Mac OS X was officially released on March 24, 2001, as announced at MacWorld San Francisco 2001. Mac OS X 10.1 was released on September 28th, bringing great improvements which brought the OS, in my opinion and that of many others, to a level where it is ready to be used as one's full-time OS. The retail price is $129. Mac OS X is now shipped with all new Macs as of MacWorld 2002 in January.

Improvements of Mac OS X 10.0 over the beta version included:

Improvements of Mac OS X 10.1 over 10.0 include:

  • Greatly improved speed, especially with respect to application launches and window resizing. Almost as fast as Mac OS 9.
  • DVD support (finally)
  • iTunes: Apple version of SoundJam, MP3 player and Audio CD burner
  • CD burning integrated into the Finder
  • "Menu Extras": controls such as for volume, AirPort, networking, &c., as well as battery level display and a clock (digital or analog) in the menu bar on the right side, to avoid taking up space in the Dock
  • Dock customization: can be placed at bottom or on left or right sides of screen
  • Greatly reduced power drain during sleep on laptops, which was a significant problem under 10.0


Sources: MacOSrumors.com, Apple.com

In light of similar fanfare surrounding previous releases of 9x and 2k versions of Microsoft Windows, Apple can be seen to have a more generally functioning software product in OS X. Having used it extensively, and coming from a Unix background I can safely say that the amalgam of Unix and Mac OS is a general success.

Though some driver issues were present in the first release, the subsequent updates have sorted them out. For example, there was no solution for printing for those of us who had anything but the bleeding edge Epson printers. This problem was rectified with the Jaguar release, where CUPS printer architecture and gimpprint driver system were added to the OS.

All in all this new operating system hasn't done worse than many other operating systems.

While some of the cosmetic modifications rumoured to be introduced in the final version were not added ( for example the old-style apple menu, old-style finder ) the new GUI is faring well in the face of new and old users alike, as an intuitive and elegent interface, and appears to be gaining popularity with each new iteration/addition to the user experience. For example Panther added a shortcut sidebar to the standard Finder Window, from which I am now inseperable. And I have almost worn out my F9 key from using Exposé - I am led to believe that this is a common complaint among Panther users.

Although Mac OS X officially requires at least one of Apple's G3-based machines, there have been some recent development to work around this need. There now exist two untilties that allow Mac OS X to install and boot and run on so-called 'legacy' hardware.

The first is the free Unsupported UtilityX project by Ryan Rempel which is still in beta, is admittedly buggy but is totally free. It enables Power Macintosh models 7300, 7500, 7600, 8500, 8600, 9500 and 9600, as well the clones that were based on one of these systems (the Umax S900 and J700, and the Power Computing PowerWave and PowerTowerPro) to run Mac OS X using their original equipment (e.g. 604 processors) . It can be found at http://eshop.macsales.com/OSXCenter/.

The second option is by Sonnet Technologies and works in conjunction with their line of G3 and G4 processor upgrades. This is a much more 'polished' patch and has official support from a real company. However, it requires buying one of their processor upgrades and then paying 30 USD for the software. It only supports Power Macintoshes that use the so-called 'Processor Card' design, though Sonnet has pledged to make L2 Upgrades work as well. Sonnet can be found at http://www.sonnettech.com.

For all these options, though, I'm told there is still one issue that can't be overcome with software -- OS X still requires 128 megabytes of RAM.

July 24, 2001

Mac OS X is, without a doubt, a milestone on the evolution of Mac OS and the future of personal computing. I recently had the chance to install Mac OS X on an iMac (Revision D, 20 g hard-drive, 160 MB of RAM, 333MHz G3, 24 CD drive). I must say, I am not exactly impressed. Here is a list of some bugs and features that I found confusing and bewildering.

