Finder tags in Mavericks

Matt Gemmell at his best on how he uses tags in OS X Mavericks:

I’ve always struggled to use tagging systems. My tendency is to over-apply tags, resulting in hundreds of different ones in use, barely providing more retrieval value than just searching by the file’s contents. Since everything is constantly indexed on modern operating systems, I see tags as more of an organisational and categorisation system.

If you have struggled to use tags in an efficient way in Mavericks, this article is for you. 

I’ll try and stick with Matt’s suggestions. Limit the number of tags, maybe as few as the colours available and let Spotlight do its job. 

New Retina MacBook Pro 13″ and 15″ released




Small 200MHz speed bump, 16GB RAM standard on all Retina MacBook Pro 15” and a small $100.00 price cut on the 15-inch 2.5GHz high-end model. 

Obviously this update is a mid cycle update, until Intel releases the mobile versions of i5 and i7 Broadwell processors, now pushed back to 2015. 

I’ve read some negative comments about this update coming from some people who obviously think that a better specced Mac would improve their empty lives. For the record, most complaints were about the discrete graphics card that the Retina MacBook Pro 15” uses. It’s a NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M.

Some users called for an upgrade to the GTX 850M. It is my understanding that the NVIDIA GTX 850M requires a redesign of the motherboard. It is unlikely that any vendor would put any resources on redesigning a motherboard at half cycle. We’ll get new discrete graphics cards but when Apple releases the new Retina MacBook Pro with Broadwell chips. And that depends largely on Intel.

Increasingly more users find Dropbox overpriced

Mike Evans at MacFilos:

In my little ecosystem the biggest threat to Dropbox is from Apple’s iCloud as it morphs this autumn into iCloud Drive. This facelifted service will work very much like Dropbox, with individual file control and the ability for disparate apps to sync data.

The big thing is that iCloud Drive will be much cheaper, certainly much less than Dropbox at current rates. Talk is of 200GB for $48 a year (a quarter the cost of Dropbox) and a terrabyte at even lower cost per Gigabyte. Currently the Dropbox ceiling for individuals is 500GB at $500 a year.

Integration with the OS and cost are the two biggest enemies of Dropbox.

The fact that only now Dropbox is building its own datacenters instead of relying on AWS is a big handicap for the company founded by Drew Houston. In a way Dropbox is the victim of its own success. With so many customers, the monthly bill for AWS must be scary. 

There is also the integration part. You can be sure that iCloud Drive will morph even more into iOS and OS X. Dropbox will increasingly feel like something added to the OS rather than blended into it. 

In my case, iCloud Drive cannot come fast enough. I really cannot wait to ditch Dropbox and finally achieve iCloud’s nirvana. I’ve been impressed with the speed, ease of use and the way the service is transparent to the user. There aren’t any sync icons in the menubar, nothing. Just pure and simple cloud sync/storage integrated in OS X Yosemite. 

Google and Microsoft repeating Apple’s mistakes

Another excellent editorial by Daniel Eran Dilger. On Google:

Never mind that advertising on mobile is not working out like advertising on the desktop PC browser. Google’s ad profitability is dropping with each quarter, something that analysts like to excuse because “mobile ads work differently.” But a larger problem is that while the PC desktop is plateauing, Google’s control over the Android mobile platform is itself slipping.
While analysts are extremely concerned about Apple’s share of mobile growth, and in particular its growth in China, they are only making excuses about Google’s mobile performance and completely ignoring the fact that China has built its own version of Google services. 

and on Microsoft:

Microsoft is increasingly looking like a company with serious cracks opening in its facade, and within those cracks you can observe some very rotten stuff that will require very extensive surgery to remove.
One example: in addition to massive layoffs, Microsoft is also revealing that a significant portion of what it does is actually farmed out to non-employee vendor and temporary contractors, resulting in exposure of “Microsoft IP and confidential information.

Apple’s advantage in 2014 is that it’s already made all the mistakes that both Microsoft and Google are making twenty years ago. 

I must add that Apple’s advantage is the impressive capability to execute. 

If Apple products were independent companies

Slate published a smart financial comparison to make people understand the sheer size of Apple economy

For example, in the last quarter the iPhone business generated $19.75 billion. That is equivalent to the combined revenue generated by Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, or the same amount of Amazon’s revenue. This is just the iPhone business, not all Apple. 

Just to continue this game, I check the numbers for BMW. In the most recent quarter BMW made $18.2 billion, roughly the same as Apple’s iPhone business. 

Pretty amazing. 

Flashing question mark icon on Mac startup

With my horror, I realized that after installing OS X Yosemite on an external hard drive, I could not boot back into Mavericks. What I saw was this flashing question mark:

2014 07 27 question mark mac startup


Should this happen to you, just follow these simple instructions taken from Apple KB article:

  1. Turn off your Mac by pressing and holding its power button for a few seconds.
  2. Press the power button once to turn your Mac back on. Then, hold down the Option key on your keyboard until the Startup Manager appears.
  3. Select your startup disk from the list of drives that appear on screen. 
  4. If your computer finishes starting up normally, choose System Preferences from the Apple menu. Then, click the Startup Disk icon in the System Preferences window.
  5. Select your normal startup volume (such as Macintosh HD) from the list of drives that appear in the Startup Disk window.

