Compare More Easily in Apple Mail
In Apple Mail, if you need to work back and forth between two different views of Mail's mailbox contents, you can do so quite easily. For example, you might want to look at a mailbox holding all filtered-in sales orders from the past week while also looking at a smart mailbox showing unanswered customer questions.
To avoid constantly clicking between mailbox views and losing your context each time, choose File > New Viewer window to get a second window and then arrange each window as desired.
Series: Tiger! Tiger! Burning Bright
Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" is out: here's what's new, what's hot, and what's... big and toothsome.
Article 1 of 13 in series
by Joe Kissell
The first time I installed a pre-release version of Tiger, I was worried. Unlike most people, who may be concerned about whether or not their machine will work properly afterward, I had an entirely different worry: who would need my ebook about upgrading if the process works this well? Apple clearly paid a great deal of attention to the installer, which is far better in Tiger than in any previous version of Mac OS XShow full article
The first time I installed a pre-release version of Tiger, I was worried. Unlike most people, who may be concerned about whether or not their machine will work properly afterward, I had an entirely different worry: who would need my ebook about upgrading if the process works this well? Apple clearly paid a great deal of attention to the installer, which is far better in Tiger than in any previous version of Mac OS X. As a user, I was ecstatic; as an author, not so much.
Now, some 43 installations later (and counting), both my enthusiasm and my anxiety have diminished somewhat. I've gotten to know the installer and its trusty sidekick, Setup Assistant, rather intimately. Although the Tiger installation process was full of pleasant surprises, I'm happy - I mean, sorry - to report that there are still plenty of interesting quirks and questions that may encourage you to spend $5 for some expert guidance in the form of my new ebook, "Take Control of Upgrading to Tiger."
Tiger Media -- The first surprise is, as Adam noted in his article, that Tiger ships only on DVD. To obtain a CD-based installer, you must return your Tiger DVD to Apple, along with $10, and wait for another package in the mail. I like the simplicity of a single disc that includes the entire installer (and Xcode Tools); it makes the installation go much faster and reduces clutter and confusion. But if you have an otherwise Tiger- compatible machine without a DVD reader, you may not feel as happy about that decision.
Installation Methods -- Assuming you're upgrading an existing installation of Mac OS X, the Installer, as usual, presents you with three installation methods: Upgrade, Archive and Install, and Erase and Install. I tried each of these methods numerous times and under a variety of conditions. Although the default choice, Upgrade, is generally reliable, you can achieve a much cleaner (and slimmer) system with one of the other methods. In the past, I've recommended Archive and Install for most people, as it provides a happy medium between the simplicity of Upgrade and the robustness of Erase and Install. I assumed I'd be reiterating the same advice this time (as numerous other Mac Web sites have done). Not so: much to my surprise, I found that Erase and Install - if used in just the right way - offers a significantly faster, more effective, and safer way to get your old stuff into your new system as long as you have good backups. I urge everyone to have at least one, if not two, backups before erasing your hard disk; if you're uncertain of the best ways to make reliable backups, see my "Take Control of Mac OS Backups" ebook.
The key to this new way of thinking is Migration Assistant (the same tool that Apple provides to facilitate moving files from an old Mac to a new one). You don't have to run this program separately; all its capabilities are integrated into Setup Assistant under the auspices of "File Transfer." After you perform an Erase and Install and restart, Setup Assistant offers to transfer your files and settings from another Mac or partition. As long as you have a bootable backup of your old system on another partition - or, preferably, a second internal or external hard disk - Migration Assistant does a brilliant job of integrating your old files into Tiger. It does not do a perfect job - some manual copying or reinstallations will still be necessary - but the amount of extra work you'll need to do is far smaller, and less scary, than what would be required after an Archive and Install. I cover all the details of restoring files (for both methods) in "Take Control of Upgrading to Tiger."
Optional Software -- During installation, you can select or deselect several optional software packages. I found Apple's default choices rather odd. For example, language translations, which take up over 1 GB, are all enabled by default - yet relatively few people need to be able to use Mac OS X in more than one language, and almost no one needs to be able to use it in every available language. Overall, there are fewer options to choose among than under Panther. You cannot, for instance, deselect the BSD Subsystem, as you could in earlier versions of Mac OS X (a good thing, as many third-party applications rely on it).
After the Installation -- After installation, Setup Assistant takes you through the usual process of selecting a user name and password (if necessary), configuring your .Mac account (if you have one), registering with Apple, and so on. This portion of the process seemed much clearer than in the past. On your next restart, however, you may discover that important startup items were disabled due to changes in file permission requirements. A more helpful approach would have been to fix these items' settings automatically, or at least indicate on the first launch of Tiger that they are unavailable and why they were disabled.
Minor Shortcomings -- As much improved as the Tiger installer is, I could certainly wish for more-intelligent behavior. For example, both Upgrade and Erase and Install (if followed by File Transfer) leave all your login items (formerly known as startup items) enabled; some of these caused problems for me because they pointed to old applications that are incompatible with Tiger. A better tactic would be for the installer to disable those items - but provide an easy way to turn them back on, one by one. Similarly, File Transfer copies some applications and preference panes to your new system but not the kernel extensions they frequently rely on, leaving you with half-installed software that doesn't work, but no clues as to why it doesn't work. Although the installer helpfully warns you about some of these (Virex, for example), in most cases it does not. And I encountered some interface oddities, especially in the File Transfer portion of Setup Assistant. For instance, it's not clear that "partition" means "partition or external hard disk," and the screen where you choose individual components of your old system to transfer doesn't provide enough information to make informed decisions.
