Hands-on with Disk Utility in El Capitan: Tool for storage devices gets a facelift

Disk Utility hadn’t changed much over the years. The hoary app used for creating logical divisions in disks, applying first aid to ones with data damage, and repairing permissions seemed a thing from a previous age. With El Capitan, Apple has done more than slap on a fresh coat of paint. It has most of the same features, but the interaction and display is entirely different.

Expert users may be frustrated and resort to learning the ins and outs of diskutil, the command-line utility available via Terminal that’s always had more switches and controls than the graphical Disk Utility.

But for many users who need to make quick and rare trips to this software, it could be an improvement: less frightening, easy to use, and harder to make mistakes.

One bit of terminology calibration before we proceed for those who don’t typically deal with disk settings. It’s typical to call a physical drive—whether a USB thumb drive, an SSD, or a hard drive—a drive. You format a drive to make its raw storage compatible with one or more operating systems. A physical drive has logicaldivisions, called partitions, that allow different formatting parameters on the same physical drive. Each mountable partition can appear as a separate disk icon in the Finder; these are often called volumes and, via Terminal, can be found in /Volumesdirectory.

Despair permissions

Before digging into how to use the new setup, it’s important to note a key omission: Verify Permissions and Repair Permissions are gone. The sworn-by advice for years by experienced OS X users and Apple alike was to run Disk Utility and click Repair Permissions as the first step in troubleshooting something gone wrong: a printer driver failing, an app’s strange behavior, a weird interface glitch? Repair permissions!

In OS X (and in all Unix and related OSes), a file or directory’s permissions associate which kind of user can perform what kind of action: read, write, execute (run, like a program), and other attributes. It made sense that repairing permissions on files for which OS X knew precisely what settings should be in place could fix random faults. A printer driver with the wrong switches flipped might not be available to the system; or the driver might be unable to access the printer settings file or temporary print queue directories. Even so, from all reports, permissions repairs had little real effect for years—it just made us feel better.

But in El Capitan, any system file for which Repair Permissions would have restored these settings can no longer be modified during normal operating. System Integrity Protection (SIP), also known as rootless mode, prevents modification to these files.

During El Capitan’s beta testing, one round of release notes from Apple explained the permissions removal from Disk Utility by noting that during software updates, any permission issues would be resolved by an installer, but that otherwise, there was no need. (If you disable SIP to use certain third-party software or unsigned kernel extensions, you’re on you own now.)

All colors of the rainbow

This new version of Disk Utility shows a prettier display when launched. As in the older versions, the boot partition is selected—the partition on a drive that holds the currently running OS X system. The list is divvied up into Internal, External, and Disk Images. However, instead of selecting the First Aid tab, Disk Utility now shows a variety of basic information about the partition.

At launch, El Capitan’s Disk Utility shows a vibrant display of how the boot drive’s storage shakes out by category.

This view may seem familiar if you’ve taken a trip recently to ? > About This Mac and clicked Storage. For volumes “blessed” as capable of being used as a startup drive, you’ll see a color-coded division—similar to that in iTunes for iOS devices—of how much storage is used and for what. For other regular volumes, just a yellow Other bar shows occupied space. Disk Utility only shows the division for the current booted volume, however.

You might recognize the Disk Utility file-type view from About This Mac > Storage.

The area beneath the drive icon and its summary offers a bit of technical detail, but not an overwhelming amount: the Unix mount point, like / with a boot drive; its type and connection; capacity, available, and used; and the logical name used by OS X (like disk3s2), which can be helpful if you need to plug it into diskutil or get remote help for your problem.

Where did all the other tools go? They’re still there, but as buttons instead of tabs. Across the tab, you see First Aid (disk repair), Partition, Erase, Mount, and Info. Mount toggles to Unmount for volumes that are available in the Finder. (You can also click the eject button now next to any mounted volume in the list.)

A successful disk repair offers hidden details that can be revealed.

