Installing Lion Developer Preview

I’ve just installed the new Mac OS X Lion Developer Preview. As a developer, I am restricted from saying much about the new OS itself. However, I believe I can mention a few details about how the Installer works. It’s worth discussing because there are significant changes from prior OS X installations — changes that will affect everyone when the new OS finally goes on sale to the public.

Developers use an App Store redemption code. In order to obtain the Mac OS X Installer, developers need to go to Apple’s Developer site, log in to their account, and obtain a Mac App Store redemption code. Next, they launch the App Store application, click Redeem from the Quick Links section and enter the code. It doesn’t matter whether or not the App Store account name is the same account as for the Developer account. The Mac OS X Lion Developer Preview will now download. In the Finder, the Preview has a more generic name: Install Mac OS X. You’ll find it in your /Applications folder.

Transfer Installer to another Mac. I downloaded the Installer to my Mac Pro. I then decided I wanted to install Lion on my MacBook Air. Initially, I tried launching App Store on my MacBook Air and locating the Developer Preview. Sure enough, I found it in my Purchases list (as I use the same App Store account on both my Air and my Mac Pro). However, clicking the Install button for the Preview had no effect. Nothing downloaded, there was no error message of any kind, nothing. This is probably not how things will work when all is said and done.

Apple states that the Installer will run on Macs other than the one to which you originally downloaded the Installer. The trick is that you don’t do this by downloading the Installer via the App Store on additional Macs. Rather, you “copy the Mac OS X Lion Installer application which was downloaded from the Mac App Store into the /Applications directory on your additional Mac.”

When I actually followed Apple’s directions, it all worked.

One caveat: This will work only “on Apple computers you have authorized to share content downloaded from the Mac App Store.” Among other things, this should limit pirating of the OS. Pirates won’t be able to give a copy of the Installer to just anyone and have it work.

Update: I recently installed Lion on a MacBook Pro that had never been authorized to share content from the Mac App Store. I assume Apple has not yet implemented and/or begun to enforce this requirement.

• Mac OS X server is now “free.” More precisely, you don’t have to pay extra for it, after buying the client version. That’s right. The server software and client software are combined into the same Installer. To access the Server software, click the Installer’s Customize button and select the Server option. In other words, you must choose client vs. server at the time of the install. There isn’t one OS version that allows you to switch between client and server.

• No more Install DVD! Big news! Developers no longer need to transfer a disk image to a DVD in order to run the Installer. The Installer runs right from the Mac. After selecting to initiate an install of Lion, the Mac restarts and the Installer launches as a pseudo-startup volume — via some Apple magic. When the install process is complete, the Mac restarts itself again — via the new Lion volume.

At least that’s the way it worked for me when I installed Lion on an external drive. I assume it would have been the same had I installed the OS to my Air’s internal startup drive, but I cannot yet confirm this for certain.

Looking ahead. Is this really the way the process will work when Lion is finally released to the public? I am guessing yes. You won’t be required to get a redemption code. Rather, you’ll be able to purchase Lion directly from the Mac App Store. Otherwise, I believe the process will be the same as it now exists for the Developer Preview.

Does this mean the end of selling Mac OS X in boxes? Does it mean Lion won’t be available on DVD? Does it mean you won’t be able to buy Lion from third-parties, such as Amazon? I’m less sure about the answers here. Apple may offer a DVD alternative for those unable or unwilling to go through the App Store. Regardless, the push is definitely towards online sales via the App Store.

Update: New Recovery feature. I discovered this after my initial posting: If you hold down the Option key at startup for a Mac with a Mac OS X Lion partition, you will see an option for Recovery HD. If you select it, you will be able to choose from among: Restore from a Time Machine Backup, Reinstall Mac OS X, or launch Disk Utility.

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Speculation re Future of 13-inch MacBook Pro

Peter Cohen and I had a brief exchange on Facebook/Twitter regarding my speculation about the future of the 13-inch MacBook Pro. For the benefit of those of you not on Facebook, here is a repost of the conversation:

Ted Landau
Idle speculation: Might Apple discontinue 13″ MacBook Pro when updates come out — directing that market to MacBook Air?

Peter Cohen
Interesting idea. Or, what will styling cues and technical changes will the 13-inch MacBook Pro inherit from the MBA?

Ted Landau
Yes. There are now three different 13″ MacBook models: white, Pro and Air. Each other size only has one model. Do we really need three 13″ models? Can Apple redesign the 13″ MacBook Pro to be more like the Air without it being TOO much like the Air? Seemed to me like eliminating the 13″ Pro would be the simplest answer.

Peter Cohen
You’re right – the 13-inch form factor is suddenly very crowded. You speak sense, Ted – the 13-inch MBP is suddenly looking very redundant. Of course, if Apple does something significant to differentiate a 13-inch MBP from the MBA or the MB, that’s a different story…i.e., Sandy Bridge, USB 3, 3D holographic display, sharks with laz0rs, etc.

Update: February 24: Turns out, I was wrong. The new MacBook Pro models announced today include a 13-inch version.

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Rovio Applies “Spot” Remover to Angry Birds Seasons

It’s over. Angry Birds magic spots: RIP.

In a previous posting, I revealed the secret behind magic spots in the Seasons Greedings section of Angry Birds Seasons. In essence, if a bird hit a specific location in just the right way, a Santa-hatted pig would tilt and explode with atypical force, resulting in much more damage and a much higher score than otherwise possible.

