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Series: Mac OS X
Getting going with Apple's candy-colored, Unix-based operating system
Article 1 of 13 in series
On Saturday, March 24th, Apple released Mac OS X 10.0, marking the company's official move from the much-evolved Mac OS 9.1 to the entirely new Mac OS XShow full article
On Saturday, March 24th, Apple released Mac OS X 10.0, marking the company's official move from the much-evolved Mac OS 9.1 to the entirely new Mac OS X. The $130 package, which includes both Mac OS X and a separate CD containing Mac OS 9.1, is widely available for less than list price, both for those receiving a discount for having participated in the public beta program and via vendors offering deals like TidBITS sponsor Small Dog Electronics.
Although Apple is making a bit of a fuss about the release, they've clearly chosen not to concentrate too much marketing effort on the new operating system at this time. A larger splash may come during July's Macworld Expo NY 2001, when it's likely Apple will have an update to Mac OS X and will start to install it by default on new Macs. Here at TidBITS, the quiet release has engendered some debate about what we should write, and in fact, what sort of coverage Mac OS X deserves.
The reason for Apple's quiet release is simple - in my opinion, Mac OS X doesn't offer most people enough advantages over Mac OS 9. One fact is indisputable: Mac OS X can't currently do everything that's possible with today's hardware and software. A number of Apple's high-profile features are missing, such as playing DVDs and burning both DVDs and CD-Rs. Hardware is also problematic - although Mac OS X has support for some peripherals and expansion cards, using other pieces of hardware may require the user to reboot in Mac OS 9.1. (A tip - on Macs since the beige Power Mac G3, hold down the Option key when restarting to receive a choice of operating systems to use for the next startup.) And of course, although many applications run fine in Mac OS X's Classic mode, few applications have been "carbonized" so they can run natively under Mac OS X. Luckily, among those already carbonized are Apple's own iTunes, iMovie 2, and a preview of AppleWorks 6.1, all of which can be downloaded.
I don't mean to imply Apple should have delayed Mac OS X's release. Anyone scheduling a software release of any magnitude (especially an operating system) must take into account multiple technical, business, and marketing factors, and even if it's easy to criticize Apple for certain technical gaps, I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on the business and marketing aspects of the release. It's important for Apple to make good on its promises, show that Mac OS X is real, and give early adopters a chance to gain experience before exposing Mac OS X to the masses via new Macs.
To get back to our conundrum of what to write about the Mac's new operating system, we decided to look at just who should buy and install Mac OS X, along with the related question of who should avoid it for the near future. We plan to have more detailed looks at different aspects of Mac OS X itself in future issues, but we feel it's most important right now to help people decide if they should make the jump immediately. Keep in mind that even if you decide that now is not the time, we'll soon be seeing a frenzy of releases, both updates to existing programs and new programs that address shortcomings in Mac OS X. It's also worth remembering that we should avoid the notion that this release of Mac OS X is an "upgrade" to the existing Mac OS: it's better thought of as an alternative operating system that not only runs most Mac OS 9 software in Classic mode but also enables you to reboot under Mac OS 9 at any time. Few upgrades are so forgiving of the past.
Who Should Install Mac OS X? Let's start on a positive note and look at who definitely should install Mac OS X, preferably soon. The two groups at the head of the line are developers and anyone in tech support, since knowledge of Mac OS X for them is paramount. Then come expert hobbyists, Macintosh/Unix aficionados, and folks interested in Macs as Internet servers. And of course, anyone who has a G3-based Mac with 128 MB of RAM and sufficient curiosity can install Mac OS X without committing to a permanent migration. Because you can boot in Mac OS 9.1, there's no significant downside to Mac OS X other than its $130 price tag and the time spent installing and exploring.
Noting that developers should be among the first to switch to Mac OS X feels obvious, but it's still worth mentioning. Apple has been clear that Mac OS X is the future of the Macintosh, and with a CEO as strong-minded as Steve Jobs at the helm, I can't see Apple backing down from Mac OS X. As such, if programmers want to continue to create software for the Macintosh, they simply must be developing for Mac OS X. I also believe developers should be seeing what it's like to use Mac OS X in the real world, since that's the only way to understand what customers will experience. Of course, most developers already have access to pre-release versions of Mac OS X, so this process should already be underway.
Tech support people should immediately set a Mac up with Mac OS X to gain experience for when it starts shipping on new machines. Relatively few people are likely to be using Mac OS X in the next few months (and those who do won't need much tech support anyway), but that number will climb fast come July.
For expert hobbyists, Mac OS X will be a lot of fun, purely because it's a whole new world to explore, complete with tips to trade, freeware and shareware utilities to download, and tweaks to be made. But beyond the fact that these people will enjoy Mac OS X immensely (although probably not on a primary work machine), they will be a significant source of information for everyone who follows on the adoption curve.
Anyone who's interested in Unix and the Macintosh should also install Mac OS X, in part to start learning just what Mac OS X's Unix underpinnings can do, but also to bridge the gap between the Macintosh and Unix communities. Much of Mac OS X's appeal is the way it offers a Macintosh interface along with Unix flexibility and networking power, and we're already seeing people make the Macintosh/Unix connection technically with Carbon applications that provide Macintosh interfaces to command-line Unix programs. We also need these people to provide the social bridge between the Mac and Unix communities, since both stand to benefit from the association.
Finally, I'd encourage anyone who's interested in running Internet servers on the Mac to install Mac OS X on a test machine. Despite Apple's neglect, we've long been proponents of Mac OS-based Internet servers because the Mac's ease-of-use, security, and decent performance combine for an ideal server solution for all but the highest volume uses. With Mac OS X bringing the power of Unix networking and a wide variety of new Internet servers, the concept of running Internet servers on a Mac will be revitalized, and I know we'll be investigating various solutions on Mac OS X for the next iteration of TidBITS's Internet services.
Who Should Wait? Frankly, this is an easier question to answer, because unless you fall into one of the groups above and/or know you want to install Mac OS X for a specific reason, you should wait until it has better hardware support and more native software, and until the tech support and expert user communities know more about it. That said, here are some groups that should be sure to wait.
Those people for whom a specific set software or hardware is utterly indispensable should hold off. For instance, someone who's reliant on specific extensions may not have any luck in Mac OS X's Classic environment, and a person who relies on the kind of adaptive technologies that Joe Clark recently wrote about here in TidBITS is almost certainly shut out (see his "Accessibility on the Mac" articles). Numerous other niches fall into this category as well; for example, audio and video professionals who use third party hardware and accompanying software simply can't switch until their hardware and software are supported in Mac OS X. Similarly, production machines running QuarkXPress, Adobe InDesign, and a host of other publishing software would do well to choose established workflow over the newest operating system. At some point, the compatibility issues plaguing the myriad niches within these groups will disappear, but it could be quite some time.
The next group that shouldn't mess with Mac OS X is unlikely to have compatibility problems, since their needs are generally relatively basic. I'm thinking of the undemanding users who primarily use email, the Web, and maybe one or two other applications. They're the classic iMac users, often had computers purchased for them by friends or relatives, and in many cases aren't particularly comfortable with common tasks even in Mac OS 9. Mac OS X offers them nothing - it's not clear that the places where its interface is different are better for this group, and the mere fact of it being different is a negative. Worse, the people this group relies on for assistance won't necessarily be able to help for some time. Frankly, I don't think many people in this group will ever switch - I know I won't be upgrading my grandparents' respective iMacs. However, once future consumers in this category receive Mac OS X on a new machine, they'll probably do fine, since their needs are basic.
The next group who shouldn't install Mac OS X immediately consists of organizations with communities of users that require tech support. The fact that this group won't move to Mac OS X widely could be damaging for Apple. Although support personnel within these businesses, schools, and other large organizations should be installing and learning Mac OS X, I expect it will be some time before they understand Mac OS X well enough to want to support it. User education, application compatibility, and mixing operating systems on a network could all play a factor in slowing Mac OS X's acceptance in such installations. At the same time, Apple must work hard to overcome these concerns or risk a hit to hardware sales as large organizations dig in their heels on existing hardware to avoid even the question of having to switch before they're ready.
Last we come to the folks in the gray area - they're capable of learning and using Mac OS X, and they don't rely on incompatible hardware and software, so they could install Mac OS X. But at the same time, the people in this group don't fall into one of the categories of users who should make the switch. What should you do if you find yourself in this situation? Frankly, go with your gut feeling. If Mac OS X's stability is tremendously appealing to you, go ahead and make the jump. But if, on the other hand, you feel that Mac OS 9 isn't really broken, then there's no need to attempt to fix it by installing Mac OS X.
TidBITS Staff Moves -- Just to bring home the fact that these decisions affect everyone in very different ways, here's how those of us at TidBITS are dealing with the Mac OS X release.
Once my copy of Mac OS X arrives, I'll install it on my 250 MHz PowerBook G3 so I have a test machine and so I can see what it's like to work in the Mac OS X interface. That machine mainly runs Internet Explorer, iTunes, Now Up-to-Date, Now Contact, and iView MediaPro, so I expect I'll be able to keep it basically functional. I'll probably hold off installing Mac OS X on my primary Power Mac G4/450 until I've established the compatibility level of my necessary applications.
Tonya's interested in using Mac OS X in theory, and she doesn't do much beyond email, Web browsing, financial management in Quicken and MYOB, and contact and calendar management, but the two obstacles in her way are memory (her iBook has only 96 MB and Mac OS X absolutely requires 128 MB if you use Classic mode) and the fact that Mac OS X doesn't offer her any notable benefits. Plus, she lacks the time to play with it right now.
Geoff Duncan won't be upgrading to Mac OS X any time soon, since he has only one Mac that meets Mac OS X's hardware requirements, and he relies heavily on it for audio and music production. Until such time as his essential niche applications are available and solidified for Mac OS X - and replacements are available for external devices which will never be supported under Mac OS X - Geoff has little choice but to stick with Mac OS 9.
Jeff Carlson's new PowerBook G4 Titanium is fully capable of supporting Mac OS X, and he's already partitioned a 2 GB section of the hard disk expressly for it. Jeff plans to install Mac OS X when he finds the time, if only to get hands-on experience with what everyone will be talking about (and maybe stir the dormant Unix geek that's just gotta live inside him somewhere).
Matt Neuburg is not by temperament an "early adopter," and he doesn't like to use beta software, let alone beta operating systems. But he knew that the second edition of his REALbasic book would have to cover REALbasic's ability to create native Mac OS X applications. So when prices dropped in December, he bought a PowerBook G3 (FireWire), gave it several partitions, and installed Mac OS 9.0.4 on one of them. Last Saturday, when Mac OS X became available, he bought it and installed Mac OS X on one partition and Mac OS 9.1 (for Classic mode) on another. However, he still gets his everyday work done by starting up from the Mac OS 9.0.4 partition, and he expects this to remain true for quite some time to come.
Mark Anbinder has already installed Mac OS X on his new PowerBook G4 Titanium and on his office Power Mac G4, partly because he provides campus-wide Macintosh support and consulting as part of Cornell Information Technologies at Cornell University. Mark switches back and forth between Mac OS 9.1 and Mac OS X on his laptop as needed (primarily for software like Apple DVD Player and Virtual PC, which don't run in Classic mode) but has been running almost exclusively in Mac OS X on his desktop computer (using Classic to handle lots of non-carbonized software smoothly) for quite some time.
We hope this article has provided some guidance in your decision about whether you should purchase and install Mac OS X right away, wait a few months, or put off the entire decision until a future hardware purchase brings it up again. Make sure to vote in our poll regarding your Mac OS X plans, and whatever your decision, note that useful information about Mac OS X has already started to appear in TidBITS Talk, so be sure to subscribe (send any message to <firstname.lastname@example.org>) and participate to get all the details and pointers to other resources.
