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A Look At Mac OS X 10.2
August 23, 2002 | Jason Sims

The initial 10.0 release of Mac OS X was really just a preview of things to come; it was slow, buggy, and the few applications that had even been updated to run natively didn't work very well. But six months later, Apple delivered Mac OS X 10.1 "Puma"--a significant leap ahead that delivered performance and usability enhancements across the board, and filled in some of the gaps in Apple's new operating system (such as DVD playback). Now it's time for the next big step--Mac OS X 10.2 "Jaguar" has arrived, and it brings many significant improvements to the table.

You probably know about all the major new features in Jaguar. If you don't, you can find out all about them on Apple's website. There's a new, improved Address Book. Mail's got a smart new junk mail filter that learns what is and isn't junk. The Finder is once again worthy of its name--you can now use it to find stuff with the new Find function, which is back in the File menu where it always belonged. You can also stick a search field in your Finder toolbar. Spring-loaded folders are back too. With the new Ink handwriting recognition and a tablet, you can write text in any application instead of typing. Rendezvous will find printers, people, and even music on your network without any configuration. And so on.

What I want to talk about, however, is some of the gaming-related improvements that Jaguar delivers, particular in the area of graphics.

Jaguar's graphics technologies have been revamped on several fronts. Most notable is Quartz Extreme, the new fully-hardware accelerated Quartz (2D) engine. Quartz Extreme makes your entire 2D workspace an OpenGL scene, in which each window is a textured polygon. It supports FSAA (full scene anti-aliasing) and handles compositing of all 2D and 3D layers. With Quartz Extreme, DVD playback and 3D applications show through transparent windows, instead of a flat grey background. It also accelerates the Quartz effects, such as "genie" and "scale" which are used when minimizing windows to the Dock.

But the real benefit of Quartz Extreme is not its butter-smooth eye candy; with all of the graphics work being done by the GPU on your graphics card, your CPU is freed up to work on other things. One drawback is that Quartz Extreme requires a graphics card with 16 MB of memory. However, it is a technology that will eventually benefit all Mac OS X users as new computers replace old ones.

Jaguar also has a number of other graphics improvements under the hood. The OpenGL team has been working very hard, and has added 29 new extensions to the already-impressive OpenGL toolset in Mac OS X. Among these are a full set of extensions for vertex and pixel programmability, and many other extensions that were requested by developers. In addition to the new extensions, Apple's OpenGL team has done a lot of optimization work to crank out even better performance from existing 3D applications and games.

A big plus for developers is a pair of new tools for developing, debugging and optimizing 3D applications. The new OpenGL Shader Builder lets developers develop and debug vertex and pixel programs in real time. It's the only tool of its kind on any platform, and strengthens Mac OS X as a compelling development platform. The other new tool is the OpenGL Profiler, which can be used to monitor and analyze performance data in a 3D application, for the purposes of optimization and debugging. When Apple showed Blizzard the OpenGL Profiler, they spent 15 minutes with WarCraft III; in that time they were able to improve the performance of the game by about 20%.

While 10.1 may have brought Mac OS X up to speed, 10.2 takes it to a whole new level. With Jaguar, Mac OS X is really starting to flourish. Apple continues to invest in emerging new technologies--this time around, with Rendezvous, Bluetooth, and bringing it all together with the improved contact management of Address Book, and the forthcoming iCal and iSync applications. By now there is no doubt: Mac OS X is a winner, and things are only going to get better.



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Archives  Features  A Look At Mac OS X 10.2