  • I discovered that if you hit S at start up, you can become the super user quite easily, by passing into single. While I was unable to use netinfo dumps to their exact effectiveness (the primary component in hacking the machine), and neither was I able to start netinfo manually, I am none the less disconcerted that it is so easy to become root, and could easily happen accidently to any newbie who may know enough about Unix to wreck everything. This worries me, a lot. I believe there is a patch to fix this hole.
  • For some reason on my iMac I ran into the classic 10 GB logical cylinder limitation. This is quite frustrating because I had to reformat my hard drive 3 times before I figured this out. Some one please correct me if I am mistaken or this changes in the future.
  • UFS support is, at best, sketchy (or so I find). Classic would not boot under Mac OS X when Mac OS X was booted off of a UFS drive, so I gave up and installed the two side by side on the same HFS+ drive (bizarre bed-fellows). I tried using the disk utility to format the other partitions to UFS, but to no avail, as it would only allow for me to format them as HFS or HFS+. I went down to command line and used the Apple disk utilities (contained within /sbin) to format the partitions, but I only succeeded in confusing the hell out of the machine by making damaged partitions and trying to mount them, passing them off as real. Again, if there was some secret I'm missing, I would be pleased if someone could /msg me about the error of my ways.
  • USB support is erratic, at best. My optical mouse rarely wakes up properly after the machine goes "to sleep mode", and the mouse wheel it has seems to work in random applications. Sometimes it just stops randomly; in any event, I each time it fails I am forced to unplug it and plug it back in to reinitialize it. Sometimes I am forced to do the same to the Keyboard as well. This is quite an annoyance - were I ever doing something critical and this would happen, I would probably be quite upset.
    7/30/01 Update: With Apple's latest automatic software upgrade, this seems to have been fixed. Simply ignore the previous argument.
    7/31/01 Update: It seems that Cocoa programs perfectly support the mouse wheel, which explains why it's function works in some programs but not in others.
  • The administrator sudo system is disconcerting to me on the command line. It is a fall-back to Multix, actually, where the system was to have multiple administrators so that the blame could rest on the shoulders on one person, instead of an account meant to be accessed by a single system administrator or fellowship with knowledge of the password. I suppose I'm just like that, but I want to have an ACTUAL root I can get to, other then through single-user mode and sudo (in the rare case that a hacker manages to get sudo to break itself - wholly possible within the system, actually). There is a kernel hack to fix this which I haven't tried.
    7/31/01 Update: I was wrong here. It turns out that in fact it is quite possible to enable the user account through NetInfo, not a kernel hack. See HOWTO: Enable Root User in Mac OS X.
  • It is just plain slow. I know that the memory requirements are harsh, but I haven't seen that it supports conventional swap, and I have yet to manage to figure out how to set up swapping to a file (can it?) I was hoping for the crisp, fast little OS I used to love in NeXTStep. I'm kind of disappointed in this; and there is a lot of reliance on the operating system, at full steam, to make calls to Classic (IE can only call Classic applications, even when Aqua equivalents exist).
    7/31/01 Update: I have been informed that IE has had bug fixes and is over such problems. Also, it should be noted that a swapfile is set up by default, and, furthermore, you can set up a filesystem in order to house the swapfile. See the writeup HOWTO: Enable Dedicated Swap in Mac OS X.
  • I can't compile a good deal of free software on this machine, particularly for work, do to the lack of Case Sensitivity in the HFS+ filesystem. This is mainly because GNU software tends to have back-up Makefiles as lowercase... so I am out of luck as UFS doesn't operate well at all.
  • 7/31/01 New Problems: It seems that VNC for Mac OS X has some bugs related to certain keyboard buttons being mapped funny. They place the blame on Apple, not on themselves. Additionally, the command chsh doesn't actually enact any changes, further frustrating the usage of command line. One can get around this with NetInfo Manager (changing the entries for shell for particular users).
  • 8/1/01 Current Conditions: A while back Steve Jobs promised all of his little Children of the Apple that he would give them a free upgrade. Well, times change, and the devil speaks with a forked tongue anyhow. Needless to say, there is no upgrade, you can go give Apple a cool $100 to get some measly system performance increase... *sigh*.

