Big cats make big splashes. Anything big does, as a matter of fact. So it’s no small wonder that Apple chose the names of large, swift cats to describe their OS X releases.
The latest one, Tiger, Mac OS X 10.4, is here, swiftly coming to dominate every printed word in the end of April and the beginning of May. Those of us fortunate to install soon after the release found ourselves an important source of knowledge for those who had not; and, as always, there’s a certain degree of noblesse oblige from those with blogs to help out those in need of help.
In that vein of noblesse oblige, John Siracusa at Ars Technica wrote the longest review of an operating system I have ever seen, at 21 parts and more than 40,000 words. It’s the magnum opus of the Tiger world, and is so comprehensive it devotes five parts wholly to metadata. After reviewing everything there is to review, including purely aesthetic tweaks, I’ll give away his ending (since it’s obvious by the time you get to part 6, anyway):
Tiger is the best version of Mac OS X yet. It offers substantial improvements over Panther in all important areas. The performance improvements are immediately noticeable. Every major bundled application has been improved. There’s an unprecedented number of substantial, totally new features and technologies: Spotlight, Core Image and Video, Quartz 2D Extreme, Dashboard, and Automator, just to name a few.
Overall, Tiger is impressive. If this is what Apple can do with 18 months of development time instead of 12, I tremble to think what they could do with a full two years—let alone the length of time it took for Mac OS X 10.0 to first ship. The productivity of Apple’s Mac OS X development team has increased tremendously since 10.0; they’re now firing on all cylinders. While I dearly wish someone would steer them in the direction of the eternally neglected Finder, I can’t help but be proud of the little OS team that could.
Now, Siracusa is a one-man team that could, who wrote enough words on Tiger to be paid $65,000 if he had a contract for typical, entry-level magazine writing, so he deserves a lot of respect, even when we disagree. No one would ever buy 40,000 words, but it should give you a sense of the thoroughness of the work.
In the same vein John Gruber, whose Daring Fireball is probably the most comprehensive Mac weblog anywhere, published an entire page of interesting discoveries from exploring, using, and reading about Tiger. He calls it “Tiger Details,” and I’ve found it exceedingly useful since my upgrade, from the esoteric (how the progress meter in the boot window works) to the very useful (“Extraneous Returns Stripped From Text Pasted Into Single-Line Fields). If you’re interested in the differences between Tiger and Panther, or just curious why something doesn’t work or is mysteriously changed, this list is your best place to start. And, who knows, you might just find something that can change your entire experience.
Other interesting observations on the changes in Tiger, big and small alike, abound. For instance:
iChat’s Jabber support is very sub-par. That’s unfortunate, but, as Julian Missig notes, there are features missing, like new-user registration, and it abuses its extension for rich IMs and spams non-iChat clients. I hope Apple will repair this, because Jabber support could be a big deal.
The Finder’s file-searching “path” widget is useless. I suppose I don’t keep things in as many nested subfolders as some people, so it’s not quite as useless. But Nicholas Riley’s criticism sure rings true. He’s right: it’s a step back to System 6, for no good reason.
The word “Macintosh” is mostly dead. Almost everywhere, it’s been replaced by the word “Mac.” How fascinating. The places where it remains are: in the Finder’s About box, and on the default name for a startup disk (“Macintosh HD”).
Read Me files are now localizable. How insanely slick (though it’s not actually an OS feature or new in Tiger). It’s a .app file that calls “open” to launch the appropriate RTF file in Text Editor. Even the filenames are localizable (“Read Before You Install iTunes,” or “Vor der Installation von iTunes lesen” in German.) From Michael Tsai, my boss here at ATPM.
Chris Adamson, who blogs at O’Reilly Developer Weblogs, has both an excellent list of Tiger gripes (“runaway CPU use” has bitten me too, for one thing) and a rumination on how smart Smart Folders are. Sure, they have some weird behaviors, as Siracusa notes in The Review That Doesn’t End, but so does the rest of the Finder. Even still, Chris has built an impressive UI, using only the Finder, around his editing workflow. Very smart.
