Living with Leopard: Book IX — The Professors of Ignorance Strike Again!

November 8th, 2007

You had to expect it was coming. After Leopard received gushing praise in most of the early reviews, a few tech pundits have come along and said it was nothing if not Apple’s worst system upgrade ever. How could Apple let this thing get into the marketplace, they claimed, without fixing the well-known serious bugs that have been reported around the Internet?

Now to be perfectly fair, it is true that Leopard left the barn with some persistent bugs, a few of which may be serious in some situations. I’ve already weighed in on the reported data loss issue, which may actually be a long-standing Mac OS bug that has persisted for years, but is only being regurgitated now because Leopard is new and they need some material with which to trash Apple.

Of course, when it comes for the potential of losing your files, it is an extremely serious matter, but the possibility of lost or corrupted data isn’t new with Apple, nor with Microsoft Windows for that matter. I just hope Apple is taking it seriously enough to fix it for once and for all this time around.

But the reports about some of the other catastrophic bugs seems to be somewhat exaggerated. The other day, for example, I read a report that Skype wasn’t compatible with Leopard. Now this struck me as odd, since I use Skype for conferencing on both of my radio shows, and it runs fine under Leopard.

After reading the fine print in the article, though, I found out that what they were really talking about is a bug or oddity in Leopard’s firewall, where if you set up application-specific firewalls, Skype won’t function because of the way the application is designed. It’s self-modifying, and, because Leopard digitally signs applications when you invoke the appropriate setting, after a single use, it won’t function until reinstalled. Some online games are similarly affected.

All right, I’ll grant that’s a problem, but one you can work around real easily, by not using that particular setting until a more workable solution is available. No, you won’t impair your security, since I presume most of you use routers anyway, such as an AirPort, which provide their own levels of security. Over time, Apple will probably address this particular firewall limitation in one way or another.

But the headline was, once again, misleading, since it implied a situation that would only reveal itself under a single circumstance that most Mac users who use Skype would not encounter.

In fact if you believed all these claims, you’d think that most of the millions of Mac users now running Leopard must be facing persistent crashes, the inability of their Macs to boot, Wi-Fi connection irregularities and all sorts of other shortcomings that could cut a wide swath into your workflow.

However, like all operating system releases, there are some issues with Leopard that might really cause grief for some of you. For example, my friend John Rizzo, who runs the MacWindows cross-platform integration information site, wrote me with a troubling list of enterprise-focused issues that need to be addressed by Apple and some third-party developers:

SMB file sharing. MacWindows readers are reporting that turning OFF file sharing ENABLES the Mac to access SMB shares. (That’s right. Turn off file haring to enable file sharing.) Also lots of reports of other flaky configuration issues.

Enterprise network developers told me flat out that Apple shipped Leopard with known bugs that they had reported.

Huge, gapping security holes. For instance, the firewall’s Block All Connections setting actually allows certain connections!

Incompatibility with third-party AFP and SMB enterprise products. Group Logic says that the Leopard AFP client only talks to Leopard Server. (Spotlight and Time Machine use AFP, not SMB.)

Active Directory access is broken. Massive problems with Apple plugin.

Third-party products that enable Active Directory are incompatible. Vendors tell me they didn’t get the golden master until October 26.

Several VPN clients are broken.
This happened with Tiger, but may not be as widespread now.

Bugs in Safari 3, which still appears to be beta, such as crashes with ISA Proxies

Bugs in Boot Camp beta still in Boot Camp 2.0. For example, problems with Nvidia drivers in Windows Vista.

Understand that none of these issues has affected me in any way, and they are not widely discussed by the people who are so hell bent on finding something wrong with Leopard. More to the point, the larger portion of Mac users won’t encounter these difficulties either, and a fair portion of them might be attributed to other companies and not Apple.

However, I am troubled by one significant piece of information that John presents, which has been confirmed to me by developers with whom I’ve talked, that they didn’t receive the Golden Master version of Leopard until after it was officially released. So they were unable to confirm any outstanding issues with their products.

Now I appreciate the fact that Apple might be concerned about software piracy because of an early release the final version of Leopard to developers. But it also postpones the availability of certain Leopard-compatible products. That, rather than the questionable issues raised by some of tech writers, is the real issue you should be concerned about.

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