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Mac OS X: Our First Impressions

News At Ten (Point One)

Apple's OS X finally looks like becoming a contender, with the 10.1 update providing the much-hyped speed boost.

File operations and application launch times are much speedier. Running a timer over the two, we found that the new Internet Explorer started in 5 seconds as opposed to the 13 seconds it took under 10.0.4, the OmniWeb browser launched in 6 seconds (against 14, although it could take longer), iTunes in 4 seconds (down from 12).

File operations are also speedier. A directory with over 19,000 files displayed in icon view in 5 seconds, and in list view in 7 seconds, which compares well with the operation under Windows. And much better than the same operation in 10.0.4, where after seventy seconds of watching the gold CD-ROM cursor spinning round, we assumed the machine had crashed. Copying the same directory takes three minutes and five seconds under 10.1, and seven minutes and eleven seconds 10.0.4.

(The timings were performed on the bottom of the range QuickSilver G4. We haven't put our SCSI disks in this box yet, as the PCI controller has in the past mussed up deep sleep mode, which is something we value very much ).

So Mac OS X is no longer a liability.

What may bring greater cheer is that OS X native applications now appear to zip along, too. Microsoft made a native Word beta public last week and performance is excellent. It launches in five seconds - comparable to OS 9 launch time, and we couldn't really fault its scrolling performance.

The new release has a few subtle usability improvements: you can set the date and time by clicking on the menu bar clock, for example. A few caveats, however:- Internet Explorer appears to have some timing-related issues. We found timeouts occurring on some sites, sites with which OmniWeb had no problems. And the click-and-hold method of bringing up a context menu seems to wait indefinitely before displaying the menu. If you move the mouse while holding it down, even by a pixel or two, the problem goes away, but it's a big deal on one-button Macs, as we've been browsing this way for years.

And in our brief time with the new OS - a full OS X Diary update will follow - we were most chuffed to discover that our Nokia's MMC card was recognized without needing its own driver install.

What, no Newsnight?
A few caveats remain: principally with application support. There's no Real Player yet, which is a big deal if you rely on BBC News Online as much as this writer does, and there are issues invoking the Mac OS Real Player from OS X IE. In fact, we found other issues cross-launching: in one OS X installation double clicking a Word file invokes the classic version of Word, as expected, but fails to load the file. This may be because we have two 10.1 installations on the same disk, but suggestions for fixes are welcome.

All told so far, there's light at the end of the OS X tunnel. ®

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