Select a drive or a partition and click First Aid, and a seemingly much-changed repair operation proceeds. Unlike in its predecessor, Disk Utility can no longer verify a disk, making sure it’s OK without unmounting it or performing other operations. First Aid must be able to unmount a drive, or you’ll get an error. Click Show Details and you’ll see a bit more of what’s happening under the hood, as with the earlier release.

If Disk Utility can’t unmount a volume, First Aid fails. There’s no verify option.

You can erase either a partition or an entire drive. Drives have both a format and a scheme: the scheme controls how the drive is prepared to be used to boot with different operating systems. Intel-based Macs need a GUID Partition Map; PowerPC ones, Apple Partition Map; and Windows (and DOS!), Master Boot Record. OS X can mount all three kinds, but only boot from the GUID flavor.

Disk Utility’s Erase option allows formatting across several types.

The several types under Format, whether for a drive or a partition, control filesystem-related issues. Here, you’ll almost always pick OS X Extended (Journaled) for best results. (To make a USB thumb drive or other disk to use with Windows, you may have to pick Master Boot Record as the scheme and ExFAT for cross-platform compatibility.)

The GUID Partition Map lets you resize partitions after they’ve been created and make new partitions, a boon compared to the olden days, when you had to back up an entire disk, reformat it, repartition it, and restore to change those formats. In the new Disk Utility, you drag a handle around a circle and click the + button to add new partitions.

Repartitioning a GUID Partition Map drive is as easy as dragging a handle around a circle. Is that easy? You can also type in numbers.

Is a circle of pie slices a better representation of disk storage than the stacked rectangles used in earlier releases? Hard to say: both refer to a linear range of locations on a physical disk and yet appear in two dimensions!

Finally, with any item select at left, click Info and receive a cavalcade of lower-level system detail useful for troubleshooting without diving into Terminal.

Disk image management

As in previous versions, Disk Utility has several options for disk images, such as verifying, creating a checksum (which allows verification by others), resizing, and converting the type. You can create a disk image from any folder (File > New Image > Image from Folder) or any selected mounted volume (File > New Image > Image from [Name]). The Blank Image option remains unchanged from recent releases.

Copying has become more obscure than the previous version. Technically, a copy happens via restore. You select a mounted volume or a disk image you’ve added to Disk Utility and then select Edit > Restore. You then choose the source that you want to overwrite the selected item, whether another mounted volume or a disk image. Restore is often used with backups, hence the name, but it’s just a backwards-described copy.

You used to be able to drag disk images from the Finder into Disk Utilities drive and volume view, but that no longer works. You have to choose File > Open Disk Imageand select the file to bring it under management.

Disk Utility’s latest incarnation should be less daunting to the less experienced even as it’s less needed with Apple’s latest changes.

 

[Source:- Macworld]

Java 9 to address GTK GUI pains on Linux

Plans are afoot to have Java 9 accommodate the GTK 3 GUI toolkit on Linux systems. The move would bring Java current with the latest version of the toolkit and prevent application failure due to mixing of versions.

The intention, according to a Java enhancement proposal on openjdk.net, would be to support GTK (GIMP Toolkit) 2 by default, with GTK 3 used when indicated by a system property. Java graphical applications based on JavaFX, Swing, or AWT (Advanced Window Toolkit) would be accommodated under the plan, and existing applications could run on Linux without modification with either GTK 2 or 3.

The proposal was sent to the openjfx-dev mailing list by Oracle’s Mark Reinhold, chief architect of the Java platform group at the company, which oversees Java’s development. Java 9 is expected to be available in March 2017.

“There are a number of Java packages that use GTK. These include AWT/Swing, JavaFX, and SWT. SWT has migrated to GTK 3, though there is a system property that can be used to force it to use the older version,” the proposal states. “This mixing of packages using different GTK versions causes application failures.”

The issue particularly affects applications when using the Eclipse development platform. The proposal also notes that while GTK 2 and 3 are now available by default on Linux distributions, this may not always be the case.

Also identified as GTK+, the cross-platform toolkit features widgets and an API and is offered as free software via the GNU Project. It has been used in projects ranging from the Apache OpenOffice office software suite to the Inkscape vector graphics editor to the PyShare image uploader.

