As I clickety-click-clack out this blog post, I am only a scant 48 hours away from receiving a shiny new box from the FedEx man. This box will contain Macintosh OS X version 10.6, aka Snow Leopard, aka Barry. Anticipation for Barry the Snow Leopard runs high throughout the Mac community. Normally, this wouldn’t be an odd thing. We Macheads tend to get hopped up on anticipatory goofballs for any new OS X release. But Barry is different. Barry is, for all intents and purposes, a maintenance release.
That’s right. At first blush, Barry is akin to a Windows Service Pack. Except it’ll actually work and add some cool stuff. Probably.
And we’re all a-twitterpated as if entranced by the Hypnocat.
Barry the Ice Kitty, for those of you who are either just trolling the MacHole or actually have been staring at the Hypnocat for the last year, is supposed to be less about new features and more about under-the-hood performance. (It’s also only going to cost $29, or 100 bones less than a typical OS X upgrade.) But let’s face it, any enhancement that makes a noticeable improvement to the user experience is going to feel like a new (or at least vastly upgraded) feature. So let’s just poke around Apple’s Barry page and find out just how totally gnarly my almost three-year-old MacBook Pro is going to be once I install Ice Ice Barry.
OS X is now completely, more or less, 64-bit. Which means I can finally access those 16 terabytes of RAM that have taking up space under the bed. Additionally, all OS X programs (Mail, QuickTime, Safari) have been rewritten as 64-bit apps. So they should open more quickly and spend only half as much time giving me the Spinning Beach Ball of Doom. Also, I think the move to 64-bit will let me play eight separate games of the original Super Mario Bros. At once. Suh-weet.
Grand Central Dispatch makes multi-core processors useful for all. Under non-Barry editions of OS X, if you wanted a program to take real advantage of the multiple cores in your processors, said program had to be specifically coded to do so. Of course, most programs didn’t bother jumping through these hoops. Mainly because their developers had better things to do like code Hypnocat. With Grand Central Dispatch, the OS takes care of divvying up the processes between the cores. So instead of figuring out the best way to slice and dice threads, manage overhead, etc., developers just use the GCD APIs included in Xcode and be done with it. I’m hoping Final Cut Studio 3 is already written with GCD in mind (and it would be dumb if it weren’t), so I can see a decent boost on my paltry dual-core system.
OpenCL lets idle GPUs shoulder some computational burdens. While I trundle along with an ATI Radeon X1600 with a whopping 128MB of VRAM, a lot of folks out there have graphics cards with actual muscle. Muscle that, not unlike my oddly over-developed middle toe, usually goes to waste. With OpenCL, your graphics card will be used for general computation when it’s not busy jacking up the frame rates on your porn. I mean, Halo.
QuickTime X makes QT useful for the masses again. Okay, I’ve never stopped using QuickTime, but I’ve always had a QT Pro license thanks to being a Final Cut user. The new QT is a massive overall that does away with the Standard/Pro designation and offers all of the former Pro features to everyone. The new player is also optimized for smoother HD playback, and QT streaming can be done from any server. Even those at Denny’s.
Stacks will no longer anger me. Stacks now include, wait for it, scroll bars. Now my Downloads folder won’t try showing all 326 files at once.
Trash goes back to OS 9. Back in the day, if you stuck a file in Trash, you could click on that file and select a handy menu item that returned said file to its original location. Quite handy. OS X did away with this behavior for reasons that are best called dumb. Barry’s bringin’ it back. If only the same could be said for window-shading.
Time Machine won’t force you to use a time machine to complete your backup. Apple claims the Barrified version of Time Machine will be up to 80% faster at backing up than the current version. I hope so. I’ve actually been late to work (okay, that’s not a big deal really) waiting for TM to finish up. This alone might be worth the $29 Barry is costing me.
Wake from sleep and shutting down are now faster. Because, honestly, could shutting down really take any longer than it already does? I don’t know what exactly goes on with all the system cleanup at shut down, but apparently it’s done by a lethargic septuagenarian with a limp.
Super cool Chinese character input will help me prepare for the impending Communist takeover. Enough said, comrade.
Built-in Microsoft Exchange support. If you’re excited about this, keep it to yourself.
This isn’t the complete list of updates, additions and general mucking around that Apple is set to unleash with Barry the Chilly Cub, but it’s all I care to write about. Here’s hoping none of us regret not waiting for the dot-one release.