AppleInsider | Insider Mac OS X 10.7 Lion: Auto Save, File Versions and Time Machine

Original 1984 Macintosh desktop
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However, Windows’ Shadow Copy is really intended for creating a snapshot of an entire volume for backup purposes; users can’t trigger the creation of a new version of an individual file in Windows. This makes Lion’s Versions a very different beast: its more akin to a versioning file system that works like Time Machine, but local to the user’s own disk.

via AppleInsider | Insider Mac OS X 10.7 Lion: Auto Save, File Versions and Time Machine [Page 2].

Reading this article from Apple Insider’s series of previews of Mac OS X 10.7 has been an education in both the iOS based universe and the good ol’ desktop universe I already know and love. At first I was apprehensive about the desktop OS taking such a back seat to the mobile devices Apple has been introducing at an increasingly fast pace. From iPods to iPhones to iPod Touch and now the iPad, there’s no end to the permutations iOS based devices can take. Prior to the iPhone and iPod Touch releases, Apple was using an embedded OS with none of the sophistication and capability of a real desktop operating system. This was both a frugal and conservative approach as media players while having real CPUs inside were never intended to have network stacks, garbage collection on UI servers, etc. There was always enough there to present a User Interface off some sort, with access to a local file system and ability to sync files between a host based iTunes client and the device (whichever generation iPod it might be). Along with that each generation hardware most likely varied by degrees as video playback  became a touted feature in newer iPods with bigger internal hard drives (so-called video ipods). I can imagine that got complicated quickly as CPU and video chips and media playback capabilities ranged widely up and down the product line. As each device required its own tweaks to the embedded OS, and iTunes was tweaked to accommodate these local variations, I’m sure the all seeing eye of Steve Jobs began to wince at the increasing complexity of the iPod product line. Enter the iOS, a smaller, cleaner fully optimized OS for low power mobile devices. It’s got everything a desktop OS has without any of the legacy device concerns (backward compatibility) of a typical desktop OS. This allowed for creating ‘just enough’ capability in the networking capability the UI Server and the local storage. Apps written for iOS were unique to that environment though they might have started out as Mac OS X apps. By taking the original code base, re-factoring it and doing complete low level rewrites from top to bottom, you got a version of the Safari web browser on a mobile device. It could display ANY webpage and kind of do some display optimizations of the page on the fly. And there were a number of developers rushing to get an app to run on the new devices. So wither the Apple Mac OS X?

Well in the rush of creating an iOS app universe, the iOS development team added many features along the way. One great gap was the missing cut & paste analogy long enjoyed on desktop OSes. Eventually this feature made it in, and others like it slowly got integrated. Apple’s custom A4 chip using and ARM Core 8 cpu was tearing up the charts, out competing every other mobile phone OS on the market. Similarly the iPad took that same approach of getting out there with new features and becoming a more desktop like mobile device. A year has passed since the original iPad hit the market, the Mac OS is due for a change, the big question is what does Steve Jobs think? There were hints and rumors he wanted everyone to enjoy the clean room design of the iOS, dump the legacy messiness of old Mac OS X. Dan Lyons of Newsweek gave voice to these concerns quite clearly in his June 8 article in Newseek. Steve Jobs would eventually reply directly to this author and state emphatically he was wrong. Actions speak louder than words, Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference in 2010 seemed to really hard sell the advantages of developing for the new iOS. Conversely, Microsoft has proven over and over again, legacy support in an OS is a wonderful source of income, once you have established your monopoly. However, Apple has navigated the legacy hardware seas before with its first big migration from Motorola 68000 processors to the PowerPC chip, then subsequently the migration from PowerPC to Intel chips. From a software standpoint attrition occurs as people dump their legacy hardware anyways (not uncommon amongst Apple users to eventually get rid of their older hardware). So to help deliver the benefit of newer software requirements are now fully in place that even certain first gen Intel based Macs won’t be able to run the newest Mac OS X (that’s the word now). Similarly legacy support for PowerPC native apps running under Intel in emulation (using the Rosetta software) will also go away. Which then brings us to the point of this whole blog posting, where’s the beef?

The beef dear reader is not in the computers but in ourselves. As Macintosh OSes evolve so do the workflow and the new paradigm being foisted upon us through the use of mobile devices is the lack of need to go to the File Menu -> Choose Save or Save As… That’s what the new iOS design portends in the future. Same goes for open documents in process, everything is done for you at long last. The computer does what finally you thought it did all the time and what Microsoft eventually built into Word (not the OS itself), Autosave. Newly developed versions of TextEdit made by Apple to run under OS X 10.7 were tested and tried out to see how they work under the new Auto Save and Versions architecture. Now, you just make a new document and the computer (safely) assumes you will most likely want to save the document as you are working on it, and you may want to go back and undo some changes you made. After all these years of using desktop computers, this is now built right in at long last. So from the commandline to the GUI and now to the Mobile OS, computer architects and UI engineers have a good idea of what you might want to do before you choose to do it, and it’s built in at the lowest level of the OS finally! And all of these are going to be in the next version of Mac OS X, due for release this July, 2011. After reading these articles from AppleInsider looking at the screenshots, I’m way more enthused and willing to change and adapt the way I work to the new regime of hybrid iOS and MacOS X going forward.




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