An alternative to backing both GTK 2 and 3, according to the Java proposal, would be to migrate Java graphics to support only GTK 3, thus reducing efforts required in porting and testing. But this plan could result in a higher number of bugs not detected by testing, require additional effort with the AWT look and feel, and necessitate both or neither of JavaFX/Swing being ported. Such a port also would require more coordination between AWT and Swing.

But a former Java official at Sun Microsystems questioned the demand for this improvement to Java. “I’ve not seen very many Java-based desktop applications on Linux, so not sure how big a market this is addressing,” said Arun Gupta, vice president of developer advocacy at Couchbase and a former member of the Java EE team at Sun.

 
[Source:- Javaworld]

 

What is Project Centennial?

Project Centennial: A toolkit that enables desktop developers to package and publish their existing .NET and Win32-based Windows applications to the Windows Store. Developers can also use Centennial to call common UWP APIs and services.

By now, most of us are familiar with Microsoft’s two big projects — Astoria and Islandwood. For those who didn’t know, Astoria was Microsoft’s Windows Bridge for Android, allowing Android app developers to port their app to Windows using their existing code.

Due to “developer confusion,” Microsoft announced recently that Project Astoria was being killed off.

Project Islandwood, Microsoft’s Windows Bridge for iOS, enables iOS app developers to build Universal Windows Platform apps using their existing Objective-C code. So far, this project is full steam ahead.

There are other projects available that aim to help app developers flock to Microsoft’s platform. With the Silverlight bridge, Microsoft is hoping to make it easy for Windows Phone Silverlight developers to update their older Windows Phone apps to take advantage of the Universal Windows Platform.

Then there is Project Centennial, which was announced during Microsoft’s Build 2015 developer conference. This project aims to help developers publish their .NET and Win32 desktop applications to the Windows Store — and this is important.

Microsoft wants the Windows Store to flourish with apps and the only way to entice developers is to help them port their existing apps and applications with various toolkits. Since there are over 60 million “classic” Windows applications, it makes sense to port as many of these over to the Universal Windows Platform.

Since there are over 60 million “classic” Windows applications, it makes sense to port as many of these over to the Universal Windows Platform. After all, most developers have a huge investment in their code and instead of re-writing their applications to take advantage of the newer platform, Microsoft created Project Centennial to help port those applications as Universal Windows 10 apps.

You can watch an in-depth video below showcasing Project Centennial during Build 2015.

 

At the moment, these tools are in limited testing with a select number of developers. Once Microsoft gathers enough feedback, the Redmond giant will make these toolkits broadly available. Interesting developers can sign up here for Project Centennial.

To make it easier for you to bring your existing code to Windows 10 and the Windows Store, Microsoft is releasing a number of Windows Bridge toolkits. Initial releases of the bridges are being made available as Limited Developer Preview programs, which are scoped to a limited number of developers. By limiting the number of developers involved, the engineering team is better able to get the feedback necessary to advance the toolkit and to ensure that the toolkits meet the needs of the developer community. As each bridge evolves, Microsoft will make it more broadly available.

[Source:- Winbeta]

OS X 10.12 features and release date information: what we want to see in the 2016 successor to El Capitan | 10 features missing from El Capitan that we need

Siri is on the iPhone, iPad and even the Apple TV, but it’s nowhere to be seen on the Mac. Meanwhile, Microsoft already has Cortana in Windows (and has done since Windows 8.1) and Chrome has Google Now. We get that Apple may want to keep it as an iOS exclusive, but Siri makes a lot of sense on the Mac where we could use it to compose messages, look up information and browse websites just by asking for them.

 

OS X 10.12 wishlist: Faster Spotlight searching

We like what Apple has done to Spotlight in OS X El Capitan, but we frequently have problems with it. Often it fails to return items, and occasionally it doesn’t return the apps we’re looking for. Apple should take a break from introducing new features in Spotlight next year, and polish it till it shines once again.

