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ATPM 8.09
September 2002



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The Personal Computing Paradigm

by Michael Tsai,

Mac OS X 10.2—First Impressions

My copy of Mac OS X 10.2 didn’t arrive until September, so this article will only cover my very first impressions of it. For now, I will focus on how the basics have improved since 10.1.5. Perhaps next month I’ll take a look at the exciting new technologies like Rendezvous.


Although I’ve never had trouble in the past, it’s always a good idea to preserve your old system installation when upgrading to a new version of an the operating system. One way to do this is to rely on your normal backup, but be careful if you go this route. It may take many hours to reinstall your system software and backup program, and then to restore everything from the backup. If you can, it’s better to make a separate clean installation to test the waters. Since Mac OS X doesn’t support multiple installations on a single partition, you’ll need either two partitions or two drives.

My Macs are a year-old QuickSilver G4 and a 600 MHz iBook. While I was working on the G4, I used the iBook to install 10.2 on an external FireWire drive. Perhaps it was the new CD I was listening to, but the 10.2 installation didn’t seem to take very long, even though it required two CDs.


Pretty soon, I was running Jaguar on the iBook. Even though Quartz Extreme doesn’t support my iBook’s video card, performance is much improved. The Finder is more responsive, and list view is actually usable when you sort by something other than name. Applications load faster. Menus don’t seem as sluggish. Browser windows resize more smoothly. BBEdit’s Find & Replace window draws faster. There’s no more delay when opening the Startup Disk preference pane. OS X still feels slow compared to OS 9 running on the same hardware; it probably always will because it’s doing more. But with 10.2 it runs at what I consider to be an acceptable speed on an iBook. If you’re running Mac OS X on a G3 today, the 10.2 upgrade is worth it for the speed increase alone.

Prudence Pays

The next step was to attach the external drive to my QuickSilver to try 10.2 there. The boot process started normally, but then the old 50% gray halftone replaced the normal boot screen and the machine froze. Luckily, I was able to unplug the external drive and reboot with 10.1.5 from the internal drive. The problem was that 10.2 is incompatible with the PCI Radeon video card that I use to drive my second display. Sure enough, after I removed the PCI card, 10.2 booted fine on the QuickSilver. Given that Apple shipped this Radeon on its own build-to-order machines, I’ve got to wonder how they let Jaguar out with such an obvious flaw. Well, I guess they can say that they didn’t miss their release date.


Spring-loaded folders are back, right? Wrong. The more useful aspect of spring-loaded folders is back in that you can drag files onto a folder to tunnel down and find where you want to drop them. Not back, are the spring-loaded folders that you activate with a click-and-a-half to browse when you aren’t dragging anything. Apple evidently wants to replace this with Columns view. However, Columns view takes more screen space than the other views and can only sort by name.

I already mentioned that Finder responsiveness is much-improved. Other parts of the Finder are also improved. It now provides the option of using normal Get Info windows that always track the same item. The 10.1 “inspector” window that always tracks the current selection is available if you hold down Option.

The Finder has a new Find command that harkens back to the System 7 days. It’s both faster and easier to use than the travesty that was Sherlock on OS X. Unfortunately, some of the familiar search criteria are gone, so you may have to resort to a utility like File Buddy.

Although 10.2 continues to rely on filename extensions more than it should, the Finder now has an Open With command that lets you open a file with a non-default application. Holding down Option is supposed to change the application binding permanently, but it saves the setting in the fragile Launch Services database rather than using the file’s creator code.

The other main problem with the 10.1 Finder was that the Icon and List views didn’t work as well as their Mac OS 9 counterparts. A major improvement in 10.2 is that you can now adjust the font size of these views (as well as Column view), down to a minimum of 10pt (instead of 12). This makes it possible to see more files at once. Unfortunately, one aspect of List view is actually worse than in 10.1. With only a single column showing, I was unable to get the right edge of the column to stick to the right edge of the window. It always seemed to be too wide or too narrow for the window.

Other long-standing problems with the OS X Finder windows persist. If you save a file from an application, you have to click in the Finder window before the file shows up. The windows sometimes forget whether the toolbar was visible and how the icons were arranged. Making a new folder in List view sometimes causes the Finder to scroll the window horizontally, even if the folder name already fit in the displayed part of the view.


When 10.1 was released, I complained that its font smoothing made small text look blurry. You could turn off the smoothing at smaller font sizes (except in the Finder), but then you’d run into OS X’s poor spacing of screen fonts. It was a choice between letters running together and blurry text.