Article 2 of 13 in series
by Rita Lewis
You've heard plenty online about Mac OS X from those who installed the Public Beta and those who took the jump before this. But now you've received your shiny white box with the big X, and after reading last week's article about Mac OS X, you're ready to install Apple's new operating systemShow full article
You've heard plenty online about Mac OS X from those who installed the Public Beta and those who took the jump before this. But now you've received your shiny white box with the big X, and after reading last week's article about Mac OS X, you're ready to install Apple's new operating system. My goal here is to help you install and set up Mac OS X in as painless a manner as possible. The process is a bit like Mac OS X itself - simple on the surface, but complex under the hood, as you can tell if you read through the TidBITS Talk threads related to installation.
System Recommendations -- Officially, Apple says you need an original PowerPC G3 or G4-based Macintosh (other than the original PowerBook G3) with at least 128 MB RAM and 1.5 GB of hard disk space. As usual with new operating systems, the more processing power and memory you have, the better it operates. That's how Apple sells new hardware, right? Personally, I'm running Mac OS X on a 400 MHz iMac DV SE with 256 MB of RAM. I've also installed it with no problems on my 366 MHz Indigo iBook with 198 MB of RAM.
I wouldn't recommend running Mac OS X on non-Apple computers, but several Unix-experienced friends have reported success using Power Computing clones with PowerPC G3 upgrade cards, and others have managed to hack Mac OS X into running on Macs whose CPUs predate the PowerPC G3 as well.
As far as RAM goes, 128 MB of RAM is a realistic minimum. You might theoretically get away with less if you're not using Classic applications, since Mac OS X manages its virtual memory efficiently. But how many people won't be using Mac OS X's Classic mode at least some of the time? Since Classic puts the entire Mac OS 9.1 operating system in RAM when loading, Mac OS X needs at least 64 MB just for Classic. Initial reports indicate that memory beyond 128 MB improves performance.
Mac OS X itself requires about 1.1 GB of hard disk space for a default installation (you can opt out of installing extra printer drivers and the BSD subsystem, each of which take about 80 MB), which it spreads across many thousands of files and folders. I assume Mac OS X requires the rest of the disk space for virtual memory swap space. Welcome to the wonderful world of Unix, and as you can tell, hard disk speed and possibly fragmentation level will play a part in overall performance, since Mac OS X will be hitting the disk constantly.
Advice for Testers -- Before I delve into the basics of a safe installation process, let me make a few points for those who have tried one of the earlier releases. I have now installed every version of Mac OS X from Developer's Preview 1 to the official release, and I've come up with the following pieces of advice.
If you installed any version of Mac OS X prior to the Public Beta on a hard disk partition, you probably have a corrupted partition and should run the latest version of Norton Disk Doctor or Micromat's TechTool Pro and try to repair it. If these programs can't fix the damage, you must back up and reinitialize your hard disk, then restore from your backup. Frankly, that might be safest anyway.
Although Mac OS X will install over the Public Beta, the process is much slower than installing from scratch because the installer has to work hard to figure out which of the many thousands of files have changed. Also, there have been reports of performance problems and other weird behaviors from such an approach. Although installing over the Public Beta retains all your settings (not a big deal unless you used it heavily), you won't get some new stuff. For instance, on an iBook, if you install over the Public Beta, you won't get the battery monitor in the Dock by default, as you do after doing a clean install.
Preparing for Mac OS X -- Now, for everyone else... Unless you are installing on a Mac containing no useful data, the first thing you should do is back up everything (not just important data) to a location from which you can restore easily. Despite the similarities in the way you use it, Mac OS X is a vastly different environment from any previous version of the Mac OS, and although you should not lose data, it is possible. Be smart and back up.
The next step is to decide whether you want to install Mac OS X on the same partition as your existing copy of the Mac OS, or if you'd prefer to separate the two by partitioning your hard disk and installing Mac OS X on a different partition. I've seen no difference in the safety of data, but it's easier to customize or even get rid of a Mac OS X installation entirely if you've dedicated a partition to it. Of course, if you have working data on your hard disk, you'll need that backup to restore your data after reformatting and partitioning with Apple's Drive Setup utility.
If you're not running Mac OS 9.1 currently, you'll need to install it before installing Mac OS X, and it's generally easiest to find, download, and install any necessary updates to the programs you use while you're in a familiar environment. I recommend starting with the newest versions of your programs when upgrading versions of the operating system because it saves you grief in the long run. Otherwise, you might have crashes from, for instance, an old extension that isn't compatible with the new operating system, and you don't want to see crashes as soon as you've finished installation. One additional suggestion - if you see a Mac OS X version of a program while downloading an update, snag the Mac OS X version at the same time. You'll want it eventually, and again, it's easier to work in your familiar environment right now.
VersionTracker is the first place to look for and download updates. If you don't mind spending some money, you could purchase either Insider Software's $70 UpgradeAgent 8 (it also runs under Mac OS X as Upgrade Agent X) or Casady and Greene's $40 Chaos Master (which uses VersionTracker to compare versions). These programs scour your hard disk and return a list of applications that have updates available. Then it is just a matter of spending hours downloading patches and running their installers.
Still assuming that you're not already running Mac OS 9.1, you'll need to install it next. Apple has made it easy by including a Mac OS 9.1 CD-ROM in the box with Mac OS X. (Note, however, that PowerBook G4, Power Mac G4 (Digital Audio) and iMac (Early 2001) machines that come pre-installed with Mac OS 9.1 cannot boot from the Mac OS 9.1 CD included with Mac OS X.) There are a few interesting changes in Mac OS 9.1, but the two that affect you the most with Mac OS X are the way it rearranges your folder structure (the Applications folder becomes "Applications (Mac OS 9)" and the Internet, Utilities, and Apple Extras folders move inside it) and the new Startup Disk control panel that enables you to switch between Mac OS 9.1 and Mac OS X. It's a good idea to move all your custom Mac OS 9 folders inside Apple's default folder hierarchy to avoid file permissions problems. The top level of your hard disk should thus contain only Applications (Mac OS 9), Documents, and System Folder. Also, be sure to run the Software Update control panel to check for any recent updates, such as the essential Startup Disk 9.2.1 control panel Apple released last week.
Also noteworthy, on the Mac OS 9.1 CD-ROM in the CD Extras folder, there are a number of firmware updaters for the blue & white Power Mac G3, the iMac, the iBook, the Power Mac G4, and the PowerBook (FireWire). Apple recommends using these firmware updates, but if you have third party RAM in your Mac, the potential of having that RAM disabled outweighs the benefits, so hold off on those until Apple addresses the problems.
At this point, you should have Mac OS 9.1 running, with all of your extensions and control panels. They're some of the most likely things to break under Mac OS X's Classic mode, so shut them all off by using Extensions Manager to switch to a Mac OS 9.1 All set of extensions. Those should work under Mac OS X, and once you're in Mac OS X's Classic mode, you can create a set which contains just the Mac OS 9.1 extensions and control panels you need, and to which you can slowly add your third-party extensions. (Casady & Greene's Conflict Catcher 8.0.8 knows about Mac OS 9.1 and can even switch between extension sets depending on whether you're in Mac OS 9.1 or in Classic under Mac OS X, but a bug means you have to enter your registration information in Classic each time if you're using a single-partition approach.)
One last thing. Although you should do so before installing any software, be sure to read the READ BEFORE YOU INSTALL.pdf file located on the Mac OS X CD-ROM for information about things you might want to do before installation (especially with beige Power Mac G3 and the PowerBook G3 Series machines with large partitioned hard disks). If you launch right into the installer and read this info at the start of the installation process, you won't be able to back out without restarting the Mac.
Phew! You are now ready to install Mac OS X itself. Luckily, that's much easier than all the preparation.
Setup and Installation -- The actual process of installation is almost trivially easy, although it can take some time (half an hour or more). You can start the installation while booted into Mac OS 9.1, though the installer immediately reboots from the Mac OS X CD-ROM; or, you can just boot from the Mac OS X CD-ROM directly by holding down the C key during startup. Apple recommends the latter as a troubleshooting approach should the initial attempt fail for some reason.
At the initial startup, Mac OS X provides you with a new version of the Setup Assistant that Apple has used for years. Each screen of the Setup Assistant asks for different information, such as your time zone, your localization requirements (language and keyboard), and so forth.
The Setup Assistant also walks you through creating your user account - remember, Mac OS X is inherently a multiple user system - and in the User Account pane, you must enter a long name (for File Sharing purposes) as well as a short name (but not "root" or, possibly "wheel", both of which are special accounts in Unix) and password. Write these down on paper and store them in a secure location! The short name and password are very important because they give you authority to change important preferences and set up how other users can access your Mac. Luckily, Mac OS X makes this account an administrator-level account (so you can set up and manage preferences and access) and defaults to an automatic login, so you don't have to enter a password on every restart.
In previous versions of the Mac OS, a separate Internet Setup Assistant helped you configure your Mac for use on the Internet. In Mac OS X, the main Setup Assistant does this as well, so make sure you know your email address, mail server addresses, DNS addresses, modem access numbers, passwords, and so on. One departure from the previous Internet Setup Assistant is that Mac OS X's Setup Assistant asks you for your iTools account (and lets you sign up for one if you haven't already). This is worthwhile - access to your iDisk is built into the Mac OS X Finder in the Go menu, and Apple is already making software like iTunes and iMovie available via iDisk.
Switching Back and Forth -- The details of using Mac OS X are beyond the scope of this article (and of course, if you've bought into Apple's rhetoric, Mac OS X is utterly intuitive, right?), but there is one important task you need to know how to perform - how to switch back to Mac OS 9.1. If you're like almost everyone else, you'll need to do that on occasion when you run into software that doesn't work in Mac OS X's Classic mode. And, if you've installed the new operating system on your primary Mac, you may find that working in Mac OS 9.1 is necessary to get your work done efficiently.
To switch from Mac OS X back to Mac OS 9.1, choose System Preferences from the Apple menu (or click its icon in the Dock). Click the Startup Disk icon in either the toolbar (Apple set it as one of the favorites that appears there no matter what other control panel you're using) or in the collection of control panels below. You'll see a list of System Folders that can boot your Mac (at least one for Mac OS X and one for Mac OS 9.1, and possibly more, depending on your setup). Select one with Mac OS 9, and then choose Restart from the Apple menu to restart the Mac.
When the Mac reboots, you'll notice that some new files and folders have appeared at the top level of your hard disk (assuming you installed on a single partition). Along with the Mac OS 9.1 System Folder, Documents, and Applications (Mac OS 9) folders, you'll see a new Applications folder that holds Mac OS X applications, a System folder that contains much of the guts of Mac OS X, a Users folder that holds folders and sub-folders for each user, and a Library folder that contains folders for shared files like fonts. Also at the top level are two files - mach and mach.sym - that are part of Mac OS X and are invisible when you're in Mac OS X.
Feel free to explore the new Mac OS X folders while in Mac OS 9.1 - you'll probably find navigating in the familiar Mac OS 9.1 Finder to be much faster and more fluid. However, do not move or delete anything! In previous versions of the Mac OS, there were a few files that were dangerous to move, such as the System and Finder and any enablers or Mac OS ROM files, but short of those, you couldn't do much serious damage. That's totally not true of Mac OS X - move or delete the wrong file while in Mac OS 9.1 and the whole thing may cease to work. Worse, there aren't yet many people out there who will be able to help).
Plus, Mac OS X uses many more invisible files and folders, which means that if you end up with a bad installation for some reason and want to erase it, just deleting visible Mac OS X files and folders while in Mac OS 9.1 won't completely uninstall Mac OS X. First, make sure to switch to Mac OS 9.1 in the Startup Disk control panel (this is important), reboot, and then start deleting things, including all those invisible files and folders (utilities like DiskTop and Greg's Browser can display and manipulate invisible files and folders). This is the point at which having Mac OS X on its own partition would save some time and uncertainty, since you could just choose Erase Disk from the Finder's Special menu.