OS X 10.12 wishlist: iCloud Drive on an external drive

It’s great that Apple now offers 200GB of storage for just £2.49 per month, but iCloud Drive now takes up most of the space on Macs with smaller hard drives. It’d be great if we could move iCloud Drive to an external drive, so we had all the files stored locally without taking up all the space on our hard drive.

OS X 10.12 wishlist: Bring back the Save As shortcut

We’re still not sure why Apple replaced Save-As (Command-Shift-S) with Duplicate in its iWork apps, but we think Apple should rethink the approach. Whatever new approach to file saving they had planned hasn’t gained wider industry traction, and it’s just confusing to everybody who knows the Command-Shift-S is Save As.

OS X 10.12 wishlist: Sort out automation once and for all

Automator for OS X

Apple has spent a lot of time working on automation over the years, and now has AppleScript, Automator and Javascript for OS X all working. We think Apple should focus on one of those, and make it work, and we think it should be Javascript (it just has wider community support). The lack of a decent scripting solution in OS X drives us crazy.

OS X 10.12 wishlist: Health app for OS X

Health is a great app for iOS and Apple Watch, and we think it’d be nice to see it come across to OS X. Being able to keep an eye on your health stats from the desktop would help Health become a much more versatile tool.

OS X 10.12 wishlist: System-wide OS X Dark Mode

Dark Mode for the Dock and Menu bar is nice, but we’d love to see it integrated System Wide and adjust the whole appearance of OS X. There was a rumour of a Dark Mode reskin called Marble at one point, and we’d love to see a darker, edgier OS X appear in 2016.

OS X 10.12 wishlist: Dedicated Music App for OS X

There’s no getting away from the fact that iTunes is a big, bloated mess of an app. We’d love to see Apple break iTunes up into a series of smaller apps (as it is in iOS). Top of our list would be a dedicated Music app, with deep integration with Apple Music. But we’d also love to see separate Podcasts and iTunes Store apps.

OS X 10.12 wishlist: Clock App for OS X

Wouldn’t it be great if OS X had a proper Clock app, with all the functionality of the Clock app in iOS. The widget is fine, but a dedicated app with Alarm, Stopwatch and Timer functionality for OS X would come in handy.

OS X 10.12 wishlist: iCloud Time Machine

You can backup your iOS devices to the cloud, but what about OS X? With cloud storage prices falling, we think it’s high time Apple brought cloud backup directly into OS X. You might have to pay extra for the solution, but it’d be a much better system than backing up Macs to external drives.

 

[Source:- Macworld]

The NYPD is using Windows Phones in policing

Last Summer the NYPD announced plans to equip its 35,000 officers with Windows Phones. At the time, uses for the phones included: accessing a new domain awareness system, viewing 911 calls, accessing several New York databases, and using voice translation services.  Since this initial announcement, the department has gone on to use the phones with more than 25,000 officers, and is now announcing that within weeks all NYPD officers will be carrying the device.

In a report done by NY1 News, the NYPD says that the highly specialized Windows Phone devices have worked as a major success in fighting crimes. According to the NYPD, on February 22nd alone, police officers looked at 2,000 wanted flyers, conducted 36,00 database searches, and reviewed information about 29,000 911 calls on the Windows Phone devices.

The devices are a major change from the walkie-talkie that officers have been accustomed to using since 1962.  NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Information Technology told the news station:

It is clear that these department smart phones represent the single largest transformation in emergency communications in over a half of century for sure

Screen-Shot-2016-02-29-at-2.14.11-PM-1050x568 The NYPD is using Windows Phones in policing

The NYPD-issued Windows Phone device.

Of course, the new technology brings concerns that officers might spend less time policing and more time on the devices.  NYPD Chief of Commissioner addressed the issue and told the news station:

We push that out to everybody to make sure if you are together, one person looks at the phone and if you are by yourself you have to be careful how you use it.

Just on Friday, a plain-clothed NYPD officer used the department-issued device to match the wanted photo of a suspect in a fatal November murder in New York City.  After police saw the suspect walking on the Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue subway platform, they pulled his wanted poster up on the phone, matched him, and nabbed him for an unrelated violation. Thanks to that, and the phone, once they nabbed him, they were able to charge him with the November murder.