With 10.2, two changes help resolve these font issues, though not completely. First, the 10.2 Finder obeys your font smoothing preferences. Second, the system now lets you choose among four different levels of font smoothing. The first, known as Standard, is the font smoothing present in 10.1. The other three are known as Light, Medium, and Strong. They incorporate sub-pixel font rendering and give you some control over the darkness of the text.

It’s difficult to compare the levels live because you have to quit and relaunch applications before they notice that the setting has changed. Below is an image that shows the way Finder text looks in System 7, Mac OS 8/9, Mac OS X 10.1, and Mac OS X 10.2.


The first two lines show Geneva text rendered by QuickDraw at 9pt and 10pt. The first line is the default Finder font size in System 7; the second is the default in Mac OS 8 and 9. The third line shows 12pt Lucida Grande with Quartz’s Standard font smoothing. This is the default Finder font in Mac OS X, and the only one available prior to 10.2. The next four lines show Lucida Grande 10pt with Standard, Light, Medium, and Strong font smoothing. The last line shows Lucida Grande 10pt without font smoothing.

10.2 is an improvement over 10.1 in that the Medium and Strong font smoothing options allow for blacker text that’s easier to read. Unfortunately, the stronger font smoothing tends to make the text look thicker. This is especially apparent in the menu bar. Overall, my Finder has gone from the third line (in 10.1) to the last line (in 10.2). I find this a big improvement, though Lucida Grande still doesn’t look as good at small point sizes as the Geneva of the first two lines. The “X” in particular is oddly formed, and examples with other letter sequences show that Quartz still fails to put any horizontal space between certain characters.


The new 10.2 sub-pixel smoothing adds colored artifacts, which are visible even on LCD screens. In this example, look at the second half of the word “Programming,” the middle of “Files,” the “d” of the second “Add,” and the “l” and “d” in “Folder.”


There are far more changes in Mac OS X 10.2 than I have mentioned above. Apple’s developer Technical Note lists many of the bugs that were fixed. There are also major improvements to many of the bundled applications. Preview now shows thumbnails for multi-page documents. Mail has improved filtering and spam features, though its inexact search engine and poor support for message threading continue to make it unsuitable for heavy use. Sherlock 3 brings Watson-style Internet services to everyone, though Watson is faster and has more tools. Though there are still lots of problems with Mac OS X, most things are improved in 10.2. (The notable exception is open and save dialogs, which still aren’t properly navigable from the keyboard.) 10.2 won’t get everyone to switch from OS 9, but it’s a no-brainer for users of 10.1 and well worth the upgrade price. I’ll be happy to use it once Apple resolves the hardware incompatibilities.

Also in This Series

Reader Comments (12)

anonymous · September 3, 2002 - 16:47 EST #1
OS X 10.2 still sucks.

Today, at the place I intern, they finally upgraded the aging Pentium II 266 with more memory and Win 2000. It made a huge difference and I swear the thing is far, far faster in most of what I do everyday than my TiBook 550 at home. Web surfing on the slower connection that they have compared to what I have at home is much snappier. In 10.2, there are still annoying menu delays that make the computer feel like it's running some emulator. For several weeks, I have been using a 25-page document with about 20 Excel graphs in it. The TiBook is dog slow in Word v.X and, on the P2, everything I did was easily 2-5 times faster, particularly in the responsiveness in scrolling. I can't imagine how fast a 2.6 GHz PC feels doing the same thing. Other than the crappy screen and mouse, it was just a lot easier to continue editing the document on the PC.

