I wasn’t really expecting the Tiger CDs to show up via Federal Express on Friday. To me, the “release date” of software is usually the day that the company plans on starting to ship, not the day you receive it.
However, about 11am on Friday we received several packages from Apple via FedEx. Since we have AMPs on all of our Macs, both client and server, it was interesting to see what arrived:
- 7 OS X Server 10.4 Disc sets with license keys
- 1 OS X 10.4 DVD
Not only did these all arrive in 4 different packages, there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to how they were shipped. Even though we have a 10-user AMP for OS X client, there was no reference to that in the single DVD that arrived. Strange.
Well, we were excited. It’s always fun to get packages you weren’t expecting, especially when they give you an opportunity to possibly break your computer!
I spent the early part of the afternoon backing up my PowerBook to a Firewire drive. Since I have a lot of MP3s it took quite a while, but it’s better to be safe. Besides, I planned to completely wipe the drive and start clean.
It’s not that I don’t trust the upgrade process… or maybe it is. I’ve had bad luck upgrading OS X, older versions of MacOS (7 to 8 to 9, anyone?), Windows (although my coworker Jerry has me beat there, having survived an upgrade from Win3.11 to Win95 to Win98. Yikes!), and I’ve even had problems upgrading Linux distros.
So my standard procedure for new operating systems is to start with a clean slate. Sure, it usally means more work getting preferences and other things set up the way you like them, but it guarantees less problems in the long run.
Once I had everything backed up, I rebooted and booted off the DVD. No muss, no fuss. There aren’t a lot of installer options, which I actually like, unless I’m building a server and I want to be very selective about what’s installed. Remember the ability to pick every single thing in MacOS 9?
One thing I did do is run Disk Utility before installing, and partitioned the drive into 45mb for OS X and 10mb for me to experiment with the latest release of Ubuntu Linux. I love Ubuntu on my Dell laptop and I want to see how it runs on Apple hardware.
The install went without a hitch, and I booted back into the initial configuration. My only complaint here is that Apple uses this time to really sell you on a .Mac account. You’re asked at least 3 times to go and buy an account if you don’t have one. Leave it alone, Apple! Once is enough.
After config, you’re back in the Finder. Everything looks pretty much the same as 10.3. Some icons have changed: the Apple Menu is a brighter blue, iChat now looks like a bubble window, and of course the Spotlight icon in the upper right corner.
So far I have had only a single program that does not work: Now UpToDate/Contact. To give Now Software credit, they warned us beforehand that the current version would not work on Tiger. I find this interesting, since many other programs that I figured would not work have absolutely no problems:
- Timbuktu Pro 7
- Toast 6
These are all programs, or types of programs, that have given me grief in other OS upgrades. It’s a credit to both Apple and all their developers that this was a pretty smooth transition by comparison; but I’m sure that there are other applications that don’t work yet in Tiger.
I’ve spent a bit of time with Spotlight, enough to know that I like the ability to search for things so quickly across files and programs. A caveat, though: if you use Entourage, Thunderbird or Eudora for email, you’re out of luck. Spotlight won’t return any results from these programs, except for Thunderbird and Eudora, where it will return the name of a message folder.
I understand why Entourage is a problem - like Outlook on the PC it stores everything in a single database-like file that has a proprietary format. Go figure.
But Thunderbird and Eudora use a well-known text-based method of message storage - one that has been around for years and which should be dead simple for Spotlight to search through. I don’t know if this is just an oversight on Apple’s part, or a deliberate snub to other popular mail clients. Either way, it’s a useful feature that needs to be added in the next update of Spotlight.
I’ve only played with Dashboard a very little. It’s pretty eye candy, but it’s usefulness to me is limited. While there are some nifty applications, I don’t see me using them in the Dashboard. I will more likely use the method described here at OS X Hints and detach the useful widgets from Dashboard so I can use them standalone.
Possibly the neatest eye candy feature that also is useful is the RSS Reader screensaver. You specify a news source, and the screensaver shows you in a really wild sort of Matrix-like display the latest items from that RSS feed. If you see one you want to read, you hit a number that it tells you on the keypad, and it drops out of screensaver mode and into a web browser with the page. Definitely cool, and there is a hint here that tells you how to change the background color from the default blue.
I do like the new Mail.app. The interface is cleaner, they got rid of that stupid drawer and adopted a more clean three-pane interface like other mail applications. The toolbar buttons are a little odd. They look like controls for a media player instead of a mail application. Mail.app is screaming for skinning to make the toolbar better looking.
One major improvement in Mail.app seems to be the IMAP support. IMAP folders open and display much faster than previously. You don’t have to do any poking around in the Advanced setup to make Mail.app understand subfolders in your Inbox. So far, it doesn’t seem to have the problem that 10.3 Mail had where my mailbox would suddenly just go offline and not be able to be brought back online. All of this makes me happy.
Safari seems faster in 10.4. I didn’t have much time to play with Safari 1.3 in 10.3, and when I did I wasn’t happy with it. There were Java issues and strangely Safari would crash with SSL pages. I have not yet seen that behavior in 10.4. Crossing my fingers… but if Safari doesn’t work I will happily go back to Firefox.
Conclusions? The upgrade went flawlessly. I haven’t had any application or data issues. My PowerBook seems a little zippier than it did before, but that may just be due to a fresh install with no cruft hanging around like I had from the previous 9 months of 10.3.
Next up is installing Ubuntu. But that’s another posting.