Business-like, isn't he?



Business in Vancouver logo

    Apple’s Leopard roars on new and older Macs

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2007 First published in Business in Vancouver November 13-19, 2007; issue 942

    High Tech Office column

    October was peak season for new releases of operating system alternatives to Microsoft Windows, starting off with new versions of OpenSuSE and Ubuntu Linux and closing with Apple’s long-awaited OS X 10.5 Leopard.

    Inevitably, Leopard is going to be compared to Microsoft’s Windows Vista, released earlier this year. Both bring new eye candy: transparency, 3D and more, to their users’ desktops. And both leave users of older systems out in the cold.

    With Leopard, Mac owners need to have at least an 866 MHz G4 system with room on the hard drive: it required an additional 5.6 GB to upgrade my Mac. And like users of Windows XP version, Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) versions have been, all in all, pretty happy with the older version.

    But while Vista has left many Windows users unimpressed, so far Leopard is getting a far warmer welcome by Mac users. Some of it is because Mac owners are far more likely to have bought into the cult of Mac, but Leopard is also an easier sell than Vista. While Vista comes in a variety of versions, Basic through Ultimate, at a range of prices, Leopard has a single version: $129 in a single-installation package, $199 in a five-installation “family pack.” Unlike Vista, there are no serial numbers to enter and no online activation process.

    The Leopard installer happily updated my year-old iMac without problem; when it restarted, my password, settings, desktop and more were all intact, (with the relatively minor exceptions of connections to networked printers and a few third-party utilities that will require new versions). Startup is as quick as ever, and built-in applications like the Mac’s Finder and Search functions and Apple’s Safari browser and Mail feel quicker and more responsive.

    Apple is advertising more than 300 new or improved features. Along with the eye candy, a number of them promise to make Mac owners more productive or secure.

    Four of the 300:

    •Time Machine is a simple backup program. Backup may seem old hat, but this one looks like a sci-fi movie and is easy to use. It’s more limited than third-party backup utilities, backing up the entire system and requiring an external hard drive, but if it gets home and small-business users backing up regularly, it will be a great addition.

    •Quick Look lets users view the contents of pretty much any standard document, picture, movie and more without opening any applications. Just select a file in Leopard’s Finder and press the spacebar. (Old-time Windows users may remember Win95’s QuickView; it’s an old idea, but implemented in a way that makes it more likely users will use it.)

    •Spaces will also seem old hat, as Unix and Linux systems have had multiple desktops seemingly forever. I haven’t warmed up to it yet, but then, I never use it in Linux either.

    •Apple added a Dictionary (not just a spell-checker) in the last version; now the Dictionary adds online Wikipedia entries along with definitions.

    Other business-friendly improvements include easier networking and remote access. Home users will welcome parental controls (also found in Vista).

    Not necessarily improved: previously, it was handy to drag a folder to the OS X Dock; put the Applications folder there and it acted like a quick and dirty version of the Windows start menu – a handy way to get to your programs. Do that with Leopard and you get a stack, which looks good in demos but is awkward if your folder has more than a few items in it. And if you still rely on old Mac “classic” software, forget Leopard. It no longer supports these old programs.

    But unlike Windows Vista, there’s less sense that Apple made changes just for change’s sake. Upgraders will be pleasantly surprised how easy the transition to Leopard will be. •

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan

Search WWW Search