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OS X 10.1 (5G64) First ImpressionsReturn to News Page

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OS X 10.1 First Impressions:
Comments on DVD Player, Sony FW900 Support, Dock/Menu Bar, Disk Utility

Published: 9/27/2001
(Updated: 10/2/2001 for notes on RAID and list of Apple TILs)
(Updated: 10/19/2001 for Security Updates and Oxford911 FW drive firmware updates)
(Updated: 11/9/2001 for OS X installer update)
(Updated: 11/13/2001 for OS X 10.1.1 update)
(Updated: 12/21/2001 for OS X 10.1.2 update links)

OS X 10.1.2 Update: Use Software Updates or the following links to download the update. (I'm still not sure what the "Combo" update (10MB larger) is unless it's a combined 10.1.1/10/1.2 update for those going from 10.1 to 10.1.2.

Note that some readers reported 10.1.2 broke support for some USB devices (Microtech ZIO! cardreaders using the 10.1.1 drivers from Microtech and the Toshiba PDR-M70 digital camera are two examples noted in this Dec 21st news page item. I'm told Microtech is working now to update their ZIO drivers for 10.1.2.)

OS X 10.1.1 Update: Use Software Updates to get the 10.1.1 update with fixes the Oxford911 Firewire drive issues and improves support for FW/USB devices in general.

OS X Installer Update: On 11/9/2001 Apple posted an Installer Update for Mac OS X 10.1 which they note will be required for future OS X updates.

    "This update delivers improved support for installing software updates and is required for any future Mac OS X updates. "

This changes the OS X build number to 5L21. (This update requires the previous security update listed below. To see the build number click on the OS X version in the "About" dialog box.)

OS X 10.1 Security Updates: (from the 10/19/2001 www.xlr8yourmac.com news page)
OS X 10.1 users should run OS X's Software Updates to get both the IE 5 Download security update and another "Security Update 10-19-01" patch for OS X 10.1. The 10-19-01 security update addresses an application priviliges issue and the IE update addresses a vulnerability with automatic execution of downloads. After the update the OS X 10.1 build is 5L14; IE version after the update is 5.1.3 (3905)

Note: I've had several new PowerBook G4/550 or 667 owners say they could not run classic (OS 9.2.1) after this update. (If this is common, perhaps an OS 9.2 update will address this.)

Oxford911 Firewire Drive Firmware Update: See the update to the Firewire drive mount/sleep issues with 10.1 article for info on OWC and MacWay's firmware updates for Oxford911 based Firewire drives. (Note - the OS X 10.1.1 update should solve this issue without any drive firmware updates.)

(Original article on OS X 10.1 follows)

These are my first comments on OS X 10.1 so there's going to be lots of features and improvements I've missed. The free upgrade (from Apple retail stores/select dealers) kit comes with an OS X 10.1 CD (build 5G64, CD info shows "018-0200"), a CD with OS 9.2.1 updaters (not a full OS CD, just multiple language versions of the OS 9.2.1 update only, which requires OS 9.1 or later on the target disk), a printed software license agreement and a printed OS X 10.1 guide (in color). The $19.99 (shipping and handling cost) 10.1 update includes a 10.1 Developers CD, but does not include the printed guide. To see the build number click on the OS X version number in the "About" box.

Keep in mind these comments are based on using 10.1 on a well equipped system - dual G4/500 with 512MB of RAM. I've not yet installed it on a G3 system for instance. (I am installing OS X 10.1 on my B&W G3 system this weekend however, for reviews of OWC's G3 and G4 ZIF upgrades.)
With that said, I wanted to cover what I've seen in the first day of use as far as the DVD player, Sony GDM-FW900 widescreen monitor support with a retail Radeon AGP card, Dock/Menu bar improvements, Finder CD burning support and a few compatibility issues.

One thing I want to mention is after the 10.1 update, the Dock icons for IE and a past "breaking news" file were missing (replaced by "?" icons). I just dragged them off the Dock and located IE and dragged it to the Dock to restore the icon there. Although there were new Firmware updates released (v4.19) on 9/25, I did not apply them to this G4 which had the previous 4.1.8 update. I've seen no problems of any kind from not updating to the 4.1.9 firmware, although I eventually will do so. (I'm a bit leery of applying irreversable firmware updates until there's been some feedback on them.)