Apple has a long way to go before OS X becomes usable. Faster machines should help, but jeez, they have been developing OS X for 6 years, before there was even a G3, and in the GUI, 10.2 still gets creamed speedwise by an old PC clunker. This all made me very sad.
Chatapua · September 3, 2002 - 19:09 EST #2
I totally agree! Jaguar is overblown. Take away the bloatware which I will never use and you're left with an OS that is pretty much the same with a few minor speed tweaks and a few minor slow downs. It took a year to go from 10.1 to this? $129? Barely worth the $19.95 for those who recently got a Mac. While some of the minor bug fix updates in 10.2 are nice, they are only that. And don't give me any nonsense about Quartz Extreme. As has been documented extensively elsewhere, it does little to nothing to speed up the interface. Apple has really blown it this time. I think everyone who is oohing and ahhing about 10.2 must be smoking crack or haven't used a Mac since the Mac Plus.
TriLateral · September 5, 2002 - 20:18 EST #3
There are some minor flaws in the operating system, overall, and a number of non-intrusive defects. However, to say that Apple has blown it is an overstatement of Microsoftian proportions. It is an accepted standard that a minimal operating system takes around 2-3 years to develop, test, and market. However, when quality comes into the picture, that time extends. Mac OS X 10.1 was amazing, but not the end-all. Mac OS X 10.1.5 was a needed improvement and took care of most of the defects. Mac OS X 10.2 has successfully made the Mac OS a contender in the enterprise world. The only reason systems falter is due to the user-system interaction. People complain, but never state specifics. They just complain. They say their system is slower, but they refuse to tell anyone how they upgraded, what their system is like, or whether they've added hardware or software that might not even support Mac OS X 10.2 improvements. They never tell you if they even check their drives for problems or viruses (though, admittedly, virus concern is not very important right now). They never offer the possibility that their hard drive is fragmented or that they've been using the same file for all eternity which is now plastered all over the drive.

In order to aid in the eventual perfection of anything, tests must be conducted. Yet, how can a test be conducted for a defect or compatibility if those sending feedback to Apple refuse to be specific?
Michael Tsai (ATPM Staff) · September 5, 2002 - 20:34 EST #4
TriLateral: You make some great points. Regarding people not stating specifics, I've heard a lot of them and personally passed mine on to Apple. I see others doing that too. Of course you're right that Apple needs to find the slow spots before they can improve them, but I think most of them are so obvious (from the user's point of view) that if we can't assume Apple is aware of them then there's no hope for the platform. Since OS X is slow on brand-new systems, I think it's safe to say that fragmentation, viruses, and uprade issues are not the main problem.
Gene Jackson · September 10, 2002 - 00:11 EST #5
I have been a Mac-head for years. I have a love-hate relationship with Apple and their consistent two steps forward, one step back approach. I have grown to accept what this great company has to do to survive in this Windows-based world. I just purchased the dual 1 GHz G4 and I am mostly pleased with its performance running Jaguar. However, I am aware that there are some design flaws in the architecture, generally with the throughput bottle-necking issues which I think does not allow the full potential of the OS to be realized. But despite this flaws, for me, in comparison to XP, I prefer OS X any day, even if it is slower for NOW in general usage issues. I have both platforms, five Macs running OS X, one PC running ME, another running XP Pro, and was considering building a Athlon power-house machine for a fraction of the cost, but when I spend time on this new machine with all its flaws, I still prefer it hands down. I have no desire to buy the Windows machine no matter how fast the applications start up. So you guys can say what you want to. I really think Apple is doing the right thing in the directions they have chosen, even though I don't fully comprehend some of their decisions (removing the restart buttons etc.). Unix is and always has been the ultimate OS and I am glad Apple had the insight to merge the best of both worlds, Unix and Mac, to come up with OS X.

Give it time. You will one day see. For now, you can't see the forest for the trees. (For those who prefer to find whatever is wrong instead of celebrating what's right.)
Fabien Mahatsiangy · September 20, 2002 - 03:11 EST #6
I run both Mac OS X and Windows XP, too. I have to say that, even in Jaguar, basic operations on basic software are way slower than what they take under XP.

I have to add something. Apple's actual strategy tends to despise old fans by kicking off some of its most useful features. I do not refer to SCSI issues, which are normal in a sense. I do not even think about Quartz Extreme which is incompatible with non AGP boards (come on Steve, My Radeon has 32 Mo ... but PCI, jeez). No. I am talking about the DVD Player. On "unsupported" Macs (such as Beige G3), it was possible to install the Player after one simple trick described on various sites ( for instance, though they are no longer alive).

And Apple did it again. They consciously limited the Player, excluding unsupported Macs (say, Macs older than 2 years). Under 10.1.5, DVD Player worked absolutely fine, provided you made the trick and had the required hardware to decode MPEG2. Now it's over.

So what's going on? Why are they bothering people that can't afford buying a new computer each year? This is crazy. Now I play DVDs on my PC. I have no choice (third party software, like Videolan, have their own issues. They don't take profit of hardware graphic acceleration, choppy images, etc.). And again, there is absolutely no reason to that. It is just a commercial strategy to kick off Mac clients who have the odd idea to keep their computer alive more than 1 year. PCI Radeon-equipped QuickSilvers will suffer the same slings and arrows from their beloved manufacturer.