When you're finished in Mac OS 9.1 and ready to return to Mac OS X, just open the Startup Disk control panel in Mac OS 9.1, click the disclosure triangle to reveal the different valid operating systems, choose the Mac OS X System folder, and click the Restart button. A few minutes later, you'll be back in the watery wonderland of Mac OS X.
Go West, Young Mac -- Where to go from here? I'd encourage you to explore Mac OS X on your own first - there's nothing like personal experience to help you make up your own mind what you think about Apple's efforts at redesigning the Macintosh interface. For additional tips, opinions, and a moderated forum for asking questions, subscribe to TidBITS Talk (send an email message to <email@example.com>), where the Mac OS X discussions have been going strong. And of course, I'm sure additional articles about Mac OS X will be forthcoming in TidBITS over the next few months.
[Rita Lewis is the author of over 20 Macintosh books, including the best-selling Mac OS in a Nutshell from O'Reilly.]
Article 3 of 13 in series
I noticed when reading back through the issues of ten years ago (see our anniversary article "TidBITS Goes to Eleven" in TidBITS-576) that we did a sporadic column reporting bits of information related to the just-released System 7Show full article
I noticed when reading back through the issues of ten years ago (see our anniversary article "TidBITS Goes to Eleven" in TidBITS-576) that we did a sporadic column reporting bits of information related to the just-released System 7. That release was a huge deal in the spring of 1991, and I'm embarrassed our coverage of the actual release was so minimal. But the parallels with Mac OS X's recent release are striking: in both cases, applications needed to be rewritten to support new features, the actual release came several months before the operating system was installed by default, both were slow on low end Macs that didn't have enough RAM (a 4 MB minimum for System 7 versus Mac OS X's 128 MB minimum), and numerous tips and tricks were necessary to make the most of the new operating system. The main difference seems to be that Mac OS X has suffered far more negative comments. There was some moaning about a few specific technologies in System 7 (such as balloon help and publish & subscribe), but the overall response was positive because System 7 clearly addressed well-perceived needs, like multitasking and access to more physical RAM.
Whatever the similarities or differences, it's time for another sporadic column to distill otherwise unrelated bits of information about Mac OS X from the extensive discussions on TidBITS Talk and other places.
Mac OS X FTP Vulnerability? On 10-Apr-01, CERT issued an advisory identifying a problem with the way various FTP servers can be compromised to enable intruders to execute code on the machine running the FTP server. The bug affects FTP servers in a variety of Unix implementations, including the FreeBSD version which Apple uses in Mac OS X. FreeBSD, Inc. has acknowledged the bug and fixed it, and other vendors have also investigated the situation. Unfortunately, Apple has made no statements to CERT as to whether or not Mac OS X is vulnerable, requests for clarification on Apple's DarwinOS-Users mailing list went unanswered, and Apple has failed to reply to our direct email queries as well. However, Larry Rosenstein <firstname.lastname@example.org> tells us that the version control log for Darwin shows that the FTP server was imported from the FreeBSD project in July of 2000, and his reading of the code indicates a likely vulnerability. He also noted what might be an attempt at a fix in the current version of the FTP server source code.
Since Mac OS X's Sharing control panel offers an option to allow remote FTP access using this server code, we recommend you leave that option off (as it is by default, thank goodness) to be safe until Apple closes this security hole. If you do need FTP access on, don't allow anonymous FTP access (by creating an account named "ftp") and make sure users have strong passwords.
My advice to Apple: with Mac OS X, you chose to hop into bed with the open source Unix community, and now you have to suffer the bedbugs which didn't bite previous versions of the Mac OS. Deal with them like an upstanding member of the community: acknowledge problems quickly, provide interim workarounds, fix the bugs, and distribute the fixes widely through the Software Update control panel. Attempts to conceal problems or execute PR spin won't fly - Mac OS X will likely become the most popular version of Unix on the planet before long, and with that reach comes a heavy responsibility to protect Mac OS X users.
No MacBinary in Mac OS X FTP -- While we're on the topic of Mac OS X's FTP server, I discovered last week that the silly thing doesn't support MacBinary file transfers. That means that if you upload a Macintosh file with a resource fork (like all Classic applications, Carbon applications that also run under Mac OS 9, and some documents) the resource fork will be stripped during upload, damaging the file. We expect more attention to detail from Apple; hopefully they'll add this functionality in a future release.
In the meantime, there are two workarounds. Either use the slower AppleShare instead, since it copies the resource fork with no trouble, or stuff the file with a recent version of StuffIt Deluxe or DropStuff before uploading to combine the resource and data forks in the data fork-only StuffIt archive.
Timbuktu Pro for Mac OS X Released and Released Again -- With Netopia's preview release of Timbuktu Pro for Mac OS X, we have another essential piece of software necessary to turn Mac OS X into a production operating system. New features include an Aqua interface (along with other basic Mac OS X elements, such as tooltips and support for file and folder permissions), support for multi-gigabyte files, additional security, the capability to force quit applications on remote Mac OS X machines, and improved display performance. Limitations include no support for AppleTalk-based connections, no DirectDial functionality for connecting directly via modem, no way to wake up a sleeping display (forcing use of the Mac OS X screensaver - unfortunately, Mac OS X has no basic black screensaver built in), no support for Mac OS X's long file names, no way to restrict incoming access when Timbuktu is running, no drag & drop with Mac OS X host computers, no support for the Hide Desktop Pattern feature, and compatibility only with version 4.8 and higher of Timbuktu Pro for Macintosh and Timbuktu 2000 for Windows (earlier versions may work but are not officially supported). The preview release costs $30 from Netopia's online store and expires on 18-Jun-01; Netopia plans to offer special upgrade pricing on the final version to those who purchase the preview release.
In testing, Timbuktu Pro for Mac OS X worked well for both controlling existing Macs and being controlled. However, Netopia today acknowledged a serious security hole that allows a user with physical access to the computer to bypass Mac OS X's password security. Netopia immediately released 6.0b2 to correct the problem; it's available at the URL sent in the confirmation email purchasers received. We strongly recommend against installing the 6.0b1 software on any computers for which physical security is a concern, and we recommend anyone with 6.0b1 installed download 6.0b2 immediately. Although this hole provides additional evidence of the security concerns raised by a multi-user operating system, kudos to Netopia for acknowledging and responding to this issue so quickly.
Here's how the hole works. Timbuktu for Mac OS X is designed to allow remote access even when a computer set up for multiple users is sitting at the login screen, a state at which the operating system has fully loaded but is waiting for user authentication. Even then, Timbuktu displays an annoying free-floating icon (Control-drag to move it to the least obtrusive location since it floats on top of all other windows and even the Dock) that duplicates the menu items of the Mac OS 9 Timbuktu menu bar icon. Select one of those menu items, the Timbuktu application launches, and the Mac OS X menu bar becomes visible. Unfortunately, now that the Mac OS X menu bar is visible, the user has full access to the Apple menu, including the System Preferences tool, whose Users pane allows the creation of new user accounts with administrative privileges. Version 6.0b2 eliminates the problem by not displaying the Mac OS X menu bar if there's no logged-in user.
ConceptDraw 1.6 Goes Carbon -- CS Odessa has released ConceptDraw 1.6, adding no new features but making it run natively under Mac OS X as a Carbon application and supporting the Aqua interface. Performance in Mac OS X is also improved when working with large documents. CS Odessa also has a non-carbonized version of ConceptDraw for people using Mac OS 8.1, and folks running Mac OS 8.5 to Mac OS 9.1 may want to consider the non-carbonized program, since it's somewhat faster than the carbonized version. There are a few minor bug fixes that might make the free upgrade to 1.6 worth the 3.9 MB download even for those not using Mac OS X.
Playing the Mac OS X ShellShell Game -- Many people have expressed concern regarding how Mac OS X provides access to the underlying Unix command line, fearing that developers and support technicians will rely on it rather than graphical Macintosh tools (see the recent debate in TidBITS Talk between frequent TidBITS contributors Chris Pepper and Travis Butler). Robert Woodhead of Wizardry and Virex fame has muddied the waters in a welcome way with his just-released ShellShell utility, which puts a graphical interface on top of Unix shell commands. Robert created a scripting language for representing all the options and dependencies of a Unix command; ShellShell turns such a script into a configuration panel for that command. Choose your options, decide if the command needs to be sent from the root account, and click the Run button to send the command to Mac OS X's Unix underpinnings. The arcane textual Unix results come back in a second pane. The other limitation to ShellShell is that it comes with scripts for only some Unix commands; it's up to the community to contribute additional ones. ShellShell is LegoWare (send Robert's kids Lego blocks if you use it) and is a 600K download.
Article 4 of 13 in series
Other members of the TidBITS staff are also contributing to the TenBITS columns - our looks at issues and products surrounding Mac OS X - so check for initials after each item to see who's responsible for it. More on Mac OS X's FTP Server -- I hate being fooled by a special caseShow full article
Other members of the TidBITS staff are also contributing to the TenBITS columns - our looks at issues and products surrounding Mac OS X - so check for initials after each item to see who's responsible for it.
More on Mac OS X's FTP Server -- I hate being fooled by a special case. In last week's installment of TenBITS, I said Mac OS X's FTP server doesn't do MacBinary and noted that uploading files with resource forks wouldn't work. (If you're not sure what MacBinary is, see "Macintosh Internet File Format Primer" in TidBITS-455.) That's basically true, but Mac users aren't likely to suffer file damage because most Macintosh FTP clients like Interarchy and Fetch automatically encode files as MacBinary if necessary (generally adding a .bin extension to the filename). That didn't happen in this one case, since the file that alerted me to the problem was a self-mounting image, and my Internet Control Panel file mappings for the .smi extension were incorrectly set to treat .smi files as Binary rather than MacBinary, probably due to Real Player taking over the .smi extension for another type of file.
The real annoyance here is that because Mac OS X's FTP server doesn't understand MacBinary, as every other Macintosh FTP server does, files encoded into MacBinary and uploaded via FTP are unusable until you decode them with StuffIt Expander. And if you tried to download a file with a resource fork from Mac OS X via FTP without first encoding it manually into MacBinary format, you would lose the resource fork and wind up with an unusable file.
Is it fair to ding Apple for this failing of what is essentially a plain vanilla Unix FTP server? The answer is yes in this case, since Apple exposes the FTP server in the Mac OS X interface via the Sharing control panel. If Mac OS X contained other Unix services which were unfriendly to Macintosh users but were available only through the command line, adding Macintosh support would be nice, but a lower priority.
If this issue concerns you, let Apple know via their Mac OS X feedback page. While you're at it, you might mention it's been almost three weeks since the potential FTP vulnerability in Mac OS X's FTP server was reported - that's way too long to wait for an official statement regarding a security hole. [ACE]
Beware Apple's Mac OS X Installer -- The self-mounting image that caused me trouble with Mac OS X's FTP server was for Timbuktu for Mac OS X. Even after I moved the file to Mac OS X successfully and mounted the image, Mac OS X claimed I didn't have permission to copy files to my Applications directory. When I checked, the admin group that included my single user was incorrectly set to read-only. After trying to figure out a workaround, I gave up and enabled the root user in the NetInfo Manager (see Apple's Tech Info Library instructions), logged out, logged in as root, fixed the privileges on my Applications folder, logged out, logged back in as myself, and disabled the root user again for safety. (Cumbersome, I know: I'm avoiding the command line as long as possible to evaluate Apple's claim that it's not necessary.)
