Leopard Arrives in Bangkok

By Graham K. Rogers

While Leopard was released at 6pm on Friday round the world, including Singapore, in Thailand we had an 18-hour delay to 12 noon on 27th October. Some shops did not have it and I was told 4pm. I eventually tracked it down in Siam Discovery Center just after lunch.

The differences start with the number of versions -- only one -- continue with the price of $129 (4,790 baht here), and reach deep into the workings of OS X. While Apple claims 300 improvements, some are simple tweaks or cosmetic. Others, however, will benefit users considerably. There are also a few undocumented changes.

I had already made sure my MacBookPro was running cleanly, but I did it again the day before and also made a double backup of the data. By Saturday morning there were reports of problems and MacFixit made several suggestions. Despite their dire warnings, I decided on a simple upgrade. It was completed in about an hour. Details may be seen in my Bangkok Diary. The installation ate the disk: I started with 68G and ended with 58G.

After the restart and the usual registration, I checked that Mail was working as well as Safari then began to look around, paying attention to the more prominent new features like Coverflow and Spaces.

Like all applications, Mail has a new toolbar with crisper fonts: a cosmetic effect that changes nothing in its operation. Throughout OS X there are new icons, for folders and file types.

My settings were intact and the integrity of the mailboxes was fine: all had been preserved. The Junk Mail menu displayed all messages in the index in an orange script, but (thus far) I have been unable to change this to a more sedate black, or any other colour.

A new feature allowed RSS feeds to be downloaded as mail, so in Safari RSS pages there is now an extra "subscribe" link for that purpose. New items in the feeds themselves are highlighted with a blue dot and a subtle blue shading. I miss the brighter colours that made it clear which items were new, but there is nothing in the preferences that now allows these.

Coverflow was first used in iTunes and allows horizontal scrolling of album covers. It may also be seen on the iPod touch and the iPhone. It is now a Finder display method: contents of some file-types may be viewed without needing them to be opened. I find this is best seen if the Finder window is enlarged: the text on the pages can be seen clearly then.

Even if the Finder window is small, there are two ways to have a look. Tapping the space bar of a highlighted file brings it out of the window; and an icon at the bottom allows it then to be examined full screen, without opening the application (for example a browser or a document program). If the "Quick Look" icon has been added to the Finder's toolbar this has the same effect as using the spacebar.

According to AppleInsider, Xerox (who produced many of the technologies that Macs use) developed something akin to Spaces, in "Rooms" and a similar idea was used in Linux systems. Spaces takes this concept of multiple desktops a bit further. Almost all of the pre-release screenshots have shown four screens, but the user may use up to sixteen with a 4 x 4 grid.

I set this up initially with a screen for Internet working, one for graphics, a third for iTunes and another for boring stuff like spreadsheets and the calendar. The F8 key brings them all up (a notebook user may also need the fn key), but there is also a convenient menubar icon that allows quick selection. Clicking on an open application's icon in the Dock will switch to that program and to its Space. When all Spaces are viewed onscreen, an application can be dragged from one to another.

Only one application failed: the Open Source Gimp which I have used instead of Adobe Photoshop. Little Snitch is no longer reporting the specific application that tries to transmit over the Internet but instead reports all as kernel tasks. This lead to me briefly stopping my Internet access. Growl (a notification system) needed updating so OS X declined to start it, but I downloaded the newest version later.

There are a number of features I am not sure about. The menubar, for example, is semi-transparent so while it compensates for a darker image on the desktop, one that has light and dark patches shows through more. In AddressBook, the Bluetooth connection has been removed. Repairing Permissions has no progress bar, only the candy-stripe effect, so it is not easy to gauge progress.

My transition to Leopard has been fairly smooth and I shall be examining it in more detail soon, beginning with Time Machine: Apple's new backup feature.

Made on Mac

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