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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hands on Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion *Preliminary*


Today, just after the Q3 financial results presentation, Apple has officially launched Mac OS X 10.8, nicknamed Mountain Lion, and here it is, the hands on.

Differently from my other reviews I will do this one starting with installation and following the exact order and categories in the official Apple's feature list.


Like the previous Mac OS X (Lion), Mountain Lion is available through the Mac App Store, and unlike it, there will be no USB flash disk available from Apple for those that want to do a clean install, have it as a backup, etc. Price is reduced from Lion to $19.99, 15,99 €, £13.99, ¥1,700.

If you want to create one yourself, be it a USB flash disk or a DVD, you can follow the instructions I put for Lion, as they work the same (just use Mountain Lion installer), or use an automated application for that hassle, Lion Diskmaker from Guillaume Gète.

It is to be noted that any of the ways to install (be it directly from the Installer, the USB flash disk, the DVD…) Mountain Lion is able to update without problems systems with Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard" and Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion" conversing your preferences, applications, etc.

If you have any previous version, you will need to go to a physical Apple Store or to a friend's house and buy it (using your account, don't do piracy please), and then burn to USB or DVD. I have not tested this scenario so I don't know what happens with previous system versions when updating. You can, however, copy all of your files to another hard disk (I suggest you using Carbon Copy Cloner for that task) and then import that with the Migration Assistant that will be launched when installation is finished. This way guarantees your settings and files are conserved.

While Lion already left out 32-bit only (anything below a Core 2 Duo processor) Macs, Mountain Lion drops out any mac that needs 32-bit kernel extensions, leaving the list of supported Macs as follows:

  • iMac Mid 2007 or newer
  • MacBook Late 2008 (Aluminium), Early 2009 or newer
  • MacBook Pro Mid & Late 2007 or newer
  • Xserve Early 2009
  • MacBook Air Late 2008 or newer
  • Mac Mini Early 2009 or newer
  • Mac Pro Early 2008 or newer (however, if you put a supported graphics card and modify the installer you can still unsupportedly install Mountain Lion)

It is important to note that if you're trying to buy Mountain Lion from the Mac App Store and you receive a "product is not available" and/or "Error 100" message, just wait a couple of minutes and retry, that is happening because of the intense number of users trying to buy it at the same time. And when you get it finally, the download speed will be surely slow. Things will get faster as time passes.


The accessibility feature gets overhauled moved to a categorized and easier to access preference panel, made accessible anywhere using Option-F5 shortcut and adding support for 14 new braille devices.

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AirPlay Mirroring

If you have a second-generation Apple TV and any of the supported Macs (iMac Mid 2011 or newer, Mac mini Mid 2011 or newer, MacBook Air Mid 2011 or newer, and MacBook Pro Early 2011 or newer) now you can mirror anything you're doing in your Mac to your Apple TV.

This is pretty useful for presentations, allowing people to connect an ATV to a presenter and just use any Mac to put the Keynote slideshow, a QuickTime movie, or show a game! Just click the AirPlay icon on the menubar, choose which ATV of all found you want to use, and let's go.

Or you can go to the Sound preference panel and get the sound output to be your ATV.

Your Mac automatically downscales the resolution to 1080p (or you can choose it to be your Mac resolution so no scale happens) and encrypts the data so it cannot be intercepted on the network.

Auto Save

Enhancing the revision system included in Lion, you can now rename a file from the title bar.

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You also get keyboard shortcuts for duplicate, and the save as option make a return for all of us that missed it.

Also you can move a document to iCloud, and any unsaved (aka "Untitled") document is automatically saved on iCloud just in case.

Built-in Sharing

Share, share everything, share everywhere, share with buddies, followers, the police (just kidding)!

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Finder can share by e-mail, iMessage and AirDrop, for pictures on Twitter and Flickr and for movies on Vimeo.

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Safari can share to e-mail, iMessage, Twitter and also add as a bookmark or to the reading list.

