Mac OS X.1: Shocking Preview

With the passing of the Summer MacWorld keynote, Steve Jobs tantalized us by demonstrating the new mouth-watering features added to the much-anticipated Mac OS X.1 update. If you missed the keynote address, get the lowdown here.

The weekís article will summarize the newly announced features of Mac OS X.1 and explain how they will make your computing experience much better. Apple still has a long ways to go to complete the ìperfect OS,î but the progress is definitely noticeable. Last week I left you with a few thoughts regarding Darwin, and I also filled you in on Darwinís historical background. Next week, I will tell you how to install Darwin alone on a partition, and also how to install and use some handy applications. This week is kind of a special feature article, due to the recent announcement of OS X.1.

Steve Jobs started out the MacWorld Expo in New York this week with a bang. In addition to the new blazing fast ìsilverî G4s, the iMac line was revved. Appleís much-anticipated OS X.1 update was announced and the dates finalized. Many complaints from users of the first Mac OS X release were addressed, and some new surprises added too.

Among my personal favorite changes include: performance, performance, and performance! Yes, that is right! Were you astonished the first time you played around in OS X and noticed how slow everything was? If Mac OS X is supposed to be the worldís most advanced operating system, why does it act like you are wadding through a pool of molasses? Well, OS X.1 is going to fix that once and for all. Iím glad Apple got their act together and fixed this major flaw before it became a common trademark of the OS.

The performance boost will bring up almost every aspect of OS X inline with that of a clean install of OS 9.1. Of course, Mac OS 9 never had the upper hand when it came to multitasking, but it definitely was more responsive and agile about the interface and application use than OS X. Gladly, the OS X.1 update will allow you to enjoy Aqua with out paying the price of performance. Apple claims that under X.1, applications will launch two or three times faster than before. Finder windows and menus will also be much snappier. Switching between different view types in windows will also be snappy.

For those of you who absolutely hate the way Apple minimizes windows in OS X, Mac OS X.1 will introduce a new ìscaleî effect in addition to the ìgenieî effect. The scale effect is very similar to the way Windows 95+ minimizes a window. However, the scaling will actually be rendered real-time, and not just a constantly collapsing blue title bar, which happens to compliment the ìBlue Screen oí Deathî commonly found in a competing OS.

One of the reasons Apple speeded up interface actions was by taking advantage of a better version of OpenGL, which is first implemented in the OS X.1 release. Native support for the nVIDIA GeForce 3 card is also a nice addition for power users.

Mac OS X.1 will also add some new features in addition to the speed boost. Perhaps one of the most exciting being the ability to burn data CDs from the desktop. The Finder in OS X.1 will be able to mount a blank CD-R or CD-RW to the desktop. Users will be able to drag-and-drop files directly to the CD. When the CD contents have been complied to satisfaction, the user will just click the ìburnî button in the CD window and the CD will be burned. I think that is a great feature and will save lots of time. On the other hand, it will be interesting to see what Roxio (the makers of Toast) comes out with to compete this new feature.

Another new software feature Apple added to OS X.1 is the ability to use iDVD 2. The second version of this handy software will feature several Mac OS X.1-only improvements. I look forward to burning DVDs using the enhanced MPEG compression and editing tools this new software has to offer.

AppleScript support is also expanded in OS X.1 to cover non-Finder components, such as Print Center, Internet Connect, and Terminal. Another cool addition is the ability to send AppleScript events from one Mac OS X system to another using the Internet protocols SOAP and XML. Even though Iím not sure how often this feature will actually be needed, it is nice knowing it is still there.

In addition to connecting to other OS X computers for AppleScript events, Apple has now extended networking support for all of todayís network languages. Yes, that's right, you can now access all of your classic AppleShare services, M$ NT Servers, LINUX servers, and even UNIX-based SAMBA servers! Wait! But that's not allÖ call within the next 15 minutes and weíll include your very own iDisk as a default icon in the Finder toolbarÖ along with WebDAV support so you can only connect when you need to, and no iDisk disconnection messages. And while using your iDisk to host your web site, donít worry about your incompatibilities from using Java 2, as Mac OS X.1 is the only major desktop operating system to fully support Java 2 in its default web browser.

In a swift move to broaden the PostScript printers supported in OS X, Apple tossed in over 200 printer description files with the X.1 update. I can understand how this move sounds good, but all I see is unnecessary bloating. I hope they donít start doing that with every USB plug-and-play device too.

For those of you who like the UNIX features Mac OS X brings, such as long file names, youíll enjoy some visual and functional Aqua improvements. In OS X, long file names are visually curtailed when an ellipsis. In OS X.1, you are allowed to resize the columns to easily display longer file names. Many of you long-time Mac users are somewhat resistant to working in an OS where file extensions are prominent, like Winbloze, and now Mac OS X. To maintain full Internet compatibility, OS X needs to keep file extensions, which is sometimes annoying. But luckily, there is helpÖ Now in OS X.1 there is a preference panel option for hiding file extensions. The key is it hides them from you, it doesnít delete them, simply makes them invisible. All your applications will know how to treat the files correctly. The difference is you just wonít have to put up with the extra text clutter of file extensions. Again, a very handy feature, but not a true necessity. I do like the fact that Apple is including all these helpful things to make the Mac even more Mac-like than ever. But that does come with a price to control and organize all of these features, but it seems Apple is thinking faster than me right now. To help you actually use and configure all these extra settings, they have reorganized the System Preferences panel. Now, youíll see the panel icons strategically placed in horizontal rows with other panels that control similar functions. An example is how Apple placed all the control panels that deal with the Internet and networking on a row, and then hardware controls on a different row. I like how this is, and it sure beats staring at a window of 36 scattered control panels in the classic Mac OS. Nice thinking, Apple.

The System Preferences window isn't the only thing Apple changed. When you get OS X.1 installed on your system, supposed to be released this September, youíll also notice some handy Control Strip modules of yesteryear reincarnated. Instead of taking up space on the Dock, Apple has repositioned things such as PowerBook battery life, and AirPort signal strength to the menu bar. You will also notice controls for system audio, display, and modem connection. When you glance down at the Dock, you may not like it there. Apple has fulfilled a popular request; the Dock is now movable from the low center position to either the far right or left vertical axis of the screen as well. I am sure this will help some peopleís work method.

What I have just explained pretty much wraps all of what is new with the OS X.1 update. Hopefully Apple will continue to sneak in goodies to help make our Macs more customizable.

Next week we will head back to our Darwin discussion. I will show you how to install Darwin on itís own partition and install an app or two with out using any type of GUI. More nifty command lines are probably around the corner too.

Thanks for reading Moofíin! If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me: sburrish@mac.com. I read all letters regarding my articles and you will get a personal response shortly.