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Monday, June 27, 2011

iTools -> .Mac -> MobileMe -> iCloud

In this article I will talk about iCloud, what is it, what it's not, and its historic evolution.

Itools logo


On January 5, 2000, Apple launched iTools free for all Macintosh users.

It is a collection of the following web-based tools: email: An e-mail address that allows access thru POP3 and IMAP protocols as well as from a website.

iCards: A free greeting card service

iReview: Reviews of popular web sites.

HomePage: Webpage publishing.

iDisk: An online data storage service, first using AFP and then moved to WebDAV protocol.

KidSafe: A directory of web sites for all the family members.



On July 17, 2002, Apple renamed iTools to .mac and made it a subscription-based system.

While removing iReview and KidSafe, it also added the following tools:

Backup: A personal data backup, with files being copied to their iDisk and CD or DVD disks.

Antivirus: Offering the McAfee Virex antivirus for free to all .mac users until June 15, 2005.

Web gallery: Introduced on August 7, 2007, it allowed .mac users to upload photos and videos so anyone could see them.

.Mac slides: Public slideshows.

.Mac groups: Groups allowed files uploaded to them to be synchronized between .mac users.

Back to My Mac: Introduced with Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, allowed connecting users' computers remotely without almost any configuration.

Bookmarks: Bookmarks are synchronized between computers, and can be accessed online.

500px MobileMe logo svg


Introduced on June 9, 2008, it's the "Exchange for the rest of us".

It removed iCards, online access to bookmarks, slides, groups and the antivirus while adding the following tools:

Windows support: A downloadable control panel for Windows allowed the usage of almost all MobileMe tools for Windows users.

iPhone support: Introduced alongside iOS 2.0 (iPhone OS 2.0) added all the services to iPhone and iPod Touch users.

Calendars and Contacts: All the users calendars and contacts are synchronized between users devices (computers and iDevices).

Calendar sharing: Using the CalDAV protocol you can share selected calendars with other people that don't need to be MobileMe users.

Dashboard widgets: Users widgets are installed on all the computers and their exact configuration and position synchronized between them (only for Macintosh computers).

Dock items: Dock items are synchronized between Macintosh computers.

Kotoeri User Dictionary: User preferences on Japanese hiragana to kanji conversions ("kotoeri", only for Macintosh computers).

Keychains: User credentials, certificates and passwords (only for Macintosh computers).

System preferences, Mail accounts, rules, signatures and custom inboxes.


iLife integration: Only for Mac OS X 10.5 and upper, allows iWeb to upload websites to Homepage and iPhoto and iMovie to download and upload photos and movies to Web Gallery (renamed to MobileMe Gallery).

Find My iPhone: Introduced in June 10, 2009, allows MobileMe users to find in a map where their iDevice is, make it sound even if sound is disabled, show a message upmost in the iDevice screen, lock it and remove all its contents remotely, both online and from another iDevice. This service was separated from MobileMe and made free to any user with an Apple ID on November 22, 2010.

Apple iCloud


Introduced on June 6, 2001, it's the final iteration, and free again.

Until June 30, 2012 both MobileMe and iCloud will coexist. No new MobileMe accounts can be created, and existing ones will remain free until then (even if they expired before that date). Users can choose to migrate from Mobile to iCloud at any time before than date, and users that has not migrated will cease to work. They can move anytime later, but their data will be deleted.

Dashboard widgets, dock items, kotoeri, keychains and system preferences will stop working, and your data deleted from Apple servers as soon as you migrate.

Homepage (iWeb publishing), Gallery and iDisk will continue working until June 30, 2012, even if you migrate before that date. After that, all you data will be deleted.

As Backup depends on iDisk, its fate is the same as iDisk's.

New features are:

iTunes in the Cloud and Apps and books history: All your bought iTunes Store items are synched between devices, chosen by the user if done automatically (once bought, it is downloaded on all iCloud activated devices) or manually (user can check a history of bought items to download it manually).

iTunes Match: Paid-separately (it is said to be US$24.99 per year), checks all your iTunes library and when a song is present in the iTunes Store, but you have not bought it there, automatically downloads it in AAC 256Kbps format.

Documents in the Cloud: Application developers can store your documents and sync them to your iCloud account, and then between your devices. In the presentation Apple clearly stated that the iWork suite for iOS (Pages, Numbers and Keynote) are already enabled to do that, but nothing is said about iWork for Mac OS X.