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QuickTime Player X can share to e-mail, iMessage, AirDrop, Facebook, Youtube, Vimeo and Flickr. Choosing a video on Finder does not give so much options, so you are forced to open the video first on QT if you want to share on YouTube or Facebook (to be added system-wide on Fall).

Unfortunately, contrary to Windows 8 xxxx and Android Intents, application developers cannot enable destinations for the sharing function.

Calendar (the application previously known as iCal)

Calendar gets a new sidebar listing all of your calendars, offers search suggestions, gets a new date picker and moves the notifications from the old centered alert message to the Notification Center.

Contacts (the application previously known as Address Book)

Groups are moved to a new column, repeated contacts from different services (Yahoo!, Twitter, Gmail, iCloud, etc) get automatically joined and shown in an unified view, and you can share contacts in vCard via e-mail, iMessage and AirDrop.



Now when you go to add a new widget, the widget lists is full screen, similar to Launchpad, includes a search field and supports the creation of folders.

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From the worlds of iOS, half a Siri has become.

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Using the same voice recognition engine introduced with Siri for the iPhone 4S, now you can dictate anything on your Mac. For now, only English (AU, UK and US), French, German and Japanese are supported. And the same way as in Siri, your voice is transmitted over internet to Apple datacenters for recognition, something illogical considering that Macs are perfectly capable of running the recognition by themselves.

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It supports basic commands like "all caps" and "new line", and autolearns. But unlike Siri, it does not give you any information or search but simply writing in text boxes (also, unlike Siri, any application's text box is supported).

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And that's supposed to be "This is the new Mac OS X dictation, it only supports English, French, German and Japanese".

The real issue is that until all the sentence is dictated, sent, processed and incorrectly converted to text, you cannot see the failures, making you lose so much time correcting it that in some situations (or until Si… I mean, Dictation learns your exact accent).


Now Dictionary adds support for Simplified Chinese, Spanish and German.

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Dunno about German or Chinese, but for Spanish using the Vox's dictionary instead of the Royal Academy (RAE) one does not give the official language definitions.


In fall, Mac OS X 10.8 will add system-wide support for Facebook, including posting to the wall, reading your wall on Notification Center, sharing and syncing Facebook contacts on Contacts.

But till then, no trace of Facebook.


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Apple is currently having a huge grow on the chinese market, and Mountain Lion includes a great list of improvements for it. However most of them only show when you're using the system in chinese, or setting your location as China.

Among them, there is a improved text input for Simplified and Traditional Chinese, dynamic word lists that update automatically from internet, fuzzy Pinyin input, autocorrection, better handwriting recognition, automatic saving of your Pinyin user dictionary on iCloud, Emoji and facemarks, support for the Sina Weibo microblogging service system-wide, as well as for the Youku and Tudou video sites, Baidu search in Safari, support for QQ Mail, 126 and 163 mail services and new and improved fonts.


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Finder includes a couple of small but appreciable changes. Apart from the previously mentioned sharing, the most useful new feature is that when you're doing a copy a progress bar appears in the destination folder as well as a small cancel icon.

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Now you can also encrypt any volume using Finder, just double click it and choose encrypt (that is, FileVault 2 is no longer restrained to the boot volume), without the need to use Disk Utility or Terminal.

A small novelty is that you can open Quick Look not just pressing space, but also tapping on the trackpad with three fingers.

Game Center

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Game Center comes to the Mac, with all the features from iOS. It also supports cross-platform (iOS-MacOS) games, both for just achievements and leaderboards as well as for multiplayer gaming.

Something not included in iOS' Game Center is in-voice chat.


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Probably, the most controversial feature from Mountain Lion. Gatekeeper is a protection that allows the system administrator to choose which applications can be installed and run.

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By default, the configuration only allows applications coming from the Mac App Store (that is, controlled and inspected by Apple to prevent them from doing nasty things to your system) or signed by an authorized developer (one that pays Apple for a developer certificate, so in case that an application does a nasty thing it can be revoked). You can change the default to allow only applications from the Mac App Store, or from Anywhere.

