Second 'Panther' update on the way

Just a week after the new Mac operating system's first bug-fixing release, a new package of tweaks is rumoured to be nearing completion

Apple may not be far away from releasing its second major update to the "Panther" version of its Mac OS X operating system, just a week after the first update's release.

OS X 10.3.1, released early last week, was designed to address several early criticisms of the latest iteration of Mac OS X. According to Apple, the update was designed to address issues with printing and encryption, and with using the OS in conjunction with FireWire 800 drives. Apple had earlier confirmed an incompatibility between Panther and some FireWire hard drives that caused some customers to lose data.

Now another update, which appears to be more substantial than the earlier release, is on the way. A test version of 10.3.2, build 7D12, was released to developers and testers this week, according to several published reports.

The update will include fixes for networking, graphics drivers, USB drivers, WebDAV, international text and AppleShare server, Apple reportedly told testers.

Panther went on sale last month, boasting an improved finder, better compatibility with Windows networks and a new feature called Expose that makes it easier to manage multiple open windows. The upgrade was a substantial new release, according to reviewers, but the numerous improvements brought along their share of problems.

Some users had complained that the FileVault encryption feature, which is designed to protect the contents of the home directory, had been causing some data, such as passwords, to be lost. As for the FireWire issue, Apple still recommends that customers who have a FireWire 800 drive that uses the Oxford 922 chipset and version 1.02 of the firmware upgrade their drivers before using Panther.

The company has not offered any recommendations for those using Mac OS X Panther with FireWire 400 drives, although there have been reports of problems with these drives on several Mac enthusiast sites.

Earlier this week, Apple released software updates that bring its Final Cut Pro 4, Shake 3 and DVD Studio Pro 2 applications up-to-speed on Power Mac G5 desktops running Mac OS X version 10.3. Apple has also updated the Bluetooth software for OS X versions 10.3 and 10.2, adding stability and performance improvements. All updates are available for free from Apple's Web site or via the Mac's software update feature.

Apple was not immediately availabe for comment.

CNET's Ina Fried contributed to this report.