The Verdict: Leopard

30 10 2007

When you have such as good operating system, it is always difficult when you are preparing to introduce the successor. You have to make sure that there is something worthwhile for everyone to want to upgrade to it, but you don’t want to risk changing too many thing, for risk of alienating people.

Mac OS X has been through 4 major revisions since it’s inception and the latest version , dubbed “Leopard” is arguably the biggest version yet. It has attracted, like most new Apple products, intense scrutiny such that even the slightest change has sparked strong debate.

When I worked with Windows, I never used to upgrade to the latest version immediately, as there was always one problem or another that would need fixing before you could take the plunge. When I switched to Macs, I started on version 10.3 of OS X, “Panther”. I was with it for quite a while, and when the news started emerging regarding the new version, named “Tiger”, I of course started reading up, and was rapidly swept up in the excitement and speculation of what it would include. Regardless to say, I had my copy pre-ordered and shipped to where I worked ready to install on my iBook soon after release.

So of course, it was no different when it came to Leopard. I have been eagerly anticipating it’s release for some time now, and (thanks to an Apple Developer Connection membership at work) watching it develop and take shape over the course of this year has been very interesting to say the least. But, here is the main question – is Leopard worth the upgrade from Tiger?

My answer to that is a resounding YES. Even if you totally ignore the other features – the Unified interface, brand new Finder, much improved Spotlight, Stacks for the Dock, Core Animation, the new Dock, the list goes on – even if you totally ignored them all, the speed increase alone is worth the upgrade. Everything in Leopard just seems to fly. From the most mundane of tasks, to the most complex, the whole system is so much faster it is amazing.


Normally with a new operating system you expect to suffer a slight performance hit, but with Leopard, the optimisation that has taken place penetrates to the core of the system, there is not a single thing that doesn’t perform noticeably faster. The new unified interface really makes working with everything feel more solid and integrated, as well as adding a bit more eye candy which just makes it more enjoyable to use.

What else is on the menu in Leopard? The new Finder is far superior; as well as being quicker and far less susceptible to becoming unresponsive with dodgy network volumes, it has a lot better interface, with the new sidebar and tighter controls over the appearance of your file system, working with your files has never been as good!

Spotlight is also much, much faster and doesn’t suffer from the same problems that the Tiger version did when dealing with huge numbers of files.

Then there is Spaces, the Leopard virtual desktop solution, with more polish and ease of use than any other virtual desktop application I’ve used, Time Machine which has to be the easiest backup application to set up and use ever, Quick Look for previewing the contents of almost any file without having to wait for the main application to load, and well, the list goes on. 300 new features according to Apple and I’m not about to dispute that!

I’m really impressed with Leopard so far, even more impressed than I was with Tiger over Panther, and that’s saying something. Even better is the fact that it costs a mere £85 inc. VAT for a single user, or just £129 for a 5-user family pack.

My verdict: Leopard = Awesome and well worth an upgrade.


VistaBook Pro

3 10 2007

Well it’s been a looooong time since I last posted, I sorta fell out of the habit, and didn’t really have much to say that a lot more people weren’t already saying, but today I thought I would share with you my latest experiences with Windows Vista…on my Mac.

Not a lot of people I know who use Windows, use Vista. Mostly they have stuck with XP because there was no real need for them to upgrade, and the strange lack of drivers, even now, would have forced them to buy a lot of new hardware that is supported.  A friend of mine from work has been waiting pretty much since Vista was released, for his sound card to have drivers made for it – and this is a relatively new sound card that is still being sold today!

The only real reason I need Windows at all any more is for the games. There just aren’t as many games out for the Mac right now, as there are for Window – and even when a game is released on the Mac, it is usually a long while after the Windows release, and invariably has compatibility problems if you try to play over a LAN or the Internet with Windows clients.  The additional price of a Mac release is also a little irritating.

For me, the only real solution to this is just install Windows itself and boot into it if I want to play a particular game.

So, having downloaded and installed Basecamp 1.4, burned a drivers CD  and inserted my Vista DVD, I was soon running through the Vista installation process. That itself was very quick, and in around 10/15 minutes I was actually booting into Vista for the first time.

Out with the Vista CD and in with the Mac drivers CD, I ran the setup file and let it install all the drivers, and then rebooted to see Vista in all it’s shiny glory:

VistaBook Pro

That was all I needed to do to get all the hardware on my MacBook Pro working with Windows. I have sound that works with the keyboard volume controls, I have a remote control, I have latest video card drivers, I have the works.

Even more impressive is that my Apple Bluetooth Keyboard works perfectly – all the characters are in the right place, and the software function keys work great as well.

Vista reports a Windows Experience Index of 4.1 on my MacBook Pro, and performs amazingly, in fact is probably the best I’ve seen it perform to date, the visual effects look truly gorgeous on the widescreen, and since they don’t lag or cause any slow down on the MacBook Pro, they don’t feel like they’re in the way all the time.

So with such an easy and quick trouble free experience installing on a Mac,  why are people having so many drivers issues with newer kit, and why is it taking so long for the PC industry to respond with new drivers for what must surely be considered the target OS?