Photo Stream: Any photo you take on you iDevices, or manually put on Photo Stream using iPhoto, is uploaded to iCloud and downloaded to all your devices. There is a limit on how many photos your iDevices will download, but no limits on computers or uploads. (see screenshot below). Nothing is said about if Aperture will ever support this feature.

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iDevice backup: When using a WiFi connection all the contents not synched in previously named features, like documents and other application data, as well as any particular configuration, is backed up and can be restored without access to a computer. iTunes items not bought from the iTunes Store (manually added to iTunes by the user) are not backed up.

The previous 10 Gb of iDisk space available to MobileMe users gets reduced to 5 Gb that's used only by Documents in the Cloud and the iDevice Backup, having Photo Stream (but Roll ones do in the backup) not counting on that available space, and the rest of the features already stored on the iTunes servers (bought apps, books, music, videos and tv shows).

iCloud adds all the features needed for iDevices to work absolutely independent of any computer, becomes free and removes features that a lot of people loved.

As it is said, never rains to everyone's taste.

I however, being a user of MobileMe since its inception, welcome these changes, specially the free-of-cost one.

iCloud will be launched on Fall 2011 alongside iOS 5. Windows and Mac OS X Lion will get support, and nothing is said about Mac OS X Snow Leopard.

Finally, Apple has published a FAQ on about the migration from MobileMe to iCloud, just for any question I may have not answered.

Windows 8 Milestone 3 (build 7989)

A new Windows 8 build. I'll only talk about things that changed from my previous post about Windows 8 Milestone 2 (build 7955), so read it first.

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The first change is a new boot screen, showing a static bettafish and a circular loading symbol.

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The next thing is a new, more cybernetic, wallpaper that prevents reading the Microsoft Confidential advice.

I'm not a lawyer but the inability to read a contract does not null it automatically ? Just lol.

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There is a new virtual on-screen keyboard, differing in aspect from previous versions one, taking an aesthetic more similar to Windows Phone 7's. I personally prefer the transparencies of the previous one.

It also has less and bigger keys, more finger and less pen oriented.

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One of the new virtual keyboard features is a numeric keypad. While it is not more similar to a keypad one (missing # and * keys), it's also missing keypad keys (/, *, - and +) as well as ordered like a phone. I may speculate as support for phoning on Windows 8?

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Finally it includes one emoticons scheme. However it is not as pretty, or as complete, as Emoji.

There are also rumors about an application to send SMS, however I've been unable at all to find it.

Also, in forums it is said there is an option to have a "roaming profile" synchronized to Windows Live Cloud. I've been also unable to find it, however I'll clarify a couple of things.

In Windows' terminology a roaming profile is when absolutely all the contents of the user's home folder (including, documents, movies, photos, configuration files, registry entries) are copied between each computer the user logins in, and a server (usually an Active Directory server).

However the new roaming options, is not a "roaming profile", it just allows synchronizing some of the user settings, not all the registry entries, and not any of your files. This is like Apple's MobileMe did for years between Macintosh users.

And answering a question people made me on Twitter when I did the article about Milestone 2, this one includes Windows Media Center, but no changes are present yet.

It clearly seems that Microsoft is seriously mixing Windows Phone 7 and Windows 7 in a single codebase, but the question is, will Windows 8 be optimized enough to run on smartphones and tablets?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mac OS X Lion Developer Preview 4

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Now it's time to talk about Lion. Yes, I know, I come late, but well, better late than never.

Lion, or Mac OS X 10.7, is the new Apple's operating system to be released publicly on July 2011. It also marks a new era on the distribution of computer software, as it's the first major operating system to be distributed exclusively and only in digital form.

Yeah, that's it, you cannot go to a store and buy it, it does not come in CD, DVD, USB flash drive or any other kind of physical medium. It's just bytes, and bytes, and simply bytes.

So how do you get it? In the Mac App Store using your iTunes account. Then it downloads an image file (DMG in Mac OS X world, equivalent to ISO files on rest of computer world) that's copied to a temporary partition, booted from, and the installation starts.

You can in any case (as I did) get the downloaded DMG and simply burn it to a DVD or an USB flash drive and boot from it, and store securely in case of severe hard disk failure or substitution.