If you’ve found some other interesting observations, please leave them in the comments. This page can serve as a container for all kinds of useful Tiger-related discoveries.
Now, to the rest of the month.
May Flowers Bring…Allergies?
Apple is pulling John Wiley & Sons books, including über-columnist David Pogue’s wildly popular Macs for Dummies, from Apple Store shelves in retaliation for a potentially negative biography of Steve Jobs. This seems like chopping off your nose to spite your face, to me. Especially since it’s still not clear how Jeffrey S. Young’s biography, iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business, will hurt Stevie J.’s reputation.
File this in the “When you need to feel superior to Windows users (more than usual)” folder: Evan DiBiase, of MacAndBack, and his friend Zach Paine, observe that the latest Longhorn screenshots look like KDE, not Mac OS X. Since Microsoft can’t bother to design its own UI, it might as well rip off something better, not worse. (Step away from the flames, readers! It’s a joke!)
Since iPods don’t cost enough already, in the Netherlands a copy-protection foundation, Stichting de Thuiskopie, this month proposed a levy of EUR3.28 per gigabyte (!!!) on iPods and other music players. Outrage immediately ensued. BoingBoing headlined their article, “Why Dutch iPod levy is futile”. Engadget says, “Dutch iPod tax could squash digital audio player industry”. The Register screams even louder, “Dutch plans for iPod tax could kill MP3 industry.”The p2p Weblog is more sober: “Planned Dutch iPod tax will add $235 to cost of iPods.” Oh, only $235? Gosh.
Fellow ATPM contributor and accomplished writer Kirk McElhearn thinks the Mac mini is a lemon. It won’t drive a VGA monitor with enough gusto to make it worth your while, he says. The obvious, snide answer is, “You poor soul, you still own a VGA monitor?” But since it’s marketed to Switchers, my not-very-funny attempts at humor fall flat. Sorry, guys. Better luck with DVI?
In other iTunes-related news: Apple has gained 58% of the flash market in six months (whoa!), future-pundit Robert Cringely thinks Apple is going to license the iPod, Miraz Jordan says iTunes is taking over her computer, Bill Gates insists cell phones are going to beat portable audio players, and Chris Adamson has found much of the music he likes, for less, on the iTMS.
Is an open-source divorce brewing between Apple and KHTML developers? CNET thinks so. Apple, KDE devs complain, isn’t providing them with CVS or any other revision control, the code is often sloppy and difficult to understand, and it’s not easy to merge Apple’s changes anyway since many are WebCore-specific. Ars Technica’s apple.ars says, “It looks as though Apple and KDE may have come to a final fork in the road,” and that the devs have a right to feel jilted—but that Apple has made a good-faith effort, and fulfills their requirements under the LGPL. Ben Goodger, lead engineer for Mozilla development, adds to the debate that WebCore’s renderer is vastly better than KHTML and waiting for perfect code from Apple is unreasonable.
Have you ever wondered about certain very pedigreed Mac applications, and their back stories? I bet you have. Do you remember “The True Story of Audion” from Bloggable 10.12? Now comes “A Short History of DragThing”, without even the bittersweet coda of future development cut short. James Thomson, the author, has a good sense of humor about the age of his application, first published in 1994: he calls PCalc “the only software older than DragThing.” Thanks, James!
And now, for your moment of memetic convergence Zen: John Gruber brings Microsoft-bashing and Adobe-bashing together in the same article! (For those of you who didn’t hear, Adobe bought Macromedia in April. I did report, vaguely, on this in May.) Gruber writes, “But is it any surprise that a company that is run by jerks-wearing-suits is now targeting the jerks- wearing-suits software market?” Then, he footnotes a long block quote from an article about Apple’s resurgence with a quote from a Newsweek article: “‘Hmm, look who’s running Microsoft now,’ he says, referring to former Procter & Gamble marketer Steve Ballmer. ‘A sales guy!’ The smile gets broader. ‘I wonder…’ he says.”