Mac News Review

Special Report: Mac OS X 10.4.1 Update

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2005.05.18

Monday evening Apple released a Mac OS X 10.4.1 update with no fanfare - not even a press release. Heck, I don't even have Tiger 10.4.0 installed yet, although I have it on order.

Based on what I've been reading on MacInTouch and MacFixIt, and hearing from friends who have it installed, the early experience with Tiger 10.4 isn't something I'm sorry I'm missing.

For example, MacInTouch reader and iMac G5 owner Colin Holgate reported: "Over the last couple of weeks I've been getting on average 10 crashes, with two or three kernel panics, each day, and four complete reinstalls since receiving 10.4."

Say whaaaat? That's worse than System 7.5.2 was on my PowerBook 5300, my personal low water mark in Mac OS stability. Colin does say that Tiger is a much happier camper on his PowerBook.

And even when Tiger doesn't crash, some users are underwhelmed by it's performance in other areas. My friend Chris Long, who has Tiger installed on both his Power Mac at work and his iBook at home, says:

The thing I hate about Tiger's new Find File feature is that it starts searching the second you type anything. so I want to find "somefile" and I type "s" and it's suddenly searching for every file that contains an "s" ... then I manage to get "o" and "m" and "e" into the slot and now it's searching for "some" ... etc. ... it literally will NOT allow me to get the entire word entered before it has about 50 billion results thrown up for me. sometimes it works better than other times, but this is how it works. Bad design, IMHO.

Spotlight seems better and faster than Find File. Maybe it's my imagination. (?) - I dunno if they use the same software(s)/routine(s) to FIND files or not ... but they work differently.

In the end, it could be that I just need to get used to the new way these things work. maybe I'll end up lovin' em. but that spinning pizza of death showing up semi-regularly drives me crazy.

Chris's hardware, like mine and that of many Low End Mac readers, is not cutting edge (although Colin Holgate's G5 iMac was more troublesome than his PowerBook).

Anyway, let's hope OS X 10.4.1 successfully fixes some of these issues. According to Apple, the update offers many reliability and compatibility improvements, including but not limited to:

Mail and Address Book

  • When typing immediately after clicking Reply in a Mail message, all characters typed before the Reply window appeared should now appear in the window.
  • In Mail, opening an attached Pages document could lead to an unexpected "Name of document may contain an application" alert - this update addresses the issue.
  • Sometimes Address Book subgroups (groups within groups) might not sync correctly during .Mac syncing - this update addresses the issue.
  • Addresses an issue in which Mail might unexpectedly quit after pasting a large graphic into a message and then typing text just before the graphic.
  • When deleting text in a Mail message window, sometimes some of the undeleted text could unexpectedly move to the beginning of the message - this update resolves the issue.
  • This update prevents a second unnecessary horizontal scroll bar from appearing in a Mail message.
  • Addresses an issue in Mail in which an entire line of text could be inadvertently deleted when deleting a link at the end of the line.
  • Resolves a potential issue in which Mail could unexpectedly quit, stop responding, or fail to import your previous emails if third-party software were installed in a ~/Library/Mail/Bundles or /Library/Mail/Bundles - this update prevents previously-installed plug-ins from loading. (Click here for more information.)
  • Updates Mail to handle IMAP prefix paths that start with "/" better.

Dashboard widgets

  • Improves Dashboard widget compatibility with third-party mice with scroll wheels, and also for PowerBook G4 computers that feature trackpad scrolling.
  • You can choose from three font sizes in the Dictionary widget after installing this update (regular, large, and extra-large) - click the "i" button to access the Font size pop-up menu.

.Mac, iSync, and syncing

  • Addresses an issue for .Mac syncing in which the alert "cannot login to the .Mac sync server" could unexpectedly appear when clicking the Sync tab in .Mac preferences.
  • You can now add a Motorola V180 mobile phone in iSync 2.0 with this update.
  • Improves iSync 2.0 compatibility for Motorola V551 mobile phones.
  • With this update, the default option for the first sync for a mobile phone added to iSync 2.0 is now "Merge data on computer and device," though the "Erase data on device then sync" option is still available if you need it. (Click here for more information.)
  • This update allows you to register a computer for .Mac whose name (in Sharing preferences) contains an ampersand ("&").

