If You Think Leopard is Buggy, Consider This!

December 20th, 2007

I suppose that the argument over whether Leopard is a major disappointment, a promising work-in-progress, or the ultimate operating system, won’t be settled right away. While our ongoing poll showed that about half of you have had excellent, trouble-free experiences, there are far too many question marks at this early stage.

On the other hand, I expect that, if Apple’s past history is the guide (and it should be), most of the lingering problems will be resolved in near-term maintenance updates.

Yes, I agree with many of you that Leopard left the starting gate much too early. This is an unfortunate part of the software business, where marketing considerations may trump common sense and the presence of annoying bugs in the new product. Here, for example, Apple had already delayed Leopard once, and the coders were under great pressure to get their work done in time for an October release. Imagine how the tech press would slam Apple if it announced yet another delay? Imagine the impact to their stock price?

Well, they made their deadline, of course. Some of you may wish they didn’t.

But if you go through the history of the Mac OS, right from the beginning, you will see system software that’s required updates from time to time, particularly in the weeks following a major upgrade.

I remember, for example, when the first Power Macs with PCI peripheral ports came out. I won’t get into the thoroughly evil RAM installation routine for the 8500 and 9500, which made the Mac mini look simple in comparison. Instead, I remember my accursed 9500 crashed so often I hardly got any work done for a few days. The original system version, a 7.5 variant, was soon updated and the worst of the ills were vanquished, more or less.

When you go through Mac OS X’s history, you’ll find a similar situation. A new release appears with great fanfare, followed just weeks later by the inevitable bug fix to repair the serious stuff, and then, over time, more updates to fix up most of the remaining defects.

How many of you recall installing Mac OS 10.3 Panther, only to discover that some FireWire 800-based drives stopped working. This particular problem could be blamed on Apple and the need for some drive makers to deliver firmware updates for certain FireWire controllers. Indeed, this particular problem was far more severe than most anything that ailed Leopard (except for the notorious Command-drag file move bug), because it would destroy or damage a drive’s partition map, which meant a trip to the drive recovery center to recover your data.

It actually infected me, and it happened at an awfully unfortunate time, because I had just sold one of my older Macs and I was busy setting it up for its new owner. However, the affected FireWire drive just had some old backup files that I didn’t need.

Yes, I installed the firmware update, and the inevitable 10.3 fixer-upper from Apple, but I learned my lesson all-too-well. From here on, all my desktop Macs would be purchased with — or retrofitted with — a second internal drive where possible. Two backups are better than one. Today, I have Time Machine handling my external FireWire drive, and SuperDuper! (only partly functional in Leopard) doing its thing for the second internal drive. By the way, the SuperDuper! issue relates to making a proper bootable clone, but the data is otherwise intact, and the Leopard-compatible version should be out soon.

Now do you think Tiger was the greatest version of Mac OS X ever? That’s the way the Leopard doomsayers want us to remember 10.4, but that may not be true. When Tiger first came out, the major changes to the underlying networking architecture made third-party VPN software — required for many businesses — non-functional or partly-functional. Don’t believe me? Well, check the history over at John Rizzo’s MacWindows cross-platform information site.

Indeed, those problems took an awfully long time to resolve. In the end, it required updates from both Apple and other companies to set things right, and some say that problems persisted until the very end. So some of you may indeed think of Panther as the best Mac OS, except for that FireWire 800 data loss bug, of course.

But even the ongoing network repairs didn’t make Tiger perfect for everyone. There are lots of troubling reports that the 10.4.10 update caused a positively huge amount of harm for some of you, if the comments posted here are any example — and I think they are. I suppose 10.4.11 helped close out Tiger with most of its reputation intact, though.

So I am not surprised to see Leopard beset by various and sundry issues, at least for some of you. What makes them seem all-the-more notable in the scheme of things is Apple’s incredible success in moving so many copies in such a short time.

Consider: If only a few percent of new Leopard users encountered problems of one sort or another, that’s a large number, and people who complain tend to be far more vocal about their difficulties than people for whom the Leopard upgrade went perfectly, or almost perfectly. And, please, don’t use our random polling about Leopard as anything more than an intellectual exercise.

