In addition to the Steve Jobs keynote, we also had a chance to attend the Feature Presentation, presented by Phil Shiller and titled The Power of X. The presentation highlighted many of the strong points of OS X, and also gave us some numbers showing that the Mac community is definitely embracing the new software announced at the Expo.
The first demonstration was of the X11 for OS X Public Beta package. It was first shown running relatively simple applications like xterm, xeyes and xclock. To show that it could handle more advanced applications, we were shown a short Matlab demo where a static world image was superimposed on a sphere. The audience was informed that since the product was announced yesterday, it has been downloaded 25,000 times!
Next was a demonstration of the benefits of Quartz Extreme given by Ken Bereskin, Director of Mac OS Product Marketing. Ken had a small application that would enable and disable Quartz Extreme, and also had the processor monitor running on a dual-processor machine. With Quartz Extreme disabled, he was able to play a single high-quality, high-bandwidth QuickTime movie with no problem. As soon as he tried taking a window and moving it around the screen, the QuickTime movie started dropping frames, and the window movement became very jerky. Also, the processors were almost at maximum capacity. When Quartz Extreme was enabled, the difference was like night and day. The movie played smoothly, window movement was smooth, and Ken was even able to start a second movie without any notable effect. All with the processor utilization barely registering.
Next, we were given an overview of the security features in OS X. Some of these, such a built-in firewall, Kerberos authentication, OpenSSL and SSH are a benefit of the UNIX underpinnings of OS X. Other features, like the Keychain and encrypted disk images, are Mac-specific. To show that an encrypted disk image introduces little or no performance hit, a high-bandwidth, high-quality QuickTime movie was played back from an encrypted volume, with no notable performance hit.
The Mail client was the next OS X feature that was highlighted. Of particular interest is the anti-spam feature of Mail. The claim is that the Spam filter in Mail can catch 97% of unwanted email. This was shown by taking some actual spam mail and applying the Mail filter to it. An initial run got perhaps 70% of the Spam, but by adding a new spam filter that was already trained, the figure quickly shot up to the advertised 97%. An interesting side note is that there is a site called www.spamarchive.org which can provide spam filters with a sample of actual Spam to test against. Mail also has a pretty sophisticated rule system, which can deal with each message based on many different criteria including sender, subject, or the presence of certain words in the email. Once can even launch an AppleScript.
The discussion then turned to Appleis new browser, Safari. Phil told us that an incredible 300,000 copies had been downloaded since its introduction. To put this in perspective, the second most popular Apple application in terms of downloads per day was iTunes, which achieved a download rate of about 100,000 per day. When Phil asked how many folks in the audience had already downloaded Safari, we would estimate that 80% of the people raised their hands! In order to maintain its clean look, some browser elements, such as the home button, larger/smaller text sizing and the status bar are disabled by default, but can easily be reactivated. Some other useful features that should improve most usersi browsing experience are preventing pop-up windows, and ignoring cookies that donit come from the original siteis domain, such as cookies that are placed by ad networks. The new bookmark interface was showcased, but unfortunately, the Rendezvous support was impacted by the demo gods, and didnit work.
Next, Appleis free developer tools were highlighted. Unlike some other companies (hint hint) Apple offers a fully functional development environment for C, C++ and Java. This is good news since the millions of Java programmers in the world can now target the Mac.
Lastly, Phil demonstrated some of what he calls Hidden Gems; programs that are available for OS X but may not have gotten the coverage they deserve. The first was the game Pop Pop from Ambrosia, a Tetris-like action game. Next was Physics 101, a program that not only solves physical equations, but also shows you how to solve them. Next was a screen saver called Cosmo that gives an accurate representation of our solar system. Next was a piece of software called Spartan that can show molecular models in 3D. We then got to see Philis driving skills in NASCAR 2002. Finally, we were shown an application called AmpliTube, an software realization of a tube amplifier, a great toy for guitar players and others into audio.