And so that is about it, I think. Despite a lot of things not working, at least it looks GREAT! I still prefer KDE, which at this point has just as many bells and whistles, but still lets me get my work done. Please correct me if I am wrong on any accounts, I love suggestions.


<----------------------------------------------------->

I think the iMac will be running LinuxPPC very soon from now...

To anyone who has managed to 'paperweight' their Mac when trying to install OS X, there is a solution to try! In essence, your Mac uses Open Firmware to boot itself up, and this symptom (dead Mac) usually means the Open Firmware startup variables in NVRAM have been corrupted.

In order to reset them, do the following:

  1. Boot the Macintosh while holding down the Command, Option, O and F keys (Cmd-Opt-O-F)
  2. You should get a monochrome text screen with a prompt. This is Open Firmware.
  3. Type 'set-defaults' and hit return
  4. Type 'bye' and hit return Type 'reset-all' and hit return (Thanks Millennium!)
...at this point, the Mac should reboot and start looking in its 'normal' locations for a viable Mac system folder; i.e. on the boot hard drive, and on the CD-ROM. From that point, you can either continue working or try to reinstall.

As Millennium mentions, there are other methods of resetting the NVRAM and/or entering Open Firmware if the Cmd-opt-O-F doesn't work. First and most brute-force; you can remove the small battery from the motherboard of the Mac and unplug it from wall current. Let it sit for a minimum of 10 minutes. This should drain the power maintaining the NVRAM, resetting all values to their defaults. Second, you can hold down the programmer's switch (the second hardware button, next to the 'reboot' button) on the Mac while powering on. After ten seconds, release the button; you should drop into Open Firmware.

Note that interrupting Mac OS X installs can easily cause this problem, so make SURE you do not reset the Mac during an OS install!

Mac OS X's GUI may have its flaws, the OS may still crash once in a while, and there are still a few straggling applications we're waiting for.

But the one reason that Mac OS X is the best thing that has happened to the Mac community in a long time is Darwin. In short, it's an open-source UNIX variant based on FreeBSD, but you can read more about that anywhere.

The thing is, UNIX means legitimacy to a lot of people. Mac OS X is becoming a hit on Slashdot because it's a user-friendly UNIX, whereas before Mac OS X, people would never give the Macintosh a second thought.

I personally have learned more about UNIX in the last one and a half years than I ever thought I would know about it, because had I not had it all right there in front of me, I would probably never have bothered. UN*Xes, in my experience, generally have a pretty steep learning curve, and I wonder how many people have taught themselves the fundamentals of UNIX on an OS X box just because once you have OS X, all you need is a bit of inquisitiveness to get started.

I was always happy to be a Mac user but it's only since the advent of OS X that I can kinda be proud to be one too.

Mac OS X has been a long time in the making. Until its release, Macintosh users loyal to Apple's OS had to make do with co-operative multi-tasking, instability and a rapidly aging codebase. There had been attempts in the past to modernise the Mac OS, but all were aborted after going through vast amounts of money; obviously, something had to be done, and fast.

In the meantime, a company by the name of Be, Inc had been working on their own PowerPC-compatible operating system, which they had named BeOS. While nowhere near as popular as the Mac OS, it soon found an audience who were happy to install this modern, powerful OS on their Power Macs. As Apple began to search for a successor to the Mac OS, Be's CEO, Jean-Louis Gassée, made his move. He offered to sell Be to Apple for the cool price of $200 million. Gil Amelio, then-CEO of Apple, thought this ridiculous.

Enter Jobs. Steve Jobs 'phoned Amelio, citing his concerns over an acquisition of Be. Soon after, NeXT staff were in contact with their Apple counterparts, hyping NeXT's own operating system, OPENSTEP.

