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TidBITS#703/27-Oct-03

Panther rules this issue! Jeff Carlson leads off with a look at some of the major features with an eye toward helping you decide to upgrade. Then Adam delves into smaller details that can make or break an OS upgrade. We also formally announce our first Take Control ebooks, which have already helped thousands of readers. In the news, we cover new iBook G4s, iSync 1.3, cheaper eMacs, and essential upgrades for Default Folder X and QuicKeys X in Panther.

Geoff Duncan No comments

Apple Unveils G4 iBooks

Apple Unveils G4 iBooks — Apple Computer announced major revisions to the iBook line last week, upgrading all models to G4 processors and adding USB 2.0, Combo CD-R/DVD-ROM drives, and a minimum of 256 MB of RAM. The new iBook G4s also offer optional support for AirPort Extreme 802.11g wireless networking and ship with Mac OS X 10.3 Panther pre-installed. Three iBook G4 configurations are available: at the low end, the $1,100 model offers a 12.1-inch screen (1,024 by 768 resolution), an 800 MHz G4 processor, a 30 GB hard drive, and a scant weight of 4.9 pounds (2.2 kg). The $1,400 model sports a 14.1-inch screen (still 1,024 by 768 pixels), a 933 MHz G4 processor, a 40 GB drive, and a weight of 5.9 pounds (2.7 kg). Finally, the high-end $1,600 configuration offers the same 14.1-inch screen, a 1 GHz G4 processor, and 60 GB drive at the same 5.9 pound weight. All models offer two USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire 400 port, VGA video output, support for S-video and composite video out, a 56 Kbps V.92 modem, 10/100Base-T Ethernet, and up to six hours of battery life. Optional capabilities include AirPort Extreme 802.11g wireless networking support; an internal Bluetooth module for peripherals such as some cell phones, PDAs, and Apple’s new wireless keyboard and mouse; and support for up to 640 MB of RAM. All three models should be available now. [GD]

<http://www.apple.com/ibook/>

<https://tidbits.com/getbits.acgi?tlkthrd=2091>


Jeff Carlson No comments

Apple Reduces eMac Prices

Apple Reduces eMac Prices — Apple also reduced the price of the all-in-one eMac last week. The entry-level configuration, which includes 128 MB of RAM, a 40 GB hard drive, and a Combo drive (DVD-ROM/CD-RW), now costs $200 less, at $800. The higher-end model, which includes a SuperDrive, 256 MB of RAM, and an 80 GB drive, has also been reduced $200, to $1,100. Both models come with a 1 GHz PowerPC processor, an ATI Radeon 7500 graphics card with 32 MB of video memory, and a 17-inch CRT monitor, and are capable of including a separate AirPort Extreme Card. The eMacs also come with Mac OS X 10.3 preinstalled, and will not boot into Mac OS 9. [JLC]

<http://www.apple.com/emac/>


Geoff Duncan No comments

Apple Releases iSync 1.3

Apple Releases iSync 1.3 — Hot on the heels of iSync 1.2.1’s debut earlier this month, Apple has released iSync 1.3 for Mac OS X 10.2.5 and higher, adding the capability to synchronize data with new phones such as the Bluetooth-enabled Sony Ericsson P900 and T630, as well as the Nokia 3650 and N-Gage smart phones. The 5.5 MB update is available via Software Update or Apple’s iSync Web page. Palm OS handheld device users must install the iSync 1.2 Palm Conduit separately (which hasn’t changed since the release of iSync 1.21). It’s an 892K download available via a link on the iSync download page. [GD]

<https://tidbits.com/getbits.acgi?tbart=07390>

<http://www.apple.com/isync/download/>


Matt Neuburg No comments

Default Folder X & QuicKeys X: Upgrade Before Panther!

Default Folder X & QuicKeys X: Upgrade Before Panther! St. Clair Software has published version 1.9.1 of their popular Open/Save dialog enhancement utility, Default Folder X. In addition to being compatible with both Mac OS X 10.3 Panther and Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar, Default Folder X 1.9.1 now tracks files opened directly from the Finder (not just through the Open dialog) and lists recent and favorite folders in a system-wide menu, in the Dock or menu bar. Furthermore, Default Folder’s menus are now hierarchical. Version 1.9.1 is a free upgrade for existing users.