Retina MacBook Pro 13″ or 15″ ?

That time is back. It's the time of that dreadful, yet delicious, moment when you need to decide what new Mac to buy.

The old MacBook Aluminum that my wife owns is slowly dying. It is unbearably slow for the tasks that she has to do, and downgrading is not an option. As is customary in our family, I am going to give her my current Mac — a specced out MacBook Air 13” — and buy a new model for myself.

The last time I bought a Mac, I vowed to buy it with an SSD drive. This time requirement #1 is to have a Retina display. I've already discussed how I believe Apple is planning for a Retina world, so this requirement should not come as a surprise to my readers.

The other reason for wanting a Retina MacBook Pro is because at my age, my eyesight is not as good as it used to be. As much as I love (and I dearly do) my MacBook Air 13", sometimes I squint to read fonts at 12 points or less. For example, in Mail I use fonts at 13 points.

There are two models of Retina MacBook Pro, the 13” and 15”. Which one is right for me?


I love my MacBook Air 13". It's by far the best laptop I've ever had. It's fast, light and the battery life is incredible. It also runs extremely cool and it has all the power I need.

Any additional power would be a waste, because I don't do video or audio processing, and what I really do these days is normal home tasks. Seven years ago I got a MacBook Pro because I was working as an independent IT consultant. That was a job that forced me to use virtual machines all the time. Those (technical) days are mostly gone, so I am not so sure if I need any more power than I currently have.

Retina MacBook Pro 13"

I love the 13 inch form factor. For my current usage pattern, this is the right size. It's the right balance between portability and screen real estate. The only gripe I have with the Retina MacBook Pro 13" is that the Retina display is able to display the same content as in a 1280×800 screen.

The minimum resolution I've worked in the past ten years is 1440×900, which is the native resolution of both the MacBook Air 13" and the MacBook Pro 15" (Retina and non).

The MacBook Aluminum 13" that my wife uses has the same 1280×800 resolution. Whenever I happen to work with it, I always find that the screen space is not enough for me.

The second doubt that I have is about the graphics card. The Retina MacBook Pro 13" has an integrated Intel Iris. Every review I've managed to find swears that it's more than capable of driving a Retina screen. Is that future proof though? I am sure that one day integrated graphics cards will be on par with discrete ones, but now? Will this integrated card be powerful enough for OS X 12.12 (it’s not that far away, only two years…)?

Moreover, this afternoon I found this review that shows that a MacBook Air 13" is for the most part equivalent, if not faster, than a Retina MacBook Pro 13". This fact alone makes my subconscious think that buying a Retina MacBook Pro 13” is not going to be an upgrade at all.

Retina MacBook Pro 15"

The Retina MacBook Pro 15” is The Machine. No other Apple laptop comes close to it.

I loved my old MacBook Pro 15” 2008, and was sad to sell it. And yet, after buying my MacBook Air 13” I no longer missed it. Soon after switching on the MacBook Air I realized that the old computer had been overkill for me, especially after quitting my job as an IT consultant.

The doubts I have about getting a Retina MacBook Pro 15” are of the same kind. Is this going to be too much? Do I really need a discrete graphic card? I am well aware that Apple sells an entry-level Retina MacBook Pro 15” with only an integrated graphics card, but I don’t think that it makes sense to go for a 15” Retina display and not getting a discrete graphics card. Driving more than 5M pixels is not a joke after all and with all those shadows in OS X Yosemite I think that an integrated card could run into problems.

These are valid concerns, but then I tell myself that maybe I won’t be able to change computers every two years. Maybe it makes sense to buy something that’s overkill now, but that in three-four years will be just barely able to run the latest operating system (again, this is my subconscious at work again. As I tried to prove here, there’s not much difference in longevity between Mac models). Also, buying a Retina MacBook Pro 15” feels like an upgrade compared to my current MacBook Air, something that I don’t feel with the Retina MacBook Pro 13”.

More realistically I start thinking that maybe the 15” is actually the right screen size for me. I used to love that size after all, and in any case the additional power is almost an insurance on what could happen next. Tough questions (#modernproblems).


This post has been a sort of self-analysis. Writing things down quite often helps you come up with a conclusion by clearing your mind.

My decision is that I am going to buy a Retina MacBook Pro. Which model I still don’t know. Thoughts?

EU specific roaming settings found in iOS 8

Cult of Mac reports that the latest developer preview of iOS 8 has a specific toggle switch to enable/disable data roaming within the European Union.

In March the European Commission passed a directive to ban all Europe wide data roaming charges starting December 2015. That means that European citizens won’t have to pay anymore the outrageous fees that mobile companies used to charge for data roaming when travelling from country to country.

Data roaming charges will still have to be paid when crossing the European borders, so it makes sense to have a setting to enable data outside your country of residence, but within the EU.

Apple reports third quarter results

Yesterday Apple reported its third quarter results:

The company posted quarterly revenue of $37.4 billion and quarterly net profit of $7.7 billion, or $1.28 per diluted share. These results compare to revenue of $35.3 billion and net profit of $6.9 billion, or $1.07 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 39.4 percent compared to 36.9 percent in the year-ago quarter. 

Impressive numbers for a company whose main business is hardware. 

Get the most out of your Apple devices. Mac user since 1991.