CategoryLeopard

My keynote wrap-up in one word: ‘eh’

I didn’t write my annual look at the state of the Mac for the upcoming year this time around mostly because it seemed what was ahead was fairly obvious, with the notable exception of what “one more thing” Steve Jobs might pull out of his hat at some point during the year. I had already called for–and been wrong about–a true “convergence” device and I would have called for it again this year (although the iPhone has some of those qualities and will probably get more.)

Movie rentals were pretty much a given, as was some kind of sub-notebook. The iPhone update had been leaked reports were spot on, right down to the cartoony jiggling of the icons to show they can be moved. I was a little surprised that the iPod touch got so many of the iPhone’s capabilities. That moment was marred, though, by the dead silence that greeted the news that adding them would cost $20. The only thing missing was the sound of crickets chirping.

The movie rentals are priced right, I think, and along with the direct Internet access make the Apple TV Take 2 much more appealing. One thing that Dave Hamilton of The Mac Observer noted, though and I agree 100% is that 24 hours is a little too short a window to start and finish a movie. He gave the example of parents who can’t really start a movie until the kids are in bed. If they start a rental at 10 and don’t finish it that night, they can’t pick it at 10 the next night–the rental period will have expired. Even 28 hours would be alright–it would allow that kind of two-night spanning and still be a reasonable tight window: start at 8 on night one, for example, and you have until midnight on night two to finish.

The MacBook Air was a real disappointment to me, though I admittedly am not Apple’s target market for a sub-notebook. I came away thinking there was a lot missing on the “but” side of the description: “It doesn’t have an optical drive but it has… it doesn’t have an Ethernet port but it has…, etc. The only thing that could have been filled in after the “buts” was “it’s thin and light.” For me, that’s not enough; for others, it may be everything: time will tell. Jobs also mentioned that the optional solid state hard drive was “pricey,” but didn’t mention how pricey: an extra $999.

I like Time Capsule, Apple’s AirPort Extreme wireless router and network attached storage device in one, and I think the price is fair. The next time I’m in the market for an 802.11N router, I’ll probably consider it, but lots of people may already have separate components to do the same thing. One thing is still unclear: does the fact that Time Machine supports the network storage within the Time Capsule mean it will support other networked drives? I asked two separate Apple “Blue Shirts” (the experts the booth staff directs you to if you have a question they can’t handle). One implied the answer was no and one implied it was yes. My guess is that neither of them is sure. I also suspect that–supported or not–it will be possible, although it may well involve a terminal command to do it.

One more note: Jim Gianopulos, the CEO of 20th Century Fox Studios, is by far the best “Guest CEO” I have seen at a Macworld keynote in recent memory, and a refreshing improvement to the stiff PR-speak of AT&T’s chief last year.

Safari, you’re dead to me now

I completely skipped running Tiger on the Macs in my office — mostly over networking issues that never seem to have been resolved. We have two newer machines (both DP G5s) that came with Tiger installed. We found some workarounds for most of the issues, especially those dealing with our company’s proxy server.

In a desperate attempt at troubleshooting one of the Tiger machines, I upgraded it to Leopard. The upgrade was painless for the most part. Lotus Notes even launched and connected perfectly — which was my biggest concern. It all gave me the courage to install Leopard on my own 10.3 machine (I don’t even remember which cat that was anymore — Jaguar?) Again, all went well, including my Lotus Notes.

Unfortunately, Safari (or anything that uses Apple’s OS-based tools) still won’t connect through the proxy server, whether it’s through the pac file or by manually entering the proxy address. What’s worse — any app that makes the attempt crashes rather unceremoniously. Luckily, FireFox uses its own scheme and works fine.

I’ll have to see if SquidMan’s been updated for Leopard yet, but I was really hoping I wouldn’t have to rely on third-party tools at this stage in the game.

[UPDATE: HR Softworks’ “Authoxy” seem to work fine. More important than getting Safari to work is the fact that it allows Apple’s Software Update mechanism to work.]

Steve Jobs does what Moriarty couldn’t: kills Sherlock

Professor Moriarty almost did it at Reichenbach Falls, but it took Steve Jobs and his Leopard to finally kill off Sherlock. Apple’s new operating system deletes the abandoned search utility during the installation process.

Sherlock was introduced with System 8.5, but has been dying a lingering death for years, as Apple replaced its functionality with Dashboard Widgets and web utilities became more ubiquitous. Most of its tools had ceased functioning already. I haven’t even launched it in years. In fact, the only way I knew it was gone is that it’s deletion left a question mark behind in my wife’s dock after I installed Leopard.

Leopard can’t see printers shared from old Macs

I keep my main home Mac in my family room, so in order to avoid (OK, reduce) computer clutter, I keep my printers in the basement. For us, it makes a lot of sense. We don’t actually print things that often, and besides the room they take up, printers are noisy — especially our black and white laser printer.

The printers are shared from an old beige G3 PowerMac tower, which doesn’t support Mac OS X past 10.2. The G3 also hosts a personal FTP and website, and has an external FireWire drive attached for backups.

This arrangement has worked great for years — the G3 is rock-solid and the monitor is usually kept off, so the whole system doesn’t draw much power.

After upgrading our main Mac (a dual-2GHz G5 PowerMac) to Leopard over the weekend, though, I was surprised to find that it could not see the shared printers, even though it could see the G3 itself just fine. I fired up an old iBook that was still running Tiger and confirmed that it could see the printers, so it definitely seemed like a Leopard issue.

Doing a lot of searching turned up some posts on Apple’s Support Discussion boards about the issue. Apparently, Leopard drops the CUPS protocol and uses only Rendezvous. The older Macs, obviously, share printers via CUPS, making them invisible to Leopard. The answer, provided by several posters, was to edit the configuration file used by Leopard’s built-in CUPS server, to look for printers using all protocols, not just Rendezvous.