Overall performance of 10.1 seems faster, especially when launching applications. The interface in general also seems faster. For timed tests of various functions comparing OS X 10.1 to 10.0.4, see my OS X 10.1 vs 10.0.4 performance article. One other interesting benefit I've seen, but that may have been true of 10.0.4, is that the performance of reading CDs with a Superdrive seems much faster under OS X 10.1 than OS 9.2.1. CD read, random I/O, etc. tests under OS 9.2.1 were horribly slow with the superdrive in my tests, but under OS X 10.1, they are much faster. (From some of the benchmark results, OS X's caching is a major factor as some rates reported were far to high to be accurate otherwise.) An interesting benefit of OS X over OS 9.2.1.) BTW - the benefit extends to Classic under OS X also.

Finder window redraws are much faster than in 10.0.4, but IE 5.1 didn't seem to benefit. (Resizing a window in IE still seems slow in comparison to the Finder windows.)

Dock and Menu Bar Improvements:
The Dock can now be positioned on the sides as well as the bottom of the screen without needing a 3rd party utility, via options in the Dock control panel. Other welcome changes that save space in the Dock are the additions of Airport signal strength indicator (plus network selector, etc.) and Sound volume control settings icons in the upper right hand area of the menu bar. You can also select to have a Displays icon there to quickly adjust screen modes by enabling that option in the Displays control panel. This not only saves space in the Dock, but also makes changes much easier and faster. There are many interface enhancements as shown at this Apple OS X 10.1 features page, but I can't cover them all here. (BTW - Apple also has a free Script Menu for OS X.)

Interface Feature Wish List: One feature I really miss is having the application switcher in the upper right hand menu bar. If that feature was there I'd be more productive with OS X and the transition would be easier for me. (Other readers have said the same thing - there may be some 3rd party utility for this, and there's Dragthing for OS X, but I really miss the menu bar switcher.)
Note that ASM is not 10.1 compatible yet, but the author says that he's working on an update to be available in about a week.
In the meantime, I've been using Command+Tab, which actually is faster to switch to running apps if you're typing with both hands.

Compatibility Issues:

Date/Time Bug for Dual G4 Systems: I've verified a reader's report that on each restart with a dual G4 system, the Date/Time is reset to December 31st, 1969, 7PM. Even locking the settings does not help after a shutdown/restart. The workaround until a fix is released is to use a Network Time Server. (Tests on a single CPU system do not show the problem.) If you're not on a network/have a net connection, this is a major pain to reset every time you boot OS X. (It affects file dates, etc.) I hope Apple has a fix for this ASAP.

Games: Although I had a problem with Alice (full retail CD install) quitting when I first loaded a previous saved game, I tried it again tonight and it was fine. The only thing I have done since the first attempt was a) apply the 4.1.9 firmware update {which has been pulled now} and b) optimize the disk with Norton SpeedDisk.
So far I've personally only seen problems with games, although I'm sure there are other issues with some applications or utilities at the current time. Aliens vs Predator demo quits when trying to start a new game. I'm not sure if the full AvP game will have the same problem (it went Gold before 10.1 was released, but not sure if they tested with a 10.1 pre-release to see the problem.) As a FYI - A Kensington Optical Pro mouse owner noted their current OS X drivers don't work with 10.1. (Update - Kensington's web site is said to now have a 10.1 compatible driver update.)
I'm sure there may be other ones, but hopefully the number will be small and addressed by software developers via updates.

Firewire Drive Issues: Although I have seen no issues with my VST 12GB portable drive or my Oxford911 bridge based AC powered case kit drive, I did see a problem with a portable Oxford911 bridge based portable drive with 48GB IBM travelstar drive after putting the system to sleep and then waking it. The details of tests I did with 3 drives is in this article which includes a link to an Apple TIL on the issue. That article is now updated with some tips/workarounds that may help. (Apple says it's due to the firmware in some drives but does not list specifics. The latest info I have is there will be a fix for this in a OS X 10.1.1 update.) [Note: see the update to the article for info on how OWC and MacWay customers can get a firmware update for their drives.]

Global Re-Assign of Applications to Documents:
A small, but welcome standard feature of 10.1 is that you can reassign the application to open for all documents of a specific type/file extension when clicking on a document. (In 10.0.4 you could assign an application for individual files, but could not make a global change.) If you've had classic start up from clicking on a simpletext file for instance, this is a welcome feature. Just select a file you want to assign to a different application, do a "Get Info" on a file and choose the "Open with Application" option in the file's info dialog.