Is that the Apple way of life I used to know? I used to think that Microsoft acted like that.

Michael Tsai (ATPM Staff) · September 20, 2002 - 11:04 EST #7
The 10.2.1 update does not resolve the video card problem mentioned above. Accelerate Your Mac is collecting reports about it.
Edward Goss · September 22, 2002 - 16:52 EST #8
Until OS X remembers my window settings, and when pushing the Green Button makes my windows expand to properly cover the enclosed files, and doesn't try to connect to the Internet at totally random times regardless of what my TCP/IP settings are, and allows me to start up a Classic program at boot--I think OS 9.2.2 is a more productive OS. There are probably dozens of little quirks that drive people crazy in OS X that a user would think is something they're doing wrong, but actually are System bugs users put up with because they simply don't know any better. I use OS X Jaguar as my daily OS only because I'd really like to see it succeed, and I'm just surfing or retrieving e-mail. But when I'm in a rush to finish a valuable project, it's OS 9 for me. At least I know that all my hardware will work. And, by the way, OS 9.2.2 is really more stable on my Cube than 10.2. No "spinning pizza of death" as I've laughingly seen that silly cursor referred to. Give me function over unneeded form any day.
Endriux · September 27, 2002 - 18:27 EST #9
I work on a 800MHz PIII with Win2000 Pro installed and, yes, it's much more reactive than any other Mac I've ever tried.

Even if Jaguar's speed has improved enormously, window resizing, for example, is still choppy.

I own an iBookG3/600, a PowerBook Lombard G3/333, and an old 8600 powered with a G3/400 and an ATI 128 32MB VRAM.

I installed Jaguar on all my machines and I still prefer OS X to Windows 2000, even on the slowest Mac. This for various reasons:

  1. The Mac is slower and less reactive, but more productive (less clicks, full drag 'n drop support, and so on)

  2. Since OS X had appeared, a big number of Linux apps moved to OS X and now Mac users have more apps than they can try

  3. Hey, OS X belongs to Unix family. This means that all you learn using terminal and OS X reflects the logic of Unix Systems and your know-how can be easily transferred to other Unix-based systems of other platforms: Sun and SGI, for example, not to mention Alpha workstations and mainframes.

  4. In this "path," novices are helped by a very simple interface

  5. With XFree86, a window manager and fink, everyone can download and install Linux apps and work for freeeeeeeee!!!

Fab · September 28, 2002 - 13:13 EST #10
To Endriux,

Yeah, of course, I still prefer OS X. Among all other operating systems, it comes well balanced between high end productivity and high end coolness in everyday use.

But as for Jaguar, I consider it a shame to prevent some users, old users, from using technologies they could use. Come on, DVD playback is no big deal for modern computing. I could understand QE was made for recent Apple hardware customers, but what do you think about an OS that kicks your DVD hardware stuff by some tricky software limitation?

I prefer Mac OS as long as Mac OS behaves like a friendly OS for my hardware. Jaguar is not, in many ways. So I stick to 10.1.5 until my DVD and other stuff come back to me. An upgraded Beige machine is not something you can send to trash just because Steve Jobs makes efforts to have you do so. Regards to all, Fab.
Stephen Conklin · July 19, 2005 - 10:12 EST #11
You know, I grew up on Macs, although, in past years, I've become somewhat of a traitor, switching to The-OS-That-Must-Not-Be-Named. But, when it comes to OS-X, I think back to O/S 2, and see a lot of similarities in speed. It's more like Apple took 2 steps forward and broke even as far as speed is concerned. I haven't used a Mac in about 5 months, but I plan on going back. "Once you use Mac, there's no going back", is what I say. I love the new design for the interface. It's a lot more stuctured than the older O/S models.
And, you gotta love the "Appix" of OS-X.

brian routh · May 23, 2006 - 16:47 EST #12
i have an ibook using os 9.2.2 i got rid of 10.1 because i found it very slow,plus i use premiere for editing and other software that's not compatible with 10.1
i just bought 10.2.3 and haven't loaded it yet. i have one of the few ibooks with a cd-rom instead of dvd. i use an external firewire dvd-rom. i hope the dvd of 10.2.3 will install from this external drive, i will let you know.
i bought this version of 10 to use with a new mp3 player that requires it.
i prefer 9.2.2 and will probably only use 10.2.3 for mp3 and surfing the web.

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