Well, I’ve been playing with MacOSX Leopard for just about 48 hours now, and I have to say that the experience has been nothing but excellent. While I won’t say it is as jam-packed with mind-blowing features as they’d like you to think, I will agree that it is defininately a worthwhile upgrade and the best operating system I’ve had the pleasure of using. And that’s saying a lot from a guy who still obsesses over BeOS. Overall, I’m very happy with the upgrade. More details after the jump.
While I won’t say it went flawlessly… … it was pretty painless once I got it right. If you’re like me, and you install a lot of third-party extensions, especially those that link in at the kernel level, do not choose the default “Upgrade” option when installing Leopard. You’ll end up with what I’ve come to call the “Blue Screen of Discontentment”. But, you’re about to say, I was never given an option! Yes, you were. It was hidden behind the “Options” button on the dialog where it asks you which hard drive to install to. Pick “Archive and Install” and don’t look back. Once I figured that much out, installation went flawlessly across all three of my Macs (yes, I bought a “Family Pack”).
Like I said, the flagship new features in Leopard, while cool, aren’t as mind-blowing as you might think. But they’re still pretty cool.
Alright, in the grand scheme of things, Time Machine is pretty awesome. While technologically, its barely a step above rsync and a cronjob, I genuinely think this is the first backup solution that will actually get the masses to back up their data regularilly. It does, dare I say, make backups sexy. However, a couple gripes about it:
- Despite the product announcements to the contrary, it doesn’t seem to support backups to AFP drives not hosted on another Leopard machines. This is quite annoying to me. I have 2 terabytes of gigabit ethernet-accessible storage at my fingertips, but I can’t use it for Time Machine, since it resides on a Linux box. Luckily I recently purchased a 250 gigabyte Firewire 800 drive which is now happily accepting my Time Machine backups. That doesn’t, however, help me with my older PowerBook, which I rarely plug into a hard-line ethernet connection or Firewire drive. Since I never do any multimedia work on that machine, it would be perfectly reasonable to perform Time Machine backups over 802.11g wireless, since I’m backing up nothing but ASCII text (source code and blog post drafts, primarily).
- The complete inability to do something as simple as forcing Time Machine to take a snapshot at a particular time. I want to say “Hey, Time Machine, I’m about to do nasty things to my home directory, save me from myself”. But unless it happens to be an hour since the last time it backed up, I’m out of luck. Boo! At least give me an AppleScript hook (I looked…).
- While the Time Machine UI is very very slick, there’s no way to get it to simply dump out a visual “diff” of all the files that have changed between versions. So if you just want to see how many files have changed in each backup, you’re out of luck.
Cover Flow and QuickLook
Alright, fine, cool gimmick. I’ve come to like it a lot, especially for browsing images and PDFs. Its a nice application of technology, and it’s quite cute. But, honestly, it is really only good for browsing images. It really doesn’t break from the normal file browsing paradigm, and it doesn’t make the task of browsing deep file hierarchies any easier. In fact, its only really useful if you have a very flat file hierarchy, which my hard drive has never seen.
It’s strange to say, but I almost feel like Spaces is the most finely refined “feature” of Leopard. So what’s the big deal? It’s nothing that new. Virtual Desktops have existed in one for or another for probably two decades, so the concepts behind Spaces are nothing new. The best thing about Spaces, in my opinion, is that it simply gets out of the way. Once you have it set up right, it simply gets out of the way. I have Spaces trained to keep my Textmate instances in one “Space”, my Safari in a second, and my chats in a third. Using motions you’re familiar with, you can simply tab between apps, and it jumps you directly to the proper Space without any fuss or muss. It is really, really, really nice, to see virtual desktops finally done right, especially under MacOSX.
I haven’t had much time to play with the other features, like Mail and iChat, but I’ll say that the most compelling thing about Leopard is not the big headlining features, but the OS as a whole. Overall, it is a snappy, fun to use OS. For some reason, it just plain feels faster. Its hard to explain. I was expecting it to absolutely crawl on my old 1.5 Ghz 12” PowerBook G4, but to my surprise, it made my old laptop feel young again. In fact, this entire entry, as well as most of the screenshots presented in it, were created on my now three year old PowerBook. And let’s not talk about how much faster it made my new MacBook Pro feel. And the new, unified look tightens the whole experience. All the apps mesh together to create a more consistent experience, where the OS simply disappears from view. All in all, I think that Leopard is a worthy upgrade. While I think I’d still be pretty happy with my old Tiger installation, I’m very glad I upgraded. Overall, I’m getting more done, in less time, while having more fun doing it, than I did before Leopard. Well done, Apple, well done.