OS X Mavericks Notes

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As lots of you know, this past Tuesday alongside the latest generation of iPads Apple unleashed a wave that sent all the cats scurrying out of Cupertino, otherwise known as OS X Mavericks. What is especially groundbreaking here is that they are selling Mavericks for the low price of free, and almost all Macs anyone is using today support running it, upgradeable directly from all the way back at Snow Leopard. I prepared a document with notes on this update-of-an-upgrade for my mom, and have included a modified version of this after the break.

Initial Troubleshooting After Installing

To start us off let me go over the odd issues I ran into in these first days of running the OS, while still working out all the other software installs and such that Apple released, so those reading this ahead of or just after updating can have a shot at fixing these issues.

Spotlight Reindexes

Just be aware that for the first hour or so after installing your Mac may be much slower than is normal (faster than Mountain Lion was) for Mavericks. You may just want to let Spotlight do its thing before moving on. I was utterly unable to use my Mac for a time during this process, but immediately afterwards everything started being all spiffy fast again.

Sharing Buttons in Notification Center Do Nothing When Clicked

Restart Notification Center by opening Terminal (find this in Launchpad, by default under an “Other” folder) and typing “killAll NotificationCenter” (without the quotes) then hit return.

The (New) Maps App Doesn’t Show iOS Devices in the Sharing Menus

Sign out and back in to iCloud from the iCloud pane in System Preferences. See, the “Send to iOS” feature is not “Send to nearby iOS devices” but rather “Send to my iOS devices”, using iCloud to recognize what devices it can send to. This means that the Mac can be on ethernet in a hotel and the phone on cellular and you can still push locations and directions to your phone from your Mac.

Dictation Fails at Downloading Enhanced Dictation

Navigate to ~/Library/Preferences in Finder (Go -> Go to Folder…) and delete the “com.apple.assistant.plist”, “com.apple.assistant.support.plist”, and “com.apple.assistant.token.plist” then restart. The download should now not throw an error and get installed as it should.

Notes on Updating iLife (iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand) and iWork (includes Keynote)

All of these apps received free major updates alongside Mavericks. I encourage you to install all of them, even though arguably the iWork apps took a step backwards because they are the versions of these apps that are designed for the new OS, and the old iWork will not be able to read the new iWork file formats.

iMovie especially looks quite a bit different, but I’m not sure how functionally different it is since I rarely use it. The projects and clips navigation has changed, and internally these are stored more like iPhoto in a library bundle. iMovie does contain an iCloud-synced Theatre feature for showing off videos across your devices. It also forces all buttons and menus that are blue everywhere else to gray. After updating iMovie through the Mac App Store you’ll want to delete the old one, which will be moved to an “iMovie” subfolder.

GarageBand 10 is a free app in the Mac App Store, it will not show up as an update, and you’ll need to manually remove GarageBand 6.

The iWork documents created or opened in these new versions are not compatible with the older versions.Yet updating is important as your iOS devices likely already have the updated versions and thus documents opened there aren’t supported on the old iWork. You can export back to the ’09 formats as needed.

All the updates to these apps come through the Mac App Store. If you previously installed them from a DVD then they get associated with your Apple ID, so end up in the Purchases tab, but you aren’t charged for them again. In fact, pirated copies of the DVDs are reportedly getting this same treatment. iWork may install twice, for some reason, but only one copy of the new apps stick around. Yet, you may want to delete the old ones that were stored in an “iWork ’09” folder in /Applications.

While you’re at it install all other Updates, as these all are so Apple’s apps support all the new core technologies in Mavericks. You do want to install all updates shortly after upgrading, even though iMovie will feel different and Keynote won’t directly save documents that work on the older versions.

iPhoto, and iMovie, both will be upgrading their libraries when first opened as the new versions. This will make those libraries unusable by the older versions.

Under-the-hood Improvements

Mavericks was designed with performance, and battery life, improvements at heart. Here are the major changes you never directly notice but are the largest improvements, in my mind, in the updated OS. These are what really speed up your Mac in noticeable ways and are the largely unsung features of the upgrade.

App Nap

When all of an app’s windows aren’t visible, and the app isn’t doing something for you (iTunes playing music, web browser downloading a file, email checking, etc.) Mavericks puts that app to sleep. The app simply won’t do anything until you go back to it, so it won’t be unnecessarily using CPU and battery power. Push notifications still occur, but the app is largely doing nothing, and what it is doing it is doing slower. When you return the app is as you left it, and you’d never know it took a nap while you were away.

