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The Leopard Report: Your Problem Isn’t My Problem

As I near a month using Leopard, I continue to delight in its great performance, stability and reasonably good compatibility. It’s not that nothing has gone wrong, but none of the issues seem terribly serious. However, I’m still troubled by all the reports I read online about serious issues that cannot be ignored.

Even after the 10.5.1 update fixed that horrific file movement bug that could, theoretically at least, cause loss of data if something interrupts the process of moving a file across partitions, drives or file shares, some people still aren’t satisfied.

Recently, for example, I read about complaints that Leopard’s stringent graphic needs are hurting the battery life of Mac note-books. Maybe so, but I haven’t seen that on my first-generation 17-inch MacBook Pro. I got roughly three hours under normal circumstances with Tiger, and I’ve observed little change since then. Well, maybe I’m not running software that could substantially exercise the graphics hardware, although I do run a cross-section of applications, including Parallels Desktop and Windows Vista. All right, that does cause battery life to decline more rapidly, but the very same thing is true for Windows users. At least I can quit Vista and get back to my work; they can’t, unless the choose to downgrade to XP.

AirPort reception remains a hot complaint. Again, I’m not seeing it. In fact, since the 10.5.1 update, which did address some AirPort-related troubles, I see an additional bar on the AirPort menu’s signal strength display, and appropriate increases in Internet download speeds. Now it’s not perfect; never was. I am immersed in a sea of Wi-Fi and portable phone soup in this neighborhood, and I’ve gotten improved reception by playing with the channel selection options in my 802.11n edition of Apple’s AirPort Extreme. I settled on Channel 11, after a brief test, but your mileage may vary. Yes, sometimes reception dips almost to the point of disconnecting me from the network, but it used to be worse in pre-Leopard days. Maybe when I have the time, I’ll go back and try some other channels and see if they fare any better.

Again, that’s not a specific Leopard issue.

Just as I was writing this, I read a report about a stuttering mouse anomaly, where the cursor would travel across the screen of its own accord from time to time. Now that particular complaint involved a user with a fair amount of third-party software and peripherals, so maybe that’s where the fault lies.

This isn’t to say I haven’t had difficulties with any input devices. I have one of Logitech’s Cordless Desktop Wave wireless keyboard/mouse combos. Although the ambidextrous mouse, the LX8, is good, it’s not quite the match of Logitech’s superb MX Revolution. Only the most recent software generated fits when I hooked up the MX Revolution’s transceiver to the USB port and tried to use that mouse under Leopard. For example, scrolling down would produce the opposite effect.

Well, Logitech just released version  2.4.0 of their software, and that has cured this apparent conflict, and now I can use the mouse that I prefer. The release notes also state that Logitech is no longer depending on Unsanity’s controversial Application Enhancer to provide access to certain system functions. That’s something that concerned me quite a bit, because the previous version, 2.3.1, did not provide the standard Application Enhancer preference panel, so I wasn’t even aware of its presence.

Indeed, after restarting with the new software, I found some window display inconsistencies in Leopard’s Spaces feature were also history, and managing multiple desktops is now noticeably more fluid and dependable. Even better, the semi-ergonomic keyboard portion of the Desktop Wave combo no longer lags slightly when I’m engaged in a fit of burst typing. I thought that was just a symptom of the keyboard’s response, but, no, it was the software all along. But that particular artifact existed even with Tiger.

The remaining persistent bug exists in Microsoft Word 2004, where I cannot print documents without getting a message, erroneous, that the page is out of range. For now, I simply use the Pages application from iWork ’08 for that purpose. Maybe Microsoft, which is aware of the bug, will fix it before I move to Office 2008. Or maybe not.

The upshot of all this is the unfortunate fact that no PC operating system can be compatible with everything. It’s just not in the cards. Even though Apple has a limited number — relatively speaking — of models available, there is no possible way they can predict all the theoretical interactions as the result of thousands of potential system configurations.

Sure, maybe they did ship Leopard somewhat prematurely, no doubt because of marketing pressure and not to miss another deadline. But that’s how the software business works. If the bug is serious, it’s clear from the recent 10.5.1 update that Apple will do their level best to set things right.

And that, my friends, is the best you can hope for in this highly imperfect world.