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The Tiger Report: So How Many Updates Can There Be?

It has to be difficult. Apple now has to keep three versions of Mac OS 10.4 in sync, yet at the same time delivering fixes and enhancements that are exclusive to each variation. With 10.4.5, the changes are dependant on which variation you’re using, and one of those fixes addresses a widely-publicized video display bug with the new Intel-based iMacs.

The short list of what has changed for both the PowerPC and Intel versions is typically vague:

– iChat video conferencing
– Safari rendering of web pages
– usability of Dashboard and widgets
– viewing of QuickTime streaming media behind a firewall
– printing to some Epson printer models
– iDisk and Portable Home Directory syncing
– time zone and daylight savings for 2006 and 2007
– VPN connections to Cisco servers when using NAT
– compatibility with third party applications and devices
– previous standalone security updates

From here, if you’re curious, you’ll want to examine Apple’s own Knowledge Base document, which supposedly covers all the changes affecting both the PowerPC and Intel-based updates from 10.4.4 to 10.4.5. Predictably the file download sizes are different, ranging from a low of just over 6.5MB for my 17-inch PowerBook to an average of 16MB for the “delta” version of the PowerPC update. The Intel version is 98MB, but it has additional fixes, and there’s also a combo update for PowerPC Macs, which covers everything from 10.4.1 to the present, and is an expansive 125MB.

Some of these updates are significant in one way or another, but not everything has been trouble free, at least in my tiny corner of the world. Take, for example, the report that “Safari no longer quits unexpectedly when deleting AOL mail messages via AOL webmail.” True enough, but I still get freezes when trying to print a ZDNet article.

That, however, is the only problem of note I’ve encountered so far, except for the fact that the Setup Assistant reappeared on my PowerBook on the first restart after upgrading from 10.4.4 to 10.4.5. Curious.

But I prefer to look at the positives, since other sites will no doubt have plenty of information on what programs might be broken and other anomalous behavior. So, for example, business users will appreciate the fact that, at long last, “Apple’s IPSec VPN client now works with Cisco servers whether or not NAT is used.” VPN has been a bugaboo of Tiger, and it’s good to see problems being eliminated.

Users of iMovie HD will no doubt be delighted that the 10.4.5 update “addresses an issue for IMovie HD and Mac OS 10.4.4 in which iMovie could unexpectedly quit when switching themes.” The press has also been abuzz with reports that Apple agreed to investigate and has apparently now eliminated “video redraw issues when using Front Row on Intel-based Macs.” There are also fixes for a couple of Rosetta-related bugs, but no indication that any of it affects emulation performance.

Most of you can probably just accept the update and have it install successfully. But it doesn’t hurt to take more of a paranoid approach, and that’s to back up your files before proceeding, and quit all open applications before the update process actually begins. You might want to also consider running Disk Utility or another drive repair application from another drive, to catch any directory corruption issues that might impact the update.

You’ll note, as with previous 10.4 updates, that the first startup will seem to take forever to complete, but things will return to normal after that. If everything works all right, you might still want to run the Repair Disk Permissions feature of Disk Utility. Even if very little is actually fixed, there will be lines and lines of data telling you why the operating system is using special permissions for this, that or the the other thing.

That should be more than enough to get you up and running. If you run into any system problems after taking such simple precautions, though, you might want to download that full or combo updater from Apple and try it all over again. Short of reinstalling an earlier version of Tiger, that would seem the fastest troubleshooting process. That is, unless you have dial-up and have to wait hours and hours to retrieve the file.

If you’re the really cautious type, of course, you might want to avoid the 10.4.5 update altogether for a few days, just to make sure there are no reports of show-stopping bugs.

The real question in my mind, though, is when Apple will fully integrate its operating systems and create a Universal version. Then updates will be even larger, but Apple apparently believes you and I have broadband, without exception. Why else eliminate the standard modem on new Macs, right? That is, other than to sell one as an option.