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  • The Leopard Report: Successful But!

    January 21st, 2008

    Despite claims that Leopard may have been a disaster in the making, perhaps as tragic as Windows Vista, the early chatter about persistent bugs and massive dissatisfaction appears to be mostly wrong.

    According to Steve Jobs, during last week’s Macworld Expo keynote, some five million copies have been sold since Leopard’s release in late October, and nearly 20% of the Mac OS X user base has upgraded. Customer satisfaction ratings are also extremely favorable. That’s quite an accomplishment, and it augers well for Leopard’s ongoing success.

    However, that doesn’t mean that 10.5 and the quick 10.5.1 update are necessarily perfect. There are still troubling deficiencies that some of you are reporting, and, worse, features that could have made Leopard even better, but never got the green light.

    One of the remaining issues affects wireless access. Since that’s become a major component of the Mac user experience, particularly with the impending release of the Macbook Air, Apple needs to nail down the most significant remaining defects and cure them as soon as possible. There are rumors that a massive 10.5.2 update is in the wings that will address a host of Leopard irritants and maybe even repair some failed features, such as Stacks. How it plays out, of course, won’t be known until that update is out, and I assume one must be coming, for that’s how it always is with the Mac OS. But when it comes to unreleased software, even if we accept the rumors are all or even partly correct, things can change before it ships.

    Some of you are also reporting crashes and other anomalous behavior. Again, I feel that the presence of third-party software might be all or partly responsible. As it is, software companies are still rolling out their Leopard-compatible updates and not everything is perfect yet, although my experience has been really good so far.

    Except for Microsoft Office 2008. It has gotten mostly rave reviews from the tech press, and I’ve been impressed with it up to a point. I’m concerned, though, that I don’t see complaints about Word’s excessively slow launch times. Yes, I know the new Office apparently runs less efficiently on a PowerPC-based Mac, for reasons that make little sense since Microsoft had so much time to work on it. But even on an Intel-based Mac, I am not happy to see the splash screen persist for up to 20 seconds before a document opens. That’s not good. Is it an Office thing, a Leopard thing? I don’t pretend to know, if Microsoft is even partly responsible, I would hope they are hard at work to address the most significant performance shortcomings and other oddities.

    Moving directly on to Leopard, in deliveirng over 300 new or upgraded features, a few things remain broken. The Finder’s case of position and size amnesia has yet to be solved, although it surely runs noticeably faster, particularly when multiple operations are active.

    I remain unsure about how well the Back to My Mac feature is going to function. Using .Mac, you are supposedly able to screen share your Mac remotely, but it’s not always so successful, particularly with third-party routers. At a client’s home office, where he has a Linksys router, I wasn’t even able to see my desktop Mac in the list of available shares with the original 10.5 release. Come 10.5.1, and that Mac’s icon would appear, but I still couldn’t connect. Will a 10.5.2 or subsequent release take care of this shortcoming, or are various routers, despite supporting the same protocols, just too different to allow them to be fully compatible with this feature?

    Some of the issues with Leopard are cosmetic. Why, for example, should the text in the Help menu be smaller than the other menus? As someone once said in a TV show, “Where’s the logic in that?” Besides, didn’t Apple revise Leopard’s interface to eliminate inconsistencies?

    When it comes to Time Machine, the lack of wireless backups has become controversial with the promise of Time Capsule, which is basically an AirPort Extreme with a built-in hard drive. Why should it work with that product and not with the ones you hook up to the regular AirPort base station? Is Apple so greedy that they’d deliberately disable an important Leopard feature?

    Not really. I am inclined to think Apple just didn’t have the feature ready in time for Leopard’s initial release. When Time Capsule arrives, there will be an update that resolve this problem, so you won’t need that new gadget for it to function.

    As to other Leopard, issues, I am not, so disturbed with semi-transparent menus and the 3D Dock. If the former bugs you, just try a different desktop wallpaper option and see if that delivers something more tolerable. But that and the Dock can be easily changed courtesy of one of those system modification utilities that are so prevalent, such as TinkerTool, so I don’t consider the issue to be terribly serious. Certainly it’s not a deal-breaker to have a little eye candy around to intrude on a dull existence.

    So am I saying Leopard isn’t successful because of these lingering issues? Not by a long shot. Go ahead and read what people think about Vista, and you’ll see what unsuccessful really means.



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