Snow Leopard is Great. Except when it’s not.

By this time in the conversation about Snow Leopard (OS 10.6), I did fully expect people to report how much more wonderful it was than Leopard (OS 10.5). I guess even in this day where daily wonders occur in the tech world, that it’s naive to think that a new OS will just work, especially a new one. Which is why I am somewhat surprised by the negative reviews. The hype was high, but I also think some people expected too much.

Is it a service pack or is it a full trail-blazing upgrade? The answer to that questions is an unequivocal Yes! It’s going to be different things to different people. Let me quickly give you my recommendation on whether to upgrade now, today, September 2, 2009. If things are working for you in Leopard, there is no reason to upgrade to Snow Leopard now. That, however, is a really simple answer and doesn’t take into account the simple fact that every person is different (Stop the Presses!). I mentioned my reasons for excitement before I upgraded. That excitement has been somewhat muted by reality.

I am writing this in a program, Blogo, that initially did not work when I upgraded. An update was on its way even before Snow Leopard shipped. The program was crashing either immediately or after a few seconds. The discussion indicated that the fix was coming. The fix arrived a day after Snow Leopard arrived. One wrench that Apple threw at the developers of Mac programs was that they released it earlier than expected. A September release was what was announced in June.

My personal experience has been relatively positive. However, I was ready to blame my Ethernet problems on the upgrade. When I did the troubleshooting to figure out why my wireless was working and my wired connection wasn’t, it turned out to be a stray DNS entry screwing things up. When I eradicated the DNS entry, my problems were solved. Another problem that I haven’t solved is with the new Apple Exchange support in Mail. Everything worked fine, though I did need to know some very specific information about my Exchange server (and it only works with Exchange Server 2007, and not previous versions). Once it was all set up, things worked great. Except, I couldn’t delete email. This problem still stumps me and I have since reverted back to using IMAP. Mail now works just like it did in Leopard, but I’ll continue to investigate (aka Google) why Exchange doesn’t fully work on my machine.

What is working? Well for me, plenty. I recently started to use Spaces, and it has been updated to work even better in Snow Leopard. It’s a pretty esoteric change and would be hard to describe, but it just works better. Things are definitely zippier. I notice stuff opening quicker, from images to applications (especially Apple apps). The Stacks feature has been improved as has Expose, albeit minors changes. Overall things just work a little better. Except for those other people who are experiencing the opposite.

Going forward, the Mac OS is supposedly going to be an even better platform to write programs for. Even greater things will be developed and even more cool stuff will be coming. Though with expectations being what they are, for some people they won’t be cool enough. I thought QuickTime X would be REALLY cool. As it turns out it is only moderately cool. There is no Preference menu for the new player and other features are missing. This may need to be the subject of another post, but the point is, I had expectations for QuickTime X that it didn’t live up to. For the average consumer though, it’s probably a wonderful improvement.

I guess that is the take away from all of this. In a few months or a year down the road, people will be saying that Snow Leopard is the best Mac OS ever.

Except for those who don’t think Snow Leopard is the best Mac OS ever.

Unless I’m wrong.

Or both.

For an insanely detailed review of Snow Leopard, check out this 23 page article at Ars Technica.

Update: Also check out the wiki for programs that are supported (or not) under Snow Leopard.

Why I’m excited about Snow Leopard

I’m developing some pretty thick skin after returning to the Apple platform. My DTLT colleagues who had been using Macs, continue to chide me for not using them sooner. Believe me, I will always keep my guard up when it comes to Apple. However, as many have said about democracy, it isn’t perfect, but it’s better than everything else. The same applies to Mac OS X.

I do get excited about new gadgets, gizmos, and software, so I am very excited about the new Snow Leopard (Mac OS version 10.6) operating system. Two very specific reasons come to mind. The first reason makes the upgrade a “when can I give my credit card number to someone” type of decision. QuickTime X. It is essentially QuickTime Pro, which let’s you edit and export video to all kinds of formats, but especially to h.264. QuickTime Pro has also always been a $29 upgrade, so now that the upgrade to Snow Leopard is $29, it’s like you’re upgrading to QuickTime Pro and getting a free operating system update.

The other reason to upgrade is one that is specific to UMW and that is our recent upgrade to a Microsoft Exchange Server. The new Mail client that will ship with Snow Leopard will directly support Exchange. In addition, the iCal and Address Book apps will sync as well.

Now let the snide comments from my colleagues begin ūüėČ

Macs and PCs can play nice

New Media can mean working with huge files. Moving them from one computer to another has gotten easier with large capacity USB powered hard drives ( I like the Western Digital Passport drives). However, trying to move files from a PC to a Mac, or vice-versa can cause some issues. One of the problems is that the file systems are different. Computers need to keep track of not only an awful lot of documents, but other operating system files as well. The way that PCs keep track of files is with file systems known as either FAT32 or NTFS. Macs use a system called HFS+ (also known as Mac OS Extended). FAT32 is the older of the two file systems for the PC and Macs readily recognize (can read and write files to) drives that are formatted using FAT32. On newly formatted drives FAT32 is also a bit faster than NTFS.

So problem solved right? Just format your drive as a FAT32 drive and you can swap files all day long between Macs and PCs. Well not so fast. First, note that I said on a newly formatted drive FAT32 is faster. However, files get what we call fragmented over time. They get spread out into different areas of a hard drive as it fills up and then as files get deleted. NTFS actually is better at file integrity and reliability than FAT32.

Second, and the major problem with FAT32 formatting, as it relates to new media, is that the maximum file size is 4GB. So if you plan to do video editing, you will run into this limitation on a FAT32 hard drive. Capturing digital video, such as from a Mini-DV tape, takes up about 12GB per hour of video. Depending on what software you are using to capture the video, it may fail in an elegant, or not so elegant way. You should then convert or format your hard drive to NTFS.

Now that introduces some issues with Macs in that they can read data off of an NTFS formatted drive, but that can’t write to them. That obviously can be a major inconvenience. There is a solution in the form of freely available software known as NTFS-3G. The version for Mac OSX includes the MacFUSE software that gets installed as part of the package (it used to be something that you installed separately). The most reliable way to prepare the hard drive is to completely reformat the drive using the Disk Utility software in the Applications/Utilities folder on the Mac (after installing NTFS-3G of course).

Format the drive to use the Windows NT Filesystem (NTFS-3G) as shown above. This obviously takes a little bit of planning ahead as you will wipe out whatever is currently on the drive, so back it up! Hope this helps all you Mac and PC people to come together and holds hands – for as long as you can stand it.

pc vs mac photo by natashalcd.