TV-PGOctober 1, 2001: It wasn't necessarily easy to get, but Mac OS X 10.1 is finally here-- and it rocks. Meanwhile, ethereal visions from beyond hint at an "Apple event" in mid-October packing new PowerBooks and a chewy candy surprise, and Henrico County's 23,000 iBooks apparently aren't quite as easy to manage as those folks originally expected...
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Definitely Worth The Wait (10/1/01)
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Ladies, ladies, ladies-- Mac OS X 10.1 in the HIZ-ouse, yo. Forgive our giddy ebullience, but this update has finally made us remember why we were excited about Mac OS X in the first place. Funny how all it took to get us excited again is a release that actually works. Wheeeeeee!!!

Granted, one might expect our enthusiasm to be dampened somewhat by the ickiness of the actual "getting the upgrade" phase of the process, but truth be told, our trip into Retailsville to pick up a kit was far less heinous than many of the "I walked thirty-seven miles uphill through freezing rain only to be stabbed in the eye by a slack-jawed CompUSA employee" stories we're hearing out there. (If you're thirsty for drama, MacMinute has a pretty hefty compendium of reader experiences relating to snagging-- or failing to snag-- one of these magical 10.1 kits at retail.) Whereas lots of you poor souls had to endure the heartbreak of being told by harried resellers that the free upgrade kits never showed up at all, our only inconvenience was unexpectedly having to wait in line for an hour outside the Apple Store Northshore as curious mallgoers rolled their eyes at the dweebs lining up for a computer operating system. Oh, the indignities we suffer in the name of progress...

As for the release itself, though, we said it works, and work it does. This is the very first release in which the brightness and volume keys on our Pismo work reliably (or, indeed, at all). We can finally paste custom icons on our drive partitions so we can tell them apart at a glance. We can now play American McGee's Alice in Mac OS X-- including a level that always crashed under Mac OS 9. Applications launch so quickly that if we blink, we miss it (provided we blink fairly slowly). Resizable columns and two-line icon view tags mean we can finally read the middles of our filenames. QuickTime movies no longer lose sound-video synchronization after four seconds, and DVD playback appears to work flawlessly-- even better than under Mac OS 9. Perhaps most importantly for us, AppleTalk support means we can connect to our ancient Mac OS 8.6 Power Computing clone via AirPort and edit files on a disk in its external Zip drive-- which means we're apt to do a whole lot more AtAT production under 10.1. Heck, even the built-in screensaver got more elegant.

So far our only complaints are tiny ones. For one thing, pressing F12 now appears to open our DVD-ROM drive, and we've done that by accident about a zillion times since Saturday when reaching for the delete key... but that's a feature, not a bug, and it's a heckuva lot easier than pressing the teensy eject button on the drive door itself. The only actual bug we've encountered is that occasionally when we wake our PowerBook from sleep, our sound is gone until we restart-- but since that happened occasionally in 10.0.4 as well, we figure at least we're no worse off than we were before. Overall, two thumbs up-- way up. Kudos to Apple for making so much progress in so little time. Six more months and this OS is going to be so polished, we'll be able to count our pores in its highly reflective surface.


 
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It'll Be... "Oh, My Nose!" (10/1/01)
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So there we were, clicking happily away in Mac OS X 10.1, when we discovered two features of which we had not previously been aware. The first is that the Keyboard Preference panel lets you set up the ability to navigate the menubar, the Dock, the toolbars, etc. entirely from the keyboard, much like Windows has done for ages; some of you might find that tip useful. The other undocumented feature is that using 10.1 apparently focuses and enhances latent psychic ability. That's right; a few hours after getting all Aqua'd up, we realized that we could predict which Brady Bunch episode was about to come on Nick At Nite with a respectable 72% accuracy rating. Who knew?

Anyway, most of you using 10.1 are similarly psychically endowed and therefore already knew we were going to say that-- just as you already know what we're about to say about mid-October. But give those expanded sixth senses a rest for a bit, because we still have to clue in the rest of the audience, okay? (Remember, being psychic is no excuse for being rude. Don't make us telekinetically pop your skulls like melons. We've been practicing, you know.)

So yeah, mid-October; there have been rumors floating around about an Apple "press event" for a while, now, but while configuring our key repeat rate last night, we suddenly experienced a startlingly vivid Dead Zone-style premonition of the shindig-- one of those "special Apple events" that the company uses to introduce new gear when Macworld Expo is still a couple of months away. Sadly, we'd only been using Mac OS X 10.1 for about a day, so our second sight was limited largely to predicting the broadcast of '70s-era sitcoms, and therefore just what gear Apple is planning to wave in front of the press in a couple of weeks wasn't totally clear. We're pretty sure that we saw a couple of speed-bumped PowerBooks, but that's a safe bet anyway. The intriguing thing was that we saw something else there, too, but unfortunately it was far too foggy to make out.

We realize it's not much to go on, but we plan to keep using 10.1 as much as possible in hopes of honing our psychic abilities until we can actually see what else Uncle Steve has up his sleeve for this imminent unveiling party. With luck, we'll have a better idea of what to expect in as little as a day or two. Of course, it may take us up to two weeks to get a totally clear picture...


 
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School Daze In Henrico (10/1/01)
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Speaking of Apple "press events," remember that one back in May at which the company trotted out its spankin' new iBook? In addition to getting in a dignified potshot at Dell's ninety-pound consumer laptop, Steve also spent a lot of time playing up the iBook's unparalleled suitability for use in schools. After all, why make the kids go to a computer lab when they can all have iBooks complete with mobile wireless network access from anywhere on the school grounds? Sounds good, right?

It sounded good to Henrico County, too-- at least, we assume it did, since, in what was apparently the "largest portable computer sale to education ever," that school district snapped up a whopping 23,000 of the sleek white portables before they even hit the open market. We're talking literally one iBook per middle school and high school student, and one per teacher as well. And they're all tied together wirelessly with AirPort. What could possibly go wrong?

Sounds like a question for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, whose answer in a nutshell is "everything." Three weeks into the school year, that whole "an iBook in every bookbag" plan isn't going quite as smoothly as it might have; given that this is reportedly the "largest wireless network every attempted by a school system," you have to expect a few glitches, but it seems the schools are plagued with "chronic network problems, hardware flaws, shortcomings in availability of promised software, and concerns about homework theft."

The article as posted is maddeningly short on details, so it's hard to tell if these are just the standard sort of issues that would arise with any large-scale deployment of high-tech equipment to a slew of teens and teachers, or if Apple really needs to get on the stick and fix things to prevent any bad publicity that could scotch its attempt to retake the lead in education sales. As for that whole "homework theft" thing, well, hey-- at least these kids are learning valuable job skills in the field of high-tech corporate espionage. Surely that's more marketable than anything they can pick up in pottery class, right?


 
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