Apple had announced that they were to release their OS strategy by January, 1997; by the time Jobs had rung in November, 1996, time was rapidly running out. Apple had two serious contenders vying to have their technology form part of the next-generation Mac OS: Be and NeXT. While Be were relatively new, and had many areas of their OS yet unfinished (at the time, BeOS did not even ship with printer drivers), Jobs affirmed that OPENSTEP (previously known as NEXTSTEP) was not only mature, but years ahead of the competition.

On December 20th, Apple had made up its mind: it was to buy NeXT, for $427 million. Steve Jobs was coming home.

Mac OS X Server 1.0 Codename: Rhapsody
Mac OS X Server was the first product to be launched using NeXT's technology; in the mean time, Apple had continued to develop the original Mac OS as best it could, releasing what it could of the 'Copland' project as Mac OS 8. The aim was to merge the two company's technologies into one OS, which was code-named 'Rhapsody'.

Rhapsody was almost a preview of what was to come; instead of being for general release, Rhapsody was launched as strictly for servers. While on the surface it appeared to be classic Mac OS, using the 'Platinum' interface which debuted with Copland, it used the NeXT Workspace Manager, used Display Postscript, and featured a proper terminal. Server 1.0 could run applications compiled for it natively, but could also run 'classic' Mac OS applications through the 'blue box' environment - a copy of OS 8 running from within OS X. This would form the basis for the Classic environment in later versions.

Mac OS X Public Beta Codename: Siam
By 2000, Apple had produced a beta of what was to be the first consumer release of their next-gen operating system: Mac OS X. Available to anyone who wanted a copy, for $20, the public beta showed both how far OS X had come since Rhapsody, but also how far it had yet to go; it was buggy and incomplete, and there were many problems people felt were inexcusable, even from a beta. The Apple menu was gone, replaced by an Apple logo in the middle of the menu bar, the Finder was simply called 'Desktop', and many felt the Dock was clumsy, and not a good replacement for the traditional combination of the Apple and application menus.

The new 'Aqua' interface split opinion in two; many thought it to be wonderful, loving the new look, whilst others thought it to be bringing the Mac down to mere eye-candy.

Mac OS X 10.0 Codename: Cheetah
Mac OS X was, at last, officially launched on the 24th March, 2001, having been continually tweaked and modified by Apple. The Apple menu had moved back to the top-left, and was a menu again - although not at all like the classic Mac OS's version. The OS X Apple menu now provided a means of accessing commands such as Shut Down, Restart, and Force Quit, as well as allowing users to quickly access Software Update or change their location. (The classic "About this Mac" is probably the only entry to have survived the transition, as it proudly sits atop the menu.) Also changed from the Public Beta was the Desktop: after outcry from the Mac community, it was renamed back to Finder.

There were, as with most OS releases, few applications available at launch that would run natively; for old software, Classic had to be run, which led to some problems. Despite running Mac OS 9 within OS X, incompatibilities often arose as many programs assumed they had direct hardware access. Classic also had to be launched freshly the first time on each boot the user wanted to run a legacy application; this led to essentally two boot times, which some saw as unnecessary. The OS also lacked any support for playing DVD movies..

The biggest problem with Cheetah, despite its name, was that it simply wasn't as fast as Mac OS 9. The interface was lovely, yet took a large amount of CPU time for itself, leaving many happy to stick with Apple's older OS until things improved. 10.0 was a start, but it was clear OS X simply wasn't quite ready yet.

Mac OS X 10.1 Codename: Puma
Less than a year after 10.0 was available, Apple released a follow-up: Mac OS X 10.1. This was available as an update CD from Apple Stores, or for $20 from Apple via their Up-To-Date program, although it could not be downloaded. It was a well-needed update that, to many Mac users, represents the first 'complete' release of OS X. Puma brought an all-round speed increase to Aqua; it wasn't OS 9 speed, but it was definately welcome. 10.1 also saw the introduction of Mac OS X DVD playback, and introduced a vast number of new printer drivers. As if this wasn't enough, OS X's already good OpenGL implementation was given a shot in the arm.

Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar Codename: Jaguar
For the first time, a release of Mac OS X was being sold with its codename being part of its official name. Jaguar leapt onto shop shelves sporting a furry X logo, and was to prove an almost necessary update itself. For $129, Jaguar brought another speed bump to Macs running it, featuring many new components such as Quartz Extreme, which offloaded many visual tasks from the CPU onto a compatible GPU, if present. iChat, an AIM-compatible chat program, made its debut, alongside Sherlock 3, searching built into every Finder window, and a new method of zero-config networking: Rendezvous.

Jaguar allowed Macs running Mac OS X to become wireless base stations, a feature inherited from the classic Mac OS, as well as allowing it to become an SMB server. Support for Microsoft Active Directory was also added, rounding off this major set of improvements. Jaguar was more than a service pack - it was what OS X should have been all along.

Mac OS X 10.3 Panther Codename: Panther
The fourth release of Mac OS X was again released with its codename intact, and Panther mimicked its forebear with yet another round of speed boosts. By this point, OS X was running not just well, but very well, even on hardware as old as the original iBook. Panther brought a new visual style to the Mac OS with its brushed metal interface, first seen in QuickTime and iTunes, which it applied to the iApps - and the Finder! For those who didn't like this new look, it could be removed from the finder, at the cost of the toolbars - brushed metal, it would appear, is the new black. Brushed metal or not, another departure from the old school of Apple design is the loss of the pinstripes in the title bars of windows.

Replacing part of the Finder's toolbar at the top of each window is the new 'Places' sidebar. This holds quick links to devices and folders, fully customisable like the Dock. This is a quick and easy method of moving files around, as it is fully drag-and-dropable, and the user can put just about anything he or she wishes to on it. (Apparently, it was inspired by the iTunes playlist bar.) The Finder's search bar now searches in real time, providing the ability to hunt down documents with speeds that wouldn't be bettered until something a little later to come.

The visual abilities of Panther are striking, most notable of all being Exposé. With the touch of a button, all windows shrink down on-screen - you can just click on the one you wish to view, and there it is. Touch another, and only the current application's windows appear. And to top this all off, a third key will banish all windows from the screen, leaving only the desktop. Want to get back to where you left off? Just tap the key again. (Exposé can, with typical Apple thought, be made into a slick slow-motion effect by holding down Shift. This works for maximising and minimising windows, too, as it has done since 10.0) Apple's next most striking visual trick is Fast User Switching. Windows XP has this, but not on this scale - the entire display rotates, forming a cube with two users' desktops on the two visible faces, rotating to the user you switch to. Very swish.

Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger Codename: Tiger
The current, and only-just released version of Mac OS X has been hyped as having over 200 new features, but three of them immediately rise to prominance: Spotlight, Automator and Dashboard. Spotlight is a completely new search system, being available throughout the OS through an icon in the menu bar. Searches happen as you type, with results appearing nigh-on instantly. Searches pour through metadata. The whole system is indexed and searchable - the idea being, if you can describe it, Spotlight can find it. With importers becoming available for more file formats, expect to be able to find whatever you want, whenever you need it.

Automator expands on the highly-popular AppleScript by introducing an easy-to-use, intuitive interface for it. It allows you to build workflows of actions to be performed sequentially, so if you really want to open a web page in Safari, download all the pictures, zip them then email that archive, you can - all from within Automator. This has the potential to make time-consuming exercises ludicrously easy - and if you want to expand even further, you always have AppleScript.

Dashboard has taken a lot of flak for its similarity to a third-party application called Konfabulator. In response, its developers have ported it to Windows; Apple claim that Dashboard is simply a continuation of their old desk accessories. So what is Dashboard? Put simply, it is an Exposé-like method for gaining quick access to what Apple call 'widgets' - small mini-applications that you can drag onto your desktop and play with. The best part of this, is that they're only there when you want them to be. Press the Dashboard key, and the rush on-screen; push it again, and away they go.

