recommended)
  • OS X 10.10 Yosemite requires an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU or later
  • OS X 10.10 Yosemite requires 2 GB of RAM
For the fun of it, I ran Mac OS X 10.0 Cheetah on my old green iMac G3 with a 333 MHz PowerPC G3 CPU and 192 MB of RAM. Surprisingly, it ran quite well- no hiccups anywhere. So, being the jackass I am, I tried Mac OS X 10.1 (not to be confused with 10.10) Puma on the same Mac. Still no issues. But, when I installed Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar (again, I'm a jackass) on the machine, it crashed like nobody's business. It was slower than molasses, difficult to operate most apps without lag, and just an ugly mess for everyone involved.

As you can see, Mac OS X was growing up inside a world when computer specifications began to double, and with it, the OS capabilities were quadrupling. Running a modern operating system is not an easy task for a low level machine. 

Fourteen years later, OS X requires 2 GB of RAM and an Intel Core 2 Duo processor to run. Let me tell you, I tested OS X 10.10 Yosemite on a unit with these very specifications. Not to mention, there was no solid state drive, instead, there was a full-blown hard disk drive. It was a nightmare.

There simply is not enough RAM to run OS X Yosemite in the base specifications. It runs, but there are too many slow downs and too many issues to run it comfortably. 4 GB is actually just enough for even a power user, and gets the job done without any hiccups. 

I ran OS X Yosemite on two machines. The low end, and the latest. For the low end, a 2009 MacBook with a 2.2 GHz  Intel Core 2 Duo, 2 GB of DDR2 SDRAM clocked at 667 MHz, and a 180 GB HDD. And for the high end, a MacBook Air with a 1.4 GHz Intel Core i5 (turbo boost to 2.7 GHz), 4 GB of 1600 MHz DDR3 SDRAM, and a 128 GB Solid State Drive.

Let's first talk about the low end. OS X Yosemite likes RAM, needs RAM to operate comfortably. The Finder works just fine, with very little issues, as does Safari, and Mail in conjunction. However, if you run just about any other app alongside these three, you will have issues. Not to mention if the Dock is on magnification. Then it's just a mess and the whole thing falls apart and one app is bound to crash. I won't even go into any details, because the CPU had to work very hard, to the point of the machine heating up significantly enough to shut it down, that OS X Yosemite is not recommended for the low end, if you can help it.

To run OS X comfortably, you need a Core i5 at least, and 4 GB of RAM unless you want issues. This being said, the low end unit I tested it on was pretty old for any computer. You're supposed to upgrade every three or four years. That unit, from 2009, is five years old. I forgive Apple for allowing OS X Yosemite to run so terribly on an old machine- they don't want you to run it on there anyway.

Now let's break away and discuss running OS X Yosemite on a high end Macintosh.

It fucking rocks.

Yeah, it's that nice. With the MacBook Air, I never find myself needing or wanting more power, and OS X runs really well. I'm going to talk about ten new features that I have enjoyed in OS X Yosemite, and leave everything else for my final review in the fall.

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1) New Look

OS X Yosemite features a brand new iOS 7-inspired look and feel. The menu bar is much flatter and cleaner- obviously inspired by the information bar in iOS 7. Apple has switched to a new font- from Lucida Grande (first featured in Mac OS X 10.0 Cheetah) to Helvetica Neue. This is the same system font found in iOS 7, and really streamlines the appearance of both operating systems. Despite being an OS X user since the very beginning, I feel more at home on the Mac now that it more closely resembles my iPhone 5S. 

Along with the new font, Apple carried flatter- almost cartoonish- icon design from iOS to OS X. Let me tell you, it looks gorgeous. There is really something to be said about this new design from Apple, and it's nice to see them ditch the "material design" (take that, Google!) found in previous versions of OS X. Thank god Scott Forestall is out and Craig Federighi is back in. 

The other welcome addition is the new title bars for windows and apps. They're smoother and much more comfortable than the one found in previous versions of OS X. Also for the first time, when you click the green button on a title bar, the window you're in actually becomes full screen- something we have all been waiting a long time for. Over all, the new flatter design is a welcome addition, and something I hope other app developers bring to their icon design and apps as well.

2) New Safari

If you've been an OS X / iOS user for the past few years, you know just how incredible Safari has become. Say what you will about Chrome's ability to sync across devices, Safari is a much faster, more reliable, and battery-saving browser. Since iOS 7, I just don't see a need for Google Chrome anymore. I hope I'm not alone. 

The new Safari looks a lot like its brother on iOS, and is just as sleek and fast. The new title bar is streamlined to include a much smaller address bar than found in OS X Mavericks, which is much cleaner and more familiar for me, considering my iPhone 5S is my real workhorse throughout the day. The buttons are also cleaner and smaller, and overall Safari feels much more in tune with iOS. 