<http://www.stclairsoft.com/DefaultFolderX/ release.html>

St. Clair warns that older versions of Default Folder X are not compatible with Panther. Existing Default Folder X users who upgrade to Panther (even using Archive and Install) won’t be able to launch any applications! If this happens to you, log out, log in with the Shift key held down, disable the older version (remove it from the Startup Items tab of the Accounts preference pane), and then log back in. Panther will then operate normally, and you can upgrade Default Folder X at leisure. Default Folder X 1.9.1 is a 3.7 MB download.

CE Software has released a beta of QuicKeys X 2.0.2b3 to work around a similar-sounding problem; launching any other version of QuicKeys X in Panther causes every active application to quit. QuicKeys X 2.0.2b3 is an 11 MB download and comes with a registration number that’s good until 19-Nov-03 if you don’t already own QuicKeys X. In both cases, following Joe Kissell’s advice in "Take Control of Upgrading to Panther" to delete everything from the Login Items preference pane in Jaguar before upgrading to Panther would avoid the problem. [MAN]

<http://www.cesoft.com/downloads/qkx2/ panther.html>

<http://www.tidbits.com/takecontrol/panther/ upgrading.html>


Adam Engst No comments

DealBITS Drawing: BeLight Software Winner

DealBITS Drawing: BeLight Software Winner — Congratulations to Barbara Roy of dplanet.ch, Eric Houghton of fmr.com, and Seth Anderson of b12partners.net, whose entries were chosen randomly in our second DealBITS drawing. Barbara, Eric, and Seth will each be receiving a copy of BeLight Software’s Business Card Composer, worth $40. If you aren’t among the winners (and even if you didn’t enter the drawing), you can still get a 25 percent discount on Business Card Composer through 03-Nov-03. Use the first of the two swreg.org URLs below for the downloadable version ($30) or the second URL for a copy on CD-ROM ($40). BeLight Software tells us that the just-released Business Card Composer 1.1.3 is fully compatible with Mac OS X 10.3 Panther. Thanks to the 785 people who entered, and keep an eye out for future DealBITS drawings. [ACE]

<http://www.belightsoft.com/>

<http://www.tidbits.com/dealbits/belight.html>

<https://tidbits.com/getbits.acgi?tbart=07403>

<https://usd.swreg.org/cgi-bin/s.cgi?s=31176& amp;p=311765252&v=2&d=0&q=1& amp;t=>

<https://usd.swreg.org/cgi-bin/s.cgi?s=31176& amp;p=311765252&v=2&d=1&q=1& amp;t=>


Adam Engst No comments

First Two Take Control Ebooks Take Off!

Perhaps we can’t quite compete with the sales volume of the iTunes Music Store’s first few days, but the sales of our first two Take Control ebooks have still utterly exceeded our initial expectations, with nearly 3,000 copies sold so far. The last week has been tiring and stressful, but in the end, we were able to put all the pieces together just in time.

<http://www.tidbits.com/takecontrol/>

Take Control of Upgrading to Panther — We published Joe Kissell’s "Take Control of Upgrading to Panther" at exactly 8 PM on Friday, October 24th, matching Panther’s release in our time zone to the minute. As soon as the Web pages went live, the orders started flooding in, some coming even from people who were waiting in line at Apple Stores that hadn’t yet opened; taking advantage of the free AirPort network at the stores, they managed to order and read Joe’s advice on iBooks and PowerBooks before going inside and buying Panther.

So what ground does Joe cover? He starts at the beginning, walking you through seven steps you should take before you even think about inserting the first Panther CD into your Mac, things like backing up your hard disk and repairing permissions. Then he looks in depth at which installation option is right for your situation, discussing exactly what each does. The actual installation process is easy, but what do you do if you can’t get it started, or if your Mac won’t start up after it’s complete? Joe provides answers to five common problems in a troubleshooting section, and for those unlucky souls for whom Panther proves problematic (hey, we’re realistic – it happens), Joe provides a number of ways you can downgrade to your previous version of the Mac OS. For those upgrading from Mac OS 9, and for those who want the cleanest possible installation, Joe gives special steps, and he throws in a bonus section that lists URLs for downloading updates to some common bits of hardware and software.

