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June 28, 2005
 - Catch a Tiger
...when I updated to the new version of MacOS X 10.4 (aka Tiger.) I have not been disappointed with this new version and I can easily recommend it...
I’m usually cautious when it comes to recommending upgrades. I have found that most users don’t appreciate the annoyances that go hand in hand with new software. I say, “if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it”, so I was careful when I updated to the new version of MacOS X 10.4 (aka Tiger.) I have not been disappointed with this new version and I can easily recommend it. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights…

There is some pretty nifty “eye candy” that comes along with Tiger. The coolest is know as “Dashboard”. It appears as an overlay on your screen when you press “F12” or click the Dashboard icon in your Dock. Dashboard is a collection of applications called Widgets. These simple little apps are designed to provide you with information, such as the date in a widget that resembles a desk calendar. There is a clock widget that can show you the current time, or the time in Paris, or Athens… You can open you several clocks at once, so you will always know the time is Tokyo.

Among the other widgets that come with Dashboard, are an Address Book, which shows your personal addresses. There’s a calculator, a phone book, a flight tracker so you can track that flight from Calgary, an iTunes widget that will play any playlist, a dictionary/thesaurus, and a nifty translator, so you can translate your thoughts into Greek… There will soon be many more widgets available for download. However you should be aware that these widgets can be “auto installed” so that nefarious types could create problems. Apple is already working on an update to Tiger. Hmmm…

Spotlight is another new feature that will likely evolve into a whole new way of finding items on your Mac. Macintosh computers have always made it easy to find items. You simply switched to the Finder and hit the key combination “Cmd – F” or chose “Find” from the menu. Type in some part of the file’s name and press “Return”. The Mac would then present a list of likely results from which you can choose. From any window in the Finder you’ll see a text entry field on the upper right side (next to the magnifying glass icon.) With the last version of MacOS X (10.3 aka Panther) you also entered part of the name, etc.

But wait! What’s this?

When you start typing, Spotlight immediately starts to show you results. In fact the content of the results it displays changes as you type in more of the name. As if that wasn’t enough, Spotlight gives you graphic previews if the search result is a graphic file. It’s cool and creepy at the same time…

Safari has also been updated and can now perform more amazing feats. The folks at Apple have added support for “RSS” feeds right into the browser. RSS feeds are published by the major magazines and sites as well as many blog sites. You can create your own stream of headlines to keep up on the latest information without having to wade through ads. Another new feature in Safari is the kid proofing that Apple has added. You can place parental control settings which limit the sites that can be accessed. This is an invaluable feature for protecting impressionable surfers – if you ask, maybe your kids will show you how it works…

Voiceover assists the visually impaired by “speaking” the information on the screen. It will even read your email messages to you. You can still enlarge the display using the Zoom feature and reverse the display’s colors to make the text easier to read. Mouse Keys let you move the cursor around on the screen without using the mouse. My favorite feature is that you can enlarge the cursor to four times it size… next thing you know you have a giant arrow!

The most important piece of advice I can give you regarding MacOS X is buy as much RAM as you can. Apple recommends a minimum of 256 megabytes, but if you’re really going to take advantage of the upgrade you should at least triple that amount. If you install Adobe’s Creative Suite you will need to have at least a gigabyte of RAM. With an ample supply of RAM your Mac will easily handle tasks and improve your efficiency.

What would a major system upgrade be without a list of problems? Here’s some to be aware of: Adobe Illustrator CS2 has a few font problems that can be eliminated by trashing the preferences. There are also problems copying between CS2 applications – again Illustrator’s the problem. Macromedia users will have to “reactivate” software – a patch is in the works. Creo reports that Preps also has problems and will be fixed.