The fact that the Mac platform can run Vista so well is yet another good selling point for potential switchers – having Windows work on your new Mac exactly how you would expect it to, with no strange Mac related behaviour, is a sort of safety net, meaning people can more confidently make the transition from PC to Mac.

The new version of Leopard of course has BootCamp built in, and apparently BootCamp for Tiger will expire when this new version is released – here’s hoping that the process runs just as smoothly when it is.

Mac Video

17 04 2007

SuperDuper is Super Duper!

13 04 2007

Backing up your computer is one of those jobs that nobody likes to do. It takes time and effort to get it right, but for most people the completed backup won’t ever be used. It’s difficult to maintain a backup routine when you don’t get instant benefits from it that keep you motivated.

I used to backup the odd thing here or there, but usually only stuff I knew I could never recover – and even then I did it so infrequently, the backup would probably have been next to useless had I have needed it.

Paranoia and concern for my precious data led me to start looking for a solution that would allow me to backup all my important things without taking ages to configure and ages to perform, that way it will be a lot easier to stick to the regime.

I found quite a few apps that would claim to backup things, but they were either too complicated to use or too simple to be useful.

The only one that seemed to be spot on for me was Super Duper.


Super Duper allows you to create backups of your entire hard disk which can be saved on an external disk and made bootable so you can instantly resume working should your hard disk fail. It also allows you to create custom backup sets where you can pick out just the files you want to backup and leave the rest.

My favourite feature though is the Smart Update ability which allows you to update your backup set to match your hard disk at a fraction of the time a full backup would take.

All this is free, but if you pay for the registered version (at $27.95 / ~£14.14) you get access to more customisation and a scheduling feature which allows you to truly automate your backups – Super Duper will mount a target disk, perform the backup, then eject the disk, all on a schedule you set.

The software has been written with absolute computer novices in mind, and so explains in detail what each step of the process entails so there are no doubts. This may be irritating to more experienced users, who may find it a little patronising, but I for one don’t mind it as it does help make it very clear what will happen. It’s sort of like taking a holiday from techno-jargon 🙂

Developer: Shirt Pocket
System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later – Universal
Download Link:
(2.7MB disk image)

Sticky Windows – Now Universal

10 04 2007

Sticky Windows ScreenshotAlmost a year ago I blogged about a piece of software that allows you to very usefully create tabs out of any windows you have on any side of your screen. Very useful if you regularly have a lot of windows open, and don’t want to minimise them to the same place on the dock where they can get lost and mixed up.

4 days ago, this software was finally updated to a Universal Binary and now works properly on Intel Macs!

Developer: Donelleschi Software
System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger – Universal
Download Link:
(908.0KB disk image)

Apple and EMI Wave Bye Bye to DRM

3 04 2007

That’s right, almost 2 months after Steve Jobs’ original Thoughts On Music open letter to the music industry, the first major label EMI has agreed with Apple and allowed their entire library of music to be sold DRM-free and at double the bit-rate previously.

Not only that, but apparently the iTunes Store will provide a single-click solution for existing customers to easily upgrade their previously purchased EMI songs.

The price per single has risen from $.99 to $1.29, but for no DRM and double the encoding rate, $.30 isn’t really that much (its about 15p more for us English people).

Now that one major label has taken the plunge surely it won’t be too long before the other ones have to follow suit, which can only be a good thing!

RSS Rules – Vienna

17 03 2007

RSS (Rich Site Summary / Really Simple Syndication) is a lightweight XML format for distributing news headlines and other content on the Web. You point a RSS-capable browser at the RSS link for a website, and you can then subscribe to the feed, seeing the content within an RSS view in your browser.

I liked the idea of it for being able to keep up to date with my favourite news blogs and sites, but I never really managed it very well, ending up with way over 80 bookmarks in Safari, in different folders on my bookmarks bar, making it a little difficult to keep up to date with new content.

Introducing Vienna:


Vienna is a really simple yet powerful RSS client for Mac OS X.

Vienna takes away all the complications with dealing with a lot of RSS feeds, by allowing you to subscribe to them all from one place. It allows you to create folders for different categories of feeds, and automatically checks for and downloads updates at a regular interval you choose.

It has some powerful features for finding the content you want, by allowing you to create Smart Folders of feeds, that automagically update as you would expect from any self respecting Smart Folder.

And because the content Vienna downloads is cached, you can then view your RSS feeds offline, ideal for people who have a lot of feeds to keep up to date with on the move; connect to your hot spot at Starbucks, let Vienna update, then disconnect to save your bandwidth.

To set it up, you simply drag any RSS bookmarks you have into it’s sidebar, and you’re done. Vienna will then automatically check for updates to the feeds for you, and notifies you when there are new ones by displaying an indicator on it’s dock icon, much in the same way that does.

What I like about Vienna the most is that is isn’t trying to be anything other than a feed manager – a lot of applications I’ve seen try to do so much they actually end up being browsers in their own rights, but not quite as good. I’m happy with my browser, so I want to stick with it, I just want a nice centralised place to keep up to date with my feeds – Vienna does this, and does it well.

Vienna 2.1.1
Link: (1.3MB zip)
Reqs: Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later (Universal)