<http://www.tidbits.com/takecontrol/panther/ upgrading.html>

Worth $5? We’ve already heard from a number of people that Joe’s 52-page ebook is worth several times more, but personally I think Joe’s ebook is worth it for the peace of mind alone. I’ve done plenty of installations, but I wouldn’t have thought to disable all my Login items before installing, and given that the previous versions of both QuicKeys X and Default Folder cause instantaneous and distressing problems, the advice was extremely welcome.

Take Control of Customizing Panther — With barely a breather, Tonya and I kept working through Saturday to put the finishing touches on our second title, Matt Neuburg’s "Take Control of Customizing Panther." It went live just over a day later, and as with Joe’s book, no sooner had we updated the Web site than orders started to arrive.

Where Joe’s book leaves off after making sure your installation has been as smooth as possible, Matt steps up next to help you customize Panther so it works exactly the way you want it to. If you haven’t read Joe’s book, or if you’re experiencing installer’s remorse, Matt explains how you can install some of the optional pieces of Panther after the fact, along with why you’d want to. He then looks at four of the aspects of Panther that you can customize to the best effect, Finder windows, keyboard shortcuts for menu items (globally, or in a specific application), Panther’s new Exposé feature, and your font menu through the almost devilishly confusing Font Book application. He finishes off with a look at a miscellany of smaller customizations you can (and probably will want to) perform.

<http://www.tidbits.com/takecontrol/panther/ customizing.html>

If Matt’s 29-page book saves you from trying to figure out how Font Book is (or isn’t) enabling your fonts, I think that alone would be worth $5, and his warnings about customizing Exposé are equally valuable.

Early Lessons Learned — It’s impossible to foresee everything, and we fielded a number of questions and comments in the hours after our initial release.


  • Sometimes you just have to have fun. On a lark, Joe volunteered to bake a batch of his famous (well, at least he tells us they’re famous) cherry chocolate chip cookies for a randomly chosen person from the first 1,000 orders. Little did he realize that it would take less than 13 hours to reach that point, and he hit 2,000 orders by mid-Monday. Joe’s out getting ingredients now for two batches of cookies, since we decided to extend the offer to someone from every 1,000 orders, and we’re doing the same thing with pumpkin muffins for Matt’s book.

  • Entering passwords in StuffIt Expander proved surprisingly troublesome for users. We password-protect the StuffIt archive containing the PDF to prevent the direct download URL from being posted somewhere out of context, but it turns out that copying the password from the email receipt from Kagi and pasting it into StuffIt Expander’s dialog box often fails (particularly with StuffIt Expander 6.0) when typing it in doesn’t, and we’ve seen crashes even in the latest version when pasting. To address this problem, we simplified the password for Matt’s book, and added more-detailed instructions to the Kagi email receipt.

  • Kagi normally adds VAT (value added tax) to purchases made by customers in 12 European Union member countries. I’m currently trying to figure out what’s necessary here, since it seems that under current E.U. regulations, someone has to pay the VAT in at least some of these E.U. countries. At this point, I simply can’t say how we’ll end up handling the VAT issue, but it’s a good example of how Internet taxation adds significant costs and overhead.

  • Part of the way we’ve managed to charge so little is that Kagi is actually sending orders through our own merchant account. It turns out that our merchant account currently accepts only Visa and MasterCard, and not American Express, Discover, or other credit cards that Kagi normally handles. I think we can add support for American Express and Discover fairly easily, but until then, I hope the limitation of Visa and MasterCard isn’t too onerous. For those who prefer the physical world, Kagi does accept checks, cash, and money orders, though using them will be slower.


Stay Tuned — We won’t have any more titles for a week or two, thanks to travel and needing to incorporate everything we’ve learned so far into our systems. So read Joe’s and Matt’s books, and rest assured that the rest of our authors are utterly jazzed by Joe’s and Matt’s success and are hard at work on additional titles. Thanks for believing in us on this one.


Jeff Carlson No comments

Mac OS X 10.3 Panther Unleashed

Mac OS X 10.3 Panther bounded out of its lair over the weekend, giving us the opportunity to start using the shipping version and see how it compares to what was promised by Apple at the Worldwide Developer Conference in June (see "Mac OS X 10.3 Panther Springs at WWDC" in TidBITS-685). Apple has packed numerous improvements into this release, both on the surface and under the hood, and has also finally implemented some old favorites. Is it worth the $130 upgrade price? Read on for some of the highlights, and decide for yourself.

