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 Dr. Mac: Weekly Wisdom from Bob LeVitus

 
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  10-31-03 | This column originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle.

 

To Panther or Not: That is the Question

 


By Bob LeVitus

Mac OS X Panther Version 10.3 hit the street a week ago and the initial response has been mostly positive. I received my copy last Thursday and upgraded my Mac that very afternoon. Of course, I'm a trained professional and it's my job to install "point" releases. That way, if there are any unpleasant surprises, they surprise me; then, I report them here so they won't surprise you.

Panther has only been out a week, so it doesn't have an extensive track record yet. Many users, myself included, report that the upgrade went smoothly and everything (or almost everything) worked afterwards. Alas, there are also reports of Panther corrupting data on external FireWire hard drives.

Is Panther causing the problems? It's possible but still too early to tell. For what it's worth I have 4 FireWire drives and Panther installed without a hiccup. Still, before you upgrade to Panther—regardless of whether you do it tomorrow or do it next year—here are some things to consider:

  • Back up your data. At the very least back up all the files you couldn't bear to live without. If you have a second hard disk available, you can use Carbon Copy Cloner (www.bombich.com) to duplicate (clone) your boot disk to a second hard drive before installing Panther. The cloned disk will be bootable; if you have problems in Panther you can go back to the way things were by merely choosing the clone disk in the Startup Disk System Preference pane and then restarting your Mac.
  • Upgrade third-party software before you install Panther. If it worked in Jaguar, it'll probably work in Panther, though a handful of programs, including some of my favorite utilities, required updating. For example, versions of Default Folder X (www.stclairsoft.com) prior to version 1.9 are incompatible with Panther, as are versions of WindowShade X (www.unsanity.com) prior to version 3.1. It's easier to upgrade non-Apple software before you install Panther than it is to figure out which one is causing your problems after. VersionTracker (www.versiontracker.com) is an excellent place to find the latest versions of most apps and utilities.
  • Allow sufficient time for the upgrade. While the actual installation from the CDs takes less than an hour, you may need time for updating software, configuring and reconfiguring settings, and figuring things out. It's never a good idea to upgrade your OS when you've got mission critical work pending. Instead, choose a time when you will have no impending deadlines and no immediate need for Internet access. (If I were a normal user I'd have waited for the weekend.)

I upgraded to Panther using the default "Upgrade Mac OS X" option, and as I said, had no trouble whatsoever with the upgrade. I was back up and running in less than 30 minutes and I was being productive late that same day (after resolving a keyboard conflict involving Exposé).

After a week of everyday use, I couldn't be happier with Panther. It boots faster, and the Finder is easier to use and faster, too. I'd say almost everything about my Mac (a dual-1GHz Power Mac G4) feels a bit faster under Panther than it did under Mac OS X 10.2.8. And I sure love Exposé and Fast User Switching, two of Panther's best (in my humble opinion) new features.

If you have external FireWire drives, I recommend that you read the thread on Apple's discussion boards (http://discussions.info.apple.com/webx?13@@.599b4a59/84), and the discussions on MacFixIt (www.macfixit.com) and MacInTouch (www.macintouch.com). You might want to wait until more is known about the FireWire hard disk issue before making the leap. (See next week's column.)

Bob LeVitus is a leading authority on Mac OS and the author of 41 books, including The Little iTunes Book and Mac OS X for Dummies, 2nd Edition. E-mail comments to doctormac@boblevitus.com.

Copyright © 2004 Bob LeVitus

 
   


 


 

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