Safari, iLife, and other applications

  • With this update, Safari no longer unexpectedly quits when Control-clicking (or right-clicking with a multi-button mouse) some kinds of PDFs or graphics within a Safari window.
  • Addresses an issue where iPhoto could unexpectedly quit.
  • iDVD no longer quits unexpectedly when hiding it while burning a DVD or saving a disc image.
  • With this update, DVD Player no longer unexpectedly quits when opening if Turkish, Central European (Czech, Polish, Hungarian), Cyrillic (Russian, Bulgarian, Ukrainian), or Greek is the primary Mac OS X language in International preferences.
  • With some printers, when printing a PDF webpage file that had been saved from Safari (with the Safari printing option "Print webpage information in headers and footers" deselected), only a gray bar would print - this update addresses the issue.
  • This update addresses an issue in which text in a TextEdit document with lists could disappear (even though it really hadn't). (Click here for more information.)
  • Addresses an issue in which iCal could unexpectedly quit after you receive an iCal invitation in Mail (and the invitation doesn't appear in iCal).
  • Improves compatibility for Dreamweaver MX 2004 when double-clicking results of an XML validation, and when using "Launch & Optimize" with Fireworks MX 2004.
  • Users who subscribed to iCal calendars with long names or special characters, and that were published under Mac OS X 10.3 before upgrading to Mac OS X 10.4, will now see changes made in calendars under Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger.
  • Includes reliability and compatibility improvements for Motion 2.0. (Click here for more information.)

Other enhancements

  • When using the FileVault secure erase feature, the progress window now states "Deleting old Home folder" when securely deleting files from their original location (instead of "Unmounting FileVault"). Note that this option may take a while to complete, during which you shouldn't force-restart your Mac. (Click here for more information.)
  • Improves security by disallowing files, applications, and webpages from being opened at the password prompt that appears when waking from sleep or stopping a screen saver (which can be enabled in Security preferences).
  • Addresses issues that could, in certain situations, prevent you from opening (mounting) a disk image that's shared by a different computer (in /Network).
  • Improves menu scrolling behavior for third-party mice with scroll wheels, and also for PowerBook G4 computers that feature trackpad scrolling.
  • Addresses an issue in which clicking a Help button or choosing an item from the Help menu would take you to the main page of the application's Help content, instead of a more relevant page.
  • Some third-party wireless DHCP servers might not provide an IP address to a computer through AirPort if the computer has a long computer name - this update addresses the issue.
  • Resolves a potential issue that could occur when moving from one access point to another within the same wireless network - the IP address could have been lost and not restored unless the DHCP lease was renewed or the computer put to sleep and then awakened.
  • Improves reliability when using the Active Directory plug-in.
  • Improves the Mac OS X 10.4 Keyboard Setup Assistant.

The Mac OS X Update 10.4.1 is available through OS X's Software Update feature or the much more desirable (in my opinion) option of a 37 MB standalone updater. (No combo updater this time.) Why do I prefer the standalone? Because it lets you run the update offline, preferably booted from a system on a CD or an external hard drive.

Before proceeding with the update, my recommendation is rebuild your hard drive or OS X partition directory using Disk Warrior, but if you already have Tiger installed, make sure you have the latest Tiger-compatible Disk Warrior update. Earlier versions may have problems with changes in the OS X 10.4 file structure.

Then run Repair Permissions from your OS X install DVD or from a Tiger-compatible third-party system maintenance utility before installing the OS update. Run the 10.4.1 updater, and after the obligatory post-install reboot, I suggest running Repair Permissions again.

Some will scoff that this belt-and-suspenders approach is unnecessary, and they may be right - or not. However, my suspicion is that if more folks took the cautions approach to system updates, there would be a lot fewer tales of woe on the forums. Just my 2¢.

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