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Introduction > What Mac OS X 10.2 Gives You

What Mac OS X 10.2 Gives You

The main thing you gain by moving to Mac OS X is stability. You and your Mac may go for years without ever witnessing a system crash. Oh, it's technically possible for Mac OS X to crash—but few have actually witnessed such an event. Rumors of such crashes circulate on the Internet like Bigfoot sightings. (If it happens to you, turn promptly to Appendix B.)

Underneath the gorgeous, shimmering, translucent desktop of Mac OS X is Unix, the industrial-strength, rock-solid OS that drives many a Web site and university. It's not new by any means; in fact, it's decades old, and has been polished by generations of programmers. That's precisely why Steve Jobs and his team chose it as the basis for the NeXT operating system (which Jobs worked on during his twelve years away from Apple), which Apple bought in 1997 to turn into Mac OS X.

Sidebar 1. All About "Jaguar"

What's this business about Jaguar?

Most software companies develop their wares in secret, using code names to refer to new products to throw outsiders off the scent. Apple's code names for Mac OS X and its descendants have been named after big cats: Mac OS X was Cheetah, 10.1 was Puma, and 10.2 was Jaguar.

Usually, the code name is dropped as soon as the product is complete. It's generally given a new name by the marketing department. In Mac OS X 10.2's case, though, Apple thought that the Jaguar name was cool enough that it retained the name for the finished product. It even seems to suggest the new system's speed and power. That's why the CD and the box feature Jaguar fur as a design element.

In most countries, the word "Jaguar" even appears on the box—but not everywhere. In the United Kingdom, for example, jaguar fur still appears on the box and the CD, but Apple carefully refrains from using the term Jaguar. That's a result of threatening memos from the automaker. Evidently, Jaguar Cars, Ltd. worries that consumers might be confused and—when shopping for a $75,000 sports car—might walk out with a $130 software kit by mistake.

But crash resistance isn't only the big-ticket item. The list below identifies the highlights, both of Mac OS X itself and of the 10.2 (Jaguar) version. (Apple says it added 150 new features to Mac OS X in Jaguar. The truth is, Apple undercounted.)

  • New desktop features. In addition to the familiar list and icon views, Mac OS X offers something called column view, which lets you burrow deeply into nested folders without leaving a trail of open windows.

    At your option, every desktop window can also display a button-studded toolbar, exactly as in a Web browser. You can install and remove buttons there (frequently used files or programs, for example) just by dragging.

    The Finder (the Mac's desktop world) even offers an Undo command that really works. It can restore to its original folder an icon that you just dragged, for example.

    10.2 news: In version 10.2, the Finder really matured, turning from a squeaky-voiced teenager to a star college athlete. For starters, Apple gave the Finder the one additional feature it sorely needed: speed. It's really fast, especially when starting up, opening windows, and launching programs, including the Classic simulator (more on that in a moment).

    There are lots of other touches, too. The toolbar now has a Forward button, not just Back. When you replace a file with another one of the same name, you're now told whether it's older or newer than the one you're moving, just as in older Mac OS versions and Windows. "Spring-loaded" folders are back. A new icon-view option puts file names to the right of their icons, conserving space. A new, optional second line under an icon's name tells you how many items are in a folder, what the dimensions are of a graphic, and so on. The old Get Info command is back, too, with a few sweet new tricks.

    If you work with the very young or technophobic, you'll appreciate 10.2's ability to hide certain programs and options from certain people. It can even pare itself down to a completely blank desktop (called Simple Finder) with almost no menus at all.

    Finally, there's a new Search bar in every Finder toolbar for searching the window you're in, plus a speedy new system-wide Find command. No longer must you haul the massive, slow Sherlock program to the screen just to search your disk for a file or two.

  • The Dock. At the bottom of the screen, you'll find a row of beautiful, photorealistic icons. This is the Dock, the single most controversial and important new feature in Mac OS X. All at once, it's a launcher, a status display, and an organizational tool. Chapter 3 covers the Dock in astounding detail.

    10.2 news: The Dock's background is now solid rather than striped. But don't think that Apple enhanced the dock with nothing more impressive than a new background—oh, no! It also added (in the Sound panel of System Preferences) the option to play a tiny whoosh sound when you drag something off the Dock.

  • Advanced graphics. What the programmers get excited about is the set of advanced graphics technologies called things like Quartz (for two-dimensional graphics) and OpenGL (for three-dimensional graphics). For the rest of us, these technologies translate into a beautiful, translucent look for the desktop (a design scheme Apple calls Aqua); smooth looking (antialiased) lettering everywhere on the screen; and the ability to turn any document on the screen into an Adobe Acrobat (PDF) file (Section 13.5).

