Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

John Siracusa’s OS X Yosemite Review

My favourite part of a new OS X release isn’t OS X itself; it’s Siracusa’s review of it. As comprehensive and as hypercritical as you’d want.

A few parts of this review really stood out to me. Regarding Safari:

The new address bar looks nearly identical to the one in Safari for iOS. On an iPhone, horizontal space is so constrained that the choice not to show the full URL is understandable. On an iPad, this is less true, but there’s an argument to be made for consistency. On the Mac, however, horizontal space is abundant, and pixel-for-pixel symmetry with iOS is decidedly out of fashion.

There are at least two other reasons to bring this interface to the Mac, however. The first is security. When the full URL is shown, it’s possible to fool users into thinking they are on a familiar website when they’re actually on a phishing site. One way to do this is by using a very long domain name that happens to begin with what looks like a legitimate domain name.

Unlike some others, I was not really that upset about OS X Safari’s iOS mimicry, but I hadn’t considered this angle. Smart.

Regarding Handoff:

To start, Handoff is proximity-based; it only functions when two devices are near each other. So there’s no concern that composing an e-mail on your iPhone while on vacation will cause an icon to appear next to the Dock on your Mac back at the office. Devices use Bluetooth low energy (BTLE) to discover each other. If you’re not within BTLE range (a few hundred feet, at most), Handoff is out of the picture.

This stood out to me in a different way — I’ve actually seen Handoff partially working from long distances. I’ve been kilometres away from my Mac and have seen the Safari icon appear on my iPhone’s lock screen — Safari is typically my frontmost app on my Mac anyway. I also have Power Nap enabled on my Mac, so my guess is that my Mac pings my phone when it wakes up every hour or so. This must occur over WiFi, unless I have the strongest Bluetooth signal in the world. However, I’ve never actually had a successful Handoff exchange at distance.

Another oddity: my building is one of many recovering from a massive power outage. I now have power, but fibre services are still down in my area. Last night, I was tapping out a text message on my iPhone — disconnected from my WiFi network — and the Handoff icon appeared beside my dock on my Mac. I tried clicking on it just to see if it would work, but the Handoff exchange couldn’t be completed. Bluetooth was active in this case, but WiFi was not.

Handoff’s technology seems extraordinarily complex, but it’s beautifully simple and almost boring in practice, and I love that.

Regarding iCloud Drive:

For starters, the actual location of iCloud Drive in the file system is carefully hidden. Command-click the window title or use the Finder’s Get Info command to try to get a real file path and you’ll see only “iCloud Drive” as the top-level location. You can’t even drag the iCloud Drive proxy icon from a Finder window’s title bar into a Terminal window to get a file path. Apple really doesn’t want people knowing where on disk the iCloud Drive data lives.

More weirdness lurks. At the top level of iCloud Drive, badged folders appear for each iCloud-enabled application. You can’t Get Info on these folders either; the Finder just beeps in protest.

As it turns out, everything is still under ~/Library/Mobile Documents/ in obscurely named subdirectories, but the careful subterfuge emphasizes Apple’s desire to keep iCloud Drive abstract. It is not just “a folder that syncs.” It’s not a folder at all; it’s “iCloud.”

Regarding Activity Monitor:

Earlier versions of Activity Monitor required a tedious mouse-over-and-wait action to see the URL associated with a Safari back-end process. The new Activity Monitor in Yosemite helpfully shows the URL in place of the unhelpful “Safari Web Content” process name.