After reading some of the online comments and a few of my own articles on the subject in recent weeks, I bet you’re wondering whether the Tiger upgrade is really worth it. In fact, I’ve gotten more than a few letters from you readers on the subject. I mean, with all those horrible bugs, how could you possibly get any work done? Maybe you should just stick with Panther, right? Of course, that assumes you aren’t saddled with a Mac that shipped with Tiger and requires it, of course.
It is true that there have been some serious bumps along the way, particularly if you want to network with computers with that other operating system, or access a corporate network remotely. Apple made some major changes to the guts of Mac OS X that, I presume, are designed for better compatibility and performance, but at the same time, some things didn’t work as planned. Third party developers were sent scrambling, although it seems things have settled down somewhat.
In light of the ongoing Tiger troubles, I’ve even resurrected my “War Stories” feature to address some of the issues. But when you look at the entire picture, except for the networking-related issues and some oddball behavior, the overall picture is actually quite good. Most of the existing bugs are largely annoyances rather than show-stoppers. What do I mean by a show-stopper? Well, if an application crashes or freezes, or key features cease to function, that’s enough to put a crimp in your style. But if it’s just the Finder failing to line up icons properly, it’s simply cosmetic. Of course that doesn’t mean Apple should have let such a bug fester through five major releases of Mac OS X, but they’ve got to set priorities.
Besides, when touting over 200 new features, would listing accurate positioning of icons in the Finder be a good thing from a marketing standpoint? What about a reliable fax feature? Imagine bulleted item number 221, “Faxing now works correctly.” Has a ring to it, right?
At the same time, living with the release version of Tiger, and the updates to 10.4.1 and 10.4.2, I find that it works quite well in nearly every respect. I don’t use icon view, so I’m not concerned if the things seem to have a mind of their own. My faxing efforts largely consist of sending a few from my Mac, and using the multifunction printer for the rest, so I’m not overly upset if the feature remains somewhat broken. From a practical standpoint, it should be repaired once and for all, but Apple’s developers just haven’t gotten around to it yet, apparently.
What about the inconsistent features? Aqua and brushed metal, with somewhat different window behaviors. It can be downright annoying if you cherish order in your life. Isn’t the Mac supposed to be the platform where everything is consistent, predictable? Don’t the interface oddities work against that concept? I suppose, but at the same time, maybe Apple is assuming that most of you know the fundamentals of using computers with graphical user interfaces. Does it really matter if windows have different color schemes and whether you can drag the bottom of a window in some applications but not others? You’ll get used to it, right?
Perhaps Apple has come to believe that we want a little spice in our lives. Why should everything be Aqua, and act the same? It can get dull real fast, although most of you no doubt believe that the operating system should get out of the way and give you space to get some work done. Or maybe that’s an obsolete concept.
On the positive side of the ledger Tiger seems snappier, even on equipment where Panther seemed pretty fast. Ignoring the quirks, it is pretty stable, and I’ve not had any situations in recent weeks where I’ve been forced to restart my Mac other than as a consequence of installing some new software. The incompatibilities that annoy some of you do not affect me, since I don’t spend all that much time dealing with cross-platform corporate networks. Yes, I do bring in a PC box from time to time, but in those situations, I haven’t encountered any problems worth talking about.
At the end of the day, as my Power Mac G5 slips into sleep mode, I find that if I failed to finish any work, it’s really my fault and not the operating system or any particular application. I can walk into the bedroom, turn on the TV, watch a few shows, or just read a book or online article printouts, confident that Mac OS X Tiger will be ready to do its thing the next morning, reliably, predictably. And isn’t that all you should really expect from a computer operating system?
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