In the case you're an administrator, pressing the Option key while you open/install it asks you for a confirmation in case the application does not fall under the current setting.

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Personally, I see this as a good move, because it lets administrators the same power as before, while moving users to a safe default that helps preventing malicious software from spreading easily.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) on the Vodafone 858 Smart (Huawei U8160)

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NOTE: This procedure will void your warranty.
NOTE: This procedure refers to a third party modification (aka Custom ROM) that's in beta (aka UNSTABLE / DANGEROUS) status.
NOTE: This is a simplification guide on how to use Custom ROM made by another party (neither me, neither the manufacturer <Huawei>, neither the distributor <Vodafone>).NOTE: None of the parties implied here (me, Huawei, Vodafone, the Custom ROM creator) can be held responsible of any damage caused by you following this guide, included but not limited to, your phone breaking, your phone exploding, your house exploding, the whole planet exploding or the Universe collapsing over itself.
NOTE: Do a backup of ANYTHING in your phone to another place (not the phone or the SD card). The phone contents will be erased, and while the SD card should not, anything can happen.
NOTE: Some things (camera, Youtube, occasional crashes) don't work as expected or at all.
NOTE: If anything goes wrong, none of the parties previously mentioned have any liability or the obligation to help you in any way.
I got bored and searching searching I found a Custom ROM made by someone called subpsyke on the internet, and while his instructions (here) seemed to work for a lot of people, they didn't at all for me. So I decided to create this little guide.
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Step one: Root the phone
This modification requires administrator privileges to the phone. But they come disabled by default. Enabling it is called "rooting".
Luckily, this comes easy on this phone. Just download z4root (Google It! or get it from here), install the apk, execute it, and continue to step 2.
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Step two: Download the custom rom, and the Google apps.
The guide by subpsyke suggests you can do it all from the ROM Manager application. Forget about it, it's slow and gives errors when downloading the Google Apps. The easiest way is to go *** READ COMMENTS (I had to remove links and I forgot to tell you, my fault, sorry) *** and just download it. At the time of this writing the custom mod is in alpha 3 and the google apps is called 20120215-small.
When you have both ZIPs, put them in the SD card of your phone, and continue to step 3.
Step three (A): Installing ClockworkMod Recovery (the easy way)
The guide by subpsyke suggests this method. It's easier and fastest, but it didn't work for me. However mileage may vary so just try it.
Go to the Android Market (or Google Play Store) and get ROM Manager.
When you have it, open it and touch on "Flash ClockworkMod Recovery". It will ask if yours is Huawei U8160. It is, install it. Now, "Reboot into Recovery".
If it boots into recovery, move to step 4. If it stays with the hourglass for more than a couple of seconds, it's in fastboot mode, unplug the USB cable and the battery, replug them (phone will boot in Android 2.2 normally) and move to step 3B to boot the recovery the bad way.
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Step three (B): Installing ClockworkMod Recovery (the developer way)
So after searching and searching and searching with a pretty hourglass, I found this other way that worked flawlessly for me.
First of all you need the Android SDK, that you can get here. If you don't plan developing for Android, just uncompress it anywhere, you can delete it later.
Once uncompressed, execute the android file inside the tools folder, and install the Platform SDK Tools. No need for anything else.
Download the file called recovery-clockwork- from here and put it in the platform-tools folder. It doesn't matter the version installed by ROM Manager is newer, this works also.
Go to Settings->Developer on the phone and be sure that USB debugging is enabled.
Plug the phone to the computer, open a Terminal/Console/Command line and go to the platform-tools folder, then do "adb devices". If only one shows, it's working.
On the phone, go to ROM Manager, and choose "Reboot into Recovery". If now it does (whoa!) just skip to step 4. If it stays in the hourglass, don't touch anything, it's where we wanted.
Now do "fastboot boot recovery-clockwork-", and the phone will reboot on ClockworkMod flawlessly. Continue to step 4.
Step four: Backup the current ROM, wiping the data, and installing ICS.
The recovery is controlled using the volume up (move option up), volume down (move option down) and power (apply chosen option) buttons.
First of all, go to "backup and restore" and make a backup of the system. This needs about 250Mb of free space on the SD card, I hope you left.
Now go to "wipe data/factory reset". This is the no-return point. Everything will be erased here...
Just to be sure, "wipe cache partition".
Now "install zip from sdcard" and chose the custom rom zip. When it is done, repeat choosing the google apps zip this time.
If everything went ok, choose "reboot system now" and be patient for the next 10 minutes it takes to do the first boot (next ones are as fast as original rom).
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Step five: Enjoy. More or less...
As I said at the start of this guide, this is a beta software that will crash eventually (crashed only ONE time in 48h but your mileage can vary a lot so :p).
Device 2012 04 13 092016
The camera does not work, don't try it, it just doesn't, period. I don't consider this a big loss. The 2 megapixel, fixed-focus camera is so bad, you'd better buy a single-use analog-film pocket-camera in the nearest store.
For some reason the Text-to-Speech engine isn't working for me, it just says "Google Text to Speech engine had to be closed" but the applications don't complain.
It may happen that the wifi stops working in some ocasions. Rebooting the phone corrects the problem.
Alongside with all the Android 4.0 new features, and the usual ClockworkMod ones (like under/over-clocking) this also enabled MULTITOUCH, something that for some strange reason, Huawei and/or Vodafone have disabled in their official rom, and makes the phone work more fluently/fast (not a big difference, but you'll appreciate it).
Youtube does not get installed by this procedure, neither it can be installed from the Market (Play Store). Bad, but...
If you want to restore the phone to 2.2 repeat the procedure but choosing to restore the backup you did (AFTER a wipe).
Thanks to subpsyke for working on this modification, now I have Android 4.0 before any of my friends but one! (he got a Galaxy Nexus)
Device 2012 04 13 191545
More screenshots on my Picasa here.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Hands on Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Developer Preview 1