That’s why, for example, troubleshooting sites tend to have a huge percentage of problem reports. This doesn’t mean they should be ignored. You just have to put the information in perspective, and make sure that the bugs posted are repeatable among a cross-section of users, for otherwise it may be just one of those things that affects but a few and that’s about the size of it.

So what are we to conclude about all this? In the scheme of things, I think Leopard is no worse than other Mac OS releases. In fact, for me and others, the experience has been far, far better.



Share
| Print This Article Print This Article

23 Responses to “If You Think Leopard is Buggy, Consider This!”

  1. william says:

    If you all think Mac upgrades can be buggy, just think about how things are after a successful Vista “upgrade.” And that’s after 6 years of work.

  2. If you all think Mac upgrades can be buggy, just think about how things are after a successful Vista “upgrade.” And that’s after 6 years of work.

    Don’t even get me started. 🙂

    Peace,
    Gene

  3. tom b says:

    I remember well Mac OS 7.5.x. Best you could say about it was that it was way better than Windows 95 and NT– a pretty low bar to hit.

  4. I remember well Mac OS 7.5.x. Best you could say about it was that it was way better than Windows 95 and NT– a pretty low bar to hit.

    I agree. Things weren’t very pleasant in the Apple universe in those days. But we stuck through it anyway.

    Peace,
    Gene

  5. John Fallon says:

    I’ve had Leopard crash outright on me twice (after an archive and install). iCal and AddressBook have all quit on me a few times. Connecting to Windows PC’s is much harder than it used to be. Some major utility programs like Diskwarrior and Drive Genius and SuperDuper don’t work right yet. Carbon Copy Cloner can be flaky. There seem to be too many weird changes in the file system that aren’t clear yet.

    But screen sharing is amazing and easy. The QuickLook feature is incredibly useful if you’re looking for something. Spotlight finally works. TimeMachine is a God-sent thing. With Leopard, you do remember why you wanted to upgrade in the first place.

  6. Rikk W says:

    I can understand perfectly that those who hit a problem are the loudest. BUT there are scores of Mac users at my graduate school and I know of not a single problem (if one excludes not yet updated third-party apps) with their Leopard installations. I can’t help but wonder how many of the problems emerge through poor maintenance habits and pre-installation practices (e.g. run Disk Warrior, repair permissions, make a clone, do a clean install and import/migrate). Works like a charm for me.

  7. Adam says:

    Having been through every Mac OS that ever was, I have a simple set of “do I need it” criteria when a new system comes out:
    1) Do I like how my current system works? If yes, then how much so?
    (Now since X came out that answer has generally been yes, and I was one of the few I knew who liked a lot of the changes in X over 9, but having said that 10.0 was a “NO” because of speed – or lack thereof, 10.1 was a “ehhh” and 10.2 was a “yes but…”)
    2) Are the announced new features likely to be a FUNCTIONAL improvement, or just something new?
    (Something new always means something different and will ALWAYS involve some sort of pain as it is learned so this is a biggee)
    3) Is there anything I want to do but can’t that a new OS should help me with?
    4) Evaluate above for importance/severity.

    If this list of criteria points toward a new OS, then I go ahead and get it right away, knowing that the risks for any early adopter will apply to me. I too was a victim of the Panther ate my FW drive bug, and in my case it was a big hit. I lost my system backup because of it. Fortunately I didn’t need that backup but if my internal had died then …

    I was an early adopter for 10.0 to 10.3.
    For Tiger, I waited for a few weeks. I would have probably waited for Leopard if I wasn’t a Mac Genius at the time (I can say that because I am no longer one), but after seeing it in action, the wait would have been brief. Most everyone I know (including me) has a much faster and more productive system with 10.5 as opposed to 10.4. I am not totally happy, and won’t be until I get some of my haxies back, but I am happy enough, by a good measure. Incidentally, if I weren’t, I would revert until reports of 10.5 updates suggest I would be happy.

