Tiger Wish List

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With less than a dozen days left until the unveiling of Mac OS X Tiger (or at least choice parts of it) at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, it's about the last chance to participate in idle speculation about what features will appear in Tiger. Or, more importantly, what features we wish were in Tiger.

At the wrap-up panel for excellent Macworld UK Conference last month, one of the conference attendees asked the panel (which included myself, Andy Ihnatko, Ben Long, and Deke McClelland) what we thought would be in Tiger. It took us a little while to get the ball rolling, but eventually the ideas came fast and furious.

I have no doubt that, as usual, Apple will surprise and impress with a bunch of ideas that nobody's ever thought of, or at least hasn't thought of in quite the way that Apple has. That's what Apple does. But since it's impossible to predict, let's leave the Big Apple Innovation aside for now. Instead, I want to at least float a few items that are on my wish list.

Location Management. I'm a PowerBook user. I move between two main locations, my home and the Macworld offices, almost every day. Sometimes I'm off in a hotel room or a strange Starbucks, too. I want my PowerBook to sense where it is and change my settings accordingly.

Recently I had to troubleshoot a network connection on my mother's first-generation iBook. It's still running Mac OS 9 (note to self: buy her some RAM and upgrade her to OS X!), and as a result it's incapable of doing something that I've come to take for granted in Mac OS X: auto-sensing the appropriate network connection. OS X is smart enough to know that if you've got no Ethernet connection but an AirPort connection, you probably would prefer to use AirPort and be connected to the Internet than stick with Ethernet and not be connected. That's good.

But it's not enough. The next step is to be able to change numerous settings based on the name of the active 802.11 base station or your Mac's currently assigned IP address. I want my Mac to know when I'm at home and change my default printer, my iChat status, maybe even mount my local file server and change my default SMTP server to my ISP's. Basically I want Location X with even more features.

Smart File Syncing. One of Panther's new abilities was to sync a local disk image with a remote server -- namely, the iDisk portion of .Mac. As someone who mounts remote servers and FireWire volumes on a regular basis, I'd like to see the ability to sync files added to the OS in general. Let me pick two folders in the Finder and tell them to sync to one another, regardless of where the two folders happen to live. Such a feature shouldn't be constrained to iDisk.

The Modular Mac. This is a complicated one. First, I'd like the ability to keep my user folder on an external drive. You can fake it now, but woe be to the person who tries to put their PowerBook to sleep while they've booted off of an external hard drive. It's not pretty.

But more than that, I want the ability to take a drive with my user information on it and plug it in to any Mac (okay, any Mac with this feature turned on, or with me as an authorized user, or however you want to work it). When that Mac recognizes my user folder on the external drive, I want it to add me to the list of users, so that I can log on and use my preferences (and maybe even my apps) on that computer. In other words, when I go home at night, I should be able to put my PowerBook into FireWire mode and log in to my G5 using the same user data, preferences, and other information that I use when I boot right off of the PowerBook. Just as one example.

I realize that while some of my top three Tiger requests are pretty practical, others are a little bit radical. But hey, that's the fun of speculating and creating wish lists.

What are your wishes for Tiger? Let me know in the comments thread attached to this entry, and I'll try to summarize your wishes in a future entry.

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