Apple Needs To Do Away With Dictation And Let Siri Takes Over On Mac OS X Mountain Lion

Dictation is a new feature on Mac OS X Mountain Lion.  It’s supposed to be one of those features that I would love to use since I write a lot.  Unfortunately, I can barely use Dictation on Mac OS X Mountain Lion on my MacBook Pro.  How come?  Well, let say it’s not yet up to my expectation.  In fact, it is far from pleasing me.

I don’t think I speak that badly in English, because my English accent isn’t bad at all.  Nonetheless, Dictation has constantly failed to dictate what I’m trying to say.  For an example, when I say feature it types out future.  When I say comma to tell it to write a punctuation mark comma into a sentence, it might type out a word of entirely different beast altogether.  Nonetheless, Dictation does work out alright sometimes.  I notice when you want a punctuation mark in a sentence, you’ve to pronounce the punctuation mark out entirely for Dictation to type out a punctuation mark.  It does make sense until I guess you really want a word comma in place of the punctuation mark comma, because Dictation may just as well type out a punctuation mark comma since it dictates that whenever you pronounce a punctuation mark in its entirety — it means you want a punctuation mark and not a word that spells out the punctuation mark.

I kind of feel there is something lacking about having to use shortcut key [fn] to tell Dictation that I’m done writing and wanting to take a break from Dictation.  I guess it’s the same problem as what I had mentioned previously.  Dictation might not be able to discern between a key command and its dictation function.  Perhaps, when you say I’m done talking to you Dictation, Dictation may as well dictate and type out what you have said — but not to actually understand that what you have said is a command to tell Dictation to turn off itself.  To enhance user experience, I guess Apple might have to enhance Dictation in a way that the users don’t really have to tell Dictation that they’re done using Dictation for the time being by clicking on [I’m Done] call out button or using the shortcut key [fn].

Using Dictation with a headphone which has a microphone might be better than otherwise.  I noticed that when I used Dictation with the MacBook Pro’s internal microphone, Dictation did poorly.  Perhaps, Dictation requires the users to speak really clear, and the internal microphone from any Mac might not be able to pickup a user’s voice as well as the headphone’s microphone.

According to MacLife’s “How to Use Dictation in Mountain Lion” article, Dictation does have more than few dictation commands that you can speak to actually tell Dictation to dictate such commands in a document.  One example would be “all caps” — when using this command, Dictation will turn whatever you speak into an all capitalized written text.  This is a great strength of Dictation, but this also reveals Dictation as a crude prototype.  Perhaps, I’m too critical of Dictation since Siri is around?  After all, Dictation isn’t that different from Siri in the perspective that it does have the need to phone home (i.e., upload what the users say to Apple’s servers before Dictation can write out what the users have said onto a document).

Anyhow, in conclusion I think Dictation can be improved further.  Nonetheless, Dictation does provide an alternative way for writing a document.  People like me though may not yet fully embrace Dictation for the reasons I pointed out previously.  Plus, people like me may write better when we type, because when speaking to Dictation it does feel like we talk more than write.  With this I meant, some of us might be able to form better sentences for a document when we type and not otherwise.  In the end, I still think that it’s rather strange for Apple to create Dictation as entirely a different feature when Siri is around.  After all, Dictation isn’t exactly 99.99% accurate in dictation.  In a way, I think Apple might as well combine Dictation and Siri into one for Mac OS X Mountain Lion, because Siri can bring Siri’s own useful features plus Dictation feature to Mac users.  Furthermore, I think with Siri as Dictation and more — the developers don’t really have to worry about two different things altogether (i.e., Dictation and Siri) when they create apps for Mac ecosystem.


Apple Announced The Next Generation MacBook Pro For 15″ And 13″

English: Unibody MacBook Pro Deutsch: MacBook ...

English: Unibody MacBook Pro Deutsch: MacBook Pro 5. Generation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the next generation MacBook Pro yet, therefore I can’t really snap a picture of it.  I guess a picture of any older MacBook Pro iteration would do.  The picture is taken from Wikipedia.  Enjoy!!!

