Mac OS X Beta Diary: Still Loving It

Not too long ago, I was convinced that when Steve Jobs got up on stage to give his keynote address at Macworld Expo in San Francisco, he would either mention me by first and last name, or announce that you could buy OS X at the Apple booth "Today!" to a crowd of screaming fans and queasy developers (who would now have to figure out what snappy OS X-ready product they could peddle during the show). Unfortunately, neither of my hopes came true. That's OK . . . he can mention me in the keynote at New York (so long as it's not in the sentence, "Security, handcuff Brett Larson and remove him immediately!"). And by then, OS X will be old news.

No, instead of getting my hands on a copy of the new Mac OS, I got to see Steve Jobs show off the new features not present in my version of the OS X beta. I also got to watch as an Apple representative played with Mac OS X for me at the Apple booth -- at least, until he found out who I was, at which point he stopped talking to me. Nice. It was like seeing Disneyland via someone else's home movies. Someone who only went on the really bad rides.

I, for one, don't care that the icons jiggle in the Dock when an application starts. And I certainly don't care to see the Genie effect when documents are minimized and fly into the Dock -- especially not in slow motion.

It became my quest: I wanted to see what the new, demoed-at-Macworld-Expo version of OS X had to offer. I wasn't able to get it done at the Apple booth, and calls to Apple for a copy were met with the pleasant chirping of crickets. So around the show floor I walked, hoping I could find a copy of the new OS, and have my way with it. No luck.

Until now. As of today, I've had a chance to play with the new version quite a few times: boot it, break it, test it, time it, even run that dumb Genie effect until my eyes teared. And after seeing and using this latest release, I feel even more positive about Mac OS X than I have with any previous version to date.

Overall, Mac OS X is faster -- not just more-responsive-than-the-public-beta faster, I mean faster than any Graphical User Interface (GUI) operating system I've ever seen, and I was using this on a 400MHz G4. Windows whip around the desktop, the Genie effect is a blur, and applications start up before their bouncing icons in the dock can finish a bounce.

Getting around within OS X is easy, and now I have the option of using the familiar Finder functionality of previous Mac OS releases, or the faster (and I think much easier to use) Next-inspired column finder.

The interface changes and added Apple menu are very pleasant, and the customizable Finder window is great. Finder windows are no longer all named Finder -- they're named for what they are open to, so a window of MP3 files is labeled MP3s, and the Documents folder window is labeled Documents. A nice fit-and-finish addition.

OS X's Classic mode -- in which Mac OS 9 applications are run -- seems to start much faster than in the first version of the beta, launching and ready in less than 20 seconds. Classic also now provides some customizable features that are accessible without launching, such as starting up without loading extensions, or rebuilding the desktop database.

The new version also mounted my digital camera the same way OS 9.1 does -- as a mass storage device. And where no printer support over USB was built in, I did see a demo on the show floor at Expo of a Canon printer hooked up and printing using OS X with excellent results, so that's sure to be there in a 1.0 release.

So, to sum up: the latest developments in Mac OS X are extremely encouraging. Apple appears to truly be listening to what the Mac community has been saying. This latest beta version incorporates everything I really wanted from the first version of Mac OS X, along with quite a few things I never thought I'd need.

Come March 24th, OS X will kick some serious butt in the operating system arena. Finally, not only will we have the prettiest computers, but we'll have the coolest and fastest operating system around.

Discuss Mac OS X beta with Brett Larson in our Mac OS X forum . . . .

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