This article is from NYTimes.com
Mac OS 10.2 Reviewed
August 22, 2002
By DAVID POGUE
WHEN Apple unveiled its Mac OS X operating system a couple of years ago, the company's chief executive, Steven P. Jobs, explained that it offered two important benefits. First, Mac OS X (pronounced "ten") rests on a superstable, industrial-strength foundation called Unix. Second, Mac OS X is so beautiful, "you just want to lick it."
Many Mac fans weren't so sure they even wanted to touch it. Yes, Mac OS X is virtually crashproof. (In fact, one command tells you, in months, days and hours, how long your Mac has gone without having to be restarted - a statistic that early adopters eagerly compared online.) But there was a price for this stability: a long list of beloved Mac OS 9 features had been moved around, stripped down or eliminated in Mac OS X, and the new system wasn't nearly as fast as Mac OS 9.
By way of reassurance, Apple kept repeating that Mac OS X was a clean slate, a thrilling new canvas for software artists. Just wait, went the refrain, the best is yet to come.
This Saturday, Apple will release a new version that emphatically proves its point: Mac OS X version 10.2, nicknamed Jaguar. (The price is $129, or free with new computers. If you bought Mac OS X after July 17, the upgrade is $20.) Don't be fooled by the small increase in the version number. This is a polished, innovative and - if such a term can be applied to something as nerdy as an operating system - exciting upgrade.
Apple says that Jaguar has more than 150 new features, including a few returning favorites from Mac OS 9. But especially for people with older Macs, speed is the only one they really care about, and Mac OS X has it in spades. It's generally as fast as Mac OS 9 was, and often faster.
Among the 149 remaining features, Sherlock 3 is one of the most useful. It's a minibrowser designed to summon specific kinds of useful Web information, like local movie times, stock prices, businesses (that is, a national Yellow Pages), language translations, airline schedules. Each set of search results comes dressed up with multimedia goodies: the trailers of the movies you look up, maps and driving directions for the businesses, flight-progress maps.
Of course, anyone with a little patience can turn up this kind of information using an ordinary Web browser. But Sherlock's highly targeted approach eliminates the hunting around, the waiting and, by the way, the ads.
Apple also endowed 10.2 with some impressive Windows compatibility features. For example, Macs and Windows PC's on the same network now "see" each other's icons automatically. It's an unexpected breeze to copy files back and forth, open documents on each other's machines, and so on - no technical prowess required.
This kind of interspecies computer communication used to require $150 worth of add-on software. Having it built right in represents a giant step toward the end of the Mac-Windows cold war. (At least it does from a technological standpoint. The cocktail party clashes of Mac and Windows devotees will probably go on forever.)
Plenty of other big-ticket features appear in 10.2: iChat, an instant-messaging program that's compatible with AOL Instant Messenger; a surprisingly effective junk-mail filter in Apple's Mail program; a new "clean install" option that lets you reinstall Mac OS X without having to erase the hard drive; a convenient Search bar at the top of every window; desktop backdrop photos that can change at regular intervals, smoothly fading from one to the next; a calculator that offers not only scientific functions but also unit conversions and even up-to-the-minute currency conversions. Version 10.2 also introduces Rendezvous, a behind-the-scenes networking technology that will someday permit computers, printers, palmtops and other gizmos to find and communicate with one another instantly, with no setup or configuring whatsoever.
But if you're the kind of person who gets satisfaction from, say, the hushed thump of a Lexus car door closing, it's the little things in Jaguar, the grace notes, that may mean the most in everyday work. For example, you not only get keyboard shortcuts for every important folder on your machine, but they're all consistent and easy to remember: it's always Shift-Command plus A for the Applications folder, F for Favorites, H for your Home folder, and so on.
Mac OS 9's "spring loaded" folder feature is back, too. It lets you move any icon into a folder inside a folder inside a folder, all with a single dragging motion. As long as you keep the mouse button pressed, folder icons spring open as your cursor touches them. Finally, when you release the mouse, they all close neatly shut behind you. You can't help wishing that FedEx packages, dresser drawers and attic boxes worked the same way.
Apple, long a victim of idea theft by Microsoft, saw no reason not to borrow (and improve on) a few good ideas from Windows XP, too. Text in every program exhibits the fine, smooth edges of magazine type, rather than appearing composed of individual tiny pixels. You can now view file names to the right of their icons, rather than underneath, in effect creating multiple columns of files in each window. Beneath each icon name, 10.2 can add a bonus information line of blue text that shows you the dimensions of a picture, the duration of a movie or sound, or how many files are inside a folder. This sweet engineering gesture saves you the trouble of opening the file or folder to find out what's inside.
So what's the bottom line? If you're among the 23 million Mac fans who have been watching the skies for a sign that it's safe to upgrade to X, version 10.2 is it. Most of the big-name programs are now available in OS X versions (Microsoft Office, America Online, Photoshop, Quicken), most of the kinks have been worked out, and there's no longer a speed penalty.
If you're a Windows person - the target of Apple's switch campaign - you may not be so easily seduced. Yes, Mac OS X is fast, fluid and light-years better working with pictures, movies and music. But PC's are still cheaper than Macs (at least in desktop models), and software titles are more plentiful. In hard economic times, some people are sure to find those points more persuasive than elegance, beauty and logical design.
On the other hand, Apple could afford to point out a few larger issues that rarely come up in the Mac-Windows debate. For example, while viruses are an expensive, exasperating fact of life in Windows, not a single one yet affects Mac OS X (knock on silicon).
Furthermore, Apple is not Microsoft - that's the understatement of the year - and isn't nearly so Big Brotherish. There's no 25-digit serial number to type into a new Mac before you can use it, as on a new PC. Mac OS X imposes no copy protection, no Windows XP-style activation process and no risk of being locked out of your own PC if you upgrade too many of its components. Nor does Mac OS X ever interrupt you with little balloons that nag you to sign up for Passport, .NET or some other Microsoft database. Mac people rarely feel like they're living in the persistent, lurking shadow of a software company.
Jaguar isn't perfect. The online help is abysmal, a few minor bugs remain, and Mac loyalists who already paid $129 for Mac OS X 10.0 or 10.1 may resent having to pay another $129 to stay current. Even so, Mac OS X 10.2 is the best-looking, least-intrusive and most thoughtfully designed operating system walking the earth today. No, you don't want to lick it. But you're delighted that you installed it - and for a hunk of software in this day and age, even that's quite an achievement.
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