Leopard – Really Bloody Fast Review

In Apple, Reviews on January 25, 2008 at 12:36:47 am

So, I (finally) upgraded to Leopard yesterday. Quick walkthrough:

I upgraded from Tiger. Since I modded my system so much, I figured I’d back up any essentials, and do a clean install. I know it isn’t necessary, but having old bits of ShapeShifter, Silk, APE and God-knows what else on my system isn’t exactly appealing in terms of making stuff run faster. So, clean install it is.  The install itself took about half an hour. Not bad for clearing about 80 GB of stuff from a hard drive, and tossing another 12 or 13 on it. Then the intro video ran:

Then the setup… usual stuff.

And it was at that exact moment that I remembered I hadn’t backed up my 300 or 400 bookmarks. I hate formatting sometimes.

Initial Impressions:

Leopard is familiar, visually. I’ve seen the screenshots and knew what to expect. That still didn’t prevent the “wow” moment. One thing struck me as good looking, however, that I did not expect. I saw the screenshots and videos, but I now actually like the transparent title bar. The 3D dock is sweet too, especially the shiny-ness.

Time Machine

One of the reasons I bought Leopard was because of Time Machine. It’s a super easy way to back up, or so they say. Let’s find out…

I have a 250 GB hard drive which is in a FireWire 400 enclosure. It’s perfectly suited to the task. I plugged it in, and realized that it was FAT32 formatted. So, I pulled all the useful stuff off of it (all 150 GB worth… took absolutely forever), formatted it, then partitioned it. I created one partition that matches the 120 GB hard drive in my MacBook Pro, and the remainder just for me to dump my crap. That came out really wrong. If you’re reading this and suddenly got the impression that my hard drive was a toilet, my bad.

That 150 GB of stuff I managed to pare down to 80 GB, which was nice. I put that on the crap dump section (again, my bad). Then, I set up the rest of it to work with Time Machine. The initial backup (of three-quarters of a million files) took about two and a half hours, which isn’t bad, considering it was about 50 GB of data. Then, it was 1:30 AM, so I went to bed. I left my hard drive on, thinking it would be good to let it back stuff up at night.

Here’s my first problem with Time Machine: the hard drive whirring every 15 minutes is enough to drive you mad. All of the documentation said it would happen every hour. Which meant that, after the first whirr, I had 50-odd minutes to get to sleep. Then it would carry on throughout the night, whilst I lay asleep. Ah, but ’tis not the case. The hard drive kept waking up every 10-15 minutes. So I finally just got up, told Time Machine to shut up, and turned off the drive. And that settled that.

I woke up, and turned on the hard drive. It made a backup right then. And another an hour later. It worked really well in the background. But I hit upon another weird thing.

As it was doing my 11:28 AM backup (not that you needed to know that), my computer ground to a halt. I mean, spinning pinwheels in every application regardless of what it was doing. Heck, I just had Smultron (a really dead simple text editor) running alongside Time Machine, and no dice. So, I opened up System Preferences (took about 5 minutes, and I am not exaggerating) and attempted to stop the backup. It wouldn’t budge. So, I did what any angry user would do, and force-quit the backup, ejected the drive and turned it off. I then disabled a few folders (BitTorrent transfer folder being one of them) to stem the anger. It worked. Lesson: Never let Time Machine back up an active BitTorrent folder.

I’d just like to wrap this up now, because I’m lazy, tired, hungry, and can’t think of anything else to write.

The Good

+ Looks great

+ Runs faster (after some initial slowdowns)

+ Better battery life (!), despite fancy-shmancy visual effects. I used to get about 3.5 hours on Tiger, and I’m getting 4-4.5 on Leopard.

+ Lots more functionality that I’m too lazy to list

The Bad

– Time Machine has a few quirks

–  Some initial backup calamities (guess who forgot to backup bookmarks, old IM conversations, and some of their desktop pictures collection? I did)

– Runs HOT. I installed smcFanControl to monitor the temperature. At the moment, if I keep it on default fan speed, I’m getting low-to-mid 70˚C CPU temperatures. I’ve got it on high-speed at the moment, and temperatures have dropped to the low 60˚C range. But high-speed will kill battery life.


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