The Computer Blog

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Leopard, Part 1 - Installation and Desktop

As I said in an earlier blog, I’ve installed Leopard on three of our four machines. As you also might expect, most of my experience with the new operating system has been on mine, i.e, a 2.66GHz Mac Pro with 6GB of RAM and my MacBook Pro, a 2.33 GHz Core 2 Duo powered machine with 3GB of RAM. Most of my running time on the latter has been using a Maxtor Easy Touch III 320GB Firewire 800 external hard drive as my boot drive. More on the complications of upgrading that setup later; suffice it to say it is working and working fine.

Despite what I've heard in other parts of the Mac community, I have used the Upgrade method of installing OS X since OS 10.1; and I have never had the problems with it others seem to have. Therefore, I installed Leopard in the same way. That said, the Leopard upgrade installation has left behind the most bugs of them all. Even so, things still went fairly smoothly. On the first reboot on both my systems, the system did hang on a blue screen for about two minutes; but in every case, it continued normally afterwards.

To begin the installation, I simply inserted the Leopard DVD into each machine. The installation window (as shown above) appeared, and I double-clicked on the “Install Mac OS X” icon. The installer then presented the standard windows you might expect, i.e., the EULA acceptance and the window presenting options for installation. Since I did nothing to customize the installation, the installer assumed I wanted to use the Upgrade option and stated that at the bottom of its window as well as presenting a statement that the upgrade would take 5.6 GB. I think I selected the hard drive for the installation next before it asked me for my user id and password; and once supplied, it rebooted. Then it began the Installation DVD check Apple’s been presenting for the last few OS upgrades. (I let the DVD check run during that first installation but after that clicked the “Skip” button to save time.) Once that was finally done, it began writing files while showing me a progress bar and a wildly inaccurate estimate of time remaining that started out at 2 hours and 12 minutes and rapidly clocked down from there. From the reboot to the end of the installation window (when it reboots and goes through various hoops to finish the installation), took forty minutes on my Mac Pro and fifty minutes on my MacBook Pro when installing to its internal hard drive.

I always run my Docks on the right side of the screen, so they both appeared as the 2D dark but somewhat transparent version. On both machines, all applications that had been on the Tiger dock were successfully carried forward. The picture shows my MBP desktop with the Grab application highlighted in the Menu bar, which is semi-transparent in Leopard. Frankly, I don’t see that it adds anything aesthetically or functionally to the system; so, I’m not sure why they did it. Further, the bar appears more silver than it might otherwise because of the “Aurora” desktop being displayed; selecting an Aqua desktop makes the menu turn a shade of light blue. (While I’m displaying the native Leopard “Aurora” desktop here, I actually like the Aqua desktops more and plan on running them most of the time.).

If you look closely at the Dock, you can see that the Applications folder is now represented by what appears to be an Address Book superimposed over a brown folder. Not sure why Apple picked that one, but it hasn’t been hard to get used to. What is cool is what happens when you click on it. Instead of the Finder folder view, it displays all applications in a semi-transparent window where you can launch any application with a single-click.

The downside of it is that when you do click on an app, the window disappears so that launching multiple applications from it is impossible. However, there is a workaround; and that is to click on the “Show in Finder” button near the bottom of the “window”. This presents the Applications folder in the Finder folder view you’re used to and that doesn’t move or disappear until you close it.

Unlike earlier versions of OS X, when you right-click on the Applications folder in the Dock, you no longer get a Windows-like cascading menu of applications you can pick from. You do get a contextual menu, but it shows only “Sort by” (Name, Date, etc.), “Remove from Dock”, “Show in Finder”, and “Open Applications” selections.

The other thing you may notice is that the little black arrow that pointed at running applications has been replaced by a much-harder-to-see white dot.

That’s all I’ve got time for today.

In my next blog, I’ll post boot, shutdown, and application launch times using Tiger and Leopard and different machine configurations. The blog after that will talk about the bugs I’ve seen. After that, who knows?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

First Look at Leopard

Since yesterday afternoon when I received our Leopard family pack, I have now installed Apple’s newest operating system on all four of our machines. If I have a one-word impression of the new OS, it is this: buggy! Of the last three operating system upgrades I have performed, Leopard has definitely been the most problematic.

That’s not to say I don’t like the new operating system. I do. There’s lots of great things about it. But despite the extra months Apple delayed it, Leopard is hardly a finished product.

In the next blog, I’ll go into more detail about my whole experience. Overall, most of the cosmetic and graphic changes are pretty neat. Performance is overall surprisingly faster than Tiger, at least on the surface. All of our machines, which range from a 2.66 Ghz Mac Pro with 6GB of RAM to my wife’s 2.0 GHz Core Duo black MacBook seem to handle general operating system tasks well.

