I’ve been running Panther for a couple of weeks now and I’m quite happy with it. Despite some of the things that bug me — the speed improvements and Exposé make it worth it.

Initially I was a bit cautious after reading about problems with Firewire 800 drives (I don’t have one) and FileVault usage (I don’t use it). I did an “Archive” installation which copies the old system into a backup location and creates a brand new install (but maintains user accounts and settings). This worked like a charm and I only had to reinstall one or two extensions.

I’m not going to go into a detailed review, since there are many already available. There are quite a few great features that I really appreciate: Exposé is brilliant and original, application switching is finally good (I wish they had copied Windows to begin with…), user switching is cool, though I don’t have much use for it, and everything seems speedier. The Finder windows are an improvement, but not as great as all the hype.

Here are the things that bug me about OS 10.3

Brushed metal Finder. I don’t like the brushed metal look in general — an inactive window look exactly like an active window and both clash with the “standard” window look. Brush metal first appeared on QuickTime Player which was a UI fiasco all on it’s own. Then it appeared on the “i” applications and it was supposed to indicate “hardware related” apps or something. So why did it show up in Safari and now the Finder? The Finder? Hello!?!

New “tab” widgets. This is a completely gratuitous UI change that makes a perfectly sensible and obvious-to-use UI element, namely the tab control, into a weird, chicklet looking thing. This perversion doesn’t have one tenth of the cognitive value of the tab. Plus in an inactive window it’s now nary impossible to tell which tab is active. That’s one “improvement” that I’ll hope will go away ASAP.

The metal hard drive icon. This has actually bugged me since the first version of OS X. In pre-X systems, the internal hard drive icon represented the machine it was installed in. It was clear what it represented and differentiated it from removable and external media. When Apple went from the, er, iconic icons to the photo realistic icons in MacOS X, they decided that the proper icon for an internal drive would be a photographic rendering of an internal hard-drive. Sure, if you are a geek who buys bare drives at Fry’s, you’ll recognize the icon. But if you’re someone who bought an iMac because “they’re easy to use” then this icon means absolutely nothing to you. You don’t want to know what an ugly hard drive looks like (you can’t install it or replace it yourself) — you simply want to admire your hemispherical beauty.

No iDVD included. It comes with all new Macs, it only works with built-in DVD-RW but even though you pay $100+ for the OS upgrade, Apple wants another $50 from you if you want the newest version.