Mac OS 9
If you’re fed up with watching the Internet for updated features for your OS, the new Software Update control panel will make your life easier. It will also please IT managers, with machines updating themselves unattended. The one unfortunate thing, is that it only updates the OS, not the rest of your software. You can set it to check for new software on a daily basis, and, when it finds some, it will download and install them. There is nothing worse for an IT manager than working on machines with a dynasty of software versions – from QuickTime 1.5 to 4.0 – simultaneously installed. The Software Update feature will mean this is a thing of the past. Multiple users
Another major new feature is the Multiple Users option. If you ever share your Mac with others, willingly or otherwise, it is difficult to keep your files separate from other users. OS 9 lets you log-in to your Mac for normal personal access. When others want to root around your machine, they can log-in as guests or registered users. Now, they will only see the applications or files you want them to see, and they have no reason to complain about how many you have on your Mac. You can also choose hilarious alert sounds, a hypnotic desktop pattern, a cryptic filing system – or a complete lack of one. When the next person comes to use the machine, it will appear as neat and tidy as a newly scrubbed hard drive. A happy medium for all concerned, and particularly useful for schools and colleges – or offices with nosy neighbours. Speak and be heard
The new job of logging-in to your Mac – a bit like a PC (yikes) – is brightened slightly by the Voice Print password. I’m sure that there are legitimate uses for voice passwords, but most people are bound to use this option to impress friends with James Bond-style computing. To set up the password, you must first record yourself saying a particular phase four times. The default phrase is “My voice is my password”, but that just reminds me of Rowan Atkinson’s mime declaring “My body is my tool”. However, you can change the phrase to whatever you like, as long as it is longer than four or five words. Perhaps “My name is Bond...James Bond”, or “Open the pod bay doors, Hal”. To be honest, it was five minutes before I became bored with humiliating myself by addressing my Mac. But it was 100 per cent successful; nobody else could log-on pretending to be me. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to test this further – with sets of twins or Rory Bremner – but it seemed secure enough for most use. Lock and Keychain
The Keychain will be familiar to users of System 7.x, but it disappeared in OS 8 – due to lack of interest, apparently. In OS 9, it has been updated, and is now more relevant to Internet-savvy users. The idea is that the Keychain holds all your passwords, so that when you log-in to any password-protected site or server, the Keychain will unlock it. A single password for the Keychain means that you don’t have to remember dozens of passwords. My solution to this problem, up to now, has been to use the same password for everything. Obviously, this is not the most secure way of doing business. Now, I can use one password for the Keychain, and different ones for each server. There is also new encryption used in OS 9, described as "industrial strength". It is not obvious to the user, but should give hackers a run for their money. This is important, because now you will be able to share files over the Internet, increasing to the vulnerability of your Mac. AppleScript is also now executable over TCP/IP, adding all kinds of remote capabilities for advanced users. Welcome stability I have not had OS 9 installed for long, but it has reduced my number of crashes noticeably. My relatively new G3 Power Mac has been prone to crashing since I got it. It has been a frustrating time, complicated by the need to constantly install new software. Since installing OS 9, I have crashed only once. I’m not saying that OS 9 will solve all your stability problems, but it has certainly improved mine. Installation was one of the most painless in recent memory: no error messages, no problems at all. I’m still getting used to the capabilities of OS 9, but, so far, it has been plain sailing. I have heard that ATM may have compatibility problems, but then ATM needs revamping with every OS version. There is something in OS 9 to please everybody: for some it will be the major redesign of Sherlock, for others, its high-tech security. However, whenever I look at a new OS, I like to see what is new in the Sound control panel. OS 9 doesn’t disappoint – with a dozen new sounds. From the intensely irritating baby laugh, to the squeaky toy effect, your alert sounds will be revitalised. This is probably the least important new feature, but no major upgrade is complete without them.
If you don’t own a PowerPC-based Mac it’s time to get a new one, OS 9 is leaving 68x0 Macs behind. Also, it might be a good time to invest in some new memory – at least 32MB, but ideally double this amount – more if you want to run Photoshop, or similar memory hogs.