Snow Leopard Blazes, Box Art Not So Much

08Oct09

Snow Leopard a.k.a. 10.6 is the latest Apple operating system. It hit the streets Aug. 28, and having never jumped on board to 10.5 (Leopard), I decided to take the plunge from Tiger (10.4).

Let me say this first, the upgrade process was smooth. I used Carbon Copy Clone to create a bootable backup, that way if anything went wrong, I could jump right back to my customized OS with little hassle. Inserted my install DVD into the drive. Pressed the power button on my MacBook and then held down the OPTION key. It showed the Macintosh HD, my Bootcamp partition and the DVD. Clicked on the DVD and within 40 minutes was cruising on a brand new shiny 10.6 OS.

Everything worked perfect. 95% of my applications are working. All my PPC applications as well. When you launch an app that is PPC code, you’ll be prompted to install Rosetta (module that lets you run PPC coded apps). After that those 3% of apps that I had in PPC code whirred back to life. The other 2% were small things like screen savers (Fliqlo), a few widgets and iStats monitor tools. The last one has been fixed to work on 10.6, so still holding out for the devs to fix the other two.

While I’ve certainly had lots of time (2 years) to adjust to the Leopard environment at school, I never justified the upgrade due to outright laziness. While I was missing Stacks, the new Preview features, the smarter Spotlight, Spaces, and some other nice Leopard only features, 10.4 still ran like a champ.

I would say coming up from 10.5, 10.6 will seem like a service pack upgrade, but anyone who is anyone knows, the major upgrades are under the hood, or inside the computer. Algorithms are more tight and the OS code has been tweaked for maximum performance. Speed increases in general tasks should feel snappier. If your Mac has Nvidia 9400m graphics chipsets (all the unibody Aluminum MacBook, MacBook Pro, and certain Aluminum iMacs) then 10.6 will enable general purpose computing which is nerd speak for using the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) to perform simple tasks such as opening tons of files at once without slowing the rest of the computer down. Boot-up and shutdown times also have decreased. My boot-up is 30 seconds to the desktop and 6 seconds shutdown.

Quick Time Player is now much more functional, with recording features that were once only Quick Time Pro-exclusive. Making your own videos without any additional software is now easier than ever. The upgraded app also lets you record your screen giving the power to create screencasts to the masses.

Exposé has been given a face-lift. In previous versions of Exposé it would simply resize the windows so they would all be viewed at once. It was a rather messy implementation, without inherent organization. In its place is a grid that includes the name of the window that is open. It certainly makes much more sense, and while many die-hard Apple cultists are digging it, after a little while, I found myself missing the old Exposé only for its visual appeal. It just felt more artistic and less rigid. This is something that has me bothered. As Macs become more mainstream, a byproduct of that may be the restructuring of Apple’s OS to become more conventional and boxed in. One of the raison d’etre for Exposé for me in 10.4 was it would occasionally spawn endless sessions of creativity when bogged down by a bulk of work. Launching as many windows and then seeing the OS handle shrinking all of them to fit the screen really certainly interesting. It would never be the same because things weren’t gridded.

There are a lot of features, many of which I love, and a few ones here and there that I am annoyed by, but it’s just a matter of adjustment. Hey, we all have to get out of our comfort zones sometime, or we’ll always live in the old.

10.6

The Snow Leopard Retail Box. Many blogs have posted this and it appears the photo of the feline is actually a generic stock photo of an SL. F for effort Apple. Oh and apparently some blood was photoshopped off the original stock. FAIL.

One thing I do HATE about Snow Leopard is the way it counts storage in Base 10 instead of Base 2. For those who don’t know, what it means is the OS calculates 1MB as 1000 KB instead of 1MB as 1024MB. This is that little thing when you go and buy say a 500 GB hard drive and you plug it in and bam, you see there is actually LESS than 500 GB of space, the figure should be something around 465 GB. This is all because the of the way it’s counted; in Base 2. So, this is actually what you REALLY have, which is fine. In Base 10, it counts it 500 GB as 500.11 GB, so it is actually closer to the numerical value on the box of the drive. But this really messes you up when you run out of space on your hard drive. You check the capacity of the drive and it still says there is some space left. There is a simple hack to change the counting back to Base 2, which I have already done, but for everyone else who doesn’t apply this patch, it sucks.

It should be noted that Snow Leopard is for Intel Macs ONLY. Any legacy PPC Macs will be biting the dust. Apple is finally finishing its transition from PPC to going full Intel since announcing it in 2005.

In closing, Snow Leopard is worth it. Apple says that 10.5 Leopard is required before installing 10.6, but it’s been confirmed that the upgrade disc will work on Tiger 10.4.



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