05 September 2009

Snow Leopard Notes

I’ve been using Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6) since official release. See John Siracusa for a very thorough and technical review. I just want to post a few random notes.

I forgot to be scientific about measuring the disk space savings, but I think I got 5 GB back (and I had never installed all the printer drivers). That’s a pretty valuable upgrade right there!

While people have noted it’s a plus that you can now show the date in the menu bar, in fact you don’t get to choose the date format, so it’s not very useful.

It’s pretty cool that Cisco VPN is now built in — the client from Cisco was pretty unreliable. Unfortunately, we use a shared secret that’s only distributed via a .pcf file, in encrypted form. Luckily, there’s a security hole and it’s possible to retrieve the plaintext password. Armed with this, I can use the Snow Leopard client.

I haven’t seen mention of a change in Time Machine: if you back up to a Time Capsule, you’re no longer saving to the top level of the volume but rather using your own account. (The screen shot shows the new approach above the old.) This should make things a little more secure, but it also means your old backup is ignored, and things start from scratch. (I couldn’t really verify Apple’s claims that the initial backup is a lot faster — it still seemed awfully slow over USB Ethernet.) On the other hand, I had to restart the initial backup since I didn’t have enough space for an entire new backup. Once I freed up space, the initial scan was pretty much instant.

So far, most of my software has been compatible (including those I wrote: Addressix and Opal). I was using an older version of Parallels Desktop, which for some reason was not moved to an “Incompatible” folder but won’t launch (with a message that it’s incompatible). I think I’ll be switching to VMWare Fusion.

While there are some features that I appreciate (minimizing windows to the application icon instead of cluttering the Dock), for the most part it’s the same Mac, slightly improved.

Except as a development machine. The new version of Xcode offers some significant improvements for developers, ranging from better Subversion support to new compilers. I’m still in the process of using clang and the updated Instruments to track down subtle issues.

At the same time, one of the most annoying bugs is in the new developer tools: we can no longer use distcc to compile on 8 different machines simultaneously. Apple is aware of the problem.

As a user, it’s not a whizzy update, but I think still worth it. As a developer, I’m really happy to be using the new tools. I’m also hoping that this becomes the new baseline — it would be great to develop for 10.6+ rather than 10.4+.

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