Wow, Apple had just announced new MacBook Pro that is hugely more powerful than older generation ones.  Even more, Apple is now taking order for their new MacBook Pro.  Apple calls the latest MacBook Pro as the next generation MacBook Pro.  By getting the next generation 15″ MacBook Pro at the price point of $2,199, you get a MacBook Pro that is only .71 inch thick, 7 hours battery life, weight 4.46 lbs, retina display, 2.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz) with 6MB shared L3 cache, 8GB of 1600MHz DDR3L RAM which can be upgraded to 16 GB RAM, 256 GB flash storage, dual graphic switching which includes Intel HD Graphics 4000 and NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M with 1GB of GDDR5 memory, 720p FaceTime HD camera, 2 Thunderbolt ports, 2 USB 3.0 ports, HDMI port, headphone port, SDXS card slot, 802.11n Wi-Fi wireless networking;3 IEEE 802.11a/b/g compatible, Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology, Up to 30 days standby time, and OS X Lion as the operating system.  I think if you buy the next generation MacBook Pro now, you get to upgrade to the next version of OS X (Mountain Lion) for free.  Got the cash?  Paying the next generation 15″ MacBook Pro at the price point of $2,799, you get a more powerful i7 processor which clocks around 2.6 GHz and can be Turbo Boost up to 3.6 GHz.

What I like most about the next generation 15″ MacBook Pro is that it has amazing retina display which is capable in putting current HD display on my MacBook Pro to shame.  The retina display should make the images and videos way more enjoyable as the pictures should be way more beautiful than older kind of displays.  Amazingly though, the next generation 15″ MacBook Pro’s battery lifespan is still great, up to 7 hours wireless web, even though it packs with a more powerful processor and graphic card.  I bet the next generation 15″ MacBook Pro users will love how fast it’s to be able to transfer data from the laptop to the external hard drive at breakneck speed, because the Thunderbolt ports can allow them to transfer data up to 10 Gbps.  Unfortunately, even now though not that many external hard drives are built to support Thunderbolt.  Luckily though, Apple is smart to include 2 3.0 USB ports, therefore users can still transfer data at near breakneck speed, because USB 3.0 supports data transfer up to 5Gbps.  So the highlights for me about the newest 15″ MacBook Pro are speed and display.  The prices for the newest MacBook Pro is another story, because I think it’s just too expensive as always.

Apple also had announced the release of the next generation 13″ MacBook Pro, but this one isn’t as powerful as the 15″ one.  How come?  The processor for the 13″ one is only a dual core Intel i5 or i7 processor.  Obviously, the 15″ one is more powerful since it has quad-core processor.  Besides a less powerful processor, I think the 13″ one does have all the goodies that the 15″ one has.  So, if you do need a smaller, less heavier, cheaper next generation MacBook Pro, I guess 13″ one would do.  How much cheaper?  The Intel dual core i5 13″ one touts at $1,199 and the dual core i7 13″ one touts at $1,499.  It’s a lot cheaper than the 15″ one if you actually compare the prices side by side.  My question to you is, do you like how Apple has upgraded the MacBook Pro line?

Running Linux Mint 13 Onto MacBook Pro (Mid 2010 Model)

Linux Mint 13 On MacBook Pro

Linux Mint 13 On MacBook Pro

I was able to install Linux Mint 13 onto my MacBook Pro.  I had to say it was riveting to see my MacBook Pro booted into Linux Mint 13 for the first time.  How come?  Probably it was that I never had tried to install any Linux distribution onto a Mac before!  Anyhow, I thought it would be harder for me to install Linux Mint 13 than Windows onto a Mac, but it turned out I got it worked out perfectly the first time around.  Of course, I had used the correct guide, otherwise I would not be able to install Linux Mint 13 onto Mac after just one try.

