No full-screen Finder

HappyMacOriginal HappyMac

I’ve got Lion. I’m in Finder. I look for “full-screen.” Computer says no.

Apple has made a whole lotta hoopla about all the full-screeniness of Lion. But no love for Finder. What’s the deal?

EarlyMacStartup

I’m trying to work out something about that Finder icon, that innocuous cubist grin that was the face of Mac for 18 years.

When Apple got rid of the Happy Mac at startup, it caused such a fuss. The amount of reverence inspired by that Happy Mac is stunning. Why?

Macheads had for decades relied on that smile to tell us, “Whatever else might be wrong, your Mac is healthy and ready to go.” And once everything had started up, we would see the Happy Mac throughout the system — inviting, reassuring.

ClassicStartup

Then, with the arrival of OS X 10.2 Jaguar in 2002, the Happy Mac was gone. The only remnant on the system is the Finder icon in the dock.

MadeforMac
Is this, or isn’t this, the face of the Mac?

The irony is that, since the very beginning, the Finder has been the single worst, most uninspiring, most gripe-attractive application ever written for the Macintosh. (All due respect to the creators, who giveth homes to all good documents.) Apple has made OS X the most advanced and stable OS on the planet, replete with security and useful eye candy and productivity enhancers… but Finder has just never evolved. To this day, so many of the people we work with, as comfortable as they have gotten with their Macs, don’t have any solid idea where their stuff lives on their computer.

FinderWindow

Perhaps in Lion, Apple made the biggest changes ever, moving the hard drive and other devices to the bottom of the Finder sidebar, and leaving volumes off the desktop by default. These items were cues to confusion: a user saw them, and was immediately reminded of how much they don’t know about their computer. What the heck is a “Macintosh HD”? Why does it say “Macintosh” when I own a “Mac”? What does the “HD” stand for? And when I open “Macintosh HD,” what the hell is a “System” or a “Library”? (Coincidentally, Microsoft’s own file browser has had an even more ugly lifecycle, made no better by the recently announced Windows 8.)

WinExp
Ewww.

Apple has given priority to showing people their “Places,” a name I have issues with because it further abstracts the situation. My Places are in my Home but when I want a new Place, I go to File > New Folder? Shouldn’t that be New Place? And is a File a Document?

So why don’t they just lose Finder altogether? I don’t know if it’s out of neglect, nonchalance, or fear.

Or loyalty. It could be loyalty. A tiny acknowledgement of the devotées who recognized, from Day 1, the personality and love that went into Apple products.

Needlepoint

Maybe Apple feels that files and folders are an arcane idea. The iPhone and iPad are successful because their users don’t have to think in files. They think in contexts, locations: “I go there, to get to that.”

But the laptop and desktop computers that Steve Jobs called “trucks” still work in the old file-and-folder mode, no matter how much Apple is trying to friendly that mode up. Perhaps that Happy Mac still works on people. “Don’t worry about what you don’t know. I’m your friend. We’ll get through this together.” (It is funny that the new iPhones have a voice that actually responds to you in a tone that, while helpful, is not exactly friendly.)

Without question, if they took Finder away right now, I’d be way ticked off. But I’m starting to think that maybe they should be honest with us. Apple doesn’t want to be your friend, and they don’t want the Mac to be your friend. They want you to have an assistant to help you get things done.

I’m reminded of the movie Dave, when Dave meets his lookalike, the American president, who tells him, “Just get rid of that grin. You look like a schmuck.”

So maybe it’s time to say goodbye to my old nemesis Finder, and likewise to my dear old friend the Happy Mac. Apple could give us a new starting point for productivity. And it should probably have full-screen mode.

HappyMacNails

J2 News: Reality & Rumor

Nothing like a good Apple keynote to stir it all back up again. Last month, Jobs and Co. unveiled their next generation software, with good, solid material for iPhone, iPad, and Mac, and even for this new-fangled internet the kids are on about all the time. And what’s all this 3G/4G stuff?

I gotta admit, until Apple made their big June presentation, this year had been ho-hum for this nerd. New iPad — yeah, cool, whatever, but wasn’t there supposed to be a whole mess of tablets, each cooler than the next? Meh. Even when they finally shipped, they failed to impress.

Then we got a faceful of geek downers: WikiLeaks persecuted, Sony’s networks disabled, and hacks and security breaches every day. Unfortunately, it’s time for me devote a whole ’nuther couple of newsletters to the darker side of the Internet. I am even gonna beg that everyone either read ’em, or otherwise educate themselves on keeping their data secure.

Party on, Steve!But I want to do the FUN STUFF FIRST!

Nothing like a good Apple keynote to stir it all back up again. Last month, Jobs and Co. unveiled their next generation software, with good, solid material for iPhone, iPad, and Mac, and even for this new-fangled internet the kids are on about all the time.

The Mobile

For the phone and tablet, we’re getting a bunch of new features in the fall. You can read about all the goodness in iOS 5, but among my favorite bits are quicker camera access, wireless syncing and backups, notifications all grown up, and instantly legible articles in Safari. Bold & italics in email, too… Hey, anyone wanna know how I just did that on my iPad?

There are some hot ’n’ heavy rumors about built-in voice control and voice-to-text transcription. These goodies, as well as turn-by-turn navigation, already distinguish Android from the Apple devices. Perhaps these boons will be bestowed upon the iFaithful this year. Perhaps typing on the iPhone will no longer suck quite so bad.

Perhaps iPhone will come with a flying rainbow gumdrop pony.

One other credible guess is that a new iPhone will hit in time for the holidays. Nerds and analysts predict a refresh of the current phone, with faster “4G” Internet.

