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The Leopard Chronicles: Mac Hell Unleashed


09:30am — The Leopard Install — I put the Leopard installation disk in the drive and clicked the installation icon. After about five minutes I saw an error message. For some reason, my internal hard drive was partitioned using the "Apple Partition" scheme. This is usually used for PowerPC-based Macs. My computer is an Intel-based Mac and, to be honest, I have no idea how this occurred. However, the error message was clear, you must ERASE your hard drive and partition it using the GUID partition scheme if you want to install Leopard.

Erase my hard drive?

09:45am — The First Customer Service Call — To be fair, this was the first day of the software release, so one could reasonably assume that the wait time for tech support would be long. After being on hold for 48 minutes, I spoke to a lovely woman with a very thick foreign accent. I asked her if the error message was correct or if there was any other way to install Leopard. "No," she said. "You will have to erase and partition your drive using disk utility. But here's the good news … just copy your disk image onto the newly partitioned drive, shift-double-click the mounted image and next time you reboot your computer it will wake up exactly like your pre-Leopard build."

Wow, that's going to be easy. I have the disk image, I have a back up incase it fails, I have the whole disk and all the files in several places. OK, let's go for it.

11:00am — Partition Trauma — you know what? It's really hard to erase a perfectly healthy computer even if you think you're going to make it better. What a painful thing to have to do. But, after a short prayer to the computer gods, I erased and GUID partitioned the drive. The process was very fast — sort of like ripping a band-aid off a cut. It only hurt for a second.

11:15am — The Leopard Install Redux — just as promised, about 40 minutes later, OS X 10.5 Leopard was installed on my computer. Visually, it is slightly different from OS X 10.4 Tiger. My first impression was that the newly translucent top menu bar was going to bother me forever. It probably will.

01:00pm — The Fun Begins — It took an hour to copy the .dmg file to my empty Leopard computer. I mounted the disk image and then shift-double-clicked it. The image dramatically increased in size then faded away. In its place was an open directory that looked exactly like my old Macintosh HD directory. Perfect. A quick reboot and I'll be done.

01:04pm — WTF? — You know you would not be reading this article if this trick worked. It didn't. You also know that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I tried the shift-double-click trick about four more times while I dialed Apple tech support to try to get into the queue.

02:14pm — Apple Tech Support, an Oxymoron — If my first tech support person had a thick foreign accent, I don't even know how to describe the language this gentleman spoke. After I described my problem to him he said, "I am not qualified to help you, you must talk to Level 2 tech support. Can I put you in their queue? The wait time will be about 15 minutes." The line magically disconnected after 30 minutes forcing me to call back and go through the process again.

The songs they play on hold at Apple Tech support are not for everybody. I'm being overly polite.

04:32pm — Level 2 Tech Support — I have a new best friend at Apple, her name is Dawn. English is absolutely her first language and she could not have been nicer on the phone. There was only one problem. She had no idea why Leopard would not permanently mount this disk image. In fact, she told me a story about her Friday evening Leopard experience. Truthfully, I'm surprised she was able to function at work on Saturday. Just a few tidbits of Apple knowledge from our call …

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Yes, I found a bug. Engineering would take five to seven days to get back to me with a workaround or solution. She copied every file from her old hard drive to her Leopard hard drive by hand (one at a time). She didn't know if my suggested work around would work because Leopard was "too new." The five different things we tried together (that she thought would work) all failed. No, there is no published list of files you can manually copy from Tiger to Leopard with any reasonable expectation of success. If my proposed solution didn't work I could wait for Apple Engineering to fix the bug or try to reinstall my old operating system. Ugh!

She gave me her name, email and a direct dial phone number at Apple and told me to contact her anytime. I appreciated the concern, but I still didn't have a working computer.

06:12pm — My Work-around — This is not my first rodeo and I am not a computer novice. The workaround was obvious to me, but what a huge pain in the butt. Here it is in shorthand for the techno-geeks who care.

  1. copy the disk image to an external drive (1 hour).
  2. mount the drive and launch the Apple migration assistant. (4 hours)
  3. rename your admin account and short name appropriately (or you'll be forced to edit every program that stores data in your user account).
  4. set the startup for your new account so that you don't have to ever see the phantom account you were forced to setup.
  5. get ready to reinstall a bunch of programs and re-enter 60% of your serial numbers.

11:30pm — Almost done — Leopard is running on my computer. Almost every program came back to life. I probably spent two-three more hours over the next few days tweaking and re-installing stuff to get the computer working more or less like it did before the upgrade. And, sadly, I am seriously considering wiping the drive again, reinstalling Leopard and reinstalling my programs from scratch. There's something not quite right about this install.

Epilog — Was it worth it? No. Should you attempt an upgrade to Leopard? If you don't have to erase your drive, you won't have this experience. The 300 new features that Apple lists on their site are all incremental improvements over Tiger. Safari is still slow, spotlight is better, cover flow, as a way to view a folder, is wonderful and it's far more useful than I ever imagined it would be. And, on this computer, Time Machine (Apple's "set it and forget it" backup software) does not work.

Post Script — For those of you who are wondering, my personal computer is a 17" MacBook Pro with an Intel 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo and 4 GB of RAM. It has a 200 GB, 7200 rpm aftermarket hard drive. It was running the latest, most up-to-date versions of Tiger.

Here's a list of what you can look forward to if you need to erase your drive to install Leopard. It may also happen if you simply use the migration assistant.

  • Firefox can't download because it doesn't think it's allowed to (none of the obvious fixes seem to help)
  • Final Cut Studio needed a serial number
  • Logic Studio needed a serial number
  • Adobe CS2 needed serial numbers for every program
  • Adobe Studio (all the Macromedia programs, Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks, etc,) needed to be reinstalled
  • Notebook (from circusponies) needed a serial number
  • WireTap Studio – needed serial number
  • All printer drivers – gone — all needed to be reinstalled
  • iPhoto – find the new directory and point to it
  • On2 Flix Pro — complete reinstall
  • iTunes – lost an install, if I had been maxed, I would have had to call Apple and get another login or something. I would really like to have my machine authorization back, because I have another machine that I had to deauthorize to authorize this one.
  • Microsoft Office 2004 – quirky, but after opened a few times, seemed to calm down and work
  • Videocue (from varasoft) no problem
  • Transmit (ftp client) no problem
  • Parallels – astoundingly, no problem
  • Flip4mac – no problem – Prompt (teleprompter software) no problem
  • iWork '08 no problem
  • Quicksliver – no problem
  • Skype – no problem
  • Elgato Turbo264 – no problem

About the Author: Shelly Palmer is Managing Director of Advanced Media Ventures Group LLC and the author of Television Disrupted: The Transition from Network to Networked TV (2006, Focal Press). Shelly is also the 1st vice president of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, NY and Chairman of the Advanced Media Committee of the Emmy Awards. You can read Shelly's blog at Shelly can be reached at

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