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The Leopard Report: Time for One More Wish List

All right, it’s pretty clear that you won’t be rushing to your favorite Apple Store in the next few weeks to acquire a copy of Leopard. Not because you won’t be interested, but because an exact shipping date hasn’t been announced. The original hopes for a January release are long gone, and hopes for a March arrival have pretty much vanished as well.

If you must know, my new “drop-dead” date is June, in close proximity to Apple’s WWDC.

So speculation about Leopard’s final feature set might as well continue, since we really don’t know what it’ll be. Even the rumor sites haven’t been very illuminating, almost as if their sources have dried up or their imaginations have failed them. Or a combination of both.

So I might as well make a few more suggestions — or perhaps just repeat myself in the hope that I’ll make an impression on some of Apple’s developers. Or at least keep the discussion sharply focused, which is the best I can hope for.

The more I look at the present features of Mac OS X, the more I focus on the Finder and its serious performance shortcomings. Whenever I do manual backup of a folder to more than one external drive, I feel the pain, with spinning beachballs and long delays in trying to get things done. It’s not just the Finder, as most of you know, but other functions on your Mac that are impacted by this inability to perform a few copying operations.

The process of checking my messages in Entourage 2004, for example, slow to a crawl, as if the entire operating system was under severe stress. These symptoms spread to access pages in Firefox and other functions. My desktop Mac, by the way, is a Power Mac G5 Quad, with 4.5GB of RAM. It was a whole lot worse on a previous-generation G5.

All this appears to happen because the Finder doesn’t handle multithreading properly. And I haven’t even discussed the consequences of prematurely disconnecting a network server. Try it some time and you’ll see what I mean.

But you know this, and you have to wonder how this sort of aberrant behavior has persisted through five versions of Mac OS X. When the new Finder was first demonstrated by Steve Jobs, he made a big deal of such new features viewing by columns, preview icons and all the rest. You know he’s an absolute perfectionist, so why isn’t he cracking the whip and demanding that the Finder engineers get their acts together and fix the problems?

Now maybe I’m whistling in the dark here. Maybe Leopard will have the new Finder that you and I have been lusting after for six years now. More to the point, perhaps there are another 200 spectacular features that are just waiting in the wings until Apple decides to pull the curtains off the final feature set.

But I’ll go on, because we’re still being kept in the dark, being forced to regurgitate the same old comments about Time Machine, Spaces, a fancier iChat, Mail and all the rest. Well, maybe someone else, because I have nothing new to say about this stuff.

On the other hand, just what is the competition offering anyway? Features, such as speedy search, which Apple has had since 2005 and “gadgets” instead of “widgets.” Oh yes, improved security, but that remains to be seen. To be sure, early reports have it that people aren’t rushing to embrace Windows Vista. Maybe there is justice in this world after all.

Maybe people will buy the best product after all, if they’re exposed to it, and they are finally fed up with those $400 PCs that become virus infested and act as if they’re immersed in quicksand after a few weeks.

Maybe they will believe the fundamental truths behind those Mac versus PC TV ads, if you can forget about the sly humor and the usual exaggerations that accompany a normal commercial campaign.

As to my ultimate Leopard feature, well it’s not so much a revamped Finder, although that would help. I’m more interested in overall speed and stability. It doesn’t really matter if this application is platinum, another is brushed metal, or some grayish tinge. I just want it to work right, and if I can use even a dozen or two of the expected 200 new features, I’ll be satisfied. Well, mostly anyway.