    10.2 news: Mac OS X 10.2 takes the good looks to a new extreme, with subtler colors, more opaque menus, a new "wait" cursor (a spinning beachball, spinning CD, or spinning lollipop, depending on whom you ask), and self-changing desktop pictures (at intervals you specify). A new button makes it even easier to save a document as a PDF file, and 10.2 comes with even more free fonts.

    10.2 also introduces Quartz Extreme, a technology that offloads graphics calculations to your Mac's video card to make them even faster, as well as add visual effects like crossfades and a drop shadow under the cursor. To benefit from Quartz Extreme, your Mac's video card must be on The List (GeForce2 MX, GeForce3, GeForce4 MX, GeForce4 Ti, or any "AGP-based ATI Radeon" card). Unfortunately, this list excludes the white iBooks sold in 2001 and 2002, along with older PowerBooks.

  • Advanced networking. When it comes to hooking up your Mac to other computers, including those on the Internet, few operating systems can touch Mac OS X. It offers advanced features like multihoming, which, for example, lets your laptop switch automatically and invisibly from its cable modem settings to its dial-up modem settings when you take it on the road.

    10.2 news: Macs and Windows PCs can now "see" each other on a network automatically, so that you can open, copy, and work on files on each other's machines as though the age-old religious war between Macs and PCs had never even existed. The new OS also introduces something called Rendezvous, a fledgling technology that, someday, will let programs and hardware add-ons "see" and recognize each other on a network without any setup at all.

  • Lots of accessory programs. Mac OS X comes with a broad array of interesting software. Some, like Mail, you may wind up using every day; others, like the 3-D, voice-activated Chess program, are designed primarily to let you and Apple show off Mac OS X to flabbergasted onlookers.

    10.2 news: In Jaguar, the list of freebies is even longer. Now there's iChat, an AOL-compatible instant-messaging program; iCal, a calendar program that syncs with Palm organizers; and Sherlock 3, which finds useful information on the Web (flight info, movies, stocks, phone numbers, and so on) and even organizes it for you. The existing programs have been beefed up, too—now there's a junk-mail zapper in Mail, page-navigation controls in Preview, a scientific mode (and editable paper-tape option) in the Calculator, a system-wide Address Book, and so on.

  • Simpler everything. Most applications in Mac OS X show up as a single icon. Behind the scenes, they may have dozens of individual software crumbs, just like the programs of Mac OS 9 or Windows—but Mac OS X treats that single icon as though it's a folder. All the support files are hidden away inside, where you don't have to look at them. In other words, to remove a program from your Mac, you just drag the application's single icon to the Trash, without having to worry that you're leaving scraps behind.

  • Voice control, keyboard control. You can operate every menu in every program entirely from the keyboard or—new in 10.2—even by voice. These are terrific timesavers for efficiency freaks.

    10.2 news: Speaking of speaking: Several of 10.2's many new features for the disabled are useful for almost anybody—including the system's ability to read aloud any text in any program. Web pages, email, your novel, you name it. In fact, you can even turn the Mac's spoken performance into an MP3 file, ready to transfer to your iPod music player to enjoy on the road.

  • Tighter Internet integration. Mac OS X makes your Mac more a part of the Internet than it ever has been before. Not only can you treat an iDisk (Section 18.9.3) as though it's an external hard drive, available all the time, but Mac OS X includes the famous and popular Apache Web server. That's Unix software that lets your Mac be a Web site, dishing out Web pages to all comers (Section 21.1.1).

    10.2 news: 10.2 takes Internet features to a new level. For corporate types, Mac OS X now offers virtual private networking, so you can dial into the corporate office securely over the Internet. For economical types, the new Internet Sharing feature lets you share a single Internet connection (like one cable modem or DSL box) with a whole network of Macs. And for safety types, the new Mac OS X firewall keeps your Mac secure from the invasive efforts of Internet no-goodniks.

  • A command-line interface. In general, Apple has completely hidden from you every trace of the Unix operating system that lurks beneath Mac OS X's beautiful skin. For the benefit of programmers and other technically oriented fans, however, Apple left uncovered a couple of tiny passageways into that far more complex realm.

    Chapter 15 and Chapter 16 cover Mac OS X's Unix underpinnings in more depth. For now, it's enough to note that, if you like, you can capitalize on the command-line interface of Mac OS X. That simply means that you can type out cryptic commands, which the Mac executes instantly and efficiently, in an all-text window.

