Friday, November 2, 2007

Why I can't get excited about the new Mac OS X Leopard

There have been plenty of reviews out there about how awesome the latest version of OS X is. I can't help but see a few a day as I go through my RSS feeds. Well, I'm here to say that I'm not thrilled. It doesn't actually seem that much greater than what I've got now with version 10.4. I'm going to run down a few of the new features, and my opinion on them as applied to my Macbook. Looking at their advertising, the biggest features they are pushing are:

  1. Snazzy Finder and UI enhancements.
  2. Time Machine backup capability.
  3. Spaces.
  4. Upgrades to apps: Mail, iChat, and Safari.
  5. Parental controls.
  6. Boot camp.
Let's start with number one. Obviously, these are ways to interact with your system, cool new visual effects, etc. They've added a iTunes-esque cover flow UI for navigating your files, a cool file preview mode, and some improvements to the dock. That said, they kind of screwed up little aspects of the dock too...remember that little black triangle under your icons that told you an app was running? That's gone, replaced by a blue bubble that is about the same color as the new dock itself. Coupled with the dock transparency, you'll have no idea which icons have this icon and which do not.

What about Time Machine? From a software perspective, it is probably one of the best solutions to regular backups, and seems very well written. The thing is, I have a laptop. Time Machine requires an external drive, and I'm not going to buy one and lug it around or want to plug into it regularly, especially for a feature that is pretty useless for me. My laptop is for lightweight use, i.e. I don't have lots of un-losable data on it. Its just a feature that I don't particularly desire. In other words, I never once thought OOH! I need daily backups on my Macbook!

Then there are Spaces...oh what to say. They're a tired old UI that have been around in the GNOME desktop for years as workspaces. They even shamelessly stole the name. Being a GNOME user in Ubuntu, I can say that they aren't phenomenally useful if you have multiple monitors. I suppose they'd be useful on my Macbook though, but again, it doesn't WOW me at all.

The application upgrades are all really cool...I just don't use any of those apps. I use Firefox for browsing, gmail for mail, and Skype for messaging when I need it, if at all.

Parental controls...I'm not a parent, its my personal laptop. Completely useless to me. Nuff said.

Boot camp has been upgraded from the beta. What does this mean? Well, they released some new drivers on the Leopard install DVD, and got rid of the public beta installer while replacing them with install files on the DVD. That's all! Boot Camp isn't even a separate technology...its just multiple OSs, a feature of ALL hardware, coupled with some drivers from Apple so that some of the devices like the built in webcam is better supported in Windows. You can hack your own multiple OS setup without Apple's blessing anyway. And I'll bet I'll just be able to get the new drivers soon too.

So, while there are some cool features in Leopard, none of them are must haves for me, particularly at the $129 price. The only thing that makes me go "hmm" is the new Finder and UI aspect. I think they're cool, but not THAT cool. I guess I've gotten spoiled on getting my OS upgrades for free with Ubuntu. To summarize, if this upgrade were $50, I'd get it in a heartbeat. But at the $129 price, I'd rather spend my money on Wii and PS3 games.

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