Snow Leopard in my Mac: Latest version of Mac OS

Primary version of this post, with visual content, at Barry Stocker’s Weblog.

Yesterday saw the public release of the latest version of the Mac OS, that is the Operating System for Macintosh computers. This is OS X.6 (the sixth iteration of OS 10, the X is the Roman numeral for 10 and should be pronounced as ten), mostly know as Snow Leopard, following on the big cats used to identify different iterations of OS X since its first release in 2002: Cheetah (a very short lived debut version), Panther, Jaguar, Tiger, Leopard. The release of OS X, and every new iteration, have marked a constant revival of Apple which lost its way after the breakthrough of the first Macintosh computer in 1984.

Snow Leopard is being sold as an upgrade for Mac computer users, who already have Leopard, as well as coming ready installed in new mac computers, The DVD which upgrades Leopard also upgrades Tiger, though Apple does not advertise this. Snow Leopard will only work on Macs with Intel chips, and not the older Macs using PC World chips. The upgrade DVD is 25 US dollars in America, and somewhat more in other countries, but in case is still very cheap for a new OS in all countries.

Anyone using a pre-Tiger version of OS X needs to get a much more expensive set of installation DVDs for Snow Leopard and the latest versions of iLife and iWork. ILife is the set of lifestyle applications which comes preinstalled on all Macintosh computers, and includes iTunes, iWeb (which I’m using to create this post), iPhoto, Garageband and iMovie. iWork is the Apple equivalent to Microsoft Office (Pages is the Word equivalent, Keynote is the Powerpoint equivalent, Numbers is the Excel equivalent), but with the same kind of advantages over Office that the Mac OS has over Windows, that is great user friendliness, intuitiveness, and aesthetic qualities. iWork is not preinstalled in Mac computers, but is cheaper than Office. iWork opens all Office files and all iWork files can be exported as Office files.

I installed Snow Leopard yesterday. The default setting for the DVD is upgrade rather than clean install, which means changing the OS while leaving all applications, files and settings in the hard drive so that they work as before once the install is completed. Clean install means deleting everything from the hard drive, so that everything needs to be backed up before the install. The backup can be done very easily in Leopard, using the Time Machine application and an external hard drive.

Some techies on Apple oriented sites claim they get a better result from clean install than upgrade. I suspect that this is because these are people who have far more in the way of third party software, applications and hacks into the OS, than average users. I have some third party apps, but very little which hacks into the OS, maybe only iStat Menu which displays a wide variety of information about what the computer is doing on the menu bar. The upgrade went very smoothly, and took no more than an hour and a half between inserting the install disc and the computer finishing its house keeping after it reboots the computer onto Snow Leopard.

The only loss I have is that iStat Menu is not working at at present, though iStat Pro (free to download despite the Pro designation) is working on the Console with all the same functions. A Snow Leopard compatible version of iStat Menu is promised soon from iSlayer.com.

Looking at the Mac orientated web sphere, and reports from independent PC websites and magazines, most people have had a very quick and trouble free experience, but as with anything else involving computers there is no 100% guarantee of a problem free experience. Looking at the evidence, I would say that you have to be extremely unlucky to have a bad experience. The sources also agree that the Snow Leopard runs nearly everything more quickly, though this may not always be noticeable as a 10-30% saving of time on an operation which takes less than a minute may not be subjectively noticeable, All the same those savings to add up to meaningful saving of time for the user. I haven’t checked times, but the computer has been feeling snappy since the upgrade.

Anyone upgrading from Windows Vista (or XP) to the Windows 7, which will be released in a few weeks, is going to have to go for a clean install and therefore back up everything before starting the upgrade.

What are the gains? Most of the changes between Leopard and Snow Leopard are concerned with increasing performance and stability, both of which were already very good. Snow Leopard is fully adapted to 64 bit computers, and has a new system for running programs with maximum efficiency, Grand Central Dispatch.

On the User Interface, there are the following useful changes.

Exposé (which brings up a grid of all windows in use) has a better display.

Playing Mp3s in Safari has a difference visual interface, including indication of time left and time used.

Several gigabytes of space on the hard drive are saved as Snow Leopard is more economical in its demands on system space.

System preferences has a few new options.

Minimising windows can now be done into the App icons on the Dock, which I really like. I prefer a clean Dock with large easily visible icons, so I don’t use stacks and I prefer minimised windows to not take up space on the dock which shrinks the icon sizes. Control and click while the cursor is over the App icon gives a clear indication of which windows have been minimised.

Time settings can now automatically adjust to the the region the computer is in, which I have chosen, and is part of the increasing integration of online Wifi enabled capacities into the OS.

