A few notes on the MacBook
Since Apple loaned me not only a copy of Leopard, but also the MacBook to actually run it on, I want to make a few notes on the MacBook too. I have always been a fan of Apple's notebook offerings; as far as I am concerned, there is still nothing on the market today that can beat the lower-end iBook/MacBook in terms of features, looks, and price.
The new MacBook is no exception. The build quality feels a lot better than on my G4 iBook (which was a tad bit flimsy), and the various innovative (yes, they are innovative) features such as the magnetic screen lid and the MagSafe power cord really add to a high-end feeling, even though this is actually the lower-end Apple notebook offering. The screen is also quite slick and bright, and the iSight works fine.
There are a few problems too, of course. I know I will get flamed for this, but Apple, please include a two button trackpad in your notebooks. I know it is a touchy subject, but now that we have the Mighty Mouse, it only makes sense to include multiple buttons on notebooks too. Additionally, the package does not include a mini DVI -> VGA/DVI connector. I had to go to the Apple retailer and buy one myself for 20 EUR. My iBook G4 did come with an ADC -> VGA connector.
All in all, for 1099 USD or 1049 EUR, the MacBook is a lot of bang for your buck, and there is little in the form of competition for it. If you are in the market for a small but full-featured laptop, the MacBook is actually the only sane choice.
When I first entered the world of Mac OS X, during the Panther (10.3) era, on a G4 iMac, I was blown away. I came from a BeOS, Windows, and Linux world, and back then, I had the feeling that OS X truly was the end-all-be-all of operating systems. I could not help but think, if people can get this, than why on earth are they still chugging along on their Windows and Linux boxes? What is wrong with these people?
Of course, it did not take me long to realise that the Mac OS was far from the end-all-be-all operating system I thought it to be during the first few days of using it. It had its fair share of flaws, limitations, and oddities that made me understand that OS X was 'just like everybody else'; it is good at some things, it sucks at a whole lot of other things.
Over the years, the Mac OS did improve significantly. Especially in the performance department, each successive release performed slightly better than its predecessor, which is a far cry from its competitors who have gotten significantly slower over the years. In addition, new OS X releases seemed to introduce new features that actually made sense, that actually tried to solve problems real users coped with. I still consider Expose to be the best graphical user interface idea this century. There are other features in a similar league, like Spotlight.
Panther was a huge improvement over Jaguar, and Tiger was a huge improvement over Panther; is Leopard a huge improvement over Tiger? It may not be a huge improvement like Panther and Tiger were, but it sure is an improvement - contrary to some of the reports we see online. Even though this review started a tad bit negative, you have to realise that the start of this review dealt mostly with the looks of the system, simply because Apple itself made quite a fuss of it. Looks, however, are quite subjective, and as such, it may very well be that other people totally dig the look of the dock or the new folder icons. And even if you do not, you can change these things (although it is still Apple we are talking about here, so they have not made it easy).
As for the real new features, Leopard does in fact carry a serious punch. Even though many would rate Time Machine as Leopard's 'killer feature', I would rate Quick Look as the killer feature. To have instant access to any file without ever having to launch an application is a major step forward from the single tasking days of yore, where not the document was central, but the application. Quick Look does away with the application-centric paradigm even more, while being available system-wide, and this makes it my personal killer feature.
However, do not underestimate the power of Time Machine. I have often harped on it for being inflexible and too bling-blingy compared to Windows Vista's Volume Shadow Copy, but the cold hard truth is that VSC is only available to those who have either Vista Ultimate or Business, and even those most likely have no idea how to set it up or use it properly. Time Machine may do less than VSC, but what it does do, is done so much easier, better, and prettier it is almost scary. Time Machine makes backing up easy and fun, and that is a major achievement.
The new iChat deserves a special note. The sad thing about iChat is that it is fairly useless in my country, since we all use MSN Messenger, and nobody uses AIM (and Macs are not exactly that widespread yet either, even though it is getting better and better), but with a few test chats with my OSNews colleague Adam, the power of the new features just left me flabbergasted. Being able to watch presentations, pictures, and videos together in such a slick fashion, despite the Atlantic Ocean being in between us was just awesome.
Leopard is a great release, despite its bugs and annoyances. It certainly is not as big an improvement as Tiger or Panther, but definitely worth your money.
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- "Introduction; The appearance"
- "The Finder, Quick Look, Stacks, Spaces, and Spotlight"
- "Time Machine"
- "Safari, Mail.app, iChat; Misc."
- "A few notes on the MacBook; Conclusion"