Mac OS X Beta Diary: We're Going In!

A couple weeks from now, I will no longer be writing the OS X Beta Diary column, as there will no longer be a beta. I'll make the switch and focus my attention on the new OS X final release, and certainly ready myself for any talk show appearance opportunities that come my way (wink wink, nudge nudge). During the past two weeks, I've answered some of your questions about the new and scary features of the new OS. Hopefully, I've also imparted some insight to those of you who haven't yet used the beta.

So, the OS is still ready to roll on March 24. Apparently, there was some confusion because some of you who preordered it received an e-mail saying that it was on back order. Well, pending a white flag from the Apple development team (or a sacrificial offering to the Aqua god) it will ship on time.

In fact, just this morning I received word that the OS has gone to the Golden Master (GM) stage. Golden Master means the development on the OS has stopped. If any of us would be fortunate enough to receive a copy of OS X just before it goes GM (wink wink, nudge nudge), we would have a good idea of what would work in the final release and what wouldn't. After the GM stage, the developers at Apple work quickly to remove any last-minute bugs that may have popped up along the way, but generally, it's all over.

"All right," you may be saying, "what about the rumors about things that won't be ready, such as DVD support and a mysterious PowerBook sleep problem?" I have yet to hear any details of the PowerBook problem, except that there is one. All I know is that I've been running the first version of the beta on my PowerBook for over six months without PowerBook-specific hitches, and I'm using it at least 40 hours per week as my primary machine. I haven't even heard a direct report about the mysterious problem, but it only takes one person screaming "Fire!" to cause panic in the theater. In other words, it's just a rumor until proven true.

As for DVD playback, I haven't yet seen that working. But ponder this for a moment: Apple is giving us a brand new OS, and right out of the box, there will be limited software support and maybe no DVD support. If you have to put up with no DVD support for a few months, will it really be that bad? If you consider how much you get, and the one or two things you have to temporarily give up, is it really that bad? As with all programs, not everything will work for everyone right away.

I've seen new Classic behaviors in the last few days. In the first version of the beta, Classic can only print to network printers over Ethernet (at least, that was the case for me). There was no Palm synching and no scanner support, until now. Recently, in a newer version of the beta, I've seen a Palm sync in Classic and a scanner work with Photoshop in Classic. These are big steps, and pretty darn good to see at this point.

From here, unfortunately, I have to give the "wait and see speech." My hope is that come March 24, enough application developers will be ready with something for us to use, although that something may be more beta software. Realistically, we'll see a flood of software in the months following the release, because then the developers will actually have a solid place to start.

I haven't lost any enthusiasm about OS X. In fact, during the past few weeks I've just been more and more excited about what is coming. Granted, we won't have all the OS X software we could ever imagine when it comes out, but we'll have a place to start. This is the biggest thing to happen to computers since 1984, when the Mac was released, and look how long it took for that trend to catch on.

Resident OS X expert Brett Larson sits waiting at the keyboard for your questions and comments about OS X. Visit him now at our Mac OS X Forum.

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