Strange Brouhaha

Friday, September 09, 2005

Upgrading Operating Systems

I finally took the plunge and installed Mac OS X 10.4, a.k.a. Tiger, on my iBook.

The OS itself installed without a hitch; I just clicked the "Upgrade" button after starting up the computer from the DVD and the machine chirped along just fine without me. After a while, I was informed that the installation was complete and that I should restart.

Right about now is when a person says "I restarted the machine...and nothing happened." Fortunately, that wasn't the case here. Restarting did take a while, and the disk chattered away for a long time after the login screen came up. It took forever to log in. I imagine that it was the new search engine, Spotlight, indexing the hard drive.

The only problem I had was when it came time to install the new version of Xcode, the Apple software development environment. I love it that Apple provides a developer's toolkit with the operating system--and not only that, but the same one they use to build the OS. It's a great little chunk of added value, so I'm willing to forgive what a PITA it is to work with sometimes. Anyway, I had a hitch: when I ran the installer, I got the manifestly unhelpful error message "There were errors installing the software." No explanation of what errors, and /var/log/install.log just told me that each SDK had taken a certain amount of time to install unsuccessfully. Thanks a lot.

I tried again, as the installer suggested, but with the same results. I decided to download the absolute latest version of Xcode, 2.1, from the Apple Developer Connection. Same results (and it's a hefty CD-length download, too, 750+ MB). Finally, in desperation, I ran the perl-based uninstaller that lives in /Developer/Tools. That erased most of the older version. Then I reran the Xcode 2.1 installer, which completed successfully.

Unfortunately, I changed more than one thing: I had also updated the OS to the latest patch level, which addressed some installer issues. So, the solution may have been the stuff I installed from Software Update, and it may have been uninstalling the old Xcode.

The big question I've had since the release of the OS is, of course, the big question you have about pretty much anything you buy: "Is it worth it?"

There's no whiz-bang, must-have features in Tiger, at least in my opinion. The one that everyone talks about, Dashboard, is neat but ultimately seems like just a toy. That's not going to stop me from writing a couple of dashboard widgets, you understand, but it's not as immediately useful as Expose. Perhaps over time I'll come to see the utility of it, but I don't really care about monitoring the weather where I am, or having a dictionary lookup, or a Wikipedia client, when I can open up Firefox and have those things anyway. The one thing that I do find useful is the calendar; it's quicker to pull up Dashboard and look at the calendar than it is to pull up iCal or the Date & Time Control Panel.

I'm sure there's a lot going on under the hood, and as I play with the development tools, I bet there'll be some good changes, but on the user level, the OS doesn't seem that compelling, and certainly not $129 worth of compelling. The new features that Apple touts on their OS X web page and on their 200 New Features! page pretty much don't make a difference to me--I don't use iChat so iChat AV is a nonstarter, RSS feeds in Safari are a moot point as I don't use Safari, etc. etc. (Notice, too, that each widget included with the OS rates as a separate feature.)

Despite that...if you own a Mac, you should get on the upgrade bandwagon, assuming your system meets the requirements. Why? Well, I guess it's partly because I'm still a charter member of the Apple fanboys' club, and partly because sooner or later, software is going to start requiring Tiger. Even with the Intel switch looming, you might as well get caught up with the latest.


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