LeopardBoxI didn’t want to be left out from the other 2 million or so that purchased Leopard, so I took the plunge and upgraded from Mac OS X Tiger to Leopard a month ago to the day.

I was pleasantly surprised that my copy arrived on launch day, Friday 26th October, at bang on 12pm via TNT (as a topical aside, they did a better job with my one disc than they did with a certain governments two discs). Anyhoo, from the email Apple sent me, Leopard shipped late Thursday night and was giving an estimated delivery of the 29th / 30th (i.e. Monday / Tuesday the following week).

As it turned out, it arrived in a small cardboard box and when unwrapped, was in a further dinky but very cool and metallic looking box (which looks great in person, but terrible when photographed, hence the lack of. There are some good ones here though). That opened up to show the Leopard DVD with the manual being tucked anyway in a compartment behind. That’s the cool thing with Apple stuff, they get the first impressions right.

I decided to upgrade since that’s what the default choice seemed to be (Lifehacker has a good guide on the process) and I thought if worst came to the worst, I could just a nuke it anyway since I’ve only been running it for a couple of months. As it turns out, it was a painless process. I popped the DVD in, restarted, answered a few questions and off it went.

MyiMacInstallingLeopard

It took about 20 minutes to do a DVD consistency check and then the actual install fired off. It’s unlike any Windows install I’ve done in that after you’ve done the first bit, you can leave it completely unattended. Initially it was saying it was going to take an hour and twenty minutes to run which seemed to match up with what I’d been reading (i.e. that it was about a 2 hour job).

Leopardesktop

But as it turned out, some 25 minutes later it had done the business and rebooted into a shiny and new Leopard installation. In total it took less than an hour. There was a bit of hard disk grinding to start with as Spotlight got into it’s stride, but that it was.

Index_spaces_20071016The full list of the 300 changes just boggles the mind and one of the first things I started using was Spaces, which is a fantastic implementation of the multiple desktop within one screen mechanism (aka Virtual Desktops). It’s hardly a new thing, Linux in it’s various incarnations has had it for ages and I remember trying to run some Norton crap back on Windows 95 that did a similar thing, but that didn’t work since Windows / my hardware at the time wasn’t up to the job.

I really like about it is how you can bring it up to view all your desktops and then still use Expose to untangle your windows. The implementation is excellent. I also like the ability to assign what desktop various apps will load up in. However I have found that when viewing all your desktops at once it does get laggy if you have lots of windows and apps open, which can be a tad jarring.

Timemachine_icon20071016Time Machine is also excellent. I plugged up a 250GB external USB drive and set it up just for Time Machine to use. In fact I didn’t have much choice in the matter since Leopard pestered me into it! Any external drive I connected before configuring Time Machine, it wanted to use. That said I like the whole idea of automated backups and I was pondering on how to manage my backups, now I no longer need to bother. It just works in the background. 

Plus Apple have done the amazing and made a backup app interesting. The whole way Time Machine looks is just so damn cool. You can be in various apps like Finder, iPhoto 08 and just load up Time Machine and window then slides upwards and appears in a weird sort of timeline in space. From there you can then zoom back and forth in time, looking at old files and restoring them.

Timemachine_gallery01_20071016

That said, I can totally see why some people wouldn’t want to use it since it isn’t the most configurable thing in the world. It keeps hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month and then weekly backups for anything older than that. It’ll keep doing that until you run out of space. And that’s your lot, no tweaking outside of that schedule. My initial backup was about 110GB and it’s used further 10GB since then. For me, I find it ideal.

I did find it kind of quaint that a sizable group of Mac users on the Ars Technica forums still do full drive images using things like SuperDuper! or Carbon Copy Cloner. I remember doing that a few times, yongs ago with Norton Ghost, but I never really found it practical with Windows. I’m more than happy with doing a fresh Leopard install then a Time Machine restore if I have hard drive failure. The key thing is keep your data safe.

Desktop_stacks20071016The new dock is interesting, I like it’s 3D style but I’m not so sure on how it highlights apps that are running. In Tiger you got a black arrow pointing upwards from beneath the icon, now you just get a blue coloured orb that isn’t much of a contrast different from the dock. There is a hack to put it back to the Tiger way of working, but to be honest, after using it for a while, I’m not that bothered that’d I change it. I can’t say I take much notice of them.

Stacks I’m not so sure on. I like the way they display things when clicked, arcing upwards from left to right, with the newest items at the bottom (although this depends on how you’re sorted your stack). The main problem I have with though is their lack of visibility on the Dock. You’d expect it to show some kind of folder icon to distinguish them, but instead its one of the items stored in the stack, which does change, so there is no consistency. So I’ve used the following hack to get round my little problem. It’s not prefect, but it does help!

I like the option of Cover Flow in the Finder… but I don’t tend to use it much. I much prefer Quick Look, which is where you can be browsing through files in Finder and can just press Space which then shows a preview window without having to load anything up. You can then quickly navigate though files in this mode.

Bootcamp_assistant20071016Bootcamp is also cool, but most people who were interested in it probably downloaded the beta on Tiger, got whatever they needed working done and left it at that. All I’ve done since going to Leopard is let Bootcamp update it’s various drivers and leave my Vista partition as is.

Networking seems more stable to Windows boxes too. I’d been connecting my Mac to Vista laptops and found it a bit unreliable at times on Tiger. That’s not the case anymore. If the connection is lost it seems to gracefully recover instead of showing the spinning beach ball of death. (Gom, my question the other night was because that was the first time I done Vista to Mac, i.e. the other way round).

SpotLightSpotlight has had a ton of tweaks too. Two that I find really useful is that by default now, Spotlight puts Applications at the top of it’s search results which for me has effectively replaced the use of QuickSilver. That said I still use QuickSilver, I’m a big fan of app launchers on Windows (Slickrun and Launchy) and I’ve been tinkering with various plug-ins for it. The other tweak is that you can now do calculations in Spotlight, which I find really useful!

Overall, it’s definitely been worth the upgrade for me. I didn’t have a proper backup strategy in place so Time Machine was a must. Plus I love the whole Spaces virtual desktop thing. And I’m a sucker for a new look and feel, so I’m sold :)

The Ars Technica review is the thing to read if you’re interested in a full review of Leopard.

By Paul

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