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Panther Has Landed

Mac OS X 10.3Hey, the day has come -- Apple's Mac OS X Panther (a.k.a. 10.3) has arrived! I think tonight I'll stop by our local Apple Store at Mayfair Mall and check out the Night of Panther event happening there. I'd particularly like to see the environments feature (Fast User Switching) and what Mail might have to offer, as these two applications may suit my needs once I update. The email I received yesterday mentioned free stuff (maybe t-shirts) and a chance at winning a Mac, so Nathan and I will be sure to have a look around.

However, as excited as I am about Panther, I probably won't upgrade for at least a week or two (or more), so I can let others find out which apps are still in need of upgrades to run on 10.3. Let others ride on the bleeding edge. I should also plan the upgrade correctly and include a backup of my data, should glitches occur.

I've mentioned 10.3 before, describing the Fast User Switching feature as one I'm most excited about. In fact, a reader named David sent along a very nice, detailed note about the "environments" feature in Linux, pointing out that this has been around a really long time in the Unix world. While I may one day try out Linux, right now I'm quite happy with Mac OS X and have the patience to wait and see what Fast User Switching in 10.3 is like.

I'm also happy to hear that older Macs, like the Titanium Powerbook G4 I happen to use, should see some significant speed boosts with 10.3. I'll withhold my judgment on just how "significant" the boost is, still, it's good to hear that my Mac could become a bit quicker with a software update.

I've come across a few reviews of Panther out there, notably Walt Mossberg's article which suggests spam-weary PC users might want to check out OS X. Slashdot mentions a David Pogue New York Times review of Panther and has tons of user comments. OS News has a nice article that previews Panther and lets users know what to expect in the new OS. Macworld has a nice article that gives a clear overview of Panther's new features. I imagine there are others, I've just not gone looking for them.

Anyway, this weekend will involve a Panther peek, raking of leaves, caulking of house siding and a bunch of other necessary house tasks. Winter is coming, so I've got to get the house ready while it's still reasonably nice outside. :-)

Update: Just got back a while ago, from Mayfair and the Night of Panther event at the Apple Store. There was quite a turnout; the line for entry snaked across the main hallway and down a back hallway. I think my son Nathan and I waited in line about 30 minutes before getting into the store.

The crowd were definitely the Mac faithful. I saw some people in line with their iBooks and Powerbooks and many Apple-related t-shirts. Probably 90% were really hardcore fans (some of them looked like it was their first escape from indoors since the Apple Store opened nearly a year ago). We received 2 drawing cards, one for Nathan and one for me, and entered for our chance at a free Mac.

Had a chance to chat with a few fans around me about Panther, one of which had already installed the last beta and was psyched up to buy Panther. There was also a family there who oddly enough were still on Mac OS 9. Their daughter was having fun playing with Nathan.

Soon we were ushered into the store by Apple employees in black OS X t-shirts. I found an open iMac and got a close look at Fast User Switching. Wow, what a cool feature! It was indeed fast, and included a slick 3D effect, which made the screen look like one side of a cube that swung away as the new user's profile spun into place.

Expose is also very slick; basically, every window running on your Mac is shrunken to fit onto a single screen with a screen hotspot or F-key. Once the windows shrink down, you can roll over them until you select the window you'd like to work with, using the mouse. That new window comes to the front and all other windows are hidden away.

The new Finder also looked pretty good, with some new features similar to Default Folder X, one of the 3rd party utilities I run now. It offers a list of hard drives, your 'home' folder and favorites in a column on the left side of the main window. Dialog boxes for opening and saving also carry this new layout.

The user interface is much nicer, with OS X's signature pinstripes getting toned down and the top bar of windows getting a gray gradation rather than pinstripes. The iTunes-like brushed aluminum is also more prominent. Overall, the interface feels more refined and professional that Jaguar (10.2). This is good.

I can't speak to Panther's speed, since every machine at the Apple Store was at least twice as fast as my current Powerbook. I'll just have to wait and see how that fares once Panther is installed. I've also learned about incompatibility between Palm Desktop 4.1 and Panther, so this might be another reason to hold off on an upgrade for the time being. I'm sure PalmSource will resolve the issues, but I don't need to be fighting with HotSync issues right out of the box.

UPDATE 2005-11-23: Eric K. wrote about info on the permissions issues with OS X and sent along a link to a resolution from Palm's own website, in case you need this.

So, based on our field trip, I think Panther is a great upgrade. $129 is a bit steep if you're just reading specs, but when you actually see what you're getting in person for that price, it's a really decent deal.

So, Nathan and I left the Apple Store around 9pm. On the way out, we were given two sets of black Panther dog tags. One has the Panther X logo on it with the words "Mac OS X Panther v10.3, Worldwide Release" under it, while the other tag has simply the Panther X logo and no type below it. Each tag has a black Apple logo on the back. I opened mine and kept Nathan's in the plastic bag -- for when he becomes a Mac user in the future. ;-)

Oh, before I sign off for the weekend, if you're considering an upgrade from Jaguar to Panther, check out two great $5 Take Control e-books Take Control of Upgrading to Panther and Take Control of Customizing Panther (to be released soon). These are written by leading Mac authors, with editing by the folks at TidBITS. These look like excellent resource documents for Jaguar to Panther upgraders..

Hey, have a great weekend!

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