You Can Take Control -- On the whole, the Tiger installer still gives me relatively warm and fuzzy feelings, these few gripes notwithstanding. Even at its best, though, it leaves plenty of questions: What steps should I take to prepare for an upgrade? Which upgrade method is best for me? Should I partition my hard drive first, and if so, how should I do it? What files do I need to copy after Archive and Install? How do I fix the things that don't seem to work afterward? You can find the answers to these and many other questions in "Take Control of Upgrading to Tiger" - an 87-page ebook that details everything you need to know about the upgrade process, with free updates as more information becomes available.
Article 2 of 13 in series
Much will be written about Spotlight, one of Tiger's marquee features that takes system-wide search from a time-consuming annoyance to an efficient part of everyone's workflowShow full article
Much will be written about Spotlight, one of Tiger's marquee features that takes system-wide search from a time-consuming annoyance to an efficient part of everyone's workflow. In fact, Spotlight works so well that the idea of filing email, files, and other data will eventually disappear - but not quite yet.
You'll read a lot about the general features of Spotlight: you can find any text in any file quickly, or use it to pinpoint menu items in System Preferences. I'd like to tell you quickly about how Spotlight works and then delve into areas you probably won't hear as much about elsewhere. I'll conclude with musings on how Spotlight might free us from the tedium of forcing organization on top of what we create.
Spotlight in a Nutshell -- Spotlight's approach is simple: everything is indexed quickly and efficiently in an ongoing manner. Install Tiger and reboot, and the first thing the operating system does is index your hard disk. In multiple test installations, I didn't even notice the indexing taking place, although some users report 50 percent of their processing power devoted to the task. You can't use Spotlight until this initial index is done, but clicking the blue Spotlight icon in the upper right of the system menu bar will reveal how long Tiger thinks it will take to be finished. A pulsating dot in the center of the magnifying glass icon lets you know indexing is taking place.
When it's done, Tiger automatically modifies the index for every changed document and adds every new document to it. This happens quietly as well. Let me restate this in case it didn't sink in: Spotlight doesn't run a full re-index of your hard drive every night requiring you to leave your computer on or causing loud drive access noises in the wee hours. All other overlay indexing programs and previous Apple attempts required that kind of churn.
I haven't stress-tested Tiger yet by, say, using Automator to create 1,000 one-megabyte-sized files of random text, but that would be a good way to see Spotlight's ongoing indexing in action.
By integrating index updates into the operating system at the filesystem level, Tiger avoids patching the system at a low level (always dangerous), the above-mentioned overnight reindexing, and subset indexing that omits potentially useful data.
Apple also seems to have pulled off a neat trick: using some kind of optimized index to produce some results right away, Spotlight searches start running as soon as you start typing. By the time you finish typing, either through predictive word finding or sheer good programming, the search is almost done.
I've found Spotlight incredibly zippy on a 1 GHz 15-inch aluminum PowerBook G4 and a dual 1.25 GHz Power Mac G4. I'll be curious to hear about how it feels on the lowest-end machines that Apple supports.
Spotlight is available at any time from the upper right by clicking its icon, or pressing Command-Space. It also appears in every Finder window by default, and, most critically, within any Open and Save dialog box. No more navigating to find files to open! No more navigating to find the right folder to save! I will still love and cherish Default Folder, but it will be much less important to my future workflow.
Apple has made Spotlight available from the command line, too. The mdls command lets you see the metadata associated with any file. The mdfind command is essentially a Spotlight search.
Narrowing Spotlight Searches -- Spotlight rewards those that need more sophisticated searches by allowing you to refine phrases that constrain date and time, file names, and other metadata. Metadata is data that describes data, like the last modified time, the F-stop of a camera, a QuickTime movie's format or length, or the photographer's name embedded into a TIFF image's header.
Most searches will start with keywords, but you will quickly want to drill into subsets if you have many results. Apple has built a nomenclature for searching that they haven't yet exposed well - the special words that you can use to restrict searches. Unfortunately, these words aren't currently documented anywhere on their site or within Spotlight Help in the release of Tiger.
You can experiment with restrictive phrases. Apple's page on Spotlight suggests that you might add "Date:yesterday" after keywords to find just files created in the last day. If you wanted to find all images created yesterday you could enter "Date:yesterday Kind:image". I expect this nomenclature will be fully documented over time. These restrictive words will be especially useful in Open and Save dialog boxes, where Spotlight could produce daunting results.
The capability to make use of some of the increasingly rich metadata produced by digital media devices is a boon. Imagine finding all pictures you've taken on a particular Canon camera model at a specific resolution. Right now you need to use a cataloging program such as iView Media Pro and keep that catalog constantly up to date.
