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  • The Leopard Report: Still Working Great — But!

    March 11th, 2008

    After reading a story from a certain Mac commentator who has encountered an endless odyssey migrating to Mac OS X, I stopped and wondered. If Charles Moore reports a far more pleasant experience, I should think most everyone out there will or should have good things to say about Leopard.

    However, that’s not the case. A few complainers are apparently hanging out over at MacFixIt, reporting absolutely bizarre troubles with everything Apple builds. Alas, this venerable Mac troubleshooting site, originally founded by the estimable Ted Landau years ago, is rapidly ditching responsibility, and spending more time regurgitating content rather than investigating these reports.

    You see, with thousands and thousands of possible Mac configurations out there, someone, somewhere, is going to have a problem with just about anything. Some of that may indeed be blamed on Apple. There will always be Knowledge Base documents addressing known issues and workarounds — and often the promise of a future update that will fix a particular problem.

    Other issues can be blamed on the third party providers who can also deliver products that have serious bugs. Moreover, whenever a major new operating system upgrade appears, there will be those inevitable incompatibilities. You see, programmers don’t always go by the book. Sometimes they have to perform a few feats of legerdemain in order to make a feature work they way they want. What they do may not be part of the official Apple lexicon of proper development practices, so it becomes a moving target. When Apple changes or removes a certain “hidden” capability, problems will arise.

    Another issue is the fact that Apple is notorious for making last-minute changes to the system. In recent releases, developers didn’t get the final or Gold Master build of Mac OS X until after or at the same time it went on sale. Even though it usually takes week or two until discs are duplicated and retail boxes distributed, maybe Apple felt there was too much of a risk that the final version would be pirated. Of course, that happens anyway, so it shouldn’t be a factor.

    As a result, developers may not be able to finish their compatibility testing until well after you have a copy of the upgrade in your hands. I don’t think that’s the best approach, though I appreciate the possible reason’s for Apple’s apparent paranoia.

    You combine these two factors, and there’s plenty of room for things to go wrong with a new product release. Over time, you expect that most of the serious defects will be hammered out, and what’s left (and there’s always something left) will impact only a small number of people.

    At the same time, there is the “x” factor, which is how you and I configure our Macs. Every change you make to the system with one of those modification utilities can come back to haunt you, even if you removed it in the approved fashion. Something within the system, one of those hundreds of thousands of files spread across your computer’s hard drive, won’t be restored, and all hell breaks loose with the next Apple upgrade.

    The last factor may be why some people with what appears to be a certain configuration will encounter endless problems, while others will experience no troubles whatever.

    This raises the obligation on the part of a troubleshooting site to actually do a little research, and make sure that the singular issue is repeated often enough to show a trend, and not just some anomaly that may be traced to some other highly individual cause.

    Here’s where I get more and more concerned about how these matters are treated. For example, MacFixIt ran an article recently complaining of alleged serious performance shortcomings with the NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT graphics card that is available as a $200 option for the latest version of the Mac Pro.

    The specs state that the NVIDIA card has 512MB of video memory, compared to 256MB on the standard ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT card, with far more capability of handling greater chunks of data faster. In the end, it should perform a whole lot better, and benchmarks show that it does — well, mostly. But MacFixIt exaggerated the few exceptions in such a fashion as to convey the impression that there was something really wrong with the NVDIA card. Shouldn’t the improvements be across-the-board?

    Well, it’s not that simple. In some cases, it may be that the card’s drivers simply need to be optimized further. This makes perfect sense, since the product has only been shipping for a very few weeks. But to claim there are serious shortcomings is not responsible journalism in my book.

    No, Leopard isn’t perfect, but for me, it’s working just great, thank you. I would only hope that sites that report problems with try to show a little more journalistic integrity and check their facts first.



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    15 Responses to “The Leopard Report: Still Working Great — But!”

    1. Andrew says:

      I’ve also had mostly good luck with Leopard. Hardware all works perfectly and my Macs are all very stable, but for some reason or another I just can’t for the life of me get SMB sharing to work consistently.

      Overall, this is probably the most solid major OS release I’ve ever used on PC or Mac platform.

    2. David says:

      No problems on my end, either.

      Well… some odd graphical behavior when using a lot of applications over a long period of time, but nothing major, nothing a restart doesn’t correct.

      I always when going from one operating system to another (10.3 to 10.4 to 10.5) perform an erase and install. I do the same when updating friend’s computers. Everything has always gone very smooth.