Clicking on the application icon in the dialog will allow you to choose which application you wish to open that document type. Clicking on the "Change All" button brings up the following confirmation dialog to make sure you want to apply this globally to all files with this extension.

This may seem like a small thing to some, but I find it very beneficial. (Previously there were 3rd party utilities to do this sort of thing, but I always prefer to have an embedded feature rather than adding 3rd party utilties to the OS.)

More Modes for Sony FW900 w/Radeon Card:
During testing of a Sony GDM-FW900, I was disappointed to see even with the Radeon graphics card in OS X 10.0.4 there were no wide-screen modes listed, only in OS 9.2.1. (As noted on the F900/FW900 support page here, the GeForce3 has no widescreen mode support in OS 9 or otherwise, at least with the 1045 rom version I have.) However after updating to OS 10.1, things changed for the better.

I didn't see any added modes for the OEM GeForce3 card (1045 rom) in OS X 10.1 vs. 10.0.4 (and no widescreen mode support), but did see many more resolutions listed with the retail Radeon card after the 10.1 update. The image below shows the complete listing of modes from OS X 10.0.4 and OS X 10.1 with the retail Radeon card. (Notice OS X 10.0.4 had no widescreen mode support - and to clarify a reader's comment, the Sony supplied adapter for Macs did not work for this G4/AGP system. It was noted for B&W G3/G4 systems but regardless of BNC or VGA cable used, it did not work properly and caused a green screen in use. I can only assume it's for the older B&W G3/G4 Yikes PCI graphics cards or my retail Radeon may have a different ROM verson perhaps. In OS 9.x without the adapter there were widescreen modes listed, just not in OS X 10.0.4. Another Radeon retail owner with the same system said the adapter worked for him but not me. No idea why unless it's a card firmware issue.)

Radeon/FW900 mode list

I didn't check this with OS 10.0.4, but the 10.1 Display preferences, color tab has a color profile specific to the GDM-FW900 in the list. (BTW - I'm currently looking for a permanent adhesive to bond the FW900 to my desk so that it can't be returned. ;-)

DVD Player Performance:
[Update: On 10/12/2001 I posted an article on how to get the DVD Player to work on B&W G3s, which is one of the models the DVD player normally doesn't support. (It's not even installed on B&W G3, G4/PCI, PB wallstreet and Lombard or Beige G3 systems.) That page also has comments on what systems were reported as working with the mod and other info.]

The comments here are based on tests with my G4/500 DP (Gigabit Ethernet) and a friend's G4/733 digital audio system.

The first thing I noticed about the OS X DVD player is there's no freezing/pausing of the movie if you select a menu item during movie playback. (There is if you switch desktop monitor display modes however.) With the software DVD players in pre-OS X versions, any attempts to access a menu, etc. results in interruption of the movie's playback. This is a welcome change and shows the superior multitasking (and perhaps better G4/altivec support) of OS X.

Here's a screenshot of the DVD player and the two Preferences panels:

OS X DVD player
(The black arrow points to the Control's extended features panel toggle)

The controller is shown in "horizontal" mode, you can also select "vertical" orientation. DVD player prefs

DVD disc prefs

Image quality (in my opinion) with the Radeon was very good. I saw no deinterlacing issues in general, other than sometimes at maximum/full screen modes, where occasionally you might can see some jaggies/deinterlacing effects in a rapid transition scene. Overall this was rarely seen during my viewing of X-Men with the Radeon (the only DVD I've had time to view so far.) However I saw frequent jaggies (clearly noticeable) on the other movie "trailer" scenes with rapid transitions at the start of the DVD, but didn't notice this during most of the movie playback.

I checked CPU load during playback at full screen mode (running the desktop at 1920x1024 mode on the FW900). With the Radeon card in the G4/500 DP, one CPU showed from 30% to 50% typically (fluctuating frequently in that rage), with spikes up to 70% or so on the bar graph. The 2nd CPU bar graph showed some activity, but never peaked at more than about 20% or so and often near idle. Different systems, screen modes, etc. may show different results. (A friend with a GeForce3 and G4/733 digital audio system running 800Mhz reported CPU load generally at 50% or better at full screen 1280x1024 mode, with spiking to 80% or more.)

I have had reports that hardware decoder based Macs are not supported with this release of the DVD player. (I.E. B&W G3 with decoder card option, PB G3/400 1999 (Lombard) and I suspect the Wallstreet PB with Decoder PCcard kit.) I also had a report that the player requires an internal DVD drive, and that a Firewire DVD drive would not work, even if your Mac supported the DVD player otherwise. Since the OS 9 software player supports a Rage128 or later graphics card, I'm hoping Apple can update the DVD player to at least support software decoding on those systems.

