Let it Snow…

Snow Leopard

I’ve spent nearly a straight week poking into an operating system to a degree and intensity that I never have before. Yes, many of the things I was poking at I’d done before, but rarely had I so intensely poked, pushed, and prodded to see what broke.

Honestly, rarely have I had to push and prod so much to find things to break.

Word of warning. I am fully certain I will be recommending this update to every client that has an intel based Mac. I’m already getting questions on it.


I can NOT recommend this in good faith right this second to anyone with an established workflow in mission-critical software that has not yet been certified and updated specifically to run on Snow Leopard. Wait a few weeks. Try a test platform.

That said. Wow.

Installation on my laptop was less painful than installing Leopard onto my wife’s MacBook Pro. Or my old iBook. Or my G5. Since I didn’t run into the blue screen (thank you again Logitech. Your hardware is great, your drivers uniformly create a perfect vacuum… on every platform), it was far easier than my last major upgrade.

Starting up and shutting down, among other things, are both faster. So is time machine. Mail hasn’t flaked out in any weird ways, and is also much faster (and can now incorporate hyperlinks within signatures. I can hear the text-only purists grinding their teeth). Most programs are noticably snappier, and many, despite apple releasing ahead of schedule, already had verified their software was compatible. Thus my list of stuff that was broken was very, very short.

Most of my programs worked without hiccups. Predictably, almost every non-apple program was 32 bit. Surprisingly, among the tiny handful of Apple programs that are not 64 bit are front row and the DVD player.

The first category of programs I looked at were those with only PowerPC code. While I expected this from my copy of Office (I still run 2004. Anything newer I translate into Pages or NeoOffice…), I didn’t realize that Zterm, Disk Inventory X, Pic2Icon, or the graphical version of NetHack had never been rebuilt as intel-native programs. While most non-techies could care less about most of those programs, and can get a newer version of the office suite – MS or not – Disk Inventory is a useful tool for us crazies and for normal people that lets you very easily hunt down where space is getting used up on your hard drive, by giving you a nice, graphical, color-coded mapping.

I may have to bit the bullet and either get by without it (I don’t need it that often), or hope somebody updates it, and the rest of the powerPC programs. Office, I’ll just have to work in NeoOffice and Pages until I decide it’s worth ponying up for the Microsoft product. I’ve taken NetHack in an even _more_ retro direction by downloading and installing the text-only version.

Let’s get to what broke, shall we?

Cooliris, a wonderful web plugin for navigating pictures in sites like Flickr and Facebook, still works in Firefox, but the Safari version is broken, and now pending.

NeoOffice did not work – would not even start up, but has been patched and will now work after the update. There are still a couple bugs related to the image browser and networked file saves, but those are survivable. Once Apple gets the x.1 round of updates out of the way and the stable release of NeoOffice 3.1 arrives, we should be good to go.

I expected OnyX to fail – it’s a very version-specific cleanup utility for nuking corrupt caches, etc, and I would not expect the 10.5 version to work safely on Snow leopard than I would expect the 10.4 version to. Winclone surprised me a bit – I would not have thought it would be affected.

Another geeky program, nmap – used for security and network analysis – had an oddball issue properly scanning the local network. There is a workaround for it.

Predictably, the Cisco VPN software broke, just like many OS updates – even minor ones – have done in the past. Fortunately reinstalling the latest version worked great. A lot of other programs I use had minor updates and seem to work great (haven’t run into any obvious bugs) in 32 bit mode.

Interestingly, while Tweetdeck runs fine, it’s predictably enough in 32 bit mode as it’s based on Adobe Air. The Tweetie client is actually a full 64-bit app. This has shifted me even more to the point where I’m using that for quick posts, and tweetdeck when I’m doing serious searching and monitoring – which is rare.

Many apps got updated, and work fine. Of the ones that haven’t been updated, I’ve not noticed anything wrong with the vast majority. Even Microsoft’s Silverlight – their answer to adobe Flash and Air which netflix uses for their movie streaming service – worked great once updated.

Video playback and preference panes got hit the hardest. As of this writing, neither Microsoft, nor Flip4Mac (which is where MS has pointed people for several years now) have a version of their windows media codec that plays on my system without significant issues. Fortunately, VLC does, and plays flash video files as well.

Several third party preference panes (Perian, Weathercal, Hazel) have been updated to full 64-bit status, and don’t force the preference pane to restart. Most third-party preference panes still force a restart of system preferences as of this writing. While my WMV playback only seems to work in VLC, Perian seems to be handling everything else just fine even in Quicktime Player X.

I’ve yet to see how well the Adobe Creative Suite programs work, and I’m disappointed that Mailtags is broken and will be a paid upgrade, which brings me to the last point.

Mailtags is an awesome plugin for mail that allows you to apply arbitrary tags and metadata to mail messages. Incredibly useful in association with smart folders – and in principle similar to what Google mail does even though most mail programs present Google mail’s labels as traditional “folders”.

As extensive as the backend changes were to the Mac OS, I am saddened, but hardly surprised that Mailtags broke. My regret is that getting the functionality back will involve a paid upgrade for a program I’ve already paid for, or I lose the functionality utterly due to my system upgrade. Being fair, I’ve had two years of use out of it already, and they will be doing a lot of work getting it improved – it’s well worth the money.

Textmate – which is neck in neck with BBedit as my favorite coding and plain text editor, has hardly improved in forever. While only a few bugs cropped up – none showstoppers – and I’m glad to see some new updates and life on the website, it’s high time we see some progress made.

I am less forgiving of Adobe. I understand many of the technical difficulties involved, and am sympathetic. I also get the distinct feeling that getting their products in sync with the roadmap of technology changes for the Mac has been lacking in dedication and sincere effort. This ironically echoes the position Quark was in with their page layout program QuarkXpress – resting comfortably on their laurels with no competitors in sight – before InDesign swooped in and stole the mindshare, and the majority of the marketshare, from them. Intel was on the roadmap long before CS3 – even before CS2. They had a lot of time to deal with the reality of 64-bit Macs as the norm (It’s hard for even me to remember how long the Mac Pro’s have been out already). It’s one thing to prioritize getting the current shipping product, CS4, debugged before putting major efforts into supporting CS3. It’s another to make customers who bought CS3 as a current product just under a year ago feel like they’re being left out in the cold if they don’t pay up for the new software instead of skipping a version. Many shops didn’t consider the new features in version 4 enough to justify the ever steeper upgrade costs – and in the past, Adobe software was usually good for several years. Worse, Adobe’s initial statements regarding CS3 strongly implied you were on your own if anything broke. Period.

I haven’t seen how the backend changes affect Video editing tools dependent on Quicktime, how Filemaker, et
c. are affected, and how some business-critical programs like PowerCADD that have proven notoriously sensitive to changes (in one case – to differing version numbers between the 10.4 and 10.5 (unicode) versions of the Helvetica font )

I also can’t wait until this view in the activity window is all Intel 64…..Activity Monitor

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