It’s not a phone, but for phone users on-the-go, it’s essential. Read More…
Reviewing a Mac OS release is one of the hardest things to do in the world. The way the Mac OS has been revised since it turns X is like no other operating system in the world, and makes the eternal question, “should I upgrade?” even more hard to answer.
Note: I do not believe that a review should go over everything, just the stuff that people should question after they get a good look at what is being reviewed. I suggest everyone visit Apple’s Tiger Launch site to get a grasp on Tiger in addition (if not before reading this review). This is a hype-free zone, go there to get the hype.
Windows does not enhance features with major system-wide revisions except every three to five years with their releases, Linux updates at times appear identical from one another, so many could easily argue that the Mac OS is a compromise, sometimes cost-not-justified, but not leaving users hanging at the same time. Apple makes this burden even more difficult by not updating critical components to support older releases.
The first key is to look at system requirements. The original Mac OS X would run on any G3 or higher (with the exception of the Original PowerBook G3, leaving people who paid upwards of $6000 in the cold for something Apple promised to support initially). Mac OS 10.3 then required built-in USB as the cut-off, and 10.4 builds on this by demanding built-in FireWire. Is this fair? As I go through the new features, I have to say that with an understanding of these cut-offs, that it really is. Tiger is just too demanding to run on previous systems that were built before FireWire’s inclusion.
So, what are the new features, and are they worth it? The easiest way to go at it is to take Apple’s list (they didn’t leave anything out, the number of new features is admittedly low).
Cell Phones – Tiger does not break past developments, but doesn’t build on them either. Tiger still assumes you only have one cell phone, so you’ll still be using BT Setup Assistant to juggle them constantly. iSync doesnï¿½t crash as much, and popular programs such as PocketMac are days away from being updated to support Tiger fully (along with the PPC-6600, which we can confirm now is supported in the latest as well as upcoming releases). Unfortunately, Tiger doesn’t squash the big bugs of OS X with tethering, such as being able to drop connections properly when being disconnected by the modem suddenly.
Spotlight – This sells it, I really don’t need to go on with the rest. Apple’s delivering on Microsoft’s promise to have a fully indexed filesystem. As Steve Jobs put it himself “it has really changed the way we use the computer as we use Tiger more”. I cannot agree with this statement more.
Spotlight creates a dynamically-updated filesystem, you can search inside files, and it updates as you update those files. One of my biggest concerns about Spotlight initially was database corruption, simply leaving folders out of an index that I have no control over. However, after hours of testing, Spotlight showed to fix itself, every time the index was (intentionally) thrown out-of-sync (using very extreme measures on my part), Spotlight stopped, and reindexed the missing portions, then started up again. It’s fast, but also demanding.
As to it changing the way I use computers personally, I’m no longer afraid to have a Documents folder with 10,000 unfoldered, unsorted files. Spotlight finds files faster than any user can scroll through them. And, Spotlight comes pre-loaded with iWork and MS Office indexers, supporting Office products where Microsoft would look bad if they chose to.
Dashboard – I don’t like it, I find that it does trample on Konfabulator’s intellectual property, and in my usage, its implementation appears to even have been hampered in an attempt to not be an utter disgrace to the Mac community that actually knows what Konfabulator is. For example, you can actually put Dashboard Widgets on your desktop through some undocumented tricks, and set next to any Konfabulator widget of similar design, it’s mocking it with its multimillion dollar plastic surgery job.
And the widgets are nothing to write home about either. The Phonebook uses Yellow Book, which has horrible West Coast coverage (couldn’t even find the Apple Store in my area after countless searches), and it will have you running back to Google Local. The Translator is nice, but would be even nicer if Apple used its built-in dictionary support to not need an internet connection.
