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The Tiger Report: Something is Wrong!

As I write this article, tens of thousands of you have upgraded to Tiger. Most of you are happy with its performance, stability and huge lineup of new features. But things aren’t quite that rosy for some users. Indeed, the flip side of Tiger can get a little nasty, and it’s beginning to look as if Mac OS X 10.4 left the starting gate just a little too early.

Didn’t Apple have another two months to finish Tiger? Well, let’s not forget that new Power Macs, eMacs and iMacs have been unleashed in the past week. Tiger is preloaded on these models, and no doubt Apple didn’t want to ship them with Panther, which makes sense from a marketing point of view. But I hope it didn’t come at the expense of delivering a reliable operating system, and that the problems are, by and large, oversights.

The most serious issues appear to be network related. John Rizzo’s MacWindows site is keeping close tabs on the situation. Among the casualties, VPN software. These are the programs that allow you to log onto many corporate networks remotely, something essential to the Mac’s presence in larger businesses. The first indication that trouble was afoot came when Cisco Systems said its VPN software was incompatible with Tiger and that an update is coming. Other products of this sort are similarly affected.

If you use Thursby Software’s DAVE and ADmitMac to connect to a Windows network, you’ll have to wait another three months or so for the fix. Ditto for Virtual PC, which still, fortunately, remains mostly functional.

The reasons for these changes are described in a paragraph published at the MacWindows site from a reader: “[Tiger] requires rewriting any kernel extensions and related bits so that they conform to the new standard KPI interfaces, but the upshot is that this sort of thing need not happen again because now we have a supported set of API’s to write against. Apple is now free to make any backend changes they’d like to the kernel as long as their published KPI API set still functions the same way. This is a huge step.”

But it’s also a step that is causing fits on the part of some developers who will have to scramble to catch up. The upshot is that if you depend on the sort of networking software mentioned here, put Tiger back in the box and let it simmer a little longer before you launch that installer. In addition to the promised updates from the affected developers, it is also possible a 10.4.1 will be released in the near future to fix the worst of the lingering bugs.

If you do a Google search about Tiger, you’ll find a number of other problems listed, but they aren’t quite as ubiquitous. Some may be caused by problems with specific installations, but it will probably take a while to be certain. Among other network-related issues is the apparent inability to connect to Macs running the Classic Mac OS, but this doesn’t appear to be consistent either.

In the end, Tiger is one huge upgrade, with more changes than any previous version of Mac OS X, except, perhaps for the original 10.0. I gather many of these changes will make things better in the long run, but it requires enduring some pain right now.

Since I don’t log onto corporate networks or use such products as DAVE, I haven’t encountered anything worse than tiny irritants here. I’ll mention just two, in case some of you have encountered similar issues.

As I mentioned in my original review of Tiger in this week’s newsletter, one problem I’ve observed “is an inconsistency in the way the application switcher shortcut (Command-Tab) works. Sometimes it loses the icon of an active application, only to display it again the next time you invoke this command. That is weird, but easy to work around.”

Another annoying issue is caused by Mac OS X’s still buggy fax software. Even though I have configured the modem on my first-generation Power Mac G5 for tone dialing, which has been a standard for years, Tiger stubbornly insists on using pulse dialing, complete with the annoying clicks and all, most of the time. Mind you I can still send a fax, but wouldn’t it be nice to have it work properly? And, by the way, if you have purchased the latest Power Macs, you might notice something missing, and that’s the modem. Yes, it’s now optional, and will cost you an extra $23 when you customize your new computer. If you buy it later on, it’ll cost more, since dealer installation may be required.

Imagine the surprise if you want to send faxes from your brand new Mac, or maybe Apple assumes its professional users have broadband and standalone fax machines or all-in-one printers.

Now don’t get me wrong. Tiger is an awesome upgrade, and worth every penny of the $129 purchase price. What’s more, none of the bugs reported so far appear to affect your data, and that wasn’t true of the initial release of Panther. On the other hand, I wish that Apple hadn’t rushed to Golden Master so quickly.