Review roundup: Snow Leopard, aka Apple Mac OS X 10.6

The embargoes are up, the reviews are in: get ready for Apple's Snow Leopard operating system, also known as Mac OS X 10.6. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers tell us what's what.

By Richi Jennings. August 27, 2009.

(AAPL)

Your humble blogwatcher has selected these bloggy morsels for your enjoyment. Not to mention an 8080 that's still alive...

Walt Mossberg makes the obvious "changing Leopard’s spots" gag:

For a company known for breakthrough products with cool features, Apple this week is doing something unusual: It is introducing a key product with very few new features that are visible to its users. This new release, the latest major version of the Macintosh operating system, looks and works almost exactly the same as its predecessor, but has been heavily re-engineered under the covers for greater speed and efficiency, and to add future-oriented core technologies.

...

Snow Leopard, succeeds Apple’s 2007-vintage Leopard, which I regard as the best computer operating system out there, and markedly superior to its main rival, Microsoft’s Windows Vista. Snow Leopard goes on sale Friday, Aug. 2. ... Perhaps its biggest new feature is ... built-in compatibility with Microsoft’s Exchange.
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Brian Lam feels the need... the need, for speed:

OS X Snow Leopard seems to do nothing really new. And yet, it could be their most important OS since 10.0.0. ... Challenging 30 years of ever more bloated software tradition, the changes here are about becoming a more effective middleware between the media and the hardware, reducing friction while becoming more useful by, well, being lighter, less visible.

...

There are three fundamental reasons for these performance increases: Better multicore processor support through what Apple calls GCD (Grand Central Dispatch); OpenCL APIs for utilizing the processing power in any graphics cards above the GeForce 8600 ... and they've rewritten almost all the applications that ship with Snow Leopard to run in 64-bit mode while taking advantage of GCD and CoreCL. So it's making processing for today's chips more efficient and easier for developers. And giving programs a way to utilize the power of the video card when it's not playing games.
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Joshua Topolsky adds detail:

The entire OS is now 64-bit, meaning apps can address massive amounts of RAM and other tasks go much faster. The Finder has been entirely re-written in Cocoa, which Mac fans have been clamoring for since 10.0. There's a new version of QuickTime, which affects media playback on almost every level of the system. And on top of all that, there's now Exchange support in Mail, iCal, and Address Book.

...

It's hard to explain how dramatically improved the Finder is now. ... The Cocoa rewrite has simply made things better: opening folders with thousands of items is instantaneous and scrolling is just as fast; network connections are snappier; and everything hums about with essentially zero lag. ... It's hard not to look at how well Snow Leopard integrates with Exchange and see exactly why Microsoft decided to kill Entourage and bring a proper version of Outlook to the Mac ... until then, we think OS X users who need Exchange will be pretty happy.
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But Nick Farrell rolls his eyes:

Apple has sent out copies of its Snow Leopard service pack to its mates ... in the hope of scoring good reviews. ... Apple has a list of half a dozen or so fanboys it sends stuff to and makes sure that people who have written nasty stuff about it in the past never get a wiff of anything. This way you can be assured that the reviewers are all Apple users who have little experience of other systems and will write nice things.

...

The “best new features” on Snow Leopard are those that Windows users have enjoyed for years. You can tell the reviewer has never used a PC because he thinks these are a pretty neat idea.
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And Philip Elmer-DeWitt collapses the reality-distortion field:

Developers are still scrambling to make sure their applications will work with the new version. ... According to snowleopard.wikidot.com, a collaborative project that is collating independent test results ... more than 60 either don't work or have major problems.

...

Including Adobe Photoshop Elements (No. 6 on Amazon's Mac bestseller list) ... Google Gears. ... Parallels version 3.0 ... Adobe CS2 ... Boxee, Reunion, Times Reader and Vuze. ... Follow the first rule in computer software: wait until the kinks have been worked out before installing a new OS.
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Meanwhile, Gina Trapani offers preparatory advice:

Clean Up Your Mac ... Back Up Your Data ...  Make a Bootable Backup ... Install Snow Leopard Directly on Top ... pop your Snow Leopard DVD into your Mac's drive and go. ... With a good backup, you've nothing to fear.

... [or] ...

Wipe Your Mac Clean and Start from Scratch ... Serious nerds who want their Snow Leopard installation absolutely pristine (and come from the Windows school of wipe-and-reinstall) can go all-out and format their Mac's hard drive, install Snow Leopard and then restore their data from backup and reinstall all their essential apps.
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See Computerworld's full

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Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 24 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him as @richi on Twitter or richij on FriendFeed, pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email: itblogwatch@richij.com.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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