Snow Leopard: The First 72 Hours

By  |  Monday, August 31, 2009 at 1:45 pm

OS X Snow LeopardThis isn’t a review of Apple’s OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard–here are a bunch of those–but rather just some notes on my first three days with it. (I showed up at my local Apple Store at 10am on Friday to buy it, and was on the way back to my car at 10:01–sure beats waking up at 3am to buy an iPhone.)

Herewith, random musings:

Installation on my MacBook Pro went well. It took 38 minutes (less than Apple’s 45-minute estimate) and required virtually no input from me.  Snow Leopard reported almost 11GB more free disk space than Leopard did, which got me all giddy. I’ve since learned that Snow Leopard, like hard-disk manufacturers, defines 1KB as 1,000 bytes rather than 1024, and some of the reclaimed space is therefore imaginary.

I’m still getting a sense of its speed. It’s always dangerous to read vendor claims about performance increases–unless you’re a really skeptical sort, being told that an OS is zippier may have a placebo effect. Overall, this MacBook was pleasingly speedy under Leopard, and is pleasingly speedy under Snow Leopard. The one place where I know I see a performance increase is one that’s important to me, but one which Apple makes no claims about in its discussion of speed improvement: Spotlight searches, which were sometimes quite slow in Leopard, are reliably quick now.

None of the new features have changed my life. Then again, with the possible exception of built-in Exchange support, none of them are designed to change anyone’s life–they’re subtle improvements to existing stuff that are meant to make using the OS more pleasant in ways you may not even notice on an individual basis. One definite plus: The integration of Exposé, one of my favorite features in any OS, into the Dock.  It’s similar to the live thumbnails in Windows 7, except better (Windows 7’s thumbnails are too tiny; Exposé windows are nice and big).

I’ve noticed some compatibility glitches, but no showstoppers. After I upgraded, VMWare Fusion started having trouble refreshing the screen properly; updating to the newest version fixed it. I’ve also seen minor display issues in, of all apps, Apple’s own Safari: When I do a two-finger trackpad scroll in WordPress’s editor, it sometimes mangles images onscreen. And Adobe’s Flash Player has been choking sporadically, although I’m not sure if that has anything to do with Snow Leopard. All of the other apps I use every day are working at least as well as they did in Leopard. And devices such as my networked HP OfficeJet Pro and my Verizon EVDO adapter work just fine.

Maybe I’ve been lucky. There are definitely some issues with some major apps–over at VentureBeat, my friend Paul Boutin got the New York Times’ David Pogue to talk about issues he’s had with Word 2008 and Photoshop CS3. My Twitter pals are mostly reporting good experiences with Snow Leopard, but one told me about issues with Firefox and one said he had trouble with installation on one laptop.

Is it worth $29? Yes, although I think much of the payback will be delayed–it’s less about immediate, tangible benefits and more about under-the-surface enhancements that will let Apple and other developers write more powerful, modern apps in the months and years to come. And all in all, Apple seems to have done a decent job of minimizing compatibility nightmares–especially compared to Windows Vista, an upgrade that also involved a lot of behind-the-scenes refurbishment.

Would I recommend upgrading now? Not quite, but almost. I’d wait just a few weeks until Apple has swatted more bugs and third-party developers have had a chance to release any necessary updates. Then I’d go for it, assuming I had an Intel Mac.

How does it compare to Windows 7? Stay tuned!

Any more opinions, installation reports, or other tidbits to share?



3 Comments For This Post

  1. Dave Says:

    I have pretty much the same take – runs a bit faster on my Macbook Pro. I have a feeling there are improvements underneath that can’t be seen. I use Adobe Lightroom / Elements and they’re working fine.

    I did have one incompatibility – my NAS – it’s a Dlink DNS-323 – couldn’t connect. A search of the forums found others noting the same problem – and the cure was flashing with some beta version of the firmware. I am normally nervous about using beta software but this is pretty mature – about to be released.

  2. Steven Fisher Says:

    Not sure I’d recommend anyone wait on it. In the end, Snow Leopard is a pretty safe update. It isn’t so big or so immature an update that you need to trod carefully lest it pounce upon you and devour you whole.

    But then again, I’m not sure I’d recommend jumping at it now either. As you said, some of the benefits not immediate.

  3. jake Says:

    I’m really digging Snow Leopard, but I have my fair share of qualms as well. No more cut and pasting Address Book contacts??? Check the rest out here:

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