In this issue:
Volume 1, Issue 2, June 2005

by Shelley Wilcox
by Scott Parker
by Alan Zisman
by Glen Holmes
by Shelley Wilcox
by James McConville
by Wayne Ulian
by Alan Zisman
by Kevin Amboe
by Chris Rozitis
by James McConville
by Ray Steigvilas

Time to put a Tiger on your school’s desktops?

By Alan Zisman © 2005

For CUE BC newsletter

644 words

Even though Apple’s Macintoshes account for a mere 3% (or so) of worldwide personal computer sales, Macs continue to represent a solid proportion of computers used in our schools. Mac-using teachers like them because they ‘just work’, letting teachers spend more time focusing on educational goals rather than on making the hardware and software behave.

And with OS X, Apple produced an operating system for the 21 st century, combining rock-solid stability and security with the ease of use and good looks that Mac-users expect. On April 29th, the company released OS X 10.4 Tiger.

While touting some 200 new and improved features, Tiger offers several enhancements that may be of especial use to educators. Spotlight is a new, enhanced, system-wide search function, accessible through a tiny magnifying glass icon in the top-right corner of the screen. Unlike other search features, Spotlight is lightning-fast, working from an always up-to-date index of your files. So fast that it starts showing results before you finish typing.

And the results are not just from your file-names. Spotlight indexes content as well, and shows individual emails, contacts, images, and more. Spotlight technology is showing up in applications such as Apple’s Mail or iTunes, but perhaps most useful is its role in the Finder’s new Smart Folders. A Smart Folder is a virtual folder that uses Spotlight-powered filters to show an ever-changing view. Create a Smart Folder to automatically include everything you’ve worked on in the past week regardless of where it’s stored on your hard drive, for instance.

Dashboard appears as round black icon in the Dock; click on it (or press F12) and a set of ‘widgets’ pop up in front of the screen, with a set of possibly useful functions: calculator, calendar, weather, converters, dictionary/thesaurus lookup (Tiger includes a licensed copy of the Oxford American dictionary). Lots of add-in widgets are starting to show up, most for free, ranging from useful (I like the connection to the Wikipedia online encylopedia) to the frivolous (there’s a popular hula dancer, for example). Like Spotlight, it’s fast, and unobtrusive when you don’t want it.

Before you run out to install Tiger on all your Macs, though, you may want to pause for a moment. Are your Macs ready for Tiger? Like seemingly ever software release, it’s bigger than its predecessors. It will need more hard drive space, and eats RAM for breakfast. Like other OS X versions, the default installation installs all printers and all foreign languages; a couple of GBs of stuff that you probably don’t need and that, on older systems, you may not have space for. A custom install can pick and choose amongst printers, at least to a certain extent: need a single HP driver, and you need to install all 800 MB of HP files. Perhaps a better choice on space-challenged systems is to install no printers, then download the single driver you need. You can’t pick and choose languages, however. If pressed for space, the free Monolingual (http://monolingual.sourceforge.net/) freed up a GB of language files on one of my systems.

Despite the added bulk, Apple has done a good job tuning Tiger’s performance; if your Mac is able to run OS X 10.3 Panther, it should run Tiger without any noticeable performance hit. But budget to get all your OS X-running Macs up to 512 MB memory.

I had problems during install on one system until I unplugged all external devices; after the install, I was able to plug them back in without problem.

Note that Tiger ships on a DVD disc. If your Mac lacks a DVD drive, you can get it on CDs—but only by sending the DVD back to Apple along with a shipping and handling fee.

Alan Zisman is Mac(and Windows)-using Vancouver teacher and technology writer. Many of his articles are available on his website, www.zisman.ca.

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