On March 15, 1995, Apple released the Macintosh System 7.5 Update 1.0 to the world. Although the appearance of this update might seem to follow right on the heels of the release of System 7.5, this series of patches and enhancements have been in development for some time - in fact, portions of it have circulated among selected developers since at least November of 1994. If you've heard rumors about System 7.5.1, this is it: once installed, your Macintosh reports that it's running System 7.5.1, and Apple plans to ship new Macs with 7.5.1 pre-installed.
Readers familiar with previous updates to the Macintosh system software - the System 7 Tune-Up, the various Hardware System Updates, System Update 3.0, and the Apple Multimedia Tuner - will note at least one major change with this update: it's big. System Update 1.0 consists of four high-density floppy disk images. Binhexed and placed online, these files weigh in around 5.2 MB. Even with a fast modem, be prepared to spend some time downloading this update.
What's Included -- Although previous system updates changed multiple system files (such as new printer drivers, a new Chooser, and so on), the System 7.5 Update takes this a little further by including updated system extensions and control panels (Launcher, WindowShade), system items previously available (such as MacTCP 2.0.6 and Speech Manager 1.3) as well as a brand-new Finder. Here's a look at some of the functional enhancements:
- With the updater installed, the well-known "Welcome To Macintosh" shows for only a short time while you start up your Mac, and then is replaced by a large Mac OS logo, which stares out at you for most of the startup process.
- Power Macintosh owners will appreciate additional native QuickDraw code, which should speed up scrolling, image filters, and general screen-drawing tasks. (Brief tests show that some known QuickDraw bugs on Power Macs have also been fixed.) In addition, an updated Serial Driver fixes a crashing problem some users have encountered.
- Pressing the Power key on the keyboard now brings up a dialog box, offering options for shutting down, restarting, or sleeping (sleeping only works for Macs that know how to sleep, unfortunately). PowerBook 100 series PowerBooks don't have Power keys, but if you attach a keyboard, the Power key on the attached keyboard works in a similar manner.
- File Sharing 7.6.1 improves overall File Sharing performance and stops sharing audio CDs on startup. In addition, you don't have to turn off File Sharing to eject CD-ROMs or removable disks (like SyQuest cartridges)
- Launcher 2.7 supports drag and drop, making it easier to add new items, move Launcher items to different categories, or open files from the Finder by dragging them to a Launcher icon.
- Apple Guide version 1.2.5 is native on Power Macintosh and is (finally) compatible with At Ease.
- LaserWriter version 8.2 automatically selects the appropriate PPD file and configures paper trays.
- PowerTalk users will appreciate updates to the Catalog Extension, AppleMail, and the DigiSign Utility.
Here are a few highlights of some technical enhancements in the System 7.5 Update 1.0.
- SCSI Manager 4.3.1 fixes problems with some external hard disks and 68040 AV Macs, plus works with the Quadra/LC/Performa 630 and the PowerBook 150.
- Find File 1.1.1 does better with restricted-access disks.
- SimpleText 1.2 offers some interface enhancements, better handling of Apple PPDs, and better printing.
- Updated versions of the Apple Menu Items, WindowShade, Keyboard, and General Control Panels.
- Updates are included for the Threads Library and Math Functions Library on Power Macs, giving developers more information and improved math performance (estimates range from 25 to 50 percent, depending on the context).
- Although the System 7.5 Update 1.0 removes the need for the EM Sound Update, PowerBook 150 Update, and Mount IDE Drive extensions, it does not replace the recently-released Multimedia Tuner 2.0.1.
- Improves system stability in low memory situations.
- Fixes a potential crashing problem pasting large blocks of data.
Update Problems and Tips -- This update hasn't been out for long, so any summary of problems is obviously premature. However, the following issues have so far emerged:
- The debugger in Metrowerks' CodeWarrior development environment has problems on Power Macs with the System 7.5 Update installed. Metrowerks has received a new version of DebugServices from Apple and expects to release a fix this week. In the meantime, hold off on the update or remove the file System 7.5 Update from your System Folder and reboot.
- Owners of the DayStar Turbo 601 accelerator have reported problems booting machines with the System 7.5 Update installed. DayStar recommends owners of the Turbo 601 not install the update until they have updated the Turbo Control software to version 1.1, which DayStar plans to release in April, 1995.
- Owners of some clock-chipped 68K Macs and Power Macs have reported problems with the system update failing to load on startup, although the problem seems most common on Power Mac 7100s and 8100s. Some users have had to remove their clock-chip hardware to get the system update to load. KS Labs and Output Enablers have already released software patches addressing the problem for users of their products; other vendors will probably follow suit. Contact the vendor for details.
- Since the System 7.5 Update contains a new version of the Finder, modifications you've made to your existing Finder will be lost when you install the update. Common Finder modifications include adding command-keys to Finder menus by editing the fmnu resources, or adding a Quit command to the File menu. If this point doesn't make sense to you, then you almost certainly have nothing to worry about.
Where To Find It -- Apple has made System 7.5 Update 1.0 available on eWorld and from its usual array of Internet servers. Unfortunately, these Internet servers have been overwhelmed with traffic since the update became available. Apple quickly put up a new server - <temp.info.apple.com> - to help spread the load, but it's still extremely difficult to get through. Currently the update is officially available on three Internet servers: <temp.info.apple.com>, <ftp.info.apple.com>, and <ftp.support.apple.com>.
Here is the main FTP URL:
You might try substituting the name of another Apple server (see above) if you can't get through. Sneaky users might try using an HTTP URL (but that's left as an exercise for the reader, and the results have been mixed). However, one back door to the update that doesn't seem to have been completely overwhelmed (yet) is:
A word about FTPing this update: if you're connecting the Internet over a slow connection or a modem and you have access to a shell account on your Internet provider's machine, consider opening a shell session and FTPing the files to a directory on your provider's machine. Why? Apple's FTP servers are restricted to anywhere from 60 to 100 concurrent anonymous users, and in all likelihood your provider's Internet connection is considerably faster than your modem. In the event you manage to get through to Apple's FTP sites, a 14.4 Kbps modem would take nearly an hour to download the update - that's an entire hour that you're filling one of those 100 slots, which isn't an efficient use of the server's bandwidth. Using your provider's faster line, however, you might be able to download the update to your provider's machine in only a few minutes, thereby freeing that slot much more quickly. Once you've done this, you can download the files from your provider's machine at your leisure, without having to worry about finding an available FTP slot on Apple's machines.
Summary -- My Quadra and PowerBook have been running the System 7.5 Update since it was released (and two pre-release versions before that) with little trouble. The update eliminated three completely reproducible crashes or hangs on my system, one involving the Standard File dialogs, another involving opening Finder windows, and one with WindowShade. My machines don't seem any slower, and CPU benchmark utilities indicate no significant shift in system performance since installing the 7.5 Update.
Finally, one complaint about the System 7.5 Update remains: the "secret about box" that appeared with System 7.5 is gone. TidBITS readers might want to consider it their mission to discover and report any replacement Apple might have included.