It's also the first version that the "family" pack (5 computers) comes for the price of 1, you just authorize with the same iTunes account up to five computers and it's legal to install it on all of them.

And what happens to people that's still on Leopard (or even Tiger, any of you there?). Well, ok, nothing has been officially commented on this issue, but you can always go to an Apple Store and kindly ask a Genius to let you buy, download and burn on the Store's computers. I repeat, KINDLY.

Also take note that Lion is purely, and only, 64-bit, so forget about that any Macintosh user with a "Core Duo" or "Core Solo" processor ("Core 2 Duo" are supported). Yeah and PowerPC has not returned (my PowerBook G4 is sad).

As I'm the kind of girl that takes precautions, I directly burnt it to a DVD and tested from it. Installation took a lot, in two phases, first creating the "Recovery" partition, then booting and installing the system itself from it.

Yes, I've said "Recovery" partition, because one of the new things Lion included is a recovery partition, in case our system one is unable to boot, we can just boot in it, reinstall, repair permissions, do a filesystem integrity check, so on.

The installation is slimmer, simpler and more elegant than previous ones and when it is finished there is no welcome video (previous developer releases just included the Snow Leopard welcome video). This may change in the final release, and the welcome video may reappear then.

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Then, loginwindow. The login window is also cleaner, and more formal. I really like it not showing any background picture. That may disclose personal information on shared computers.

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As with every Mac OS X release, Lion shows us a new background image. Indeed two. In previous developers releases it was Mount Fuji (Japan) and in this one it's the M31 Andromeda Galaxy (or at least, is almost identical).

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The most curious thing of Lion is Launchpad.

And what is Launchpad? Launchpad is an application menu for Lion. Indeed, it's the same one and old and touchy application menu used on iOS (called SpringBoard there), but now in Mac OS X.

You can create folders, delete applications, move them, have multiple screens, all in your fingers (integrated or Magic trackpad required).

It is also quite intelligent. If you add an application, it automatically appears there, if you move one to trash (in the old way, Finder-ish) it disappears, and if you install a folder that contains an application inside it (like Adobe Photoshop does) only the application icon appears here (if you delete it here the whole folder is deleted).

And before starting with applications changes, let's see two things:

1.- Spaces has disappeared completely. I think no one will miss it.

2.- Applications can now run full screen (more or less same as in Snow Leopard having one app per space). NOTE: They CAN, you can choose to run them like before in a per-moment basis.

This fullscreen-ish does have some advantages (concentration on just one task), and some disadvantages (losing the ability to multitask). I have not tested fullscreen on multiple monitors, but it would be great to have the application you want fullscreened on the monitor you want.

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iCal gets full screen. Aesthetic changes are small, but kind to the eye.

Yes only the upper part.

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Safari also gets full screen. Gets better HTML5 compatibility (as with every update) and a new, non intrusive, see it everywhere downloads list that I'm loving.

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Photo Booth also gets full screen. Adds new effects, specially interesting the ones that remove you from the video and adds a moving background.

That's my Pikachu, test subject on anything that requires camera :p

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Preview gets full screen, allowing better reading of books or multi-page documents. However I still miss iBooks for Mac OS X.

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Chess also gets full screen, so you can concentrate on the King without distractions from the desktop.

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Dashboard is no more an overlay on the current view, but an always running full screen app that resides left-most in the list of full screen apps (more on the order below).

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Address Book gets a radical aesthetic change to be more alike a, well, an address book.

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Lion includes a couple of new system fonts, but the most important to note for all of us is Apple Color Emoji. This font includes all the Emoji icons as seen on the japanese iPhone (or in rest-of-world with a little hack or iOS 5), so now you can see them in notes, emails, contacts, wherever you used them on your iOS device, when synced with Lion.

This also means new features for font designers, like adding support for colored glyphs.

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iChat now supports Yahoo! accounts out-of-the-box. And I say that, because now iChat support for messaging protocols is plugin base. So maybe in a future we'll see plugins for MSNP (Windows Live Messenger), Twitter, Gadu-Gadu and others. I hope this feature does not end in The Void.

It also joins all the contacts from all accounts in a single contacts list.

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Mail gets full screen with an interface overhaul. It also joins conversations (dozens of "Re:" messages) in a single place so you can read them chronologically.