There's another way to use these restrictive add-ons without knowing Apple's secret narrowing words - via Smart Folders.
Folders as Search Results -- A couple versions of Entourage ago, Microsoft added pseudo-mailboxes that were actually search parameters presented as a mailbox. Unfortunately, for those of us with zillions of messages, a search took an unbelievably long time with the search engine Microsoft used at the time.
Spotlight has taken that concept and extended it to the Desktop in the form of Smart Folders, which are essentially the live results of a set of search parameters you define. Spotlight's performance is good enough that you don't notice the fact that a Smart Folder is populated dynamically.
Along the way, Apple removed Panther's advanced searching from the Finder; selecting Find from the Edit menu effectively creates a new Smart Folder (using the same dialog as the New Smart Folder command) that isn't yet saved. To create a search that narrows down beyond keywords, you either learn the incompletely documented nomenclature described above, or use Smart Folders.
When creating a Smart Folder, the default parameters are Kind: Any, and Last Opened: Any Date. The buttons above the search parameters list Servers, Computer, Home, and Others. If you leave it set to Home, the search is restricted to the current user's Home directory. I prefer setting it to Computer to take full advantage of Spotlight's capabilities, and because I keep documents and other files stored throughout my hard drive, not just in my Home directory as Apple would prefer. (Click Others to add or remove specific folders or hard drives.)
You can create a Smart Folder, too, in any Finder window by typing a search in the Spotlight field. That Smart Folder doesn't show the default scope of Kind and Last Opened, but you can click the plus sign at the upper right next to the Save button to add bounds.
Smart Folders let you mix the contents of the Spotlight field, in which you might enter keywords, with restricting conditions. Click the plus sign next to any condition to add more. Select the pop-up menu that's the condition's name and you can select one of several favorite conditions, or select Other.
In Other, you will see the full range of predefined metadata that's supported in Spotlight. For instance, select URL and you can choose to find any document that contains that URL. Check the Add to Favorites box and that attribute now shows up in the condition pop-up menu.
I don't want to turn this into 10,000 words on Smart Folders, but there's more: you can show the top 5 or all results for a given document category; sort by date or kind; click the "i" button next to a file to see a summary of its information; view PDFs by a thumbnail of their first page; show images; and so forth.
Rethinking Filing -- Filing is a tedious activity that computers were supposed to save us from, right? That's why I was so excited to see Creo's Six Degrees program a few years ago. Six Degrees integrated with certain email programs under Mac and Windows so that recipients, subject lines (discussion threads), and attachments were the three points of a triangle. You could rotate your email-world around to view it through the window of who you corresponded with, what you talked about, and what files were involved. (The product was sold to Ralston Technology Group and is now marketed as Clarity.)
Spotlight expands that notion far, far beyond those modest but significant goals. Six Degrees was trying to free people from ever having to decide in which mailbox an email message should be stored, and in which folder a file belonged.
I don't think Spotlight yet allows us to break down all barriers and use one giant email folder to store all messages, and one giant Finder folder to store every file we create or receive. But, it is moving us closer to what I think people actually want from their computers: not to spend a good percentage of time categorizing.
Perhaps it will take some time yet, but I perceive the future of information to be much more amorphous. Instead of discrete information chunks, every graphic, letter, report, presentation, movie, or other project piece is just a blob in the middle of some kind of data medium that we navigate through in many different ways: by date, by content, by visual presentation, by keywords, by attributes.
That is, the interface to our data is no longer the worn-out metaphor of files and folders, but a rich interactive approach that mediates between an underlying structure we don't need to understand and our desire to find things by the way we remember them. Say goodbye to descriptive file names, for instance.
I didn't come up with this way of viewing the future of desktop information, nor did Apple. David Gelernter, a Yale University computer science professor, has been talking about this since at least 1991. Although a company he founded to implement these ideas seems to have disappeared, his ideas are well represented in a 2003 interview: read the section on Information Beams.
In that interview, he said, "When I acquire a new piece of 'real-life' (versus electronic) information - a new memory of (let's say) talking to Melissa on a sunny afternoon outside the Red Parrot - I don't have to give this memory a name, or stuff it in a directory. I can use anything in the memory as a retrieval key."
Spotlight is probably the first mainstream operating system or program to take a big step towards Gelernter's humanist view that maps how we think to what we have stored.
Article 3 of 13 in series
by Matt Neuburg
Think of Tiger's new Dashboard feature as a constantly running pseudo-application. It is constantly running in the sense that you cannot quit it; it is a pseudo-application in the sense that it isn't a distinct process (it's really an aspect of the Dock) and in the sense that (like the Dock) it behaves differently from any other application. Dashboard is always in one of two statesShow full article
Think of Tiger's new Dashboard feature as a constantly running pseudo-application. It is constantly running in the sense that you cannot quit it; it is a pseudo-application in the sense that it isn't a distinct process (it's really an aspect of the Dock) and in the sense that (like the Dock) it behaves differently from any other application.
