Going Down on the Marketing


After the pain of upgrading to Mac OS 10.3 (Panther) in 2003, I vowed I would wait for awhile before I did another major system upgrade. I looked with interest at Mac OS 10.4 (Tiger) and decided that I’d wait until the bumps had been smoothed out. But I have a lot of email. A lot. 30,000 plus. A better Mail app is ultimately what pushed the upgrade. Apple, your marketing is working. It is important to note that I don’t even hold a candle to Heather. If we decide to upgrade her iBook (she doesn’t have the hard drive space, we’ll have to back up her old comment spam emails), it will take some time for Spotlight to do it’s magic.

I decided I’d do a test and install Tiger on a machine that wasn’t a heavy use, mission-critical machine. I run a lot of quantum physics simulations, and as a contractor, a couple of nuclear powerplants in Europe on a Mac or two. Wouldn’t want to jeopardize the kids by prematurely adopting a new, buggy OS.

After about a week of the test machine working just fine, It was time to test it on a networked machine. Did the install. Everything fine. Photoshop. Fine. Scanner. Fine. Network (Windows). Fine. Ran fine. Suitcase. Fine.

Decided to wait a few hours on the networked test machine. Still fine. Thought that I shouldn’t install at all on the main machine. Then decided to do an install at the end of the day so that if something went wrong, I’d just bail and come back the next morning and either restore or run the install again.


Realize, mid-install that I have a rather funky trackball setup that somehow, in the glitz and sheen was forgotten. And a wireless keyboard. And maybe it wasn’t so smart to just run the install on my main machine, despite a 100% success ratio on two machines. Visions of giant Roy Liechtenstein halftone pop art begin to float through my brain starring me as the tortured premature installer.


The install was bogging down and the counter was actually adding minutes. It stayed at 16 minutes for 14 minutes and then displayed 14 minutes for 12 minutes and after realizing the math was just too hard, I decided to walk away, and if the machine exploded, well, awesome.


Walked in this morning. Machine was fine. Suitcase. Fine. Network. Fine. Wireless keyboard. Fine. Trackball… not so fine. did some admin and then logged out and logged back in. Trackball is LIVE. I rule.

10.4 improvements:

  • Much faster networking.
  • MUCH easier and less headache giving than the last upgrade.
  • Older version of Suitcase still works (so far).
  • FontBook 2 looks to have addressed some of the glaring issues from version 1. Fonts can be opened from anywhere and not moved from their original location. Plus, you can turn off sets and they stay off, even after logout/login cycle.
  • Safari seems faster.
  • Spotlight does look to be pretty cool, but not that smart yet.
  • Smart Mailboxes in Mail is very cool.
  • RSS Screensaver vaguely reminiscent of Pointcast, only more zen-like.

10.4 Needs improvement:

  • Still can’t inspect contents of zip file without unzipping it; Windows XP handles zip files faster and better.
  • Finder is still woefully slow in reflecting reality. Path Finder still kicks it’s ass.
  • Dashboard has very limited usefulness outside of cool factor… why can’t I have weather on my desktop? The itunes controls? Stickies? Unit converter? The only truly useful widgets as of this writing appear to be the Unit Conversion, Dictionary/Thesaurus and Weather widgets. Sad.
  • Lordy mercy what the hell happened to the Mail buttons? Very wonky. Also sad.

Install it at night. Once you’ve verified that the installer is running. Walk away. The machine will reboot on it’s own and Spotlight will take the requisite hours to index your drive. Optimally, by the time you wake up, your computer will be ready to use and you won’t suffer Spotlight lag. Spotlight pegs the hell out of the system. On the first test machine, an iMac 800Mhz G4, everything was slower than molesses until Spotlight was done.

All in all, feels like a move from Windows 2000 to XP, for the Winheads out there. For the Mac people, back your shit up and upgrade. Unless you are running NASA or NORAD.

Please pardon the quality of the images. I didn’t have the good camera handy. And if you want a real review, there’s always the ever-extensive Ars Technica.

  • Mary Jo King


    We are actually planning on waiting to upgrade, maybe get it in a few months. I really love Panther, and I didn’t really like the new look of Mail.

    So the widgets aren’t as cool as they seem huh? Bummer.

  • Jessica

    There are actually hacky things to correct two of the less-than-optimal things about Tiger (widgets locked in dashboard, funky buttons in Mail) discussed at MacWorld ( The MacWorld rss feeds rule.

  • Tracey Marshall

    Thank you for posting this. I’ve been chomping at the bit to upgrade (I’ve still got 10.2.8, never did upgrade to Panther). Here’s my real question: Any idea what kind of culture shock I may be facing when, on Monday, my copy arrives and I attempt to upgrade two full stops? I’m also a little freaked out because I bought my iMac in the States (with US installed OS X) and my Tiger edition will be Swedish.