 

[Source:- Winbeta]

Java finally gets microservices tools

Java finally gets microservices tools

Lightbend, formerly known as Typesafe, is bringing microservices-based architectures to Java with its Lagom platform.

Due in early March, Lagom is a microservices framework that lightens the burden of developing microservices in Java. Built on the Scala functional language, open source Lagom acts as a development environment for managing microservices. APIs initially are provided for Java services, with Scala to follow.

The framework features Lightbend’s Akka middleware technologies as well as its ConductR microservices deployment tool and Play Web framework. Applications are deployed to Lightbend’s commercial Reactive platform for message-driven applications or via open source Akka.

Lightbend sees microservices as loosely coupled, isolated, single-responsibility services, each owning its own data and easily composed into larger systems. Lagom provides for asynchronous communications and event-sourcing, which is storing the event leading up to particular states in an event, company officials said.

Analyst James Governor of RedMonk sees an opportunity for Lagom. “The Java community needs good tools for creating and managing microservices architectures,” he said. “Lagom is squarely aimed at that space.”

Lagom would compete with the Spring Boot application platform in some areas, according to Governor. “It is early days for Lagom, but the design points make sense,” he noted. Typesafe was focused on Scala, which was adopted in some industries, such as financial services, but never became mainstream, he argues. “So [the company now] is looking to take its experiences and tooling and make them more generally applicable with a Java-first strategy.”

 

[Source:- Javaworld]

Apple updates OS X El Capitan to version 10.11.2

Apple on Tuesday released an update to OS X El Capitan. Version 10.11.2 of the Mac operating system includes several bug fixes and performance enhancements.

According to Apple, the update includes the following:

  • Improves Wi-Fi reliability
  • Improves the reliability of Handoff and AirDrop
  • Fixes an issue that may cause Bluetooth devices to disconnect
  • Fixes an issue that prevented Mail from deleting messages in an offline Exchange account
  • Fixes an issue that prevented importing photos from an iPhone to a Mac using a USB cable
  • Improves iCloud Photo Sharing for Live Photos

Apple also has a support page that details the security content of OS X El Capitan 10.11.2 and Security Update 2015-008.

Before installing the update, back up your Mac’s data. The update is available in the App Store under Updates. You can also go to the Apple menu, select About This Mac, and click the Software Update button in the Overview window.

Developers, take note: Apple also released Xcode 7.2, which includes Swift 2.1.1 and SDKs for the OS updates that Apple released on Tuesday.

 

[Source:- Macworld]

Digital Darwin answers questions on new app

People have wanted to ask questions of Charles Darwin ever since “On the Origin of Species” was published in 1859.

Now, 157 years later, you have a chance to speak with the famous 19th century biologist, with one caveat: It’s a theatrical version of the man who first described evolutionary biology.

The Charles Darwin Synthetic Interview exhibit, formerly stationed at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, John Pollock, the Duquesne University biology professor who created the exhibit, has had it transformed into an app.

The app by the same name represents a full version of the popular exhibit that fielded 126,000 questions in just its first months at the science center, where it remained for about six years.

The app and exhibit feature actor Randy Kovitz – who starred in “The Fault in Our Stars,” “Dawn of the Dead” and “Concussion” – as Darwin. He is dressed as the English scientist and answers 199 questions about his explorations, his childhood and family and the scientific principle of evolution, which continues to spur spirited discussion.

A mirror behind the synthetic Darwin provides commentary from religious, philosophical and scientific experts about the man and his science.

The full app casts $9.99 for the full 4 { hours of content, with a free version available in which Darwin answers 24 of the most popular questions asked at the science center. The most popular was, “Where were you born?” The answer is Shrewsbury, England.

The app can be downloaded from the App Store, Google Play and Amazon Appstore, Pollock said.

The app earned a Parents’ Choice award as a “fascinating and bordering on eerie (but in a good way)” presentation that “lets viewers select questions to ask the pioneering scientist, including his thoughts about “the public response to his discovery.”

