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  • The Leopard Report: Almost Six Months Later

    April 21st, 2008

    I recall writing several articles detailing my original expectations of Leopard, and my sincere hope that Apple, having extra time to finish it up, would grace us all with a more stable release.

    Depending on your point of view, they may or may not have succeeded. But it’s my feeling Apple delivered a product that wasn’t much better than Tiger in its early days, when it comes to being feature-complete and reliable. There have even been a surprising number of complaints, some of which are understandable, and some of which may just be due to having older third-party software that is sadly in need of an upgrade.

    Since I upgraded a client’s Mac Pro over the weekend, I had still another experience with getting Leopard up and running, and the encounter was no less successful than my previous efforts. But with a number of updates released since late October, I had to run the computer through two stages of software updates before it was ready to roll. That’s to be expected, since the Leopard DVD I had on hand was the original 10.5.0 version.

    From the ads I’ve seen, current upgrade kits are now at 10.5.1, and I have to appreciate the fact that my ISP isn’t charging me for downloads in the upper gigabytes, or I’d owe them a ton of money for excessive bandwidth consumption at this point. I think Apple is really missing the boat here not offering an operating system subscription service for consumers, where you can get the updates you need in your snail mailbox every month, or sooner in case of critical updates of one sort or another.

    While I realize most of you have broadband and don’t mind periodic 350MB downloads, perhaps more than 40% of the population in the U.S. doesn’t have broadband. In some cases, it’s available but not affordable or just deemed unnecessary. But far too many people in this country live in rural areas where wired broadband just isn’t available, and they may not be situated in a location that’s visible to one of the satellite alternatives.

    I’m not about to get into the politics of the lack of sufficient broadband penetration. In many countries around the world, the situation is far, far better. In light of this troubling fact, Apple cannot expect everyone who needs their upgrades to get them easily. Indeed, many of the people who need access the most do not live close to an Apple store or even a third-party Mac showroom where they could download the upgrades they require.

    But Apple doesn’t listen to me, and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

    On the other hand, surveys show that most of you are fully satisfied with Leopard and aren’t having the wacky problems reported over at MacFixIt and other troubleshooting sites. Wacky? Well, when you read lurid accounts of all sorts of crazy symptoms as a result of some sort of Apple update, you wonder what’s really going on.

    Of course, I’m not saying these stories are false. I’m sure, with thousands of possible system installations, just about anything can happen and usually does. Unfortunately, it seems that MacFixIt, since being purchased by CNET, takes one or two exceptional complaints and pretends it’s a trend. That sort of irresponsible behavior doesn’t honor the stellar reputation of the site’s founder, Ted Landau, nor does it serve the best interests of Mac users who just want to learn about potential problems and solve the ones they confront.

    If you’ve followed my previous commentaries on the subject, and reader comments, it’s clear that some of you have had troubles with Leopard that require further troubleshooting. It may even be true that the rumored 10.5.3 update may be required to fix the remaining problems, assuming it’s not just the usual problem with someone else’s software.

    My own experiences with Leopard have been fairly seamless, though. Except for a rare Mail or Safari crash (even with the 3.1.1 update), I have precious little to complain about. I have also kept my ear to the ground and talked extensively with friends and clients about their Leopard experiences, and the reactions are all equally positive. Then again, I routinely urge the people I know to be wary of adding too many third party toys to their systems, particularly if they use them for work rather than play.

    At this point, I know you might regard Tiger is perhaps the most stable version of Mac OS X, but don’t forget that 10.4 also had shaky beginnings too, requiring a fair number of updates before things settled down. The last update, 10.4.11, didn’t get a clean bill of health either for some of you. While it’s easy to want to recall past events as being more positive than they really are, I think the jury is really out when it comes to Leopard.

    Indeed, between now and the arrival of 10.6, which may not be for at least a year or two, I expect Apple will deliver a number of updates to set things straight with Leopard. At the end of the process, it’ll be fair to do comparisons.

    Meantime, maybe someone at Apple will listen to me about developing an upgrade subscription service for consumers who are bandwidth challenged.



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    20 Responses to “The Leopard Report: Almost Six Months Later”

    1. AC says:

      Glad to hear that Leopard is working for you. It didn’t for me:

      http://preview.tinyurl.com/3b9hod

      Everybody keeps writing that Tiger was just as unstable in its early releases but I can’t find any direct evidence of that. From my own experience upgrading to Tiger was absolutely painless — absolutely not the case with Leopard for me!

    2. Roger says:

      I agree with what you have said here. I have made numerous comments to web sites reminding folk of OSX 10.4’s shaky start. I didn’t find Tiger as worthwhile as Leopard at the same version upgrade. Tiger was at version 10.4.4 before I could rely on it in my every day work. And as you mentioned in regard to 10.4.11; It was a step back for some of us.

      Thank you Gene

    3. Drew says:

      “…you might regard Tiger is perhaps the most stable version of Mac OS X…”

      Nope, It is well established that 10.3.9 is the most stable OSX. (I manage nearly a thousand machines, this is the case.)

