Compared with other operating systems, Mac OS X has always made setting up and configuring network connections pretty easy. In Leopard (OS X 10.5), it is even easier than ever That’s largely due to Apple’s consolidation of network-configuration and connection tools, which had formerly been scattered among several different preference panes and utilities. Leopard’s unified Network preference pane tells you at a glance what’s going on with your network connections.
That’s not to say that the transition to Leopard networking is easy, particularly if you’re accustomed to the old way of doing things. Here’s how the networking tools in Tiger (OS X 10.4) and Leopard compare.
Select location The Location drop-down menu is essentially the same in Leopard as it was in Tiger; it even occupies the same spot in the Network preference pane. In both operating systems, you use this menu to select a location and then configure its associated network settings.
The list of network adaptors has moved from a large centre pane in Tiger to a narrower pane on the left in Leopard. But it’s more than a change in position: in Leopard, getting information about and configuring each adaptor has been conveniently consolidated.
In Leopard, network configuration is consolidated in one main screen
In Tiger, when you selected Network Status from the Show menu, you would see the list of the network adaptors. Next to each adaptor in the main window was a summary of its status and, if it was active, its IP address and/or the network to which it was connected. If you wanted to adjust its settings, you would either go back to the Show menu and select the adaptor you wanted, or select it from the list and click on the Configure button.
In Leopard, the Show menu has gone. Instead, you get a quick status message below each adaptor in the list C. If you select an adaptor, you get much more detailed information and some basic configuration options in the pane on the right.
Take, for example, the process of configuring an AirPort connection. In Tiger, you’d select the adaptor and then click on the Configure button (or select it from the Show menu). That would take you to a separate screen where you could select the default wireless network you wanted to join, and set TCP/IP and other networking details. You’d then launch the separate internet Connect utility to select among the available wireless networks, view a Signal Level meter and the Base Station ID (neither of which was particularly useful), or select a network from the AirPort menu.
In Leopard, to set up an AirPort adaptor, select it from the list on the left and, in the pane on the right, select the name of the network you want to join. Instead of providing the signal strength and base station ID, Leopard shows the much more useful IP address (which Tiger didn’t display for wireless connections).
Advanced options There’s still a button at the bottom of OS X’s Network preference pane. But instead of Tiger’s Configure button, Leopard has an Advanced button. As the name implies, it’s strictly for settings – such as 802.1X profiles for corporate network access, advanced DNS, and WINS network configurations – that most users will never need.
The process of adding and disabling network adaptors, and selecting their order of preference for use by programs and services, has also changed.
In Tiger, you had to first choose Network Port Configurations from the Show menu, then add, remove, rename, or duplicate adaptors (or manage multiple configurations for one adaptor). To make a configuration active or inactive, you selected or deselected a checkbox next to its name. You could rearrange the order of preference in which networked programs and services would use those configurations by dragging them up and down the list, but that was a hidden feature.
In Tiger, it took four separate screens to do what Leopard does in just one
Leopard puts all of these tools into the same, unified Network preference pane. To add or remove adaptors, you use the plus (+) and minus (–) signs at the bottom of the adaptor list. To rename, duplicate, activate, or deactivate adaptors, you use a drop-down Actions menu. You can also use this menu to set the order of preference in which your adaptors will be used.
From that same drop-down menu, you can duplicate entire system configurations (especially useful for networks of machines with complicated setups) and manage virtual interfaces (used to separate multiple networks that run over the same physical hardware, typically in large companies). Doing that in Tiger was never easy.