A Spotty Take On Leopard's Features

I'll be brief, since due to other folk's vacations I spent far too much time wading through a couple dozen million database records with the Swiss Army Knife of the Internet, had a most unfashionably late dinner, pretty much missed the WWDC online coverage and have yet to watch the webcast (David Magda just sent me the URL, but I'm far too tired to watch it tonight).

So I'll just pour my thoughts regarding the Leopard preview features, keeping in mind that they're a subset of what's likely to surface later and skipping my disappointment for not having seen an announcement of a Merom-powered MacBook Pro.

As it turns out, that supposed feature list got as much right as it did wrong (at least considering what is known right now). I won't keep score - I'll leave that for someone else without a splitting headache...

Anyway, I think this WWDC was mostly an eye candy affair - lots of "amazing" features, some sensible hardware updates to finish the Intel transition, and a set of teasers to push developers forward into Leopard and leave users wanting for more.

But little substance, which seems as it should be considering we're still half a year away (or so) from Leopard. Yes, half a year. Eviler minds than mine have already started to wonder if all the eye candy was to keep people's minds off the date.

Onwards, then.

Time Machine

Time Machine is visually awesome. I will, however, refrain from commenting further on it until I have had the time to consider the privacy and performance implications of having something do complete filesystem snapshots (I would have preferred some sort of timed versioning scheme extending the filesystem journal for this sort of thing).

There are two things that irk me, though. Like Dashboard, it is a separate environment, and therefore consistent only with itself where it relates to UI and interaction model. It does seem appropriate to "shift" the user's Finder to a different context and focus on the task at hand (less chance of recovering the wrong file), but despite the coolness it doesn't quite "fit in" with the overall desktop. Maybe it's just me.

The second thing is that I sure hope it is much more useful than Backup, and that it lets me archive things to DVD and retrieve them independently of its internal workings. Backup is a bit flaky in that regard, despite what I wrote some time ago, since it relies on internal metadata storage. Lose the definition of your backup sets, and you might well be hosed. Quis custodiet ipses custodies? (who will backup the backup utility?)

Like Spotlight, I think we'll only get a real feel for its usefulness when it's shipping (which is not necessarily a nod of approval, considering that I don't actually use Spotlight for much).


OK, fine, we have even better HTML mail (something that has been coming to Mail.app in thin slices across releases). I have no use for even more ways to create masses of HTML mail crammed with images, but I do like the UI and functionality for notes and To-Dos.

But I keep wondering if notes will work with an IMAP account, and whether they will be a .webarchive-like thing or more or less cross-platform MIME/HTML content. If they can't be shared via IMAP with other computers, they're pretty much useless (and I hope .Mac isn't the sole enabler for such sharing).

And then there are the usual things some of us long for, like all these pending fixes, more humdrum enhancements like a vertical preview pane (not even a hint of one, as far as I can see), pretty damn critical protocol issues like the lack of IMAP IDLE support, or fixing the brain-dead way Address Book performs LDAP queries (it currently returns only one e-mail and one phone number for each contact, which is pretty useless when you need to look up someone's mobile number).

There are a few screenshots of the Mac OS X Server directory search out there, but they're not much of a hint as to what Address Book will eventually do (or not).

Update: Yes, yes, I missed the RSS feeds folder. I was dog tired, and even after a night's sleep and watching portions of the keynote during breakfast the implications of it aren't that clear. Then again, I've been using newspipe for so long that reading RSS feeds in Mail.app is kind of a blind spot (It's so natural I hardly think about it anymore). The issues with this are, as usual, how you synchronize feeds across machines and what is the feed store (please, let's not rely on .Mac for this, and store stuff on IMAP if possible). newspipe's complete MIME format helps with forwarding, cross-platform compatibility and long-term archiving, so let's wait and see what this actually does.


Of all iChat's fancy enhancements, the one I think most useful is (obviously) screen sharing - I've written before about how important I think CSCW is, and how much of a productivity enhancer simple screen sharing can turn out to be.

