Mac OS X Diary: Burning Questions

It isn't often that OS X gets overshadowed. But that's exactly what happened this past week when Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the redesigned iBook and -- momentarily, at least -- relegated Apple's next-generation operating system to "In other news . . ." status.

Still, OS X enjoyed a little bit of the limelight at the iBook launch when Jobs led off his presentation with some OS X-related news: the long-awaited ability to burn CDs on Macs running the new OS would be available that very day.

Our new OS just turned 10.0.2.

No sooner was I back in my pneumatic chair than my finger was on the button to download the new OS. Hey -- I almost certainly knew about the second update before most of the rest of the OS X-running world. I figured I could get the download fast. Indeed, I downloaded the update in a few minutes and had it installed in a few more. After a restart, I was treated to a whole new version of OS X.

Don't get me wrong -- the OS looks and feels the same. In fact, I'm not even sure if it's accurate to say that the OS is now faster -- we haven't done any testing yet to see if it is. Personally, I've noticed an improvement in Classic speed with the update. Everything, from starting up to operation, seems faster since I've updated to 10.0.2. But that could be just me.

No, this update's biggest claim to fame is that it includes CD-burning capabilities in iTunes. Read that last part slowly -- I didn't say anything about CD burning working with other applications. This is an iTunes-only feature at the moment.

The iTunes update has produced mixed results so far. I had it working on a 500MHz Flower Power iMac until I launched Internet Explorer. The disc burning failed. Burning discs in the background must not be a good idea. For a multitasking, multithreaded digital hub with the power of Unix, it just went from rip, mix, burn to rip, mix, bust.

Other times, though, I've been able to burn a CD using OS X. And I didn't even need state-of-the-art hardware to do it. I've got a LaCie 16x10x40 CD-RW drive hooked up to my 350MHz Power Mac G4. As I type this, it's burning like a champ -- a slow champ, but a champ nonetheless. The CD should be done by the time I finish this diary entry.

I tried the same setup with the new Iomega Predator drive, but didn't succeed. iTunes couldn't find a supported CD-RW drive.

The update (along with a downloadable update to iTunes for OS X) also adds an iTunes dockling to the Dock. (A dockling, incidentally, is the name of those cute little functionality icons that are used to control volume, monitor settings, AirPort configurations, and the like.) The result is better control over iTunes. It's a nice addition because now you can keep iTunes in the background, still skipping any songs you don't like and replaying the ones you do. The iTunes update for OS X also features full-screen visual effects, bringing your music to life in what looks like a matinee show at the Laserium. I never knew Wayne Newton's warbling could be so colorful.

I mentioned this after Apple's first OS X update, but it bears repeating: if you're running OS X, you should keep up with any new updates that come out. All you have to do is use the Software Update panel in your System Preferences folder. OS X is growing every day; it's best to have the latest version when it's available. So far, Apple has managed to fix bugs and fill holes in OS X without creating more problems.

Speaking of problems, here's a tip I picked up in Macworld 's Operating Systems forum. A reader mentioned having trouble seeing a drive formatted as Unix File System, or UFS when he booted into OS 9.1. Unfortunately, the only workaround known for this problem is to reformat the drive. Mac OS 9.1 (and earlier versions) can't see the UFS drives. If you want to be able to see your OS X drives, partition them as HFS+ -- Now known as Mac OS Extended. Of course, if anyone knows of a better way to fix that problem, let me know.

OS X-native software continues to arrive on the scene, and Bare Bones Software, in particular, deserves congratulations for producing an excellent version of BBEdit for OS X. It's stable, and looks and acts just like BBEdit for OS 9.X, only with that beautiful Aqua interface. I'm also looking forward to Qualcomm shipping a final version of its popular Eudora e-mail client. From what I see in the most current beta, Qualcomm is doing just fine.

While I'm patting people on the back for doing a good job Carbonizing their popular applications, I should take a moment to shake a finger at one who isn't -- Palm. Palm Desktop could use an update anyway -- why not take the opportunity and kill two birds with one stone?

Gotta go -- my CD is done.

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