Mac OS X version 10.1 was released on September 29, 2001, with a free upgrade for existing OS X users. The improvements over the previous versions are immense, especially in terms of speed.
These speed improvements and feature additions, as well as a large number of applications launching with its release, mean that it would be fair to say that this is the first true consumer release of Apple's new OS. Users of the first release were largely early adopters who were willing to forgo important features such as DVD playback and initially CD burning in order to use the OS.

Changes in Mac OS X 10.1 include:

  • Performance
    This is the most noticable improvement. The speed of earlier versions was often very poor, particularly in the Finder. Menus were slow to open, applications were sluggish launching, and switching windows was often painfully slow.
    Thankfully this has been vastly improved. Applications launch in around one quarter the time that they took before. The Finder is snappier and more responsive and windows can be switched and minimized very quickly. OpenGL is also a lot faster: 20% faster, Apple claim.
  • Finder and Aqua
    Several useful new features have been added to the Finder, such as independently - resizable columns, a more customisable toolbar and a moveable and less buggy Dock.
  • True plug and play
    Take a digital camera and plug it into the USB port on a Mac running 10.1, and the OS recognizes the camera with no drivers required! It will mount as a volume and the new Image Capture app will open, or if you have it, iPhoto. The same goes for printers - most USB printers are recognized automatically with no drivers to install, and PPDs are included for most Postscript printers too. Nice.
  • Improved CD/DVD support
    When OS X was first launched, it couldn't play DVDs or write CDs. CD burning was later added, but only within iTunes. 10.1 now supports drag and drop CD and DVD burning within the Finder. Insert a blank CD-R or (if you're SuperDrive-equipped) DVD-R, and it will mount as a blank volume. You can then move files to that disk, and when you eject or press the burn button on your toolbar, it will be burnt. This is very slick, and refreshingly quick and easy compared to using Toast or similar. DVD playback is now supported at last, too and there is a new version of Apple's consumer DVD authoring tool iDVD
  • Networking improvements
    SAMBA is now included with OS X, enabling users to connect to Windows fileservers.
    XML-RPC and SOAP support has been added to AppleScript, meaning scripts and applications can send AppleEvents to remote computers, or use internet services that support these protocols.
    PHP 4.0.6 now comes installed with Apache, unlike in previous versions where it was installed but strangely non-functional.
    iDisk, Apple's fileserver service, is built into the OS, but now uses WebDAV as its protocol, rather than AppleShare AFP. This makes for much more stable usage as persistant connections aren't needed.
An important consideration for anyone developing software on Mac OS X, is that you MUST upgrade the developer tools too. They can be downloaded for free. The upgrade breaks the old compiler and linker, but the upgraded dev tools include versions of cc and ld that support the new two level symbol namespace introduced in this version.

In conclusion: if you've been waiting to try OS X, now is the time to dive in. The bug fixes and new features in this release show the fact that this is really what Apple needed to release in the first place. Version 10.0 was essentially another beta, though I used it for 4 months as my primary OS with only minor problems other than performance issues. This version, however, is so much better. Mac OS X 10.2 (Jaguar) is due to be released in August 2002, and it offers over more improvements than 10.1 did, though for a price.

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