<https://tidbits.com/getbits.acgi?tbart=07242>

New Finder — The first obvious changes appear in the Finder, which gains the same brushed metal sheen as iTunes and adds the Sidebar, a pane on the left side of every window that provides quick access to volumes and your home directory. If you don’t want the Sidebar to occupy as much space, you can drag the separator bar to view as little of the contents as you want, down to just icons. If you drag the bar all the way to the left, or double-click it, the Sidebar disappears. Open and Save dialogs also include the Sidebar, simplifying navigation.

<http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/finder/>

The Sidebar replaces, in theory, the Favorites window: drag a folder to the Sidebar to add it to the list, or drag items out of the Sidebar to remove them with the same "poof" animation used when removing items from the Dock. However, Favorites isn’t completely gone, even if there’s no keyboard shortcut or menu item for it. Open the Library folder in your Home directory and drag the Favorites folder to the Sidebar to reclaim your favorites.

Other improvements in the Finder include on-the-fly searching, which displays matching items as you type, the reappearance of Finder labels, and a Windows-inspired interface for switching between open applications: press Command-Tab to select the applications’ icons in a row onscreen (Proteron’s LiteSwitch X performs the same functionality, and the company posted an "open memo" to Apple this week, drawing attention to Apple’s controversial appropriation of third-party technologies in the Mac OS).

<http://www.proteron.com/liteswitchx/ openmemo.php>

Exposé — One surprise at WWDC was the introduction of Exposé (accented at the end and pronounced "ex-po-zay"), an innovative method of unraveling the inevitable tangle of application and Finder windows. When activated by a user-configurable shortcut key, mouse button, or dragging the pointer to a screen corner, Exposé temporarily shrinks and rearranges the windows to make them more visible. Pressing F9 resizes every window so there is no overlap; you can then click the one you want to bring to the front. F10 exposes the front-most application’s windows in a similar way and dims the rest of the screen for better contrast. F11 works in the opposite fashion, zipping every window offscreen to reveal the Desktop.

<http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/expose/>

We were slightly skeptical of Exposé at first, but the simple and elegant implementation is starting to win us over. You can either press and release one of the shortcut keys to keep the Exposé display on screen, while you choose a window, but if you keep the shortcut key pressed, you need only mouse over your desired window and release the key to activate that window. One annoyance: Exposé doesn’t display Classic windows in its thumbnail view.

Fast User Switching — Previous versions of Mac OS X required you to completely log out if you wanted to activate another user on the same machine, which meant quitting open applications and essentially restarting your Mac, but without the startup chime. In Panther, you can have multiple users logged in simultaneously, preserving the state at which you switched to a different user. You switch among different users by choosing the desired user name from a new menu on the right side of the menu bar. For homes that share a Mac among multiple family members, Fast User Switching is a godsend, and it has already made the cost of the Panther upgrade worthwhile for me: I needed to help someone configure an application from scratch, so I was able to quickly go through the steps using a brand new user, switching from testing to the email I was writing.

For pure eye-candy tastiness, Fast User Switching is likely to be a feature that many people will try out, even if they don’t end up using it frequently. Instead of just displaying another user’s Desktop, the environment graphically rotates as if each user belongs to one side of a cube, at least on my 15-inch PowerBook G4; it just switches on my Titanium PowerBook G4 and Adam’s iBook. I haven’t had a chance to see how the 3D metaphor works with more than six users; it would be swell to have a new cube fly in from a point in space, but I doubt Apple has extended the visual metaphor that far.

I have noticed that some applications behave differently when you switch between users. iChat automatically goes offline, but logs back into the AIM network when you return. Similarly, iTunes stops playing music, but unfortunately it doesn’t start playing again when you’re back. Also, be careful restarting when other users are active; if they have unsaved work and you can’t access their accounts, they’ll lose their changes (you need an administrator password to do this).

