Apple Archive

Hands On Mac OS X v10.2

- 2002.08.30

I was one of those people who pre-ordered Mac OS X 10.2 (Jaguar). I ordered it on Wednesday - not exactly the smartest thing, since "two day shipping" doesn't include Saturday delivery; in which case I would have had it on the 24th.

Well, waiting till Monday wasn't bad, and for the most part I think it was worth the wait.

Now, 10.2 isn't an OS specifically made to show off major new features. What it really is is a fine-tune of 10.1. If you installed it expecting new features galore and speed equivalent to Mac OS 9 on your old beige G3, you will probably not be thinking very highly of Mac OS 10.2. If you installed it expecting what I was expecting - a refinement of 10.1 - you will most be pleased.

Apple has moved a few things around and renamed a few other things in the latest Mac OS version. Screen Saver is now called Screen Effects. (I don't know why. Most people understand the term screen saver better than screen effects.) There is a new DVD/CD option in the system preferences that lets you pick what you want the computer to do when you insert a specific type of CD, and a few icons have been added, as well as a couple of added options in the Desktop Picture and General system preferences, among others. Universal access now gives you the option of having the screen flash on an alert, similar to the title bar flashing in Mac OS 9, as well as zooming in on specific parts of the screen or running the computer in inverted mode (white on black).

The Finder is much faster. Finder windows now have a nice zoom effect similar to that of OS 9. There is an incredibly useful search field in the Finder toolbar, which I think is exactly what was needed. No more "well, where's Sherlock then?" - the search box in the Finder toolbar is what the Finder really needed. Oh, and there's finally a forward button on the toolbar!

So if the need for Sherlock is gone, why is it still in the dock? The "new" Sherlock searches the Internet for stocks, travel information, movies, eBay items (yes, eBay items!), and you can even track your packages and search the Apple Knowledgebase without opening your Web browser.

Pretty nice features, but some of you may not know that these features were available before 10.2, in an application called Watson, which was even downloadable off of Apple's Mac OS X software site. Unfortunately, the developer of Watson was not recognized or compensated for the features "borrowed" from Watson for the new Sherlock.

The main problem with the new Sherlock is that upgrading users may not realize that you can no longer use Sherlock to find files on your hard drive! This certainly surprised me, and it took me a little bit to realize that 'command-F' opened up a 'Find File' window, similar to that of System 7.5.

I chat, you chat, we can all chat with Apple's new instant messaging client, iChat. But is it any good? The idea and UI is decent, however it is complicated to get into the login screen (you have to go to preferences to change the login name), and it does not support buddy list groups - something I find essential. The way that IM's pop up and a simple click on a new IM will result in a full chat box where you can type replies into a field below is great. I love the chat bubbles, although it does take some getting used to. Unfortunately, iChat doesn't seem to support freeform profiles like AOL's client does, and the way the away messages work is a little bit confusing. However, the concept is great and it really has potential - but until I can have my freeform profile and buddy groups, I don't Chat; I use AOL's AIM client.

Rendezvous networking is kind of nice - your machine is able to find any other machine (or rendezvous enabled device) on your local network and talk to it. iChat lets you talk with people on these other computers also, and it appears to work pretty well; I just finished a somewhat boring conversation with my sister, who was right next to my G4 on her iMac.

You can also share files more easily with Windows computers, a feature I haven't tried yet. Previously I had been using Virtual PC to transfer files, and I will be glad to have this new feature when I next need to move files from my PC to my Mac or vice versa.

A few other random new things: a new "beachball" cursor. The one from 10.1 and before looked like a CD-ROM; the new one is much better. Also, 10.2 has a new startup screen. Say good-bye to the happy Mac, the smiling compact Mac seen at startup. Since Apple is aiming 10.2 at new users, many of them won't get it when they see the cute little smiling circa-1986 Mac, so instead there is a gray Apple logo on a white background. It was time for the happy Mac to go.

But perhaps my favorite feature of 10.2 is speed. It actually runs comfortably on my PowerBook G4 with only 128 MB of RAM, and it also runs decently on a 233 MHz iMac, a machine I was expecting to barely be able to run it. It's not as fast as OS 9 (although I bet it would be on a faster machine), but it's not bad.

Again, 10.2's not about new features. If you want new features, you'll be wasting your money buying 10.2. But if you want a nice enhancement of 10.1 with the rough edges smoothed out, OS 10.2 may be worth looking into.

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