Safari Power Saver

Safari is much smarter with its handling of plugins. Unnecessary animations on websites, and those ads off to the side, are paused until you hover over them and click to turn them on. This saves power by not running the plugins unless you truly want them.

Compressed Memory

The inactive memory on your Mac is now compressed together when new tasks request memory. So, when your Mac runs low on memory compression occurs that, in my case, means that my 8 GB of physical memory are more like 10.x GB when taking compression into account. Previously when apps needed more memory the Mac had to swap some inactive memory to the hard drive, even for SSDs this is slow, so now it has a step in between to try that is speedy.

Timer Coalescing

Mavericks groups low-level operations together to allow the CPU to be idle more often and thus use less power. Events may be shifted by a few milliseconds to achieve this, but us humans don’t perceive any differences here. They advertise that the CPU’s workload is reduced up to 72% by this.

Major New Apps

Mavericks comes with two new bundled apps that you’ll want to explore.

Maps

Lets you view Apple Maps on your Mac. All the same features as the iOS version, with bookmarks and search histories synchronized between all your devices. You can send directions to iOS to use while driving, or print them, but I advise against leaving your Mac, which has no cellular connection or Siri, open to follow directions while behind the wheel.

iBooks

The Mac has finally joined the book club. You’ll find all the same books and features that your phone comes with. Except that your Mac can have more than one book open at a time and has a bigger screen. Everything stays in sync between all your devices. Start reading on your phone while sitting at a park and pick up where you left off on your Mac when sitting at your desk.

New Features (or some of the many, maybe those you’d not read about elsewhere easily)

  • No more going to the Print dialog to save a PDF as in supported apps (I think almost all apps save MS Office) the File menu has a direct “Export as PDF…” option
  • The Text substitutions feature has moved to the Keyboard prefpane. Your substitutions now sync to your iOS devices.
  • Send iMessages from Notification Center
  • Sign in to LinkedIn in “Internet Accounts” (formerly “Mail, Contacts & Calendars”) preferences to: Post to LinkedIn from Notification Center; Have your connections’ info embedded and kept updated in Contacts; Include links posted by connections to show up alongside links posted by FB friends and those you follow on Twitter in the “Shared Links” tab of the new Safari sidebar
  • FB events and birthdays are now added as calendars to the Calendar application, just as in iOS
  • The App Store (OS X) can not only download all app and OS updates automatically, but also install them without bothering you. When it asks to install any updates it gives you the options of trying in two hours, trying tonight (I think that is 2 am), or reminding you tomorrow. The Updates tab in the App Store now shows the updates installed in the past 30 days. The store no longer asks for admin credentials when performing installations. Find update preferences in the App Store pane of System Preferences.
  • Enhanced Dictation severs the dependency that Dictation in Mountain Lion had on Apple’s Siri servers, but takes 700+ MB of additional storage. You can continuously dictate, what you say shows up near-instantly, and you can edit the text with dictation still running.
  • Notification Center gained the iOS-style Do Not Disturb settings, see Notifications pane in System Preferences
  • You can rearrange all Spaces
  • Finder has tabs and fullscreen support
  • Labels have morphed into a more robust Tagging system for files
  • The battery menu contains a wall of shame for apps that are using significant energy. Click an app there to see more details in the redesigned Activity Monitor.
  • The Mac uses a notification instead of dialog for low battery warnings
  • iCloud Keychain syncs app passwords as well as web passwords. This may mean that if they sync to iOS as well that iOS will learn WiFi network passwords from your Mac, but I'm not sure of this at all, it is just a guess.

Conclusion

I heartily recommend that all Mac users update their Mac as soon as they make a bootable backup of it. Mavericks brings a host of internal and front-facing changes/improvements, and this document barely digs below the icing. I purposely noted mostly new features that are less clear and/or went totally unmentioned in the Mavericks pages on Apple’s website as I figured that would be most beneficial to you. Enjoy your first impressions of Mavericks.

Appendix

For those inclined to read a review of OS X Mavericks I recommend John Siracusa’s mammoth blog post. It’s a 24-page in-depth read, so I’d get a warm drink and settle down on a comfy couch if I were you before diving into his review.

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