Sunday, October 28, 2007

Leopard is very good (and could be better)

Mac OS x 10.5 Leopard

Leopard First Impressions
On Saturday I got to play with Leopard at the Apple store in Los Gatos. My first impressions of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard are very positive. For me it is a more compelling upgrade than Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger was from Mac OS X 10.3 Panther. Leopard seemed fast and I like the ability in Leopard to create my own share points, a feature that had been available in the server versions of Mac OS X before. In my opinion Tiger was a mostly cosmetic upgrade from Panther, but Leopard is another breed of cat. That is clear in the fact that the system requirements have changed for this Mac OS X version (they did not with the last upgrade) and that NetInfo Manager is totally missing from the Utilities folder that is nested in the Applications folder. NetInfo, the user authentication engine brought to Apple along with Steve Jobs in the Next acquisition is dead, replaced apparently with a local open LDAP database. I hope Apple has left me a way to activate root if I want, (short of going to the command line and changing the root password using the sudo command, or booting into single user mode and mounting the root user.)

Of all the things I have seen in Leopard the one feature that stood out is Spaces. As I said before, the future of operating systems can be summed up with the word "Virtualization." Spaces is like Virtualization in practice. In fact, virtual desktops have been around a long time. Linux has had them for a long time in KDE. But, this is the first time they have been a feature in Mac OS X (that you did not have to add in with a third party application.) They are great once you get the hang of them! But, they could have been better in Leopard. From what I saw the way they appear to have been applied in Leopard is as separate user spaces for the same user. They seem to me to be like running multiple instances of the Mac OS X Finder. For example, I was not able to have all my palettes in Photoshop on one desktop while the image I was working on was in the other. I guess what I would like to see would be more like virtual monitors than virtual desktops. I would like to be able to scroll to the right or left and suddenly be in the other virtual monitor and be able to have my palettes in one virtual monitor while my image was in the other virtual monitor or to have facing pages in InDesign be in two virtual monitors. Or to be able to work on a very large photo in pieces in multiple virtual monitors and be able to work on sections of an image without having to zoom in and out. Now, that would be very handy indeed.

Still, as I said, my first impressions of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard are very positive and I am going to buy it. For me it is a compelling upgrade, I plan to make as soon as Leopard is in stock at the campus bookstore. Then, I will post more on the the subject when I really get to see what this baby can do on my own systems.

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