A week with 10.4

I’ve installed 10.4 on both my work desktop (regular 10.4) and my home server (10.4 Server), and have had them both running for the past week. I also upgraded my laptop, and wound up going back to 10.3.9. Here are my impressions and what I learned from the experience:

1. Carefully check for software incompatibilites before upgrading, or you may find yourself bit in an important place. Also, if possible, make a bootable backup of the machine you’re looking to upgrade.

I can’t stress this enough. I made a backup of my laptop using Carbon Copy Cloner to an external hard drive before upgrading to 10.4 and was glad later that I did. Why? Because two things that absolutely, positively had to work, didn’t on 10.4. That was my email, running on Apple’s Mail, and my Cisco VPN client. In Mail, my accounts and folders were there, but they were all empty. This was a repeatable problem, as I wiped my drive and restored from backup, then upgraded again. Same issue. Curiously enough, I had no problems on my work desktop when I upgraded it despite having the exact same email setup as on my laptop. The Cisco VPN not working, I later found out, was a known issue and Cisco’s working on a fix.

As a result of the email problems combined with the VPN issues, I wiped my laptop hard drive and restored 10.3.9 from my backup. It’ll stay on 10.3.9 until 10.4.1 comes out, at which time I’ll give upgrading another try.

In my incompatibility research, I found Macintouch’s 10.4 incompatibility report to have the best information

2. 10.4 Server is seriously sweet.

I love some of the improvements that Apple’s made with 10.4 Server, especially with Open Directory and the collaboration software. One thing that you will need to have, before getting your hands good and dirty with either OD or the iChat server, is that you need to have reverse DNS lookups running. In other words, you need to have a domain name associated with your server that’s assigned by your DNS server and the server itself needs to know what it is, and the other machines that are using those services need to know it too. Absolutely essential, and dynamic DNS services are probably not going to do what you need. You don’t need it for the other goodies included in 10.4 Server though, so even if you don’t have a DNS server running on your network, there’s still plenty to play with. There’s a great article on AFP548.com that goes into the improvements that 10.4 Server has brought, and it’s well worth checking out.

3. Mail 2.0 has some issues with .Mac email.

I thought this issue was particularly strange, considering that Apple both runs .Mac and makes Mail. I wound up disabling my .Mac email on my work desktop because it would start checking for new email, then hang everything else. I’d wind up force-quitting out of Mail, opening it back up, then seeing it happen again. After the fourth time of rebuilding Mail’s settings and mailboxes, I finally got the message that this was going to continue to happen and I should save myself some grief and just disable my .Mac account in Mail. I haven’t had a problem since with either my work email or on my GMail account.

4. Most of my stuff just works.

This was probably the most pleasant surprise of 10.4. Most of my apps continued working without a hitch, including my development tools and Unix scripts. That’s not something I could say about 10.3, which hopefully bodes well for the 10.4 migration at work.

5. Widgets are hella cool.

‘Nuff said. I’ve got about 12 of them currently running, including JWire’s wireless hotspot finder, the six day weather forecast, the local Doppler radar picture and Dash Monitors. I don’t know how I lived without them before.

Got good experiences, or horror stories, of your own? Let me know about them in the comments.

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