You can't spend five minutes online these days without learning about the release of Apple's newest operating system upgrade. If you have Macs in your workplace, here's what you need to know so you're ready to run with OS X Leopard.
Apple touts more than 300 new features in Leopard, many of which have practical implications in the workplace. The iChat face-lift allows coworkers to collaborate on files via the shared desktop function. Spaces lets users designate separate workspaces within the desktop environment for better organization and efficiency. A robust backup system, Time Machine, practically bulletproofs users against lost data.
For businesses struggling with employees who are reluctant to learn their way around a computer, Leopard may provide the impetus. An overhauled Finder and the new Stacks feature make locating documents and files a snap-cutting down on agitated calls to the IT staff to find a "lost" spreadsheet.
Upgrading to Leopard is a fairly straightforward process and doesn't require much in the way of preparation as long as your staff is equipped with Macs that have an Intel, PowerPC G5, or PowerPC G4 (867MHz or faster) processor. You need at least 9GB of disk space and 512MB of memory but, beyond that, Leopard is essentially ready right out of the box. One caveat: To take full advantage of Time Machine's backup benefits, an additional hard drive is required.
Leopard's been to school
One US college, Bowdoin College, has been testing Leopard on its array of Macs for more than a year as part of Apple's Developer Connection program and is looking forward to a full upgrade on all its computers in the coming months.
Jason Pelletier, Bowdoin's computer lab manager, says there's plenty to like about Leopard. "Some of our faculty will like the idea of Time Machine to allow for a complete system backup since hard drives are unpredictable. Spaces will be a good addition for power users and IT staff, as many of us already use applications like Virtue or Desktop Manager. The new Quick Look can save time since we can read documents, watch movies and hear sound files without actually opening the item."
Though Macs are in abundance across Bowdoin's campus - the multimedia lab alone has 14 Mac Pros - there is still a mix of older PowerPC and newer Intel-based computers, as Bowdoin works its way through a four-year hardware replacement cycle. Pelletier says that a universal operating system like Leopard that can handle both types of Macs will be a "huge time saver".
With such a large number of Macs to upgrade, the process isn't going to happen overnight. Pelletier's team has been testing Leopard internally for months but is still taking a methodical approach to avert any potential upgrade issues.
"Bowdoin has had access to download developer releases of OS X 10.5 since it was first announced during the summer of 2006," says Pelletier. "Since that time I have given presentations on the new technology to our IT staff and have been testing it with our software, testing how it interacts with our network infrastructure and preparing for image creation and deployment."
Once the team is confident that any kinks specific to Bowdoin's infrastructure have been identified and corrected, the IT staff will install Leopard incrementally on machines around the school. Pelletier says this will give the team the chance to "make note of bugs and work with Apple on fixing them or come up with our own workarounds."
"A few faculty and staff members on campus will also become early adopters of the new operating system and will help provide feedback," notes Pelletier. "Starting in the summer of 2008 all of the labs and all of the new computers we deploy will be running Leopard and we will be able to offer the upgrade as an option to the rest of campus."