Tiger time!

When major OS releases come from Apple, I take the opportunity to backup my system and start over. Derrik Story describes it well in his recent article on housecleaning tips for Tiger.

When one of our Macs would misbehave to a point beyond my tolerance, I’d always back everything up, wipe the drive, install a clean version of the OS, and reinstall the apps.

Now my Mac isn’t misbehaving at all. But over time (since I installed Panther), I’ve installed and removed all sorts of freeware/shareware apps. That leaves preferences files and other litter throughout my system that installing a new OS over will never get rid of.

If you’re installing Tiger this weekend, I’d recommend a reformat before install. If that seems like too much work, I’d recommend doing a clean install. There you get a clean system folder installed. The negative is you lose all your preferences but it shouldn’t take too long to get your apps setup the way you like them again. I think there’s an option that migrates everything from your old Home folder to your new one. That’s the easiest way to do a clean install although you might move over a bunch of stuff you don’t need any longer. Personally, I’d do the clean install without the auto Home folder move. That way you decide what files you want to move over. In either scenario, make sure to back up those license numbers!

It’s pretty well known what the major new features are in Tiger. But looking over lesser features, is worth a quick scan. I came across a great first review of Tiger. Some interesting tidbits you might not know:

  • Spotlight is integrated into the Tiger Finder, and searches can be saved as “Smart Folders,” which are remarkably like BeOS “queries.” However, doing so is not as simple as it should be. A search made at the Spotlight menu cannot be saved. But a search made from the Finder Toolbar — to which you can add search qualifiers such as file type, modification or creation date, keywords, color, contents and more — can be saved as a “Smart Folder.”
    Here’s where it gets confusing. The Smart Folder is saved in ~/Library/Saved Searches or on the Desktop, but there is nothing which explains this.
    Having it appear in the sidebar is an option. If removed from the sidebar, it is not removed from Saved Searches. One can, however, go into the Saved Searches folder, where the Saved Searches appear as folders with an icon on them. These folders can be moved elsewhere; when opened, their Spotlight search executes.
    While powerful, as far as we can tell this is almost completely undocumented. Apple can do better.
  • Spotlight has privacy settings that enable you to exclude chosen folders from search results. Spotlight caches its search results, and we discovered that cached results from folders that were later excluded continued to show up in search results. We do not know how long cached results are stored, so you should exercise caution with anything that must be excluded from Spotlight results. We also don’t know what would happen if the Spotlight index became corrupted, or even how one could tell.
  • Security is a critical question with Spotlight. If Spotlight indexes everything, then everything must be linked in its database — including passwords, credit card numbers, etc. We don’t know how you could protect against this, except to add sensitive files manually to the Spotlight exclusion list. That list, though, is simply a list of files and folders; the content in them still appears to be kept in the Spotlight database.
  • Dashboard has some problems with Widget management. User-installed Widgets are stored in ~/Library/Widgets; Apple-installed Widgets are stored in the system-wide /Library/Widgets. Removing a Widget file can cause Dashboard to become non-responsive and then crash, taking the Dock with it. This seems to happen mainly when active widgets lose their Widget files.
  • Bookmark an RSS feed, or drag it to your Bookmark Bar, and Safari will check it (daily, hourly or every 30 minutes, at your option). As new items appear, Safari will mark your RSS bookmark with the number of new items. (For example, “MacInTouch (15)”.) Just click to view.
  • Multiperson video chats require that one member “host” the chat. According to iChat’s help files, the host must have a Dual 1GHz G4 or Dual 2GHz G5 Power Mac, 300Kbps download bandwidth, and 1000Kbps upstream. For comparison, that’s 2/3 of a business-class T1’s capacity and about three times the upload speed of the typical cable modem or residential ADSL line. This does not seem like video conferencing “for the rest of us.”
  • Tiger ships with new sound effects for Finder. Unlike the relatively low-key and subtle effects used with Mac OS 8’s “Platinum” interface, these are loud and jarring. [I think on by default – yuck if true]
  • Safari and Dashboard show a chink in this armor, however: In our testing, when downloading a zipped Widget, Safari places the Widget into ~/Library/Widgets. While user-friendly, this is a potential security exploit waiting to happen. (Widgets can be prevented from accessing the local disk or the network, but only by opening their package and editing a .plist file, which is far too late to stop a malicious Widget automatically installed by too-trusting Safari.) However, if a Widget is contained in an archive with other files (such as a “readme”), it is placed in the user’s download folder and not automatically installed into Dashboard. When double-clicked, Dashboard presents a security warning before loading it. Dashboard ought to authenticate all new widgets, no matter how they are loaded; its inconsistent security is worrisome.
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