I am curious to see how well it will work over a WAN or NATed, but this is definitely a good move - and, as far as I'm concerned, it's an excellent reason to consider switching from Adium to a Jabber-based solution to talk to my MSN and Yahoo buddies.

Sadly, there is no mention whatsoever of standards compliance. Screen sharing and remote control are covered by the T.120 standard (which has some flaky implementations out there, but which would be a reasonable guarantee of interoperability), and H.323/H.324 are not even hinted at - which means that (at least from what we know right now), you won't be able to use your Mac to access corporate video-conferencing systems like Tandberg's.

So I think this one is a hesitant plus until we know more - what good are these features if they aren't standards-based?


Spaces... Hmmm. As pfig just said to me on IM: "With Exposé, you don't need virtual desktops."

And now, "All you need is Spaces". Ok, I expect it will seem less of a step back when Leopard ships and we're all awed by some other feature. Still, it's nice to see Apple making it easier for us WindowMaker junkies (I hope the key bindings can be made to work the same).

But to Apple's credit, window management seems usable enough (and reassuring enough for first-time users) to become a decent alternative to Exposé. And somehow, the application locking feature reminded me of the early version of Xerox PARC's Rooms (I'm probably one of the few people who remember it, though).


Out of Dashboard's new features, the one I think is worth singling out is the automatic widget creation from a web page (something that was hinted at in the rumors during the weekend).

The new, revamped Dashcode and the built-in widget publishing features are likely to be yet another factor in the combinatorial explosion of widgets and single-purpose Web services, but I'm somewhat leery of .Mac syncing.

Maybe it's just me.


Spotlight learns a few new tricks (I wonder how secure the inter-machine search is, but I'm in no rush...), but the one thing I'd like to see - searching inside attachments in Mail.app - didn't surface. Then again, it makes too much sense not to be lurking in there somewhere.

I'll wait, somewhat reassured from knowing that at least I can now use Boolean operators to tighten down searches, and that despite some noise regarding it being improved as an application launcher, Quicksilver is a very tough act to follow.


CalDav, at long last! Which means that the very first stumbling block I had with it (being able to share a calendar with my friends without .Mac) should be only a few tweaks to Apache away.

I am, however, curious as to what will happen to the (rather weak) Exchange integration features in Mail.app, and how Exchange meeting requests will be handled. And how the "event dropbox" is implemented.

Maybe, just maybe it's all doable without iCal Server, but...

Whoa. Hold on a minute. An Apple Calendaring Server?

Yes, folks, Apple has also announced a number of extensions to Mac OS X Server, including a Wiki package. Whee and all that.

But the big news is that they are at least paying lip service to groupware and the most common server-centric CSCW mechanism - the shared calendar.

Sure, it's a CalDav server, and hence a bunch of Apache tweaks with management glue (which is the hardest part), but you got to love the Outlook and Sunbird icons on the header graphic...

Update: Before I doze off, Marcus has led me to the announcement of the Open Source release of (among other things) Calendaring Server, which turns out to be based on Twisted Python and not Apache + WebDAV. And Apple is also releasing the build-able Intel 10.4.7 Xnu kernel sources. Yay!


I'm used to using VoiceOver to keep track of a few things (I switch it on when I work alongside my Mac and can't spare the time to look at the screen) and like to keep track of Assistive Technologies, so the new voice is most welcome (the sample is worth listening to, since it sounds a bit more natural than Victoria).

I am very curious as to the foreign language add-ons, since having a decent Portuguese synthesizer would be very useful for a few people I know.


Erm... Hadn't we covered this one earlier? Ah, yes, it was in Tiger. Next, please.

Core Animation

The power behind all of the new eye candy, apparently with programmatic tweening. I'm looking forward to see the equivalent of Quartz Composer for it - I have a feeling there will be one, since Apple loves to deliver visual tools to help leverage their visual pipeline enhancements.

And that's it, really. Excuse me while I finish a couple of e-mails and collapse from the exhaustion of a pretty darned busy Monday at work.