In a press release that surprised us all, Apple announced the availability of Mac OS X 10.8 (dubbed "Mountain Lion", another kind of Puma, or the North American Panther) Developer Preview 1, for all Macintosh registered developers.

Less than a year after Mac OS X 10.7, this new operating system promises to include more than 100 new features, include more iOS improvements and designs, and be available to general public on "Late Summer 2012". No price information has been disclosed, but included strings suggest that it will not be free.

As this version includes some installation bugs, I'll dedicate a section specially oriented for installation.


Like Lion, Mountain Lion comes in a Mac App Store package. If you want to burn it to a DVD or to an USB, the procedure is the same as in Lion.

However, there is currently a bug in Mountain Lion installation, and when you install to a blank drive, something most developers will try, you'll find that there is no post-installation, and you get greeted with:

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Don't try, it's not asking for a Mac OS X Server account, neither for a Lion account on another drive. It won't ask to create a user, and there is no user, so you cannot login. Funny, eh?!

So what to do? Install over the same drive that already has a Lion (update). So if you want to install on a new partition, install Lion there first.

It is able to update 10.7.0 (not tested 10.6) and it works flawlessly on VMware Fusion 4.1.0 or up, including VMware Tools. Don't try a previous version of VMware, the SCSI controller has some kind of bug and Mountain Lion is unable to found any drive.

If you install over Lion, it will ask for an Apple ID and the current timezone. Any new user you create will be asked for his/her Apple ID at first login (or to create a new one).

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If you supply an Apple ID, it will ask to setup iCloud, and Find My Mac. However it's not completely setting it up as promished (iTunes and Games Center does not get set up, however contacts, calendars, bookmarks, Mail and the App Store get it).


There is one new setting "Notifications" that I'll explain below, and a few minor changes.

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Accesibility gets moved to System (again).