It also detects duplicates, and can hide the messages and/or folder list so you can concentrate on the email.

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System Preferences get a little reordering (Universal Access is now a Personal thing not a System one) and the new "Mail, Contacts & Calendars" panel appears.

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New pretty and real background pictures come with Lion, including but not limited to, Mount Fuji, M31 Andromeda Galaxy and a Lion (appropriate isn't it?).

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Lion includes new system-wide languages: Arabic, Czech, Hungarian and Turkish.

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It also includes new text-to-speech voices, not just for all system-wide available languages but also for variations (Latin-American and Spain's Spanish), and non-present ones (Romanian). The bad is that they are downloaded from Apple on installation, making that small, the good of that is this would allow new voices to be added in updates.

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FileVault now encrypts the whole disk at once, not just the home folder, with a new and supposedly better algorithm (just another AES variation).

This adds a level of security (the whole disk is encrypted) and subtracts another level (another user can access your home).

But there is also another level of security (or of control by some paranoids). The encryption key can be stored in Apple for recovery in case of absolute loss using three (chosen from a list of a dozen options) secret questions.

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There are now a lot of gestures, so you can move pages, move full screen apps (leftmost Dashboard, second-left non-full screen, rest on order of full screening), open Launchpad, open Mission Control, so on. Of course this requires an integrated or a Magic trackpad.

You can do some of the gestures with a Magic Mouse but that is anything but comfortable.

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The new "Mail, Contacts & Calendars" preference panel allows an easy to access configuration of, mail, contacts and calendars services, like Google Mail, Yahoo!, MobileMe and iCloud.

It is plugin based, indeed iCloud must be installed separately right now (iCloud is expected to be ready on Fall, Lion on July, months before) and MobileMe would disappear soon.

If you add your account to, for example, iChat, it automatically appears here (only instant messaging is enabled). If you add it here, you can enable it to appear on Address Book, iCal, iChat and Mail.

Mac OS X Server accounts will also be supported here directly.

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FTP disappears on file sharing and SMB (windows sharing) gets substituted by a fresh, new, clean implementation of the lastest SMB version (SMB2, introduced with Windows Vista), providing a huge performance boost with other Lion or Vista or 7 computers. The previous SMB software was Samba, used also in Linux, limited to the 20 year old SMB1 version.

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Also an option to automatically restart on a kernel panic (bluescreenofdeath for windows users) happens is added. In difference with Windows, the option is disabled by default, can be based on power source, and the information you obtain about the panic on reboot is some orders of magnitude better.

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Now user accounts can be linked to any kind of Apple ID, not just a MobileMe one. It can be your iTunes Store account, your Find My iPhone account, your Apple Developer account, your Apple Forums account, you choose!

You can also allow your user password to be rest using your Apple ID, so if you forgot your user password but not your ID password, you can just reset it.

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QuickTime 7 disappears, completely. There is no remaining of Carbon. Ok, there is, the Carbon framework is still there, you can execute Carbon applications. But none are included with the system.

QuickTime X gets more editing features, and a bigger "share" list, adding Vimeo, Flicker, Facebook and Mail.

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Finder also receives an aesthetic overhaul, and adds a new section called "All My Files" that made me tremble in fear.

It also gets more intelligent when copying, so when you copy a folder (A) to another (B) that contains a folder with the same name (A') it doesn't delete A' with A, but combines A and A' contents.

Also when you copy a file (A) to a folder that also contains a file (A) you get (A) and (A2) in that folder.

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The system also adds support for vertical text. Not so useful for occidental languages, but for oriental ones (Chinese, Japanese, so on). Surely oriental writers will find more comfortable to write their texts in the way they're used to do calligraphic-ally.

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One of the new features of Lion is called "Mission Control". It more or less substitutes Exposé.

The dock still appears on its place, the non-full screen apps on the middle, and the full screen ones (including Dashboard) on the top.

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And the last things, surely the most important and expected ones.

Resume and versioning.

When you shut down the system with opened applications and documents, they appear immediately on the next boot, in exactly the same place you left it, including the cursor position. That's resume. It also happens if you close a single application with new or modified documents. This must, however, be supported specifically in the application, so old non prepared applications will not get this functionality for free (d'oh!)