Under the hood, Tiger provides all manner of improvements, from CoreData and CoreImage, to new graphics capability from Quartz 2D. (For an example of this, on a supported graphics card, Dashboard widgets will leave a ripple effect when they are placed on-screen) As with any OS X release, it feels snappier than the previous version, and there are plenty of changes that the casual user is unlikely to ever find out about or even know of. They do their job quite invisibly and happily.

Mac OS X 10.5 Codename: Leopard
At the 2005 WWDC, Steve Jobs dropped several bombshells: Apple would be switching to Intel processors for the Macintosh. This is the 'third transition' as he termed it; Apple had already made two, firstly from 68k to PowerPC processors in the early 90s, and from Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X. Part of this transition would be a version of Mac OS X which ran on Intel.

This is where Jobs revealed what many had speculated for some time: Apple had, since the first test builds of OS X, been maintaining an Intel-based port. Come the close of 2006, Apple intend to have their sixth major release of OS X available on both Intel and PPC platforms. This sixth release is currently code-named Leopard. With the first Intel-based Macs available as of January 2006, however, currently an Intel version of Tiger is shipping. On the surface, and in general use, it is identical to the PowerPC version, however it includes an important addition: a translation layer named Rosetta.

Rosetta transparently allows PowerPC binaries to run on Intel Macintoshes; while this comes at a performance hit, the result is much like the 68k to PPC transition of earlier. Even AltiVec is translated; however, further breaking with the old Mac OS, Classic support has finally been dropped.

So with Classic finally dropped, what does Leopard bring to the table? A number of new features have been added, with some of the more important representing significant changes in the way we use our Mac. Quick Look, for example, allows the user to preview almost any file simply by tapping the space bar from within the Finder. MP3s spring to life and play without needing to wait for iTunes or QuickTime, Word documents can be scrolled through and read, pictures display, all within just a few seconds even on a lowly G4.

Spaces joins Dashboard and Exposé as a function key-triggered feature, bringing official multiple desktop support to Mac OS X. One can pin applications to different spaces, switching to that space automatically when the application is in focus, and can drag windows to and from at will. Activating Spaces from the Dock or a function key zooms out just like Exposé, showing all spaces with all active windows updating in realtime - even QuickTime videos continue to play, just as with Exposé. One can also jump to a specific space through a key combination or through a menu bar item.

It is Time Machine, however, which for many users was the Next Big Thing. Once an additional hard drive is attached (internal or external, over either SCSI, parallel ATA, SATA, FireWire, USB, or over AirPort via Apple's Time Capsule), it can be selected as a Time Machine volume, with automatic backups being taken every so often. Lost a file, or want to see what it looked like a few days ago? Trigger Time Machine, and a slick (if totally nonstandard) UI floats in, allowing you to pick from all available backups of the current file.

Mac OS X 10.6 Codename: Snow Leopard
2008's WWDC rolled along, and with it Jobs announced the next major release of Mac OS X. Declaring that this was not to be a release full of new features, he instead announced that it would be targeted towards shipping a leaner, more secure, and faster OS than Leopard, promising a significantly reduced disk footprint. Few concrete specifications have been announced, but support for OpenCL should allow for easy development for applications harnessing a video card's GPU, while 'Grand Central' promises to "make it much easier for developers to create programs that squeeze every last drop of power from multicore systems" (http://www.apple.com/macosx/snowleopard/). A new version of Safari has also been promised, with a new JavaScript rendering engine as has currently been previewed in the WebKit nightly builds.

What does this mean for the end user? At the moment, not much. Although developer builds have been issued - at present, Intel-only - it is not known whether 10.6 will be released for the PowerPC. Nor is it yet known whether this will be a full-price release, or if it will instead be a free offering á la 10.1.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.