Dashboard is always in one of two states. When it isn't the frontmost application, it is invisible and inert. When it is the frontmost application - you can summon it either by pressing a user-configurable keyboard shortcut (F12 by default) or by clicking its Dock icon - it takes over the entire screen, covering all windows, the Desktop, and the menu bar with a dark haze, rather like London in a Sherlock Holmes episode. Gleaming in front of this haze are some roughly rectangular areas of bright color: these are the Widgets to which Dashboard plays host. All you can do when Dashboard is frontmost is interact with a Widget - look at one, drag one around, click one. All the while, your other applications remain active in the background. When you're done using Dashboard, you click somewhere in the haze, and it and all the Widgets vanish, and you can proceed to use your computer in the normal way.
Your installed Widgets constitute a smorgasbord from which to choose; which ones actually appear when you summon Dashboard is up to you. You click a big "+" at the lower left of the screen to reveal the Widget Bar; it displays icons for all your installed Widgets, and you click or drag an icon to instantiate it in the Dashboard main area. Similarly, when the Widget Bar is showing, Widgets in the main area have an "x" that you can click to dismiss them (and when the Widget Bar is not visible, you can reveal a Widget's "x" by holding the Option key and hovering the mouse pointer over that Widget). It is legal and useful to instantiate a particular Widget more than once. For example, the Clock widget shows a clock set to a specific time zone, so to show the time in, say, both Los Angeles and Indianapolis, you instantiate the Clock widget twice, and set one instance to Pacific Time and the other instance to, uh, whatever weird time zone they think they're in in Indianapolis.
The Dashboard architecture - where either Dashboard is absent and you can't work in it at all, or else it is frontmost and you can't work anywhere else - may seem rather restrictive, especially in comparison to Konfabulator, which permits its Widgets to be interleaved with ordinary application windows. However, it all makes more sense if you think of a Dashboard Widget as something you glance at, or work with for a just a moment, and then dismiss. If you always need to see a clock, use the System Preferences (Date & Time) clock. If you need to glance at a clock now and then and then get back to work, use the Dashboard clock. From this perspective, users may well be pleased that when Dashboard is not frontmost, its widgets occupy no screen real estate (like a window), no Dock slot (like an application), no menu bar space (like a status menu), and no CPU time. On the other hand, the single-layer architecture decidedly favors user with big monitors; my 12-inch iBook feels crowded when just half a dozen Widgets are present.
Article 4 of 13 in series
by Matt Neuburg
The history of the Mac is paved with Apple's attempts to enable ordinary users to tap the programmable power of their own computers. Apple events allowed applications to tell each other what to doShow full article
The history of the Mac is paved with Apple's attempts to enable ordinary users to tap the programmable power of their own computers. Apple events allowed applications to tell each other what to do. AppleScript allowed users to harness Apple events in an English-like programming language. AppleScript Studio allowed an AppleScript script to be wrapped in a Cocoa interface. But the Grail has remained elusive. The vast majority of users don't want to deal with a programming language. Pre-written scripts exist, but what if you don't know that, or can't find one that does what you want? The problem is that it's impossible to know in advance what you, the user, would like to do - that's the point of putting programming power in your hands in the first place.
The challenge, then, is to provide you with the "building blocks" you need, in such a way that you can assemble them, yourself, to do what you want - without your having to know a scripting language. With Automator, Apple rises to this challenge.
A Piece of the Action -- Automator's "building blocks" are files called Actions. Tiger comes with over 200 Actions pre-installed; they do things such as create an iCal event, compress the images in a PDF, or rename the files in a folder. When you start up Automator, you're shown all the installed Actions; using simple drag-and-drop, you arrange the ones you need into a top-to-bottom sequence called a Workflow. You can then run the Workflow to execute the sequence in order; you can also save the Workflow so that you can conveniently run it again later, send it to your friends, and so forth.
It isn't just the sequential execution of Actions that gives a Workflow its power: an Action may accept input from the previous Action in the sequence, and may produce output which is passed to the next Action in the sequence as its input. Furthermore, an Action can have an interface, where you specify ancillary settings. For instance, in the Action that sets the iTunes volume (loudness), the new volume value comes from a slider in that Action's interface. You can set that slider in advance, as you're creating the sequence within Automator; alternatively, you can postpone the decision and have the slider presented to you in a separate window at the time the Workflow actually runs. In some cases, indeed, an Action's entire purpose is to request input from the user at runtime.
A Workflow thus involves a clever interplay between data flowing from Action to Action, on the one hand, and the user's input, on the other - where the user's input can be provided in advance or as the Workflow runs. Here's an example to illustrate. Suppose I have a folder of 100 images, and I want to rename them Image001, Image002, and so forth. (That's genuinely useful; people frequently ask how to do this sort of thing.) An Automator sequence to accomplish this might go as follows:
Step One: Ask the user where to create a new folder. (The idea is that we're going to copy all the files into this folder before renaming them, just in case something goes wrong.)
Step Two: Ask the user for the source folder that currently contains the image files.
Step Three: Get a list of all the files in that folder. (This step accepts as input the folder from the previous step and produces as output all the files in that folder.)
Step Four: Ask the user where to copy those files to - the user should specify the folder created in Step One - and copy them. (This step accepts as input the list of files from the previous step and produces as output the copied files.)