If you have a Macintosh computer then Snow Leopard is very much worth the price. If you still use Windows, or belong to the small crew of Linux users, Snow Leopard increases the reason to go over to the Apple side.

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Link. Apple’s White MacBook may Stay and Grow

Primary version of this post, with visual content, at Barry Stocker’s Weblog

Apple to retain, redesign plastic MacBook family. AppleInsider. 25th August 2009.

This refers back to my post of 27th July on Apple Tablet/MacTouch/iPad. In that post I noted the very consistent and frequent rumours of a forthcoming 10 inch device from Apple with a touch screen. I suggested then that the White MacBook was in its last days as a legacy product, and would be killed off when the new portable device was released. I was then referring to AppleInsider, and many other sources, for the predictions of the new portable. This time I;m only relying on AppleInsider, but I think the item makes a very strong case for saying that Apple has had a change of mind. AppleInsider is generally respected for its reliability and this item has been picked up by other Apple oriented sites.

The linked item refers to a change of mind of Apple as the White MacBook continues to outsell other Macintosh computers, despite the lack of advertising and the difficulty of finding it on Apple’s online store. Perhaps this is not surprising, for two sets of reasons.

Intrinsic qualities.

The White MacBook handles normal computing needs extremely well, it has been upgraded and the price has been cut. There’s little reason for getting a MacBook Pro unless a high level computer is really necessary, and Apple reinforced when the aluminium 13 inch MacBook was relabelled as the entry level MacBook Pro.

Extrinsic circumstances.

The recession increases the incentives to choose the plastic MacBook over the aluminium MacBook Pros, including the 13 inch version which initially seemed destined to replace the plastic White MacBook.

Apple has survived the recession remarkably unscathed despite claims from some quarters that the Mac computers are overpriced niche, boutique items, which would lose market share heavily in a recession. In addition Microsoft was heavily advertising claims that Macintosh computers are overpriced compared with PCs designed for Windows. A somewhat dubious claim if computers are compared at list price feature by feature, particularly taking into account the lack of viruses for Mac Operating System, the much greater most people take in using it compared with Windows, and the greater number of features ready bundled with the OS X. Apple responded by cutting prices and upgrading, so that though its products are certainly not cheap they are certainly much better value, for what many including myself would argues was already very good value for the quality of the products.

It now looks as if Apple may revive the White MacBook line, in a niche between the new 10 inch portable and the MacBook Pros. I had earlier predicted that the new devices might become the standard Mac computer, like the White MacBook has been. That is less clear now. It might increase the number of people with two Mac computers.

Link of the Day: Apple Tablet/MacTouch/iPad

Primary version of this post at Barry Stocker’s Weblog, with picture of what the new device might look like!


“Apple’s much-anticipated tablet device coming early next year”

Key Points

10 inch touch screen.

Will use cell phone networks like an iPhone, and price will be subsidised by cellular network providers.

New App Store.

Very light, thin, portable device which will do most of what a laptop/desktop has been used for, possibly all these functions depending on ports.

Could replace the role MacBook used to have as the most popular Apple computer.

AppleInsider, which has a very good record in predicting new Apple products, is now predicting a new range of Apple devices by next Spring. Apple is notoriously secretive about its product development, apparently devising elaborate security procedures to stop employees sharing information with each other about new products, and working very hard to stop leaks to the outside world. Also Apple appears to have dumped a lot of potential products after development, the CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs very much works on the principle that Apple should stick to a limited range of products where it can produce something exceptional. Apple has the usual status of a corporation with a lot of intense fans (and critics), so rumours and speculation fill the gap. Nevertheless complete secrecy is impossible, and patterns are observable in which rumours grow and converge over time about a new product, where that product really exists. We are certainly at that stage with the ‘iPad’ rumours. AppleInsider is just the most reliable of the many sources which are now predicting such a device.

Place in the Apple line up

Between iPhone/iPod Touch and MacBook in price.

Between iPhone/iPod Touch and MacBook Air in specifications

‘iPad’ will replace partly MacBook which is now a residual model only available in white, below an expanded MacBook Pro range, which now starts at 13 inches.

The growing technological capacity to have high functioning small light devices at low prices means that some people who used to get a MacBook will get an ‘iPad’ instead, or will maybe have an ‘iPad’ as a second computer after an iMac (desktop with hard drive in screen), Mac Pro (traditional desktop tower) or MacBook Pro. MacBook Air already fills that role, but at a high price.

What was the MacBook market will now be divided between ‘iPad’ and the MacBook Pro and Air lines.

Place in general range of computing devices

High end netbooks, low end laptops/notebooks.

