Reactions to Leopard: Time Machine

Some details have been revealed for Mac OS X “Leopard”, which will be available circa the same time as Windows Vista. I couldn’t watch the keynote, either through network difficulties or plain congestion. But I’ve some comments on the new features, even if I’ve only got annoying voice-over man to explain them to me.

The most plainly useful, and innovative, feature of Leopard is its backup support through the “Time Machine” feature — see Apple’s explanatory video. John Siracusa discussed the need for this last November: (boy, where has the time gone?)

Her Mac has made creating and organizing digital content so easy that it now contains gigabytes of the stuff. I often find myself thinking ominously about the consequences of a catastrophic hard drive failure in her now almost three-year-old iMac. All those photos, all those movies, just…gone. Poof!

I’m similarly worried about my own computer at the moment, since I’ve a PowerBook with no good backup plan in place. John above proposed two hard drives in every Mac purely for the sake of data redundancy, and this is a stellar plan. “Time Machine” in Leopard is the software component that makes it even better, and is literally better than anything I imagined Apple (or anyone else) would implement. This is more than just backup.

It’s not clear to me how accessible the hooks here will allow such a thing, but imagine text editors being able to visually diff, in real time, content through revisions. That’s system wide changes-tracking, and better than what everyone harps on about in Microsoft Word. I’m now expecting this exact feature in iWork’07. More generally, will Time Machine make local version control systems redundant?

I’m with Jon Hicks though: deep space background with grotesquely distorted type (fine, “in perspective”) at the base of the screen? This could be so much more elegant while still retaining its wow factor. On the other hand, considering how infrequently — and in which contexts (oops, I overwrote a document I need; or, help! where’s my stuff?!?) — I expect the feature to be used as in the demo, I’m not even sure that such a whiz-bang interface is even appropriate! Hopefully there’ll be at least some minor visual tweaks before the final release. Don’t get me wrong, however, I think the basic premise behind the interface is fine. It’s just the useless 3D buttons and background I’m railing against here.

More comments on Leopard as time allows…