For weeks, the rumor sites were overwhelmed with speculation about some sort of incredible bug fix update for Tiger. It would contain hundreds of changes, more than anyone would have the right to expect. It boggles the mind.
Well, 10.4.3 appeared in my Software Update list yesterday afternoon. Officially it provides the following changes and improvements:
– AFP, SMB/CIFS, NFS and FTP network file services
– AirPort and Bluetooth wireless access
– Core Graphics, Core Audio, Core Image, and RAW camera support
– disc recording when creating and burning media
– .Mac sync services
– Spotlight indexing and searching
– Dashboard widgets: Dictionary, Flight Tracker, Stickies, and Unit Converter
– Address Book, AppleScript, Automator, Dictionary, Font Book, iCal, iSync, Mail, and Safari applications
– Disk Utility, Keychain Access, Migration Assistant, and Software Update
– compatibility with third party applications and devices
– previous standalone security updates
A lot of changes, yes, but not hundreds. So I consulted the Knowledge Base document on the subject, and I came up with about 60, although I suppose I might have missed something. All right, I’ll be generous and suggest that it took hundreds of fixes to Mac OS X’s code to deliver these results, and the end result does seem impressive. This is far more than you’d generally expect from a simple maintenance update.
As usual, it’ll be a while for things to settle down, and for enough early reports to indicate whether the process of fixing old bugs and enhancing a few features had the opposite effect in some cases. My experiences with a first generation dual processor Power Mac G5 and a 17-inch PowerBook with 1.5GHz G4 have been positive. Everything seems to work as advertised. The only immediate side effect I noted was a reindexing of my Power Mac’s external drives by Spotlight the first time I tried to search for a file. After the index process was complete, the search process seemed faster.
One curious sidelight is this change: “Accounts created in Mail after installing this update will avoid an issue in which .Mac mail could not be sent if the Internet Service Provider blocks port 25.” What does this mean in the real world? Well, many ISPs block port 25 to prevent use of other servers to dispatch email when you’re on their service. Supposedly this discourages spam, which, if true, would mean the problem could be far worse than it is. Now the fix for your .Mac account is simply to change the port number to 587 in your Mail preferences. Under Mac OS 10.4.3, Mail simply does it automatically when you create a new .Mac mail account. Not a big improvement, perhaps, but it addresses a problem that has brought a lot of irritation to .Mac members who have problems sending messages.
Another change of note is the fact that Disk Utility can now verify your startup volume. This may not seem like such a big deal, but it means that you’ll at least know if there are disk directory problems to fix, but you can’t do anything about without restarting in “Safe Mode” or “Single User Mode” or from another volume or startup CD. Now being able to repair the problems on the startup drive, as you could do with Disk First Aid in the later editions of the Classic Mac OS; that would be a real nice feature to have. I wouldn’t attempt to suggest how Apple’s Mac OS programming team might bring it about. Maybe I should put it on my personal wish list for Leopard.
As usual, early adopters will report serious problems of one sort or another. The folks at MacFixIt are taking a particularly paranoid approach to the 10.4.3 update, suggesting an elaborate set of preparations that include dismounting FireWire drives, quitting open applications, performing full backups, checking the hard drive, repairing permissions, and a lot more. On the one hand, I can understand the need to be careful about installing an update that’s 93MB in size. A lot of things will be changed, and you don’t want to upset the applecart. On the other hand, the vast majority of Mac users will never observe these cautions, either because they don’t read MacFixIt or don’t want to go through such a time-consuming process.
Frankly, beyond the usual backups to my external FireWire drives and quitting open applications, I simply let the update run and it worked just fine. But I can see where MacFixIt is coming from, especially since every previous Mac OS X maintenance update has been troublesome for some people. My best suggestion right now is that you be patient. Wait for a few days to see if there are reports of serious show-stoppers. You should also realize that folks who have hammered their operating system with loads of add-ons may encounter troubles regardless. But if there are consistent reports of specific problems, you could always hold out for the inevitable 10.4.4. But if things seem all right, as they do to me, then you’ll be ready to dive in and install the 10.4.3 update.