Safari RSS – Pointless. Any user of RSS on Mac should use a dedicated RSS viewer, such as NetNewsWire (or its free counterpart, NetNewsWire Lite).
iChat AV – Nice use of Core Image (which I’ll get to), but otherwise, irrelevant. H.264 is only beneficial to people with broadband, and in most cases, did not need H.264 to begin with.
QuickTime 7 – More hindered than ever, and now with popups telling you so! They should add “this feature was last free in QuickTime 3/4/5/6” just to make your blood boil more. QuickTime Pro is something Mac owners just shouldn’t have to pay for, and QT 7 just makes it even more necessary to get things done.
.Mac Sync – Someone, anyone, please make a suite of tools that does what .Mac does, it isn’t hard to copy a few .plist files over email and have other Macs sense that message, and parse the changes. Making a WebDAV server for Mac wouldn’t be hard either. But, back to the review. .Mac Sync takes .Mac out of iSync (don’t worry, it leaves the Spam in iSync telling you to buy it). The only new feature is an “automatic” mode that will leave you filled with fear that at some point, all your synced settings will fall apart… which, at some point they probably will.
Mail – New look, probably a sign of things to come as the Mac OS looks more and more like NeXT, but above all, nothing to really write home about as an improvement.
Automator – If you can learn AppleScript, you can learn Automator, which really begs the question how useful it can be. The key to Automator’s success as being “AppleScript for Dummies” will be for developers to create “stop-gap” applications that only serve to be intermediaries between two programs, for example, between Safari and Curl.
The APIs – Tiger’s saving grace, new APIs. Spotlight probably counts as one of them, but its user interface is what most of you will be using.
H.264 – As seen in: (i)Movies (not to be associated with iMovie. Oops, probably shouldn’t have announced that). The world’s worst-kept-secret in the history of computing is that Apple’s most intuitive use of H.264 will be to stream movies onto your Mac, then to your iPod Home (oops, wasn’t supposed to talk about that either), then to your (HD)TV.
UNIX – As Mac OS gets older, it will become more and more UNIX/Linux friendly, there’s already talk of a Linux compatibility environment for 10.5. Tiger starts this process, but for users, probably will have no redeeming qualities for now
64-bit – If you have a G5, Tiger is essential. This is the first release of the Mac OS with 64-bit in-mind. Concepts such as Fat Binaries will ensure G5 users get the best speed possible (as well as G3 and G4 owners).
Core Image & Video – Apple has taken multimedia in the reverse of Microsoft. Microsoft chose to take on 3D hardware processing before 2D. And, they got really good at gaming for doing that, at the cost of Operating System level productivity tasks. Core Image and Core Video allow Tiger to dominate at the level Longhorn probably will when it gets to SP1 (and Apple isn’t stopping there).
In a mere 40 KB you can make polished graphical effects with zero effort, zero Maya, zero Photoshop. Tiger (when installed with XCode Developer Tools) even lets you make your own (I should caution though, this was the most buggy program in OS X, hence it being on the Developer portion). This domination of 2D effects will allow Apple to step into 3D with OpenGL 2.0 in Mac OS 10.5 well-prepared.
And with embedded computing being the future of console gaming, Apple appears to be prepared to deliver on a gaming experience for both their Macs and for the platforms that chose to use Mac OS Embedded (oops, wasn’t supposed to talk about that either), but it’s no secret that with G5’s becoming the developing platform for Xbox 360, and Windows compatibility environments (oops, wasn’t supposed to talk about that either, again), that Apple isn’t forgetting 3D with these 2D developments. Let me put it this way: Core Image/Video + Spotlight = 3D Finder, and developers need to embrace both before a 3D OS can emerge.
Conclusion – So, should people upgrade? Again, Apple makes it hard on users. Savvy users can replace most key features with third-party apps, but Tiger’s new APIs makes developers eager to drop support for older versions in order to take advantage of these new features. The bottom line is, Spotlight and new APIs make it a worthy upgrade, but it will leave a lot of users wishing there was more for almost two years of development.
Final Score: 4/5