  • Kristen

    I’m was waiting to purchase my iBook until they had Tiger standard on all of them (which they do now). Now I’m holding off because people have told me it’s rumored that Mac is upgrading all the iBooks to have more memory/ram standard for the same price.

    You could always download the hula girl for dashboard. Wouldn’t that qualify as useful? lol

  • Dale Cruse

    People act as though those new buttons in Mail are some sort of aberration. People felt the same way about the brushed metal interface in iTunes when that first appeared. Well, Apple put them there for a reason. Expect to see more of those Mail buttons in the future – most likely throughout the OS. Get used to ’em!

  • dj blurb

    It’s not so much how the Mail buttons look as it is the forced groupings.

  • dr. dave

    That was an immensely thorough report – thanks!

    The idea of leaving my iBook running an installer overnight kinds freaks me out. I’m afraid the poor thing would overheat and burst into flames. Besides, I already feel like 10.3 was a mistake as far as slowing the machine down (900 Mhz G3) I think I’ll hold off on upgrading until I can shell out the $$ for a PowerBook.

    And widget-wise, send Apple a message and go register Konfabulator. Way more widgets, and a lot of them don’t suck.

    dr. dave (

  • James

    To address one of the points on your improvements list. You might check out Amnesty ( Freeware app (still beta) but it allows you to open your dashboard widgets in your main enviroment and you can even set the layer preference (so it can float over everything, behave like an app, or stick to the desktop).

  • Donovan Phillips

    The mail application wouldn’t open on 2 of the 3 computers on which I installed Tiger. Fortunately I did an archive and install so I was able to import the old mail.

    I’m not overly impressed with Tiger quite yet. Knowing what I know now, I’d still upgrade. I just like to have the latest and greatest.

  • Donovan Phillips

    Forgot to add: these aren’t old computers we’re talking about here. The oldest was purchased last summer.

    PowerPC G5
    PowerBook G4
    iMac G5

  • Amber

    My husband and I upgraded last night. My machine was considerably faster in upgrading. His took 4 hours, me less than an hour.

    The dashboard is a little disappointing, in my opinion. What’s with all the widgit out there that are games and programs. Seems kind of pointless. Why not just make the games and programs launch from the applications menu or dock? I can agree, there are only a few widgits that seem useful. It is convinient to be able to pull up the calculator and the dictionary with one click or swoosh to the hot corner. I personally like the weather widgit. No more trips to

    I guess another bit of wonkiness for me is that when I upgraded it screwed up my apache settings. Blah. Had to go back and reconfigure a bunch of that.

    Other than that, I do agree that safari seems considerably faster. And I like the automator.

  • Di

    My husband just installed Tiger. I think it took him 6 tries to get it installed correctly.

  • gretchen

    Jon- You can change the layout of the buttons in Mail. Go to View ->customize toolbar. I set my mail buttons up exactly how I wanted them. Not how Apple thought I should have them.

  • blurb


    I’m aware of the customization options. But they force group some buttons together. I’m not into the forced groupings.

  • Amber


    Which ones do they force group together in mail? I noticed that (from what I was doing) that the buttons that were forced grouped also had separates.

  • Broch

    My greatest concern in doing the upgrade is the affect that it will have on Ableton Live, which hasn’t been certified to work yet. I use Ableton every day, and can’t risk a torqued machine..

  • Nobody

    You run quantum physics simulations? Envy. I just wish I understood the theory, never mind working with it.

  • blurb


    Delete/Junk and Reply/Replay All/Forward. Why group them like that? On some levels it makes sense, but the design hinders the UI. It’s not that bad in use.

  • Jen

    DJ Blurb, I just wanted to tell you that every day I come by and check your shit out and most of the technical stuff you say is all Geek to me but that doesn’t mean you don’t make it sound interesting even if it is totally over my head. Cheers, man.

  • sweetney

    good advices here, thanks. i’m going to install tiger tonight, per your tip. werd.

    one bummer thing i just heard: you have to buy the latest version of diskwarrior — the one for panther doesn’t work. i dropped $100 on that only a few months back, sadly.

  • trine

    I installed it last week and I am loving it. The laptop (Ive got a powerbook) feels a lot faster and the mail application is great (though i agree the grouped buttons are a bit strange). Searchlight is just brilliant (you’ll see!) and as for the aesthetics, as always with Apple, I was blown away. I think the calculator in the dashboard is great, as it lets you see your safari window or mail or whatever document you’re looking through it, which means copying in figures and doing the math is really easy.

  • Scott

    I am pleased to report that Tiger installed without a hitch in about 40 minutes. And Dashboard is neat, if for nothing else giving me quick weather and translations. Then again, I ain’t a power user. Where I can find l33t haxxx and such?

  • Tracey Marshall

    I am also happy to report that my upgrade went without a snag. And because of it, I worried that I’d done something wrong, or missed an important point. But so far, so good. Of course, I am no power-user either.