Step Five: Rename the copied files. (They are the output from the previous step.) The Rename Files Action presents lots of options for how the renaming should work; one of these is a constant prefix (with the user sets as "Image") followed by a sequential suffix with a fixed number of digits (which the user sets as 3, to get suffixes like "001").
Ease of use is a slippery concept, but that sequence really was easy to create. I set it up in Automator spontaneously, without forethought - when I started, I wasn't even sure what I wanted to do, or what Automator would let me do. When I introduced the Rename step, Automator itself suggested I add the Copy step before it, as a safeguard; through warnings of this sort, and by checking to see that one Action's output is legitimate input for the next, Automator assists the naive user.
An Action is a terrific way to package scripting functionality. It takes about two minutes to turn an AppleScript script into an Action. As an AppleScript programmer, I'd much rather send you an Action than a bare script, because you can incorporate it into your own sequences and customize it through its interface without having to know any AppleScript yourself (and without relying on me to modify it for you). It is also possible to write an Action in Objective-C. Furthermore, an application bundle can contain Actions, which automatically make themselves available to Automator without further installation; thus, for example, by simply running BBEdit 8.2 (a free update for BBEdit 8 customers), you'll see two dozen text-processing BBEdit Actions magically appear in Automator.
Given all this, I expect to see a spate of further Actions in the near future - big developers will bundle them into their applications, scripters will use them to repackage their existing scripts. As that happens, end-users, I suspect, will quickly discover that Automator is the fulfillment of a dream: at long last, anyone can program the Mac.
Article 5 of 13 in series
by Jeff Carlson
Apple Releases iTunes 4.8 -- Apple today released iTunes 4.8, a free download with minimal documentation. According to the ReadMe file, "iTunes 4.8 includes new Music Store features and support for transferring contacts and calendars from your computer to your iPod," noting that the latter feature requires Mac OS X 10.4 TigerShow full article
Apple Releases iTunes 4.8 -- Apple today released iTunes 4.8, a free download with minimal documentation. According to the ReadMe file, "iTunes 4.8 includes new Music Store features and support for transferring contacts and calendars from your computer to your iPod," noting that the latter feature requires Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. Poking around a bit reveals that Apple is incorporating video into iTunes; you can drag a QuickTime movie to the Library, where it appears with a small gray videocamera icon. Playing the movie displays it in the little Now Playing box (where album covers appear); clicking the movie opens it in a separate window, and clicking a new Show Video Full Screen button presents the movie full screen (although the full-screen option doesn't work for videos or movie trailers downloaded from the iTunes Music Store.) A new preference also controls the default window setting for video playback. As of this writing, the update was available only as a stand-alone download, but I'm guessing it will appear via Software Update soon. The iTunes 4.8 installer is an 11 MB download. [JLC]
Article 6 of 13 in series
by Jeff Carlson
Last year I "attended" a briefing with a few Apple representatives while sitting in my office chair in Seattle. They were in Cupertino, and thanks to the video chat capabilities of iChat AV, we had a face-to-face conversationShow full article
Last year I "attended" a briefing with a few Apple representatives while sitting in my office chair in Seattle. They were in Cupertino, and thanks to the video chat capabilities of iChat AV, we had a face-to-face conversation. But since there were three of them, they had to crowd into the frame by sitting behind each other so that I could see them all.
If we have a similar briefing now, I'll have a much clearer picture of each person. iChat AV 3.0, included in Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, can now handle video chats of up to four people (you and three others), with potentially better image quality than before. This capability comes with a price, however, as some Macs aren't capable of participating.
Multi-Person Chats -- The multi-person video chat is one of the snazziest-looking new features of Tiger, which is why Apple has included screenshots of it in action on most of the company's advertisements I've seen. When two people are chatting, iChat AV 3.0 uses the same appearance as in iChat AV under Panther: you appear in a small corner window, and the other person occupies the rest of the window.
But as soon as you add a third person, your participants appear on planes angled in 3D, as if you had set up two LCD screens. (The Audio and Video status buttons in iChat's Buddy List show up as stacked icons to indicate that a person is running iChat AV 3.0 and is capable of multi-person chats.) A fourth person added appears on a similar plane, but facing straight-on. The idea is that you're all sitting around a conference table, and Apple enhances the illusion by providing surface reflections below each person's plane; I have to admit that I spent most of my first multi-person video chats staring at the reflections, which update in real time.
Unlike the previous version, not just anyone can start a multi-person video chat. The originating computer performs much of the video encoding and audio-video synchronization, leading to stringent hardware requirements: a Mac with at least dual 1 GHz PowerPC G4 processors, or one with a PowerPC G5 CPU, along with 384 Kbps of Internet bandwidth. Unfortunately, that rules out Apple's entire laptop line as video chat initiators.
Participation in a multi-person video chat is less demanding: you need at least a 1 GHz PowerPC G4 or a dual 800 MHz PowerPC G4-based Power Mac - along with 100 Kbps of Internet bandwidth. iChat AV also supports video chat with Windows users running the latest version of AIM (AOL Instant Messenger), but only one to one, not for multi-person chats.
