Thursday, March 12, 2009

iTunes: a laugh a minute

When I download something from the iTunes Store, iTunes periodically offers to backup all my purchases. Just got the offer now, and I figured, "Sure—I have a terabyte of portable disk sitting on top of my Mac Pro. Why not?" Then I get this:
iTunes purchases backup
Oh iTunes, you're so funny. Backup to CDs or DVDs? What century is it?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Time Capsule user interface annoyances

I just got home to find my Time Capsule's status LED flashing yellow. This is a story of two problems with the Time Capsule user interface.

If I read the Time Capsule manual at all, it was many months ago. I can't remember what ‘flashing yellow LED’ means, but given that it spends 99% of its time solid green, I figure green = good, and yellow = bad. I've been an Apple user for some four years now, so I'm with the program. Troubled by the LED's flashing yellowness, I fired up AirPort Utility. There was, in fact, no problem at all—there just happened to be a firmware update available. Firmware updated, Time Capsule reset, and the LED is now a comforting solid green. This strikes me as an awful way to signal the availability of new firmware. Surely this could be integrated into the system-wide Software Update facility.

In any case, the hilarity did not end there. Time Machine was running a backup during the update, but the Time Capsule apparently made no attempt to terminate that gracefully. While the Time Capsule rebooted after the update, Time Machine displayed an error dialog, and the backup failed. For a piece of hardware that's sold specifically to work with a piece of software, this complete lack of integration is disappointing.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Safari 4 Beta: second impressions

A few days ago, I posted my first impressions on the Safari 4 Beta. My second impressions fall into two groups: user interface and speed.

The most striking UI change is the re-worked tabs. Other authors have posted in defense of the new tabs, and I understand that the main argument is that the tabs in Safari 4 Beta better represent the document hierarchy. The tabs-in-title-bar supposedly represent something more like docked sibling windows. For example, Manton Reece writes:
The Safari 4 tabs are conceptually the right way to go. It's not "tabs" at all. Instead, think of it as an efficient way to dock multiple windows together.

I'm not sure if I'm buying the premise that there needs to be a one-to-one correspondence between web pages and entire windows. The old tabs caused me no confusion. I agree with Reece that if this represents Apple bringing system-provided tabs to applications, then that's great. I just wouldn't do it like this. Let me add my own list to the numerous gripes detailed elsewhere:
  1. Tabs in the title bar give a window a very cluttered look.
  2. The first question I had was "Well, where do you grab to move the window?" It turns out that if you grab the tab-dragging affordance on the right, it moves the tab, not the window. If you grab the tab close button, nothing happens on drag. You have to pick a spot between these two icons on each tab.
  3. The tab with focus is wider than the tabs without—which is fine, but the unfocused tabs are now so narrow that often there's no space for any useful excerpt of the page title: about six characters and ellipsis.
  4. The tabs move when cycled. In Safari 3, the leftmost tab was fixed, and cycling right eventually moved into the non-visible tabs. In Safari 4 Beta, the whole row of tabs shuffles left or right to move the focused tab into visibility. I can't decide whether this is better or worse, but coming from the old behaviour, it's at least disorienting.

Beyond tabs, I have two small UI criticisms. The loss of the progress-meter-in-address-textfield (the blue background that moved across the address textfield as the page loaded) is remarkably annoying. Evidently I used it subconsciously way more than I ever realised, as now I find its absence incredibly frustrating. Moving the reload button from the far left (and outside) of the address textfield to the far right (an inside) seems arbitrary and, again, is incredibly annoying.

On the upside: it feels fast. Ars Technica has taken a brief look at it, and, while noting that it might not be as fast as Apple claims, that it does, indeed, seem faster, and features better resource management.