• The Tiger Report: Should You Wait for 10.4.2?

    May 21st, 2005

    It makes a lot of sense. You may have Tiger in your sights, but you held off upgrading because of the infamous point-zero curse. Curse? Yes, it’s an axiom that the initial release of any software, especially something as complicated and potentially temperamental as an operating system, is going to be so ridden with bugs as to be something that only power users dare to try.

    Sure enough, while Tiger has been a pretty loyal companion to most of you, there are problems. Some are downright silly, things that should have been caught early on by Apple’s programming team. But rather than guess why things went, well, awry, you can always speculate. My own opinion is that Apple could have waited the 17 days between 10.4 and the just-released 10.4.1, except for those recent Power Mac, eMac and iMac updates. Rather than delay the introduction of these new models, which were supposed to be preloaded with Tiger, Apple opted to release it anyway and fix the lingering problems later on.

    That brings us to 10.4.1. The short list of fixes include:

    • file sharing using AFP and SMB/CIFS network file services
    • using DHCP in wireless networks
    • user login when accessing LDAP and Active Directory servers
    • core graphics including updated ATI and NVIDIA graphics drivers
    • synchronization with .Mac
    • Address Book, iCal, Font Book, Mail, and Preview applications
    • Dashboard widgets: Address Book, Flight Tracker, Phone Book, and World Clock
    • creating and burning disk images using Disk Utility
    • compatibility with third party applications and devices

    That sounds like a lot of stuff, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. If you check the listing at Apple’s site, you’ll see a grand total of 35 changes, but a lot is apparently undocumented, because it supposedly represents “just a few of the enhancements and improvements.” Clearly there is a lot going on in this 37MB file, and it appears to be one huge update. But before I go on, let me warn you that you may see a file of a different size in Software Update. For example, on Grayson’s PowerBook, Software Update listed a file of less than 20MB, simply because that version of the update was strictly tailored to his particular model. If you want to upgrade different Macs, best to skip Software Update and download the entire file direct from Apple.

    In any case, over the next few days, you will read lots of comments about 10.4.1. A number of those comments will be troubling and some may seem downright serious. You’ll probably wonder how this thing actually made it out of the Q&A labs. On the other hand, such things happen with every Apple update, and rather than consider them fatally flawed, you have to recognize reality. That reality is simply that it is absolutely impossible to account for every single installation scenario. That makes a lot more sense than to believe that Apple actually took a mere 17 days to develop 10.4.1. In reality, work on the update likely began on the very day 10.4 went Golden Master. What’s more, I’m absolutely certain that, after 10.4.1 wrapped, Apple began working full bore on 10.4.2.

    Since the 10.4.1 update appeared in Software Update Monday afternoon, I have updated three Macs. One, a first generation Power Mac G5, and the remaining two are 17-inch PowerBooks of recent vintage. All the updates were uneventful and I didn’t notice any particular change in performance on way or another.

    So should you dive in? Probably, but don’t succumb to the temptation of running the update just yet. Just pay attention to the online chatter at MacFixIt and Macintosh, to name two of the best known sources for such information. As I said, there will be problem reports. In fact, it’ll be heavily weighted in that direction simply because the people who don’t have troubles are less apt to take the time to just say everything is all right. You’ll want to see, however, whether the reported bugs are isolated or whether there’s a real trend. If the latter, see if those bugs might affect you in any way. That’s very important. You see, none of the problems fixed in 10.4.1 affected me at all, although others encountered some of the troubles listed, and even others apparently not yet addressed.

    Also remember that, since not all the changes were documented, problems you may have confronted that haven’t been officially acknowledged may have been fixed anyway. It’s very possible that some of the changes have far reaching consequences that may not be apparent, for better or worse.

    If you do install the 10.4.1 update, and, as I said, things are looking mighty good so far, be sure to run the Repair Disk Permissions component of Disk Utility after restarting. That process may fix lingering issues, or maybe not. The few extra minutes won’t hurt, of course.

    And if you’ve been holding off on that Tiger upgrade, maybe it’s time now to dive in with both feet.

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