I followed the Install Linux Mint 12 (Lisa) on 13inch MacBook Air 4.2 (2011 model) tutorial on blog, but I did not follow this tutorial by the letter.  I did not install and use rEFIt (i.e., preferring the use of the Mac’s option key on the keyboard to pick which operating system I want to boot into); I did not use GPT Fdisk to create 3 partitions for the hybrid MBR as I had only used it to create only 2 partitions — this prompted the warning about I had an extra partition that wasn’t used and GPT Fdisk asked about creating an extra partition in case I would be able to use this extra partition in the future for whatever purpose, but I refused to do so as I had read’s Hybrid MBRs: The Good, the Bad, and the So Ugly You’ll Tear Your Eyes Out article how it would be unwise to create an unrecognizable extra partition on Mac.  It appeared that Apple Disk Utility might have a bug that would prevent it to manipulate unknown MBR type codes, and by being careful about this I decidedly it would be wise to not create extra partition.  So, when GPT Fdisk asked me with this command prompt “Unused partition space(s) found. Use one to protect more partitions? (Y/N):,” I candidly replied N for no.

Here is the short version of how I had installed Linux Mint 13 onto Mac.

  1. Use Boot Camp Assistant (come with Mac by default) to create a second partition
  2. Download Linux Mint 13
  3. Burn Linux Mint 13 into a DVD
  4. Insert Linux Mint 13 into Mac’s DVD/CD tray
  5. Reboot Mac (Mac OS X Lion in my case)
  6. Hold down the option key (on the keyboard) right after hearing the chime (boot sound)
  7. Choose the DVD to boot into Linux Mint 13 Live DVD (not the Boot Camp or Mac OS X Lion partition)
  8. Wait for Linux 13 Live DVD to completely load into RAM (random access memory) and load itself up in a working stage
  9. Double click on the DVD icon (I think it labels as installing onto hard drive or something of this sort) that allows the installing of Linux Mint 13 onto Mac
  10. Follow the onscreen instruction to install Linux Mint 13, but I had to manually customize the partitions for Linux Mint 13 to make sure I that I would be able to pick the Linux Mint 13 partition (i.e., the root partition that represents by a backslash “/”) as a Bootloader, otherwise it would be a bad idea to install Linux Mint Bootloader into Mac’s main partition (i.e., you will not have a working Bootloader and won’t be able to boot into Linux Mint later as it would be installed into the wrong partition)
  11. Reboot into Mac and install GPT Fdisk software from the Internet
  12.  GPT Fdisk software is dangerous as it can totally destroy how Mac would boot up and will destroy Mac partitions if use it in the wrong way (i.e., will have to reinstall Mac and all data will be lost) — research on GPT Fdisk and how to use it correctly
  13. Use GPT Fdisk to create a hybrid MBR so when later I first boot into Linux Mint 13 on Mac, I won’t have to face the missing operating system warning
  14. Reboot Mac and hold down the option key (on keyboard) after hearing the chime
  15. Linux Mint 13 welcomes me on a Mac


Sometimes, Glossing Over The Simplest Things Would Prevent One From Fixing The Problems

I had built an awesome FreeNAS 8.04 box, but little I knew that this was the beginning of all the problems, and these problems had bugged me for two days straight.  Noticing how I had not updated my blog in two days?  Anyway, it all started with I bought three 3 TB 72000 RPM non-spin down Seagate hard drives, and I installed these three hard drives into an HP Pavilion desktop computer which I had not touched for at least two years.  The HP Pavilion desktop computer has had the spec for making a fine FreeNAS box.  It got 6 GB of DDR2 SDRAM 800 MHz, a quad core, and everything else wasn’t that important in building a FreeNAS box besides the three 3 TB Seagate hard drives I bought for the sole purpose of starting the building of a FreeNAS box.  Before, I had only experienced FreeNAS through virtualization technology (e.g., VirtualBox, VMware, Parallels), and so I had always been eager to start a real FreeNAS box.  It was about time, I guess.  So, it was a breeze for me to install three 3 TB Seagate hard drives into the HP Pavilion desktop computer, and the installation of FreeNAS 8.04 onto a USB flash drive was also just as easy.

