November 6, 2003

Panther is My Hero

So I installed Apple's new OS X.3 release, aka Panther, this week and life is good. Real good. I mean really, really good . Mark Pilgrim describes what's new in Panther much better that I ever could (and I strongly recommend his introduction), but the take-away I want people to get right now is how much snappier the OS feels.

I honestly feel as if I've installed an accelerator giving me a few hundred MHz boost in CPU power. This may not be as noticeable on newer machines, but it makes a world of difference on my getting-long-in-tooth TiBook 550. A colleague relaying reports from other happy users notes that this may be the first OS update in history that actually makes your machine run faster rather than slower with requisite new features and the, until now, expected, concurrent performance hit.

Nearly all my dev and office apps (Macromedia Studio MX, Director, BBEdit 7, MS Office, Photoshop 7, Transmit 2.6, RDC, Amadeus II, RDC and others) continue to work without issue, but there are a couple gotchas to watch out for.

  • If you are using a FireWire 800 drive, then you'll want to first download new drivers that address a serious data loss issue. Yikes!

  • Toast 5.x won't launch, but 6.0 reportedly does. If your Mac can switch-boot to OS 9 then you can still burn using Toast 5, but where's the fun in that?

  • If you use Adobe Acrobat 6, then the virtual Adobe PDF Printer no longer shows up in your printer list. MacFixit notes that Adobe has posted a fix that can be downloaded from here (forum guest access allowed).

  • Missing Verdana? What, did you actually choose not to install IE when you installed Panther? Admittedly, the number of users who will skip installing IE will be miniscule, but you should know that Verdana (and Georgia) is not currently part of the standard system font set in Panther, but installed as part of Microsoft's Web Fonts set that comes bundled with IE. This has been blogged fairly extensively (ex. I, II), and I've covered a related issue with missing Verdana in OS 9, but the interesting thing about this is not whether most Panther users will have Verdana, but what happens when Microsoft finally quits distributing the discontinued IE 5.x for OS X? Will Apple license the Web Font set, as they apparently once did?

  • Aladdin's Stuffit 7.x Magic Menu goes away and some file types apparently cause invalid zips; apparently I need an update to Stuffit 8.0. Those of you already using Stuffit 8 will need to reinstall, as Panther apparently overwrites 8.x components with older 7.x versions with the Stuffit Expander bundled in Panther. Some users may no longer need Stuffit; see below for how Panther handles zip files. Worth noting is a limited-time "tech support special offer" of 40% off of any Aladdin product. Get 'em while they're hot. Ahem.

  • Macromedia MX2004 activation warning: if you choose to do a clean upgrade, then make sure you deactivate your applications beforehand to ensure you have a working activation left in your account. Lots of people are forgetting to do this and are having to deal with Macromedia's support folks to get reactivated. I hear that Macromedia is being very understanding with Panther upgraders, but I suspect it's easier to avoid the problem in the first place. ;)

  • While Macromedia's Flash MX seems to run fine in Panther, Expose's F-key assignments annoyingly override Flash's shortcut key for opening the Script window.

  • There are reports of problems with Palm Desktop, but, like the Macromedia activation issue, these are apparently happening only to users who performed a clean install and later tried to reinstall Palm Desktop 4.x. After cloning my drive to an external for safety, I chose to perform an upgrade instead and I haven't had any problem with Palm Desktop so far, with Pather Address Book and iCal sync in place of the Palm version.
  • Some other quick items of note:

    Zip files
    Panther natively understands and can create/extract .zip files, which may allow some users to skip purchasing/upgrading Stuffit, although it appears that PC user recipients of Panther-created zip files will see excess junk in their zip archives when files with resource forks are archived in this manner. If this is likely to be a problem for you, it might be a good time to go look at that Aladdin 40% off offer.

    Mounting volumes and then running away
    A major annoyance in previous versions of OS X was what happened when you dropped off your network w/o first unmounting any of your network volumes. Those of us with laptops probably were burnt by this the most. I'm happy to report that Panther is smart about this type of thing and doesn't spin you off into never-never land while trying to contact your dearly departed mounts. Instead, Panther lets you know that the mount has gone MIA and asks if you want to forget about it. Yes, please!

    Safari fixes
    Panther brings Safari 1.1 to the party, and you may just have to go to the party to get this release (Panther-only?). Apple engineer Dave Hyatt's blog posts the fixes and feature additions in Safari 1.1 and Safari 1.1, Part 2, even whetting our appetites for just implemented features like tooltip title attribute handling and more. Todd Dominey shows off the text shadow property in Safari 1.1 to good effect, being a CSS-2 feature which he claims only Safari 1.1 currently supports.

    Font Book
    Apple says Font Book "lets you install, preview, search, activate and deactivate the fonts you need." May cut into Extensis' Suitcase sales; Suitcaseless designers will find this functionality welcome indeed.

    With one more plug for Mark Pilgrim's introduction to Panther, keep an eye on this space for more observations and compatibility issues as I come across them, and please feel free to add your own impressions and experiences with OS X.3.

    Posted by Lewis Francis at November 6, 2003 12:13 AM

    Brian Williford notes another Panther issue:

    Electric Image Universe 5 has OpenGL issues specific to Panther.

    Thanks, Brian!

    Posted by: Lewis Francis at November 6, 2003 12:31 PM

    Universe 5.0.5 from 5.04 (Mac) - (Nov 09, 2003)
    Fixed Animator Bug: Under Panther (OS 10.3).

    Posted by: Brian Williford at February 2, 2004 11:35 AM
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