Impressions of Leopard


in Geek stuff, Internet matters

When I upgraded by Mac to Tiger (Mac OS 10.4), I wrote a bit about it. Now, it is Leopard‘s (10.5) turn.

The big new features are Time Machine (backup utility) and Spaces (multiple desktops). There are also incremental improvements to lots of prior features: Dasboard, the Finder (Coverflow added), Mail, Preview, Quick Look, Safari, and Spotlight. Time Machine is a good idea and seems to work well. The graphics strike me as a bit overdone. A simpler interface would use fewer system resources and might well be easier to use. That said, making backups a lot easier is a very welcome move. Startlingly few people have even a single comprehensive backup of all their data, much less the kind of rolling, iterated backup Time Machine produces. It also manages to do so in a far quicker and less obtrusive way than free options like Carbon Copy Cloner. Spaces is too clumsy to be of any use on my iBook. The F1-F12 keys already have too many demands made of them by screen and volume controls, Expose, and Dashboard. As such, I only briefly enabled this feature before rejecting it as essentially unusable. The new firewall also seems more confusing and troublesome than the old one.

Is Leopard worth the $100? Some of the little improvements are certainly nice. I like the Stacks feature that has been added, as well as the way the wireless network icon in the menu bar now shows which networks require passwords. That said, the improvements are relatively minor. I would not run out to buy this upgrade again. That will situation will probably change when common pieces of software begin to require it and developers begin to make better use of the new under-the-hood features.

One of the best things about a new operating system release is that it gives you the chance to prune things down. With Tiger, I used the option that simply replaced the operating system, leaving applications and data intact. That worked brilliantly but couldn’t be done this time, since it was a complete operating system failure that provided the immediate impetus for the upgrade. Backing up data, erasing everything, and starting over has left the computer running noticeably quicker. That is especially welcome on a system that is getting on in years and having increasing difficulty running applications smoothly.

I have taken this opportunity to abandon some more Microsoft software. Previously, I used Entourage (the Mac version of Outlook) because it was compatible with all the emails from my old PC. On the PC, I chose it originally because it would sync easily with my Palm Pilot (which has spent about four years collecting dust in a box in Vancouver). Switching to Mail and iCal was pretty straightforward, since I decided not to transfer over my old emails and to simply synchronize iCal with my Google Calendar. I don’t really like the Mail interface very much, but it does integrate better into the OS than Entourage did, as well as using fewer system resources.

All told, the Mac does feel as though it got a new lease on life. It will need to endure until I can justify redirecting sufficient funds from student loan repayment to buy a shiny MacBook.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Anon December 20, 2007 at 7:38 pm

our society’s unfettered embrace of mass consumerism

It will need to endure until I can justify redirecting sufficient funds from student loan repayment to buy a shiny MacBook.

Tristan December 20, 2007 at 7:57 pm

Macs are wonderful, but I’m intrigued by Asus’ new 7 inch flash drive 350$ laptop.

Even since laptops became popular, I’ve had the sense they are trying to do two things and suffer both in the compromise. They try to replace desktops (but are never as fast or as cheap), and they are very portable (but if you get a proper sized one, its not exactly easy to carry around, and one is always worried about it being smashed).

Having a 7 by 9 inch 2lb laptop which makes no claims to desktop capabilities swings the hammer towards the “portability” rather than “desktop competition” side of the compromise. This is reflected in the price also.

It certainly makes looking replacing one’s laptop with a desktop like a feasible option, because for only 350$ more, you can add the portability of a tiny laptop.

PS It’s shipped with Linux.

Anon December 20, 2007 at 11:50 pm

One nice thing about Apple OS upgrades is that you can upgrade an unlimited number of machines once you have the disc. Since only Apple makes hardware running Mac OS, they seem to worry a lot less about piracy.

Milan June 10, 2009 at 9:33 pm
Milan May 24, 2010 at 10:26 am

Over the past few months, my iMac became woefully slow and buggy. It was my hope that upgrading to Snow Leopard might unclutter it a bit. Thankfully, it has done exactly that.

Because the Snow Leopard installer wouldn’t recognize my hard drive as a valid installation target, I had to back everything up using Time Machine (and a few DVDs for really critical files) and then do a low-level format on the drive.

So as to still have iPhoto, I then used the system recover feature on the Mac OS boot disc to copy all my data back from the external drive. The Snow Leopard installer was then happy to run.

Everything is working better and more smoothly. Programs load faster, even websites, and the system feels zippy and stable.

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