With everything was in place before my FreeNAS set sail, I thought man I got this!  Sure, I had it but… Here is the but…  I had forgotten that there was a reason for me not to have played with the HP Pavilion desktop computer all along until now.  Since the day I had this computer off of Windows 7 addiction and I was too lazy to put Windows 7 back on so I could flash the updated BIOS for it, but without a newer BIOS this computer would freeze on reboot or fresh boot — the BIOS could not even get the chance to boot up and the whole computer would freeze at a black screen.  This problem was obviously given me a hard time in putting Windows back on, because 9 out of 10 times, the computer would freeze before the BIOS could even boot, therefore I would not even have the chance to let the computer read the Windows 7 installation disk or USB flash drive.  Luckily, I was persistent and finally got the computer to start the BIOS.  I quickly installed Windows 7 and crossed my fingers that it would allow me to boot into Windows 7 so I could update the BIOS.  This too was a lucky shot, and eventually I had the BIOS updated.

After the BIOS mess was over, I thought now I could use my awesome FreeNAS box with joy.  Such joy was never to last, because I kept on asking myself why on earth it took the Macbook Pro over eight or nine hours just to backup around 10 GB worth of data to FreeNAS AFP ZFS share volume.  This second incident had me pulled my hair and cursed foully.  I should have known better to do the right things first by making sure the basic elements of the problems weren’t the root of the problems.  Instead of such I went on impatiently, fixating on that it had to be FreeNAS problem from the start.  It took so much of my precious time to diagnose FreeNAS box and so on just to find out my last ditch effort was what I should have done from the very beginning.  It was the router’s configuration that had my MacBook Pro sent 1MB worth of data per second.  Considering I’m on a Gigabit network, 1 MB per second worth of data transfer had to be one of the lamest things I had ever seen.  After readjusted the router’s configuration, I was glad to see that even through WiFi, my MacBook Pro was able to send 14 or 15 times faster (i.e., ethernet connection would be much much faster).

The moral of this story is that you have to think it through before you actually embark on fixing things.  Things could be a lot simpler in regarding to fixing computing and networking related matter, but sometimes you might gloss over simple elements and miss the whole show.  I had done just that and it was exhausting.  To end this blog post of mine, I like to end it with a tip in regarding to how one would go about knowing the data transfer speed between one’s computer and a FreeNAS box.  The idea is to use an FTP program like FileZilla and monitoring the upload data rate/speed of a very large file (preferable in Gigabytes) that got transferred from a computer to the FreeNAS FTP volume (i.e., FTP ZFS dataset).

Free Up Some Hard Drive (Or SSD) Space For Your Mac By Having Spotify Stores Offline Playlists On A NAS Volume

Vinh Nguyen's Spotify Offline Playlist Poppings

Vinh Nguyen’s Spotify Offline Playlist Poppings

Did you know that you can configure Spotify to save all offline playlists on a network attached storage volume?  In my case, I used FreeNAS to create a ZFS dataset volume; turning ZFS dataset volume into AFP share which had allowed Spotify on Mac OS X to save the offline playlists onto this very volume.  This way, I can free up some storage space on my MacBook Pro’s hard drive for other things.  I can also see this idea might be useful for Mac users who happen to save Spotify offline playlists on a small SSD (Solid State Drive), because Mac users can free up a lot of storage space for their small SSD by saving Spotify offline playlists on a network attached storage volume.

Configuring Spotify on Mac OS X to save offline playlists onto NAS is easy.  Just open up Spotify, go to Spotify > Preferences, scroll down till you see where it says Cache, click on Browse button to locate your NAS’s volume, and that is all.  Here is the example of my NAS (FreeNAS) volume’s path on MacBook Pro, [/Volumes/AppleShareVolume/Spotify-offline-playlists].  A Mac need to be connected (i.e., authenticated and logged in) to a NAS first before Spotify can successfully locate a NAS volume.