      From 10.0 to 10.3, OS X got better and better — each version was more stable and ran better on the same hardware. That was a golden age of software development.

      Since then, Apple has focused on more rather than better.

      Features are great, but not at the expense of reliability.

      If Apple had focused the last four years on one OS goal — make wireless connections reliable — I would’ve been happier.

      BTW, What Apple’s done with music, iPods etc in that time frame is great. I’m not complaining. Above, I said and meant: one Operating System goal, separate from iLife, iWork, iPhone, …

    4. Drew says:

      Can you delete a comment? I added this to above.

    5. David Moore says:

      Gene,

      Well, all I can say is it’s been a nightmare on this end. We had to replace my brother’s laptop and wound up with one that has repeatedly dropped its wireless connection.

      For me, since I “upgraded” as well so that I might be able to troubleshoot the problems my brother’s had, I’ve lived with three weeks of problems including, but not limited to a complete denial of access to my hard drives. Fortunately I’m a “backup” addict, but I think having to literally wipe everything, and having to reinstall Creative Suite (3), FileMaker (9 Advanced), Office, FinalCut, and everything else is not the best example of “it just works.”

      This has been as fraught with peril as 8.1.

      That’s my experience.
      DM

    6. Jeff says:

      I wish I could say that Leopard has been painless for me, too.

      I’ve got a last-generation G4 Powerbook with no system add-ons, no hardware changes, and mostly up-to-date software. It’s been an endless stream on again and off again problems with disappearing audio output, issues with my iPhone not being recognized, and external drives suddenly becoming read-only. Sometimes a restart solves these problems, and sometimes not. An archive and install last weekend didn’t seem to help.

    7. Rob C says:

      I stumbled upon this article and have but one comment. As a Mac guy from 1983, I am asked all the time to help friends upgrade their systems and the like. If you cannot get an intel mac running Leopard successfully, maybe you need to find another line of work. I don’t think I would take on a client who did not have a broadband connection.
      RC

    8. John says:

      Leopard has been mostly painless for me. Compared to Tiger Leopard does seem to have a few more rough edges. Perhaps three times now I’ve had to restart to fix a problem. I’m also disappointed in the changes made to iCal. The new design with the little though bubbles that pop up are a step backward. It now takes more clicks to do the same tasks as before. Also, what is with the little “done” link in the pop up? Haven’t these programmers heard of the close widget that is used on every other window in OS X? iCal also is worse for supporting time zone changes than it was before. Overall I’m happy with Leopard but not as thrilled as I could be.

    9. Robert MacLeay says:

      As one of those with an “exceptional complaint,” I sincerely wish that Apple would spend some of its $18 billion in hoarded earnings on a few more programmers.

      In my own opinion, while Tiger got off to a rocky start, its early problems were based on incompatibilities with older software rather than basic flaws. It got better through about 10.4.8, after which it got so bad that I never got 10.4.10 to install properly — components were simply *missing* after upgrading.

      I am using Leopard, and enjoy it when it behaves; on balance it is an improvement. But when my disk fills up with 50 GB of gratuitous files that are not there, requiring restoration from a backup… (Yes, I know about invisible files, and I know how to make them visible, and I know about cache-cleaning utilities such as Cocktail; nothing worked.) I am mightily annoyed.

    10. Ploni Almoni says:

      I am using Leopard, and enjoy it when it behaves; on balance it is an improvement. But when my disk fills up with 50 GB of gratuitous files that are not there, requiring restoration from a backup… (Yes, I know about invisible files, and I know how to make them visible, and I know about cache-cleaning utilities such as Cocktail; nothing worked.) I am mightily annoyed.

      This has me in a bit of a panic, I’m getting a Mac Mini with a mere 80GB hard drive. Does this mean it’ll fill up all of a sudden unpredictably from a buggy OS, or do I have nothing to worry about?

    11. I am using Leopard, and enjoy it when it behaves; on balance it is an improvement. But when my disk fills up with 50 GB of gratuitous files that are not there, requiring restoration from a backup… (Yes, I know about invisible files, and I know how to make them visible, and I know about cache-cleaning utilities such as Cocktail; nothing worked.) I am mightily annoyed.

      This has me in a bit of a panic, I’m getting a Mac Mini with a mere 80GB hard drive. Does this mean it’ll fill up all of a sudden unpredictably from a buggy OS, or do I have nothing to worry about?

      That is not a conventional experience with Leopard. In fact, it’s the first I’ve heard about such a thing, and nobody I know has encountered anything similar. However, a well-hacked system might present all sorts of strange symptoms.

      Peace,
      Gene

    12. Robert MacLeay says:

      That is not a conventional experience with Leopard. In fact, it’s the first I’ve heard about such a thing, and nobody I know has encountered anything similar.

      …and I did NOT report it to MacFixIt.

      I would not dissuade you on account of anyone’s single bad experience, but frankly, even with zero problems, 80 GB is still on the small side. Consider budgeting $100 for an external HD six months from now; that would quadruple your storage space.

