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The 10.5.3 Report: How Could Apple Make So Many Mistakes?

Widely anticipated, the 10.5.3 update made it unheralded arrival Wednesday morning with an advertised 68 fixes and enhancements to Leopard. However, that may be only part of the picture.

You see, some sites that have allegedly seen Apple’s developer documentation on 10.5.3 claim there were over 200 changes made, and that doesn’t make much sense either, since a single bug fix or enhanced feature can mean that many files have to be altered with lots of interrelated elements required to produce the desired result. So 10.5.3 no doubt contains tens of thousands of updated files when all is said and done.

Certainly, this is one huge mother of an update. If you’re a Leopard user, you’ll find a copy waiting for you in Software Update. The size will vary depending on the number of files that Apple deems appropriate for your Mac. The official Delta version, a strictly 10.5.2 to 10.5.3 update, weighs in at 420MB. If you never went for 10.5.2, or you want to take as few chances as possible, you might try the Combo updater, which contains all the alterations from the original 10.5 release, at 536MB.

I’ll just cover what I consider essential points here, at least to me. You can find the rest of the story in Apple’s official Knowledge Base document on the subject.

Certainly if you’re still hot and bothered over apparent AirPort problems with Leopard, the fix that, according to Apple, “Improves 802.1X behavior and reliability” will appeal to you, though it would be useful to know precisely what problems were addressed. Time Capsule is also reportedly more efficient with 10.5.3.

My personal bugaboo with Leopard has been Spaces. One of the most troubling problems involved applications with multiple palettes that seemed to lose track of which desktop they were in. In fact, that specific oddity and some others made me eventually turn off Spaces and revert to a utility that automatically hid all applications except the one you’re working in, sort of a single window or single app mode.

I’m pleased to say that I’ve turned Spaces on again, and, for the most part, it seems to work considerably better, though newly launched applications still occasionally spawn different windows in different spaces. But the problem is now mostly manageable and maybe 10.5.4, or perhaps a change to the affected applications themselves, will set things right.

Such key system apps as Address Book, iCal, iChat, Mail and TIme Machine have also been extensively cleaned up, and again it was a matter of making features work properly and get rid of an assortment of performance oddities, some subtle, some otherwise.

One example involves “issues with echo cancellation that may occur on portable Macs” in iChat, which would surely affect the quality of your audio conversations. However, when all is said and done, I still think Skype sounds better and I continue to wonder when or if Apple might allow you to send and receive calls from traditional landline and wireless phones, perhaps in partnership with a telecom carrier.

You’ll also find some choice tidbits in a category labeled “new,” such as a fix for “stuttering video and audio playback in certain USB devices,” which may impact add-on mixers and other gear. One that sounded particularly troublesome, although it never happened to me, is a fix for “an issue in which certain attached hard drives may not show up in the Finder.”

There are also repairs to Active Directory defects that may explain why there are still reports of trouble in cross-platform installations.

All in all, I am concerned with the sheer number of bugs Apple had to fix as much as I am pleased that they were, at last, addressed in one hopes is a satisfactory fashion. While my troubles with Leopard have been relatively minor in the scheme of things, I’m well aware that some of you have been engaging in long hair-pulling sessions as a result of your close encounters with 10.5.

Yes, I still feel certain Mac troubleshooting sites have been way overboard in taking minor problems or issues that may impact only a small subject of users, and presenting them as proof that Leopard is a buggy mess that should never have seen the light of day.

I’m also certain that, within a few days, you will see a number of reports claiming that the changes in 10.5.3 do not fix certain problems and may, in fact, create others.  It is clear to me that Apple will never please some people no matter how hard they try.

Certainly, an awful lot of engineering efforts led to 10.5.3, and my experiences have, so far at least, been quite good. But the same was true with 10.5.2 and 10.5.1 for that matter.

So what should you do about 10.5.3’s persistence in your Software Update app? I suggest you wait a few days for the dust to settle and then, barring any show-stoppers, go for it.

To get ready for the update, you should not have to engage in any mystical practices, such as repairing disk permissions. But you might want to quit your open apps before you run the update, and do a little online research to confirm that any system enhancements you’re using won’t stop functioning after 10.5.3 is installed.

Beyond that, you’re on your own, of course, but I don’t see any reason to be terribly concerned.