Proud owner of Snow Leopard
Thursday, September 17, 2009

Snow Leopard

That’s the Jurassic ranter holding his copy of OS X 10.6, aka Snow Leopard. I placed an advance order with Amazon on August 3, and got my copy on August 31, so I’ve been using it for a little over 2 weeks.

So how is it? On my iMac (2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 3 GB RAM, 250GB internal, 1TB external (USB), 1TB external (Firewire 400)) it seems more stable. I found that under 10.5 Leopard that when I had multiple applications open I would get frequent freezes where the screen would freeze, and there would be no recourse but to hit the off switch. You can get away with this a few times, but eventually the system doesn’t like it, and you’ll have to restore the startup disk. At the moment I’ve got 17 applications open:

  1. iWeb
  2. Finder
  3. iPhoto
  4. Safari
  5. iTunes
  6. Activity Monitor
  7. Mail
  8. Klondike Forever
  9. Automator
  10. Numbers
  11. BBEdit
  12. Pages
  13. Adobe Illustrator
  14. iCal
  15. TextEdit
  16. Preview
  17. Terminal

The Activity Monitor is showing between 6 to 14% idle processor capacity. The Activity Monitor also shows both cores working at about the same level of activity.

Another drawback to Leopard was that Time Machine, in my experience, and this may be due to my Time Machine disk being USB rather than Firewire, was that the backups were slow. Time Machine also had a knack for grabbing most of the processor, and slowing down other programs. Time Machine seems to be quicker in backing stuff up. This may be due to tasks now being split between the two cores.

My model of iMac does not have the graphics card that is required to use OpenCL. It does use QuickTime X very well. I was able to do a screen recording for a friend and send it to her in a few minutes. There are expensive programs that do that for Windows, and they may be more powerful, whatever that means, but they are also more expensive (about $300-400 if I recall correctly), while QuickTime X is free.

Some users have reported problems with installing Snow Leopard. I installed without doing anything special. (I do use TimeMachine, so I already had a current backup of the startup disk). They’ve also reported problems with printer drivers and scanners. Neither my printer (Lexmark C510) nor my scanner (Epson Perfection 4490) have had any problems. I also didn’t notice any problems with fonts disappearing as one user on Amazon reported.

So what problems have I encountered? My external drives will have to be reformatted if I want to install Snow Leopard on them. Externals ship already formatted, and the partition tables need to be GUID rather than some other format. So at the moment it’s not worth the effort to spend the time reformatting the drive.

I sometimes use the Apache server and PHP to update some personal databases. That seems to be broken. If I used the default Apache installation it would probably work, but I’ve added hand-built versions of Apache, and tinkered with those so much that I would have to track down and modify or get rid of my Apache and PHP installations in order to use Apple’s.

If you use Finder Actions, and I only use one, which adds the Google Analytics code to these pages, you’ll find that you have to re-install the action as a service. That’s fairly easy to do.

Start Automator, and select the Service template. Find the action in the column on the left. If you’ve got a complicated workflow, you’ll have to rebuild it. Save it.

Apple said that most of the changes would be under the hood, and that seems to be true. Is the upgrade worth the time and effort? Well, you can install it, and go have dinner without to much worry, so the time part of the equation is 0. If you’re going to sit there and watch it install while not doing something else, all I can say is “Get a life.” As to the cost part, $25-30 for a new OS is a good bargain. You won’t get that from Microsoft, or Micro$loth. I’ve put up links to the $25 upgrade, the box set, which contains iLife and iWork, and the server version.