A few days later, I discovered how the privileges on my Applications directory had been changed. Dantz Development's Retrospect Client for Mac OS X used the Apple installer (indicated by a .pkg or .mpkg file), and Apple's installer rewrote my privileges. It seems, after I discussed the issue with Dantz, that the Apple installer overwrites the permissions on the Applications folder with those automatically inherited by the installer, which can't be guaranteed to match those on the target system. Dantz wasn't the only company bitten by this issue - Adaptec's installer reportedly refuses to install if the permissions aren't right, and I've seen reports that Xtools from Tenon Intersystems also ran into related problems. But it gets worse: in an attempt to solve the permissions problem, Dantz rewrote their installer to use multiple packages (the .mpkg approach). However, if the user was logged in as root and the installer crashed during installation, it could delete the Applications folder entirely. (Dantz pulled that installer instantly - in the middle of the night - when the first reports came in; they're working on a new one using MindVision's Installer VISE.) My subsequent investigations with developers have revealed that Apple's installer can also delete folders if they're used by one package, but not by a subsequent one.
Workarounds for some of these and other problems have been found, and Apple is reportedly working on a new version of their installer. The moral of the story is that if you're a user and want to install a program released as a .pkg or .mpkg installer file, check for installation problem reports first, don't log in as root before installing, watch the privileges on folders touched by the installer, and make sure you've backed up at least your important data. If you're a developer looking to distribute a program, either don't use an installer at all (put your application in a bundle so the user can drag it to the Applications folder) or if you need root access or need to perform more complex installation tasks, consider an installer from another company. Both MindVision's Installer VISE and Aladdin's InstallerMaker have long provided developers - including Apple - with the flexibility, power, and reliability needed for complex installations. [ACE]
Interarchy 4.1 Adds Mac OS X Support -- Stairways Software has released Interarchy 4.1, a free upgrade from Interarchy 4.0 with support for Mac OS 8, 9 and X. No release notes were available, so I assume there were no notable changes other than support for Mac OS X. It's a 1.8 MB download. [ACE]
DragThing 4.0.1 Replaces Dock -- If you think Mac OS X's Dock is a crock, James Thomson's $25 shareware DragThing 4.0.1 offers a highly customizable alternative (while still working under Mac OS 8.6 through Mac OS 9.1). Although they can't actually replace the Mac OS X Dock's window minimization and Control Strip-like capabilities, DragThing docks can be placed anywhere on the screen and offer multiple styles and colors to help you visually organize your applications, folders, documents, and URLs. If you have plenty of screen space, you can open multiple docks at once, or you can specify that certain docks appear depending on which application is active. It's a 1 MB download. [JLC]
MYOB AccountEdge Goes Native -- MYOB US, Inc. has released a carbonized version of MYOB AccountEdge, the company's small business accounting package. AccountEdge uses Mac OS X's Aqua interface and perhaps benefits more than most other applications from protected memory, since it's comforting to know that AccountEdge and its essential financial data is unlikely to be affected if another application crashes. Limitations in Mac OS X restrict AccountEdge to single user mode and prevent it from faxing reports, invoices, or other forms. The update is free to AccountEdge users with valid serial and customer numbers. [ACE]
The Moose Peeks Under Mac OS X's Hood -- Mac OS X users who want to use the Unix networking tools underneath Mac OS X but are unhappy about Apple's minimalist tools or editing configuration text files - another hallmark of Unix "interface design" - can now turn to The Moose's Apprentice, or TMA. It's a well-documented utility that provides a Mac-like interface for controlling Mac OS X's underlying Unix network services. The final release will be $15; a free preview version of TMA 0.8 is available for download now and will expire on 30-May-01. The accompanying documentation (4 MB of the 5.3 MB download) explains many arcane Unix networking terms, a boon to Mac users! [MHA]
Tenon's Xtools 1.0 Brings X to X -- Tenon Intersystems, purveyors of Macintosh applications built around Unix originals, has released Xtools 1.0, an X Window server for displaying on the Mac OS X desktop the graphical output from Unix applications running on remote Unix machines. Based on the latest X11R6.4 and XFree86 open source code, Xtools is a multithreaded Cocoa application that supports multiple processors and is optimized for the PowerPC G4's Velocity Engine. Xtools also supports Macintosh features such as multiple monitors and copy and paste between Mac OS X and X Windows applications. For brave Unix-savvy users, there's also an open source XonX project working on a free X Window server for Mac OS X, though it doesn't sound as though it's as far along or mature as Xtools. Xtools costs $200 ($100 for educational users) with quantity discounts available for both commercial and educational sites. [ACE]
Everybody Must Get Stoned -- Stone Design deserves an award for the first piece of Mac OS X software to arrive here in physical form (it actually came in before we even received Mac OS X itself). Stone Studio is a $300 Cocoa-based suite of seven applications for graphics professionals, including an object-oriented drawing program, a time and billing program, and a number of smaller utilities for creating GIF animations, PDF documents from PostScript originals, and more. Not only does Stone Design earn points for promptness, but it's good to see completely new productivity applications appear because of Mac OS X. [ACE]
Article 5 of 13 in series
Mac OS X 10.0.2 and iTunes 1.1.1. Add CD Burning -- Apple last week released its second free update for Mac OS X via the Software Update control panel, improving overall application stability and adding the capability to burn custom music CDsShow full article
Mac OS X 10.0.2 and iTunes 1.1.1. Add CD Burning -- Apple last week released its second free update for Mac OS X via the Software Update control panel, improving overall application stability and adding the capability to burn custom music CDs. For a more complete list of changes, see Apple's Tech Info Library article on the update. (As always, it's a good idea to back up your data before upgrading your system software.)
At the same time, the company released a free update to iTunes for Mac OS X that enables the audio CD burning feature. The new iTunes 1.1.1 also enables the full-screen graphics display feature that previously worked only in Mac OS 9. Burning audio CDs in iTunes 1.1.1 isn't without its quirks - iTunes should be set to only 2x burn speeds when using USB CD-RW drives, and burning audio CDs can fail if your Mac or even just the display goes to sleep while iTunes is burning, so set the sleep time to Never in the Energy Saver control panel and make sure "Separate timing for display sleep" is not selected.
One odd side effect of installing the Mac OS X 10.0.2 update is that on at least some systems (including my PowerBook G3/250), it enables the internal speaker even when external speakers are plugged in. The software volume controls affect only the internal speaker; the external speakers can be controlled only if they have an independent volume control. Although some might appreciate the stereo-plus-one sound, in many public situations, it's inappropriate to send sound out the internal speaker when headphones are plugged in. [ACE]
Mac OS X 10.0.2 Fixes FTP Vulnerability -- Apple says Mac OS X 10.0.2 also features a newer version of the ftpd FTP server. Does this fix the FTP vulnerability identified by CERT several weeks back (see "TenBITS/23-Apr-01" in TidBITS-577 for more information)? Our repeated requests for additional information from Apple have gone unanswered; all Apple has posted in public is that Mac OS X 10.0.2 has "a new version of Internet file sharing (ftpd), which features important security improvements." Luckily, Larry Rosenstein <email@example.com> verified on TidBITS Talk that the version of the Mac OS X 10.0.2 ftpd server was the same as the most recently updated version of the ftpd server in the Darwin open source repository. It's probably safe to assume that Apple (or someone else working on the Darwin open source) has effectively closed the FTP security hole, and it's great to see Apple distributing a fix so quickly. Still, at the risk of sounding like a broken record (an analogy which undoubtedly shows my age), Apple needs to be more forthcoming with acknowledgments of problems to security groups like CERT. [ACE]
Sudo Security Hole -- The Stepwise site (which also had early information about some of the Apple Mac OS X installer bugs we reported on last week) has posted information about a security issue in the sudo command line program that enables Mac OS X users to execute Unix commands as the root user without logging into or even enabling the root user. Unfortunately, as with so many other security lapses, it turns out that the version of sudo shipped with Mac OS X is vulnerable to a buffer overflow that could enable an authenticated user (either in front of the machine or connecting via SSH or Telnet) to gain increased privileges. The problem first appeared 23-Apr-01, and although Apple didn't address it in last week's Mac OS X 10.0.2 update, the author of sudo has already issued a patch, and Scott Anguish of Stepwise has built a custom installation application (122K download) to replace Mac OS X's version of sudo. [ACE]
DragThing 4.0.2 Fixes Crashes -- James Thomson has released a bug-fix update to his alternative dock utility DragThing to address several crashes in Mac OS X, a problem with DragThing clearing the login items at startup (see James's explanation of this in TidBITS Talk for more details), and a few other less important bugs. The upgrade to DragThing 4.0.2 is free for DragThing 4.0 users; it's a 1 MB download. [ACE]
PowerMail 3.0.9 Supports Mac OS X -- The tiny Swiss company CTM Development has revved their email client PowerMail to add a few features, fix a few bugs, and most important, provide Mac OS X compatibility (specifically with Mac OS X 10.0.1 and later). As with most of the other products made compatible with Mac OS X, PowerMail 3.0.9 has a few unresolved issues such as occasional crashes related to find-by-content indexing, an error while copying and pasting, and printing problems with StyleWriters. The free update to PowerMail 3.0.9 is available in a "classic" version for Mac OS 8 and Mac OS 9 (1.9 MB download) and a Carbon version for Mac OS X (2.0 MB). [ACE]
QuickDNS Pro Eases DNS Setups on Mac OS X -- DNS, the Domain Name Service that maps Internet IP numbers like 184.108.40.206 to human-readable names like www.tidbits.com, is not for the faint of heart. Type one character wrong during an edit and your entire Internet domain could become inaccessible. Making DNS easier to set up and maintain has long been one of the goals of Men & Mice's QuickDNS Pro for the Mac, and now, the just-released QuickDNS Pro 3.5 for Mac OS X brings that ease of use to Mac OS X. QuickDNS Pro actually has two parts - the graphical QuickDNS Manager and the server-side utility QuickDNS Remote, which enables QuickDNS Manager to configure the Unix BIND 8.2.3 DNS server included with Mac OS X, Red Hat Linux 6.2 and 7.0, and SuSE Linux 6.3, 6.4, and 7.0. QuickDNS Pro 3.5 for Mac OS X costs $350 for a single license and $550 for two licenses; upgrades from version 2.x are $195 and volume discounts are available. [ACE]
Article 6 of 13 in series
Mac OS X 10.0.3 Released -- Just days after the release of Mac OS X 10.0.2 (see "TenBITS/07-May-01" in TidBITS-579), Apple has offered an update to version 10.0.3Show full article
Mac OS X 10.0.3 Released -- Just days after the release of Mac OS X 10.0.2 (see "TenBITS/07-May-01" in TidBITS-579), Apple has offered an update to version 10.0.3. Apple says the Mac OS X 10.0.3 update fixes a problem in the Mac OS X Finder in which folders containing unusually large numbers of items don't display all their contents. Installing Mac OS X 10.0.3 on a Mac running 10.0.1 also provides all of 10.0.2's fixes, including CD burning, better stability, and a newer FTP server. You can use the Software Update control panel in System Preferences to download the update (automatic checks aren't working for a number of people; if this is true for you, just click the Software Update control panel's Update Now button). If a firewall or other situation prevents you from using Software Update, you can also download and manually install a 14.9 MB updater disk image. The manual approach requires that you already have 10.0.1 or later installed; otherwise, you'll first need to install the Mac OS X 10.0.1 updater (available at the last URL, below). [MHA]
Kensington MouseWorks 1.0 for Mac OS X -- Kensington has released the first full version of its MouseWorks software supporting Kensington mice and trackballs under Mac OS X. Although mice with two buttons or scroll wheels work on their own under Mac OS X, MouseWorks 1.0 for Mac OS X enables Kensington device owners to customize button actions. There are a few caveats with this 1.0 release: one-button mice and TurboMouse 1.0 to 4.0 products (the older, two-button versions) are not supported, and some functionality of MouseWorks under Mac OS 9 isn't available, such as button chording, Application Sets, and Rest Reminders. Still, as someone who relies on using my right mouse button to double-click items, I'm happy to see that the basics are in place. Kensington MouseWorks 1.0 for Mac OS X is a free 3.3 MB download. [JLC]
UpdateAgent X Preview -- The number of Mac OS X-compatible applications is rising all time. Major applications tend to get the most coverage, but what about smaller but no less essential utilities? Insider Software has released a preview version of UpdateAgent X, which scans your hard disk and automatically downloads available updates to your programs. Although this release is a little rough around the edges (most noticeable is the Classic-style black outline surrounding default buttons instead of Mac OS X's pulsing color effect), UpdateAgent X delivers what it promises. A free demo that can download only Mac OS updates from Apple is available as a 2.5 MB download; the demo also lists but does not download other applications from its database of 5,000 programs. The full version costs $50 per year. Currently, UpdateAgent updates Classic and Carbon applications; support for Cocoa programs will be provided in a free update. [JLC]
Mac OS X Janitorial Staff -- One of the ways that Unix achieves its vaunted reliability is by way of a scheduling tool called cron, which runs scripts that clean up the mess left by normal operating system usage. Mac OS X is no different than other forms of Unix in this respect, and it has daily, weekly, and monthly scripts that reset log files, back up internal databases, and perform other necessary tasks, often between 3 AM and 5 AM. However, typical usage of Mac OS X differs from other Unix systems in that Macs are often turned off or sleeping when they're not being used, whereas other Unix machines tend to run constantly. Although powerful and flexible, cron has one major issue in this area - it doesn't catch up on tasks scheduled for when the Mac was off or asleep. Brian Hill has addressed this limitation with a free utility called MacJanitor that lets you manually start Mac OS X's daily, weekly, and monthly maintenance scripts. You must remember to launch MacJanitor, but as long as you do it every so often, it shouldn't matter as much if you regularly leave your Mac sleeping or turned off during the period when it would like to be sweeping the floors. [ACE]
Setext Viewing on Mac OS X -- Since 1992, email issues of TidBITS have been formatted using the structure-enhanced text (setext, pronounced "see text") format that I helped Ian Feldman develop during 1991. It's an implicit markup language, so most people never even realize they're reading it, but it is possible to write programs that can interpret the sections and style markup within setext - for instance, the text editors BBEdit and Alpha automatically detect the structure of setext documents. The canonical program for viewing setext documents is Akif Eyler's Easy View 2.6.2, but some years ago Akif announced he had no plans to work on it further and released the source code. It still works (at least under Mac OS 9.1), but is undoubtedly living on borrowed time. A recent resurgence in interest in setext has resulted in Sascha Bigalke's SmartView 2.0, which runs under Mac OS 9 and in Classic mode in Mac OS X, and Samizdat Software's SetextView 0.3, which runs only in Mac OS X. Both are obviously still works in progress, with only rudimentary support for the kind of multiple file browsing Easy View provides, but if you're interested in setext, they're worth a look. [ACE]
Article 7 of 13 in series
In addition to announcing the 17-inch flat-panel display at its World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, Apple took the wraps off Mac OS X Server 10 and has begun shipping Mac OS X on new Macs. Mac OS X Now Shipping on New Machines -- Apple has announced that as of 21-May-01, it has begun shipping Mac OS X pre-installed on all new Macs, roughly two months ahead of its previously announced scheduleShow full article
In addition to announcing the 17-inch flat-panel display at its World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, Apple took the wraps off Mac OS X Server 10 and has begun shipping Mac OS X on new Macs.
