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#799: Happy New Year!, Change Your Default Desktop, Quicken User News, "Natural" Scrolling

 
     
 

Hello all,

Liam here; I’m writing this from the tech room in now-snowy South Burlington. The store is busy and we are wrapping up (so to speak) a brisk holiday season and we are getting ready to ring in the new year next week.

As a holiday traditionalist, I look forward to spending the next couple of days undercover with my family in central Vermont as far away from everything as I can get—and to unplugging as much as possible. My one break from that will be using FaceTime to talk with family—a great way to use all the new technology to bring us closer rather than isolate us, which it sometimes has the potential to do.

This year has seen a lot of changes in our Apple world—iOS 5, iPhone 4S, Lion, and the end of the MacBook, to name a few. And the biggest news of all, of course, was the passing of Steve Jobs. One lesson I’ve learned is to always keep an eye on the past while moving forward into the future. This week’s articles kind of reflect that concept, with some reminders and lessons about basics that have been with us for awhile, and some good news for the future for Quicken users, who may have been struggling trying to find solutions for the Quicken/Lion conundrum.

Please drive safely in the next week or so, and of course, peace and goodwill to us all in the coming new year.

Liam
liam@smalldog.com

 
   
     
  Change Your Default Desktop  
   
 

What image do you have behind the login menu when you start up? Classically, depending on the exact version of Mac OS X you are using, you have one of the “universe” images. This image can be replaced on your system with a picture of your choice. To replace the image you see as the default desktop behind the login window, find a .jpg file that you want for your new back round.

Duplicate the image, preferably an image the same resolution as your machine default display resolution, and name the new file “DefaultDesktop.” Open a new finder window and navigate to (NameofyourHD) > System > Library > CoreServices. Drag and drop your new DefaultDesktop image into the Core Services folder.

When you release, you will be asked if you want to replace the existing file first and then to authenticate as an Admin User secondarily. The next time you restart and before you log in, you will see that image behind the login window.

 
   
     
  Quicken Users, Your Prayers Have Been Answered  
   
 

One of the biggest complaints we hear about upgrading to Lion is its inability to run PowerPC applications. When Apple made the switch from PowerPC to Intel processors in 2006, they included a utility called Rosetta so people could continue using their old programs on their newer Macs. This “on the fly” translation was so seamless that most people didn’t even know it was happening in the background.

Apple announced early on that Lion would not have Rosetta support; thus all PowerPC applications would cease to work. They had supported legacy applications for five years, and finally drew the line in the sand. The rule of thumb seemed to be that applications written after 2006 should be okay, or at least need an update to make them work. In some cases, it was in the form of a paid upgrade (such as with Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Suite.)

Unfortunately, this was not the case with Intuit; they wrote Quicken 2007 using PowerPC code, and provided no patch to make it Intel compatible. Their statement was that the entire program—including the database—was written using code specific to PowerPC systems, so translating it to Intel code would not be trivial. The public’s reaction was that Intuit must be abandoning the Mac community, since they released another PowerPC version two years after Apple announced that they were switching to Intel. Intuit recommended that people use their new product—Quicken Essentials—however, this did not offer the same features as Quicken 2007, and was rejected by many as a downgrade.

There are other programs available, such as Mint.com (now owned by Intuit) or iBank, but reviews are mixed on those alternatives. (It’s possible that iBank was just not ready for the sudden influx of switchers, resulting in slow support.)

One proposed solution was to reinstall Snow Leopard and wait, but this only works on systems that were upgraded to Lion. New Macs that came with Lion preinstalled can’t run on anything earlier, so your shiny new 2011 MacBook Air is not going to let you install Snow Leopard on it. Another idea was to install Snow Leopard as a guest OS, giving back the ability to run Rosetta apps.

However, there are legal issues with this method—while Apple has no problem with Lion being run as a virtual machine, they do not allow Snow Leopard as a VM unless it’s the Server version. Parallels does not allow it unless you are installing Snow Leopard Server, and while Fusion currently does support running Snow Leopard, VMware claims this was a mistake and will be releasing a patch soon to restrict it to Server only.

As an experiment, I installed Snow Leopard into VirtualBox; the installation crashed twice, forcing me to start over. Finally, six hours later it was installed, but caused my MacBook Pro to kernel panic while configuring it. Legality aside, I can’t recommend it as a viable solution.

Fortunately, Intuit has changed its mind on Lion support. Registered owners have been receiving email notices that Quicken 2007 will be upgraded to support Lion next spring. Aaron Forth, of their Personal Finance Group, acknowledged that Intuit has not always delivered on their commitment to their Mac customers, and said, “I understand the frustration this may have caused you and have put a team in place to address this issue. I am happy to announce that we will have a solution that makes Quicken 2007 for Mac ‘Lion-compatible’ by early spring.” Intuit put up a FAQ for “Lion-Compatible Quicken 2007,” which can be accessed here. (Note that at press time, their site is experiencing heavy traffic, so it may take a little while to load correctly!)

It is not clear whether this is a complete re-write of the program, or if they are providing a Rosetta-like “wrapper” that allows the program to run under Lion. However they pull it off, this is welcome news for people who have held off upgrading because they don’t want to give up using Quicken.

If you were delaying the upgrade to Lion because of potential application compatibility, Roaring Apps is a great web site to check first. You can click on “Mac” to browse the list of known apps, or search for a specific program from the home page. They’ve recently added an iOS section too, so if you want to check compatibility of your apps before upgrading to iOS 5, it’s one-stop shopping.

 
   
     
  Scrolling the New Way for New Users  
   
 

Over the weekend, billions of people got new Macs (not a scientifically accurate number), and many of those users are new Lion. I’m betting aside from the squeals and screams of joy at getting one of the greatest computers currently in existence, the phrase, “Why isn’t this scrolling in the right direction?” was uttered.

When you first start up Lion on a laptop (or a desktop with a Magic Mouse or Magic Trackpad paired with it), it will show you that scrolling doesn’t function in our commonly accepted method before it will let you into the system (i.e. when you move your scroll wheel up, the text doesn’t move down). Apple’s “natural scrolling” method now means that text moves in the direction of your finger—just like it does on an iOS device.

I’ve found this works fine on a touch device like the Magic Trackpad, but for those of us who still use mice with a physical scroll wheel, it’s not as good. The good news is that you can return your Mac to the old fashioned way by going into System Preferences (go to the Apple in the top left of your screen or go to Launchpad) and choose the Mouse preference pane. At the top of the window, you’ll see “Move content in the direction of finger movement when scrolling or navigating.” Uncheck the box next to that if you’d like to return to the tried-and-true method of scrolling that we’re all used to.

As Apple moves toward greater integration of Mac OS and iOS, as well as a shift toward touch screens on all their devices, this new way of scrolling is going to become standard.

 
   
     
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