"Wealth will increasingly be defined by our ability to go offline whenever we want." - Fernando Gros
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August 27, 2009

Approaching Snow Leopard With Caution

OK, cards on the table. I’ve pre-ordered my copy of the new Apple operating system, Snow Leopard and I’m itching to install it straight away. Three things excite me everytime I read about Snow Leopard (and there are two good write ups today, from Walter Mossberg at the Wall Street Journal and from David Pogue […]

OK, cards on the table. I’ve pre-ordered my copy of the new Apple operating system, Snow Leopard and I’m itching to install it straight away.

Three things excite me everytime I read about Snow Leopard (and there are two good write ups today, from Walter Mossberg at the Wall Street Journal and from David Pogue at the New York Times) – stability, efficiency and productivity.

Snow Leopard promises to be more stable than Leopard, partly down the code being reworked, refined and reduced. To be honest, I have very few stability issues with Leopard as it is, but every little bit helps. Efficiency comes from the dramatically smaller hardrive requirement, better use of multiple cores and changes to memory access. Productivity flows from that if, as everyone is suggesting, apps open much faster and one doesn’t have to workaround memory limitations, especially in audio production.

That the upgrade is not full of new features and visual tweaks kind of adds to the appeal for me. When I work with Leopard and Logic I seldom feel an urge for aesthetic (or gadget level) changes, but I do long for more of the “old” Apple sense of stability and speed!

But, anyone who works with a computer should always approach these kinds of upgrades with caution! Major upgrades can and do break applications and hardware interfaces. Create Digital Music is tracking some of these issues for DAW users (here and here) and there is a more general wiki for other software users.

It looks like some of my core applications, like Scrivener for writing, OmniFocus for personal organisation and Kontakt for sampling and composition are OK to run under Snow Leopard. There are also unconfirmed reports (let’s call them rumours) that Logic 9 is OK as well (you would hope so!).

But, as I check, I still can’t find confirmation that Reason, or Sibelius, or the Apogee Duet are stable under Snow Leopard. Unreliability with any of those apps would be a deal breaker for me and would mean leaving Snow Leopard in the box – for now.

Responses
Toni 13 years ago

Interesting comments. I’ve been thinking about the upgrade – much better value at £25 in the UK than £69 for iLife ’09.

That whole business of increased efficiency and stability is what’s appealing right now. As you know, migration from PC to Mac has been an utterly underwhelming experience *for me*, with my Macbook mirroring the issues that most people seem to berate microsoft for (occasional lock up, performance slowing dramatically after a few months of use, driver issues, huge service pack downloads and undocumented features). If Snow leopard could fix that then I’d be a happy camper, provided the stuff I rely on (M$ office, Opera, Firefox, GIMP, Classic FTP and Oo) keep working.

“I do long for more of the “old” Apple sense of stability and speed!”

Taken out of context, but hardware aside, THIS is why I bought a Mac. I feel as though I’ve learned a lot about non-Microsoft operating systems and am reasonably comfy now with the 10.5, in that I’ve developed workarounds/tolerance for most of the shortcomings. There’s something about the system that makes me want to love it, but somehow I just can’t do that. Maybe 10.6 really will be better.

Fernando Gros 13 years ago

It’s a funny thing. OSX is in so many ways a better OS than 8/9 were. But, from a personal working perspective, I’d rather be back with 9! OSX might well be more secure, but the way you have to think about security is different.

As for your wishlist, I’m not sure Office and Firefox are secure yet. In a way that’s part of the headache now, given that so many developers have products for the mac, there’s more potential headaches for people.

Toni 13 years ago

Now that’s an interesting comment, because I don’t think I once used the word ‘secure’ and I certainly wasn’t thinking it. However you may have meant ‘stable’ and I can see not reason why such mature software should not be stable.

I also quoted the same quote from you that I used in my comment above (about stability and speed) on a forum where I know there are a couple of fairly die-hard Mac users. One of them replied (and the other agreed):

“I’m not sure which era your friend is harking back to about the “old” Apple sense of stability and speed, but I do wonder if there’s a little rose tinting going on. I’ve been using Macs since OS 7.something and I can’t really identify with that thought. Particularly not since the introduction of Intel processors.”

I think they probably are right about rose-tinting, at least in my case, since my Mac experiences were in the early 90s when PCs were simply frightful to use and not much above a scientific calculator in terms of user experience. They were also quite reluctant to migrate, at least until 10.6.1 had arrived, not trusting it to be stable. The other commented that he thought OSX significantly more stable than previous versions (he’d used from system 7 onward). In retrospect I can remember repeatedly killing the system when I tried to click and drag 5 items in macdraw (5 was the absolute limit) and it ran out of memory. Things have progressed somewhat from there!

Fernando Gros 13 years ago

Gotta love that forum randomness. Thanks for the reminder of why I try to avoid them.

I did mean security. In the shift from Panther to Tiger there were changes in how System Preferences worked that seemed to make it easier, in my experience, for applications to change internet connection settings without my authorisation, especially after some of the security releases. From what I have read and talking to a few other users, that is not an isolated experience.

As for Rose-Tinting – that made me chuckle. It’s pretty meaningless to compare software across generations, but it is meaningful to compare it across upgrades and against competition. OS8 was, for me a blue water better product that the equivalent Windows iteration and my use of Word on the Mac was instantly more stable than the Windows equivalent (Word 6 versus Word 98, I think).

Without doubt OSX handles multiple tasks and multiple open programmes better, on a bad day, than OS9 ever did. But, within application – well it’s not always better.

Anyway, after a decade of solid Mac use I’m not saying I would go back to the old OS, mearly that I long for a few of the feelings I attached to the old OS. Amongst people I talk to regularly, that doesn’t seem to me an uncommon sense, at all.

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