It’s hard to believe that it’s been two decades since Mac OS X was released. I wasn’t a Mac user in 2001, but as a tech fan, I followed the release of OS X and the later switch to Intel closely, which was what finally convinced me to buy my first iMac.
Today, with Mac OS X gone and Intel chipsets not far behind, I thought it would be fun to look back at OS X and the transition to it compared to the recent switch to macOS 11 Big Sur. I started by watching Steve Jobs’ introduction of Mac OS X at Macworld Expo in 2000, which was a perilous time for the Mac. The company was just two and a half years into Jobs’ return as iCEO and had recently filled out its simplified product grid, adding the iBook to the iMac, Power Mac G4, and PowerBook lineup.
Reflector 4, an app for mirroring iPhones, iPads, and other devices to the Mac, has been updated with a new design, M1 Mac support, and new onscreen device frames. Whether you’re making screencasts, demoing apps for a group, or in a classroom environment, Reflector lets you wirelessly transmit your device’s UI to your Mac and record it too. In addition to mirroring iPhones and iPads, which is what I did in my testing, you can also mirror Android, Windows, and Chromebook devices. Think of it as Apple TV and Chromecast’s mirroring and streaming features all on a Mac, thanks to this one simple menu bar app.
Gui Rambo, the maker or AirBuddy, the Bluetooth headphone and peripheral menu bar utility that I’ve covered before, has released a new app called DarkModeBuddy that can automatically switch between light and dark mode on Mac laptops based on ambient light levels. DarkModeBuddy runs in the background monitoring the ambient light readings from the same sensor that automatically adjusts your screen’s brightness. When the ambient light drops below a threshold you pick for an amount of time that you also choose, DarkModeBuddy automatically switches Big Sur from light to dark mode.
The app is a terrific example of the sort of single-purpose, useful utility available on the Mac. The app’s settings helpfully display the current light reading, which will assist you in deciding what light threshold to pick. The easiest way to dial in a comfortable setting is to choose something you think might work and then adjust it as you work in different lighting environments based on the readings reported by DarkModeBuddy.
If you watch the ambient light readings in DarkModeBuddy, you’ll see they jump around a bit as the lighting of your surroundings changes. That’s why the app has a Delay Time setting, which only switches between light and dark modes if the lighting conditions cross the threshold you set for a certain amount of time. The timer prevents flickering back and forth between light and dark modes based on small, temporary changes in lighting.
I generally run my Macs in dark mode full time, so I’m not planning to run DarkModeBuddy all the time. However, I like Gui’s approach to light and dark mode switching better than Apple’s. If I’m in a dark environment, light mode, especially with Big Sur’s emphasis on bright white UI elements, can feel like having someone point a spotlight at your face. You may find yourself in those conditions because it’s nighttime, but the time of day doesn’t account for when you’re working in a poorly lit room, which is where DarkModeBuddy really shines.
DarkModeBuddy, which is an open-source project, is available with a ‘name your price’ model via Gumroad.
My calendar needs are pretty simple. I have a shared family calendar to keep tabs on personal obligations and a personal MacStories calendar for work-related events. I also share a calendar with Federico for scheduling podcast recording times and other events, but that’s about it.
If you spend lots of time in a calendar app because you have lots of meetings, having calendar sets, tasks, scheduling, video call support, weather, and other pro features inside your calendar app makes sense. My work is far more task-focused than event-focused, though. I don’t want to lose track of important events, but most days, Apple’s calendar widget on my iPhone is all I need.
The Calendar widget doesn’t quite cut it for me on the Mac, though. Widgets are out of sight in Big Sur, and there’s no way to trigger the widget panel with a keyboard shortcut. So, instead, I’ve been using a Mac menu bar app called Dato for quick glances at my calendar. The app isn’t new, but the recent addition of time zone support caught my eye, and it has played an important role in my daily workflow ever since I began using Apple’s Calendar app again.
