Dealers getting copies of OS X 10.1; reviews positive

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Tomorrow Mac OS X 10.1 arrives. Many dealers are already receiving copies, but won't be selling them until Saturday. And reviews of the major update are good.

"We just received 400 copies of Mac OS 10.1," Keith McDaniel, Apple Product Professional and sales manager for AIS Computers and Services in Georgia, told MacCentral. "We will have these available tomorrow at our Sandy Springs location. We will also open our Savannah location for a short two hours (10 am to noon), as they will have a limited number of copies as well."

The Mac Authority is receiving 200 of the US$129.95 retail CDs, 50 copies of the $19.95 upgrade CD, and 50 copies of the "freebie." The first is the full version for newcomers to the next generation operating system. The second is the upgrade from earlier versions of Mac OS X available for $19.95 (by mail). And the third is for current owners of Mac OS X -- they can pick up a free copy at their local dealer through Oct. 31 or while supplies last.

Meanwhile, reviews of Mac OS X 10.1 in the mainstream press have, overall, been very positive.

Stephen Wildstrom, who writes the " Technology & You " column for BusinessWeek Online says, "version 10.1 of Apple's new operating system is everything the original should have been from the start."

He says the update fixes most of the flaws with previous versions of Mac OS X, such as lack of CD burning features, the inability to play DVDs, and sluggishness. However, Wildstrom does wish that iDVD was ready for Mac OS X now.

The columnist applauds Apple's "concessions" in easing the transition from older versions of Mac system software. For example, the original release provided no way to connect to older Macs or servers using AppleTalk, making it a pain to integrate Mac OS X machines into existing networks.

"But in 10.1, AppleTalk support is back, although Apple continues to urge a move toward more modern methods of networking," Wildstrom writes.

He also likes the new Dock options and the "significant change" in the handling of extensions, the three characters to the right of a period that are used in Windows to associate a data file with a specific application. Although Macs continue to use their own system for identifying file types, Mac OS X now understands extensions and handles them properly, making it much easier to exchange files between Mac and Windows computers, Wildstrom says.

The columnist's main hesitation in wholeheartedly recommending a switch to Mac OS X is the lack of Carbonized versions of important apps such as Photoshop. Until more applications ship, it may not be time for most Mac users to switch to OS X as their primary system, he said.

"Apple itself seems to agree: All new Macs ship with both OS X and OS 9.2 loaded, but 9.2 is the default active system," Wildstrom writes. "(Fortunately, it's very easy to switch back and forth between them.) Philip Schiller, Apple vice president for product marketing, says the company originally planned a 12-month transition to OS X and that the decision to make X the default on new Macs will come before the new system's first birthday next March."

In writing for the San Francisco Chronicle , columnist and long-time Mac user, Henry Norr, wasn't quite so ecstatic. But he still seems pleased with the update. Mac OS X 10.1 addresses many of the issues that has kept some users from migrating to the new system.

"In doing so, Apple has given loyal users something to rally proudly around as Microsoft launches a vast marketing offensive behind its own new operating system, Windows XP," Norr writes. "After using the new Apple software for a week, I'm impressed: Mac OS X 10.1 really does, as the company claims, put the Mac on sturdier underpinnings without sacrificing much of its traditional simplicity and elegance."

However, he's convinced that it will still take "more time and hard work on the part of Apple and Mac application developers before most users, whether at home or in business, will want to make OS X their main computing environment." While Mac OS X 10.1 is a more modern and robust system than Apple has ever had before, it's still somewhat on the slow side, Norr says.

"I still saw a lot more than I wanted to of the spinning CD that Mac OS X puts up when it's delayed -- even on a top-of-the-line, 867-MHz Power Mac G4 Apple provided for evaluation," he writes. "Opening System Preference panels, for example, is slow, and the Add Printer screen even slower. More importantly, the Web browser Apple includes with Mac OS X -- Internet Explorer 5.1 -- is appreciably, sometimes egregiously, slower than the Windows version."

Despite the beefed-up printer support in the update, he writes that he had to "stumble through no fewer than seven dialogue boxes, requiring more than a dozen mouse clicks" to se up his Apple LaserWriter. Though he likes most of the latest refinements in the Dock, including the ability to shut off the "genie" effect, he still finds it inferior to Windows' Taskbar, especially the new XP version, and an inadequate replacement for Mac OS 9's tabbed-folders feature and Control Strop.

"The new 'system status' icons in the Menu bar make it easier to perform routine chores like changing speaker volume, but they also add the same kind of visual clutter that plagues Windows' System Tray," Norr writes. "The old Mac OS' Control Strip provided a clean and convenient way to handle such items. I don't know why Apple doesn't bring it back, or at least provide an option to consolidate these new icons into a menu."

He would also like options to make Aqua buttons stop throbbing and for shutting off or adjusting the feature that makes menus and windows semitransparent. And, like Wildstrom, Norr feels that most users will want to wait until the majority of apps they need on a daily basis are Carbonized before migrating to Mac OS X.

Rob Pegoraro, in his Logging On column for The Washington Post , however, feels that Mac OS X is now "ready for the rest of us." He likes what he's seen.

"First, it boots up faster, launches applications quicker and switches among running programs swifter than its predecessor," Pegoraro says. "Outside software developers have also fine-tuned their own code considerably. One result: On a Power Mac G4 desktop, Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser took 12 seconds to launch under the old version, but now flies onto the screen in two or three. Second, it's as stable as ever, thanks to its Unix underpinnings ... Third, OS X's sleek, shimmering Aqua interface looks and works smarter than before. Apple wisely listened to its users, dumping some failed experiments and adding sorely needed flexibility."

Though the columnist likes Mac OS X 10.1's Finder windows -- which "allow more flexibility in how you want to view files and folders -- he feels they still need some equivalent of Mac OS 9's "spring-loaded folders" to allow a quick jump through the file system. Pegoraro also thinks that Apple needs to fix Mac OS X's file-name extension problem. Programs built in Apple's new "Cocoa" programming framework don't use the traditional Mac file tags that designate a document's type and creator, instead relying on extensions such as ".txt," ".doc," ".gif" and so on.

"10.1 hides these DOS-esque appendages until it thinks the user is trying to edit them -- for instance, by adding an extension to a file's name in the Finder. (At least it's smarter about this than Windows, which usually tries to pretend extensions don't exist at all.)," Pegoraro writes. "Apple says it added this feature to ensure that no PC user will ever receive a file from a Mac owner that can't be opened. That's a laudable goal. The problem with file-name extensions is that they prevent assigning files of the same type to different programs. That is, they can't indicate that one '.htm' file belongs to a Web browser while another belongs to a Web-composing program.

And like everyone else, he appreciates the Classic environment, but looks forward to the day when he can run only Carbonized applications.

"With 10.1, Apple has built a fine house," Pegoraro says. "Now it's up to Mac software developers to furnish the place."

This story, "Dealers getting copies of OS X 10.1; reviews positive" was originally published by PCWorld.

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