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Tiger Revisited: A Month Into It

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I decided to revisit this topic again as first impressions aren’t always the best or most accurate impressions, and frankly, a lot can change in a month. After spending quite a bit more time exploring, I’ve learned quite a bit more about our beloved Mac OS X Tiger.

Since the last time I talked about my Tiger experience, I’ve reinstalled Tiger using the “Archive and Install” option as opposed to the “Simple Install” option I used the first time. This cleared up my problem of the phantom ClamAV user account I’d mentioned before. As a bit of context, I have a 1.33 GHz 17-inch PowerBook G4 with 1GB RAM.

Safari 2

Super, super, super fast. Far and away the fastest browser I’ve ever worked with (Firefox Deer Park Alpha 1 for OSX is second fastest). It’s also standards-compliant so I never have to worry about how sites are going to look switching between Safari, and my Windows browser of choice, Firefox. I’m also running the current nightly build of Safari, thanks to the recent open-source release by Apple of the WebKit CVS repositories compiled with Xcode 2.1.

I’ve left Safari set as the default RSS reader on my system (so that clicking on the RSS icon will allow me to read selected feeds in Safari RSS), although in reality I still use NetNewsWire synced with Bloglines (which, in turn, syncs with FeedDemon on my Windows machine).

Tiger Mail (Mail 2)

Tiger Mail is not too shabby. I switched from Thunderbird to Panther Mail back in April in anticipation of a smooth transition to Tiger Mail. Everything has gone flawlessly since the move. Smart folders have made my email organization much more productive.

Now, for all of you complaining about the new UI in Tiger Mail, quit complaining. If your beef is with the violation of Apple’s own Human Interface Guidelines, fine. But from an aesthetic point of view, Tiger Mail looks a lot better than earlier versions of Mail.


I use this feature constantly. For any application that isn’t in my Dock, it’s just a command-space away. But the normal Spolight search, although useful, isn’t as helpful as the new Spotlight-powered Smart Folders.

Smart Folders

I’m a neat, organized person, who likes to keep all of my applications and utilities organized away in intelligent groups and subfolders within the Applications folder. The main problem with this is using Software Update, as most Apple applications won’t update if they aren’t currently residing in their Apple-approved homes. In other words, Apple’s “application dump” style organization goes head-to-head with my neat-freak organization style.

So, I decided to do the next best thing: Create a “Smart Applications” folder where I run all of my apps from, that I can keep organized however I want. I dumped all of my apps into the Applications folder, and all of my utilities into /Applications/Utilities. Then, I tagged the Spotlight comments of each item with a special code (@org-utilities-network, @org-graphics), appropriate for the group(s) I wanted the app to be associated with. From there, I created Smart Folders for each group of applications, telling them to only search in the Applications folder, rather than the whole drive. This speeds up performance considerably.


Organizing all of my apps this way by hand would have been a total pain, but Automator made it a piece of cake. After taking the time to build the appropriate Automator app, I was able to just drag-and-drop whole folders of applications and have all of the items set with the appropriate Spotlight comments.

I also have a bit of repetitive image manipulation that I do rather frequently. It used to take forever to do each image manually with Fireworks, but now, I just drop a folder of images onto my Automator app, go get a glass of milk, come back and it’s done! Brilliant!

The only thing missing for me is the Automator equivalent of Folder Actions from Mac OS 9. I want to be able to fire an Automator action on an item whenever that item gets dropped on a folder. Anyone know how to do that?

iChat 3

Still haven’t used it much, but I’m planning to give it an honest go-round. Adium and Gaim don’t seem to write my buddy lists back to the server correctly, so my iChat buddy list is all messed up. I need to fix that.

Burnable Folders

Finally, a better way to burn data CD’s. Instead of having the Finder copy all of the files I want to burn to a temporary folder, it simply creates aliases, then resolves them during the burn. This allows the whole CD burning process to go much faster on Tiger.

Due to this limitation in Panther, I began using a nifty little app called Burnz. Burnz was a lifesaver during the Panther days. Since my car stereo plays MP3 CD’s, I burn a lot of them, and Tiger just made it easier for me.

iCal 2

I honestly have no idea what the difference is between iCal 1.5.5 and iCal 2.0, but hey, as long as it works. The only problem that I’ve had is that in Panther, I was able to sync my calendars with a PHPiCalendar installation. Now, it doesn’t work anymore. I can, however, sync with .Mac.

iSync 2

Before I got my new Motorola v330 phone, I just used iSync to occasionally sync my contacts and calendars to my iPod.

