What can I say? It’s not as if the arrival of the 10.4.2 update wasn’t highly anticipated. It had been rumored for several weeks, and there were still some Tiger bugs that had to be fixed, but when it comes to the list of fixer-uppers, this one has most of the others beat by a country mile.
The short list of 10.4.2 fixes includes:
– File sharing using AFP and SMB/CIFS network file services
– Single sign-on authentication and reliable access to Active Directory servers
– Autologin for managed user accounts
– AirPort and wireless access
– Core Graphics, Core Audio, Core Image, including updated ATI and NVIDIA graphics drivers
– Finder updates including finding on Kind and using Slideshow
– Synchronizing your iDisk with .Mac
– Installation reliability
– Managing Dashboard widgets
– Address Book, Automator, iCal, iChat, Mail, Safari, and Stickies applications
– Compatibility with third party applications and devices
I’m sure you’ll find one of your pet bugs in that list. Even if you’re not on a large network, perhaps you’ve experienced some of the oddball AirPort behavior that some describe. If you want to explore the nuts and bolts a little more closely, you’ll want to check Apple’s Knowledge Base document about the “Delta” update, the one that takes you from 10.4.1 to 10.4.2. This version is 44MB in size, if you get the whole thing, but the version that appears in your Software Update pane may be smaller, perhaps just over 20MB. Apple these days only delivers the updates you need for a specific computer. It might be convenient if you still need dial-up to get online, but it also complicates matters if you want to keep a copy of the update and deploy it on other Macs in your home or office, assuming you have different models at hand.
If you never got around to installing 10.4.1, you’ll need the 58MB “Combo” update, which takes you direct from 10.4.
Apple lists nearly 60 “reliability and compatibility improvements,” but adds that this is just a “few of the enhancements and improvements,” which means there may be a lot of changes that aren’t documented. I suppose we’ll find out more about the impact of all these changes in the next few days, as the update spreads across the landscape.
One important improvement is the new Widget Manager, which resembles the old Extensions Manager in function. It lets you turn your widgets on or off, and provides a minus button that gives you the option to trash the ones you don’t really want, assuming they’re not from Apple. But it doesn’t stop there. When you download a widget courtesy of Safari, you’ll also be greeted by the Widget Installer that asks you whether you want to install it or not. When you download a widget via another browser, you’ll have to double click on the file itself to launch the installer.
If you opt to install, you’ll be immediately switched to Dashboard, where the widget will open and you’ll have a chance to test it and decide whether you want to keep it or not. This gives you a double dose of protection against cluttering up Dashboard with things you don’t want. It also serves as an added security measure, in case someone decides to wrap some sort of malware within the exterior of a friendly widget. The only thing missing is a password prompt, something that ought to be considered for 10.4.3, whenever that appears.
The Widget Manager and new installation scheme should have appeared with the original release of Tiger. It’s not certain if Apple added it because of your requests, or had been working on it all along, but didn’t have the time to complete the job. No matter. It does simplify handling your widgets, and that’s the important thing. It’s should be particularly appealing to novice users, who are apt to have trouble figuring out how to use the files after the download process is done.
Among the vast list of changes, there is another that cures a problem I’ve encountered since setting up Tiger, and that’s the occasional message in iChat that there is “insufficient bandwidth to maintain conference,” when I tried to set up an audio chat.
Should you install 10.4.2? Well, my experiences have almost always been positive with Mac OS X maintenance updates, but there are a lot of changes here, and maybe it’s best to hold off for a while to make sure there are no serious problems. You will, as usual, read scattered reports online about installation problems, unexpected application crashes and that sort of thing. The important thing is consistency. If a large number of users report the very same problem, you will have reason to consider whether you might be affected. Otherwise, it may just be related to a handful of systems and probably won’t impact you at all.
Finally, once the installation is done and you’ve restarted your Mac, you’ll want to launch Disk Utility and run the Repair Disk Permissions function. It’s not that there will be a lot of problems to fix, but a little extra caution is never a bad idea.
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