“The app will best serve classrooms, libraries and all those fascinated by the life, explorations and contributions of Charles Darwin,” the Parents’ Choice publication says.

“John’s strength is that he’s a detailed science guy with a visual sense and a good way to convey science to the public,” said Dennis Bateman, the science center director of exhibits. “I think it added a great layer of depth to the exhibit and the conversational approach was the kind of thing we were looking for to reach the average visitor.”

Pollock, who holds a Ph.D. in biophysics, said the project uses synthetic interview technology developed at Carnegie Mellon University. The questions were based on a survey of 1,000 people in Pittsburgh about what they would ask Darwin if they could. About half didn’t even know who he was.

David Lampe, a Duquesne biologist, helped script the synthetic Darwin’s answers to 199 key questions, based on Darwin’s journal entries and writings. The project received funding through the National Institutes of Health and the Templeton Foundation. It was incorporated into the Pittsburgh Public Schools curriculum in 2009.

“My main goal is getting good information to people and getting them thinking,” Pollock said.

[Source:- Phys.org]

Microsoft testing new Windows 10 Mobile cumulative patch 10586.122 internally

If you thought Windows 10 Mobile was done with cumulative patches, it appears you were mistaken. Microsoft is now testing a new cumulative update for Windows 10 Mobile internally, and if all goes well, could release the update for Insiders sometime next week. The build in question is 10586.122, and includes bug fixes and other improvements.

Like most cumulative patches, this update will not introduce any new features as Windows 10 Mobile is almost ready for release at this point. This update is again only for under-the-hood fixes and improvements to areas such as performance and migration. WinBeta can confirm that a bug affecting the swiping functionality on the keyboard in Microsoft Edge has been fixed, something many Insiders have submitted feedback about over the last few months.

screens122 Microsoft testing new Windows 10 Mobile cumulative patch 10586.122 internally

 

As mentioned above, this patch could be released to Insiders as soon as next week, that’s assuming the company doesn’t compile and begin testing a newer patch before then. With Microsoft finally getting round to fixing some of the more user-facing bugs in Windows 10 Mobile, it’s hard to assume the company isn’t close to releasing Windows 10 Mobile at this point.

Siri for Mac release date rumours: Siri coming to Mac OS X 10.12 at WWDC in June 2016. PLUS: How to get Siri on Mac now

Siri, Apple’s voice-activated personal assistant feature, has been expected to make an appearance in OS X for some time. There were even strong rumours that Apple was set to add Siri to OS X Mavericks, but that never materialised.

Siri came to the iPhone 4s in 2011, to the iPad 3 and iPod touch in 2012, and to the Apple Watch and Apple TV in 2015. And now it’s starting to look like it might complete the set with a Mac launch in 2016. In this article we examine the rumours surrounding Siri on the Mac, and consider when the feature will launch and the way it will look and how it will behave.

 

Siri for Mac launch date rumours

When will Siri arrive on the Mac? It’s most likely that Siri would arrive on the Mac as part of a major OS X update – so that would make it more likely that the tool would be unveiled at a WWDC event in summer and then become available for the public when the update is released in the autumn.

Siri for Mac launch date rumours: Siri to be unveiled with OS X 10.12 at WWDC 2016

9to5Mac is quoting “sources” who predict that Siri will finally come to the Mac as part of the Mac OS X 10.12 update, to be revealed at WWDC in June 2016 and launched in the autumn.

Whereas Siri on the iPhone and iPad is activated by holding down the Home button, and on the Apple Watch and Apple TV by holding down the Digital Crown and Siri button on the remove respectively, Siri on the Mac will – according to the site’s sources – be controlled via an icon located in the menu bar at the top of the screen.

We suspect, however, that Hey Siri will be a more popular method of switching on voice control, although MacBooks running on battery power apparently won’t be able to use feature. You’ll also be able to set a keyboard shortcut, and we wouldn’t be surprised if Apple develops its own line of Mac keyboards with a dedicated Siri key some way down the line.

