Sunday, November 04, 2007

Reasons to wait for OS X Leopard 10.5.3

Rob Griffith has five reasons to install Leopard now and 5 reasons to wait. He works in the Mac business, so he's obliged to pretend it's an even proposition.

He's not trying too hard though. It's clear that the scale tips to waiting, and he didn't even mention the inevitable OS bugs that we're only starting to discover (see update 10/5/07). Indeed, reading his review, I'm thinking 10.5.3 sounds pretty good. That would probably be the summer of 2008.

I was familiar with most of his list, but surprised by some of the loss of customization he describes (emphases mine):
Macworld: Editors' Notes: Upgrade or not?

... More so than any other OS X release, OS X 10.5 controls the users’ ability to customize their environment. Consider many of the interface elements I’ve listed above. Given that some of these are polarizing features, it would be nice if users had control over them. But they don’t. Don’t like the 3-D dock? Sorry, you’re stuck with it, unless you move your dock to the side, where it morphs into a 2-D dock....

Want larger text in the Finder’s sidebar, because you’ve got a high-dot-pitch screen? Sorry, can’t do that. Do you prefer Tiger’s docked folder behavior over the new Stacks in OS X 10.5? Sorry, not an option. (Hint: if you like the old behavior better, check out DragThing, which lets you easily create hierarchical folders in docks.)

Want Time Machine backups to run more often or less often than hourly? Nope, not easily possible. Want to view more than the Name, Kind, and Date Modified columns in your Spotlight search results? You got it, not possible. Dislike the spacey 3-D interface on Time Machine, and wish you could have something without a flying star field? Get used to hyperspace, as it’s here to stay. Dislike the blue-gray folder icons? You can change them one at a time, as you could in previous OS X releases. But changing the default folders takes much more work and help from a third party. Mail has a cool new notes feature…but if you create a to-do out of something on that note, that entry is then highlighted in a garish orange color. Hopefully you’re a fan of garish orange, too, because you can’t change it. Want to change the size or typeface of the fonts in iChat’s Buddy List window? You got it—nope...
When 10.5 was delayed from Feb 2007 I was pretty darned sure it wasn't going to be ready until Feb 2008. When a project that big slips, it usually slips by at least a year. So I was very surprised when 10.5 shipped in October 2007 -- as predicted and to pretty good reviews. Apple's developers must have busted three guts to hit that date. I'm hoping the missing user options is a sign of smart engineers throwing everything non-essential overboard, rather than deluded product management. If it's indeed a measure of informed desperation we will see better user support by 10.5.3.

The inability to adjust font sizes particularly bothers me. Every year there are more decrepit boomers with crummier vision, and more LCDs with finer dot pitch. We need as much font adjustment as we can get. It looks like we're still at least a year away from resolution independent UIs in OS X, so Apple shouldn't be locking their font sizes.

I'll add yet another 10.5.3 motivator to the list. Tiger has long had marginal support for Windows file shares. The UI for specifying a workgroup is very obscure [1] and the SMB browser often fails [2]. OS X 10.5 was supposed to do much better, but in 10.5.0 it's about the same:
Special Report: Mac OS X Leopard Cross-Platform Issues:

Daniel Hoit:

"Samba based services are updated to reflect revisions to the open source Samba project in Leopard, and are not a step backwards. The addition of packet signing alone is a huge and welcome addition. As for the poster's complaints regarding WINS workgroup and Finder browsing, the options are still there in Leopard. You can configure the WINS information in System Preferences/Network/ Advanced/WINS section. Choose a workgroup, and choose a wins server if you have one on your network. The sidebar also has an 'All...' option that should be the equivalent of Tiger's 'Network' browsing option in the Finder. In my experience, network browsing has always been a little iffy. Its almost always been more reliable to access SMB servers through a command-K connect to server dialog, and then bookmark the server for easier access later. YMMV, but in the least Leopard doesn't downgrade anything in the SMB services area....
I'll probably have to upgrade FileMaker Pro 8 when I go to 10.5, so it's going to be an expensive proposition. The cost of updating older but perfectly functional apps is another reason to wait for 10.5.3.

Now I do really want the 10.5 screen control features, but I've noticed that nobody boasts about how fast and elegant this is, and nobody compares this to Microsoft's superb Remote Desktop Protocol. That tells me the performance is as crummy as every other VNC implementation I've seen. VNC is a joke compared to RDP [3]. So it's still going to be very good for maintaining my mother's Mac Mini, but it's not absolutely compelling (yet).

Now I think 10.5 will be a terrific OS, but 10.4.10 is pretty darned good. Unless Apple does something amazing with iPhone-specific features in 10.5 I'll keep moving my upgrade date further into 2008.


[1] Utility:Directory Access application

[2] You have to hit Cmd-K in Finder and create an SMB shortcut: smb://abaton;jfaughnan@montreal/c$ is the shortcut for accessing my C: drive in Workgroup "abaton" machine "montreal" with username "jfaughnan" - keychain remembers the password but you can also add it cleartext in the shortcut.

[3] I think there's some relationship to Citrix code in there somewhere. Citrix/RDP are two areas in which the Windows world spanks OS X. Windows has some other advantages: speech recognition software and server virtualization. That's about the end of the Windows advantage list however.

Update 10/5/07: Speaking of bugs to be discovered:

In a quick test here at MacInTouch, we have confirmed a critical data-loss bug in Leopard's Finder.
In our test, we used Command-drag to move several large folders from a MacBook internal drive to an attached FireWire 800 external drive. While the folders were copying, we disconnected the FireWire cable. The folders disappeared from both drives...
This bug was documented by Tom Karpik...

Yep. 10.5.3.

Update 10/6/07: Macintouch has more details on the move bug. They'd found a similar bug in a version of OS X 10.1. Hmm. 10.5.4?

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