It’s a pretty geeky solution, but it worked for both of my Leopard-upgraded Macs. Although it’s probably not an issue for many users, it’s impact could be pretty major for those who are affected. The way the Mac community not only found, but came up with a way to address the issue so quickly, is very impressive.

Leopard 2; Gremlins 1

On the three machines on which I’ve installed Leopard so far, two went off without a hitch: a G5 iMac and a dual G5 PowerMac. The third, a MacBook Pro — ironic perhaps, in that it was the only Intel-based machine I’ve upgraded so far — not so much.

For reasons I won’t get into, I run FileVault on the MacBook Pro. I’ve gotten to used to seeing (and for the most part ignoring) messages that tell me FileVault is taking up more space than it needs and that I can fix it. I usually ignore it because 1) Space is not really at a premium on this particular laptop; and 2) It takes way too much time to do and doesn’t seem to help for very long.

So when I got this message when my MacBook was shutting down in preparation for the Leopard install, I ignored it. It think that’s what bit me. The install itself went without a hitch, but when I tried to log back into my main account, I got a message telling me my FileVault-protected Home directory couldn’t be opened. I accepted the offer to fix it, but was greeted with an “unknown error.” My main account was hosed.

Luckily, all important data had already been backed up, and the alternate account on the machine opened just fine. I wound up deleting the original account and recreating it with the same settings. So far, everything’s working fine.

Lesson learned: If you’re offered the opportunity to “fix” FileVault before installing Leopard, take it.

John Gruber made $5,800 in five minutes

Valleywag picked up on on a Silicon Alley post that calculates Daring Fireball’s publisher made almost $6,000 from Amazon affiliate links on the site to Leopard orders.

Two things. One: Gruber’s no fanboy; when Apple does something stupid he calls them on it. Two: Good for him. If I could make that much money on the traffic flowing through my site, I’d do it too.

(via Shawn King)

Best Buy faces steep penalty for pre-embargo Leopard sales

A manager at Best Buy told me the company’s Point of Sale systems (we used to call them cash registers) are being monitored for any sales of Apple’s Leopard operating system in advance of the official 6 p.m. local time release.

“We’ll be fined $130,000 for each copy we sell before six,” he told me.

That seems like a pretty steep fine. I think he might be mistaken about the per-sale part, though. I don’t know why Best Buy would agree to something with such a high potential cost in comparison to the potential return. Even if they make $40 on each copy, they’d have to sell over 3,000 copies to make up the profit lost from each one that went out early.

Leopard screenshot gallery at AppleInsider

For those who just can’t wait the remaining few hours until Leopard’s release (or are just curious), AppleInsider has posted a gallery of screenshots from Apple’s newest big cat.

Seeing them all laid out like this gave me some overall impressions I hadn’t picked up on yet.

  1. I dislike the new folder icons way more than I dislike the 3D dock;
  2. I absolutely love the finished appearance the unified look gives to the system. I’m not saying it’s the perfect look and can never be improved upon, but the holistic effect of having all windows look the same is striking; and
  3. The new icons are breathtaking (For a great example of this, just look at the texture in the Address Book application — there’s no technical need for this, but it speaks volumes on the values of Apple as a company). The text on what I think is the TextEdit icon is actually legible (the “Here’s to the Crazy Ones” commercial that launched Apple’ s “Think Different” campaign, for those wondering.)

In terms of eye candy, at least, it looks like a great release.

The Googlification of Spotlight

While I love the idea of Spotlight, Apple’s system-wide search utility, the reality is that it’s always been too dog-slow to be of much practical use as either a search tool or a program launcher (I’ve turned to the excellent Quicksilver for that). Maybe Apple realizes that, too: in Leopard, they’ve added some features that have the potential to make it much more attractive — much like some of the expanded capabilities of Google’s search bar.

Take this little tidbit, for instance, from David Pogue’s email newsletter, wherein he describes a sort of mini-calculator feature in Spotlight:

The Spotlight menu (upper-right corner of the screen) is also a tiny pocket calculator now. Hit Command-Space, type or paste 38*48.2-7+55, and marvel at the first result in the Spotlight menu: 1879.6. You don’t even have to fire up the Calculator.

Neat.

Spotlight also (smartly) brings up applications that match your search criteria instantly — documents and other files come up later, making it potentially much more useful as a program launcher.

Finally, Spotlight now support Boolean searches, so you can look for things like “receipt AND iMac” or “report NOT biology.”

Now let’s hope Apple’s engineers have put similar effort into speeding up Spotlight’s performance.

Of backups and booting

Leopard’s Time Machine feature is spurring a lot of discussions on backups, and that’s a good thing. A lot of the discussion, though seems to be centering around backing up your whole machine, and whether or not your Time Machine drive is bootable if your Mac goes down for the count. (It’s not.)

I may be in the minority here, but I don’t backup my whole machine — I don’t wind up with a mirror image of my drive that I can swap into my Mac and reboot as if nothing ever happened. That would be an ideal situation, I suppose, but I’m more concerned with preventing data loss — things like pictures, family movies, important documents, receipts, email, songs I’ve purchased or ripped from CD, etc.

I have my original installer discs for both my Mac and my applications. If my computer crashes, I can just re-install them. It’s the irreplaceable stuff I want to make sure I protect. My backup strategy is to have multiple backups of my home folder and the separate hard drive that houses most of my media. Backing up those items takes less space and less time — and that makes it more likely that I’ll do it.

The fact that Time Machine doesn’t create bootable backups doesn’t matter to me in the least.

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