FileVault — Responding to the security needs of corporations and privacy-minded individuals, Panther introduces FileVault, a feature that encrypts the contents of your Home folder using AES-128 (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption. After FileVault is enabled, you can still use items in your Home folder as you normally would, but they’re encrypted and decrypted on the fly as you open and close them. This makes it extremely difficult for someone to access your data, such as if your laptop is lost or stolen.

<http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/filevault/>

<http://csrc.nist.gov/CryptoToolkit/aes/>

However, even ignoring the fact that several of the Take Control authors experienced data loss with FileVault while testing beta releases of Panther, FileVault has a serious architectural limitation in that it creates one large file to house your Home items. For many of us, that file will be humongous (as in many gigabytes), since the Home folder by default contains files such as digital photos, iMovie media files, and the iTunes library. This is a problem for two main reasons.


  • Even a small amount of data corruption due to a failing hard drive or other problem could render everything in your Home folder inaccessible. Talk about putting all your eggs in one basket…

  • The smallest change to any file in your Home folder will cause the modification date of the entire FileVault file to change, and backup utilities such as Retrospect will copy the whole thing. (Dantz has listed some known issues with Panther and FileVault on their Web site.)


<http://www.dantz.com/index.php3?SCREEN=kbase& amp;ACTION=KBASE&id=28093>

FileVault isn’t a bad idea, but it scares me (and everyone else at TidBITS) silly; I can’t imagine entrusting all my data to that single file, much less screwing up my backup strategy to accommodate it. Apple should modify FileVault so you can encrypt only specific folders, thus letting users protect only sensitive data, rather than wasting time and effort on other mostly innocuous files.

Font Book — The Mac has always been on top of typography, but managing fonts has been persistently cumbersome. Font Book is a good step in the right direction, giving most users more control over fonts without having to wonder if they’re copying font files to the correct Fonts folder. You can enable or disable fonts, group typefaces into categories, and search for fonts in the same manner as in the Finder or iTunes. Graphics professionals will likely choose to stick with a font management utility such as Suitcase X or Font Reserve, but for most people Font Book provides enough control.

<http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/fontbook/>

The tricky part of using Font Book is figuring out its rules for enabling and disabling fonts, since you’ll see different results depending on whether you disable a font when it’s selected in All Fonts or in a particular collection. Matt Neuburg devotes several pages to this topic in "Take Control of Customizing Panther."

<http://www.tidbits.com/takecontrol/panther/ customizing.html>

Virtual Private Network (VPN) Connections — Apple has been toiling behind the scenes on technologies that don’t necessarily include splashy graphics or an improved user interface. Case in point: built-in VPN support, which many companies use to communicate safely with employees who travel or telecommute. VPN connections essentially capture all of the ports on a machine and bundle them up into an encrypted tunnel to another computer somewhere on a local network or elsewhere on the Internet. Because all data entering and leaving the machine is encrypted, and there’s only a single point of entry or departure – the VPN connection – you’ve simultaneously reduced the potential of machines being attacked or compromised while eliminating networking snooping whether on a wired or wireless connection. Using the Internet Connect application, you can configure either L2TP-over-IPSec or PPTP connections.

<http://www.apple.com/macosx/newfeatures/ systemadministrators.html>

On the other side of the data pipe, Mac OS X 10.3 Server has both kinds of VPN services built in, making it relatively simple and inexpensive for a small office to hook up a Panther server machine and use the Panther VPN clients to secure their wireless connection.

Should You Upgrade? A major release of any operating system brings with it a number of impressive new features as well as the certainty of glitches that need to be worked out, and Panther is no different.

For example, TidBITS Contributing Editor Glenn Fleishman and I, both recent purchasers of new 15-inch PowerBook G4s, discovered that Panther seems to be persnickety about RAM. The third-party generic RAM we installed seems to be the cause of problems (in my case, Panther would not even run on a completely new installation on a separate partition, and I got repeated system freezes on my main partition installed with the Archive and Install option). Swapping in the original 512 MB of RAM that came with my PowerBook seemed to solve the problem. (Upgrade tip: don’t immediately sell your original RAM on eBay.)

Also, a number of users are reporting that external FireWire drives that are connected when Panther is restarted can become irrevocably corrupted, so make sure you have offline backups of data on external drives before (and while) using them with Panther. And, as with every Mac OS update, some third-party applications and utilities will require updating before they work properly under Panther – be sure to check the Web sites of those products to see if any essential program is Panther-ready.

