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Apple Mac OS X tips and tweaks

Date: 13th August 2011

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OS X Lion: New location services configuration

Your current location in the world does not matter to the vast majority of applications that you use on your Apple Mac. What difference does it make to a word processor, spreadsheet, calendar or similar program? For a few applications there is an advantage in knowing your location and knowing where you are in the world enables the Mac to set the current time zone automatically for example. A weather application could use your current location to display the weather instead of first asking you where you live and it would always show the right weather when you are travelling with your MacBook. There are some interesting changes to the location services in OS X Lion and you should check them out.

Previously in OS X Snow Leopard you went to System Preferences, Security and on the General tab was a tick box to enable or disable location services. Tick the box and it prevented applications on your Mac from determining your current location.

This configuration setting has been removed in OS X Lion and instead there is a new Privacy tab. The right-hand side of this displays a list of applications that have requested your current location. This is very useful because you don't know what apps might be spying on you and now you can see. There are none on my Mac, but yours might be different, so check it out. There is also a tick box at the top to enable or disable location services. It's up to you whether you allow location apps or not.

Here's an interesting thing to try. Go to System Preferences and then Date & Time. Select the Time Zone tab and you will see the Mac determine your current location - providing the tick box is selected to do so. Its accuracy may vary and it won't always be spot on. However, it will be close. Now that your Mac has determined your location, return to System Preferences, Security & Privacy and select the Privacy tab. It's still empty on my Mac. Surely it should say that Date & Time has just determined my location? Clearly OS X is exempt from this list.

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