Early Tiger Thoughts


Some first impressions on Tiger for the Mac:

Overall I like Tiger, but it’s not life-changer, and I certainly don’t feel the paroxysms of joy over it that other people seem to have felt. I was on the phone with Krissy yesterday after I had installed Tiger and she asked me how it was. I assured her that once I installed it, it optimized my Mac, paid my taxes, resolved my long-standing parental issues and whipped up a light and tasty cheese soufflé. She was skeptical. Well, and who can blame her.

Some more detailed thoughts:

* Clearly, if I’ve managed to download and install the Creatures in My Head widget, I’ve figured out how to play with Tiger’s most-hyped-yet-fundamentally-pointless feature, which is the dashboard. It’s a fun little thing, to be sure, but as others have noted, it doesn’t seem fully baked to me; it basically seems like a way for people to feel clever and arch with their computer, the best example of this being the hula girl widget. Look! A hula girl! Aren’t I wacky and non-conformist! Now excuse me, but I have to get back to writing this ad copy for this here mutual fund. No, I don’t have the hula girl widget on my computer. That’s just silly. I mean, I like the dashboard, but I’m not necessarily convinced it should be a cornerstone achievement of a new operating system.

* Spotlight is rather more useful — useful enough that I’m already frustrated with it because I want it to be able to index files on the network as well, since most of my files are still on my PC although accessible through my Mac. Last night while compiling some information for the Science Fiction film book, I ended up dragging the book’s folder onto the Mac, so Spotlight could index it and I could use it and I could use it track down particular movies. If you’re doing something like that within a few hours of installing an application, that tells you the application is useful. There do seem to be some limitations to Spotlight, but I need to play with it some more to see if those limitations are inherent in the application or inherent in me not knowing how to use the application. But in the short term, at least, thumbs up.

* Other improvements that Tiger brings to the Mac OS are less obvious to me, in part because I’ve only had my Mac for a couple of weeks and the OS’s flaws and problems were not made apparent to me in that time. Most of my “heavy lifting” applications reside on my PC — for example, all of my Photoshopping is done on the Windows Box — with the Mac being used for e-mail, some Web browsing and writing, and it seems to handle those tasks well enough. I also like Safari’s implementation of RSS support, although Firefox is still my browser of choice on the Mac. Other features of the OS, such as the support for video conferencing, mean little to me at the moment since I don’t have the Apple video cam, and it’s unlikely I’m going to shell out $129 or whatever an iSight costs for the purpose of jabbering online.

Overall: B. It’s nice, but at the moment, only Spotlight is doing much for me. I suppose if I were a hardened MacHead, I’d be more impressed with the overall package, but since I’m not, and I had my moment of initial Mac joy a couple of weeks ago, this update is merely an incremental boost. I’m still very happy with my Mac, mind you — it’s quickly become my primary computer (although, ironically, I’m currently writing this on the PC because I still don’t have any useful photo software installed on the Mac). But if I could simply have gotten Spotlight a la carte, I’d probably have done that.

24 Comments on “Early Tiger Thoughts”

  1. Not being a Mac user I’m not up on all the features in the Mac, but from the descriptions here (and in the last post) it sounds like Spotlight does about the same thing as Google Desktop on Windows (as well as other indexing tools that have come out recently).

    If so, it would seem Apple is playing catch-up on that front. (Not with Microsoft, mind you, but with functionality already available to the PC…)

  2. As for Dashboard, what is it actually doing? Do you set up apps in a certain spot on the screen and use Dashboard to automatically open them all in the same place each time?

    If that’s what it does that would be kinda’ cool, I suppose. Every day at work I open several apps and put them in the same general spot on the screen, so that I know where they should be when I need to look at them. Having one app to open, that opens all the other apps and puts them where I want them would be a time-saver.

  3. Dashboard is an “application layer,” where you can launch small, specific applications. Things like a calculator, dictionary, and weather monitor. Nothing earth-shattering, but small apps you might want to have at hand, but not necessarily always taking up space. Hit the F12 key, and they all appear. Hit it again, and they all disappear. And you can add more programs to it, to do what you need it to do.

    However, OS X is very good about keeping windows where you want them. If you start up an application, it usually opens at the same spot it was when you closed it. Also, some programs (like the word-processors Pages) open at the same spot in the document that you were at when you last closed the document. Usefull.


  4. I’d like it if Dashboard widgets could be kept visible all the time. The stock quote widget would be good for that.

    There’s actually a coupla tricks, to get a widget to be visible when the dashboard is not activated. They’re sub-optimal though.

    One has the problem that, the next time you activate the dashboard, the widget sticks to the dashboard, and goes away from ‘normal space’.

    The other is a widget-debugging mode for developers, but that has the drawback that widgets float above all other windows, and even above the Dock and menubar. So they get in the way. (It’d be better, I think, if they were behind other windows.)

  5. Jon, sounds like you want Konfabulator, which draws widgets in normal space.

    John, you can index your networked volumes with Terminal commands. After that, they look like everything else (you don’t have to go back to the Terminal). Email me for details.

  6. John, have you been using Apple’s Pages software for writing? If so, what do you think? I’m (as always) getting fed up with MS Word and am thinking of making the switch, so I’d love to hear another writer’s perspective on the software (as opposed to someone who only uses it to write memos and create family Christmas letters).

