Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Apple's OS 8.6 Is Helpful, but Not Essential, Upgrade

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Apple's OS 8.6 Is Helpful, but Not Essential, Upgrade

Article excerpt

When Apple releases a new upgrade to the Mac OS, it usually means a smorgasbord of new and improved features, as well as the obligatory bug fixes.

While Mac OS 8.6 does offer improvements, it isn't a major event. Then again, this upgrade is free to those already using Mac OS 8.5 or 8.5.1. As with OS 8.5, this operating system works only on Power Macs.

The biggest improvement is invisible: a new "nanokernel," the core code of the operating system. While this enhances stability (the last few bits of code remaining from the days of pre-Power Macs have been expunged) and speeds up some operations, it's not the sort of gee-whiz feature Apple gave us when Sherlock debuted with OS 8.5.

An improved Sherlock, though, tops the list of 8.6 enhancements. As users of OS 8.5 know, Sherlock is the Mac system's Find feature on steroids. The new version offers access to 20 Internet search engines simultaneously, including several e-commerce sites.

Sherlock's handy Find By Content function, which indexes the contents of every file on your hard drive for rapid, comprehensive searches, can now index PDF (Adobe Acrobat) and HTML (Web page) files.

For folks who use AppleScript, an underrated technology that automates repetitive tasks, the code is now 100 percent PowerPC native. Apple says that AppleScripts run up to five times faster now.

Owners of PowerBook G3s get the most impressive benefit from the new OS -- Apple says it extends battery life by up to 25 percent. Other improvements include support for DVD-RAM disks and faster networking.

I installed this upgrade about a month ago, shortly after Apple made it available on the Web. Installation went smoothly and I've experienced no compatibility problems. On the other hand, 8.6 doesn't seem faster than its predecessor.

The most practical improvement I have noticed is that Apple has plugged the system's "memory leak. …

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