CDRW/DVD-R Support in the Finder:
Just before installing OS X 10.1, I replaced the OEM DVD ROM drive with a Toshiba SD-1102 (8x CDR, 8X CDRW + DVD ROM combo drive). The drive booted the install CD fine and was supported for CD burning in the Finder and iTunes. (As noted here previously, one of the last Authoring Support updates added support this drive model.) Forgot to mention that Toast 5.02 says the drive has Buffer Underrun prevention. The Firmware version is 1012 on mine.
Inserting a CDRW disk popped up a dialog to select Data, MP3 or Audio CD formats. As with OS 9's Discburner, the CDR/CDRW disk is not actually written until it's ejected. Toast of course is more full featured (supporting bootable discs, multi-session, etc.) but I've not had time to test the OS X beta Toast versions yet. (One interesting note - inserting an data CDRW I had burned on a PC in the Finder launched the DVD Player.)
Apple also notes that owners of Macs with Superdrives can burn DVD-R data discs directly in the Finder.

I've not done any burn rate tests in OS X, but was very pleased that this combo drive (under $200) seems to work plug and play. (I verified that a CDR disk burned in 10.1 was readable on my PB G3 running OS 9.04.) With only one CD size bay in the Tower cases, it's nice to have both DVD and CDRW drive capability without having to connect an external drive.

Settings for discburner are located in "Disc Copy" (located in the Applications/Utilities folder). Here's a screenshot from the burning preferences tab:

Disk First Aid

I've burned two data CDRs so far - one was over 450MB. No errors seen during the burn or verify. Again to erase CDRW discs, you use Disc Utility. There's a preview version 2 of Toast for OS X at roxio.com noted in last night's news but I've not tested it yet. I plan on getting the final version, since I like multi-session support and other features Toast offers, but welcome the addition of burning support in 10.1 in the meantime. (Update - I've posted a page with OS X 10.1 DVD-RW support comments from superdrive owners.)

Disk Utility Notes:
You can no longer verify/repair the startup disk, although it is verified and repaired if necessary at boot time. (See the text in the first screen below). You'll need to boot from another volume or CD (or buy a 3rd party utility). [Note - I realize you can verify the OS X HD after booting from CD, a few readers missed the previous sentence on that - but that's another step.] In OS X 10.0.x, you could verify/repair the boot/startup disk [without booting from CD], but it often seemed flakey and required repeated attempts to finally report all errors were fixed (in my experience). The screenshots below show some tabs from the new Disk Utility. (Note the Support of RAID, which I have not yet had time to test.)
[Update] Reader Drew Cunningham sent a summary list of comments on OS X 10.1 RAID:

" Some notes about the abilities and limitations with the RAID of 10.1's Disk Utility"

  1. You cannot install a system (X or 9) on a RAID disk
    (one reader noted a workaround but I've not tested it personally yet)
  2. You cannot partition a RAID disk
  3. A RAID disk will not be recognized on 9.2.1
  4. A RAID disk will not be recognized on Mac OS X earlier than 10.1
  5. The RAID disk WILL be recognized under Classic (under 10.1)

Disc Utility can also be used to erase CDRW discs.

Disk First Aid

RAID tab

Partition tab

Mail App: I'll be honest I didn't realize this was a feature of OS X's mail app. here's a quote from a recent smalldog newsletter:

    " Mail Bounce: This feature existed in the original version of Mail, but it's too cool (and underutilized) not to mention again. By bouncing a message, Mail returns that message to its sender with e-mail headers that look as though the mail box doesn't exist. By bouncing spam (unsolicited, unwanted e-mail), the originator receives a message that makes it look as though a user's e-mail address is not valid -- hopefully sparing that user from future spam."

Of course the problem is that often the spam's original address is either full of replies (angry ones) and gets returned back, or is not a valid return address.

I'm swamped in other work so this article is brief but based on what I have seen so far on my G4/AGP system, I am very pleased with OS X 10.1. I think it is one of the most improved updates to a Mac OS I've seen.
I've resisted using OS X as my primary OS in the past, 10.1 has changed my mind. Since I don't have a lot of time for games, OS X 10.1 goes a long may towards making it an OS I could use for most everything. I'm sure there are going to be initial compatibility issues with some existing drivers and software, but I suspect these will be addressed soon by vendors. If I see any issues running my work apps from Classic, I'll post a note. I also welcome any feedback you have on OS X 10.1 compatiblity issues. (Please note your system, graphics card, etc. details in any reports.)

