Leopard Review


Now I know everyone who has a lick of common sense understands you never load up a new operating system until all the kinks are worked out.  Right?
Well, I must admit I just could not help myself.  I found myself in line Friday night and going home with my shiny new Leopard disc.  I ran one last SuperDuper clone and in went the Leopard DVD.  I did a simple “upgrade” type of install and about an hour later my MacBook Pro had all sorts of shiny new baubles to play with.
I know that a lot of the improvements to Leopard are under-the-hood with Core Animation and a host of other new goodies for code jockies.  I thought for today however, I would just discuss some of the new user features and my initial experiences with them.
The upgrade to Apple Mail is fantastic.  Now we can easily read email and pull out notes, to-dos, and other information all in one application.  If you are using IMAP, these items also pop onto your iPhone or web mail client.  As an aside this is not the native iPhone task list manager we are waiting for but it is a start.  Leopard Mail’s ability to pull data out of an email for your address book and calendar is really impressive.  I reconnected this week with an old friend in Seattle.  He sent me his various new addresses and numbers and with one click I had it all in my address book.  No more endless copy and paste.  I know some people hate html email but I like it when not overdone.  I don’t see myself sending all email out on the new mail stationary but I definitely will be using it.  I’ve already found excuses to do so.
One of the features that I’ve quickly become reliant upon is Spaces.  Because I work exclusively on a laptop it isn’t convenient or practical for me to hook up to an addition external monitor very often.  Spaces allows you to create up to 16 virtual desktops that you can navigate using the control and arrow keys.  I have four virtual screens on my machine in a grid of two by two.  One screen keeps my iCal and OmniFocus windows.  Another window holds my mail and iChat window and a third window keeps my other internet applications and browsers.  The last screen is used for whatever else I need.  I’ve configured it so I always know which virtual space my key applications will open in.  It is much more efficient for me to bounce around virtual screens than drill through multiple windows and minimize buttons to get to what I need.  Spaces has surprised me in just how helpful it is.
Time Machine’s best feature is its simplicity.  You plug in a drive.  Leopard says, “do you want to back up?” and you click “yes”.  If you don’t have the discipline or desire to have a detailed backup system, get yourself an external drive and have at it.  I’ve actually got enough space on one of my external drives to make a SuperDuper clone and have a Time Machine partition.  Because I am constantly overwriting my SuperDuper backup, I never have data on it much older than a few days.  With Time Machine, if I realize I goofed something up last month, I can recover it.  I really view Time Machine as complimentary to SuperDuper and not necessarily a replacement.  That being said, for my wife, who is not nearly as anal about backing up as I am, Time Machine is a godsend.  It would be nice for us laptop folks if we could have our Time Machine backups on the AirPort drives.  I understand that was in the beta at one point and hopefully it will find its way back in.
There is a bit of controversy about Leopard’s translucent menu bar and drops downs.  I actually like them.  They really don’t bother me at all and they  aren’t so translucent as to get in the way.   I put a few screen grabs up at MacSparky.  Likewise I don’t find the reflective dock all that troublesome either.  I think this is a personal preference thing and you really need to decide that for yourself.  Regardless, I think I understand Apple’s desire to make things look different.
The changes in Finder are also a welcome improvement.  I was with a PC friend recently and we were flipping though finder in the cover flow view and pulling photos up with Quick Look.  I think he is about ready to switch on that feature alone.  Quick Look is one of those features that, once you try, it would be really hard going without.  I would like to see its use expanded throughout the OS like the open/save dialogue and any other place you are presented with an icon.
I know Automator also received some beefy upgrades.  While I’ve blogged a few Automator scripts, the addition of the recording feature has raised it to a new level.  I think it is about time for me to dive neck deep into Automator.
Networking and sharing also got a lot easier.  I can now plug into my office windows network for the first time.  I never could manage the connection with my Tiger rig and my office’s IT guys were clueless on all things Apple.  It also finds and discards network connections with much more grace than Tiger did.  No longer do I get that long beach ball in the morning when booting up from the office after forgetting to manually disconnect Tiger from my AirPort drive at home.
My kids are really enjoying the new Photo Booth and iChat backgrounds.  They’ve already made home movies of themselves in front of the Eiffel Tower and walking on the moon.  They have also figured out how to pull backgrounds from their favorite telephone shows and movies and “walk through”.  The effectiveness of these backgrounds depends a lot on how noisy the actual background is.  On this your mileage may vary.
My transition into Leopard has been very easy.  When I first booted up Leopard, I had an issue where the Search window kept randomly appearing and I was getting worried Tim would be able to give me the old “I told you so” speach until I realized I was sitting on my mouse.  Doh!  It is now installed on all the Macs in my house and we have not had any issues.  The only two applications that I am missing from Tiger are Mail Act-On and SuperDuper but both developers are saying their Leopard releases are imminent.  With the user improvements and the very substantial system and programming improvements I don’t think it will be long before most people that would read this review are using Leopard.  It retails for $129 or you can get a family pack of five for $199.