But it’s the bugs that have my attention. An error message popped up on every machine at the end of the installation process telling me the user keychain could not be found. Apple has already addressed that with a software update, but on the MacBook it wasn’t clear it solved the problem. On the Mac Pro, iTunes (7.4.2) hangs when I run a movie or a TV show when I enlarge the movie player, stop the show, and close the movie player so it shrinks back into iTunes. But as the top edge of the player screen starts disappearing by shrinking into iTunes, the application hanges. I’ve had to Force Quit iTunes every time to recover. On my wife’s iMac, iTunes couldn’t find her library and came up blank because she had the iTunes folder in her Documents rather than her Music folder. (Yes, I fixed that.). Small things for sure, but considering how smoothly the last two operating system upgrades have gone, these are very noticeable to me. Leopard also dumped all my printer profiles on my Mac Pro; I have yet to check my other machines to see if they might have suffered the same fate.

So far, the only application Leopard seems to have killed is my Juniper Network Connect VPN client software. (That was almost expected; Tiger did the same thing.) I tried my Adobe CS3 and my Microsoft Office 2004 applications earlier, and they seemed to work just fine.

Anyway, I’m out of time tonight because I’ve got to go into work tomorrow and I’m still installing and configuring my systems with Leopard. Stay tuned. I’ll write and post more as soon as I can.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Awaiting a Leopard

Yes, we preordered a Leopard family pack and are anxiously awaiting its arrival this week. Together, my wife and I own most of the models in the current Mac fleet, i.e., a Mac Pro, a MacBook Pro, an iMac, and a MacBook. I do not intend to hold back any machines from the upgrade once it arrives, though I am making full, bootable disk backups of all our current Tiger-driven systems.

Frankly, Leopard has so many features we will find helpful I wish we could talk the rest of our Mac-running family members into also upgrading this week. But, other than my two sons, the rest of our Mac-using family members hardly know what an operating system upgrade is. They are running Panther and Jaguar.

Anticipating Leopard’s arrival, my wife starting making comments about how she was looking forward to using Time Machine. That made me take a look at the hard disks we had available for use for all the machines and forced me out to Fry’s to pick up one more external hard disk and one more internal.

The external hard drives in the house available for use included a 120GB Firewire 400 external (I was using that to back up my MacBook Pro’s internal hard drive which is also 120GB), a Maxtor Easy Touch II 300GB Firewire/USB 2 hard drive (used to back up the 320GB Maxtor Easy Touch III used to run the MacBook Pro from when at home), a LaCie 120GB Firewire 400 external hard disk (used to back up my wife’s iMac). I back up my Mac Pro by cloning the Mac OS X portion of the machines’ boot disk to a 300GB Maxtor SATA hard drive in the Mac Pro’s number four slot. That was not going to be a big enough inventory to back up all four machines, especially since the optimum hard drive sizes for Time Machine need to be as big or bigger than the drive being backed up. So, after mentally working out a new plan, I journeyed down to my local Fry’s Electronics where I purchased a 500GB Maxtor SATA II internal drive (on sale for $94) and another Maxtor Easy Touch III 320GB Firewire/USB 2.0 external hard drive.

My new plan is to use the new 320GB Maxtor Easy Touch to back up the identical drive I use to run my MacBook Pro when at home; use the generic Firewire drive with a 120 upgraded to 160GB hard drive to back up the MacBook Pro’s internal drive; use the 300GB Maxtor Easy Touch II to back up my wife’s 250GB iMac; and use the LaCie 120GB Firewire drive to back up her MacBook. The Mac Pro will still use its internal disk #4 to back up its boot drive and the RAID 1 set I use for scratch drives to the new 500GB Maxtor SATA II.

I’m looking forward to using Spaces, primarily on the Mac Pro, so I can set up a desktop for video editing, graphics and desktop publishing, everyday surfing and Mail, and maybe even one for flight simulators. I’ve been looking for an elegant way to segregate the tasks I do on the Mac Pro for some time, and I’ll let you know whether Spaces does the trick.

I’m also looking forward to seeing how well both the still photo and video backdrops in iChat work and how much horsepower they take to run.

Additionally, I know I'll try out the To-Do Notes in Mail, though I’m not sure how useful it will really be. Most of the time, when I send myself a reminder of something to do, I’m not using a Mac. I’m at work on a PC, so I suspect I’ll still be e-mailing myself regular e-mail notes as a reminder for quite some time to come.

