Backseat driver: Movin' on up to Mac OS X 10.1

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Mac OS X 10.1 went on sale Saturday and if emails from readers are any indication, it was a big hit. Line-ups were reported in Canada and the U.S. at Apple retail locations, dealers and places like CompUSA. As expected, some of locations sold out of the update very quickly while others still had some stock left by the end of weekend.

I began using 10.1 as my main operating system after receiving my disk on Saturday. Having played around with previous versions of Mac OS X, I've eagerly awaited the day when the next generation operating system would be ready for primetime.

That day has come, at least for me. In my job as a reporter, I use my Mac for three main business chores: writing, e-mail and Internet access. AppleWorks -- especially the latest version (6.2.1) that's designed especially for Mac OS X 10.1 -- serves most of my word processing needs (though I am anxious to give Word X a whirl). Here are my first impressions. More detailed ones will follow later.

The Mail application that comes with Mac OS X is a solid e-mail program, though it's not yet up to the level of apps such as Entourage and Eudora. Internet Explorer 5.1 is an incremental improvement to an already nice browser. Still, I plan to give Mac OS X versions of OmniWeb, iCab, Netscape and Opera a try in the days ahead.

When it comes to non-business uses for my Mac, I use it mainly for listening to CDs and watching DVDs. iTunes for Mac OS X is now up to feature parity with the Mac OS X 9.x version in terms of its "burning" capabilities. And the Mac OS X DVD Player is very nice. In fact, I noticed fewer dropped frames in my latest DVDs ("The Outlaw Josey Wales, "Blow Out") when playing them in Mac OS X than in the player on the traditional Mac operating system.

When it comes to performance, Apple CEO Steve Jobs didn't lie when he said "everything" was faster. Applications do launch two to three times faster (AppleWorks, IE and Mail open with just one "bounce." Aqua menus are zippier; windows resize faster and files copy A LOT quicker.

The new Aqua tweaks are very nice. You can now move the Dock from the bottom to the left or right sides of the screen. New system status icons on the menu bar provide consumers with more convenient access to commonly used functions such as the new volume control slider, display settings, date and time, as well as easier access to Internet connection settings and convenient monitoring of wireless networks and battery charging.

And, at long last, Easy Access is part of Mac OS X. In 10.1 it's in the system preferences and called Universal access.

There are still some missing pieces, however. Although Palm Desktop does work fine in the (also faster) Classic environment, I anxiously await the X version of the app (due before the end of the year) so I can more easily sync with my Palm handheld. And I do like playing games occasionally, but there are no Mac OS X savvy joysticks or gamepads for use. Apple says that all the pieces are in place for this to happen, so I'm hoping that a third party developer will offer the necessary drivers post haste. And perhaps Mac OS X support for TV and radio tuners will arrive sooner rather than later.

Another "must have" on my Mac OS X wish list is iDVD 2. It's on the way, scheduled to be released this month. I've become very fond of my SuperDrive and creating my own DVDs, so I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on it.

Also, as Forest Liu, my man in China, points out, the "localization" of Mac OS X 10.1 has turned out to be a bit disappointing. Seems Mac OS X 10.1 still has only been localized in the original few languages.

If you want to be able to have other language menus you'll need to buy "localized" versions of Mac OS X 10.1, which would seem to effectively dilute the truly global aspect of Mac OS X. Apple has posted a TIL article discussing how Mac OS X supports other languages not included in this release. Liu, for instance, will have to buy the "localized" Mac OS X 10.1 in China to be able to write in Chinese. He can now only read Chinese in the main Mac OS 10.1 release.

"What this means in the end is that Apple has taken a step back in their effort of being more international," he told MacCentral. "In the classic Mac OS, I could have a US system, this way receiving all updates and having the best compatibility with other software and read and write Chinese. In Mac OS X, I have to buy the localized Mac OS X to read and write Chinese, and while, luckily, I can switch the menu back to English, I'm stuck with just about never receiving updates to my operating system. As an example: Mac OS 10.0.4 never was released for the Chinese localized version of Mac OS X. I can't believe Apple doesn't find it necessary to have a truly global OS. All they need to do is send one or two Chinese programmers to Cupertino to work with them on keeping the OS localized from the start. They're doing it for Japanese, they should do the same for all other languages."

Yes, there are still some rough edges to be worked out. However, I really like what I see and experience in Mac OS X. I'm already test-driving several Carbonized applications and will be offering some hands on tests in the days ahead. If you or your company has a Carbon app they'd like MacCentral to drive around the block, drop us an e-mail (dsellers@maccentral.com).

In concluding, some folks felt that Rob Pegoraro, in his " Logging On " column for "The Washington Post," made some errors. He wrote that 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."

That isn't true, according to Steve Setzer. Cocoa and Carbon alike have full, absolute, complete support for Mac file tags in addition to extensions.

"For example, OmniWeb's creator code is OWEB and Preview's is prvw. Apple assigned 'ttxt,' the code originally for TeachText and later for SimpleText, to the TextEdit application," Setzer said. "OmniWeb, Preview, and TextEdit are all Cocoa apps (in fact, all three originally appeared under NeXTStep on black hardware). The real problem is that Apple and a few of their vendors, have not consistently assigned creator codes to all of their Cocoa apps. Most of the Cocoa vendors I am aware of, however, such as Omni Group, Stone Design, Scott Anguish, and IllumineX, have registered creator codes with Apple and are using them. Their documents have the type and creator information written correctly."

For more info, download and read the " System Overview " document, which goes into excruciating detail on how OS X decides which application should open a file. The bottom line is, if a file has a type and creator code, it takes precedence over extensions, Setzer said.

"The only change in 10.1 is that the Finder and some of the Open and Save sheets display and edit extensions a bit more explicitly and helpfully," he added. "The base functionality has always been in Mac OS X for anyone to do things the way they want -- Mac-style, Windows-style, or Mac+Windows-style (which is what, say, OmniWeb does -- by default it writes out the type and creator codes AND appends .html to the filename you specify)."

This story, "Backseat driver: Movin' on up to Mac OS X 10.1" was originally published by PCWorld.

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