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“Take Control of Beta Testing Yosemite” Says It All

At the Worldwide Developers Conference last month, Apple announced OS X 10.10 Yosemite (see “Apple Unveils iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite at WWDC,” 2 June 2014). Members of Apple’s Mac Developer Program were given early access to a preview version of the new operating system, and Apple began accepting signups from the general public. That public beta (a slightly later version than Developer Preview 4, released earlier last week) is now available — and so is a new Take Control book about beta testing Yosemite!

The Yosemite Public Beta -- The public beta version of Yosemite is available to the first million people to sign up at the OS X Beta Program page, which Apple made available in June. At publication time, the site was still accepting new signups, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the million-user limit reached soon. (This program is separate from Apple’s earlier, but similar, seed program for Mavericks; if you signed up for that program, you must sign up for this one separately.)

Assuming you’ve already registered, you sign in to your account on that page to get a special App Store redemption code, which in turn enables you to download the Yosemite beta. (Apple also sent email messages to participants with instructions on the day the public beta was released, but if you sign up now, it’s unclear how long you may have to wait for the message to arrive.)

Beta testers get to enjoy the excitement of working on the cutting edge with Yosemite’s new features and revised interface, see how their favorite apps and features work (or don’t work) in Yosemite, and prepare for Yosemite’s rollout later this year. But Apple cautions that a number of features are not yet complete, that some new features will require iOS 8, and that the Yosemite beta may contain “errors or inaccuracies,” which is to say bugs. Since the goal of beta testing is to find and fix bugs, the Yosemite beta includes an app called Feedback Assistant, which makes it easy to report problems you encounter. The app also sends Apple diagnostic information about your Mac to help pinpoint the cause of misbehavior.

Take Control of Beta Testing Yosemite -- Apple hasn’t released a public beta of a new operating system since 2001, so this is a big deal. Although the developer previews of Yosemite have been reasonably stable, I expect that quite a few of the one million Yosemite beta testers will jump in without having a good idea what they’re getting into and without proper preparation — and will later regret it. Because I’ve written books about upgrading Mac OS X since 10.3 Panther, I wanted to offer some guidance about this beta, too.

While my “Take Control of Upgrading to…” books appeal to risk-averse users who want detailed instructions, the sort of person most likely to install the Yosemite beta is quite the opposite — someone who’s more technically adept, who likes to tinker, and who doesn’t mind (or has taken necessary precautions against) the risks inherent in using prerelease software. So, just for you early adopters, I’ve written “Take Control of Beta Testing Yosemite,” with complete details on preparing for, installing, and testing the Yosemite beta. If you’re going to install a beta version of OS X, you should do it right — and this book will help keep you out of trouble.

The book also explains the essential process of reporting bugs, what to look for in the Yosemite beta, and how to downgrade (or upgrade) when you’re finished with the beta. It even covers advanced techniques like installing the beta in a virtual machine (and which virtualization program to use) or using SuperDuper’s Sandbox feature to keep documents and data in sync between the Yosemite beta and your Mavericks installation.

The Yosemite public beta will last a few months at most, which means this book has a short shelf life — but it may need updates to keep up with changes in future betas. So we’ve published it through Leanpub, which was designed for quick releases. Had we used our traditional method, we wouldn’t have been able to publish the book the same day the public beta was released (including last-minute edits made that morning!), and we wouldn’t be able to react as quickly to new versions. When you buy the book, you can download PDF, EPUB, and Mobipocket versions; these will look and work much like those for any Take Control title except that you’ll access them and get updates from the Leanpub system.

We’re also trying something different with pricing: we’re setting a suggested price of $5 for this 51-page ebook, but you can pay whatever you think it’s worth — whether that’s more or less than the suggested price, or even nothing at all. (And if you get it for free and later decide to pay, you can always buy another copy.) Generous contributions, apart from helping me buy more iPad games for the kids, will be an immense encouragement toward future unconventional books of this sort. But please, no more than $500, unless you want me to install the beta in your home as performance art.

For those of you who aren’t interested in taking chances with beta software, don’t worry, I’m already working on “Take Control of Upgrading to Yosemite,” about which we’ll have more to say in the next month or two.


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Comments about “Take Control of Beta Testing Yosemite” Says It All
(Comments are closed.)

B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2014-07-29 07:58
Two things: First, I signed up early for the Yosemite beta testing program but never got an e-mail from Apple with a redemption code. I didn't know, therefore, how to download the beta until I read your article - which directed me to log in from the sign up page - I hadn't noticed that option before. I thought I just didn't make the cut. I'm very pleased to see that I did, after all. Once I signed in I was given a redemption code and sent to the App Store to download the beta. Things were less than clear on the redemption page - there was no Begin Download button; it just said the redemption code had been verified. However, I noticed that the download had begun - first when MenuMeters indicated that a large download was in progress; then I opened Launchpad to be sure. It showed the download was in process. Finally, I located the OS X Yosemite Beta 1.appdownload file in my Applications folder. One nice touch in Mavericks is that the Size column now shows a progress bar when a download is in progress. However, the completed download was named differently: Install OS X Yosemite But I'd seen that before and knew what to look for.

