Diggin' out

— 12:39 PM on September 5, 2009

So, yeah. I've been living with Mac OS X 10.6—aka Snow Leopard—for a week now. The short review is this: If you're not reviewing (or quasi-kinda-sorta-reviewing) operating systems for publication on the interlubes or in glossy rags that people read at Borders but don't actually buy anymore, then feel free to wait until 10.6.1. "Double duh, Turdlock Gnomes," I hear you say, "that's a given." Well, elementary as that conclusion may sound, it's not always true. Usually true, yes, but not always. I thought Leopard (10.5) offered enough new features to wade through the initial teething issues of the .0 release. Was I high at the time? Only my manager, agent, union rep and Roger Goodell know for sure.

And now for the long review. Or, Where a Small-Yet-Vocal Cadre of PC Trolls Will Proclaim to Have Known That Snow Leopard Would Blow All Along and, by the Way, I'm Steve Jobs' Cabana Boy Toy. Good times.

Let's retrace a few of our steps from last week:

OS X is now completely, more or less, 64-bit. I'll have to take Apple's word for it on this one. While some things do seem marginally quicker, others actually feel more sluggish. I'm looking at you, Mail. And it took several days for the system to crunch through and/or rebuild cache files and what not. I know the whole 64-bit goodtime funscapades will happen in later iterations of both the OS and third party programs, so it's an important thing. It's just not something you need to jump on right this very second unless you know how to spell "nerd" in binary.

Grand Central Dispatch makes multicore processors useful for all. Again, something that will have an impact over time. Just probably not over Labor Day weekend.

OpenCL lets idle GPUs shoulder some computational burdens. Ask me about this again when I have a real GPU and not a couple of nanoferrets calculating vertices by paw.

QuickTime X makes QT useful for the masses again. Ha! Not quite. As I found out after posting my preview, QT X actually makes the most public side of QuickTime—QT Player—less robust. How so? A supreme lack of export options and reduced editing functionality. Fortunately, Snow Leopard keeps QT 7 Player on your system, so you can use it. I will give QT X props for smoother playback of HD content, although I'm not entirely sure if folks with more recent machines than mine will notice.

Stacks will no longer anger me. True. While I don't know if Stacks and I will ever become best buds, buy a pair of motorcycles and put "Jon" and "Ponch" on their license plates, I do find the functionality at least useful. Amazing what a slider bar can do. Hint: It's not the Watusi.

Trash goes back to OS 9.
Trash does indeed have a resurrected "Put Back" function. I have not needed this yet, but I'm glad it's there. Because it's only a matter of time before, in a fit of hard drive cleaning mania, I delete something 16 subfolders deep that I actually need. Like your credit card info.

Time Machine won't force you to use a time machine to complete your backup. Time Machine is noticeably quicker, and the less-vague status messages are nice. I'd still like a hint as to how long "Finishing" will take, though. Even if it, like most progress bar-related numbers, is a complete lie.

Wake from sleep and shutting down are now faster. Boy howdy, are they. Nice work.

Super cool Chinese character input will help me prepare for the impending Communist takeover. I'm almost ready to be part of the ruling class.

Built-in Microsoft Exchange support. N/A. Although I did have to exchange some MS Word time for OpenOffice when Snow Leopard broke Word's ability to import graphics. Which is something I rarely do, but, naturally, had to last week.

In other news, I suspected several of my third-party extensions would be busted in Snow Leopard. Sadly, I was right. While I can live without most of them until updates arrive, a couple are fairly integral to my everyday productivity. You've already read my carping (on more than one occasion) about a lack of windowshading in OS X. To fix this egregious omission, I use Unsanity's WindowShadeX. Well, I did. Because just like 10.5 did before it, 10.6 broke WindowShadeX again. I wouldn't be overly concerned except Unsanity took for-freakin'-ever to make the program Leopard compatible, and their customer communication skills are about as polished as a DMV clerk's. At least I can now set windows to minimize to their app icon in the Dock instead of littering it with 15 tiny windows.

Another broken add-on is MiniMail by OliveToast Software. MiniMail acts as a preview pane for Mail, letting you flip through messages from any mailbox or mailbox folder you choose to monitor without having to open Mail's main Message Viewer. It's darn handy. Luckily, the folks at OliveToast think they're have a fix by the end of September. Of this year. Sweet.

Seriously, though, Snow Leopard is not an update that the masses need to rush out and buy. It adds lot of nice UI things, like Dock-activated Expose, for example. And it actually lists hard drive space using math that regular people use. Not that that nets you any more actual space, but it will stop your mom from calling and asking why the 500GB drive you put in her iMac only shows 478Mb available. Also, I made that number up, as well as the idea that your mom would actually notice hard drive free space numbers. However, I suspect the switch to this numbering system may have jacked up my Mozy configuration, as it now wants to re-upload all 150 gigs of my backup set. Stay tuned for how this plays out, because I am not doing that again.

Would I buy Snow Leopard again knowing what I know now? Sure. I'd just wait until some tool on some blog posted all the shortcomings and their appropriate workarounds. And if you think I'll be that tool for you, well, you haven't been reading the MacHole for very long.



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