Mac OS X Now Shipping on New Machines -- Apple has announced that as of 21-May-01, it has begun shipping Mac OS X pre-installed on all new Macs, roughly two months ahead of its previously announced schedule. For now, the default operating system on new Macs will remain Mac OS 9.1, but users can use Apple's Dual Boot feature to start up using Mac OS X by default if they choose. An Apple representative indicated even machines without enough memory to run Mac OS X (like entry-level iMacs and iBooks with 64 MB of RAM) will have Mac OS X pre-installed on the hard drive; folks buying a new Mac on or after 21-May-01 which doesn't have Mac OS X pre-installed will be eligible for a free copy via Apple's Mac OS Up-To-Date program. In its press release, Apple claims the response to Mac OS X has been so positive that they advanced their plans to pre-install Mac OS X, but Apple's move is distinctly timed to coincide with Apple's World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC). Installing Mac OS X on new Macs increases the potential market for Mac OS X applications, and thus serves as additional incentive for developers to release Mac OS X-savvy versions of their products. [GD]
Mac OS X Server 10 -- At WWDC, Apple also announced the release of Mac OS X Server 10.0.0, the official follow-up to Mac OS X Server 1.2 (keeping with the idiosyncratic version numbering scheme for Mac OS X products). Mac OS X Server is Apple's heavy-duty server software which handles Web, email, and FTP services, but unlike the consumer-oriented desktop version of Mac OS X , adds enterprise-grade file sharing and print serving to the mix, along with Macintosh Manager and NetBoot for education, lab, and some workgroup situations. Mac OS X Server 10 also ships with Apple's new WebObjects 5, a new Java-based version of its powerful application server software for building custom Internet applications and solutions like sophisticated Web sites and custom front-ends for databases. Mac OS X Server 10 is based on the latest version of Apple's Darwin open source Unix kernel and sports the same Aqua user interface as the desktop version of Mac OS X (the server's interface leans towards platinum highlights instead of blue). Mac OS X Server is available in a $500 ten-client edition for small workgroups, or in an unlimited-client edition for $1,000. (A $500 upgrade to the unlimited version is also available.) Either edition handles unlimited Web serving through the same industry-standard Apache software built into Mac OS X.
Apple has also introduced two new configurations of its Macintosh Server G4. Both include 256 MB of RAM and a 60 GB hard drive, built-in 10/100/gigabit Ethernet, and the Mac OS X Server Unlimited-Client Edition. The $3,000 model sports a single 533 MHz PowerPC G4 processor, while the $4,000 server adds a second 533 MHz G4 and a four-port 10/100 Ethernet card for multiple network support. [MHA]
By the end of the third quarter of the year, FileMaker also plans to ship its $1,000 FileMaker Pro Server 5.5 with support for Mac OS X and Red Hat Linux, and the $1,000 FileMaker Pro Unlimited with unrestricted Web publishing features and a new multi-threaded Web Companion plug-in (which ought to speed general Web serving, but won't help with FileMaker's fundamental Web publishing bottlenecks). FileMaker Pro Developer 5.5 - which enables FileMaker developers to create stand-alone solutions and provides documentation, SDKs, and other materials - should ship before the end of 2001. [GD]
Article 8 of 13 in series
by Jeff Carlson
More than any other event, Macworld Expo stirs up the excitement of Mac users looking for Apple's newest take on thinking different. Ironically, the show also tends to temper that excitement with an equal dose of patienceShow full article
More than any other event, Macworld Expo stirs up the excitement of Mac users looking for Apple's newest take on thinking different. Ironically, the show also tends to temper that excitement with an equal dose of patience. At Macworld Expo San Francisco 2001, Steve Jobs incited outbreaks of mass techno-lust with the introduction of the PowerBook G4 Titanium, but even those who ordered their machines wirelessly from the floor of the keynote didn't receive them for several weeks. At this year's show in New York, Jobs introduced Mac OS X 10.1, Apple's first major update to its new operating system - but you won't be able to get your hands on it until September. Here's some of what you have to look forward to.
The Bouncer at the Door -- Translucent menus and preemptive multitasking quickly lose their luster if essentials like selecting menu items or resizing Finder windows don't respond quickly. The main improvement in Mac OS X 10.1 is a performance boost across the board, with an emphasis on improving application launch time, as measured in bounces. Under Mac OS X, a program's icon bounces like a caffeinated child in its place on the Dock to indicate that the application is loading. Under Mac OS X 10.1, Internet Explorer launched in one bounce, and Mac OS X's Mail program barely bounced at all. Of course, Jobs was undoubtedly running on the fastest possible hardware, but we've heard that launch performance is two to three times better even on slower Macs.
"Performance, performance, performance," Jobs chanted, but it's not just brute-force processing power that's improved. Under 10.1, you'll be able to choose a method of minimizing windows. The current scheme, called Genie because of the way windows get sucked into the Dock, will be joined by Scale, which resizes the window proportionally as it moves to the Dock. The effect is cleaner and faster than Genie, and Jobs suggested that Scale will be the default behavior when 10.1 is released. (Personally, I'd vote for a balloon behavior, where the window splutters around the screen, deflates, and drops limply to the Dock.)
Finder windows will also enjoy resizable columns in the column view (hopefully the widths will be remembered, unlike Mac OS X 10.0.4), and long filenames will run onto multiple lines if needed instead of truncating the text. Like Windows, Mac OS X 10.1 will offer the capability for users to hide or show filename extensions. This feature is disastrously confusing in Windows; let's hope Apple somehow avoids similar problems.
Another improvement to the system's Aqua interface is the capability to position the Dock on the left, right, or bottom edges of the screen. This is possible in the current version of Mac OS X, although the position isn't remembered through restarts. To move your Dock now, Control-click the dividing line between applications and documents in the Dock to choose an alignment, though the new system won't support putting the Dock at the top edge of the screen.
Apple is also addressing Dock overload by pulling some functions currently available as Dock extras out of the Dock and into the top menu bar. These "system menus," as Jobs called them, will display status for battery life and AirPort signal strength, and offer controls for changing sound volume, display settings, and a modem connection. The concern here is that this area will itself immediately be overloaded, much as happens with the Windows system tray. The existing Control Strip isn't perfect, but at least it can be tucked away off-screen when not needed.
Finally, applications in the Dock can now have menus, just like folders do, though it was unclear from the keynote just what menu items would appear there.
Hub Caps -- Mac OS X 10.1 catches up on Apple's digital hub strategy, adding DVD playback and CD burning (for saving data, not just music via iTunes) directly in the Finder, courtesy of a new Burn button that can be placed in the toolbar in Finder windows. Perhaps the most entertaining moment in the keynote came from Jobs when he tried to connect a digital camera via USB; when it didn't work, he just tossed (er, threw) it to an Apple employee offstage and moved on. Later, he came back to the camera and showed the system automatically copying its images to a special folder that can also use the photos as the basis for one of Apple's screensaver modules.
Of course, Mac OS X 10.1 couldn't be a digital hub if it weren't at the center of things, so Apple has boosted its networking capabilities. You will finally be able to configure AirPort base stations from within the AirPort Admin Utility under Mac OS X 10.1. Apple is also adding support for connecting to the machine using AFP over AppleTalk, plus SMB networking support to enable the Mac to interoperate better on a Windows-dominated network. Mac OS X 10.1 will not only support an emerging technology called WebDAV (Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning; it's a set of extensions to the Web's HTTP protocol to enable users to edit and manage remote files collaboratively - you can think of it as FTP on steroids), it will use WebDAV as the underlying technology behind your iDisk. Since WebDAV uses the stateless HTTP to transfer data, it can be left on your desktop for long stretches of time without having to always check in with Apple's servers.
The Future Is Still Here, Still Coming Soon, For $20 -- When it becomes available in September, Mac OS X 10.1 will be available as a "free" upgrade for current users. However, because so much data has changed between this release and previous ones, owners of Mac OS 10.0.4 and earlier will find themselves spending $20 (for shipping and handling) to order the update on CD. Apple's certainly allowed to charge whatever they want, but it's a bit annoying to be forced to pay more for an update which feels like a fix to make the operating system basically functional for mainstream users. Even if a online update was huge, why not give users the option of a very long download to head off any complaints?
Article 9 of 13 in series
Mac OS X 10.1 should be arriving soon, and Macintosh developers are lining up with compatible revisions of their Mac OS X software. Here are a few of the ones that we found most interesting. OmniWeb 4.0.5 Adds Languages -- The Omni Group has released OmniWeb 4.0.5, fixing bugs and improving international support in the Mac OS X-native Web browserShow full article
Mac OS X 10.1 should be arriving soon, and Macintosh developers are lining up with compatible revisions of their Mac OS X software. Here are a few of the ones that we found most interesting.
