Snow Leopard.

I was going to put my thoughts on Snow Leopard, the latest version of the OS X operating system from Apple for the Mac, on my geek blog. It was then that I realised that I had blown up that blog when I was moving servers a month or so ago. Instead of taking time to rebuild that blog before writing my experiences with Snow Leopard, I thought I would just include it here on my personal blog, since I have a lot of Mac users that read along. I also thought it might interesting for those that visit via their Windows based computer. But then again, all this geek talk could be boring altogether, so I guess I’ll just jump right into it.

We have four Macs in The Manor that have the chops to be upgraded to Snow Leopard. This is due to the fact that Snow Leopard is for Intel-based Macs only. All Macs have been Intel based (basically using the same processors as their Windows-based counterparts) for the past three or four years. Two of the Macs use have G4 PowerPC processors, one straggler is older with a G3. These will have to stay on the older Tiger operating system. The Macs that I upgraded included my MacBook Pro (the last of the previous generation with a 2.5 gHz processor), Earl’s MacBook Pro (same generation as mine, but with a 2.4 gHz processor), the studio Mac Mini (the first generation of the Intel Mac Minis with a single core Solo processor) and Jamie’s MacBook (the latest incarnation of the Macbook, I am remiss in knowing what processor it has).

The installation process on all four machines was relatively painless. Both my and Earl’s MacBook Pro went flawlessly, completing in about 45 minutes. My Mac Mini was the same experience, though it took about an hour. The fly in the ointment was Jamie’s MacBook, which I find ironic since it’s the newest computer in the house. When I started the install on his computer it froze about 10 minutes in. I had to force the computer off and start over, luckily, no files had been overwritten or moved prior to this and I was able to boot into Leopard before starting over with the upgrade. On each of the machines software upgrade immediately downloaded and installed an additional upgrade. I don’t recall what this upgrade was but it went painlessly.

Once the upgrade was in place I was ready to rock and roll. My MacBook Pro is my primary machine and I do a lot of different things on it: I edited video, I manage all my photos, I do all of my online interacting and I manage my finances. None of my applications have complained about the upgrade, everything seems to be working fine. I have even been successful with using Skype, which I had read on Twitter folks were having an issue with. I don’t know why I am lucky in that regard.

The primary thing I look for when upgrading an operating system is improvements in the user experience. A quick glance at the screen of a Mac will not clue you in as to whether it has Leopard or Snow Leopard on it. Both look pretty much identical in that regard. One little improvement that I enjoyed was an animation of the wi-fi icon that tells me when my computer is looking for a signal. Speaking of which, that area is a _big_ improvement since the upgrade; my MacBook Pro now finds my home wireless network in about a second when I open the lid versus the five seconds it took under Leopard. That delay used to irk me because I did not experience the same delay under Windows Vista or Windows 7 on the same computer; I’m happy that Apple fixed that.

Other UI (user interface) improvements that I am enjoying include the improvements to stacks on the dock. The scrollbars are a much needed improvement and quick look works flawlessly.

One thing not included in Snow Leopard that I wish had been included was a little bit of “glass”. While I think Microsoft uses this a little too much in Windows Vista and Windows 7 with their Aero interface, I think that a little bit here are there adds a touch of class to the UI. While there are some cool visual effects on the dock with both Leopard and Snow Leopard and the file bar across the top has a glassy appearance (if you want it), I think if Apple had included a touch more glass in Snow Leopard users would have had something to look to assist with the the feeling that they upgraded their operating system. Granted, Apple has said all along that they were focusing on the mechanics of the operating system with this upgraded by making it leaner; I still think a little bit of something in the UI would have made people are little more excited about the upgrade.

My MacBook Pro and my Mac Mini both feel decidedly snappier with the upgrade. Things are purring along beautifully and with the exception of one glitch when the computer went into sleep mode (the screen got stuck in dim mode when I was typing this blog entry), everything has been working great.

Because of Apple’s rock bottom price of this upgrade ($29 for a single computer, $49 for a family pack, good for five computers), I recommend the upgrade to everyone that has a Mac with the specs for it. I believe the speed improvements and the interface tweaks are used to it.