Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6)

Apple released Snow Leopard this past Friday, August 28, to the general public.  Version 10.6 of their operating system has been billed as primarily a “behind the scenes” improvement in OS X, building on the technology that runs Apple’s computers and smartphones today.  (See Wired Article)  I decided I would go ahead and install 10.6 on my first generation Intel Macbook and also on my Macbook Air.

So far, so good.  I use Parallels to operate a virtual Windows XP machine.  Parallels 3 is not compatible with OS X 10.6.  I therefore upgraded to version 4 of Parallels, and my virtual machine works again.  I did run into some problems getting the upgrade to run (my VM was left in a paused state before the upgrade, and I could not open it in Snow Leopard to stop it.  There is a workaround available for this on Parallels web site if you search for it in help).  And, sadly, my venerable Lexmark Z715 lacks drivers in 10.6, and none are available (or planned by Lexmark).  But my Z1420 does work just fine, so I can still print to my heart’s content at the office.  Perhaps I will finally break down and get a new printer for the home office.

Other than the few incompatible items listed above, the OS X install was itself rather smooth and did result in saving me between 7 and 10 gigabytes of hard drive space.  In addition, because a number of the processes that run in 10.6 are 64-bit, they run considerably quicker than the prior versions of these items.  64-bit programs take advantage of being able to send instructions that are twice as large as older software to the central processor.  Safari opens more quickly and is more responsive than pre-upgrade, and other software like Mail, iPhoto, and iTunes all are much more efficient, as is Finder.

I am still using Microsoft Word 2004, and unfortunately, Word does not get noticeably quicker under Snow Leopard.  It appears that this version of Office is running as “Power PC” rather than a native 64-bit application, but then it was slow in 10.5 as well.  The Office suite has always run faster on Windows.  Personally, I think Microsoft is just trying to tell us all that we should use their products on Windows.  Perhaps the next major release of this package will be an improvement.

Others have written about the new features and what went where in 10.6.  (See Wired; Leopard Tricks Tips and Tools)   Overall, I think 10.6 is a nice upgrade and worth the $30 for a license.  Compared to other, more disastrous upgrades from our friends at Microsoft, most will not have an issue going from 10.5 to 10.6.  Good luck.

Update September 9

I am still running Snow Leopard on my Macbook and Macbook Air.  I have run into compatibility issues with Quickbooks for Mac 2009 – the program mostly works except it crashes when I attempt to record deposits.  I understand from Intuit’s web site that they are working on a patch for compatibility issues with their product.

I have also noticed that periodically mail gets upset and downloads a duplicate copy of message in my gmail account.  Closing and re-opening the application seems to solve this issue, even though I have no idea why it does that.

Because my Lexmark Z715 no longer works with OS X 10.6, I tried my other handy printer – an HP J3680 all in one printer.  The HP web site claims that the drivers for the J3600 series printers were included with the 10.6 upgrade, but when you check this claim against the Apple support web site, the J3600 series is notably missing from the compatible list.  So when I try to add this printer to my MBA, OS X tries to connect me to Apple to get a mysterious update that will provide the driver.  Needless to say, no update is forthcoming.  Perhaps HP will fix their driver for this printer series, which would save me the trouble of buying a new printer for home.

In spite of these issues, I still think the upgrade was a reasonable one.  Compared to other upgrades, the inconvenience has been generally small, and besides, the problems seem to be tied to some of the big vendors for software and hardware that ought to be more on the ball.  Isn’t that what the Microsoft people always say when stuff stops working after an upgrade?

Update September 15

Intuit released and re-released a patch which has addressed the issues I had with Quickbooks 2009 on OS X 10.6, so all is now well with that program.

In addition, I noticed last night that I was able to connect to the HP J3680 at home, though I am not able to use this printer through my older airport express.  It works just fine, however, shared through my other Macbook, and I am also now able to scan pdf files to the Macbook from this printer.

The upgrade has gone relatively smoothly, all things considered, and now that I can print again at home, I am gearing up to destroy a forest!

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Maryland technology attorney and college professor.

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