OmniWeb 4.0.5 Adds Languages -- The Omni Group has released OmniWeb 4.0.5, fixing bugs and improving international support in the Mac OS X-native Web browser. OmniWeb adds Spanish (with documentation), Dutch, and Italian to its list of languages, which already includes Japanese, Danish, Swedish, French, German, and English. Other changes in version 4.0.5 include improved handling of RGB colors defined by Cascading Style Sheets, compatibility with developer releases of Mac OS X 10.1, and a few bug fixes. OmniWeb is a free 4.1 MB download; a $30 license removes occasional payment reminders. [JLC]
Replace Your Apple Menu -- Gideon Greenspan of Sig Software has released Classic Menu 2.5, a shareware utility that returns the user-customization features of the Apple menu to Mac OS X. (The previous version of Classic Menu, version 2.1, worked only with Mac OS X Public Beta.) After launching Classic Menu, the Apple menu acts as it did in Mac OS 9, displaying icons and names for items you've placed in a special folder (the Classic Menu Items folder in your user's Preferences folder). Classic Menu supports files and folders, and folders show up as hierarchical menus up to five levels deep. Classic Menu even improves on the original Apple menu approach with three functions in the Menu Folder hierarchical menu. You can add an alias (through a standard file selection window) to the Classic Menu Items folder, open the Classic Menu Items folder in the Finder, and select a folder to use instead of the Classic Menu Items folder (making it possible to switch between Apple menu "sets"). Plus, in Classic Menu's preferences, you can choose the color of your Apple logo and the way you want to be able to access the default system Apple menu. Missing from this version is a replacement for the classic application menu, though Gideon said he hopes to bring it back once Mac OS X 10.1 is out. The $10 Classic Menu is a tiny 38K download, and it costs only $20 bundled with Sig Software's Drop Drawers X, an interesting take on launcher utilities. [ACE]
Snapz Pro X Captures Mac OS X Screens -- Snapz Pro X has been out for about a month, but I'm blaming our tardy coverage on mail servers, which failed to deliver the press release for almost a month. But it's here now, and I'm glad to see an industrial strength screen capture application for Mac OS X, which has up to this point offered only the minimal Grab utility. Snapz Pro X can save any portion of the screen (such as windows, menus, or dialog boxes) as a .gif, .jpg, .pict, .tiff, .png, .pdf, .bmp, or Photoshop file, and (for an extra $20) it can even record QuickTime videos of screen actions. Features in Snapz Pro X that are unique to Mac OS X include the new Fatbits tool for zooming in on your screen, automatic generation of thumbnails, and the addition of watermarks to images. The shareware Snapz Pro X is a 4.5 MB download and costs $29, or $49 for Snapz Pro X w/ Movie Capture. Users of Snapz Pro 2 or St. Clair Software's Screen Catcher can upgrade for $19 ($39 for the movie capture functionality). For more details on Snapz Pro, see "Say Cheese! Snapz Pro" in TidBITS-372 and "Snapz Pro 2 Adds TIFF, QuickTime Movie Support" in TidBITS-488. [ACE]
DragThing 4.1 Released -- The latest version of James Thompson's alternative dock utility DragThing adds a number of new features plus compatibility for the upcoming Mac OS X 10.1. Dock items now support Unicode and long file names, docks can have custom backgrounds, and other interface improvements abound (such as hiding a dock's window shadow or manipulating the size and look of a dock's tabs). The arrival of Mac OS X 10.1 will bring the capability of hiding and showing applications, plus ejecting disks by dragging them to the Trash in DragThing docks. DragThing 4.1 also works on computers running Mac OS 8.6 or later, is a free update for owners of version 4.0 or later, and is a 1 MB download. [JLC]
Get More Info with Super Get Info -- Apple has plastered over many of the holes left from grafting the classic Mac OS on top of the Unix-based Mac OS X. One that remains, however, is the morass of file information, since files in Mac OS X have both standard Macintosh types and creators and Unix owner, group, and permission settings. Worse, the Mac OS X Finder's Show Info command opens only one window at a time, making it difficult to compare files. The $20 Super Get Info 1.0.1 from Bare Bones Software addresses many of these shortcomings, letting you view and edit both Macintosh and Unix file information, change creation and modification dates, open more than one info window, copy a file or folder's path, preview file contents, and more. If you've been chafing at the minimal amount of information available via Apple's Show Info command, give the demo of Super Get Info a spin. [ACE]
Keep It Up X Monitors Mac OS X Servers -- We've long relied on Karl Pottie's Keep It Up to watch our Internet server applications and restart them should anything go wrong. Though we're not running any Mac OS X-based servers, those who are can use Keep It Up X 3.0 for the same purpose. New features include enhanced system load and volume info reports, the capability to force quit any native Mac OS X application, a forced restart that can shut down non-responding applications, and enhancements to the Weblaunch capabilities for launching items remotely. Karl isn't abandoning his Mac OS users though, and Keep It Up Classic 2.4.5 will be developed more or less independently from the Mac OS X version. Even if you're familiar with Keep It Up 2.x, Karl recommends studying the manual for Keep It Up X 3.0 because of subtle changes in the way some features work. Both versions remain $22 shareware, and Karl tells us that Keep It Up X 3.0 is considered a new product and thus requires a new registration. It's a 463K download. [ACE]
QuickSilver Ejecting under Mac OS X -- Thanks to Chris Breen of Macworld for passing on this tip from Apple's Knowledge Base. If you're using a keyboard that lacks an Eject key with a Power Mac G4 (QuickSilver), there's no way you can open the CD/DVD tray if it's empty or the disk inside isn't mounted. In Mac OS 9.2, there is an Eject application and control strip module in the Eject Extras folder (search with Sherlock, or look in the Apple Extras folder). Either run the application to open the tray or install the control strip module in your Control Strip Modules folder in the System Folder, restart, and use the Control Strip's new Eject control. Under Mac OS X, you must instead use the Eject button of an application like iTunes that can open the tray when empty. (Chris confirmed for me that the Eject application doesn't work under Mac OS X.)
MacFixIt posted a few other methods that work at boot time (not that you're rebooting Mac OS X often, right?), including holding down the mouse button at startup; holding down Option at startup and then pressing Command-period at the System Folder selection screen (mostly useful for booting from a CD - click Rescan after closing the tray to see the CD); and booting into Open Firmware by holding down Command-Option-O-F, typing "eject cd", press Return, then type "mac-boot" and press Return to continue the boot process. This admittedly unusual situation is just crying out for a simple shareware solution. [ACE]
Article 10 of 13 in series
On Saturday, 29-Sep-01, Apple started shipping the long-awaited Mac OS X 10.1, which brings the company's next-generation operating system a large step closer to the mainstream Macintosh audience. The first four minor updates to Mac OS X 10.0 fixed bugs and made behind-the-scenes improvements to the initial release of Mac OS XShow full article
On Saturday, 29-Sep-01, Apple started shipping the long-awaited Mac OS X 10.1, which brings the company's next-generation operating system a large step closer to the mainstream Macintosh audience.
The first four minor updates to Mac OS X 10.0 fixed bugs and made behind-the-scenes improvements to the initial release of Mac OS X. But they didn't change the user experience particularly, and that was where Mac OS X needed the most help. Third party utilities stepped in to help out and to restore useful bits of functionality from Mac OS 9, but even still, Mac OS X 10.0 felt distinctly rough. The good news is that Mac OS X 10.1 goes a long way toward polishing those rough surfaces. For the most part, the only downside is that Mac OS X remains a work in progress, so even though Apple has made great strides with this release, plenty more work remains to be done.
We'll look next at the major improvements and new features in Mac OS X 10.1, but first let's look at how you lay your hands on a copy.
Getting It -- The Mac OS X 10.1 upgrade is free to all owners of Mac OS X and purchasers of Macs that shipped with Mac OS X pre-installed. However, because Mac OS X 10.1's size forces it to be available only on CD-ROM, Apple is charging a $20 shipping and handling fee (plus local sales tax, which you must calculate yourself). The full upgrade package, available to U.S. and Canadian users via Apple's Mac OS Up-To-Date program through 31-Dec-01, includes a Mac OS X 10.1 upgrade CD, a full Mac OS 9.2.1 CD, an updated Developer Tools CD, and a user guide. Apple promises 6 to 12 week delivery times via UPS or First-Class Mail, though my copy - requested via fax on Thursday, 27-Sep-01 - arrived today. It's also possible to order the update directly from the Apple Store for $20 if you call them at 800/MY-APPLE - this approach could be faster than using the Mac OS Up-To-Date program.
You can avoid the fee and get Mac OS X 10.1 in person by going to an Apple Store or participating Apple dealer for an Instant Up-To-Date upgrade package that includes only a Mac OS X 10.1 upgrade CD, a Mac OS 9.2.1 upgrade CD, and a Mac OS X manual. The Instant Up-To-Date package will be available through 31-Oct-01 or while supplies last. To judge from today's reports on TidBITS Talk, supplies in many locations lasted only a few hours, although it's likely that Apple will replenish them - call ahead to verify that some are in stock.
Developers should note that the Instant Up-To-Date package lacks the new Developer Tools CD, which is necessary since the old tools will not work with Mac OS X 10.1. Although a free online membership in the Apple Developer Connection program enables developers to download the full set of updated developer tools beginning this week, the download is reportedly a massive 550 MB.
International Availability -- It appears that Apple is handling upgrades for customers in other countries similarly, given the almost identical pages on Apple's site for other countries in which Apple has a presence. To check out the Mac OS Up-To-Date program for another country, visit Apple's contact page linked below, click the link corresponding to Apple's home page for that country, append "macosx/uptodate/" to the end of the URL that appears in your Web browser's Address field, and press Return. The details of the Instant Up-To-Date program will undoubtedly vary somewhat; Kenneth Wedin passed on information in TidBITS Talk about how the Instant Up-To-Date program would work in Japan.
New Copies -- The full release of Mac OS X 10.1 is also now available for $130 from Apple, Apple dealers, and online retailers. To run it, you'll need a Macintosh based on the PowerPC G3 or PowerPC G4 processors (not including the original PowerBook G3 or processor upgrade cards) with at least 128 MB of RAM and 1.5 GB of free disk space.
For those who don't yet have Mac OS X, the question becomes: is now the time to upgrade? Read on for our take on the major improvements in Mac OS X 10.1, and after that we'll provide guidance on determining if you should make the jump now or continue to wait.
Article 11 of 13 in series
At the July 2001 Macworld Expo in New York, Steve Jobs previewed Mac OS X 10.1, wowing the audience with a demonstration that promised massive speed improvements, the return of features previously exclusive to Mac OS 9, and a host of interface tweaks to address the most glaring of Mac OS X's usability holesShow full article
At the July 2001 Macworld Expo in New York, Steve Jobs previewed Mac OS X 10.1, wowing the audience with a demonstration that promised massive speed improvements, the return of features previously exclusive to Mac OS 9, and a host of interface tweaks to address the most glaring of Mac OS X's usability holes. Now that Mac OS X 10.1 is here, let's look at the major changes. Rest assured that there are many smaller ones that we lack the space to cover here, which we'll write more about in future issues.
Spit and Polish, Quickly -- The worst problem suffered by Mac OS X 10.0 was performance. Throwing lots of RAM and processor power (particularly a PowerPC G4 with the Velocity Engine coprocessor) at the problem helped, but PowerPC G3-based Macs, and particularly those on the lower end of the RAM scale, were unacceptably slow. My 250 MHz PowerBook G3 Series with 160 MB of RAM couldn't even restart in Mac OS X 10.0 without timing out.
