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Apple Mac OS X Leopard - The Cat's Out of the Bag

written by: Brian Ricks, MVP•edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 2/5/2009

With Mac OS X Leopard, Apple has once again demonstrated their marketing mojo, hyping features like Leopard's added Unix CDE-like functionality and Vista functionality, but behind the hype, there's little 'Apple' innovation in the latest Mac OS.

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    Apple Mac OS X Leopard  is Apple's latest operating system. Since it's new it must be a must-have because it must be better, right? Before you rush out and spend $129 on the upgrade there are questions you'll want to ask yourself, including why am I upgrading and do I need it?

    New applications have been added to Apple Mac OS X Leopard including Time Machine (a system backup utility) and new user interface options containing Stacks. The requisite requirement for additional disk space is inherent in Apple Mac OS X Leopard because like all modern operating systems, Apple’s has become bloated too. The setup process is long and integration with the Windows world may become cumbersome making the need for an entire upgrade seem questionable.

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    Price to Value

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot: 
    Having the latest and greatest is a must for many; if that is the case for you, Apple Mac OS X Leopard will fit into your world. For others, the add-on applications, like Time Machine, and the Boot Camp features may make the money spent seem minimal.

    What's Not: 
    For the average user little is added to Apple Mac OS X Leopard to make the upgrade process and the money spent worth the effort. System requirement increases with no obvious gains make me wonder what was Apple's point in releasing Apple Mac OS X Leopard now.
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    Installation & Setup

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot: 
    Apple Mac OS X Leopard setup finished without destroying or losing any of my files. Unfortunately, this is perhaps the only positive aspect to draw from the install process.

    What's Not: 
    During the upgrade process to Apple Mac OS X Leopard, I ran into multiple problems. The time spent from beginning to end was just over six hours. It all started with the hard disk being recognized initially as an UFS volume (unsupported in Leopard). Luckily, in the Read Before You Install file there is a detailed process on how to backup your personal information prior to initializing your hard disk with the Mac OS Extended (Journaled) format. After spending an hour cleaning off a USB drive and attaching it to my Mac Mini, rebooting, and preparing for the backup process, the setup process decided to change its mind and discovered the internal disk as a Mac OS Extended (Journaled) disk.Cursing Apple, I rebooted the Mac once again, this time without my USB drive, and began the upgrade. The process took over three hours with a DVD media check consuming 45 minutes of that time. The system began chugging along and after three hours it appeared to be completing (the screen went gray and there was disk activity). Since I was tired, I let the system do what it needed to do and went to bed only to find out the next morning that it was still on the gray screen and a hard reboot was required.

    After re-configuring the boot device as the internal hard drive, I was pleased to see Leopard 10.5 boot successfully leaving my last problem to login. Prior to the upgrade I logged in authenticating to a Windows Active Directory because this worked well for Tiger. However, none of my Windows user accounts worked but fortunately, I remembered what I had set the Admin account password as (something I had not used since my initial setup of my Mac Mini). Four system updates were presented immediately after my first logon, one for the login and keychain applet. Thinking this was a known problem (update 306804 dealt with passwords being too long and my Windows password fit the criteria), I happily applied the patch and rebooted hoping my issues would be fixed but they were not. After searching the newsgroups and web regarding the inability to login, I found the issue was a common theme (something Apple failed to mention in any release notes).
    After another two hours the login problem was resolved and my next issue appeared. My mapped network drives were not displayed. Searching the Internet, I found numerous rumblings that the ability to map SMB drives was broken in Apple Mac OS X Leopard.  After many hours I discovered the drives were mapping  when I used Apple Automater and a custom workflow at login. However, this wasn't displayed in the Finder (a customizable option in the Preferences of the Finder).  What a big waste of my time for no apparent reason.
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    User Interface

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot: 
    The Spaces feature within Apple Mac OS X Leopard is a great implementation of the multiple desktops often seen and used for many years on the UNIX CDE environment. Having the ability to essentially have multiple views helps keep clutter to a minimum.

    What's Not: 
    My upgrade to Apple Mac OS X Leopard from Tiger showed no obvious UI improvements. In fact, without me enabling Spaces, the only noticeable UI change was the decrease in performance. Granted, my Mini is not the fastest Mac on the market, but it met the system requirements of 1GB of RAM and a 1.42Ghz G4 Processor. Yet compared to Tiger, Apple Mac OS X Leopard crawled. The Stacks feature was really unimpressive if there were more than a few dozen items in the folder. More than that and the display became useless, unsupportable, and only hampered productivity.
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    Product Features

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    With Apple Mac OS X Leopard, Apple has introduced updates to nearly all of their internal applications while introducing Boot Camp and Time Machine as their two new big additions. Boot Camp is the new feature (for supported Intel processor-based Macs) which allows the system to natively run Microsoft Windows XP or Microsoft Vista. Multimedia controls were enhanced adding the ability to turn your Mac into a Media Center which is similar to the Windows Media Center features found in XP and Vista.

    What's Not: 
    Previously mentioned, very few real features were added for the typical user. Apple Mac OS X Leopard touts over 300 new items yet the majority of those features are built in application enhancements which I personally use third-party applications for. These include Safari, Mail, iPhoto, and iChat. I prefer Firefox, Microsoft Office, PhotoShop, and Microsoft Messenger, therefore all of these features added no value for me. In fact, I tried to use the applications and found them slow and feature-lacking.

    My Mac Mini has a G4 processor so Boot Camp was not a feature I tested. I personally would have only loaded this application to play with because I would never actually use it. I know what system requirements the Windows operating systems need and my Mac does not fit the bill. The Time Machine application is the other big application which I found cumbersome. Attaching my USB drive and undergoing the process took such a long time that I canceled it. This meant that I decided to live without a backup; something I have always done since my files are stored on a backed up server. For those who do not have a second storage device to backup your hard drive to, make sure your new USB hard drive is big and fast so you can afford to make the process realistic.
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    Rating AverageWhat's Hot: 
    There is nothing good to say about the product performance of Apple Mac OS X Leopard with the execption of the Automater program which oddly ran quicker.

    What's Not: 
    The negative performance impact in upgrading to running Apple Mac OS X Leopard for was more than obvious, it was downright disastrous. To add insult to injury, after the inital reboot, Spotlight began re-indexing the entire computer which made my system untouchable for over an hour while I let it process files.
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    Apple Mac OS X Leopard does not deliver the bang for the buck. The small, cheap-looking product box, an overly complicated install experience, and a lack of value-add in features and functionality are the reasons for this. In fact, my system was better off before the upgrade and there is absolutely nothing the new Apple Mac OS X Leopard added that I personally will use. If you have the latest and greatest Macintosh or you are about to purchase a new Mac computer, your machine will most likely have Apple Mac OS X Leopard installed on it. For these machines, I can only hope they are built to take advantage of the new system requirements.