Also when you are working with the document versions are automatically saved periodically without user intervention, and when you save it, different versions are saved also separately. On disk you'll just see the last one, but you can access always to a restore versions screen, that similar to Time Machine shows you all the stored versions so you can choose to which one revert.

Also, you can duplicate it.

Ok, all of this features where in Lisa Office System (pre-Mac Apple's system) 28 years ago (1983), but from my filesystem-expertise I assure you it's not so easy to implement this things transparently for the user to a system not designed with this features from the start.

So, I think this is all, you know, Lion will be available worldwide on July for US$29.99 / 23,99€ / £20.99.

Oh, ONE MORE THING: NTFS gets a huge lot of changes from Snow Leopard, being indeed the most complete non-Microsoft implementation but IT'S STILL READ-ONLY *sigh*.

Stay tuned, tomorrow I'll deep-analyze iCloud.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Second iOS 5 impressions, beta 2

iOS 5 beta 2 has just been released.

This articles just comments a few differences, updates and so on from beta 1, so you should read that article also:

First of all, there is a prettier animated welcome screen, similar to the Mac OS X welcome intro, you see "Welcome" written in all iOS supported language moving along the screen.

When you restore from a backup, the setup assistant does not appear as it did on beta 1 (this is the expected behaviour).

iTunes sync per wifi is now working, or almost.

If you just happen to be intelligent enough to use your desktop wired to prevent famous wireless issues (read: disconnections, interferences, one tenth of cable speed) it will simply not work.

Indeed you may have experienced the same when using any other kind of wifi autodetection (like some third party apps with desktop counterparts use) or even with Apple TV syncing.

This is because all of that is done on Bonjour, a software service that allows auto discovery of devices, but sometimes does not work between wifi and wired networks.

So simplifying the question:

Do you have both iTunes computer and your iDevice running on the same exact wifi network? It will work flawlessly.

Do you have iTunes computer on a wire to the wifi router/access-point your iDevice is using? It will probably not work.

I've been testing for hours just to find my iPhone founds iTunes (using a Bonjour browser) but my computer does not find the iPhone, and, in any case, iPhone says it's unable to find the iTunes library.

There are also a couple of minor bug solved (that I can't talk about), but anyway the system feels almost like finished.

Finally, there is still nothing about iTunes Match, which in any case may not be available outside US until some months past launch.

** EDIT **

After rebooting, retrying, reconnecting, the iPhone appeared magically when I just forgot about it on the Bonjour browser on the iTunes computer, and now it is syncing via wifi.

The screen on the iphone simply says "pass 1 of 4" and on iTunes ("pass 1 of 6", funny) the device appears as if it were connected directly.

La foto

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

First iOS 5 impressions, beta 1

Please take note that this article contains a lot of screenshots, that are reduced in size. For viewing it in full size go to

As with all iOS betas there is no "update" option, but restore with the typical 6-8 hours of resync from iTunes.

But on iOS 5 all syncing, even when using the USB cable, is done in background so you can continue using it while syncing. A little syncing rotating icon appears just left to the carrier name, and when finished, it disappears.

First screen invites me to set up my iPhone:

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Then it asks for an Apple ID, for which I used an inactive years-old MobileMe account. I use an absolutely different one for the iTunes Store and the App Store, but they still are the defaults.

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Then it asks for permissions to send anonymous usage statistics, and it is configured.

The first thing I saw is the Newsstand icon

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That you cannot move to a folder or remove, and is quite useless in Spain where magazines have not yet chosen the App Store, and for anyone in any country that simply does not want to subscribe to any magazine or newspaper. Should I consider this a feature or a bug?

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The Reminders application is a simple TODO lists creator, but get to the points. Will become quite useful for my mother in the supermarket indeed.

When going to Preferences to check for new things I found that there is a change in the graphics used for the ON/OFF sliders.

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Of all the new preferences I went directly to iCloud. For some strange reason at first it showed my App Store Apple ID instead of the MobileMe account I choose on SetUp. I deleted it and added the inactive MobileMe account, and it just got reactivated automatically. The options are mostly similar to MobileMe.

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With the difference that there is an option called "Backup & Storage" that shows you how many free space you still have on iCloud (5Gb free), if you want to enable backing up the device to iCloud (this disables automatic backup on iTunes) and allows you to buy more storage.

