Apples Tiger Earns Its Stripes

Open-source integration and management tools make Mac OS X 10.4 roar on servers and desktops.

Mac OS X 10.4, better known as "Tiger," is a great upgrade for existing Macintosh installations and merits strong consideration from non-Mac shops as well.

eWEEK Labs tested the server and workstation versions of Apple Computer Inc.s Mac OS X 10.4. In both cases, we were impressed by the mix of well-integrated open-source software components and new Apple-developed productivity and management features.

On the workstation side, new features such as the Spotlight search tool and Automator workflow builder offer individual users the means to take more control of their work spaces and applications. On the server side, Tiger offers a comprehensive set of network services, matching or beating what you can get from most Linux distributions or from Microsoft Corp.s Windows Small Business Server 2003.

However, making the move to Tiger—either from a previous Mac OS release or from Windows—wont be trouble-free. For one thing, changes in the new operating system, which began shipping last month, have resulted in the breakage of several key applications, including Cisco Systems Inc.s VPN client. (Since our testing, Cisco has released a Tiger-compatible version of the VPN. We expect other vendors to follow suit shortly.)

Another issue reported by many early Tiger adopters involves problems accessing Windows shares using Apples implementation of Samba—problems we also encountered in our testing. As with any new operating system release, careful testing is the key to a successful deployment, particularly where cross-platform integration is concerned.

The workstation version of Mac OS X 10.4 sells for $129, with no upgrade pricing. Tigers price is a bit lower when purchased in bulk: For 1,000 or more licenses, Apple charges $99 per license. For an additional $207 per seat, Apple sells three-year maintenance agreements that entitle buyers to all OS X upgrades that ship during the maintenance term.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here for the Executive Summary for Mac OS X 10.4 Workstation.

Mac OS X Server 10.4 sells for $999 per system with unlimited client access licenses or $499 for a 10-client version. The 10-client limitation applies, however, only to concurrent file-sharing connections, not to users of the operating systems directory or other services.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here for the Executive Summary for Mac OS X 10.4 Server.

Just before press time, Apple released an initial update, 10.4.1, to both the workstation and server versions of Tiger, including a slate of minor fixes.

Both versions of Tiger run on Apple systems with PowerPC G5, G4 or G3 processors and require at least 256MB of physical RAM. The workstation version ships on a DVD, so a DVD drive is required for installation. Our Tiger server copy came on regular CD-ROMs.

We tested Tiger workstation on an Apple G5 workstation; we tested Tiger server on an Xserve with dual G4 chips.

When run on Apple machines with PowerPC G5 processors, Mac OS X now takes fuller advantage of the chips 64-bit capabilities. For instance, on the right hardware, both 32-bit and 64-bit processes on Tiger can address more than 4GB of memory.

Much of Mac OS X, including all graphical elements, remains 32-bit, although developers may call on a set of 64-bit libraries for creating 64-bit native applications.

The fact that Mac OS X still runs only on Apple machines significantly limits a companys hardware purchasing options and may be the biggest barrier to deployment of Tiger in organizations running mostly x86-based machines.

Mac OS X lacks the breadth of available applications that Windows enjoys. Tiger ships with an X11 server and has a Unix foundation, however, so most open-source applications will run on it. Weve had good success teaming Mac OS X with Fink, an application for locating, downloading and compiling open-source applications for the Mac; Apple also provides a download point ( loads/macosx/unix_open_source) for acquiring many open-source applications.

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