Mac OS X 10.1 reduces or eliminates performance problems across the board. The most notable improvement comes in the previously dismal performance when launching applications. Wags immediately coined the term "bouncemarks" - the number of times an application's icon bounced in the Dock - as a measure of launch speed. On my 500 MHz iBook (Dual USB) with 320 MB of RAM, I checked Internet Explorer 5.1 and System Preferences before and after installing 10.1, and both were significantly faster (though, to be fair, it's entirely likely that Internet Explorer's improvement was due to its own changes, not Mac OS X 10.1's). Applications launch more quickly after having been run once (presumably due to resources being cached or more easily located), and in my tests Internet Explorer initially took 15 bounces on the first launch, and 10 on subsequent launches. In Mac OS X 10.1, Internet Explorer took only 6 bounces on the first launch and 2 on subsequent ones. System Preferences went from 6 and 5 bounces (first/subsequent) to 4 and 2 bounces under 10.1. Unfortunately, I didn't think to test more applications before upgrading, but I can say with assurance under 10.1 that application launch time is no longer a major issue.
Many other common actions, such as moving windows, resizing windows, navigating through menus, dragging icons, and so on also feel more responsive, although it's difficult to quantify the difference. Most Mac OS X users won't see the interface speed demonstrated during Steve Jobs's keynote at Macworld Expo in New York in July - that was a demo and while not necessarily rigged, certainly wasn't representative across the board. Part of the problem is that even Mac OS X 10.1 isn't as snappy as Mac OS 9 for these actions. It almost can't be, since Mac OS 9 uses performance-enhancing tricks like resizing only the outline of a window, rather than the window itself, as happens in Mac OS X. Using Thousands of colors rather than Millions in Mac OS X's Display preference panel seems to help a little by reducing the amount of data Mac OS X has to manipulate to resize a window or drop a translucent menu.
Apple also introduced a new minimizing effect called Scale - it's perceptually faster than the old Genie effect, though the actual difference is probably only about half of a second. I've not noticed any benefit here, in part because the concept of minimizing windows to the Dock remains foreign to me - I prefer leaving application windows visible so I can use them as large buttons for application switching (which still annoys me in 10.1, since switching to an application with multiple windows by clicking a window reveals only the clicked window and no others, whereas clicking the application's icon on the Dock brings all of that application's windows to the front). Other perceptual niceties - like the zoom rectangles that accompanied application launches in Mac OS 9 - are still missing.
Finally, Apple claims that OpenGL is 20 percent faster in 10.1 and has native support for the Nvidia GeForce 3 video card, thus improving 3D rendering speed. This improvement should help performance of certain games significantly.
The only notable place I noticed no speed improvement was in starting Classic - it took 90 seconds the first time and 60 seconds on subsequent launches both before and after upgrading to 10.1. Other reports seem to contradict my experience, though. I didn't use applications under Classic sufficiently in 10.0 to have noticed whether or not they're faster under 10.1, although again, some reports indicate that Classic performance has improved, particularly on slower machines.
No Longer MIA -- Apple has been adding major missing features to Mac OS X - like CD burning in iTunes - throughout the four minimal updates to 10.0, but 10.1 offers a few more features to which Mac OS 9 users have become accustomed. Most notable is DVD playback, for all those people watching movies on their PowerBooks and iBooks on long flights (though DVD Player 3.0 works only on Macs with built-in DVD-ROM drives and AGP graphics, and doesn't yet support watching DVD movies on a PowerBook or iBook connected to a television or external monitor). DVD Player 3.0 sports a new and better interface, and shows off Mac OS X's multitasking capabilities; a friend with a PowerBook G4 Titanium played a DVD in DVD Player, played some MP3s in iTunes, and checked email, all at the same time without any hiccups. DVD authoring will also come to Mac OS X in 10.1 with the release of iDVD 2, available soon, and only for Mac OS X 10.1. And for those who have become fond of burning data CDs on their desktops, Mac OS X 10.1 now offers the capability to burn data CD-ROMs from the Finder. If you do so often, you can even add a Burn button to your toolbar in Finder windows.
Networking has also been enhanced with the addition of a version of the AirPort Admin Utility for Mac OS X, so you can now manage AirPort Base Stations without having to reboot back to Mac OS 9 (although Mac OS X still lacks Mac OS 9's extremely handy Software Base Station capability). Plus, Mac OS X 10.1 can now connect to AFP (Apple File Protocol) servers over AppleTalk as well as TCP/IP, which makes it easier for a Mac running Mac OS X to coexist on legacy networks with older AppleTalk-based AppleShare servers. New in the Mac OS in general is a built-in SMB (Server Message Block) client that enables Mac OS X to connect to SMB-based Windows and Unix file servers (though doing so requires you to type an SMB URL in the Connect to Server dialog box; see Apple's Knowledge Base for full instructions). In Mac OS 9, a utility like Dave from Thursby Systems or DoubleTalk from Connectix was necessary to access SMB servers, and if Apple's implementation doesn't become easier to use, there will still be a market for Dave and DoubleTalk.
Apple also beefed up support for printers in Mac OS X 10.1, such that it boasts over 200 PostScript printer description files for printers from Hewlett-Packard, Lexmark, and Xerox. Also supposedly improved is support for USB printers (although my Epson Stylus Photo 860 merely shows up as an unsupported printer when I plug in it).
AppleScript support has improved significantly, with additional scripting support in the Finder, plus scripting support within many of the operating system's standard components, like Print Center, Internet Connect, and Terminal. More impressive are the many bundled AppleScript scripts, some of which are useful examples (such as one that queries an Internet site for stock quotes or current temperatures via Mac OS X's new Web Services XML communication capabilities) and others of which actually provide missing functionality (a Switch to Finder script works like the Application menu's Hide Others command in Mac OS 9's Finder). Check them out in the Scripts folder in the Library folder. Even more scripts with useful tweaks to the Finder (such as opening a pair of Finder windows positioned for easy copying of items from one to the other) are available online from Apple. Promised on Apple's Mac OS X Web pages, but not yet available, is AppleScript Studio, which purports to let scripters create application interfaces with AppleScript. Although I've never found AppleScript as simple as HyperTalk (the language built into Apple's long-suffering HyperCard), I suspect the lack of built-in interface tools has been equally as daunting for many of those who appreciated HyperCard's capabilities for building stand-alone custom applications.
Last but not least, Apple has bundled the final release of Microsoft's Internet Explorer 5.1 browser, which differs primarily from the 5.0 version of Mac OS 9 in its support for Java 2 and the addition of several useful interface touches controlled from the Interface Extras panel of Internet Explorer's Preferences dialog box. It's difficult to see how much better Java 2 support really is - I found some Java applets that worked right and others that didn't, and I wasn't able to figure out how to evaluate any real world Java performance improvements.
Smoother Aqua Sailing -- With Mac OS X 10.1, Apple has listened to the user feedback many of you have sent in about the new Aqua interface, and although Mac OS X's Aqua interface has by no means reached the maturity level of Mac OS 9 yet, it has definitely improved. Do keep sending in your feedback - it's clearly having an effect.
Having longer file names in Mac OS X was generally considered a step up from the previous limit of 31 characters, but Mac OS X 10.0 removed characters from the middle of the filename when it was too long to display, making it near impossible to differentiate between some similarly named files. Apple addressed this limitation in 10.1 by letting file names wrap to two lines in icon view and by making the columns resizable in Finder windows using the Column view. Drag the resize thumb at the bottom of a column to resize all columns equally; Option-drag a resize thumb to resize only that column.
Files in Mac OS X often have extensions, thanks to the operating system's Unix heritage. Although the classic Mac OS's more modern file type and creator information is still used (and used preferentially over extensions, if it's present), extensions are unlikely to go away. In 10.1, Apple hides filename extensions by default and has added an option to the Finder Preferences (look in the Finder's Finder menu) to show them on a system-wide basis.
Unfortunately, it's not that simple, and in the process, Apple has created a thoroughly confusing morass. Individual files can override the system-wide setting for showing extensions (check the Name & Extension panel of the Get Info window), but the rules for why any given file will ignore the system-wide setting remain inexplicable. For instance, if you create a file in TextEdit while the "Always show file extensions" setting is on in the Finder, that file will always display its extension, even if you later change the system-wide setting. And some filename extensions, like .html, are always set to display unless you specifically change them in the Get Info window. Apple tries to avoid some obvious problems, so if you change a file's extension while "Always show file extensions" is on, you're asked if you know what you're doing, since the change could make the file open in an application that can't read it. The entire system needs revamping - requiring arbitrary filename extensions is both poor user interface and design laziness. Apple's limp defenses of "that's how other operating systems do it" and "it's easier for Mac users to share files across platforms" are just weak - documents are created in applications, and if those applications are used across platforms, they can shoulder the burden of encouraging users to add filename extensions upon saving, as Microsoft has done well with the Microsoft Office suite.
The Dock, though essentially unchanged, has one extremely welcome new feature - you can position it on the right or left edges of the screen as well as the bottom, where it tends to obscure window scroll arrows and resize boxes. Applications can now display custom menus from their Dock icons, and when an application needs attention, its application jumps in the Dock like a kid in class begging to be called on. Apple also reduced Dock clutter by moving Dock extras to the menu bar, just to the left of the clock. Controls for switching between monitor resolutions, seeing modem status, adjusting volume, showing battery status, and switching between AirPort networks can all now appear in the menu bar (check their related System Preferences panels for controls to toggle the menu bar display). Although the Dock desperately needed to save the space wasted on Dock extras, I fear the menu bar will soon become overloaded, particularly if other developers start to put their icons up there too. One criticism - though much of Mac OS X's interface is highly attractive, the almost-crude and primarily monochrome menu bar icons seem as graphically out of place as the disclosure triangles in the Finder's List view.
Speaking of System Preferences, in Mac OS X 10.1 Apple reorganized the window by function, grouping the different preference panels by Personal, Hardware, Internet & Network, and System. The categorization improves the cluttered feel from previous versions, although it seems a bit arbitrary, and as with the menu bar icons, I fear it won't scale well if developers are allowed to add their own preference panels.
Several new preference panels have appeared, including Desktop (where you set the desktop picture), and General, which bundles together options for appearance, highlight color, scroll arrows (missing is my favorite approach - double scroll arrows at the top and bottom of the scroll bar), scroll action, recent items, and text smoothing. I've always turned off text smoothing in Mac OS 9 for fonts under 18 point, since the hand-tuned fonts display better than the machine rendered anti-aliasing to my eyes. But Mac OS X apparently lacks hand-tuned fonts, since the system font characters and character spacing are terrible without anti-aliasing turned on in Mac OS X, especially at small sizes.
Many of the existing preference panels have changed as well. The Keyboard preference panel still lacks support for customizing function keys, as in Mac OS 9, but Apple has brought back the Sticky Keys and Mouse Keys components of Universal Access, a welcome change for those with certain disabilities or who prefer to avoid the mouse entirely (see "Accessibility on the Mac: Access Solutions" in TidBITS-569). The Network preference panel renamed the Advanced panel to Active Network Ports, which is good, since "Advanced" doesn't tell you anything about what's in there (I once spent quite some time troubleshooting network problems that were related to the order of the active network ports). The Energy Saver preference panel now lets you display the battery status in the menu bar, but otherwise remains far less flexible than the Mac OS 9 version, and some initial reports claim that 10.1 once again sucks battery power in laptops unnecessarily. In the Sharing preference panel, you can now allow other users to send Apple events to your computer for controlling local applications, but on the downside, Web Sharing appears to be broken in 10.1 for many people, myself included, and never gets past the startup up phase.
There are certainly more small changes in Mac OS X 10.1 that may make the difference for you between upgrading from Mac OS 9 and not, but those will have to wait for another article. However, the question of whether or not to upgrade is up next.
Article 12 of 13 in series
The real question I'm sure many of you are asking at this point is if Mac OS X 10.1 is good enough to entice those who haven't yet set themselves up to be Apple's guinea pigsShow full article
The real question I'm sure many of you are asking at this point is if Mac OS X 10.1 is good enough to entice those who haven't yet set themselves up to be Apple's guinea pigs. Let me table the answer to that question briefly first and address the guinea pigs.
