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6/30/2005
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Tiger Stalks The Pipelines

Can four Pipeline editors, including one Windows user, agree about the advantages and disadvantages of Apple's new OS?

Is Tiger, Apple's new version of its OS X operating system, really burning bright?

We asked four Pipeline editors — Scot Finnie (a long-time Windows user), Richard Hoffman, Matt McKenzie, and Johnny DeVilla — to install the latest version of Apple's Mac OS X and discuss how the installations went, what they thought of the new operating system, and whether it could make a difference in Apple's sales over the coming year.

Here's how the conversation went:

New Installations

Scot: I installed Tiger tonight on my Mac Mini: the 1.42 MHz model, with a full gig of RAM. On first view, I'm not sure I see what the big deal is. I see that they've installed a Dashboard and third-party Widgets, but nothing else immediately looks all that different.

On the other hand: Am I imagining that I can now — finally — make folders and the desktop automatically sort icons by name? I think this may be my favorite new feature.

Where is the desktop search? I'm sure it's somewhere obvious that I just haven't found because I'm too busy reinstalling all my applications.

By the way, I clean installed, which meant that it wiped my disk and none of my apps were saved. I'm sure I could have created a new partition and moved them there first. But, hey, I didn't have that much to mess with.

Richard: There aren't a lot of huge visual differences — like some of the other point releases, it's not a huge change. It's debatable whether it's worth the money they're charging. There's some stuff under the covers — Active Directory integration is supposed to be improved, though I hear there are a few technical glitches in that yet.

I'm not sure [the ability to make folders and automatically sort icons] is new, though honestly, I've not set up my machines that way before — I have turned on the option to automatically calculate folder size.


Spotlight desktop search.
(Click on image to expand.)
The desktop search? Blue magnifying glass at the top right of the screen. If you add a new drive, it'll tell you how long it takes to index it, otherwise, when you click on it, it's a basic simple search window. I've noticed that I had some unexpected pauses in my system on occasion, and I suspect it's indexing new content (like incoming e-mail, etc.) on the fly. It's pretty cool, though, to be able to automatically search across the entire file system. This is one area where Microsoft is now way behind the curve. People are just going to start expecting this as a normal part of their OS.

By the way, even though I wasn't having any explicit problems, I ended up going back last night and doing a clean install of Tiger on my laptop, just to be sure. But it's a Mac, so that was pretty easy. First, I backed up my drive partitions to an external FireWire drive with the excellent (and free, for basic use), SuperDuper. I used to use Carbon Copy Cloner, but SuperDuper was Tiger-ready and seems to be updated more frequently, as well. It's a very cool and useful app.

Next, I booted from my external drive (to test the integrity of my backup before I wiped the laptop drive), did a clean install of Tiger, then used the option Tiger gives you to restore apps and settings from "another Mac in Firewire Target Disk mode," which copied everything over automatically in one smooth shot. I used my external drive with my backup on it, but I could just as easily have been copying everything over from another Mac. Nice, very nice. I had to replace a couple of the icons on my Dock for some reason, but otherwise it seems to have worked flawlessly. This is the way an OS upgrade should work.

Matt: It will be interesting to see how Tiger plays with my G4 desktop system. It's an old-timer: a Power Mac G4 450MHz, from the first generation of AGP PowerMacs that support Quartz Extreme. (It uses an ATI Radeon video card with 16MB of VRAM, the lower limit for Quartz Extreme support.) Although I tripled the original memory to 384 MB, some of my other interactions with new software releases lately suggests it might roll over and die when Tiger gets hold of it.

I agree with Richard about SuperDuper: It's a great app, and the extra features you get for paying the shareware fee are well worth the money. I also plan to install Tiger on a clean drive, after making and testing a bootable drive image on my LaCie Firewire drive.

Richard: I'm running Tiger on a 1Ghz G4 Powerbook (TiBook), probably about middle of the range, and Tiger's perhaps just a bit faster than Panther. I did get some passing slowness when I first installed, but it may have been indexing my hard drive.. I also wonder if having the Dashboard Widgets in the background eats CPU cycles periodically.

Matt: The Tiger install went flawlessly on my G4. It took 32 minutes, with nary a hiccup. Now that I've got a bootable clone for my iBook, I plan to install Tiger there, too.

Post-install, I noticed just one odd issue on the G4 so far: Every time I log in or wake the system, it says it does not recognize my keyboard type and makes me go through a quick but annoying keyboard config test. I'm using a Kensington wireless keyboard/mouse set addressing a shared RF receiver, which in turn plugs into my KVM switch controlling both Macs.

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