A deeper look at Mac OS X 10.5.6

Monday’s release of OS X 10.5.6 included a number of updates that fix bugs, improve security, and in some cases, add new (or bring back) functionality to the Mac operating system. Apple detailed many of these changes in its official release notes. Of the things Apple documented, one change was of particular interest to me (and, perhaps, to many other Macworld readers):

Fixes an issue when running the New iCal Events Automator action as an applet.

That’s right; the Create iCal events from anywhere hint from April of 2008 now works again—the 10.5.3 update broke it, and 10.5.6 fixes it. I’ve confirmed this on two machines here; my most-used Automator applet is now back in business!

Another interesting tidbit revealed by Apple is greatly improved synching of bookmarks, contacts, and calendar changes—regardless of where you make changes, those changes should propagate to all devices within a minute. In the past, updates from the computer to an iPhone, for instance, could take quite a while. In my testing, this seemed to work as described, with updates to my calendar sometimes showing up in less than a minute on my other devices. Being able to update information on any source device and have those changes propagate quickly and automatically is a welcome addition to OS X’s capabilities.

Apple highlights a number of other changes, from the important (improved printing from Adobe’s CS3 applications), to the interesting (all laptops get a new Trackpad System Preferences panel, though four-finger gestures haven’t migrated to older machines) to the mundane (Chess is now more reliable).

Beyond what Apple told us about, however, there are more changes—with an update approaching 200MB in size, that’s to be expected. To see what else I could find, I dove into the update’s bom file, found in /Library -> Receipts -> boms, and examined the 10.5.6 bom file with lsbom. Most of the changes I found there correspond to Apple’s release notes—updates to iCal, Mail, Safari, Address Book, Chess, DVD Player, and more would all be expected based on the notes. There are, as expected, lots of other areas that were updated, most of which are probably not all that interesting. After digging through the file, though, here are the things that caught my eye.

  • Bluetooth seems to have received some attention, as Bluetooth File Exchange, the Bluetooth Contextual Menu, some Bluetooth-related files in the CoreServices folder, and the Bluetooth Setup Assistant all showed updates to more than just language files.
  • The Migration Assistant received some updates as well. Many are just language files, but some connection files also appear to have been updated.
  • The Podcast Capture application was updated, going from version 1.0.2 to 1.0.3. In looking at the bom file, it appears there were changes in the login panel, the preferences panel, and the camera configuration panel.
  • For those who care about such things, the Apache Web Server manual has been updated; you’ll see new pages when you access the manual on your machine.
  • There were a lot of changes to low-level drivers, frameworks and extensions. The details of those changes, however, are beyond my skill level. Compared to prior updates, however, it seemed like there were a larger-than-usual number of such changes.

I’ve now updated all four Macs here—a first-generation Mac Pro, a 2.5GHz MacBook Pro (from the pre-unibody era), a mid-2008 iMac, and my workhorse 12-inch PowerBook G4—to 10.5.6. On two of those machines, I installed the gargantuan (700MB) combined updater, and on the other two, I used the 190MB incremental updater as found by Software Update. (I use both methods just to make sure the updates run smoothly regardless of how the updates are installed.) So far, so good, as I haven’t had anything break, and I’m thrilled to have my Automator-based iCal new event application up and running again.

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