Mac users who are on the road a lot and need to play Spotify offline playlists on their NAS volume, they can basically configure their router to do a port forwarding of port 548 (AFP port) for the NAS server’s local IP address.  Furthermore, to securely authenticate with NAS server, Mac users can use VPN to connect to their NAS server.  If Mac users don’t know how to set up a VPN server, they can easily use either TunnelBear or Private Tunnel VPN service.  Both TunnelBear and Private Tunnel support Mac OS X and allow Mac users to quickly connect to a VPN server so the public network connection such as a coffee shop’s WiFi connection can be encrypted.

I almost forget to tell you this!  Mac users need to make sure the home Internet connection has a decent upload speed.  Without a decent upload speed, the home network will not be able to transfer the data from NAS to Spotify app fast enough, therefore defeating the purpose of having Spotify offline playlists to be saved onto a NAS.  After all, what is the point of saving Spotify offline playlists onto a NAS if the home network is too slow in delivering the playback for the Spotify offline playlists, right?  Of course, Mac users can always rent a premium server that stays awake 24/7 and turn it into a NAS server, but this solution is overkilled and too expensive for home using purpose.  Obviously, even a NAS server is overkilled for home using purpose, but FreeNAS is Free and it can be installed onto any cheaply built computer that has adequate RAM and storage space.  Besides using NAS to store Spotify offline playlists, Mac users can go as far as to save iTunes music, movies, PDF files, and so much more onto a NAS too.

What About Free Avast For Mac?

Image of free Avast antivirus for Mac

Image of free Avast antivirus for Mac

According to PCWorld’s Avast Offers Free Security for Mac OS X article, Avast is now offering free antivirus for Mac users.  Me personally (obviously using incorrect grammar here for fun) would not need Avast since I had Norton Internet Security installed on my MacBook Pro, but I was curious about free Avast antivirus for Mac and so I had downloaded and installed it onto my MacBook Pro anyway.  Usually, it is not a good idea to run two security solutions together, whether that be antivirus solutions or not (and definitely you cannot run two firewall solutions on the same machine as firewall rules will conflict each other), but sometimes some antivirus (and other security solutions) do play nice with each other.  I think free Avast antivirus for Mac might be the one, because I haven’t seen Avast has yet threw a tantrum against Norton Internet Security.  I once had installed another security solution on Mac which now I forgot what it was, but I still remembered it had stopped Norton Internet Security’s Automatic Protection Virus Protection from working.

Anyhow, installing free Avast antivirus for Mac is easy enough.  Just like installing any other application onto Mac, you just have to double click on the download file of free Avast antivirus for Mac so the package can be extracted, drag the free Avast antivirus application within the extracted package to the application folder, and that’s it for installing free Avast antivirus for Mac.  After installing it, I went ahead and registered an account with Avast so my free Avast antivirus for Mac would not show up as expiring in 30 days if I clicked on Registration link under Maintenance portion within free Avast antivirus for Mac’s left panel.  Afterward, I went to free Avast antivirus for Mac’s Preferences to further configure free Avast antivirus for Mac to my liking.  Finally, I used free Avast antivirus for Mac to scan my whole Mac.

For now, I can’t really comment how good free Avast antivirus for Mac is, because I’m still playing with it.  Plus, I’m not sure how long free Avast antivirus for Mac would play nice with Norton Internet Security’s antivirus.  Nonetheless, I’ll play with free Avast antivirus for Mac for some time to come.  When I do have enough experience with free Avast antivirus for Mac, I intend to make a short video to review this particular antivirus solution for Mac.

My two cents to you is that if you are worrying about how hackers have increased their attacks against Mac ecosystem (i.e., writing malware and trojan horses for Mac OS X), then you should give free Avast antivirus for Mac solution a try.  Of course, if you’re going to be like me, installing two antivirus solutions on a Mac, then you’ll never know something strange might occur.  I suggest you not to go ahead and install two antivirus solutions on a single machine (e.g., Mac, PC), because it’s a recipe for resource hogging (i.e., your system might slow down tremendously since both antivirus or security solutions are fighting for the same resources).