There had been some discussion on the web as to whether or not these spots were an unintended bug (perhaps left over from some internal testing version of the game) or a deliberate feature. I hopefully opted for the latter view. I was wrong.

Today, I received a reply from Rovio (the creators of Angry Birds) confirming what I had already suspected from my own recent play: the magic spots were removed as part of the Valentines (Hogs and Kisses) update to Angry Birds Seasons. The Rovio developer added: “Sadly, it was a bug in the system and we needed to fix it to make things work regarding long term updates.”

I can’t argue with a developer wanting to fix a bug. But it does present a dilemma for the subset of Angry Birds players interested in attaining a top score on the Game Center Leaderboard. If you hope to make it anywhere near the very top (at least the top 100), you’ll need the big scores that come from hitting the magic spots. This means that, if you are new to Angry Birds Seasons, you can forget ever reaching the upper echelon of the Leaderboard. Similarly, if you are an established player and had hoped to improve your standing by getting better magic spot scores, you can forget that as well (I include myself in this latter group, despite the fact that I am fortunate enough to already have one of the very top scores).

This is disappointing and, in some sense, unfair — as it gives a lucky subset of Angry Birds players an advantage over everyone else. But there is nothing to be done about it. Rovio has applied spot remover to the bug/feature and it’s game over.

[Speaking of top scores, I have read that it is possible to “hack” at least some versions of Angry Birds — allowing you to get high scores by cheating. The most egregious examples of this are in Angry Birds for the iPhone; the top score today is a clearly hacked 40,000,001,090,256,896. If possible, when such impossibly high scores are detected, I’d like to see them removed from the Leaderboard.]

Update: If you really want to access these magic spots again, you might yet be able to do so — if you still have the prior 1.1.1 version of Seasons. To accomplish this trick, you need to downgrade the app on your iOS device back to the old version. When you are done, you can re-upgrade to the latest version again. The only question is: Will this mess up your high score data (because the downgraded version is “unaware” of the Hogs & Kisses section)? I haven’t tried this yet, so I can’t say for certain. But I suspect not. However, to be safe, make sure you have saved a copy of the high-scores file (highscores.lua) so you can put it back if needed.

Posted in Entertainment, iPhone | 2 Comments

Great Opening Scenes

With the Academy Awards coming up later this month, my attention has turned (more than usual) to movies. I often like to come up with “favorites” lists…such as “What are my favorite movie quotes?” or “What are my favorite movie theme songs?” The other day, a new one cropped up: “What are my favorite opening scenes?” That is, what are the opening scenes that grabbed me right out of the gate, scenes so good that I load the movie’s DVD just so I can play that scene and enjoy it all again?

In putting together a list, I discovered that, for some movies, the opening scene was the best part of the movie; it was all downhill from there. In other cases, the scene was just the initial salvo of the overall great movie that would follow. In either case, here are some of my favorites (in no particular order):

Cliffhanger. This almost defines great opening scenes. The rescue sequence on the rope line conveyed a sense of vertigo and terror that still lives with me today. Unfortunately, this was one of those instances where the rest of the film turned out to be disappointing in comparison.

Silverado. The claustrophobic shoot-out in the cabin, without a spoken word, was spectacularly filmed. When Scott Glenn leaves the cabin and the camera opens up to show the vast western panorama…just super!

West Side Story. A helicopter view of Manhantan, with Leonard Bernstein’s great music playing. The camera travels and eventually zooms in on the Jets in a playground. Thrilling. No stage version could top that for a kick off.

From Russia With Love. The opening scenes in James Bond movies are so distinctive that they almost deserve their own category. It’s hard for me to pick my absolute favorite. Still, I’d go with From Russia With Love. In this scene, it appears as if James Bond has been killed. How could this be? And then…(I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t seen the movie).

My James Bond runner-up would be The Spy Who Loved Me. The ski sequence (although not quite the very opening, it’s still before the titles run) is one of the best: great action without being so over-the-top as to be unintentionally funny.

Mission Impossible I. I loved the opening sequence to this first Mission Impossible movie because (unlike much of the rest of the movie and totally unlike any of the sequels), it actually follows the format used in the TV show. I especially liked the fade to the match lighting and original Mission Impossible theme music. Yes! The sequels abandoned this…to their detriment.

The Godfather. The opening shot of the face of the mortician (“I love America”) and eventually panning out to show Marlon Brando as the Godfather. The shift from the quiet and dark light of the office to the noise and daylight outside. Great cinematography. About as memorable as opening scenes get.

Actually, the scene is a bit reminiscent of the opening poker game sequence in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which I guess should also be on this list.

Jaws. The scene where the young woman gets…well…eaten by the shark was enough to keep much of America out of the water for years to come.

Saving Private Ryan. In my opinion, the D-Day beach landing remains the most heart-pounding realistic battle scene ever recorded on film.

French Kiss. I noticed there weren’t any comedies here. Maybe it’s not a genre that aspires to great opening scenes. Anyway, French Kiss is at least in the ballpark. The scene on the airplane, with Meg Ryan trying to conquer her fear of flying. And then the punchline: we discover that she really isn’t on a plane at all. Classic.

I gave some thought to adding Return of the Jedi and Raiders of the Lost Ark to this list. But I decided that, as much as I liked them, the opening sequences went on for too long, amounting to more than a “scene” — even by my liberal standards.

I’m sure there are other movies I’m forgetting. But these are the ones that first came to mind.

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