As advertised by Apple, the video quality is improved due to iChat's use of the H.264 video codec, but the quality also depends on the connection and the hardware involved. Slower connections appear blurrier than faster ones; that isn't necessarily a bad thing, as iChat is sacrificing fine detail in favor of more fluid motion (see the image at the second URL above for an example).
iChat AV 3.0 also features audio chats of up to 10 people, which doesn't carry the same hardware and connection demands. Hosting a 10-person conference requires a Mac running a 1 GHz G4, dual 800 MHz G4, or G5 processor and a 128 Kbps Internet connection. Participation in an audio chat needs any G3, G4, or G5 processor and a 56 Kbps connection.
Miscellaneous Changes -- The multi-person chats are the star attractions, but iChat AV 3.0 includes a number of other noticeable changes. It's easier to switch among several iChat or AIM accounts using a new Switch To item under the iChat menu. You can set a profile that describes you when other people view your information from their Buddy Lists by choosing Change My Profile from the Buddies menu; previously, you had to launch the AIM application to edit this field.
Speaking of switching, iChat includes a preference that dictates what the program should do when you use Fast User Switching to go to another user, either to log out of iChat (the old method), or to change your status to Away. If you are away, and someone chats you up anyway, you can set iChat to fire back with a reply (either your custom status message or "Auto-reply: I am away from my computer" if set to the default Away status).
The Groups feature is also improved, with a more comprehensible interface. I never bothered with groups before, but now I can arrange my buddies according to affiliations (such as a TidBITS group), which appear under banner headings in the Buddy List.
For companies looking to secure their instant message traffic, iChat AV 3.0 now supports Jabber, which can encrypt messages. You can sign onto existing Jabber servers, or use the Jabber-based iChat Server included with Mac OS X 10.4 Server.
Apple also incorporated a popular third-party feature into iChat. In addition to Available and Away status messages, you can choose to display the title and artist of the song currently playing in iTunes (which I used to use iChat Status for). Clicking an arrow at the right edge of the status message takes you to that song in the iTunes Music Store if you want to sample (or buy) music your friends are playing.
Video Future -- I use iChat every day for text-chatting with friends and colleagues, and only occasionally chatting via audio or video. Although the new multi-person video chatting capability is cool, I'm curious to see how often people end up using it. Still, it does provide an inexpensive, built-in way to participate in video conferences, something that formerly required more expensive, often proprietary services to accomplish.
Article 7 of 13 in series
by Geoff Duncan
Last week, Apple released Mac OS X 10.4.1 Update for the just-released Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" operating system. (And, of course, Apple did so within minutes of our publishing TidBITS-780Show full article
Last week, Apple released Mac OS X 10.4.1 Update for the just-released Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" operating system. (And, of course, Apple did so within minutes of our publishing TidBITS-780. Sigh.) The standalone version of the Mac OS X 10.4.1 Update weighs in at 37 MB, but is somewhat slimmer (19.4 MB) via Software Update.
Mac OS X 10.4.1 Update includes significant enhancements and fixes, although users contemplating the update are strongly encouraged to read Apple's release notes and back up their systems before installing.
Fixes problems moving between access points on the same wireless network (a truly annoying problem recently noted in TidBITS Talk).
Fixes a problem with computers with a long computer name from obtaining a DHCP address via AirPort.
No longer permits files, applications, or Web pages to be opened at the password prompt which appears when a Mac wakes from sleep or stops running a screen saver.
Corrects several editing issues within Apple's Mail application, as well as syncing improvements and potential conflicts with third-party plug-ins for Mail.
iDVD no longer crashes if it is hidden while saving a disk image or burning a DVD; instead, the option to hide the application is disabled.
iSync more reliably connects to .Mac services, and now defaults to merging data on your Mac and a portable device rather than erasing the device by default.
Safari no longer crashes when Control-clicking some graphics or PDFs.
FileVault's secure erase feature states it is "Deleting old Home Folder" when deleting original files, rather than doing a very good impression of a hard crash. (For the record, we still don't advocate using FileVault; see "How FileVault Should Work," in TidBITS-719).
iCal no longer crashes receiving some invitations via Mail, and changes made from Tiger to iCal calendars originally published using Mac OS X 10.3 Panther are now visible if the calendars used long names or special characters.
Improves AFP and SMB/CIFS network services, as well as login issues with Active Directory and LDAP servers.
Provides new ATI and NVIDIA graphics drivers.
Dashboard provides a workaround for the so-called "evil Widget" potential vulnerability, where a malicious Widget could compromise one's computer. Widgets are now no longer considered "safe" files to the rest of the system. However, we still encourage users to uncheck the "Open safe files after downloading" option in Safari preferences. Dashboard also responds better to scroll wheels and trackpad scrolling.
Article 8 of 13 in series
by Jeff Carlson
In a week that saw a spate of Apple updates, the company's largest was Mac OS X 10.4.2, which incorporated a number of fixes to improve reliability and compatibilityShow full article
In a week that saw a spate of Apple updates, the company's largest was Mac OS X 10.4.2, which incorporated a number of fixes to improve reliability and compatibility. As with earlier system updates, several built-in Apple applications were changed or replaced, such as Address Book, iCal, Safari, Mail, Automator, and Stickies. According to Apple's release notes, Core Graphics, Core Audio, and Core Image also gained updates, with updated ATI and Nvidia graphics drivers thrown in.
iChat sees improvements in video performance under certain circumstances, and can be set to log out of one computer automatically if you log in on another. Dashboard also gets a new feature, a Widgets widget that helps you manage your widgets; I know, that sounds like looking at a mirror in a mirror, but it's actually a widget that lets you activate or deactivate installed widgets, and optionally send third-party ones to the Trash. This update also includes a variety of AirPort-related updates, including WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access version 2) support for AirPort Extreme Cards (described elsewhere in this issue).