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For wallpapers, we lost the option to make the menu bar translucir, and we get a new default wallpaper, not just another galaxy, but the Milky Way Galaxy (it's where planet Earth, and then, most probably you also, is located). If you're not from Milky Way Galaxy, please leave a comment with your stargate coordinates ;)

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For screen savers, the preference panel also gets a cosmetic change, with Slide Shows in a better category. There are only two screen savers (compared with 8 in Lion) and we lost the option to change it randomly :(

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In Language & Text we get eight (8) new system-wide translations (Catalan, Greek, Hebrew, Croatian, Romanian, Slovak, Thai and Ukrainian), as well as support for the Chinese Lunar calendar.

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In "Mail, Contacts & Calendars" (it should be named internet accounts or something else), we get new services: twitter (however my twitter account did not work), flickr, vimeo, and for the chinese, QQ, 126 and 163. Also Google accounts now get Notes synced, but no connection to YouTube (Google's equivalent to vimeo, supported under QuickTime, iLife and Aperture) or to Picasa (Google's equivalent to flickr, not supported in any Apple app by default).

Also iCloud now gets the option to syncronize Notes and computer User Accounts, so if your user is an administrator, all the accounts on that machine get created on all other machines. This is, in my humble opinion, quite useless considering iCloud is single-user.

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In Security & Privacy you can configure Gatekeeper (the "Allow applications…", I'll explain it below).

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Oh oh, where's Web Sharing!?!?!?! Dunno, but Apache is still installed and launched :S

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In Date & Time, timezone can be set automatically depending on your current location. This, on desktop macs with no wifi connected, does not work (neither other location service), and personally I think that sending your wifi's MAC address (unique identifier for your router or access point) to get your current location is not so much private.

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Accessibility gets a major overhaul, making everything more categorized, separated and cleaner, but no new options here.

So, it's time for "new things"!.


If you're a Mac user, you probably have seen notifications from Skype, Outlook, or directly, you have Growl installed for that. Now, Apple includes a notifications system, taken directly from iOS.

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A new circle with a circle icon right top of the screen, next to Spotlight, allows you to see the stored notifications. You can also access it with a swipe on your trackpad.

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In settings you can set up, like on iOS, from what applications to get notifications, which kind (none, banner or alert), how many, with sound, sorted manually or by date, so on.


With iOS 5, Apple introduced iMessage, a new system that allows to send text, images and videos between any iOS device (iPod, iPad, iPhone) using your phone number and/or your Apple ID (iCloud)

Now, in Mountain Lion, iChat disappears, gets renamed to Messages, and gets support for iMessage.

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That's me talking with my mom and a couple of friends (all of them with iPhone) over iMessage. I can continue the conversation (receive my messages and theirs) on my iPad and iPhone, however it only beeped on Mountain Lion, so it's not so annoying.

One thing I missed is direct access to emoji on the computer, but messages sent with them showed correctly.

You can get a beta version of Message for Lion from Apple, but take care, it deletes iChat and you can lose all ability to chat when Mountain Lion arrives!


Of course, Notes is not new, but here it gets more than an overhaul.

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It is now, an independent application, and not just a list of lost items inside Mail. HOORAY!

That's really important when you have hundreds of daily mails like I do, and finding a note inside Mail is simply impossible.


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Reminders, the iOS 5 To-Do list, gets ported to Mac OS X, and gets the data from iCloud syncing :p

Share sheets

Share sheets is that little menu on iOS to share things by mail, message and twitter. And now, it gets in Mac OS X, for any account you have configures, for almost any content (webpage, text, photo). There is an icon in Safari, another in file dialogs, and even if you right click on an image inside of Safari, you get the options.

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This is sharing a website on twitter, snapshot included automatically.

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This is sharing the same website on Messages.

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Sharing a photo from my Picasa album on flicker.

Available destinations depend on selected content (vimeo doesn't support photos, twitter doesn't support videos, so on).

Safari 5.3

More speed, better compatibility, ok these are the usual things.

As you've seen up, Safari gets share sheets, one next to URL (for sharing the web with a snapshot) and the other sheet in contextual (right-click/ctrl-click) menu.

Also, as you can appreciate in the previous screenshot, there is no more search bar.

