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  • The Leopard Report: Another Look at 10.5 Bugs

    December 11th, 2007

    It’s got to be a strange world out there, with some folks reporting that Leopard has driven them crazy, while most of you appear to have had great experiences with Apple’s latest operating system.

    Include me in the latter camp.

    In recent articles, I’ve tried to put this confusing picture into perspective. I know there are Mac troubleshooting sites that are designed to keep tabs on such matters, and you can certainly find lots to chew over, such as unexpected crashes, and Wi-Fi connection problems and printing issues. Any one of these items ought to be sufficient to cause deep concern, particularly if your Mac was working just great prior to the Leopard upgrade.

    Now, to be perfectly fair, the furore has died down quite a bit since the 10.5.1 update came out last month. Little has been said about the immediate requirement for a 10.5.2, and some of the latest reported bugs appear to be downright eccentric. One calls for Command- or right-clicking on a blank column in a Finder window, and selecting Get Info from the popup menu. This particular act will usually cause the Finder to crash and relaunch. Big deal! Since it doesn’t represent an action one might take in the real world to perform a real function, it’s not a bug that ought to rank high on Apple’s list of problems that need to be fixed.

    On the other hand, crashes are serious, and it’s important to find out what’s going on. Without having had any to speak of myself on my various Leopard installations, I might suggest that it’s probably an interaction with third-party software in most cases. The solution would be to look out for an update to the offending application. Unfortunately, such matters are quite normal in the early days of a new system release, and not just from Apple.

    In saying that, however, Apple isn’t innocent of having incompatible software. For example, I ran into problems with their sprawling Logic Studio suite until a recent update was installed.  Certainly, Adobe had to address a few problems with Leopard, and QuarkXPress received its own 10.5 updater recently.

    But I am troubled by published reports that Apple didn’t provide the Golden Master version of Leopard to developers until after it officially went on sale, even though it was evidently completed a week or two earlier. If true, it means that developers weren’t able to test their code with the release build of 10.5 until it was too late to come out with timely updates.

    So why would Apple act in such a paranoid fashion to the developers it reportedly courts so enthusiastically? One possible reason is rampant piracy. Within hours after Leopard officially went on sale, peer-to-peer sites were already posting copies of the DVD disc image. Now I understand that an awful lot of people have financial difficulties these days, but I don’t think pirating a $129 product is necessarily a solution. Besides, you can get Leopard at a discount if you shop around. Regardless, I think it’s clear that BitTorrent versions would somehow appear regardless, so Apple ought to concentrate its attention on taking care of developers and getting them new product as quickly as possible.

    As to those reports of Wi-Fi connection problems, I’m in a quandary about that. If anything, the AirPort system in my 17-inch MacBook Pro — which was upgraded by a third-party to provide 802.11n support — worked fine with Tiger and with Leopard. Yes, I have always had occasional connection issues, but fine-tuning the settings in my AirPort Express base station, by selecting an individual channel rather than using the “Automatic” setting, has alleviated most of those symptoms.

    Then again, Wi-Fi is never 100% dependable unless you are real close to the router, or are situated within a hot spot. Otherwise, connections can vary all over the place. In part, it depends on the construction of the building you’re in, obstacles in an open space, and even whether the signals are competing with other radio waves in your vicinity. It doesn’t necessarily have to be due to some soft of Leopard defect.

    It’s also apparent that Apple did lots of tweaking with their AirPort systems, so it may well be that what worked before doesn’t work now in some situations, whereas the signals are more reliable in other installations. If you check the Mac troubleshooting reports for the last few years, you’ll find that there have always been Wi-Fi issues of one sort or another. That, my friends, may not change until a better standard is achieved — and maybe not even then.

    In my own case, the one connection issue I’ve yet to completely overcome is the “Back to My Mac” scenario, which allows you to use your .Mac service to screen share between two Macs even over the Internet. It usually works if you are using an AirPort system or wired Ethernet for both systems. But when it comes to other brands of wireless routers, all bets are off. Different companies use different chipsets, and software may differ sufficiently to make something that works in one place fail in another. Even Apple has admitted they have work to do, but this isn’t a Leopard-killer by any means, because you needed to install special software for screen sharing up till now. From here it’ll only get better.

    As to printing, the only issue I’ve seen involves Microsoft Word 2004, where page margins are reported by the printer driver as out of range. I’m not terribly concerned about this conflict, since Word 2008 is just around the corner, now that it has been released to manufacturing, so I’ll be seeing a copy soon. I suspect, without having checked anything in particular, that Microsoft has resolved all or most lingering Leopard issues.

    With other output devices, it may just be the state of the drivers, another common side-effect of a new operating system release. In fact, Apple includes hundreds and hundreds of built-in printer drivers for many popular products as part of the standard Leopard installation. Updates for some makers, such as HP, will actually appear in Leopard’s Software Update application when they are available. For the rest of you, keep tabs on the maker’s site.

    There is, of course, that ATI Radeon XT1900 graphic card I bought for my Power Mac G5 Quad some months back. The drivers are a year old, and AMD, ATI’s parent company, says that I have to ask Apple about compatible drivers. But the ones provided with Leopard don’t work. So I’m back to square one, although one reader told me that he got his ATI card to function reliably in Leopard with the old drivers that shipped with his card. Perhaps I should try that as a last resort, one of these days.



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