OS X 10.5.8 Update Provides Incentive to Get 10.6

I got around to installing the Mac OS X 10.5.8 Leopard update on my MacBook over the long weekend. I figured that with OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard now on the prowl, I should at least bring Leopard up to spec on my production workhorse.

Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard boxI’ve been getting along quite happily in OS X 10.5.6 since last spring, and it’s been working so well that I haven’t had a whole lot of incentive to update – especially when version 10.5.7 turned out to be an extraordinarily buggy build of Leopard for me. I decided to skip it and wait for 10.5.8, which I downloaded several weeks ago but simply haven’t had time to get around to installing until now.

However, I haven’t been able to use the Safari 4 final on the MacBook under 10.5.6, and the latest version of Pixelmator requires a minimum of 10.5.7, with a new version 1.5 projected for release any time, so while I had been thinking of just waiting until I get Snow Leopard, with an uncharacteristic bit of spare time available, I decided to run the 10.5.8 update – especially after it had worked out quite well on my 17″ PowerBook G4.

There’s irony in the fact that OS X 10.5.8 has now provided me with a lot more compelling reason to not procrastinate too long in getting Snow Leopard going, a matter I’ll get to at greater length in a moment.

No Problems Installing the Update

The update itself proceeded without any drama or hitches. As is my usual modus operandi with system updates and upgrades, the first step was to run a suite of permissions repair and system maintenance routines using the excellent OnyX utility.

I had downloaded the standalone 10.5.8 Combo update installer, so I was equipped to make the two-version increment jump in one swipe. My main observations about the install is that Apple’s estimates for “time left until completion” are wildly inaccurate, and after the software was successfully installed, there are still the obligatory tandem reboots, but eventually the Desktop reappeared and all seemed well. While I was at it, I also installed Security Update 2009-004, which only took a couple of minutes to execute, plus another reboot, and then for good measure the Safari 4.0.3 update, and yet one more reboot after that.

A Bug Is Back

I can’t say as I’ve noticed any tangible difference in performance between 10.5.6 and 10.5.8. However, the update unhappily revived am OS X bug that I thought had been permanently vanquished back around OS X 10.3.6; namely, spotty and cranky support for multiple input devices.

Because I have chronic fibromyalgia and peripheral neuritis, I try to (indeed I’m obliged to) spread around typing and mousing stress on muscles, ligaments, and nerves as much as possible, to which end I keep at least two – and sometimes three – pointing devices connected to my office Mac at all times.

Apple's round "hockey puck" USB mouseThe two main ones I use these days are a wonderful Logitech V550 wireless mouse, which has the sweetest, nicest button action of any computer mouse I’ve ever used, and a venerable Apple USB “hockey puck” mouse on the floor under my desk (with the mouse ball removed) that I use for most clicking with my foot rather than stressing a hand digit, while the Logitech unit up top manually executes cursor positioning and scrolling with its scroll wheel.

This tandem arrangement actually speeds and streamlines workflow more than you might imagine, and I would be inclined to employ it anyway even if the health problems weren’t an issue. It’s simply more efficient and faster.

However, after installing the 10.5.8 update, I quickly discovered that all was not well in foot mouse land. It still works after a fashion, but it now refuses to hold a click for long drags, especially if there is a reversal or pause of drag direction. Clicking and dragging still works perfectly normally with the primary hand mouse, but my tandem input device combo mode is now seriously compromised, which is a major pain. I’m also having a bit of anxiety about whether it will work properly again in Snow Leopard, but I guess it will take installing and trying OS X 10.6 to find out.

Support for multiple simultaneous input device had been extremely spotty in OS X, prior to the aforementioned version 10.3.6 or thereabouts, but has been unproblematic since that release to a degree that I hadn’t even thought about it for years. However, unhappily, it appears to be baaaaaaack.

It’s especially annoying and frustrating when dragging down through submenus, since the drag hold terminates seemingly at random, often causing incorrect menu selections. I’ve been obliged to revert to using the mouse button on the hand mouse for such actions.

So far everything else seems to be well and running smoothly, nothing else evidently broken, and no problems logging on to the WiFi hotspot at my local library with AirPort.

Looking Ahead to Snow Leopard

OS X 10.6 Snow LeopardI haven’t ordered my copy of Snow Leopard yet, but will perhaps get around to it this week. I’m looking forward to checking it out, but not to the virtually inevitable broken app issues associated with any major OS version upgrade and other potential unwelcome surprises. Of course, this OS X 10.5.8 update has proved once again that you don’t need a full version upgrade to get stuck with those.

Reportedly, the collateral damage with Snow Leopard is relatively low to moderate, but there are some incompatibilities with certain applications – unfortunately one of my key production tools: Photoshop Elements 6. How serious and intractable this is seems to be a matter of some controversy. Check out this Adobe forum and Sue’s Graphics Software Blog.

it seems like the problem may be amenable to workarounds, but I would like to think that Adobe will get a Snow Leopard patch out for PSE soon. However, given the Mac version of Elements’ evident poor relation status in Adobe’s priorities, I’m not holding my breath.

At least the new Pixelmator 1.5 should be Snow Leopard-friendly.

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