Mac OSX Leopard: Worth The Wait

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osx.jpgThe long wait for the latest version of Apple’ OSX operating system comes to an end today for millions of Mac fans worldwide. OSX Leopard goes on sale in retail stores at 6pm, although others will receive it earlier by pre-order and courier delivery. Apple (to their credit) made delivery for Friday no matter where you live, so I had my copy around 9pm Thursday PST.

Installation

This is the first time I’ve ever had an upgrade for a Mac system. Like many people I’m a late Mac convert (Mac sales are currently running at about 50% first time Mac buyers at the moment), so I had no expectations as to how the process might be. The start is easy enough: insert the DVD and you get an icon pop up automatically. Click and off you go, complete with a computer restart.

The first thing that threw me was the “DVD check” a process that for me (Mac Pro, twin Intel Dual cores 2.6 something, 4gb ram) took around 20 minutes. I’ve since been told by Chris Pirillo that you can hit the skip button and bypass this, but as a former Windows user I’ve long been trained into never bypassing any check. On my second install on a Macbook Pro I skipped this part and had no problems.

Installation time after this took around 30-40 minutes. A bit like a Windows machine the estimated time to install figure was fluid, often increasing then decreasing rapidly. Another restart then Leopard appeared.

leopard.jpg

You Won’t Recognize Finder

Immediately changes are obvious. Image files on your desktop show the actual image, not just a generic icon. The dock bar is different, complete with shadows etc.., but I knew to expect this. The biggest surprise was just how radically different Finder is. With Finder, think iTunes complete with coverflow. Flicking through files has become a breeze, and the ability to page through pdfs or even play a movie from within Finder will be a time saving godsend for many.

For those in a network environment, one of the most positive aspects is that Leopard auto-mounts network computers and drives, including Windows machines and Windows share devices. In my case it auto-mounted a Western Digital 1tb NAS drive (that is set up on a Windows share basis so my networked DVD media player can see it) automatically, and I had immediate access to it. Same with the old Windows MCE box my son plays games on.

Spaces Is Handy

The new Spaces feature provides virtual desktops that are ideal for users who tend to have too many things open at any give time, or don’t own multiple monitors. It’s a feature that comes standard with Linux, but it’s new to Mac and isn’t available natively in Windows.

Dock and Stacks

osx2.jpgThe dock and stacks feature allows you to drag and display multiple items from the OSX dock. It’s a good feature that provides far easier access to folders than via the previous requirement of having to visit Finder (or via short cut then displayed in a Finder window). It does however remind me of Windows, but this isn’t a bad thing. OSX is a great package, if Apple steals a few ideas from Windows to make it better so be it, after all it’s the user that matters at the end of the day.

Don’t Click The Time Machine Button

The only negative I found is Leopard is Time Machine. The feature itself is great, and setup a cinch, presuming you’ve got an additional hard drive (external or internal) for the backups. However, if Time Machine hasn’t made a backup yet to visit, clicking the Time Machine button completely borks OSX…least it did for me. I took me a number of restarts and some serious banging of the keyboard (no CTRL+ALT+DELETE on a Mac) to fix it. I’m sure now it’s making backups that it will be a great feature, but just be warned: don’t hit that button on your first day.

Summary

Overall it’s just brilliant. From the moment the installation had finished it felt quicker and better for me, although perhaps it’s just more mouse sensitive. A lot of the deficiencies in previous versions of OSX have been addressed and the new ways of undertaking basic interactions make what was already a good operating system better. It may have been a little long in coming, but for those thinking about upgrading it is worth the wait and money.

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