Apple Polishes A Few Recent Releases
Over two days last week, Apple pushed out a pair of operating-system updates that included bigger changes than the usual maintenance release.
Users of Apple's older Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger software got the first upgrade. The 10.4.11 update issued last Wednesday, in addition to fixing various bugs in OS X, also brings Apple's new Safari 3 Web browser.
First released in beta earlier this year, Safari 3 represents a major advance. It catches up to Mozilla Firefox with its find-on-this-page command, which instantly highlights all the words matching your search. It arguably surpasses its open-source competitor with its upgraded support for tabbed browsing: Not only can you rearrange the order of tabs in one window by dragging them left and right, you can also merge multiple browser windows into one.
Safari 3 also fixes some issues with its page-rendering code that had kept it from working properly at some sites. For instance, you can finally use Yahoo Mail's new interface, and Gmail correspondents can employ that site's formatting toolbar when composing a new message.
(The Windows version of Safari remains in testing, although Apple did release an updated beta of it last week as well.)
Users of Apple's just-released Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard got their own round of fixes a day later when the company released its 10.5.1 update--just 20 days after Leopard's release. This addresses two of the biggest issues with this operating system.
One was a serious bug that could eat files if you tried copying them to an external drive but had the transfer interrupted. Apple says it's fixed now. The other was a software firewall that did not accurately describe its workings and which could stop other programs from working. That one has also been fixed, in the sense that the firewall's preferences window now correctly describes its options and lets you re-authorize the operation of programs that it thinks have been modified instead of silently handcuffing them.
But Leopard's firewall still doesn't offer a simple "block all" option to maximize your security in situations where you can't trust other computers around you--say, if you're using a strange wireless network at a hackers' conference. The closest this firewall gets is an "Enable Stealth Mode" option, hidden behind an "Advanced..." button. This concealed a Mac's network services from a Windows laptop on the same wireless network--but, contrary to its labeling, did not hide the Mac's existence from a standard network-security program, nmap.
Apple released one other significant patch on Thursday; its iMac Graphics Firmware Update 1.0 is intended to stop some new iMacs from randomly locking up or freezing because of glitches in their graphics circuitry. My colleague David Segal, an iMac owner who has been frustrated by this problem for months, said on Friday that it seemed to have cured his Mac.
How have these updates worked out for you? Let me know in the comments...
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