      There is no reason to not upgrade to Leopard, in my opinion. It’s Apple’s best OS to date.

    3. Dana Sutton says:

      One lesson I learned from the Leopard upgrade experience is not to use haxies (and I’m using this word broadly, not just speaking about Unsanity products, like “kleenex”, “haxie” has become a generic term for a whole category of utilities) and similar intrusive system mods. Even though their authors may be highly competent and responsible programmers, the risk factor is too high, both in terms of what they might do to my present OS and in terms of whatever changes Apple may throw at us in the future. Since it took Unsanity the better part of four months to release even betas of Leopard-friendly haxies, I have had plenty of time to look around and discover that there are much safer alternatives to what I consider the two most important, because they are the productivity-enhancing ones (Fruit Menu and Menu Master), which run as actual programs rather than system mods., and so will be much less likely to cause problems in future upgrades. If Gene doesn’t mind me mentioning specific products, I’d suggest people might want to take a look at XMenu and Keyboard Maestro as problem-free alternatives. (Please free to delete this sentence, Gene). By the way, I’ve had no trouble at all with SMB sharing.

    4. Hobbs says:

      The process of updating my G4 PowerBook to 10.5.2 stalled (over 6 h!) at ‘writing receipts’. My Leopard install was quite recent so I don’t believe it had developed too much crud-also I don’t use haxies . This has never happened with point updates previously. My only option was to reboot with the installation CD and then do an ‘Archive and Install’ followed by the update. I was lucky I did not lose any data.

      My first installation of Os X 10.0, may moons ago, on a Lombard Powerbook took over 10 h and was flaky after installation. It crashed frequently that was later attributed to a hardware incompatibility. On my G4 PowerBook, I upgraded from Panther to Tiger, but used a ‘Clean Installation’ option after backing up to an external drive- so no problems.

      My impression is that Os X has so many files that it requires careful syncing and replacement of files during an upgrade or update process- this can easily go awry. My current recommendation is an ‘Archive and Install’ if sufficient space is present on the HD.

      Cheers

    5. Chris Kilner says:

      I’m running Leopard on a completely unsupported Mac – a 450MHz Cube with a flashed Geforce 6200. While I am amazed at how well it works on this 8-year-old antique, overall stability seems to have decreased a little for me due to increased sensitivity to RAM (RAM that worked fine in prior versions of Mac OS and OS X needed to be replaced) and peripherals (devices like USB hubs, flash drives, and firewire hard drives that work fine on one mac or user account cause kernal panics on other macs or user accounts – go figure?) – the instability came before I added the flashed video card and has decreased with the Core Image capable video…pehaps due to less stress on the CPU and lower overall heat?

      I agree that some sites like MacFixit (and MacIntouch) seem to report anything that comes in verbatim, whereas other sites like xlr8yourmac try to investigate and troubleshoot a bit more and sites like barefeats do more balanced benchmarking, but overall, I’ve found all of the sites to be helpful and take most of what is said with a grain of salt since they mostly rely on user reports. Fortunately, many MacFixit pages allow comments, where observations such as yours can reach the masses…

    6. Adam says:

      I will say this about macfixit.com. I look at it daily to see the headlines so I have some idea of what issues my friends might ask me about. I don’t normally read the article at this stage, though. Where I found it very useful as a Mac Genius was researching a rare problem that came to the Genius Bar. Most of the time I would at least find out where to start tracing the problem, and sometimes I would actually get the solutions.
      As much as I like the Apple Knowledge Base, it doesn’t cover a lot of the “off spec” situations and the discussion boards at Apple can be too large for efficient searching. As a Genius I subscribed to Macfixit Pro and used it often. Outside of professional support, though, I let my subscription lapse and will likely leave it thus.

      As with any source of information, use your critical thinking skills -something we don’t see a lot of here near Washington D.C. 😉 . Evaluate what you read, see if it makes sense for your situation or not. Macfixit and sites like it are great repositories of every weird issue you might run into, but IMHO they are not journalistic at all.

      Cheers!

    7. James says:

      I have had Leopard running on my home machine (an intel iMac) pretty much from the start. It has improved hugely, but (perhaps unsurprisingly) in no way is it yet as rock solid as Tiger. I am very happy with it, and Time Machine provides more than ample compensation for the occasional lock up. I will not however consider introducing it to our office work machines for quite a while, until everything beds down quite a bit more. This does not diminish my enthusiasm for Leopard. It is a huge step forward from Tiger, but in a pair of new boots that are not quite worn in and comfortable yet

    8. gopher says:

      As the author of http://www.macmaps.com/upgradefaq.html

      I have to echo some things my FAQ say:

      Backup your data before installing anything!
      If you properly backup your data, any shortcomings of the operating system can simply be overcome by retrieving your last backup.