I've also posted a page of OS X 10.1 vs 10.0.4 performance tests, a page on Optimizing 10.1 with SpeedDisk and tests of Firewire drive mount/sleep issues with 10.1.

For more information on OS X 10.1 and upgrades, see the Apple press release. -Mike

OS X 10.1 vs OS 9.2 Battery Run-Time Tests: (from the 10/17/2001 www.xlr8yourmac.com news page.) Bernie Case sent a note he's posted a page with some tests of battery run-time in OS X 10.1 vs OS 9 using his PowerBook G3/500 (Pismo) at http://technojunkie.org/~berniec/pbpowerbench.html.

OS X 10.1 DSL Config Tip: (from the 10/17/2001 www.xlr8yourmac.com news page.) Matthew Culmore sent a tip to solve his Earthlink DSL problems after updating to OS X 10.1:

" I've seen this before in Mac OS X where DSL connections Fail. Open System Preferences. Go into the Network control Panel, select "advanced" or "Active network ports" ( depending on your version of OS X ).
From the Configure or Show menu (again according to your OS ). Remove the checks from both the Internal Modem and the Built-in Ethernet Ports. make a new configuration. ...Call it DSL [just an example]. Save your changes and reconfigure TCP/IP to connect using PPPoE. Try your connection again."

Apple TILs on OS X 10.1:

  • Mac OS X 10.1: Stops Responding During File Transfer Between FireWire Devices
  • Mac OS X 10.1: FireWire Drives Do Not Become Available (Mount) When Connected [My VST 12GB and OWC Elite oxford 911 with IBM 75GXP drive formatted on IDE bus work fine after waking from sleep - still mounted, no errors. See my Firewire drive mount/sleep issues with 10.1 for more details-Mike.]
  • Web Sharing Does Not Start After Update from Mac OS X 10.0
  • Internet Explorer Executes Downloaded Software Automatically
  • Eject Rio One MP3 Player Before Unplugging USB Cable
  • About the root User and How to Enable It
  • Mac OS X: "A Crossed Connection Has Been Detected..." Message [using modem]
  • Mac OS X 10.1: DVD Player 3.0 Installed on Compatible Computers [as noted previously, not compatible with hardware based DVD decoder macs]
  • DVD Player 3.0: "DVDManager Fatal Error -36" Alert Appears When Computer Wakes From Sleep
  • DVD Player 3.0: Does Not Work With External Monitor Connected to PowerBook
  • DVD Player Not Installed on PowerBook (FireWire) Computer [make sure your DVD ROM drive is installed in the expansion bay before updating to OS X 10.1]
  • DVD Player 3.0: Subtitles Disappear After Using Forward or Backward Controls
  • Mac OS X 10.1: iBook Mute Button Does Not Respond [does not affect 2001 iBook dual USB]

    OS X 2D Video RAM Compression/Speed-Up Trick: (from the 10/12/2001 www.xlr8yourmac.com news page)
    Back before OS X retail was released, during a discussion about Powerbook graphics controllers a graphics card programmer mentioned that there were features of OS X (compression) to help with the smaller amounts of video ram in notebooks. A reader sent a note and link to a forum post from Ambrosia (famous for shareware games and utilities) regarding how to enable compression in OS X:

    " Hey Mike!
    Thought you'd like this tip from Ambrosia's Andrew Welch on enabling window compression in OSX 10.1 (posted here)

    On machines with low RAM and slower CPU, it makes a world of a difference! That and I suspect it will save battery power (on 'books) by reducing disk access...

    My iBook 366 + 128 megs of RAM pages a lot less often, and now generally has 13-16 megs of free RAM as opposed to less than 2...

    Haven't tried it on my G4... I suspect that I won't notice much of a difference anyways, having 768 megs of RAM there... perhaps I'll experiment tonight...
    Take care!
    Martin-Luc Girard"

    The tip involves using the Terminal to edit a file and notes this setting may be enabled on a future OS X update. (He said it was disabled due to kernel panics, which were fixed in the GM release of 10.1 but not enabled in the final release.) I tried this on my PB G4 and for some operations it does seem to boost performance, even with that machine's 1GB of installed RAM. For users with less RAM, the benefits may be even more noticable. Hopefully this feature will be enabled in a future OS X update.

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