What are the likely specifications?

Screen 10 inches

Most people say that 10 inch screens are being produced, a few are predicting 9 inch screens.

Touch Pad Screen

Screen will be touch pad, as in iPhone and iPod Touch, so no physical keyboard or separate track pad.

No optic drive for DVDs and CDs

The MacBook Air, which can download wirelessly from DVDs and CDs on other devices, has no optic drive so ‘iPad’ will probably have the same capacities.

Ports?

The MacBook Air has one USB port, one audio output port and an external display port. The ‘iPad’ will not have more and will probably have less. The issue of ports is important in determining how far ‘iPad’ will replace desktops and laptops. This will not be completely possible if there is no USB, despite the spread of wireless connectivity I presume there will always be a need for physical connections with peripheral devices. Anyway, we are certainly not at the point where wireless connections can completely replace physical connections.

New App Store

The iPhone and iPod Touch have an App Store on iTunes, with over 55 000 applications from third party soft ware designers, many are free or only ten dollars. The ‘iPad’ will need a separate range of applications because of the bigger screen, which requires new code for the old applications. Apple will certainly be aiming to turn the iPad into another major platform for applications, amongst other things making it a major gaming platform.

Wifi and Cell Phone Networks

Like netbooks, the ‘iPad’ will be designed around wireless connectivity. At present netbooks, notebooks and laptops can be connected to cell phone networks with an ugly looking USB ‘dongle’. There are clearly negotiations going on with cellular network providers for the ‘iPad’ to be connected with cell phone networks and to be subsidised in price by providers. The downside of this is that in many countries purchase will probably only be possible with such a plan, and that in some countries only one provider will be co-operating with Apple.

Operating System

This will be OS X (pronounced OS Ten) as with Mac computers and the iPhone. The iPhone and Macs use different versions of OS X though, so that raises the possibility that ‘iPad’ will have its own version. I doubt it, I guess that OS X for Mac will be used, and that will be reflected in the naming if the device: ‘Mac Touch’? Apple could be tempted to have a lower functioning version of OS for ‘iPad’ in order to reduce loss of sales of MacBook devices, but since they are clearly going to eliminate the MacBook proper I doubt they are concerned. The MacBook name now survives for a white plastic version only which is not being advertised, and can only be found on the Apple website with some persistence. The new 13 inch unibody Macs were initially advertised as MacBook, but are now the entry level MacBook Pro models (below the 15 inch and 17 inch models), with more ports than when originally launched. Apple are now clearly moving towards premium devices at 13 inches and above, and a very mobile device at 10 inches which could take over the role MacBook used to have as the standard and most popular Mac device. In that case, it’s hard to see Apple offering a cut down version of OS X only, which would require time and money to develop.

Firefox 3 Beta 4, download it. And why I want to go AppleMac

I’ve previously recommended downloading Firefox 3 which is in a beta stage and is not widely distributed. The beta 2 I recommended was superseded by beta 3 and very recently by beta 4. Beta 3 was unstable on the main computer I use, but not so much on another work one, both running Windows XP.

Sadly I’m still purely a Windows user but I’m planning my escape to Macintosh Leopard (Mac OS 10.5) on a current model MacBook (AppleMac laptop/notebook) in the next few months. I will be free. Check out this very independent, objective and detailed comparison of Linux, Mac Leopard, Windows XP, and Windows Vista in PC World to see why I want to make the shift. In fact just do a search for wesbites which discuss Macintosh and see a great many reasons from many sources, and talk to anyone who made the switch.

Back to Firefox. Beta 3 kept freezing and crashing on my computer at home, Beta 4 is great. As it’s beta there’s a limited choice of themes and extensions but the MicroFox theme is available which is a beautiful one, and the most important application for me, the nitro pdf download, is working. British English dictionary, ScribeFire and FireFlag are working. Beta 4 is very stable and very quick. Downloads are much faster than before. Beautifully minimised graphics create very spacious and ergonomic feel. Bookmarking is very rapid, straight from browser bar, and it’s very very easy now to get to previously visited website by entering word from site title in window. The best aesthetics aspects of Safari (Apple) browser are now marched through a very integrated feel unfiying elements and a sense of curvature in three dimensions. Internet Explorer does not begin to compare.

Come on people, Internet Explorer is not a good browser, try Firefox and you’ll know what I mean. Go on try it. If you want to play very safe, download Firefox 2 from the button on my side bar. If you’re feeling just a little adventerous download 3 beta 4. Whichever you download, you won’t disable Explorer. You can download easily and quickly, You don’t even have to restart the computer to get it working after download. No risk, no trouble. Go on, do it.