After I got my phone, I found out that with a little hacking, iSync will support my new phone. I did the hackjob, and it worked. So, I synced all of the phone numbers between my computer and my phone. Problem was, I ended up with double numbers in my phone (as I already had many of my contacts in there), and nothing new in my Address Book.

So, I deleted all of the numbers in my phone and decided to start over fresh. Big mistake. Between the two devices, the most recent modified date was on my phone, so when I synced, I wiped out all of the phone numbers I had in my entire world. This was a sad, sad day. It toook me about 8 hours worth of phone calls and digging through my wife’s Palm to get all of my numbers back. I finally realized that I had a month-old backup on my iPod, so I was able to pull most numbers from there. iSync saving me from iSync.

Now, iSync and I are friends again. Couple that with BluePhoneElite, and I’m a happy camper.


I had an iTools account back in 1999 or 2000. That expired back when Apple changed iTools to .Mac and started charging a subscription fee. Nowadays, I use this about 95% for syncing and about 5% for using the iDisk to exchange data between my personal PowerBook and my work PC.

QuickTime 7

The coolest thing about QuickTime 7 is the super-huge trailers available from the HD QuickTime Gallery. Beyond that, the improvements are completely lost on me. It’s awesome to see fantastic clarity when I play an HD trailer in full-screen without it looking like crap.

Address Book

As with Panther, I use my Address Book constantly. It was a huge help when I wiped out all of my phone numbers (read the iSync section above). I created a set of Smart Groups that listed people in my Address Book that were (are) missing entries for phone number, address, IM name, etc., so I always know who I need to pester about getting information from.

Unified Theme

I’m a big fan of OSX’s “Aqua” theme, paticularly Panther’s Aqua. On the other hand, I can’t stand “Brushed Metal”. I think it’s a horrible theme, and should be killed. So when Apple came up with the “Unified” theme (which I’ve referred to as “toolbar-in-titlebar” in the past), I was pleasantly surprised.

Unified is basically a “smooth metal” version of Aqua. It takes the toned-down pinstripes of Panther, the multicolored close/minimize/resize buttons and throbbing blue buttons of Aqua, and combines it with a sleek metallic toolbar-in-title bar look. I think it’s fantastic, and I’m a big fan.

I think that from here, Apple should add system-level theming — much like the feature of Copland that didn’t quite make it into Tempo, although all the architecture was already in place. The preference panel would allow users to choose whether they want Classic Aqua (Jaguar and older), New Aqua (Panther), Brushed Metal (iTunes and Safari), Pro (Apple’s Pro line of applications), or Unified (Tiger-style Aqua). This setting would persist across all applications in the OS, so that all apps would have a consistent look across the board (much like the UI consistency in Mac OS 9 or Windows XP).

A good overview of the “many faces of Mac OS X” can be found at Rob’s Observatory.

System Performance

Tiger made my PowerBook feel snappier after the Simple Install I did, but it feels even faster after the Archive and Install I did two weeks ago. Beyond all Microsoftian comprehension, Tiger runs faster on the same hardware compared to Panther. How sweet is that?

Any Problems?

Just two. Sometimes my phone doesn’t sync right unless I turn it off then back on again. I think that has more to do with the fact that my phone isn’t officially supported by iSync yet.

The second is that I can’t browse to my Windows SMB shares without locking up the Finder. I can connect via IP, but not by browsing to the share. I’m hoping that this will be fixed in 10.4.2 coming up this week or next.

What has Tiger enabled me to do over Panther?

  • Organize my apps and utilities more intelligently
  • Launch (almost) any app, (almost) straight from the desktop
  • Save myself from myself with iSync, .Mac, and Address Book
  • Save time and stay organized better by automating several repetitive tasks
  • Burn data CD’s faster
  • Sync devices and data easily and automatically
  • Watch full-screen trailers that actually look good full-screen
  • Surf the web at blazing speeds with incredible response time
  • Organize my email more intelligently
  • More stuff that I just can’t think of right now.

At this point, I’d say that any “laggards” that haven’t yet upgraded to Tiger should do so ASAP. Once you figure out how to make features like Spotlight and Automator work for you, you’ll be amazed by what all you can accomplish.

Ryan Parman

is an engineering manager with over 20 years of experience across software development, site reliability engineering, and security. He is the creator of SimplePie and AWS SDK for PHP, patented multifactor-authentication-as-a-service at WePay, defined much of the CI/CD and SRE disciplines at McGraw-Hill Education, and came up with the idea of “serverless, event-driven, responsive functions in the cloud” while at Amazon Web Services in 2010. Ryan's aptly-named blog, , is where he writes about ideas longer than . Ambivert. Curious. Not a coffee drinker.