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Now, the address bar includes options for searching, in your default search provider (Google is the default first time), on your bookmarks and history, or on the current page.

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Also you can get the list of website user and passwords stored, without having to go to Keychain Access.

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And when you login on a Google account, you get asked to add it to your system accounts.

Game Center

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Game Center is another thing that comes from iOS, and while currently no Mac game can be present on the App Store with support for Game Center, it detects any iOS game with a Mac version, and shows their options and achievements.


Gatekeeper is probably what will be the most criticized function on Mountain Lion.

Gatekeeper allows you to set up, in Security & Privacy, what applications are allowed to be installed and run in Mountain Lion.

Options are three:

Only applications that come from the Mac App Store. These applications are signed by Apple, and checked that they don't do something they shouldn't (breaking your computer, for example).

Only applications that come from the Mac App Store or applications signed by identified developers. Identified developers are those who pay $99/yr to Apple and sign their applications. This is the default option on Mountain Lion, and provides you with security without much trouble.

Any application. This is how any previous version of Mac OS X works.

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Very informative message, curiously it's from an Apple application.

However if you're an administrator, you can bypass the security settings by a one time option. Right click (or ctrl click) the application or installer, choose open, and:

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Now you can force open it, and it will never ask again for that exact application or installer package.

Other little things

Supported applications (none currently, future iWork betas will) can access iCloud as if it was a disk, with a file dialog and the ability to create folders.

Address Book gets renamed to Contacts.

There is no support to ATI X1000 cards or to nVidia NV40. Also support for Intel GMA950 is dropped.

There is a new driver called "Apple Thunderbolt Audio". Thunderbolt until now presented everything over HDMI (audio included) or PCIe (an audio controller can be connected there), but this new driver, it is here, and I don't quite know what device it refers to.

Xgrid support vanished.

Rumors say, X11 is dropped, Carbon is deprecated. There is no official notice about Carbon deprecated, it is still there. X11 gets the same treat as Java. Trying to open it directs you to a download page, however, this is better. Lion 10.7.3 X11 version is older than the download page one, and as X11 is not something all users need, it's not so much of a problem here.

If you have an Apple TV, the system will detect it and offer you to broadcast your current screen to your Apple TV (this is called AirPlay). However I couldn't test this feature because I have no Apple TV.

For developers

There are a few changes in frameworks, both public and private.

New public (usable by ANY developer) frameworks: Accounts, AudioVideoBridging (AirPlay), CFNetwork, CoreText (it's not new, but now it's independent), CoreWiFi (includes functions to handle WiFi connections and cards, with some low level values), EventKit (for Notifications), GameKit (from iOS, for Game Center features), GLKit (from iOS, handles OpenGL, supposedly easier to use than AGL), MediaToolbox (video output and acceleration, audio and video formar handling, colorspace conversión, so on), SceneKit (was private in Lion, renders 3D scenes and objects from Collada files) and VideoToolbox (encodes and decodes video).

New private (sable ONLY by Apple) frameworks: AccountsDaemon, CalendarAgent, CalendarAgentLink, CalendarFoundation, CommsDiagnostics, CoreMessage (iMessage), CoreRecognition (see below), DeviceToDeviceKit, DeviceToDeviceManager, GameKitServices, GeoServices, GPUSupport, IMAP (used by Notes, an implementation of the IMAP mail protocol), MediaControlSender, MessageProtection (for iMessage), MMCSServices, NetFSServer, Notes, OAuth, ODServerTools, RemoteWebInspector, ShareKit (for the Share Sheets), TimeSyncKit, XPCObjects.

From the private frameworks I've discovered three things:

1.- iMessage goes encrypted with OTR system.
2.- There is a new feature for updating firmware over USB or Bluetooth, but this framework only shows Mac models and not iDevices. It is clearly called DFU.
3.- CoreRecognition recognizes faces using integrated webcams. There is nothing currently using this in DP1, but this can be useful for login using a recognition of the user's face :p