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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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