The download completed while I was writing this, so I made a copy of the installer and launched it, pointing it to a partition on an external hard drive. It very soon reached the point where it wanted to restart my computer, so I copied what I'd written here and quit Safari. Interestingly, my computer was restarted several times with different startup screens each time. I've spent the last few hours working in Yosemite. I did a clean install so that I could install and test apps one or two at a time. I'm sure installing it over a copy of my Mavericks system would have created way too many headaches. It will be easier to test without all the clutter.

I even sent in my first report complaining about the continued use of the gray, generic Finder sidebar icons that are, for someone like me who is visually impaired, so much harder to use than the colorful and customizable sidebar icons in versions of OS X prior to Lion.

Interestingly the 25GB partition I set aside for Yosemite was almost full the first time I used it. After returning to Mavericks I defragmented it with iDefrag and the result was more reasonable, with only 9.53GB in use. I have no idea what all the other stuff was - detritus, I suppose, left over from the installation, which iDefrag somehow knew to discard. Anyway, I'll boot into Yosemite again when I'm done here and download my printer drivers to see if they work.

The second thing is that I seem to have gotten to this article too soon; when I followed the link to buy your e-book on the Yosemite beta it was listed as coming soon. I'll check back later to see if it's ready. No doubt it's difficult to coordinate a book release with the once-a-week TidBITS publication schedule. I will have no qualms about paying the $5 asking price - even though I've already installed the beta. I took the appropriate precautions, backing up my system before installing the beta, even though I did not intend to install it over my working system. I don't do that even with non-beta upgrades of OS X. I always install them over a copy and test that out. Most times I don't even go back to the previous version. But the first time I neglect to back up is going to be the time the upgrade goes haywire - Murphy's Law.
Joe Kissell  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2014-07-29 08:08
Thanks for your comments. We didn't post this article until after the book was on sale, so it's been available since last Thursday. Try following the link again, and if you have any problems, let us know.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2014-07-29 12:20
If you follow the link for the book at the very bottom of the article, it will go to the Take Control site. Since we're not selling the book through our normal eSellerate store, there's a special tweak on that page to position a Leanpub widget over the spot where the Buy button would normally be. If something prevented that widget from loading, that might explain the Coming Soon tag. But you can definitely get it on Leanpub at:
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2014-07-29 14:41
I finally got it, thanks.
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2014-07-29 14:59
OK, this is weird. When I examine the partition on which I installed Yosemite it is filled up with what I thought were sleepimage files. Running iDefrag will remove them. But when I restart in the Yosemite partition I see a black progress bar for a minute or so and then a white progress bar. Once startup is finished, the partition is filled once again with what I consider junk. I looked into sleepimage and found out how to test for it and remove it with Terminal. But I'm not using a laptop computer and my iMac should not create a sleepimage. And when I checked the hibernate mode in Terminal it was, as it should be, 0. Also, when I run the Terminal routine to delete the sleepimage, the space is still filled - so apparently this is not a sleepimage file. So what are these files that are created every time I boot into Yosemite? I have 24GB of RAM in the iMac, so a sleepimage would be highly problematic. Nevertheless, starting up in Yosemite creates more then 10GB of mystery files. They don't show up when I do Get Info on the visible folders on the partition. So these files appear not to be within these folders. Yet they prevent me from installing, among other things, printer drivers for my HP Officejet printer. Examined from Mavericks the Yosemite partition has more than 15GB of free space. But once I start up in Yosemite, that's down to barely 2GB. What's going on here?
Joe Kissell  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2014-07-29 15:10
That's something to report using Feedback Assistant. The Yosemite beta NDA prohibits discussing any such stuff publicly. These comments are definitely not the right place!
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2014-07-29 16:26
Sorry! It's hard to know where the lines are. You have, after all, written a book on using the beta.

OK. I'll use the Feedback Assistant - though they're unlikely to give me an answer to the problem.
Joe Kissell  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2014-07-29 16:36
You're correct that Apple is unlikely to reply to you. Sorry, that's part of what you sign up for with beta testing :-).

As I point out in the book, you MUST read and follow the rules you agreed to when you signed up for the public beta, including (as Apple goes to great lengths to emphasize) not revealing anything about the beta that isn't already public knowledge. And I follow that rule in the book, too!

Unfortunately, there really is NO public forum where you can (legally) get answers of the sort you're looking for, because everyone is bound by the same requirements.

In any case, this space is for comments about the article, not really for comments about the software covered by the book mentioned in the article—that's two steps meta :-).
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2014-07-30 01:31
Got it! And, figuring I would get no help with this problem, I continued to troubleshoot the matter and figured out a workaround for it - which I will not disclose here. ;-)