Leopard's hits and misses: A spotty record

Now that we've used Apple's new OS for a week, what do we like and what falls short?

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Cover Flow

Admittedly, Cover Flow in Finder windows is cool. It allows you to visually scan files and folders the same way you flip through songs and albums in iTunes or on the iPhone.

Cover Flow
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Cover Flow at work. (Click for larger view.)

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Here's the annoyance, though: You open a Finder window in Cover Flow mode, then drag the lower-right corner of the window down to see more files. Oops! Watch instead as the Cover Flow icons grow to gargantuan size while the list of files you're actually trying to expand remains the same size.

We don't want behemoth-size icons, no matter how pretty. We want to see the rest of the list of files in whatever folder we're perusing. Once you set the size of the Cover Flow window pane, it should remain that size in all Finder windows until you enlarge it.

Lack of imaginative iPhone integration

When Steve Jobs first unveiled Leopard's features, he said there were still some Apple had not yet announced. One thing that many Mac users expected was further integration of the iPhone and Leopard.

While the iPhone currently plays nicely with iTunes (on both Macs and PCs), we want more. If my iPhone rings, why can't my Mac automatically display Caller ID information right on the screen? When I come into Bluetooth range of my Mac, why can't that set off a script or two that turns off my screensaver, fires up my music and launches the apps I need?

Third-party applications that better tie mobile phones and Macs have been around for years, but none support the iPhone. So Apple should.

The good news is there's still a good chance of this sort of integration happening. Given Apple's software roots and its continuous efforts to enhance the user experience, this is probably more a matter of when and not if.

Orphaned hardware

For those who are a couple of generations behind in their hardware, the prospect of a Leopard world is bleak. For one, any Mac with a G3 chip is automatically left out. This includes all of the original translucent iMacs; you know, the ones that helped get Apple back on its feet.

The blue towers that ran Tiger respectably (given a lot of RAM) are also out of the picture, as are all first-generation iBooks -- remember the orange and blue ones? Leopard also leaves behind the Generation 2 White iBooks as well. All black G3 PowerBooks? Gone.

But the carnage doesn't stop there. A lot of G4 machines won't make the cut, either. Any machine without 512MB of RAM and at least a 867-MHz G4 processor isn't supported. This includes some Mac Minis sold before July 2005 that shipped with G4 processors and 256MB of RAM. While you can upgrade the memory via putty knife and third-party chips, there is no official Apple upgrade available. Just over two years old and already obsolete!

Other G4s that Leopard doesn't support include Quicksilver and earlier PowerMacs and Cubes released before January 2002; eMacs sold before October 2003; Titanium PowerBooks older than November 2002.

"Does not support" really means "will not install," by the way. The Leopard installation program won't run on a machine that doesn't meet the specs. But you can put Leopard on an older machine, if you want to try it. Attach it to a supported Mac via FireWire, start it in Target mode, and you'll be able to install Leopard on it from the supported Mac. We were able to get an unsupported Mini working that way, albeit slowly.

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