    When I do upgrade I have a short list of necessities:
    1) A complete back up of my user specific items on a drive that will remain untouched by the new system. This usually means an external drive that gets disconnected BEFORE the install/upgrade. I am now using a Mac Pro as my main machine so I just bought a SATA drive to install cleanly on. I then migrated from my 10.4 drive (still having a backup, though) and pulled the 10.4 drive to sit on a shelf as insurance. That insurance drive has since been wiped and is now holding my multi-media files.
    2) I always do an Archive and Install or a completely clean install with a migration to follow. My thinking is that if I am doing a major change to my OS, I want as clean a slate as possible. It has always worked for me. 90% of Leopard problems I saw in my final days at Apple were the result of choosing “Upgrade”. Archive and Install fixed pretty much all of them. They should not have happened at all, but that is what I saw. Fortunately the number of such issues I saw was small. Much smaller than I expected in fact, knowing how “tweaked” a lot of our best customer’s systems are.

    {launch soapbox} Back up, Back up, Back up, and for the cheap seats … BACK UP!! {killall soapbox}

    Cheers!

  8. Adam says:

    I can’t help but wonder how many of the problems emerge through poor maintenance habits and pre-installation practices (e.g. run Disk Warrior, repair permissions, make a clone, do a clean install and import/migrate). Works like a charm for me.

    Lots of them, maybe even most. I saw that pattern long before I went to work at the G-Bar.

  9. Melangell says:

    “Things weren’t very pleasant in the Apple universe in those days. But we stuck through it anyway.”

    Yes we did! I started on a Performa 6300 (Four 15″ monitor, 1 motherboard replacements… all under super secret Apple extended warranty!) with OS 7.5.3. I’ve never run antivirus nor have ever had any problems in that area. I was hounded by my co-workers (PC drones) about my choice of computer from a company “going out of business”, but just sat back and laughed at their continual problems. I have always marveled that PC types really seem to hate their computers and Windows and are genuinely confused that I love mine so much. For a time, I became and evangelist for the Mac, arguing the differences with perhaps sometimes a religious fervor. I spent a good bit of my own time in the North Miami CompUSA (r.i.p.) store-within-a-store helping people learn of and buy Macs. It was hard back then in the “Dark Days”. Hell, I learned to type leaving comments about the Macs on any website that would spread FUD! maybe someone will recognize the name… 🙂 .

    When I later worked at Savannah Air Traffic Control Tower, I was the only one who didn’t know where the PC/Windows guru’s house was… because I never had to go there to have my computer debugged. I first went wireless with the original iBook and Airport. While in Savannah, I watched as the “guru” spent days trying to get his wireless network set up. I never really said a word except that it took me less than 15 minutes. I didn’t say much there about the Mac/PC debate. I brought my 12″ Powerbook (867, then 1.5 GhZ), “Bob” to work everyday and eventually some saw that what I had “just worked”. Before I left a couple of years ago, a quarter of the facility had gone Mac as had some of their parents and siblings. I’m older and not quite as vocal about my choice of computer these days. Who knows, maybe it’s OS X. I started using it on a G4 hemi-iMac and have only ever had 2 kernal panics.

    Yeah, Gene, at times it wasn’t pleasant but I would not have missed a moment of it.

    P.S.: if this seemed to ramble, I apologize. I have been sick for a day or two and who knows… my brain may not be up to par!

  10. WingSpread says:

    You can run Disk Warrior on Leopard 10.5.1 ????

    Thanks for posting, geniuses.

  11. Adam says:

    You can run Disk Warrior on Leopard 10.5.1 ????

    Thanks for posting, geniuses.

    Notice that this was listed as PRE-installation. That is, you would have been doing it on 10.4 or earlier.

    Personally, I think that Disk Warrior is not required before an install, but I do verify disk and permissions with Apple’s Disk Utility prior to an install. Disk Warrior, for me, is more of an ongoing maintenance thing. Personally I like Drive Genius for this function, but Disk Warrior is good, too.

    To answer your question, though, this is a cut and paste from Alsoft’s Disk Warrior web site:

    Alsoft recommends that you don’t run DiskWarrior 4.0 while started from Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. Instead, you should start up from the DiskWarrior CD.

    Which translates to yes, you can run Disk Warrior on a 10.5 system, you just don’t want to do it while logged in to 10.5.