Run, don't walk, to your local Apple dealer and get a copy of Mac OS X 10.1 via the Instant Up-To-Date program (and if that's not possible, send in your $20 for the full Mac OS Up-To-Date upgrade, especially if you need the updated developer tools). The closest I've found to a reason not to upgrade instantly is that the current beta release of Retrospect Client for Mac OS X from Dantz Development can't do a full system restore in 10.1, although Dantz's testing indicates that restoring user-created documents should work. If you're doing real work on Mac OS X and relying on the Retrospect Client beta, I'd recommend extra caution. Otherwise though, 10.1 is better than 10.0 in every way I can see, and if it hasn't yet sanded down every rough edge, well, Apple developers are only human too.
Now, for you fence-sitters: I think Apple has done their job in getting Mac OS X ready for prime time with this release, so now the question of whether to make the switch comes down to other variables.
Does Mac OS X actually offer you anything useful? If you're happy with your existing setup and you don't feel the need to start moving toward the future at the moment, there's no shame in sticking with what you're using now. At the same time, Mac OS X 10.1 is good enough that I'm starting to feel excitement - rather than constant irritation - when I play with it on my iBook.
Have the applications you need to use been carbonized, and if not, are the existing versions sufficiently functional under Classic? Here the responsibility falls at least in part to Macintosh developers (there are still problems that only Apple can resolve that may hamper developers). If the applications you need are not ready now, check again at Macworld San Francisco in January of 2002.
Would switching to Mac OS X mean the loss of any necessary peripherals? You can always boot back into Mac OS 9, but that shouldn't be necessary for a device you need to use regularly. Driver support for new peripherals should continue to improve, although I wouldn't put money on particularly elderly peripherals, especially those accessed through USB converters, being supported.
Are you willing to invest the time in learning and configuring an entirely new operating system, complete with a whole new set of quirks and foibles? It takes time to read the mailing lists for configuration tips and to hunt down the shareware utilities that eliminate interface irritations. But there's an undeniable satisfaction in getting a system just right, and doing that in the classic Mac OS hasn't been particularly challenging for some time.
Whatever you decide, rest assured that Apple is serious about improving Mac OS X and standardizing on it at some point in the future. This new version shows what Apple can do, and I have increasingly high hopes that future versions will finish playing catch-up with Mac OS 9 and start forging new ground.
Article 13 of 13 in series
by Jeff Carlson
As I continue to play with Mac OS X 10.1, I'm realizing something unexpected: it's actually kind of fun to explore and poke at this new environment. I've used previous versions of Mac OS X off and on, but like many people I was waiting for 10.1 to sink my teeth (and time) into the new operating systemShow full article
As I continue to play with Mac OS X 10.1, I'm realizing something unexpected: it's actually kind of fun to explore and poke at this new environment. I've used previous versions of Mac OS X off and on, but like many people I was waiting for 10.1 to sink my teeth (and time) into the new operating system. What follows is a collection of things - initial reactions, discoveries, or just features we think deserve more attention - gathered by the TidBITS staff and extended TidBITS community.
Before we go further though, a few quick corrections to last week's article. First, zoom rectangles are present when launching applications and opening documents in Mac OS X 10.1, though not when opening folders, as is true in Mac OS 9. We'll clean our screens better next time. Also, the online version of the Developer Tools CD is only 187 MB, not the massive 550 MB we'd heard previously. Plus, several people on TidBITS Talk have debated our assertion that file extensions were the result of Mac OS X's Unix heritage, though Apple's decision to put such emphasis on file extensions has come under almost universal derision. Worth a read, along with the many other discussions of Mac OS X 10.1.
One last thing - for those who have found that Web Sharing breaks under 10.1, it's because Apple added a module to Mac OS X's Apache configuration in the Web Sharing Update that preceded Mac OS X 10.1's release, but in the release itself, changed the name by which they reference the module in Apache's settings file. Unfortunately, Apple forgot to change the name of the module itself, causing a mismatch. Stepwise.com has posted a line of Unix commands that you can paste into the Terminal to fix the problem.
More Power to the Portables -- As a PowerBook G4 owner, I've noticed a few welcome improvements in Mac OS X 10.1. The keyboard commands for changing screen brightness and sound volume now work, even elegantly: the large indicators that appear on screen are obvious but not intrusive, and fade away when you're finished. (Earlier iBooks still have some problems, though; Apple's Knowledge Base articles have more information.)
Another helpful addition is found in the Mouse preference panel, under the Trackpad tab. Enable the option labeled Ignore Trackpad while typing if you often accidentally touch the trackpad while typing, which positions the cursor somewhere else in your document or email message.
Some portable areas still need improvement. Battery usage is still nowhere near as efficient as when running under Mac OS 9. The battery on my machine needs to be recharged about an hour earlier than when I'm running Mac OS 9; you may still want to avoid Mac OS X on long flights if you don't have a spare battery. And I've read reports that leaving a portable in sleep mode overnight without a charger results in a drained battery in the morning. iBook (Dual USB) owners have also complained about continually ejecting the optical drive tray by accidentally pressing the F12/Eject key while aiming for Delete - something that was easily mapped out in Mac OS 9's Keyboard control panel.
My main gripe, however, is the inability to switch between the built-in LCD screen and an external monitor without shutting down. I typically use the PowerBook on its own at the office, put it to sleep during my commute, and connect it to my Apple Studio Display at home. This wasn't possible at all under Mac OS X 10.0, and it's a tease in 10.1, briefly waking up to display the desktop before snoozing off again. The consequences were worse going the other direction: after disconnecting the monitor, I accidentally woke the PowerBook, which didn't activate the backlight. Restarting the machine gave me a very dim screen, and only zapping the PRAM and booting into Mac OS 9 solved the problem. For the time being, I drop back into Mac OS 9 before going to bed, so Retrospect on my Power Mac 7600 can back up my data during the night, and switch back into Mac OS X when I reach the office (waiting for Classic to load is a great excuse to go make coffee).
The Keys to the Kingdom -- Adam mentioned last week that Apple has reintroduced the Sticky Keys and Mouse Keys components of Universal Access, which is especially significant for disabled users (also see Joe Clark's "Accessibility on the Mac" series of articles beginning in TidBITS-568). However, there's still no equivalent to Apple's old utility CloseView, which magnifies areas of the screen for the visually impaired.
Another addition that some users will appreciate is the capability to assign shortcuts to control certain interface elements from the keyboard, including the menu bar, Dock, toolbars, and palettes. For this functionality, turn on Full Keyboard Access in the Keyboard preference panel. It also offers the capability to tab to any control in a window, including radio buttons, pop-up menus, and tabs. Mac OS X previously seemed too mouse-intensive, so this level of keyboard control is a smart addition.
Apple has also reinstated screenshot hot keys: Command-Shift-3 takes a picture of the entire screen, and Command-Shift-4 gives you a selection cursor and takes a picture of the selection. Screenshots are still named "Picture 1," with incrementing numbers, and are stored on the desktop (which is the desktop for the current user); screenshots taken in Classic applications, though, are stored at the top level of the hard disk or partition where your Classic system resides. Add the Control key to either keyboard combination to copy the screen or selection to the clipboard instead of sending it to a file. There's no way to restrict the selection to the active window automatically, as in Mac OS 9; for that (and all the other features anyone serious about screenshots needs), you'll need a utility like Ambrosia's Snapz Pro X.
General System Stuff -- Mac OS X 10.1 is a big update in terms of size as well as importance. Steve Jobs has said that people will be discovering new things long after they've installed the software, and I believe him based on the following miscellaneous changes.
People who deal with more than one language on a regular basis will notice that Mac OS X 10.1 increases support for other languages, adding Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Slovak, Bulgarian, Russian, Ukrainian, Icelandic, and Turkish. Typing text in Chinese and Korean requires a localized version of Mac OS X (text in those languages can be read, however). Tom Gewecke <firstname.lastname@example.org>, who has written about using other languages on the Mac (see "Unleashing Your Multilingual Mac" in TidBITS-557), points out that the Thai keyboard present in Mac OS X 10.0 seems to have disappeared, and there's no word on when Indic, Hebrew, and Arabic (which are available in Mac OS 9) might appear.
When Apple brought back Apple menu functionality in Mac OS X, it reinstated the capability to access recent applications and documents. However, it was limited to displaying only five of each, which bordered on useless. Now, the General preference panel includes pop-up menus to specify a number of items to show, ranging between 5 and 50.
Copying files picks up a feature more familiar to Windows users. Instead of dragging files to a new location to copy them, you can select one or more files, choose Copy (Command-C) from the Edit menu, navigate to the new location, and choose Paste (Command-V) from the Edit menu to complete the copy action. Note that this feature only copies files - there's no way to use it to move files, which limits its utility. The feature is welcome for those of us who aren't quite accustomed to the way Finder windows operate or who find them clumsier than in Mac OS 9, where dragging from one window to another wasn't difficult. Although I know I can make folders always open in new windows as they do in Mac OS 9 (you'll find this option in the Finder's preferences, and if you want to do it only occasionally, try Command-double-clicking the folder icon), I want to give the new style of using just one window a chance to prove itself. So, copying a file or folder, then navigating to a new location and pasting the files is a quick and easy alternative.
And speaking of the Finder, the visual geek in me is happy that I can now change my hard disk icons, which previously displayed pictures of metallic hard drives (objects most users have never even seen). Use the Finder's Show Info command to copy and paste icons. Web sites such as the Iconfactory and xicons.com are regularly adding new icon sets that you can download.
I'm also extremely pleased to report that Finder windows set to display in List view now remember column widths. Plus, a few controls that should have appeared in the first releases of Mac OS X are now present, including a Set Time Now button in the Network Time tab of the Date & Time preference panel, and a checkbox toggling the Empty Trash warning located in the Finder's preferences (although the Empty Trash warning doesn't give you any details of how much will be deleted, as did the version in Mac OS 9 - even using Show Info on the Trash doesn't reveal this information).
Apple updated more than just the operating system, of course, as pointed out by TidBITS reader Tomoharu Nishino <email@example.com>, who discovered the capability to encrypt disk images using AES encryption in the Disk Copy utility. AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) is the proposed successor to the U.S. government-approved DES (Data Encryption Standard). "One thing I miss dearly is PGPdisk, which I use to carry around sensitive data. It looks like Disk Copy will tide me over until the PGP suite of tools becomes available for Mac OS X." Nishino also points out that Palm synchronization under Classic is working again, an interim solution until Palm releases a Mac OS X version of Palm Desktop by the end of the year.
Internet Explorer 5.1 -- Adam mentioned last week that Internet Explorer 5.1 is now more responsive under Mac OS X 10.1, but Microsoft also added a few goodies to its browser. Check Internet Explorer's Preferences window for the new Interface Extras pane, which gives you three new options.
You can decide if the first click in the Address field should select the entire URL (useful for copying URLs) or place the insertion point where the click was (useful for editing URLs).
When another application asks Internet Explorer to visit a page, you can now choose whether Internet Explorer should reuse the front browser window or open a new one. I generally prefer opening multiple windows, since I often read numerous related pages at the same time, switching back and forth to compare information.
When new browser windows open, you can choose whether they should start with all of Internet Explorer's many toolbars expanded or use the state of the current default window.
As a last tip, there's a new hidden feature in Internet Explorer 5.1 that's ideal for anyone on a slow Internet connection. You've long been able to Command-click a link to open it in a new window. Now you can Command-Shift-click links to open them in new windows behind the current one. That way they load in the background while you continue reading the frontmost page - it's a great feature.
Bold Explorations -- Perhaps the most telling reason why Mac OS X 10.1 will start to make inroads into the Macintosh mainstream is that exploring this new version often results in useful little discoveries. All too frequently in previous versions of Mac OS X, explorations were simply met with failure - all you found was a lack of interface functionality, a lack of flexibility, and an almost complete lack of customizability, all viewed through a lens of poor performance. We're clearly still in the phase of adding back to Mac OS X the features that set Mac OS 9 apart from the madding crowd, but we're within sight of being able to add innovative features.