Apple Archive

Panther on Slot-Loading iMacs and a 12" PowerBook

- 2003.11.07

I really had no reason to upgrade to Mac OS X 10.3 Panther, but constant complaints by my sister - "my computer is too slow" and the more recent complaint of "my computer doesn't work" - seemed to demand we do something.

Short of buying her a new computer (she wants one of those ThinkPad T-series notebooks), reports of speed increases with OS X 10.3 seemed to suggest that it might be a low cost solution to making her Mac a little bit faster. She's got a 450 MHz iMac DV+, upgraded to 384 MB of RAM, which should run Jaguar just fine, but I think the low-end 8 MB video card is what's really slowing things down. Since that's not upgradeable, there's really not much that can be done to improve the performance that hasn't already been done.

Since she was getting 10.3, we figured that we might as well get it for our two other computers, a 500 MHz iMac (CD-RW model) and my 12" PowerBook G4. After a mix-up with the delivery (it ended up taking four tries to deliver it to the correct address), we finally got Panther early this week.

I opened the box and discovered 3 CD-ROMs. "So this is going to be like back in the days of System 7 with 15 different floppy disks you have to keep in order," I thought. I put disc 1 in the iMac DV+ and ran the install as an "archive and install" (in order to eliminate those problems with the current installation of 10.2), but I had to leave the house in the middle of it.

The installer is similar to that of 10.2, but I was really glad to see that now you have more advanced options - you can select exactly what software you want installed. For instance, I don't need the printer drivers when there's no printer connected to the computer. I'm impressed at how fast the installation process was. It took only about 25 minutes to upgrade my PowerBook.

When I got back, the iMac was asking for disc 2. I put it in. About five minutes later the installer quit and the desktop came up. The 10.3 desktop looks similar to the one in 10.1 and 10.2, but the menus, menu bars, etc., are definitely much more "toned down" looking. This seems to help eliminate some of the distraction that that striped pattern caused.

The new Finder seems faster, and it's easier to navigate through files with the toolbar on the side. The multiple user switching thing I haven't used, since none of our Macs have more than one user. One really nice feature - one I've been wanting since 10.1 came out without it - is a prompt for a password when waking from a screen saver or sleep mode. 10.1 and 10.2 only did this when waking from a screen saver, but it didn't work with auto-logon. This is a nice feature that adds a bit of security to my PowerBook.

With Panther it seems like it's the little things that matter. I don't use iChat and haven't even opened up iChat AV. I don't use iCal, iPhoto, iMovie, or many of the other supplied applications, but some of the little features really make a big difference to me. I'm one of the few people who actually missed the file and folder labels when they were gone in 10.0, so I welcome their return in 10.3.

I do think some of the things were changed just for the sake of changing them, like combining the Desktop and Screen Effects control panels into one in the System Preferences, like it was in 10.1. "Come on, make up your mind, separate or all-in-one!"

The only thing that seems slower is the new fade effect when you go from a system preference setting back to the list of all system preferences. I don't like it, and it makes computers like my sister's iMac struggle. I don't particularly like the brushed metal theme either, but at least the Finder, Safari, iTunes, iPhoto, iCal, etc. all match now, and having things match helps keeps things consistent for me and other users who expect different applications to have similar types of interfaces.

I've played a bit with Exposé, but I don't think I'll be using it much. The "hide all but the desktop" feature is kind of nice, though, and I may find myself using that once in a while just because I frequently seem to endlessly press command-H to hide all of the open applications in order to view files on the desktop.

Is Panther faster than Jaguar? (Note that the last two have been named after fast animals - I wonder what the next one will be?) I'd love to say that it is, but I can't really tell. The iMac's installation of Jaguar was so bogged down (by endless upgrades and software updates) when it was working that 10.3 feels much quicker. On my PowerBook it feels about the same as 10.2, with the only real difference seeming to be that the Finder does its thing a bit faster.

I love the real-time searching from the toolbar, which seems to work at a reasonable speed.

The best part is that all of my applications still work, something I've always worried about when doing an OS upgrade.

After using Mac OS X 10.3, is it worth it? I don't know.

If you like some of the new features and have an extra $129 to spend, it's worth it. If you don't think any of the new features will benefit you, there's no point in spending your money. Go buy some more RAM instead - by the time 10.4 is out the minimum will probably be up to 256 MB, meaning, of course, that 512 MB will be the practical minimum requirement.

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