- The Washington Times - Monday, October 22, 2001

There's a new operating system in town, it's just arriving in stores, the cost is around $100 a copy and it's very, very cool.

No, I'm not talking about Microsoft Windows XP, which is to be introduced in New York this Thursday. Rather, I'm thinking of Mac OS X v.10.1 an unwieldy name for Apple's latest OS that can now be found in area stores. It is, in many respects, what an operating system should be.

First of all, it's slick. After working with personal computers since 1983, I've come to the conclusion that as interesting as a command-line interface is (i.e., "Type this at the C/prompt"), it's better to be graphical. And while graphical is better, best of all is a graphical interface that makes sense. This Mac OS X v.10.1 does: its menu structure is more logical than its predecessors (system commands such as "shut down" are under the Apple menu now, where they should be) and the menus "tree out" in sequences that make logical sense.

The new Mac OS X v.10.1 sports the "Aqua" interface, much ballyhooed in Mac circles and a rather elegant interface it is. It's blue, of course, and water-like in the transparency of elements such as the "dock" that pop up to show which programs are active. There is a "coolness" to the look of this software that is pleasing, even restful.

Second, it works. Built on the Unix operating system, Mac OS X v.10.1 is extremely stable. I was not able to "crash" it despite several tries. Moreover, on machines which are capable of handling the OS, an upgrade from, say, Mac OS 9.2 is quick, easy and seamless.

It took well under an hour to do an upgrade on a (borrowed) Macintosh PowerBook G4 where similar upgrades from, say, Microsoft Windows ME to Windows XP took the better part of 90 minutes. Now, these are two different operating systems and two different computing architectures, not to mention that this is a task normally performed only once. But it is a testimony to Apple that the upgrade is quick here.

It is also nice to see that wireless communications under Mac OS X v.10.1 are reliable and easily available. The built-in Airport card in the PowerBook G4 recognized and work with my Linksys wireless access point without a hitch; the operating system displays an icon indicating wireless signal strength in the right side of the menu bar that's always across the top of the screen. Indicators for system volume, battery strength (for portables) and time/date are also present in the menu bar.

Third, it has some neat extras. Sherlock, a rather nifty "finder" that searches files and the Web to find information, is back with Mac OS X v.10.1, and it is the equal (if not superior) to the find features of Windows XP. You can search folders on a hard disk drive, or Web resources with ease and speed.

Also welcome is iTunes, a media player that handles music and Internet radio stations. The program is a fast performer when it comes to "ripping" tracks from a CD, as well as in logging on to a range of radio stations that broadcast online. There is also iMovie, a program for creating movies and slide shows of pictures, which I have not been able to test fully, yet. It is, however, a nice thing for Apple to add to the basic package.

While there are several mail management programs for Mac OS X v.10.1, the basic "mail" program which ships with the software is an extremely capable bit of software that could easily handle your e-mail needs.

Most of all, the Mac has momentum again. Earlier this year, I had lamented the "state" of the Macintosh platform, given that things were a bit stale. Now, the arrival of Mac OS X v.10.1 has presented the Mac user community with a cool new bit of software, while it has also given developers a huge incentive to bring forth new applications. In one case, Microsoft Corp., some 76,000 people have already downloaded a trial version of Word v.X, part of the next-generation Microsoft Office suite for Mac OS X which will hit stores later this year. It is an amazing word processor and offers a lot of nice features. Intuit has released a new version of Quicken for OS X as well.

These developments and a host of others presage a revival for the Mac as a home and office productivity tool. No, it probably won't displace the Windows platform as a leader in business, but it certainly offers a powerful alternative that deserves careful consideration.

In fact, I'm going to keep using a Mac on my desk, along with Mac OS X v.10.1, for a while and plan to report just how some of these new applications work under this winner of an operating system.

• Write to Mark Kellner in care of The Washington Times, Business Desk, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; send e-mail to [email protected], or visit the writer's Web page, www.kellner2000.com. Talk back live to Mark every Thursday from 8 to 9 p.m., Eastern time, on www.adrenaline-radio.com.


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