The Leopard Coming-of-Age Party

February 12th, 2008

While Mac OS X Leopard shipped in late October of 2007, it’s rare that the first release or two of a computer operating system will be free of serious bugs. Indeed, with nearly five million users as of the end of 2007, even a small percentage of troublesome installations or irritating bugs can represent one huge problem.

Apple addressed some serious stuff early on with the 10.5.1 upgrade that repaired a Finder-related bug that could result in a lost or damage file if something, such as a crash or power outage, interrupted its transport to another drive or network share. Now, it doesn’t matter if that bug existed in earlier versions of Mac OS X. It was tagged as a Leopard show-stopper, and that’s how it goes.

Among persistent issues were flaky Wi-Fi connections, erratic printing performance with some applications and printers and a bunch of other irritants that could result in serious hair-pulling episodes. That assumes, of course, that you have enough hair left to pull.

In any case, rumors arose of a 10.5.2 update for many weeks before it appeared. However, assuming such a thing would arrive was a no-brainer. After all, Apple is constantly engaged in updating its products to fix bugs and add new features. They come fast and furious, which is rather unlike the Windows platform, where the desperately-needed Service Pack 1 update for Vista won’t arrive until next month, 14 months after the OS’s original release.

This time, Apple also demonstrated that they do listen to customers. I know some of you think that Apple simply dictates and expects you to accept whatever product configuration they deliver. As much as they strongly believe in their products, you can change things if enough of you present an opposing point of view.

With Leopard, while it didn’t bother me much, I know a fair number of you loyal readers just didn’t take to the translucent menu bar and sought third-party hacks for solace. Apple took care of that and the overly translucent menus with 10.5.2. You can switch off translucency in the Desktop & Screen Saver preference panel, and the menus are now appropriately opaque.

When Steve Jobs proudly showed off the Stacks feature of the Leopard Dock, it wasn’t a rousing success either. Some of you prefer just being able to click on a folder in the Dock and produce a hierarchical menu of its contents. With 10.5.2, you have a choice.

Now it’s fair to say there other other Leopard features that may not be ready for prime time. With Apple’s Time Capsule still not shipping, what about the ability to use Time Machine with a wireless connection? That was a feature originally promised for Leopard, but withdrawn before release.

Unfortunately, 10.5.2’s release notes mention nothing about it. But I don’t believe that Apple will confine this feature to their own backup product. Instead, I think whatever software or firmware update allows you to use Time Capsule with Time Machine via Wi-Fi will be made available for those of you who have the most recent versions of AirPort Extreme. There may even be a software update that spreads the feature to other Wi-Fi products, but that may present a far more difficult obstacle.

Of course, the most important part of this update is the huge list of bug fixes. If something is broken, you have to hope that 10.5.2 repaired most of the issues, and that, if any are left, they fall within the purview of a third-party company.

In the few hours since 10.5.2 came out, I have given it a thorough workout on my desktop PowerPC Mac and my Intel-based note-book. In both cases, I have nothing to complain about. Everything runs butter smooth for me, but even the original release of Leopard was a great performer, except for some printing issues that have since been resolved.

Alas, with updates of this nature, I am willing to bet that the Mac troubleshooting sites will be rife with problem reports. Why that should be is anyone’s guess. It may be that certain configurations, that Apple didn’t test, because they can’t test everything, exhibit unexpected defects. It may be the result of the interaction with someone else’s software or peripheral, or the result of a bad installation or hardware defect. Or, to be fair to everyone, there may be things left unfixed in 10.5.2.

What you can bet on, too, is that there will eventually be a 10.5.3 with even more fixes. But, as of today, I think most of Leopard’s worst ills are pretty well resolved.

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7 Responses to “The Leopard Coming-of-Age Party”

  1. Dana Sutton says:

    As I’ve already noted, I also have a problem with Time Machine still not working with networked SMB devices. And I do wish TM were more ready for prime time by creating a bootable backup, having compression and more user options. I certainly hope it grows more sophisticated over time, in a lot of ways it can’t yt really compete against good commercial backup software, except, of course, for the fact it comes free with the OS.

    That to the side, I agree with you, Gene. In fact I think that 10.5.2 is so vastly superior that I wonder if Apple might have done better to have held off releasing Leopard until now and put out this version as its 10.5.0. Would a 2-month delay have hurt Apple and its customer base, if it had meant getting so many more things right? Looking back, I can’t help wondering if Apple wrongly caved to pressure from the public, the press, and Wall St. analysts by releasing Leopard prematurely.

  2. mcloki says:

    The only major problem I had was with Linotype Font Explorer X hanging all of my adobe apps. A fix is available and it seems to work. Everyone who relies on their mac for production should be OK. Other than that, the new update seems to be working quite well on my G4 and macbook pro. My macbook seems zippier. Especially Safari. It just launches. And I think the screen rendering is crisper. I can’t’ say how but it just seems crisper, or brighter. Web pages seem a bit more responsive. But nothing that couldn’t be placebo effect.

  3. Jon T says:

    Speak for yourself Dana!

    I have had huge enjoyment from Leopard since the day it was launched, as have 90% of the other people using it too. It has worked perfectly for me, so NO, Apple should not have delayed the launch until 10.5.2.

    Apple and Leopard makes a stark contrast with Microsoft and Vista.

  4. Adam says:

    I have had huge enjoyment from Leopard since the day it was launched, as have 90% of the other people using it too. It has worked perfectly for me, so NO, Apple should not have delayed the launch until 10.5.2.

    Apple and Leopard makes a stark contrast with Microsoft and Vista.

    I agree, but as Gene has said that does not minimize the problems users have had. Still, if you need everything in a new OS to work, and what you have is doing the job, don’t be an early adopter. Right, wrong, or indifferent, any dot-zero release will have problems and that means some people will have to revert. What makes Leopard better than Vista, then? By all reports the number of people regretting their upgrade is vastly different. I think Apple did a good job, if not a perfect one.


  5. MichaelT says:

    Adam, you are right. At work, I am using 10.4.11 because everything works. Our computer people are checking out Leopard, but won’t okay it for deployment until all security issues have been resolved.

    On the other hand, I upgraded to 10.5.2 this morning on my iMac at home. No worries. We have a MacBook to fall back on (running 10.5.1) if there is a catastrophic failure, but I doubt whether that will happen. In a week or so, I’ll update that one.

    Dot-zeros are shakedowns. Anyone who loads them is taking a risk, and that hasn’t changed since the early days. Most of us won’t have problems, but a few will be helping the updates be more reliable for the masses.

    One more thing, for Dana: I don’t think TM was meant to compete with commercial-grade backup software. It is consumer-level software aimed at those who never performed backups before. Some of the features may be added in the future, but for now it’s kind of the GarageBand vs. Logic Pro solution to a problem. You know if you need the one you have to purchase. As you said, the best thing about TM is that it comes with the OS.

  6. Robert Pritchett says:


    Nicely written!

    I had a few gotchas on the initial install solved by cutting power to the machine, rebooting and letting the OS clear its throat a couple of times. I can now “Print to PDF” in Adobe Acrobat Pro but that was probably due to the update from Adobe about the same time as the 10.5.2 release.

    Now what does Rush Limbaugh have problems with on his new systems? He asked for help but didn’t give particulars about what his issues with the upgrade were.

  7. Robert Pritchett says:

    BTW, I’ve seen a slew of new updates from 3rd-part apps right after 10.5 2 was released. And they work!

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