The interface for Siri on the Mac is still in testing, but sources report that the most recent version involved a dark semi-transparent overlay that takes up only the top-right corner of the screen. (Even on iPad Pro, Siri gets a full-screen interface.)

Siri for Mac launch date rumours: Why isn’t Siri on the Mac yet?

There are a number of reasons that might explain why Apple hasn’t yet implemented Siri on the Mac. Perhaps there are patents that make doing so difficult, or perhaps translating Siri as used on the iPhone to Siri for Mac is more difficult than anticipated. Or maybe it just isn’t a popular enough service to warrant it.

Most crucially, Siri isn’t as necessary on the Mac as it is on the iPhone. The latter device has a limited keyboard for interacting with it, while it is much easier to access information on the Mac. We sit further away from our Macs too, which is one reason why Siri on the Mac might struggle to carry out your orders.

And does it matter whether Siri is any good if a lot of people still don’t like using voice commands to activate their phones? Most of the people we know only use Siri to set alarms and timers on their iPhones – although it can certainly come in useful when driving.

If people aren’t using Siri on their phones then why would they use Siri on their Macs in a busy office? Who wants to be the mad person in the corner talking to their Mac?

Do you use Siri? Would you use it on a Mac? Tell us in the poll below.

 

Siri for Mac interface and features

It’s looking likely that Siri will come to the Mac in the near future. But what that look like? How would Siri on Mac differ from Siri on iOS devices or the Apple TV?

Some clues to the features, design and interface details of Siri for Mac can be found in Apple’s patent activity over recent years.

Siri for Mac interface and features: Patent activity

Back in 2013 the 92-page patent application titled “Intelligent Digital Assistant in a Desktop Environment” suggested that Siri would enhance MacBook capabilities. In the patent application Apple suggested that: “The integration of an at least partially voice-controlled intelligent digital assistant into a desktop, laptop, and/or tablet computer environment provides additional capabilities to the digital assistant, and enhances the usability and capabilities of the desktop, laptop, and/or tablet computer.” You can read the patent application here.

At the time the patent appeared it was thought that the patent application indicated that Siri was making the move from Apple’s mobile platform iOS to OS X Yosemite, and yet both Yosemite and El Capitan have now launched without Siri implementation beyond the enhanced Dictation features that arrived with Yosemite.

In another, more recent patent, mentioned here (although we can’t find anything to back it up) Apple is said to describe a way of using a wired connection to enable devices such as the MacBook Pro and even the iPod to gain Siri’s voice activation capabilities.

For more on Siri, take a look at our Complete guide to Siri: ‘Hey Siri!’ and all the other Siri features

Siri for Mac interface and features: What will Siri on the Mac be able to do?

The original patent application referred to above explains that most desktop, laptop, and tablet computer operating systems “support more complex and sophisticated interactions and functionalities than many small mobile devices”.

Apple highlights some of the difficulties with multitasking and suggests that Siri could become a “third hand”. The patent application notes that a user is limited to interacting only with the foremost window, as a solution it suggests using the digital assistant to perform the secondary task, perhaps a web search, while the user continues to focus on the task at hand.

Siri for Mac interface and features: How will Siri on the Mac work?

According to the patent, Siri could be activated via a trackpad gesture and once activated it will listen out for your commands.

The patent application also suggests that Siri on the Mac won’t only be reliant on speech commands, but the commands will be taken contextually. For example, a “focus selector” (mouse cursor) would help to apply context to the command (for example, if you want to paste text into a document you would place the mouse pointer where you wanted the text to appear).

In an example illustrated in the patent application is a selection of files and the command: “Sort these by date and merge into a new document.”

The arrival of natural language search in OS X El Capitan also hints that Siri might eventually arrive on the Mac. Now that users can search Spotlight for “photos added last week” or “emails about Croydon”, it is surely only a matter of time before such searches can be voice activated.

Siri for Mac interface and features: Will Siri on the Mac be any good?

Siri launched on iOS in October 2011, with iOS 5. However, Siri was in ‘beta’ for about two years following launch, finally being promoted our of beta with iOS 7 in September 2013.