  12. Jeff Mincey says:

    This hearkens back to the old axiom, “The bitterness of bad quality lasts long after the sweetness of having met the schedule is gone.” Now I don’t mean to suggest that Leopard 10.5.0/1 qualifies as “bad quality,” but this principle is valid nevertheless.

  13. Dan Derrico says:

    This hearkens back to the old axiom, “The bitterness of bad quality lasts long after the sweetness of having met the schedule is gone.” Now I don’t mean to suggest that Leopard 10.5.0/1 qualifies as “bad quality,” but this principle is valid nevertheless.

    Another quote: “There is always time to do things over but not enough time to do them right.”
    Or something like that. Anybody got a better version?

  14. alicorne says:

    Actually, I heard it as a question: “Why is there never enough time to do it right, but always enough to do it over?”
    More appropriate may be what I saw on the wall in software development back in the day. Labeled the 11th commandment of engineering: “The customer will find the bugs quicker than you can: ship it!”
    Hence it’s corollary: “Never buy ‘point 0’.”

  15. Ilgaz says:

    Lot of us are forgiving, for example I had to buy an actual FAX device in 2000s just because Apple forgot (yes!) to add their actual, G5 1600 preinstalled modem’s driver to stock 10.4.0. At a later release, it was fixed.

    The issue with Leopard is… Core parts of OS does have problem if you have problem.

    For example, syslogd will hit 100% on a G5 Quad Core occupying an entire core out of 4 cores while booting into Finder. Now, that is a hassle and of course have been reported to Apple (which they verified). For an average user who won’t watch his/her CPU and if there are no secondary/fourth core to reserve it will mean “Leopard is lot more slow than Tiger”.

    I have also verified a OpenGL performance degrade on NV6600 coming with my Quad G5. I have found number as high as 30-40% . I have reported this too, waiting for Apple to either say “Duplicate” (which is good news) or “Closed” (which means, bad..)

    Now, these are just 2 bugs but remember, OS X Desktop cleverly uses OpenGL functions to be such responsive (not just games) and syslogd is a OS process, not a incompatible 3rd party product which you can uninstall and subscribe to vendors updates list or something.

    I have Boot and Users on separate drives, I used the opportunity to “test clean install” by installing another 10.5(.1) to the drive which only has Users. Unfortunately, that “clean install” magic didn’t work in my case. Well, at least I got another spare boot drive 🙂

    Tiger issues weren’t such visible because number of VPN users or G5 1600 users with a specific modem weren’t that many. Now, everyone has syslogd running and it becomes big deal if you are hit by that bug, whatever it is. I have also sensed some sign of “133t programming” by removal of console.log and using SQL Query to system.log for console messages. These things may look “cool” on paper or your CV, in real life, you may end up with thousands of needless bug reports which could be prevented by NOT enhancing it.

    I didn’t give up and while I have a 10.4.11 in hand to boot, I keep running 10.5.1 to report issues. Now, if you sit there with your OS X Leopard package not opened and waiting for 10.5.2 , you could get disappointed. How can they know problems if you don’t report them?

    IMHO keep 10.5.x installed without removing your 10.4.11 , boot into it and use bugreporter.apple.com for issues you see.

  16. Ilgaz says:

    You can run Disk Warrior on Leopard 10.5.1 ????

    Thanks for posting, geniuses.

    A person who is enough technical to give up OS’es free tools such as fsck for a high end commercial tool would know not to run it from new major build of OS until Vendor releases an update.

    People reporting issues are technical users, not some kind of morons or computer illiterates. This fashion has started with the release of 10.5 , everyone reporting an issue must have been doing something wrong. Wake up, this is a Desktop OS, not even a Server OS. There are no guarantees that it won’t contain any bugs. Nobody is expecting a Mainframe, carrier grade OS.

    The issue is, just stop thinking those people reporting issues are some sort of computer newbies. They are not. As result, Apple gets the flame. Every time I report a issue and get flamed by so called Apple fans, I report it again on a separate platform once again.

    We don’t expect a desktop OS to be a perfect in first release but some of us had enough with this “You can’t use a computer” attitude. Leopard, Vista are new major builds. One asking for a perfect stable OS are already running Windows XP Pro/ OS X 10.3.9 or even 10.2.8.