4G hypeBy the way, in case this whole “3G/4G” thing has you muddled, you’re not alone. The phone companies have deliberately confused you. Here’s the scoop:

”G” does stand for “generation,” not of the iPhone, but of cell phones in general. It mostly refers to the internet on your phone.

  • 1G was the first consumer-affordable cell phone network. Remember the big bricks in the 80’s, with fat rubber antennae and batteries with lives shorter than a ballpark hot dog?
  • 2G was the first digital cell network. Think your first cell phone: candybar-size, with a black-and-grey screen. Made phone calls, and we thought it good. This second generation eventually featured the mobile internet. The first iPhone was advanced 2G, featuring slow, but functional, web surfing.
  • 3G is where most of us are now. Darn good internet, serving most people’s needs. The second, third, and fourth iPhones have all been 3G.
  • The term “4G” is controversial. It actually refers to a specific standard for super-fast wireless internet… that doesn’t actually exist in the real world, at least not in a commercially available form. The cell phone companies, unwilling to wait for this tech to become viable, have instead rolled out networks that are indeed faster than 3G, and called them “4G.” The nerds have moaned and groused, but they don’t got the money, honey.

Make sense? All the other major cell phone manufacturers and carriers have successful 4G [sic] products. The main beef with the current lineup is real sad battery life. I want to guess that this issue prevented Apple from releasing an iPhone in June. If they can get a faster phone, with a faster connection, and uncompromised power supply, they’ll have the competition beat once again.

Credit to Engadget’s primer on the subject.

To date, the iPhone models have been iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3G S (for “speed”), and iPhone 4. Most pundits are guessing at “iPhone 4G.”

If you own an iPhone 4, and don’t find yourself thinking, “Gosh, I wish this was faster,” then perhaps you’d want to wait ’til next year for an upgrade. Owners of older phones might look to the autumn to renew their contract and get a spankin’ new subsidized jobby. And remember, you can always ditch your old phone on sites like Gazelle for a tidy sum.

(Another prediction calls for a 4G iPad this autumn, but I bet against it.)

The Mac

lion logoThe Mac operating system is getting a big makeover, too. Mac OS X 10.7 is nicknamed Lion, and I will spare you any feline puns now. You’re welcome.

The big new features, coming to Macs in July as a download in the Mac App Store (!) are listed here. I am curious to see whether the average Mac user takes to things like full-screen apps and document grouping, but Auto Save, Versions, and Resume rank up with Time Machine and Spotlight as major moves forward: imagine never ever losing work again! Perhaps it won’t be fail-proof at first, but I like to imagine it’ll be close enough to save our collective butt consistently.

Mission ControlOn the geekier hardware side: The latest refreshes of iMacs and Pro laptops feature the new, blazing-fast Thunderbolt data port, and this is big news for the near future of computing. We want to move stuff quick between computer and backup or other storage. Conventional hard drives feel slow, and so does USB, compared to the new solid-state drives (SSD) that started appearing in the first MacBook Air in 2008. SSDs are now common, though still comparatively expensive; Thunderbolt connections will increase demand for faster storage, which will bring prices down.

What this could mean for you: getting hundreds of pictures and videos off your camera in seconds, copying high-def movies to your media jukebox in a snap, and backups happening so quickly you don’t even think about it.

Last I heard, inventory of Mac minis, MacBook Airs, and Mac Pros is dwindling, and I think we are getting ready to see at least new Mac minis with Lion Server and Thunderbolt. I have been holding out for a new media server and a new laptop. I’m saving up!

I also want to state here and now my own most ridiculous prediction: a slim rack-mountable server appliance to replace the Xserve (R.I.P. 2011). I want a solid-state drive to boot quickly, and two 500GB hard drives for data. And I want Windows guys to pee themselves when they see it.

As to when I recommend you upgrade, it’s easiest for me to hold to my recommendations for prior versions: If you really need to, OK, but if you can hold off until Apple’s goes through a couple of revisions, you’ll increase your chance of a smooth transition. Server owners, especially, should wait at least until 10.7.2 or thereabouts.

The Maybe

The real curiosity in Apple’s presentation was iCloud, an online service to succeed MobileMe, and then some. It will cost exactly nothing.

The things iCloud purports to do include:

  • sync your contacts, calendar, and other data
  • store documents for easy access on any device or computer
  • automatically backup any photos taken on the mobile devices to the internet, making them instantly available on all your other devices and computers
  • automatically sync anything you purchase in iTunes between devices.

In addition, for $25 a year, we’ll get iTunes Match, which will be a bit of magic I’ve craved for years — the ability to store music I already own so that you can play it anywhere. This will not be limited to stuff I’ve bought through iTunes. Any mp3 or AAC file I have on any computer will either be uploaded to Apple’s servers, or matched against a track already hosted by iTunes.

As I mentioned in this blog post, Apple’s history of online services has been at times spotty, ill-conceived, or poorly implemented. This time, they seem to be serious about learning from their mistakes, and their new giant data center in North Carolina speaks to a new dedication to keeping our stuff safe and accessible. ICloud sounds like a serious, considered utility aimed to solve some very real, very new problems.

That said, “cloud computing” means using all of the online services pertinent to one’s work and lifestyle. Apple mostly creates solutions for individual consumers, and just a few for businesses. Just as MobileMe never became “MobileUs,” iCloud is not intended to be “weCloud,” and the marketplace for online solutions for businesses large and small continues to grow and thrive. Besides the obvious lifestyle applications, I’m totally jazzed to see how businesses can use all this shiny new Apple tech to keep bringing in the bacon. We know we’ll have a good soundtrack while we fry it up.

In a couple of days, I’ll put out two security emails. Please stay tuned!