The Leopard lies down with the lamb (err, Sheep)
By Stephen WITHERS
The obvious talking point for the newest section of Hydrapinion is Leopard, but since I haven't tried it yet (I'm in the process of buying a new Mac and I don't want to mess with my current workhorse until its replacement is in service) I'm not going to wax lyrical or critical about the new operating system itself.
Something I have noticed with this release is the unusually strident reaction from parts of the Mac community over compatibility issues.
In particular, FileMaker copped a lot of stick for not making FileMaker Pro 9 compatible with Leopard by the time the latter shipped. Although FileMaker is owned by Apple, it is a separate company and I'm told that Apple insists on an arm's-length relationship with FileMaker. Consequently it receives the same developer builds and information as other software houses, and at the same time.
I suspect this is because FileMaker Pro is the only piece of software from the Apple stable that is sold - as opposed to given away - for Windows as well as Mac OS X, and Apple is trying to set a standard for fair dealing that it expects Microsoft to match.
Anyway, from what I hear developers did not receive the Leopard golden master, but had to wait for the shipping version like the rest of us, and it seems that Apple made some significant changes after the final developer release. Consequently, we saw a raft of "Leopard compatibility" updates released in the week or two before 10.5 shipped, and then another burst - in some cases for the same applications - following the big event.
As it panned out, FileMaker did a respectable job and issued a Leopard compatibility updater (including several bug fixes that had already been prepared for 9.0v2) within a week of Leopard's arrival. Fixing Instant Web Publishing is going to take another few weeks.
What really surprised me was the reaction to FileMaker's original statement that it would not be testing or updating FileMaker Pro 8.5 or earlier for Leopard compatibility. Generally speaking, software developers only patch their current versions for compatibility with new OSes, and sometimes you'll be expected to buy a major new version. Expecting an obsolete version to be patched is a big ask, but I even heard threats of legal action.
Anyway, once the 9.0 update was out, FileMaker said it would also provide a patch for the two main issues preventing 8.5 from running on Leopard. My guess is that the company determined that the fixes for 9.0 could be fairly easily back-ported to 8.5, so there was no barrier to doing so.
Considering Adobe doesn't plan to complete the release of Leopard compatibility fixes for its range until early next year (to give just one example), the criticism of FileMaker seems harsh, to say the least. But people seem to hold it to a higher standard because it is an Apple subsidiary, so that's something for Cupertino to address.
Another compatibility issue concerns the removal of Classic from Leopard. This was clearly heralded, and some would say it's not before time. After all, it's over five years since Steve Jobs marked the death of Mac OS 9 at the 2002 Worldwide Developers Conference.
Still, some people are still relying on old applications that have not been updated for Mac OS X and that they are unwilling to replace, whether that's because of the cost involved or because there is no true equivalent.
This is a risky strategy, and it would be much more sensible to convert any 'legacy' data into formats that are likely to have a future (eg, JPEG, OOXML, ODF or PDF), or at least to one supported by a current application.
But in the short term, SheepShaver provides a mechanism for emulating old hardware in order to run these obsolete programs on recent Macs under Leopard.
Getting Mac OS 9 or earlier running under SheepShaver isn't as simple as you might like, but users are reporting some success. If you really must update to Leopard and keep running that old program, you don't want to boot Mac OS X 10.4 or earlier from a different volume, and there's either no room for your old Mac or it has "joined the choir invisible", SheepShaver might be worth the effort as a temporary measure while you explore and implement a long-term solution.
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However, the FMP 9 biz is a bit of a mess - afterall the app isn't *that* old.
My advice is always the same - only upgrade if you really *need* to upgrade. If you're planning to upgrade then do your research and check that any application that's important to you works before complaining about "lost" support.