Mac OS X 10.2 full review

If you aren’t already using OS X, then you may have been waiting for it to be finished. That’s a bit optimistic, as operating systems are rarely finished – but OS X 10.2 is pretty darned close. It now does everything I want it to do, with almost every piece of software now available for OS X .

There’s only one excuse for not now moving to OS X: you can’t afford the new machine, software and peripherals to upgrade from a LCII.

If you already use OS X, then Jaguar – as it shouldn’t be called in this country due to trademark reasons – is a must-have upgrade. It will cost a full £99, but I guarantee it’s worth every penny. Apple CEO Steve Jobs said it’s less than a dollar per new feature, and that‘s a bargain.

There’s so much to say about 10.2 – as it’s correctly called around here – it’s difficult to know where to start. The first thing you notice is the sprightly menus and general navigation. This is due to a couple of things.

First off, the candy-like throbbing buttons have been very subtly toned down. They appear a little flatter, and throb less. The old buttons are slightly gaudy in comparison.

The other reason for the faster interface is Quartz Extreme. – Quartz is the power behind the graphical interface, and Quartz Extreme is the next generation, which uses graphics hardware to accelerate the graphics – rather than your processor.

Even if you’re using an older Mac there’s some improvement, but recent models will see a bigger performance enhancement. It also frees-up the processor to get on with the rest of the work it needs to do.

QuickTime 6 is included, and offers amazing performance. The ability to play MPEG-4 content means movies trailers can be played back faster than ever, with little or no initial pause. You can also scrub through a movie to any point and instantly start at that point. You don’t get QuickTime Pro, which would have been nice.

The new version of Sherlock is quite a departure from previous versions. Searching the hard drive is now a separate function from Sherlock, and it can be accessed in the traditional c-F way. You can even add a search box to the Finder window’s toolbar.

The Sherlock functions are now based on Internet services. You can search flight information, pictures, get linguistic translations and trawl through eBay. However, the new Sherlock is very US-centric, and doesn’t provide nearly the same level of service for UK users.

The translation function is good, and the ability to search the AppleCare Knowledge Base is handy. Internet and picture search works well, but then so does Google. I’d like to see the movie search, Yellow Pages and eBay searches made UK-compatible, as they aren’t much help outside the US.

Rendezvous is going to be the most significant development in 10.2, though in a fairly subtle way.

Now that Apple is using IP (Internet Protocol) as the preferred way of networking, we’re losing the benefits of AppleTalk. AppleTalk had a great advantage because, being a proprietary protocol, it enabled Apple to add all kinds of extra information to the network. This allows printers to appear with their names, and such like.

The down side to AppleTalk is that it’s relatively slow, and proprietary. Conversely, IP is faster, but you lose the convenience of seeing things on the network – until now that is.

Rendezvous polls the network and will find things such as servers, other Macs, Windows machines, various running applications, and printers… sort of. The printers need to be Rendezvous compatible, which none are yet – but HP, Epson and Lexmark are including Rendezvous with all new models.

It might seem like AppleTalk to us, but compared to the Windows world, this is amazing. Rendezvous doesn’t stop there, though: it will find wireless machines and Bluetooth devices too, which takes all the hassle out of wireless networking.

To be fair, AirPort already made things work fairly simply – Rendezvous just automates things a little more.

Rendezvous is also the link for getting Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones hooked-up to an address book.

Apple goes out of its way to assist people who have trouble with computers. The Universal Access system preference is designed to help those who have trouble seeing, hearing or operating the mouse and keyboard.

People with poor sight will benefit from the zoom, especially as it now allows text smoothing on the zoomed screen. The option to invert the screen in monochrome is another way of improving text readability on the screen for some.

If you have poor hearing, you can now set the screen to blink instead of the system beep. This is quite appealing for anyone who likes a quiet office.

The previous Sticky Keys and Slow Keys are still available for the keyboard, and there are controls to make mouse-use easier.

If you’re new to OS X, the chances are that you’ll still have the odd OS 9 application you need to run. The Classic environment in 10.2 is much quicker to load than before – in fact it is much quicker than booting in OS 9 on any machine I’ve seen. We timed it launching in under 30 seconds.

However, if you’ve been using OS X for a while, there’s another Classic feature that’s much more appealing. The checkbox marked “Warn before starting Classic” is great. It means I don’t have to force quit Classic because it launched when I double clicked a JPEG file.

Since I’ve been using OS X I’ve forced Classic to stop starting many more times than I’ve actually allowed it to launch. Now it asks before launching – or, rather before I say no to launching.

The Address Book is much more useful than before, though still quite basic and stark in a designer kind of way. The brushed-aluminium frame holds loads of information, which is then used elsewhere in the system.

If you have an entry complete with photo, .Mac address and so on, it will be used when you contact that person with iChat or email. This is great if you have all your contacts in that one place, but the chances are you’re currently using another address book, such as the one in Entourage or any number of Personal Information Managers.

The easiest, though rather clunky, way of getting addresses from Entourage is to drag all your contacts to a folder, where VCF cards will appear. Then drag the cards to the Address Book. There are better address books, but it’s a good idea to get used to it.

Apple seems determined to make it hard not to use the Address Book, so if you want to use iChat, iCal or other future Apple gadgets, you should get used to it.

Once you’ve been sold on the Address Book, then you might want to consider the Apple Mail application. It’s very simple, and although other email packages are often a lot more customizable, Mail has a killer feature – spam detection.

One of the odder features of 10.2 is the Inkwell application. Inkwell lets you write instead of type. To take advantage you’ll need a Wacom graphics tablet and an application that can make use of the program. Its applications are few at the moment, but I wonder what Apple has planned…

One of the fun things about OS X 10.2 is finding all the differences. There are dozens of tweaks to make the system better.

The clock for example now has a digital option instead of the previous analogue clock face. The Calculator has been updated to include advanced features and a virtual paper tape.

There are new drivers available for the latest printers, so that driver installation is not necessary with many models. Actually device support for loads of printers, scanners, storage and digital cameras has been expanded.

Antialiasing for LCD screens is improved, printer sharing is now possible, Bluetooth is now supported, and there’s a new FireWire audio driver. And this is just scraping the surface.

Under the hood are less-visible changes to the structure of the system. IPv6 and IPSec are now part of the system. This means OS X is ready for the next generation of Internet Protocol and security features.

Getting still-more technical, the operating system now includes system-wide LDAP support, support for file systems of over one terabyte, a personal Firewall, and the AirPort admin utility now uses Rendezvous.

There’s still plenty more to discover, but the additions prove that Apple is keen to implement things the users are demanding. The Unix community appears to have had many wishes granted, plus a few things they hadn’t even thought of.

One of the most-missed features in OS X has been spring-loaded folders. This enables you to drag a file from one place to another without having to open tons of windows to reach buried files. Now it’s in OS X, but it looks a little old fashioned.

The new Column View makes navigation much quicker than before, although you can still use Icon and List views, which suit the spring-loaded feature better.

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