    13. That is not a conventional experience with Leopard. In fact, it’s the first I’ve heard about such a thing, and nobody I know has encountered anything similar.

      …and I did NOT report it to MacFixIt.

      I would not dissuade you on account of anyone’s single bad experience, but frankly, even with zero problems, 80 GB is still on the small side. Consider budgeting $100 for an external HD six months from now; that would quadruple your storage space.

      I agree that 80GB isn’t a large amount of storage space in this day and age. That’s one reason why my son got a MacBook rather than a MacBook Air, by the way.

      Peace,
      Gene

    14. Ploni Almoni says:

      That is not a conventional experience with Leopard. In fact, it’s the first I’ve heard about such a thing, and nobody I know has encountered anything similar.

      …and I did NOT report it to MacFixIt.

      I would not dissuade you on account of anyone’s single bad experience, but frankly, even with zero problems, 80 GB is still on the small side. Consider budgeting $100 for an external HD six months from now; that would quadruple your storage space.

      I’ve got a small internal hard-drive from a friend I’m putting in an enclosure. I think it’s 120 or 160 gigs. Will that be big enough? I don’t do much video, and my music collection, though growing, is still small enough on my Windows XP computer with a 80 gig HD. Does Leopard need more space than Windows? Sorry for all the questions, since I’m a total Mac newbie; not even having one yet. (Though I’m getting one arriving this week from the online Apple store! I got it from them because, on the advice of someone else, I had it CTO with 2 gigs RAM. For some reason I didn’t think of having a larger internal HD; I figured the external enclosure for one would compensate more than the high price of Apple hard drives.)

    15. Leopard only requires a few gigabytes for itself, and it’s not much more bloated than Tiger, so that shouldn’t be an issue. I have lots and lots of files, so the 160GB drive on my now-departed MacBook Pro was a little tight (some 122GB was occupied). But for normal work, 160GB is more than sufficient.

      Peace,
      Gene

    16. Gene,

      Well, all I can say is it’s been a nightmare on this end. We had to replace my brother’s laptop and wound up with one that has repeatedly dropped its wireless connection.

      For me, since I “upgraded” as well so that I might be able to troubleshoot the problems my brother’s had, I’ve lived with three weeks of problems including, but not limited to a complete denial of access to my hard drives. Fortunately I’m a “backup” addict, but I think having to literally wipe everything, and having to reinstall Creative Suite (3), FileMaker (9 Advanced), Office, FinalCut, and everything else is not the best example of “it just works.”

      This has been as fraught with peril as 8.1.

      That’s my experience.
      DM

      As much as I feel for you, I’m not convinced that much of this is a Leopard problem specifically except for the dropped Wi-Fi connections, which are known issues that have gotten better with the two 10.5 updates.

      It sounds like there may have already been issues, such as drive corruption, ahead of that upgrade. But if things are now OK, I hope you can get on with your life now.

      Peace,
      Gene

    17. Roger says:

      Regarding the wireless problems not being fixed by Apple; They are infamous for taking for ever to fix some Very Big problems. With the graphics and publishing industries suppose to be the heart of Apples user base, Apple did not provide Twain support until the end of Panther or in Tiger. This created years of scanner problems. Whole Mac graphic shops could not go to OSX before this and a few other problems were remedied. Quark was a different issue.

      I think this is caused by Apple’s focus on the future. Apple is busy building things into OSX for products and markets that are coming up; At the risk of letting other things go to hell. Someone said they should hire more programers. They did, but put them to work on supporting new hardware (iPhone) they want to make.

      • I just wanted to add that Twain support likely required third-party development. It wasn’t all Apple.

        Peace,
        Gene

        • Roger says:

          Hi Gene,

          While the twain thing lingered I thought it was the scanner companies that were failing to deliver for OSX. But, at a publishing and graphics hardware event in St. Louis 2002 or 2003, Epson and Microtek said they were not able to finish writing their twain software until Apple finished twain support in OSX.

          I found this somewhat credible as no companies had OSX Twain support and at the same event Epson confessed that it was their decision to not write OSX drivers for the Pro 3000 large format printer that they were still selling. After they owned up to the printer software I doubt they were lying about the Twain support. I am sure Apple had some reason for the lack of Twain for so long but I doubt it was a good reason. My guess is that Apple figured we could use OS9 until they found time for Twain.

          The problem of Apple not telling users their plans for Twain was, that many like myself and companies I work with put off scanner purchases or Mac purchases for years expecting Twain support any day.

          On a similar issue (secrecy); I have put off a Mac purchase hoping for a less costly Mac tower (expandability over speed). I will probably buy a used tower before buying an iMac, which I find almost worthless for my use.

          You are correct about the wireless issue; Unlike the Twain issue Apple has been addressing it.

    18. Well wireless issues have been part of the fixes so far. And there are rumors that the next Leopard updater will have more. So it’s not as if they’re ignoring the issue.

      Peace,
      Gene

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