  17. Ilgaz says:

    This hearkens back to the old axiom, “The bitterness of bad quality lasts long after the sweetness of having met the schedule is gone.” Now I don’t mean to suggest that Leopard 10.5.0/1 qualifies as “bad quality,” but this principle is valid nevertheless.

    Another quote: “There is always time to do things over but not enough time to do them right.”
    Or something like that. Anybody got a better version?

    I started to get afraid that there are 2 Leopards truly. One is PPC (especially 64bit/G5) version with some real show stopper bugs and other is Intel version with minor, forgivable bugs.

    I don’t expect a perfect Leopard since it was announced 64bit. Especially on my Quad G5, it means first ever pure 64bit kernel and some core parts. It may be the same deal with high end Intel Mac users too. They are getting an 64bit OS which MS couldn’t manage to ship for years while they are actually part of design process at Intel. Vista 64bit is barely called “stable” or “Production ready” while every Quad Xeon etc user out there are happy with their Leopard 64bit.

  18. Emile Schwarz says:

    First of all, take into account the delay between the OS major version (say 10.2, 10.3, 10.4 or 10.5) and the minor update that removes “all” (most of all) found bugs.

    Then, think at all bugs found in one major version (say 10.4) and still present in the last minor update (here 10.4.11).

    I do not talk about obscure bugs, but bugs Joe Newbie is able to encounters.

    It is a true shame that nearly 2 and 1/2 years after having seen the lights of day, 10.4 is still in this buggy state. I cannot imagine a worst OS from Apple (from 1985 though 2007)…

    That is the reason I didn’t buy 10.5: too many bugs not removed in 10.4 thru 10.4.11 and no hope to get a 10.4.12. I will not waste my money to get 10.5. Eventually, I will get it in a brand new Macintosh laptop in 2008, but I am not confident at all in Apple voluntee to squash the most visible bugs (past proved that).

    And I do not talk about the hardware wooes.

    PS: I installed 10.4 in a PowerBook G4 15″ Alu on April 30, 2005. In the following days, I found 10, 20, … 100 ? “easy reachable” bugs (Two entries checked in a local popup for example!) and I wasn’t searching them at all.

  19. First of all, I’m sorry you’ve encountered those problems, but the disconnect here is that many users regard Tiger as the best Mac OS X of all. Frankly, I installed Tiger on the day of its release and never had any serious problems with it on two different PowerPC G5s, two 17-inch PowerBooks and a 17-inch MacBook Pro. One of the Power Macs and one of the PowerBooks have since gone to new owners, and they haven’t complained either.

    My son uses and abuses his early-generation PowerBook, running Tiger, and seldom complains about anything.

    So we’re left with a situation here where some people report troubles and some don’t.

    I would, however, want to know about your 10.4 installation (clean, upgrade?), and about third party products that might have an impact on your situation.

    Peace,
    Gene

  20. Emile Schwarz says:

    Hi Gene,

    I consider Tiger as the worst OS Apple ever release and I used a lot of different OSes (Apple II and Macintosh) through the years (1985 – 2007).

    How do I install a new OS version ?

    Very simple: I made a bask-up of the data, format (low level) the hard disk and install the new OS using the original mass storage hardware (from floppy disk thru DVD).

    Since my Apple (France) days, I stopped using add on software (even After Dark, back in 1992).

    The only added software was (is):
    AppleWorks, Stuffit Expander, VLC, Netscape, FireFox, and REALbasic.

    One thing I didn’t tell earlier is my boot hard disk volume failures (three times) with data loss (one folder with three months of data). What helped (no more volume failures / data loss) me was to make two volumes on the integrated hard disk: one for the boot, the second for the data.

    My anger comes for all the bugs that are “obvious”: bug every one can fall into after some minutes of Macintosh usage, not really from the data loss (you may say that I have to make backup and you would be right).

    Nota: I am living in France and some bugs may comes from the localization (the French version); when I was working at Apple (France), usually, the French version was less buggy than the US one because of the release date difference (the French version was usually release after the US one and sometimes was a corrected version).

    Feel free to contact me directly if you want more details (descriptions and screen shots) of the bugs I collected through the years (on the 10.4 family).

    Merry Christmas to all,

    Emile

Leave Your Comment