Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Thoughts on Mac OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard”

2009 is set to bring both Windows 7 and Mac OS X Snow Leopard (aka 10.6) – both of which are evolutions, rather than revolutions, from their predecessors. Rather than bringing big new features, the focus on both has been to improve performance and refine clunky aspects of the operating systems.
Apple released details of Snow Leopard yesterday at the WWDC – you can view full details here. As it’s not a significant upgrade over Leopard (aka 10.5), the upgrade price will be much cheaper than normal, at only $29. Quite how that will translate into pounds remains to be seen but I’d estimate £20-25, which is very reasonable.
Some of the changes in Snow Leopard that most impress me are as follows:

  • The ‘Services’ menu has been re-designed, and is now context-sensitive. Right now you can highlight a word in, say, Safari, and then when you open the Services menu you’ll be overwhelmed by a huge list of services provided by other applications, with about 80% greyed out. In Snow Leopard, you will be able to right-click and just see the services which are relevant, such as being able to look the word up in a dictionary.
  • Grand Central Dispatch – a new core technology which makes better use of multi-core processors. This means that applications that haven’t been specifically designed to use multiple cores can now do so. Almost all Macs from the past 3 years have Intel processors with 2 or more cores so this should be a welcome performance boost.
  • Smaller installed size – OS X will require around 6 GB less disk space. Apple have announced that Snow Leopard will be Intel-only (sorry PowerPC users) so this will probably be because the applications will just have Intel code and not be universal binaries.
  • Re-write of Finder – though it will look almost exactly the same as it does now, Apple have re-written Finder to better support 64-bit processors (which all new Macs have). It will also be able to eject volumes more reliably, and if it can’t eject, it will be able to tell the user what application is using it. This will solve one of my annoyances at present – trying to eject an SD card and being told it’s in use, but with no indication as to what is using it.
  • Speed improvements – Time Machine will now back up more quickly, and OS X should be able to wake up and go to sleep more quickly. Furthermore, joining a wireless network should be snappier too.

There’s a few more changes to iChat, as well as Microsoft Exchange support, but they’re not apps that I regularly use. On the whole it’s not ground-breaking stuff but I can see it making a difference in terms of the system feeling faster and less clunky.

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