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Technology Thoughts

Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard – The good and the bad

(Incidentally, how do you write that? “Mac OS X.5” is just wrong, whilst “Mac OS 10.5” isn’t as aesthetically pleasing… oh well, I guess it fits into our multiply-redundant world of “PIN numbers”, “tuna fish”, and “software programs” 🙂

Anyway, on to my initial thoughts on Leopard!

The good:

  • I was pleasantly surprised when, on logging onto a local machine via SSH, Leopard popped up a requester to prompt for the certificate password, and gave me the option to save it to my keychain. Brilliant!
  • The confusing mess that was NetInfo Manager has been removed, and most of its functions are now integrated into other parts of the UI. You can now add groups and users (including “Sharing accounts” which won’t show up in the login window, but which are still perfectly valid unix users), and select custom user and group IDs and edit the user’s default shell, all from the Accounts preference pane. Automounting NFS shares is now childsplay, without the need for arcane options as NIM required, through the Directory Utililty.
  • It seems pretty fast – and, much as I hate to admit it, the eyecandy is nice.

The bad:

  • Apple still haven’t fixed the issue of MacBook Pros (and probably others) not correctly awaking from sleep if a USB device is removed whilst asleep… this one really bugs me.
  • Finder is not especially stable, and has locked several times. I’ve had to power off the machine by holding the power button for four seconds twice now. On one occasion, although the finder still worked, the rest of the machine got totally jammed – starting a terminal brought up the application window, but bash hung before becoming interactive, and nothing else worked… I’ve never seen that happen before on anything other than Windows. Roll on Mac OS X 10.5.1…
  • Many applications still have quirks, or are awaiting Leopard updates. I would suggest that Apple send free copies of OSX to any indie developers who catch their eye or have a popular product… but I read today that Adobe won’t have necessary Leopard updates until November. Surely, Adobe could have ironed these things out before the OS launched? Still, given how long it’s taken them to produce native versions of their applications, I guess it’s no small thing to (hopefully) get the updates this year. Were they a smaller company, I wouldn’t have a problem – but with Creative Suite 3 costing many hundreds of pounds, you’d expect better service.

The ugly:

  • My Mac Mini was totally unresponsive to the network, whilst appearing fine interactively. I eventually discovered that the built-in firewall (which has changed since the last release) had broken and was blocking everything, even though it was not configured to. Disabling then re-enabling the firewall fixed this – but this was non-obvious (firewall settings are under security, which makes sense, until you consider that almost every other OS-level access network control and configuration option is under Sharing)
  • Finder doesn’t seem to understand the concept of browsable but non-public Samba shares – on my Linux server are two public shares and one which only my user can connect to. Finder auto-discovers all of these, and for the first two creates a link which auto-mounts the share when opened. For the third share, however, the behaviour differs: sometimes opening the link causes the window to flash but nothing else to happen – and sometimes it causes Finder to report that the item is a broken symlink, and would I like to delete or repair it? Neither of these are actually possible, since both exist only within a virtual file system of network shares. Although Finder does offer the ability to connect as a user other than Guest, the possibility that this might be a requirement doesn’t seem to have been considered.
  • There’s a pretty major bug in Finder which occurs if you’re copying a file from unreadable media, such as a scratched CD (which to be honest is most of them, by now) – when an unrecoverable data error is hit, Finder stops the copy and pops up an Error -36. However, on ‘Okay’ing this notice (which always takes two clicks of the button), the file copy dialog stays on screen, and cannot be closed or stopped. Infact, the only way I found to clear it was to force-quit and relaunch Finder. A definite sign of insufficient testing <sigh>

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