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When you manage the storage you again see how much space are you using, but this time for each device, as well as again an option to buy more.

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I went to download iCloud for the computers but currently it is available only as an add-on for Lion (yes, not included) and for Windows, but not for Snow Leopard. Maybe this changes when it is finally released.

The software update option shows there are no new updates, and gives no options to configure. I hope when beta 2 gets out it allows me to test it (and not having to resync the whole library).

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Wireless syncing was unable to find my computer.

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While I were testing I received a SMS and directly I show the new notifications, and I really like it because they don't stop me from what I'm doing.

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On Mail configuration you can enable S/MIME (identity verification and message encryption).

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However S/MIME does have quite its problems. Certificates are not free and mostly no none uses them. I would have preferred them to support PGP/OpenGPG.

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On the Twitter preferences panel you can add one, two, any number of accounts, have a direct access to install the Twitter application (only way to see tweets and send simple text tweets), and update your contacts so they get added their twitter account, as soon as you have the email they user to register on twitter.

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Per account, you can configure if you want to be findable by email, tweet your location when you tweet anything, and add a description.

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On messages you can enable iMessage, which uses your phone number as a localization and by default will send the message as a SMS when internet is not available (you should take care of that). However it asked always for an email address and did not allowed any of the dozen I tried, then no iMessage tests.

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On the Store preferences panel you can enable automatic download of new purchases (done in any other device) on applications and books. This is linked to the Apple ID you're using for the App Store, and not for the one you're using on iCloud. This is great in cases like mine where I use a MobileMe account for me and another for my mother, but the same Apple ID of the store for both os us. This currentl is available for iOS 4.3 users (but not for iOS 4.2)

In calendars there is a new little icon for invitations.

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On Address Book each entry that is synced with Twitter will get their username added, but as well you can add it to them, and not just twitter, but almost every important social network.

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On taking photos the old good "HDR on" button now becomes options, with a new "Grid" option that divides the view in a 3x3 grid.

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As said in the WWDC keynote, in the Photos application you have now an album called "Photo stream" with all the photos that are in iCloud and you can tweet any individual photo.

Photo stream syncs all the new photos (and screenshots, for the record) with iCloud, and between all devices and computers. However for Mac it only syncs with iPhoto 9.2, which beta is currently only available for Lion and not Snow Leopard. When you connect the device to Aperture (which I use) you also don't see the photos synced by Photo stream unless taken specifically by that device.

The weather application now asks permission to use your location and shows a "Local Weather" tab. This is great if you travel.

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It also allows you to see the hourly forecast.

On the App Store application, in the updates tab you now have a "Purchased" icon that shows all the applications purchased by your Apple ID, the ones not installed on that device allowing an easy installation. This is also available NOW for iOS 4.3 users (not for iOS 4.2).

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Similarly the same appears on iBooks.

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The iPod application ceases to exist on iPhone, and becomes the pair of Music + Videos present already on iPod Touch and iPad.

On Safari, you can save a page for reading later on the Reading List or tweet it.

On Maps you can ask a different route or print the map.

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But the most interesting feature of iOS 5 are the notifications. As soon previously they now don't appear intrusively in the center of the screen but discretely in the upper part of it.

However, in the Notifications panel in Preferences you can configure all the options, per application.

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So if you consider the notifications from an application, for example the phone, are important enough to stop whatever are you doing, you can configure it to appear as alerts, just the same way before iOS 5.

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You can also check which ones can appear in the lock screen (or none), specially for privacy protection because they are visible without putting the code to unlock the device.

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And if you slide two fingers down from the up part of the screen, difficult at first, you see all your notifications at a glance, as well as a Stock and Weather widget. Maybe in a future developers will be allowed to provide their own widgets.

So now time to backup the iPhone and test the iPad.

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Yeah, 1 minute. Then 7 hours, and 7 hours later an error prevented the backup. Welcome to betas.

The only thing added on the iPad and not on the iPhone is the split keyboard, that makes the keys be half the size and quite unusable for me.

And the notification center does not occupy the whole screen.

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This is a major update and the new features (more than 200 in Apple's words) are quite good. I'm pretty sure all iPhone/iPad/iPod users are waiting this to come as soon as possible.

There are also a lot of new features for developers, including an orders of magnitude easier to do Twitter integration.