My personal favorite new feature of Safari is the new placement of favorites, which now appear in the address bar if you click on it. It's a much cleaner way to browse, and focuses more on web content... as it should. 

Along with the new look comes much faster performance and more security features- including the option to make private browsing windows instead of forcing the whole browser to be private at one time. It's a much better way to browse. 



3) New Messages

While I intend on talking about the new look of messages, I will not include screenshots, as I am too lazy and I'm not about to reveal my private conversations to anyone. But let me tell you- if you like Messages on iOS, you'll love it on OS X Yosemite. It's just as fast, with the same clean interface found in iOS 7, and its definitely a welcome upgrade, albeit not as different as it could have been. 

With iOS 8 working with OS X Yosemite, users will finally be able to receive text messages on their Mac- so even those inferior green bubble friends have a place in Messages. 

Another new feature that is also coming to iOS 8 is called Soundbite, which lets you record an audio clip to send like a message. This is similar to the feature in WhatsApp. 

Probably the coolest new feature deals with group messages. No longer do you have to deal with the same annoying messages being sent- you can now opt out of conversations or remove others from them. Finally a way to chat that is more exclusive.

4) New Spotlight

Depending on how productive you are with your Mac, you most likely use spotlight. If you've also been the same with your iOS device, the experience is not much different. Much like the spotlight before it, and the old Sherlock (remember, Sherlock?) you can search your Mac, iCloud, and the Web for any information you may be seeking. You can search for locations in Maps as well- something that is actually quite helpful and a lot easier to access than Google Maps or MapQuest. Here's an example of what it's like to look up a restaurant:


5) iCloud Drive

If you're a Chromebook user, you know that having your computer integrated with the cloud is a super ideal way to work. iCloud Drive is the same- everything you do on your iOS 8-powered device is synced and ready to go. And since upgrading cloud storage is so cheap on Apple's end ($20/year for 10 GB which is all you need), iCloud Drive is a great service and finally an easy way to access folders and documents shared between OS X and iOS.

6) Handoff

It's a common problem actually: you start an email on your desktop/notebook and you have to go- so you pick it up on your phone. But in the past, doing this hasn't been so simple. Now, because of Bluetooth technologies integrated into OS X, users can handoff tasks between their computer and their smartphone and tablet or vice versa. It's a really productive way to work and perhaps the most important component of Apple's new Continuity focus on iOS and OS X.

7) Instant Hotspot

I hate when there's no WiFi in the area and I'm on my laptop. So usually to compensate, I connect my machine to my iPhone's hotspot. Except, this isn't as instant as it could be. With OS X Yosemite and iOS 8, it finally is. Just having one device in range while the other isn't connected will automatically connect them both. It's a very useful function and a much needed addition for users of iOS and OS X.

8) New Mail

So, you're trying to show somebody something through Email: maybe it's a picture of you with a black eye you're trying to point out. A new feature called "Markup" allows you to draw over photos to do just that- and it's really easy to do. Other than that, Mail also accepts and allows you to send larger files than ever before. Thanks to MailDrop, you can drop files up to 5 GB in iCloud and then drop them into an email. No more issues sending big collections of pictures or movies to friends.



9) New iTunes

The twelfth incarnation of iTunes is a big one. Finally, users are able to browse music in a truly streamlined way. Also, signing in and out of user accounts is much easier to do- something that was quite difficult in iTunes 11. Accessing your content is much easier to do with the smaller, more intuitive icons found in the upper left hand corner of the app. Unfortunately, accessing the miniPlayer isn't so obvious, and has to be done through the Window menu. Also, where as the player used to be integrated with the window, it is now a separate entity. 


10) Notification Center

I feel that with making this the final feature in this review, I'm doing justice to one of OS X's most powerful features. Don't get me wrong, I appreciated Notification Center in OS X Lion, but nothing ever came close to the speed and versatility of the software in iOS. Finally, this isn't true. Both versions are on par with each other, and receiving notifications, as well as navigating through your day, is amazingly easy and attractive. I really like being able to see the weather, my schedule for the day, stock prices, and my schedule for the next day. Not to mention that notifications on iOS and OS X compliment each other: if one is read on one device, it disappears on the other. It's a much better way to deal with notifications.

Conclusion

OS X has seen many changes in the past 13 years, and 15 years since development began. There is no operating system more robust, intuitive, or attractive as Apple's OS X. I really don't see myself using another pair of OS, desktop and mobile, than Apple's current offering. The integration is incredible, and the devices they run on are state of the art in every way possible. Call me a fanboy, but Apple's future is really set with OS X Yosemite, and whatever is in the pipeline for the next few years.

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