Personal Observations Regarding Leopard on Old Hardware

Oct.31.07 | About: Apple Inc. (AAPL)

By Carl Howe

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) Tuesday announced that it sold two million copies or about a million a day of Mac OS X Leopard in the first weekend. I tried to find similar statistics for the Microsoft Vista launch, but the best I could come up with was that Vista sold 20 million copies in the first month (February), resulting in an average sales rate of 714,000 a day. Both numbers reflect pre-orders and machine installs, not just upgrades. So at least for now, Leopard is running neck and neck with the Windows Vista install rate.

All that said, the Leopard numbers will surely fall behind in the next month. Why? Because Apple estimates the total number of machines capable of running Leopard to be only 21 million. I don't think we're going to see 95% market penetration on Leopard in the first month, so enjoy the moment while you can.

We now have four Leopard upgrades running in the house, including my non-supported dual 800 MHz Quicksilver desktop. I thought I would provide some of my personal observations of the corners of the OS I've wandered into.

  • Leopard Front Row is amazing. If you haven't typed Command-Escape yet, do so. Leopard gives you an entire Apple TV in your new OS upgrade, but without the Apple TV box. And unlike Tiger, these functions are available on every Mac, not just the ones that have remote controls (despite what the tech specs on Apple's Web site say). I love it.

  • Photoshop 7 doesn't run. Now admittedly, this is a five-year-old Carbon application, but I'm disappointed that unless I can fix this problem with a reinstall, I'll have to finally upgrade my trust old copy of Adobe Creative Suite. However, my guess is that since the program runs through much of the loading process before it crashes, this problem may only be an incompatible plug-in. More information as I get it.

  • Selective screen capture has new helpful data. I use Command-Shift-4 to take lots of images for this blog, and now that function provides pixel measurement data as you draw your window. That's another nice treat I didn't expect.

  • DVD playing doesn't require a 1.6 GHz processor. I think this requirement has gotten misquoted, with some people noting that a dual G5 1.6 GHz or better processor is required to run DVD player. It ain't true. The 1.6 GHz requirement is for improved de-interlacing. My Dual 800 MHz didn't meet that requirement, so it grayed out the Better Interlacing item, but it still played DVDs just fine and de-interlaced well. So this spec is much ado about nothing.

  • System timing is different. I noted yesterday that I've had trouble with conflicts between my SATA controller and my USB 2.0 add-on cards with Tiger causing kernel panics. I won't say that's gone, but they are now much less frequent (I've seen exactly one). More interestingly, though, is the fact that Leopard appears to run the SATA controller much more aggressively, resulting in disk transfers that are about 4 times faster than I was measuring on Tiger as measured in Activity Monitor. I've got to do more controlled tests to figure out whether that improvement is real or a fluke. But overall, even on my old and slow machines, I say that Leopard feels more friskier and more responsive than Tiger on similar functions.

  • Photobooth and iChat are the source of much entertainment.. My sons have been spending hours checking out the new special effects in Photobooth and iChat. It's fun to see your kids swimming with tropical fish and riding roller coasters without having to leave home. This may not do much for productivity, but for pure entertainment, I suspect these functions are going to get a ton of use.

What has your experience been like?