09 November 2007

Upgrading my Mac's operating system

A frequent visitor to this blog has left a comment, for which I will reply in the form of a post (as opposed to another comment). But that will be the next post. In the meantime... some tech talk.

I'm known to be a sucker for new operating systems, and have been lucky with them. That was indeed true when Windows 95 came out - I ordered a new Gateway (back then, Gateway 2000) Pentium 100MHz machine, on the first day that Gateway started pre-loading Windows 95 on its computers. With the built-in Internet connectivity plus vastly improved layout and stability over Windows 3.1, I did not regret the decision at all. (Though aesthetically, I preferred Windows 3.1...) And earlier this year, I bought a retail upgrade copy of Windows Vista Home Premium, on the release date, and immediately loaded it onto my HP Pavilion laptop (with Intel Core 2 Duo 1.83 GHz processor and 2 GB of RAM), but aside from the built-in DVD player software, found little improvement.

Since then, I've moved over to the Mac world, but my habits stayed the same. I pre-ordered Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) and had it delivered on the release date, two weeks ago, even though 10.4 (Tiger) was working perfectly fine on my newish Mac. I ordered Leopard primarily for Time Machine (backup software), Boot Camp (Windows dual-boot), and Quick Look. I am happy to report that these functions are working as advertised.

Time Machine, with the help of an external hard drive, simplifies and automates the backup process, to a point where the only thing I have to do is to connect the external hard drive on a regular basis. Backups are a hassle to me, and making it a no-brainer has really helped me out. If I keep the external drive connected, I can even back up every hour. The good part will be the restoration, which will resurrect my data AND applications to any previous backed-up state. This beats having to reinstall all applications, most likely the case with Windows and often the case even on Mac OS.

Boot Camp, which creates a new partition for Windows to run on, was available as a beta (versions 1.x) on Tiger, but that beta has expired; in other words, no more reconfiguring, and no more driver updates, unless I upgraded to Leopard. Boot Camp is extremely important to me, as I still use quite a few Windows programs on my Mac, so this was a forced upgrade. At least, version 2.0, which Leopard comes with, works beautifully - my Mac runs Windows better than most PCs out there, thanks to lack of crapware. Too bad, Time Machine doesn't back up the Windows partition!

Quick Look, which lets me look at the contents of a document file with a tap of the space bar, is another nice feature that works well. Other improvements, such as a revamped Finder that looks a lot like iTunes, are just the icing on the cake.

The speed of the operating system is very good - on my Intel Core 2 Duo 2.16 GHz, 2 GB RAM iMac, it's nearly instantaneous start-up. It seems a tad slower than Tiger at the initial startup, but only by a second or two at most, and once started up, about the same speed, despite transparent menu bar and other eye candies.

The price, at $129, is a bit steep for just a few features, but on the mark if I consider all the other little features I am getting.

There was one hiccup with Leopard; an iTunes plug-in, which an application for Facebook had installed, crashed iTunes under Leopard. I had to remove the plug-in, and while I was hunting for it, I couldn't use iTunes for a few days. But that's taken care of, and I don't see further issues at this time.

I've been lucky with my operating system upgrades - even the much-maligned Windows Vista didn't give me too many headaches. But nevertheless, I am far more satisfied with my Mac experience, both under Tiger and now under Leopard, which works almost like a dream. Apple has legions of loyal fans, and now I know why - its products simply work!

Mac OS X Leopard