Today Apple announced pre-order and delivery dates for the new MacBook Air, 13” MacBook Pro, and Mac mini, all of which feature the new Apple-designed M1 chip. All three Macs are available for pre-order today with deliveries starting November 17th and 18th.
Apple has also released a second Release Candidate for macOS Big Sur. The company said during its presentation that Big Sur will be available this Thursday, November 12th, which is also when we’ll publish our comprehensive review of Big Sur on MacStories as well as an eBook version for Club MacStories members.
You can follow all of our November event coverage through our November 2020 event hub, or subscribe to the dedicated RSS feed.
The developer beta release of macOS 10.15.5 has a new feature in the Energy Saver section of System Preferences called Battery Health Management that changes the battery charging behavior of Mac laptops with Thunderbolt 3 ports. According to a story by Jason Snell at Six Colors, Apple says:
…the feature is meant to reduce the rate of chemical aging of the MacBook’s battery, thereby extending its long-term lifespan—but without compromising on day-to-day battery life.
The feature works by analyzing the temperature of the battery over time, as well as the charging pattern the laptop has experienced—in other words, does the laptop frequently get drained most of the way and then recharged fully, or is it mostly kept full and plugged in?
Battery Health Management can be turned off by unchecking a box in System Preferences.
As Snell points out, Apple’s approach here is in contrast to what it did with the iPhone’s battery in 2017, which embroiled the company in controversy and ultimately, led it to issue a public apology. It’s good to see Apple take the initiative to explain how the new power management feature works and give users a way to turn it off when it makes sense, though I expect to leave it turned on most of the time myself.
I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of Finder Sync Extensions. I haven’t run across many apps other than Dropbox and HoudahSpot that support the feature. Finder extensions allow third-party developers to customize the Finder on the Mac with buttons in the Finder’s toolbar or changes to the contextual menu that’s displayed when you right-click on a file.
Service Station is a new Mac utility that takes advantage of Finder extensions by letting users create rules to control when and which apps are displayed in the right-click contextual menu. The app can also be used to kick off AppleScript and shell scripts and Automator workflows. These are all tasks that macOS already supports in one way or another, but Service Station surfaces them as top-level contextual menu options and can be customized to suit your individual needs, which makes this a very handy tool.
Universal purchases, which will allow developers to offer an app across Apple’s platforms, are now available for Mac apps. In a short notice posted to Apple’s developer news site, the company said:
The macOS version of your app can now be included in a universal purchase, allowing customers to enjoy your app and in‑app purchases across iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS by purchasing only once. Get started by using a single bundle ID for your apps in Xcode and setting up your app record for universal purchase in App Store Connect.
The feature began appearing for some developers on App Store Connect a little earlier in the day:
Prior to universal purchase, Mac apps were treated as separate products by Apple’s stores, which meant developers had to either charge separately for apps and, in some cases, jump through complex receipt-checking hoops to bundle their apps. This change should make the process of charging a single price or signing up for one subscription for apps across the Mac, iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and tvOS much simpler and will enable cross-platform In-App purchases too.
I was immediately excited when Stephen Hackett told me a couple of nights ago about an idea he had. With bad news dominating the headlines, events canceled around the world, and people stuck at home with new-found time on their hands, he wanted to create a fun diversion for Mac fans. What he came up with is Mac Madness, a March Madness basketball tournament-inspired face-off among 32 beloved Macs.
Hackett has all the details on 512pixels.net where you’ll also find this video introducing the match-ups:
The initial matchups were chosen randomly, which adds to the fun because there are some very tough choices to make when you vote. Remember, the goal is to find the most-loved Mac, which doesn’t have to be what you’d consider the ‘best Mac.’
Round one voting closes tomorrow, March 20th, and the final winner will be announced on Friday, April 3rd. Along the way, Hackett will be live-streaming each bracket’s winners on the Relay FM Twitch channel and posting the videos later on 512 Pixels where he’s set up a special page to collect all the results. So, join in on the fun and vote now to see if your most-loved Mac takes home top honors.