  7. Dave, I have in fact been using Pages. It’s pretty and it does the job for what I need, which is basic type entry. As with Word it has a lot of fuctionality I will probably never use. I got it specifically because it was cheaper than Word for the Mac but with the same core functionality, and it can port to Word or .rtf when necessary. I’m using it to write Ghost Brigades and have no complaints so far.

  8. John H:
    Not being a Mac user I’m not up on all the features in the Mac, but from the descriptions here (and in the last post) it sounds like Spotlight does about the same thing as Google Desktop on Windows (as well as other indexing tools that have come out recently).

    That’s about right. Minor advantages it has over Google’s tool are that it’s aware of the Mac idea of metadata (which also got better in Tiger), and it’s integrated into the kernel’s file operations so a file is indexed in real time on every write. Thus it’s *very* fast, while consuming almost no CPU resources in the background.

    But basically, yeah, they aren’t really breaking any new ground here. There are even Mac apps that do the same thing. So it isn’t really a reason to upgrade your OS; it’s just a visible new feature that Apple is bragging about. Most of the really interesting improvements in Tiger are under the hood.

  9. Oh, and I want to thank you for putting that picture up, John, because I was not aware that there was already a Wikipedia widget. (I looked up Schadenfreude to make sure that was what you were looking at.) >8->

  10. The “All Your Base” meme was much funnier, for much longer, than the “Abe Vigoda status” meme.

  11. The “no photo software on the Mac” thing seems a little weird, because didn’t it used to be that all the vdeo and photo people *had* to use a Mac?

    I’m curious about another thing. Word on the street was that Macs would run out of horsepower, with no clear upgrade path for their processor. Do you know if anything came of that?

  12. Hey guys, this isn’t really relevant but I figured I’d ask in here because its the most recent post. Is anyone else having the Atom RSS Feed display funny? Its pulling down everything for the posts instead of just the main picture and the full text. It seems to be pulling down the RSS Feed and then downloading the web page on top of that with all the comments. Anyone know if this is recent or is my RSS Feed reader being screwy? Thanks.

  13. I still don’t have any useful photo software installed on the Mac

    iPhoto? It came with my Powerbook as part of the basic package and does many basic photo functions. If I want to get crazier than reducing redeye, turning color photos to black and white or sienna, and cropping, Gimp is a free download and works swell.

  14. Hi folks. In defense of my widget, it was never positioned as a way to break from conformity. With it being the 3rd most popular widget on Apple kinda makes it that much more conformist, since everyone seems to download it. The Hula Girl was birthed out of a joke. “Wouldn’t it be funny to have a hula girl for your dashboard.” If anything, it was an exercise to see if I could actually make a widget. I uploaded it on a whim, and it took off. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s pointless, but to pin Dashboard as a whole as pointless is both naive and narrow in scope. Dashboard is much easier to program for than Konfabulator and, when people get over the immediate giddiness of it, more useful apps will start to appear. I post to my blog from a dashboard widget. I can get realtime weather and traffic. A lot of things that would require several websites are readily available in a non-obtrusive way. I think the latitude that Apple has given developers, in being able to execute line commands, applescripts, javascript, and application specific commands in development, and the platform to display all this on is more than deserving of top billing on Tiger.

  15. John Williams:

    Eh. It’s no more difficult to pull up a Web bookmark for nearly everything a widget can do (or, if one has Firefox, define a series of tabs to come up for the multifunctional aspect). I like widgets: They’re fun and esthetically pleasing, and some are also practical. But from a functionality point of view, it’s not a huge advance.

  16. We’ll just have to agree to disagree because I can go to my bottom right hot corner for dashboard and have the weather, traffic, and interface to post to my blog in an instant. Otherwise, I’d go to weather.com type my zip and wait for the next page, then go to yahoo traffic, type in my zip and wait for another page, then go to blogger, log in on the front page, click the appropriate blog, and click new post. It’s not that big of a deal to do all that, but 2/3 of the steps have been removed for me now. I know it won’t be as functional to every user. I’m sure there are a lot of features I don’t care about. So, with that I guess I’m saying its not A functionality point of view, just your functionality point of view.

  17. “Otherwise, I’d go to weather.com type my zip and wait for the next page, then go to yahoo traffic, type in my zip and wait for another page, then go to blogger, log in on the front page, click the appropriate blog, and click new post.”

    Browser cookies take care of most of this problem — my Weather.com page, for example, pops up with my location already inputted, no additional steps required. And again, as I can define a group of tabs to open with Firefox with no more difficulty than clicking F12 button, I don’t see much of a functional difference. As I’ve said before, Widgets put an esthetically pleasing front end to the experience, which one should not discount (and which, of course, is Apple’s strong point). But the functionality is not revolutionary.

    “So, with that I guess I’m saying its not A functionality point of view, just your functionality point of view.”

    If one wishes to be semantic about it, my functionality point of view is a functionality point of view, now, isn’t it. I do agree it’s not the only point of view. This is covered in my site disclaimer.

  18. Ah ha hah ha ha ha!

    Comment cross-pollination. Your key to entertainment.

  19. John, you don’t have to have an iSight to use the iChat videoconferencing, although it is basically the least expensive option (there’s always one camera on the market that has a lower price but is in more serious ways significantly cheaper). If you have a digital camcorder with a Firewire output — which most digicams do have, I think — it will communicate with iChat just as happily. Fat lot of good that does you if you don’t have such a camcorder. I’m told there’s a hack that lets you use any USB webcam with iChat, but I never tried to get it to work, and I don’t know if the Tiger update broke it.

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