That said, Panther has a lot to offer. I’ve been impressed not only by the number of new features, but by the sense that Mac OS X is becoming more refined as it matures (perhaps because I remember when it was an awkward toddler). Even as extra bullet points are added to the feature list, I get the sense that just as much effort is being applied to making this Unix-driven system user-friendly.

Plus, Panther just feels faster and more responsive than Jaguar. Granted, I’m now using one of Apple’s fastest laptops, so I’ll be curious to see how my previous 400 MHz Titanium PowerBook G4 runs after upgrading. But I’m starting to see reports that indicate Apple’s engineers continue to optimize Mac OS X’s code to squeeze out better performance.

In the end, the upgrade question comes down to what sort of a user you are. Adventurous early adopters should of course upgrade to Panther immediately; it’s too much fun to explore and play with the new features. More cautious users might want to hold off a bit, not necessarily for a 10.3.1 release, but just until more of the glitches have been identified and can thus be avoided. And unlike the upgrade from 10.1 to 10.2, which we considered essential, we can see some non-demanding users sticking with Jaguar from inertia alone.

PayBITS: Did Jeff’s overview help you decide whether or not

you should upgrade to Panther? Say thanks via PayBITS!

<http://www.paypal.com/xclick/ business=jeff%40necoffee.com>

Read more about PayBITS: <http://www.tidbits.com/paybits/>


Adam Engst No comments

Interesting Bits of Panther

Jeff Carlson has walked you through the marquee features of Apple’s new Mac OS X 10.3 Panther, but my experience with the previous version, Jaguar, was that the changes that made the difference for me were more subtle. So let’s take a look at some of these subtle changes in Panther and how they work.

Timed Startup/Sleep/Shutdown Returns — Yet one more feature of Mac OS 9 has reappeared in Mac OS X. The Energy Saver preference pane now contains a Schedule tab in which you can set schedules for the Mac to start up, sleep, or shut down. Now you can have your Mac ready and waiting for you in the morning without having to wait for it to start up manually. Initial testing and reports show slightly sporadic success (my iBook refused to sleep at the specified time, but did wake up appropriately, and a reader on TidBITS Talk reported that his Mac didn’t shut down when it should have).

As an aside, if you find the new organization of the icons in System Preferences confusing, consider using the View menu to choose a specific preference pane or choose Organize Alphabetically to hide Apple’s categories. These viewing options aren’t new to Panther, but I hadn’t wanted them until I found myself confused by some of the new organization. Annoyingly for those of us on slower Macs, Panther’s System Preferences application now quits when you close its window, making it slower to start up if you need it again later.

Network Browser Done Right — Despite excellent support for file sharing and networking, Apple has long had terrible interfaces for finding and connecting to network volumes. First the Chooser, then the Network Browser in Mac OS 9 (did anyone really bother with that?), and then the lousy Connect to Server dialog in Mac OS X. Panther finally moves in the right direction, using the previously superfluous Network icon at the top level of Finder windows as the starting point for network browsing for both Mac and Windows shared volumes (quite a number of which seem to be available in the hotel for the O’Reilly Mac OS X Conference, where I currently am). Select one and click the Connect button that appears to bring up a login dialog and from then on, that volume shows the full file hierarchy underneath.

Keyboard Shortcut Quirks — In the Keyboard & Mouse preference pane, Panther now enables you to change the keyboard shortcuts for many global actions, such as taking a screenshot. That’s great, but what’s even better is that you can also add keyboard shortcuts to menu items in at least some applications. I couldn’t get them to work in Eudora or iTunes in my initial testing, although they did work in Safari and System Preferences. Interestingly, when I made an All Applications shortcut that I intended to choose Eudora from the Recent Items submenu of the Apple menu, it didn’t work, but it did attach properly a bookmark I had in Safari for the Eudora Web site; having keyboard shortcuts for Safari bookmarks will be helpful. Also, as I learned in Matt Neuburg’s "Take Control of Customizing Panther," if the menu item in question has an ellipsis, you must use trial-and-error to determine if it’s a true ellipsis (Option-;) or three periods. The moral of the story? Useful and welcome as this new feature is, don’t give up on macro utilities like QuicKeys X and Keyboard Maestro (since they can string sequences together, run AppleScript scripts, type text, click buttons, and so much more.