  • If you're splurting your orange juice, outraged at the irony, well, you wouldn't be the first. Apple is, of course, the company who put itself on the map by establishing the superiority of the graphic interface—mouse, icons, menus, and windows. The requirement to type out memorized commands, Apple led us to believe, should die a quick and ugly death. Yet here it is again, in what's supposed to be the world's most modern and advanced operating system.

    Truth is, there's not much harm in it. The command line is completely hidden until you ask for it. It's very useful for programmers, network administrators, and other people for whom the computer is not just an adventure—it's a job.

  • Better hardware integration. In Mac OS X 10.2, Apple cleaned up its act regarding external gadgetry. USB printer sharing is back, so that several Macs on a network can use the same injket printer. Just in case your printer doesn't have a Mac OS X-compatible driver yet, Apple provided CUPS (Common Unix Printer System), a secret configuration page that makes many older printers work with Mac OS X. The Mac can now speak Bluetooth—if equipped with Apple's $50 Bluetooth adapter and some other Bluetooth gadget to speak to, like a Bluetooth-equipped Palm or a Bluetooth cellphone. And the new Energy Saver has special options for laptops—like separate settings for battery and power-cord use.

  • A better installer. The Mac OS X 10.2 installer offers some welcome new options—like a "clean install" option that gives you an all-new, fresh copy of Mac OS X without requiring you to back up your whole Mac.

  • Other 10.2 tweaks. The complete list of changes in Mac OS X 10.2 would fill a book—in fact, you're holding it. But some of the nicest changes aren't so much new features as the removal of bugs and glitches. Macs don't show up in duplicate and triplicate in the Connect to Server window. Icons now stay put on the desktop where you left them. Renaming icons now works as it should. And so on.

    On the other hand, even 10.2 isn't bug-free in the original release. That's why installing the upgrades that occasionally come your way via your Internet connection—10.2.1 and beyond—is an excellent idea.

Sidebar 2. Mac OS X: the Buzzword-Compliant Operating System

You can't read an article about Mac OS X without hearing certain technical buzzwords that were once exclusively the domain of computer engineers. Apple is understandably proud that Mac OS X offers all of these sophisticated, state-of-the-art operating system features. Unfortunately, publicizing them means exposing the rest of us to a lot of fairly unnecessary geek terms. Here's what they mean:

Preemptive multitasking. Most people know that multitasking means "doing more than one thing at once." The Mac has always been capable of making a printout, downloading a file, and letting you type away in a word processor, all at the same time.

Unfortunately, the Mac OS 7/8/9 (and Windows 95/98/Me) version of multitasking works by the rule of the playground: the bully gets what he wants. If one of your programs insists on hogging the attention of your Mac's processor (because it's crashing, for example), it leaves the other programs gasping for breath. This arrangement is called cooperative multitasking. Clearly, it works only if your programs are in fact cooperating with each other.

Mac OS X's preemptive multitasking system brings a teacher to the playground to make sure that every program gets a fair amount of time from the Mac's processor. The result is that the programs get along much better, and a poorly written or crashing program isn't permitted to send the other ones home crying.

Multithreading. Multithreading means "doing more than one thing at once," too, but in this case it's referring to a single program. Even while iMovie is exporting your movie, for example, it lets you continue editing at the same time. Not all Mac OS 9 programs offered this feature, but all programs written especially for Mac OS X do. (Note, however, that programs that are simply adapted for Mac OS X—"Carbonized" software, as described in Section 4.6—don't necessarily offer this feature.)

Symmetrical multiprocessing. Macs containing more than one processor chip are nothing new. But before Mac OS X, only specially written programs—Adobe Photoshop filters, for example—benefited from the speed boost.

But no more. Mac OS X automatically capitalizes on multiple processors, sharing the workload of multiple programs (or even multithreaded tasks within a single program), meaning that every Mac OS X program gets accelerated. Mac OS X is smart enough to dole out processing tasks evenly, so that both (or all) of your processors are being put to productive use.

Dynamic memory allocation. As noted below, Mac OS X programs no longer have fixed RAM allotments. The operating system giveth and taketh away your programs' memory in real time, so that no RAM is wasted. For you, this system means better stability, less hassle.

Memory protection. In Mac OS X, every program runs in its own indestructible memory bubble—another reason Mac OS X is so much more stable than its predecessors. If one program crashes, it isn't allowed to poison the well of RAM that other programs might want to use, as in Mac OS 9. Programs may still freeze or quit unexpectedly; the world will never be entirely free of sloppy programmers. But in Mac OS 9, you would have seen a message that says, "Save open documents and restart." In Mac OS X, you'll be delighted to find that the message says, "The application 'Bomber' has unexpectedly quit. The system and other applications have not been affected."

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