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Introduction > What Mac OS X Takes Away

What Mac OS X Takes Away

Getting used to the new features is very easy. But if you're used to the old Mac operating system, what's harder is unlearning what you had worked so hard to master. You'll find yourself especially alarmed at how few troubleshooting steps are required—or even possible—in Mac OS X. For example:

  • Extension conflicts. The number one destabilizing factor of the traditional Macintosh has been banished forever: Mac OS X doesn't use system extensions and control panels. It's time to forget all of the troubleshooting routines Mac fans have had to learn over the years, including pressing the Shift key at startup, using Extensions Manager, and buying Conflict Catcher. You will never again perform an extension conflict test, trying to figure out which extension is making your Mac freeze. Those routines have no meaning in Mac OS X.

    Software companies can still add new features to your Mac, just as they once did using extensions—but now they'll do it by writing startup applications, which is a much safer, more organized method that can't destabilize your Mac.

  • Memory controls. There's no Memory control panel in Mac OS X. Nor will you find a Get Info window for each application that lets you change its memory allotment. This is great news.

    Mac OS X manages memory quickly, intelligently, and constantly. The reason you don't allot a certain amount of your Mac's memory to a program, as you had to do in Mac OS 9, is that Mac OS X simply gives each running program as much memory as it needs. And if you undertake some task that requires more memory, Mac OS X instantly gives that program more memory—on the fly.

    So what happens if you're running 125 programs at once? Mac OS X uses virtual memory, a scheme by which it lays down pieces of the programs running in the background onto your hard drive, so that it may devote your actual RAM to the programs in front. But this virtual memory scheme bears very little relationship to the relatively crude, slow virtual memory of the old Mac OS. In Mac OS X, this shuffling happens almost instantaneously, and virtual memory is called in only to park pieces of applications as necessary.

    The bottom line: You can forget everything you knew about concepts like virtual memory, the Disk Cache, the Get Info window's memory boxes for applications, and the panic of getting out-of-memory messages. For the most part, they're gone forever.

  • Rebuilding the desktop. If you don't remember having to perform this arcane procedure on your Mac, you don't know how lucky you are. Unlike Mac OS 9, Mac OS X doesn't have the unfortunate habit of holding onto the icons, in its internal database, of programs long since deleted from your hard drive. As a result, you never have to rebuild that desktop, and you'll never see the symptoms that suggest that it's time for desktop rebuilding (a general slowdown and generic icons replacing the usual custom ones).

  • The menu and Application menu. The menus at the upper corners of the screen, which used to anchor the Mac desktop experience, have been eliminated or changed in Mac OS X. As noted above, the Dock takes on their functions.

    You'll still find an menu in Mac OS X, but it's no longer a place to store aliases of your favorite files and folders. Instead, it lists commands, such as Restart and Shut Down, that are relevant no matter what program you're using.

  • The Control Strip. This handy floating strip of tiles is gone, too. Its replacement is the set of menulets in the upper-right corner of the screen, on the menu bar. This is now where you make quick control panel settings, like adjusting the volume, checking your laptop battery charge, and so on.

  • Icon labels, Encrypt, Put Away, sound recording... As you explore Mac OS X, you'll continue to find—or, rather, not find—Mac OS 9 features that no longer exist. Some are gone for good; for example, there hasn't been much outcry that Button view is no more.

    On the other hand, Apple continues to restore old-standby features with every successive version of Mac OS X. Version 10.2, for example, restores Simple Finder, spring-loaded folders, randomized desktop pictures, and even a version of pop-up windows.

    Finally, remember that some features aren't actually gone—they've just been moved. Before you panic, consult Appendix C for a neat, alphabetical list of every traditional Mac feature and its status in the new operating system.

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