      Check that all software and hardware you depend on has been tested with the operating system you are moving to. If it says compatible with 10.x and up it does not mean it is 10.5.2 compatible. If it says 10.5.x and up, it still doesn’t mean it is 10.5.2 compatible.

      802.11n is a draft standard. That means if your third party router has not gotten an update on its firmware ot be 802.11n compatible, it does not necessarily have compatibility in 802.11n with Apple’s own 802.11n cards. Numerous people complain about WiFi. Seriously though, if you do a bit of research you’ll learn that the biggest problem is third party vendors not following the latest draft specification.

      Do not use cache optimization utilities. Do not update prebinding, without a backup in hand. Do not fix the directory without a backup in hand. All of these may make your system malfunction more than before if something else is wrong that you have no concept of what it is. Backing up your data will at least leave you with a usable copy of your data you can retrieve if any troubleshooting you are attempting doesn’t work and causes more serious failure.

    9. What's the frequency, Kenneth? says:

      The dreaded “works for me” quip…why am I not surprised?

    10. The Tuesday Night Tech Show says:

      The biggest problem most people will have with this update is *not* doing the archive and install option. When you mix 2 huge operating systems together, you are BOUND to have problems–there are parts of the old mixed with parts of the new, plus, all the other crap that the system accumulates over the years–Archive and Install simply moves the ENTIRE old system to the side, builds a clean new version and you get your data moved back over so as not to lose anything. Think of it as you wanting to buy a new house, but the builders build the brand new house on a very old foundation that was there from many years before; the house seems great at first, until you notice water in the basement from the cracks in the walls down there. Even better, think about starting over once in awhile–just backup your data, wipe the entire drive clean and begin again–just move the absolute essentials like photos, documents and movies back. Reinstall your apps from CD, not drag-copying them. Let the machine rebuild all new preferences, fonts, etc. If you have problems after doing that, then it’s not a problem with the OS, it’s a problem in something that you are installing or moving back over. I’ve been running Leopard flawlessly since day one on multiple machines by simply following the archive & install route. I don’t bother with “haxies,” or any of that nonsense–it just isn’t good for your system. Make sure you run native software on Intel machines. Don’t load 50,000 fonts. Run software update. It’s really not rocket science–it’s the packrats that seem to have these mysterious OS problems–they keep and install EVERYTHING they can get their hands on. Do you *really* need the googly-eyes extension in the menubar? And lastly, backup your damn data already–if you don’t backup and you lose the system, it hurts even more. It’s NOT hard to backup and it’s VERY cheap to do so today. Don’t be a dummy!

    11. Walt French says:

      If Charles Moore reports a far more pleasant experience…
      Not to cast aspersions … but it was that very same Mr. Moore who fumed that an OSX upgrade was to blame for a nifty utility failing — one that hooked into system input in perhaps many of the ways you say are great way to provoke problems.

      I don’t think that it’s Apple’s place to trash-talk people who build “non-sanctioned” dependencies into their programs — and if the software devs thought it a bad practice, they wouldn’t do so much of it, either. Rather, I’d say that it’s the place of journalists, including Mac Fixit, NightOwl and Opinion, to report to consumers about vulnerabilities in apps as well as the system.

      You have a good point that Fixit is acting overwhelmed by all the ecosystem’s variety, but you might also encourage your fellow websites to consider the disservice they do with unsubstantiated allegations.

    12. Some of the stories are getting wilder, to the point where maybe they should open a paranormal page over there. It’s too bad.

      Peace,
      Gene

    13. Yes, always problematic. But then again, what if it’s true?

      Peace,
      Gene

    14. RB says:

      A paranormal page, huh?

      Maybe Apple should try actually testing things before releasing them…for a change. One of the “great improvements” in dot two is the ability to undo some of the “features” of Leopard, which was acclaimed as Apple being responsive to user input. Yea, right! (Not a good sign.)

    15. A paranormal page, huh?

      Maybe Apple should try actually testing things before releasing them…for a change. One of the “great improvements” in dot two is the ability to undo some of the “features” of Leopard, which was acclaimed as Apple being responsive to user input. Yea, right! (Not a good sign.)

      They do test things, but with so many things going on these days at Apple, it’s easy to miss a few potential pitfalls.

      Peace,
      Gene

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