September the 29th 2003
Panther 7B7X and 7B8X series: fast, stable and fully functional builds.
This week I managed to obtain a few reports on very recent builds of Panther (7B7X and 7B8X series), and I also got the chance to experiment with some of those builds, some of which were not even seeded to developers. I tested most of them on several configurations including a PowerMac G4 @ 1Ghz, a PowerBook Titanium 800Mhz and an iMac rev A @ 233Mhz.

First, in terms of stability, the recent 7B8X builds were just as stable as Jaguar. All the applications I tested, run fine on it. I also tried some Classic applications and they run fine as well. Heavy applications didn't unexpectedly quit, as they did on early builds of Panther that I tested in the summer.

Something that probably everyone would like to know about is the speed of Panther. I can say that since 7B7X builds, Panther has been improved a lot in this area. We can expect the same difference in speed as Jaguar had compared to Puma. I especially noted the Finder's and the applications' menus high responsiveness (shorter time delay). Also interesting to note, I didn't see even one spinning wheel during my tests. As for Jaguar users still using a G3 and wondering if it's still worth upgrading to Panther, rest assured that Panther will run faster overall on these Macs. It runs faster than Jaguar even on a rev A iMac. You'll be limited to the most basic Aqua effects though but this is not a big issue.

Another good thing about Panther is its new features and corrections. I think most of them have been reported here or on other sites, so I'll only mention some interesting new things:
- I have also noticed that Apple has added another application in the Utilities folder, called "Common Access Certificate". I think it allows users to authenticate using a card key (correct me if you know more on this).
- There is also a very discrete but very useful interface feature in the latest builds, where when the bottom part of a window goes behind the dock, it is automatically resized to the top of the dock.
- As noted by other sites, there are a some minor cosmetic changes to the interface, a new Apple logo on the "About This Mac" box and during the boot process.

As for disc burning on Panther, there are some things to clarify: On Jaguar, CD-R and DVD-R disc-burning was severely hindered by the lack of options and information provided to the end user, despite the fact that both were present in early Jaguar betas. CD-Rs burned using Jaguar's finder were burned using the Hybrid ISO9660/HFS+ format and were readable by both Mac and Windows machines, at the cost of about 10% of the disc's capacity. DVD-Rs were written in the HFS+ format, making them practically unreadable by standard Windows installations. On Panther the situation is marginally improved: Information stating the filesystem is provided when a blank disc is inserted in the drive. There is still no option to change the disc's filesystem, however; the only option remains the use of Disk Utility or a third-party application. I have not had the opportunity to test DVD-R writing directly on the Finder with Panther to date. Finally, Disc Copy has disappeared since the first Panther build I've tested and most of its features have been moved to the Disc Utility application and it looks like the disk image mounting feature has now become a Finder task.

We can also make a note of the things that disappeared since 7B7X builds. For example, the third party utility called Ports Manager is gone. One other feature that was on some earlier builds and that we can no longer use, can be found in Chess.app. It is now impossible to switch to transparent mode, this option was available in only a few builds though.

In terms of hardware compatibility, I will just mention a problem I noticed with my Adaptec 2906 SCSI PCI card on 7B7X builds (not tested on 7B8X series). When this card is installed on your PowerMac, firstly, Panther takes a while to boot, and once you're in the Finder everything is slow and lags behind. As soon as you disconnect the Adaptec 2906 SCSI card from the PCI slot, everything is just fine again. On earlier builds, Panther wouldn't even boot with this card installed, so there is hope that this problem will be sorted out in future builds.

At this stage of the development, I guess it's possible for Apple to announce a very precise Mac OS X 10.3 release date. I think we can expect this kind of announcement by next week. As for the actual shipping date, I believe that we're not very far, I'd suggest late October or early November. It is also possible that we will see separate releases of iCal 1.5, iSync 1.2 and Safari 1.1 before the release of Panther as the versions that are present in recent builds of Panther are final releases.

It was interesting to test Panther on many different configurations but there is still a test I did not have the chance to do. Although I recently tested a dual 2Ghz PowerMac G5 on Mac OS X Jaguar 10.2.7 for more than 50 hours, it wasn't possible for me to install a recent build of Mac OS X Panther at that time. So if one of you have received your G5 and can test it with Panther, I would be glad to have you reporting back to me. Don't hesitate to send other reports as well as questions related to Panther by mail here.
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September the 27th 2003
More updates to come soon.
Since early september, my studies and a temporary job did not allow me to update this site. Now that I have a little more time, you can expect more regular updates.

The next update will be related to the latest builds of Mac OS X 10.3 Panther (7B7X and 7B8X).

Thank you supporting the site and stay tuned!

September the 4th 2003
Hardware: IBM to produce 0.06um PowerPCs by the end of the year.
As you might have noticed I usually do not post hardware related rumours but I think it's worth making an exception sometimes when I have interesting things to publish.

According to very reliable sources, IBM is planning to push it's PowerPC production process directly to 0.06um by the end of the year. Actually, it looks like the first tests of production of PowerPC 970 processors at 0.06um are very encouraging and that IBM is thinking about skipping a step on the roadmap of it's PowerPC processors.

The fact is that a 0.06um based PowerPC 970 will have a lot of advantages: first of all, it will be noticably cooler than the current PowerPC 970, secondly it will be able to reach even higher clock speeds, and finally, it will be cheaper to produce.

It is likely that IBM won't even produce any 0.09um PowerPC and focus only on 0.06um production process to save time and money. There is still an option to produce 0.09um processors if there are problems with the 0.06um process but IBM engineers are confident that there won't be any major problems.

Current PowerMac G5 systems are already using an excellent processor that Apple will probably continue to use on the next generation of the PowerMac G5 line. But the fact IBM wants to jump to 0.06um process for the production of it's future PowerPC processors is very good news for Apple, as it certainly means the company will be technically and financially able to go 100% G5 for all its Macs, including laptops and consumer Macs within a year. It doesn't necessarily mean that Apple will do it though. The most important thing to note is that Apple has just solved, with the current G5, the biggest problem of its hardware offering which was the processor's performance.


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