Unfortunately, Siri for iOS had already disappointed many including Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak who described Siri as “Poo-Poo” back in 2012. At the time he blamed Apple for Siri’s inadequacies, suggesting that before the company bought it Siri was pretty decent, but since acquiring the service Apple had let it go down hill.

Woz’s comments were many years ago now, though, and Siri has improved somewhat since then. But at the same time other virtual assistants have come on to the market ramping up the competition.

Joining the competition is the team that created Siri before it was bought by Apple, after leaving the company they started working at a new start up called Viv Labs on the “next-generation virtual assistant”. This VA (virtual assistant) is said to be able to understand complex sentences that would have Siri stumped.

Siri for Mac interface and features: Siri and the connected home

Another area where Siri may be more successful is as the control centre of your home. It is thought that Siri will take a place at the centre of Apple’s connected home. However, it is thought that this implementation will come via the new Apple TV.

Another example illustrated by Apple’s patent filing shows a user asking to view a movie on a different screen, which could be a second screen or a TV that is plugged into – this hints at Apple’s plans for the connected home using its new HomeKit framework.

Siri for Mac interface and features: Working with iOS

Siri on the Mac may also act in conjunction with iOS, as part of Apple’s aim for betterContinuity between the two platforms. The “Intelligent Digital Assistant in a Desktop Environment” patent states that the Mac version of the digital assistant could be “invoked to cooperate with the user to complete a task that the user has already started on a user device”.

This sounds a bit like Handoff, a feature that arrived in 2014 with iOS 8 and Yosemite, that allows you to start an email on your iPhone and then finish it on your Mac, for example.

Back in August 2014, AppleInsider noted that Siri for Mac would have an identical backend off-site server to Siri for iOS.

How to get Siri on the Mac now

If you’re running OS X 10.8 or later, it is possible to hear the Siri voice on your Mac. But it’s not really Siri as we know Siri on the iPhone. You can get your Mac to dictate text to you and you can dictate text to your Mac and get it to transcribe it. But there is none of the artificial intelligence associated with Siri in iOS.

To get the voice of Siri to read to you, turn on Text to Speech in System Preferences > Dictation & Speech. By clicking on Text to Speech you will be making it possible for your Mac to read the words on your screen. Daniel is the male voice of Siri in the UK, Samantha is the voice Siri uses in the US. There are lots of other voices to choose from – they will need to be downloaded from Apple’s servers.

By turning on Dictation in the Dictation & Speech tab you can get you Mac to transcribe what you say to it. Pick your language and your shortcut to start up dictation.

Using Dictation features on your Mac could allow you to dictate a Spotlight search phrase, but your Mac wouldn’t read the answer back to you as Siri would.

There used to be more functionality in earlier versions of OS X – prior to Yosemite. In these earlier versions of OS X, Speech had some Siri-like functionality, you could highlight text and say “Make this into a sticky note”; or you could speak the name of a menu, and then the name of an option within that menu to access it; you could say “Set an alarm for 3 minutes”; you could schedule meetings; and more. However, these features have disappeared in later versions of OS X.

There are some Dictation commands available in the Accessibility portion of System Preferences. But these are more for navigating around a document, “replace xxx with yyy” or “undo that” or “scroll up”.

If you want to get something like the Siri experience on your Mac, you can Enable advanced commands in this window. This allows you to choose a phrase, assign it to an application and choose what action the Mac should perform. For example, you could choose a phrase that if you spoke it then Apple would unmounts a USB drive.

Here you can also set up a dictation keyword phrase, which could be Hey Siri if you wanted.

If you want to see what was possible prior to Yosemite, there’s a video over on Macworld.com.

Alternatives to Siri on the Mac

There may be no Siri on the Mac, but you can use Cortana. However, you will only be able to run it in Windows via Parallels 11.

When running Windows 10 in Parallels Desktop 11 for Mac you can call on Cortana to “Open Safari”, “Open Pages” or any Mac OS X app. You can also request real-time location data, as well as tell Cortana to open Windows apps (whether you are in Window mode or Coherence mode where Windows in invisible).

 

[Source:- Macworld]