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Leopard Roars


I’m posting from Leopard for the first time. The install went smoothly with no glitches. Here is the recap.

Apple Store Madness

I promised my family dinner (and my 11 year old is a budding mac geek) so we decided to make a family event of it. We got there about 15 minutes before six and there were a lot of people there. Like all Apple events, it was well organized and fun. They gave away bottles of water and the line was full of geek love. Likewise , when they opened the doors everything was well organized to give us T-Shirts and liberate me of my $199 with maximum efficiency. The store was fully staffed and lots of folks were helping customers with the new features of Leopard. We didn’t participate in any of the sessions since I had been at work since 7am and was hungry.

The Install Process

I was ready to go when I got home. I did one last Tiger SuperDuper backup. I then put in the Leopard disk and clicked upgrade. I didn’t archive or restore or erase and start over. I had enough of that in my PC days so I decided to just go for it.
Once the system got started with the upgrade it initially estimated the upgrade would take 3 hours. Within 10 minutes it shrunk the estimated time to 35 minutes. I went off to play with my kids. I didn’t time it but I believe it was about 45 minutes from Tiger to Leopard. I also upgraded my daughters 17″ iMac (circa February 07) with no problems.

Initial Thoughts and Use

My Mac restarted once the install was done and that was it. I am in Leopard. I’ve been using it a few hours and had no problems. I did disable of a few of add-on system preferences like Little Snitch and Spanning Sync. Those applications may work in Leopard. I just didn’t want them getting in the way while I get used to the new system. It is really not all that different from Tiger. It is definitely evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary and if you are a Tiger user you will have no problem adjusting. I’ll post a more thorough review sometime this week but so far, so good. A lot of the initial reviews were critical of the transluscent menus. I haven’t really had much a problem with them.

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I haven’t loaded all of my software yet but all of my key applications (Omni Applications, iWork, Aperture, Soundtrack, MS Office) are working fine. I did have one crash when loading my Windows partition in Parallels. I’m going to have to look into that further today. (****addendum – I went back and Parallels loaded fine. I have no idea why it crashed last night*****) I also set my Time Machine to work last night when going to bed. I have already gone back to retrieve a few deleted files and it is very easy to use. This will be the first backup system that my wife and daughter actually use without my direct involvement.
I’ll post more later as I get a little more familiar with it but I can report initially the upgrade was easy and my Mac has not spontaneously burst into flames.

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Leopard Launches


I’m reading lots of positive reviews of Leopard. I don’t know if it will create many switchers but it is definitely getting better reviews than Vista did. Regardless, I’ll be in line tonight at the Irvine Spectrum Apple store. If anybody else is going to be there drop me an email and we can meet up. I am still planning on just doing the “upgrade”. If things get ugly I can do the full erase and install but I really would rather avoid that if possible. I’ll keep you posted.

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Leopard – Preparing the External Drive


I must admit I’m just a bit giddy about this new cat. It is a new experience for me to be excited about an operating system upgrade. It is surreal for me as a former PC guy to contemplate a new operating system without a hardware upgrade of any sort. Nevertheless, here I am watching the Apple propaganda videos and reading anything I can get my hands on. As part of this upgrade I plan on embracing Time Machine so I had to get serious about external storage.
I have a 1TB Firewire drive and a collection of USB external drives I’ve collected over the years. I spent the evening configuring the Terabyte drive for Leopard and thought I’d share my strategy with everyone.
I’ve partitioned the drive into four drives as follows:

1. MacBook Pro SD

This is a 130GB partition for my SuperDuper image. My 160GB drive actually has a capacity of about 148 GB but I can’t imagine ever running the drive up to 130GB. (Famous last words)

2. Final Cut Media Drive

This 120GB partition holds all my external media for Final Cut Studio, Logic and various Jam Packs. Interestingly, I have this data also duplicated on a portable Western Digital portable Passport drive. They both have the same name and Final Cut, Logic, and Garage Band all see the data regardless of whether I’m plugged into the Firewire or USB Passport. Excellent.

3. Time Machine 350GB

There are lots of opinions about how big a Time Machine Drive should be. I’m going with just a tad over double the drive capacity. I guess we’ll find out together.

4. Data ~316GB

This is where I keep the rest of my data. It includes the Aperture masters, Videos, a 40GB iTunes library, Encrypted legal files and a host of other data I can’t bring myself to dump.
So there you have it. I’m good to go with Leopard this weekend. One other precaution I’m taking is keeping a SuperDuper copy of my Tiger rig on a USB drive for a few weeks after I upgrade to Leopard just in case.

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