Heads in the Cloud

10.10.3Last week Apple released a new update to their current ‘Yosemite’ operating system – it’s rather catchily named ‘ten point ten point 3’ or 10.10.3. For those of you who aren’t clear what an operating system does, it’s the software that runs your computer, and every so often the manufacturers send out updates to improve (hopefully) the way you can use your device.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 16.57.40Apart from a few ‘back office’ updates that help with stability and security on your computer, this operating system (OS) update is mostly focused on the Photos application, which in theory replaces iPhoto as the best way for Mac users to organise, edit and share their photos – more on that in a minute. There has also been a lot in the tech press about the addition of around 300 new ’emoji’ characters  which allow you to choose a skin tone for the various smiley face-type icons. To access the emoji, just press the combination of cmd+ctrl+space in any text entry field (i.e. a document or a text, or indeed a blog post). Find the emoji you want to use and click on it to show the variants. Sadly though, as one reader pointed out, there is still no red-head option.

photos_iconAs I mentioned, the major part of this update is the release of Photos. At first glance it won’t look that different from iPhoto, but there are some clever new ways in which Photos now works to synchronise your images across all your devices.


Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 17.57.541. Organisation – the new Photos app works in a way that you might be familiar with if you have photos on your iPhone or iPad – the pictures are organised according to the time and location they were taken, to create ‘Moments’. By zooming in or out with one click, you can have a yearly overview of all your photos (as above). You can also view your photos according to the type of image – panorama, photo bursts or even movies – and as before, you can create your own albums easily.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 18.01.282. Editing – according to Apple, the new app allows more detailed editing than iPhoto did; for most of us, the ‘enhance’ button will be enough to automatically adjust exposure problems and make the colours look better, but if you want to make more specific adjustments you can use the simple sliders for colour, light and black and white, as well as fun filters, cropping, red-eye removal and other retouch options.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 17.17.053. Sharing – if you want to post the latest baby photos on Facebook or quickly send a picture of your new shoes in a text message, just use the sharing button in the top right of the Photos app. This isn’t really new, but the thing that Apple are most excited about is the iCloud Photo Sharing option, that is linked to …

4. …iCloud Photo Library – this is a new feature from Apple that brilliantly syncs all your pictures across all your iThings. Once you switch on iCloud Photo Library (in Settings), your photos will be uploaded to your iCloud account, and any photo taken on any device will be automatically saved to the library and available to view on all your other Apple devices.Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 17.55.19

The biggest advantage of this new way of storing photos is that you don’t have to take up precious storage space on your computer, phone or iPad; iCloud Photo Library automatically stores the original, high resolution images in the cloud, and you can access the pictures on your phone or iPad wherever you are.  The downside (inevitably) is that you need to pay for the storage space if your photo library is bigger than the 5GB you get free (I’ve got about 13,000 photos which is around 40MB). You don’t have to switch on this feature – you can store the photos on your computer as before, but of course there is a trade off in terms of being able to access them anywhere.

Here’s my usual health warning – before you update your OS, make sure you have everything on your computer backed up. 99.5 times out of 100 everything will be fine but once in a while, a software update can cause things to go a little haywire, so it’s a good idea to be safe. Once you have completed the update, you’ll find your existing iPhoto library transfers seamlessly across to the new Photos app, and you can start having fun with your pictures again 😃

Don’t download that update yet – Top Tips 4

mavericksThe operating system (or OS) on your computer is the main programme that controls the way your computer works, looks and interacts with the world. So you’d think it makes sense to keep your OS right up to date. But that’s not always the case.

This week Apple launched a new OS called Mavericks. Like every Apple update, it is evolutionary and everything looks familiar – so it feels just like the old system and nobody gets stressed. Mavericks promises to make your computer more secure, easier to use, faster and more energy efficient. Best of all it’s free, so it’s a no-brainer to download and install it. It works with every Apple made after early 2009 and some older computers too.

Apple store queuesBut a word of advice – wait a while. Pretty much every piece of new technology is launched with bugs. These are uncovered by the early adopters (the people who queue outside Apple shops) and ironed out in the first few weeks. We loaded Mavericks yesterday (OK, sometimes we’re in that queue) and we’ve already had a few issues with a scanner and the music in the office. Nothing serious, but unless you need to discuss the new OS on day 2 in the playground, it’s worth waiting a month.

With Microsoft, it’s sometimes worth waiting much longer.

Windows 8.1Windows 8 launched a year ago and most people who moved to it (us included) wish they hadn’t. It’s a lemon. Many have reversed the move and gone back to Windows 7.

Windows 7 is still used by half the world’s computers (as opposed to the 8% that run on Windows 8) because it is more straightforward and reliable. If you’ve got Windows 7, cherish it. Say “Yes” to all the updates that will keep your computer safe and running smoothly, and wait to see what Microsoft launch next year.

Similarly, if you’re running an older Windows OS (Vista, XP or 2000) then don’t stress yourself or your computer with a change – wait until you buy your next computer.

If you’re stuck with Windows 8, then this month’s 8.1 update comes with a health warning. We ignored our own advice and tried to install it in week 1. The result is a dead laptop (properly dead; fully bereft of life; an ex-laptop). We’re working on a resurrection, but with no help from Microsoft, who have hung up on us twice. If you hold stock, sell.

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