I’ve been backing up all my systems this afternoon, readying for the Leopard installation. The cloning of hard drives using the two Firewire 800 Maxtor units has been taking much longer than I expected, an hour or two more than the equivalent backup took using my MacPro’s internal SATA interface. I’ve been running them in parallel to normal operation of my MacBook Pro using its internal hard disk. I though that might go faster than booting off the Firewire 800 and cloning it from there, but now I’m not so sure.

Anyway, I’ll post reports with screen shots as fast as I can. I will be working in the STS-120 mission in the Mission Engineering Room, so posts will be contingent on how the mission is going. We’ll miss our shot at getting Leopard t-shirts, but pre-ordering it will ensure I get it quickly no matter hat the mission schedule turns out to be. We’re looking forward to it.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Boot Camp or Leopard: Think Again!

A few weeks ago, there was an editorial published online that argued how Apple had become the new Microsoft. Several Mac pundits roundly refuted the article was. I’ve got two words for them: “Think again!” Today, Apple released a tech note about Boot Camp that shows that indeed, sometimes, the spots the companies wear are not very different.

Months ago, when Apple announced Leopard’s delay because of the iPhone, users pointed out that the Leopard release would push back beyond the beta’s expiration date. Apple tried to calm the waters by stating that Boot Camp would not discontinue working, and some reports claimed the company was going to issue a final version of Boot camp for Tiger users for $30 after Leopard was released. That’s a fair approach since it doesn’t coerce users into buying Leopard. But today, the Apple tech note that was released stated that the Boot Camp license for version 1.3 or 1.4 of Boot Camp beta would expire when Leopard was released. There was no mention of any other offering from Apple, leaving users with the clear threat of losing Boot Camp accessibility if they don’t buy Leopard. That’s about as “Microsoftian” as you can get.

This probably won’t impact my wife and I since I plan on upgrading to Leopard shortly after its release. Still, what if I decided not upgrade to Leopard right away because it disables some hardware or software I really need? Apple marketed its latest class of Intel powered desktops and portables by lauding their ability to run Windows via Boot Camp or a third party application (like Parallels). Nowhere in their ads did they point out that the ability to run Windows would be compromised if the user didn’t buy Leopard in the future. In effect, by marketing the Intel Mac’s abilities to run Windows and releasing Boot Camp to support it, Apple did establish a reasonable expectation, if not a defacto warranty, that the user could run Windows as well as OS X without having to depend on future upgrades.

As I said, since it is an additional capability, I consider a small charge to maintain it as fair, even though an attorney might argue it needs to be supplied by Apple for free.

If I were in Apple marketing and perhaps in Apple Legal, I’d be arguing for the company to release a version of Boot Camp independent of the Leopard release, even if they charge a few bucks for it. Otherwise, Apple looks like they’re trying to force an upgrade on consumers who may not otherwise want it but are coerced into getting it to maintain their current functionality. If that really is their intent, then they deserve the Microsoft comparison and to be sued.

If they can’t see this coming, then they must be as blind as an iPod Shuffle.

First Look – Maxtor Shared Storage II 320GB

For about the past year or so, I’ve been keeping one Network Attached Storage drive.
Until a few weeks ago, I was using a D-Link DGM-600 NAS with a 160GB Maxtor hard drive mounted in its case. While the DGM-600 is a wireless NAS, I was only using it as a wired Gigabit Ethernet unit. It performed excellently, right up until the hard drive quit. I believe the hard drive failure induced some thermal stress. It didn’t seem to hurt the unit’s performance, but the unit’s fan became a bit louder. In my very quiet office, it picked up a bit more buzz than I wanted to tolerate.

So, about two weeks ago, Fry’s put on sale a 320GB Maxtor Shared Storage II drive. The drive comes equipped with one Gigabit Ethernet and two USB 2.0 ports. I have replaced the D-Link set-up with the Maxtor, and so far have been very happy with it. While I’ve mostly only transferred small files to and from it, it took only 33.9 seconds to copy a 478.9 MB file from my desktop to it. As you can see, transfer rates are very fast.

Much to my surprise, Maxtor did include a Mac version of their storage management software, Maxtor Easy Manage, which includes backup, media sharing, and disk utilities. I really haven’t used it for much, though its main window can be used to mount the volume instead of using Finder. It seems like a fairly capable package, and I’ll share more about it as I gain experience with it. As well as using it as a straightforward network share, at some point I’ll investigate its use as a Shared Media Storage platform, streaming to another Mac or an Apple TV.

B, the way, I haven’t mentioned it; but if you had surmised by my keeping it that it’s very quiet, you’re right. It sits on a shelf about three feet from me, and I can only tell its on from the lights sparkling on its front.

For only the $109 this unit cost me, it was a very good bargain.