<http://www.cesoft.com/products/qkx.html>

<http://www.keyboardmaestro.com/>

Disk Utility Engulfs Others — Who knew that Disk Utility had imperialistic leanings? Previously, Disk Utility was essential for repairing damaged disks, fixing permissions, and initializing and partitioning disks. In Panther, however, Disk Utility has taken over the disk image functions of Disk Copy, so you can use it to make and burn disk images. Not stopping there, Disk Copy has also overrun the territory of the free Carbon Copy Cloner, since you can now use the controls in the Restore tab to make an exact duplicate of a disk, or restore a disk from an existing disk image. For the many people disappointed that it was impossible to duplicate a Mac OS X volume by merely dragging it, as was possible in Mac OS 9, this feature should be quite welcome. While you’re in Disk Utility, note that you can click the Enable Journaling button for disks that don’t currently have journaling turned on. Without going into details, with journaling on, your Mac can start up more quickly after a crash.

Force Quit This! Much as I like being able to force quit a recalcitrant application, I hate going through the Force Quit dialog because of the extra steps of opening and closing it. I often Option-click the misbehaving application’s Dock icon and choose Force Quit from there, but in Panther, you can now force quit just the frontmost application – without even seeing the Force Quit dialog – by pressing Command-Shift-Option-Escape. That shortcut may also help in situations where the Force Quit dialog doesn’t draw in front of the dead application.

Classic Interface Tweaks — Apple isn’t likely to change Classic, even though it might be nice to have a saved state option, much like Virtual PC offers. But Panther does offer some improvements in how you interact with Classic. In the Classic preference pane’s Start/Stop tab, there’s now a checkbox for Show Classic Status in Menu Bar. The Classic menu that appears in your menu bar provides a quick way to start and stop Classic, but more important, it also offers an Apple Menu Items submenu that contains the contents of your Classic environment’s Apple menu. Since that also includes control panels by default, it means you no longer must launch a Classic application just to access a control panel. Also in the Classic preference pane is a new Memory/Versions tab that shows the names, versions, and memory usage of Classic applications that could be handy if you’re stuck using a RAM-hungry Classic application.

iPhoto Integration Tips — It sometimes seems as though Apple isn’t paying much attention to iPhoto, though I hope we’ll see an iPhoto 3.0 at Macworld Expo in January that will address the significant performance and scalability problems of the current version. My hopes for improvement have been raised by the new integration of iPhoto and the operating system in Panther. In the Desktop & Screen Saver preference pane, you can select any iPhoto album to use photos in it for your Desktop and your screen saver, which may be easier than setting up the same thing through iPhoto. However, if you make a new album in iPhoto, the Desktop & Screen Saver preference pane won’t see it until you quit System Preferences and relaunch. Also, one tip: when selecting a new photo for your Desktop, use the Exposé Desktop-revealing shortcut for a quick preview.

Submit Bug Report — Kudos to Apple on this one. When an application crashes in Panther, a dialog appears with a Submit Bug Report button. You can add more information to the report and then send it to Apple over the Internet. Though I haven’t tried to watch the network traffic, Apple states clearly in Mac Help that no personal information is included in the report. User-submitted bug reports (such as those that come from Safari’s bug button) have a lower priority than developer-submitted bug reports that go directly into Apple’s bug database, but multiple Apple employees have assured me that the user reports are processed and evaluated. In the future, I hope to see a way that independent developers can also receive these automatically generated bug reports when their applications crash.

Network Status Display — Those of us who have somewhat complicated networks with multiple connections (built-in Ethernet, AirPort, modem) and even potentially multiple Internet connections (okay, I admit that’s weird), will appreciate the new Network Status display in the Network preference pane. It shows all your connections and provides a plain English description of the status of each connection. You can also double-click one to edit its settings.

More Bits and Pieces — I’m sure we’ll all be discovering more useful details about Panther in the coming weeks, so post any interesting things you learn to TidBITS Talk. I’ll try to keep up with posts, but I’m at the O’Reilly Mac OS X Conference all week, so I may not be able to keep posts flowing as regularly as I’d like.

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