Apple's new operating system works without being bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, or pouncy
May 8, 2005
In an item below, I reported on Apple’s release of its newest operating system, OS-X 4.0, code-named Tiger. It arrived and is installed in two of the four computers in our house, including the one I’m writing this on. (It hasn’t made it to the other two Macs because Apple, in its infinite wisdom, sent it out on DVDs, and those two computer can’t read DVDs. I have to get CDs from Apple. Jeez!). I thought, for those interested, a quick review of how it works, and if you are a Mac user, whether you should spend the bucks to upgrade. The short answer to the last question is: yes.
(I promise not to get too carried away with this stuff; this isn’t a Mac fan site. The fact remains, a disproportionate number of writers and creative people use Macs--much higher than the general population--so this shouldn’t be a complete waste.)
Like all new operating system releases from Apple, this one isn’t perfect, and the Apple rumor websites--the guys Apple is busy suing--report that the first upgrade is due in a couple of weeks. (UPDATE: They did, on May 16.) So far, however, it works just fine for most people and I’ve had no trouble. The worst bugs are in corporate networking, which doesn’t matter to most Mac users and is the kind of thing IT people expect anyhow. Apple should have that fixed shortly. Other problems seem to center around third-party software, also normal. That will go away when those third parties upgrade their programs for Tiger. For a list, see Macintouch here. One of those incompatibilities appears to be Entourage, which Microsoft said was upgraded for Tiger. Remember that one or or two reports doesn't a real problem make.
Looks-- it doesn’t look materially different from Panther or Jaguar, the same bright candy drop design. The Apple aesthetic still pertains. (Even though Microsoft puts out some excellent Mac software--Entourage is splendid--there is something about that company that doesn’t understand aesthetics. You can spot a Microsoft Mac program in a flash because it simply isn’t as pretty. Silly, but true). However, if you look carefully at the new Mail and Safari (the web browser), you can see some changes coming--somewhat less colorful, more subdued. I’m not pleased.
Spotlight--the feature that has received the most publicity and deservedly so. It appears as a icon in the upper right corner, on the bar, as a spyglass in blue. If you click on it, or COMMAND-SPACE, a window opens. You can hunt for any item anywhere on your computer no matter when or how it got there or what program it used. Just type in the words and it starts before you even finish typing. If I search for, say, “cancer,” I get an instant list of everything on my hard disk with the word cancer in it, including mail, documents, PDF files, pictures with the word in the captions--anything. You have to index the computer the first time you open it (which could take time, depending on how much you have on the disk and how big it is), and then never again. It keeps everything in memory and the response is scarily quick. While Windows has some third-party software that does some thing like this, they apparently aren’t close in speed or thoroughness, and it won’t have a match until Longhorn in 2006. I have used it often and smile every time the little sucker opens up.
Dashboard--is cute, replacing many of the functions of Sherlock. It sits on the dock. It comes with a dictionary (which I just used to look up “scarily”), a flight tracker, calculator, Yellow Pages (we looked up pizza last night and got the telephone number of our usual pizza place--the computer knew we lived in Baltimore), local weather, etc. The little subprograms are called “widgets” and the community is already producing and posting new widgets by the hour, including one that gives local traffic.
Automater--is a way of automating procedures on the computer, like uploading photos, etc., without messing with programming codes, something like macros. Haven’t tried it yet.
Safari--is the web browser that blew Microsoft Explorer out of the Mac business. The main improvement is RSS, which, after a few days of figuring out, now works splendidly. If a website has RSS syndication (this one does), a blue rectangle with the words RSS appears on the Go window. You click on that and a new window opens with all the items at that site. You just click on "add bookmark" and tell it where you want the bookmark and from then on Safari monitors what's posted on that site. I have more than two dozen now posted and am trying to figure out how to organize them. You also have the option of using an aggregator function so you get all the RSS items from all the sites on one window. It's good enough for me to kill NetNewsWire, my old RSS reader. This version seems faster, it is still far more secure than Explorerw and still has problems with a few websites, including the one I use to upload to this blog, for which I still need to use Mozilla.
There are other additions, things I rarely or never use (I don’t teleconference, for instance) but as I work with them, I’ll report back. I don’t want to bore all you Windows users out there, or take your attention away from that spyware and virus stuff.