Mac OS X 10.4.2 is available via Software Update as a 21.5 MB download when upgrading from version 10.4.1, or as a 57.5 MB download for a Combo Update when upgrading from version 10.4.0. You can also download stand-alone installers: a 44 MB update from 10.4.1, or a 58 MB combo update.
Article 9 of 13 in series
by Geoff Duncan
Apple has released Mac OS X 10.4.3, the latest update to its Tiger operating system. Two versions are available: one, the "Delta" update, updates Mac OS X 10.4.2 to 10.4.3, while the other "Combo" update brings either Mac OS X 10.4 or 10.4.1 to version 10.4.3Show full article
Apple has released Mac OS X 10.4.3, the latest update to its Tiger operating system. Two versions are available: one, the "Delta" update, updates Mac OS X 10.4.2 to 10.4.3, while the other "Combo" update brings either Mac OS X 10.4 or 10.4.1 to version 10.4.3. The 10.4.3. update is available for free from Apple either via Software Update or as separate standalone installers: sizes vary depending on computer models and software installed, but range from around 55 MB for the Delta update to 109 MB for the standalone Combo updater.
The Mac OS X 10.4.3 update is a collection of bug fixes and tweaks, rather than new features or capabilities, and the update includes previous security updates Apple has released for all versions of Mac OS X 10.4. According to Apple, the following changes and improvements highlight Mac OS X 10.4.3; the complete release notes are available at the first URL above, Apple's Web page describing the "Delta" update.
Spotlight searches in the Finder should be more responsive (which is welcome; it's difficult to imagine them being less responsive!); Spotlight comments should also be preserved during iDisk synchronization.
Safari should be more compatible with webcams, handle Macromedia Shockwave projects accelerated using OpenGL, and pass the tortuous "Acid 2" CSS rendering test. (Viewing the Acid 2 test's source is recommended for amusement purposes only.)
Disk Utility can (finally!) verify the Mac OS X startup volume. To perform repairs, though, you still need to start up from another Mac OS X disk (such as a spare hard drive or an installation DVD.)
In Mail, Smart Folders which use "entire message contains" and other criteria with the "any" qualifier now work correctly, and Apple has fixed a bug in which some Mail rules could sometimes be lost or duplicated following a .Mac sync. Mail also accepts Smart Groups dragged from the Address Book to a message's recipient fields, and better handles meeting requests sent from Microsoft Outlook to an Exchange account.
iChat supports encrypted chat sessions between .Mac members, and tries to address persistent alerts about insufficient bandwidth and missing data during video chats. Also, users can elect to have emoticons shown as plain text rather than graphics (handy for those of us who occasionally get tripped up when face-like graphics appear in code snippets pasted into iChat sessions).
Hebrew and Arabic text is better handled in both Safari and Mail.
Fixes an issue where Microsoft Word and Excel 2004 stop responding to user input for several seconds at a time.
Items copied to a Drop Box have their permissions set correctly and file permissions inside packages are correctly set when changing permissions to enclosed items via a Finder's Info window.
Improves connecting to and mounting SMB volumes, along with compatibility with Squid proxy servers. The Finder is also better at mounting and accessing MS-DOS volumes, which amusingly includes Apple's iPod shuffle.
The Address Book's URL field now syncs with .Mac, Address Book subgroups can be synced with an iPod via iTunes, and .Mac synchronization errors are better reported in the dotmacsync.log file.
The Apple Wireless keyboard can now be used in single-user mode; also, upper ASCII characters in account passwords no longer potentially prevent login or crash the Mac OS X startup sequence.
Quartz 2D Extreme is completely disabled: it was never a supported feature in Tiger, and re-enabling it may cause redraw issues or system crashes.
