Leopard updates need to slim down

Matthew JC. Powell
30 May, 2008
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Apple released the latest update to Leopard through the week — 10.5.3, weighing in at over 400MB. That’s right, nearly half a gigabyte. If you thought 10.5.2 was big, you know nothing.

And you know, to an extent, fair enough. If things need to be fixed they need to be fixed. You have a hole in your shoe you get it fixed and don’t complain that the patch is too big. Just keep your feet dry and be happy.

Of course if the cost of the repair is greater than the cost of the shoes, or takes so long that you have to wear uncomfortable shoes for days and develop a blister that would never have happened if you’d been able to keep wearing your comfy shoes that fit even if they do have a hole, then maybe it’s worth complaining. But that’s another subject.

My problem is that, since October last year, Apple has asked Leopard users to download over a gigabyte of stuff to fix it. Some of that is security fixes and you’ll have no complaints from me, and some of it — especially in 10.5.2 — was features that really needed to be rethought from the original release. I’m glad the menu bar isn’t translucent anymore, and I don’t care how big was the download that fixed that eyesore.

The remainder, one has to assume, is stuff that was broken. Stuff that wasn’t ready for release when Apple released it. Stuff that it should have got right. In 10.5.3, there aren’t any snazzy new features, no interface changes to note. For the people affected by the problems that have been fixed I’m sure it’s just grand, but for most of us it’s a really big download that changes nothing except a digit on the “About this Mac” box.

What can I say? I like to think if I install 480MB of something on my hard drive there’ll be a difference of some sort.

The Leopard install DVD costs $158 bucks or so, and Apple has basically said 40-odd bucks worth of that really didn’t work right, try again. Windows Vista Service Pack 1, the only significant update to that operating system since its release 18 months ago, was 434.5MB. Remember how we used to tease Windows users for all their downloading and patching? Let’s just keep quiet on that for now, shall we?

Sure, you say, it’s free to download the stuff so what am I complaining about? And again, fair enough. It is free, and I’ve got a 20Mbps Optus cable connection with 30GB of included data each month, so these Apple updates are nary a blip to me.

My father has a 256kbps connection with 2GB of data per month, for which he pays $20. At that speed, 480MB takes a loooooooong time to arrive.

(Thankfully he has a son with a fast connection who can burn him a CD — that’s not my point and stop changing the subject.)

My father isn’t the only Mac user with a slow connection and a low data limit. Lots of folks don’t even have broadband in this country. Apple seems to think we all live in Northern California. (Except when it comes to TV shows on the iTunes Store — you’re changing the subject again!)

Here in Australia, people don’t as a rule have superfast broadband and unlimited downloads. Would that it were so. Given the reality of the situation, Apple needs to make its updates a little slimmer. Or — here’s an original idea — let people order them on CD instead. You used to do that, guys — bring it back.

Speaking of bringing stuff back … When this site launched we were giving away a prize every week to the reader who most usefully helped another reader in our Help forums. Then the logistics of organising that all kind of got away from us so we stopped. Now we’re bringing it back. Next Friday Sean will choose a reader whose input on the Help forum has clearly helped another reader (or indeed multiple readers) and they’ll be sent a prize. For the next four weeks that prize will be a copy of Roxio Toast 9.

So get helping!

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