Impressions from Snow Leopard

2 09 2009

I bought my Family Pack of Snow Leopard on Saturday, August 29, the day after Snow Leopard was launched. It came out with much less fanfare than Leopard or Tiger. It was a little diasppointing to get to the Apple Store at 1oam, when it opened, and not see a line outside the store. There were no fanboys taking off work and lining up outside the store. It may have been easier for Apple to get those lines again if they had done a bit more hyping of the product and had arranged for their retail stores to be closed until 6pm like they did with Leopard, they may have had more of a turnout.

The installation went smoothly. I did a simple upgrade from Leopard with no issues. It took about 40 minutes on my iMac and about an hour on my MacBook. I attribute this time difference to the relative hardware speeds of the two computers. Make sure you have a complete, up-to-date backup of any system that you are going to upgrade.

The lack of fanfare and excitement at the Apple Store perfectly complimented the product itself. While Snow Leopard is an impressive upgrade, it did not have the whizbang feeling of upgrading to its predecessor. Moving from Tiger to Leopard was much more noticeable. Snow Leopard is a very subtle upgrade from Leopard. Many of the new features and upgrades are under the hood and not readily identifiable. The interface remains mostly unchanged. However, Apple did make some changes to Exposé that made it much more usable. It is noticeably faster. After installing on both my iMac and MacBook, I got about 15 gigabytes back on both of their hard drives.

I really liked what Apple did with Exposé. When looking at only the windows open for a given application, all other windows are hidden, rather than appearing beneath the active windows. This helped with much of the visual clutter. Also, when looking at all windows in Exposé, one can click on an active application’s dock icon and all of that application’s windows will be brought front and center and the others will temporarily disappear. Exposé will also now show any windows that may have been minimized and sitting in the dock. It also works across Spaces, showing all windows, regardless of which space they are in. I think this could be improved by visually tagging each of these windows to show which space they are from.

I got back 15 gigabytes on both of my computers’ hard drives. This is a not just a result of Apple slimming down its operating system and eleminating much of the clutter that is no longer needed since PowerPC support was dropped. The OS counts kilobytes differently now. The OS used to count a kilobyte as 1,024 bytes, while the marketing materials showed it to be 1,000 bytes. Snow Leopard counts a kilobyte as 1,000 bytes. So, if you bought a 60GB drive, for example, your Mac will show you that you have a 60GB drive.

Leopard was pretty snappy to begin with, but Snow Leopard just feels a bit faster. This is not exactly somethign that can be quantified outside of a lab. Maybe it is all in my head. It just feels faster. However, there was an instance about two days after I installed SL. My iMac got really slow and unresponsive. I was forced to force quit all of my applications and reboot. This has been my only problem so far.

Overall, this is a pretty good release. It seems stable enough for a first version product. It has certainly succeeded at refining and speeding up the Leopard experience. If you think you could benefit from things like 64-bit mode, a few more GB on your hard drive, or a refined user experience, then go for it. It is only $29 for a Single User license and $49 for a Family Pack, good for up to five Macs.

SL Articles on TUAW

John Siracusa’s exhaustive 23-page SL review

Apple’s official SL page




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