Article 10 of 13 in series
by Jeff Carlson
Mac OS X 10.4.4 Released -- Apple pushed out Mac OS X 10.4.4 last week, adding universal binary (for Intel-processor compatibility) components and resolving a number of problems with Safari, iChat, and other system resourcesShow full article
Mac OS X 10.4.4 Released -- Apple pushed out Mac OS X 10.4.4 last week, adding universal binary (for Intel-processor compatibility) components and resolving a number of problems with Safari, iChat, and other system resources. It also adds four new Dashboard widgets: People (for looking up residential phone numbers), Google search, ESPN sports news, and Ski Report. A detailed listing of changes appears at the first link below, but some highlights include: iPhoto can work with RAW files from some newer cameras; an annoying bug that caused the System Keychain to ask for authorization but then not accept what you typed has been fixed; and various stability fixes and security updates are also included. The update installer is available via Software Update or as separate downloads ranging in size from 55 MB for the update from Mac OS X 10.4.3 to 166 MB for the Mac OS X Server 10.4.4 Combo installer. [JLC]
Article 11 of 13 in series
Mac OS X 10.4.5 Fixes Nits -- Apple last week released Mac OS X 10.4.5, a bug-fix update that offers oodles of small changes. Most notable are a fix that prevents Safari from crashing when deleting AOL email messages via AOL webmail, proper functioning of Apple's IPsec VPN client with Cisco servers whether or not NAT (Network Address Translation) is used, a fix for synchronizing with an iDisk larger than 4 GB, and a fix that enables some previously problematic Epson printers to be used successfully via an AirPort Extreme base stationShow full article
Mac OS X 10.4.5 Fixes Nits -- Apple last week released Mac OS X 10.4.5, a bug-fix update that offers oodles of small changes. Most notable are a fix that prevents Safari from crashing when deleting AOL email messages via AOL webmail, proper functioning of Apple's IPsec VPN client with Cisco servers whether or not NAT (Network Address Translation) is used, a fix for synchronizing with an iDisk larger than 4 GB, and a fix that enables some previously problematic Epson printers to be used successfully via an AirPort Extreme base station. A number of changes affect only Intel-based Macs, including two fixes to Rosetta: one that enables applications to open files located via the search field in Open dialogs and another that enables Rosetta-translated applications to receive Keychain notifications correctly. Many of the other changes are cosmetic (Fast User Switching's rotating cube now appears as expected on primary and mirrored displays) or highly specific (the Setup Assistant no longer crashes if Kotoeri is selected as the keyboard type following an English language installation of Mac OS X). Mac OS X 10.4.5 is available as separate delta updates for Mac OS 10.4.4 (16 MB for PowerPC, 98 MB for Intel), and as a 125 MB combo update for PowerPC-based Macs that will update any previous version of Mac OS X 10.4. The delta update via Software Update is only 6.4 MB for PowerPC-based Macs, while the update for Intel-based Macs is 40 MB. [ACE]
Article 12 of 13 in series
Apple Releases Mac OS X 10.4.6 Update -- Just as we were finalizing this issue, Apple released Mac OS X 10.4.6 Update, which appears to be a massive, miscellaneous bug-fix updateShow full article
Apple Releases Mac OS X 10.4.6 Update -- Just as we were finalizing this issue, Apple released Mac OS X 10.4.6 Update, which appears to be a massive, miscellaneous bug-fix update. Numerous bugs and inconveniences that we've experienced are said to be eliminated, including a Mail crash, the mysterious "we are using special permissions" reports when repairing permissions with Disk Utility, the misbehavior of the Calculator percentage button, the Help Viewer blank window, problems saving Microsoft Word 2004 documents across a network, and many others. The update also includes iSync 2.2, which provides synchronization support for additional mobile phone handsets; however, iSync users should perform a full synchronization of all devices before installing Mac OS X 10.4.6.
As usual, you can use Software Update or download the update installer and run it manually; and in the latter case, you can download a delta updater (updates 10.4.5 to 10.4.6) or a combo updater (updates any Tiger installation). The updates are massive, with versions available via Software Update clocking in at near 46 MB, and standalone and Combo installers ranging from 65 to 191 MB. Apple also warns that (for reasons not revealed, but likely revolving around the login-related fixes) PowerPC-based Macs will automatically restart twice after the installation. The 10.4.6 update is available for both client and server versions of Mac OS X. [ACE]
Article 13 of 13 in series
Apple Releases Mac OS X 10.4.7 Update -- Apple last week released Mac OS X 10.4.7, a free update to Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, with a variety of improvements and bug fixesShow full article
Apple Releases Mac OS X 10.4.7 Update -- Apple last week released Mac OS X 10.4.7, a free update to Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, with a variety of improvements and bug fixes. Separate installers are available via Software Update or the Apple Software Downloads Web site for the desktop version of Mac OS X on PowerPC- and Intel-based Macs, and for Mac OS X Server, which so far is available only for PowerPC-based Macs. Along with a wide variety of small fixes, some of which address security holes, the 10.4.7 update includes several enhancements to Mail, such as improved reliability retrieving IMAP messages with attachments using an unreliable Internet connection and connecting to mail servers through a SOCKS proxy; improvements for video conferencing and transferring files in iChat; and better iSync support for Motorola cell phones using Bluetooth and .Mac accounts.
Apple says the update also resolves an issue on PowerPC-based Macs in which some applications may "silently fail to open," and manually removing fonts is no longer likely to cause the Finder to quit unexpectedly. We also understand that the update makes Apple's spiffy, new two-finger right-click feature (announced last month for the MacBook and updated MacBook Pro models) work on the trackpad of early MacBook Pro models. Stand-alone download versions are available in sizes ranging from 64 MB (for the PowerPC 10.4.6 to 10.4.7 delta version) to 215 MB (for the Intel 10.4 to 10.4.7 Combo version). If you downloaded the delta version for Intel-based Macs before Friday of last week, you should download again, since Apple re-released that installer to include some OpenGL files that were missing in the initial release. Software Update will find the right version for your Mac. [MHA]