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Snow Leopard: Under the Hood 3

Two weeks on.

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This is more subjective and less of a bullet list. Lots of things are subjective when it comes to computer use. The observations here are less about the OS than the way people react to it.

Snow Leopard is probably the most welcome and best fitting upgrade since Jaguar. At least for this crew. Panther was met with a big 'but why', Tiger was met with a murmur of 'oh no', and Leopard wasn't met at all. But people like running this one, this Snow Leopard.

It's snappy to be sure. And it has some good features. Even though those around here generally aren't keen on discussing features. And it has to be the boot of choice when software is being brought into line for a new platform.

But Leopard was never the default boot on the multi-boot machines here. Snow Leopard is. And that says a lot.

There are still things to complain about. But there aren't that many. It's not a list a mile long.

  • Fix the table view. Good god oh please just fix it. Get someone who knows how table views are supposed to work to look at it and fix it. And get the current maintainer out of there. It's been screwed up for twenty three (yes 23) months. That's just unforgiveable.
  • Take Mr Nasty out of the Cocoa services. There are caches all over the place that just don't disappear when you update service providers and the services never see these updates because they're still looking at the caches that never themselves get properly updated. BUG.
  • Stop ignoring Unix file permissions. And whoever suggested that nonsense: send them packing now. Today.

That's about it from this end. Now the good stuff.

  • Speed. Some people might say they don't really care about speed but speed will always impress them. And this Snow Leopard kitty is fast. Most everything in the box runs as 64-bit even if you have an EFI32 and the difference is not only noticeable - it's downright dramatic.

    An ACP user wrote this about 64-bit Xfile once he'd installed Snow Leopard.

    Holy mother of JC. I thought Xfile and Xscan were fast before but now with 64-bit on a 64-bit machine... All I can say is WOW! On my MBP 5,2 both are noticeably faster. But the truly impressive one is Xfile on my MP dual quad. Clicking the Xfile dock icon results in about a .5 bounce and the window appears on screen completely populated with files. One click... no waiting. Very cool!

    Xfile and Xscan are already fast utilities but credit has to go to the OS. Snow Leopard is fast.

  • Power. 64-bit isn't always guaranteed to make software run faster but it'll almost always guarantee it will handle data better. Take Xscan as an example: listing the feared /usr/share/man/man3 directory is instantaneous - and that involves preparing eleven columns of formatted data for 8,466 files - and sorting them as well. Instantaneously.

    But it's when it's time to drag one sees the enormous difference. Try dragging 8,466 items on any earlier 32-bit platform and you're in for a wait (and the system gives you a pretty beachball to play with). The release of 8466 items for dragging on Snow Leopard is nigh on instantaneous as well.

    That's the kind of power you only get from good 64-bit apps running on a well written 64-bit OS.

  • Crisp graphics. The graphics are supposed to be the same as 10.5 but they feel crisper, better defined. There's been work done on system standard icons. Small details - but the devil is often in those small details. It makes it feel good to sit down in front of a 10.6 box.

  • Fewer bugs. But that was the whole idea with 10.6 - get rid of the bugs. How can anyone know there are fewer bugs? How do you know there are fewer flies at your picnic? You find yourself being annoyed by them less and less.

  • It's easy to get used to. This is a system people will adopt. Customers complained about Leopard, even though it was probably better than anything else on the market. They won't complain about this one.

  • Finally taking the plunge. Some Apple boxen will run the kernel as 32-bit but eventually all boxen will run it as 64-bit. All the other system processes are already running as 64-bit (and thereof the speed). The code base is now firmly in 64-bit country and consequently so are the APIs. No more straddling CPU fences. 'Fat binaries' are finally gone.

From here on out it looks like the only way to go is up.

Further Reading
Coldspots: Snow Leopard: Under the Hood 1
Coldspots: Snow Leopard: Under the Hood 2

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