Snow Leopard Impressions

 

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Every time a new operating system upgrade comes out for Mac, it’s usually a big deal. Fancy new interfaces, new transitions, special effects, and new versions of our favorite programs like iMovie are just a few of the reasons that we’ve enjoyed upgrading in the past. Last month, Apple released Mac OS X v10.6, code-named Snow Leopard, for the low price of $29.99.  What’s new about this software and why do you need it?  Read on!

The first thing you should know is that Snow Leopard isn’t a huge upgrade on the cosmetic side of things.  Installation of new operating systems with Apple computers has been historically smooth and pain-free. Snow Leopard follows in line with that tradition. The software is delivered on a single DVD and, once inserted into the Mac, starts the installation process. After about 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the age of your Mac, the process will be complete. All of your files and programs will be harmlessly untouched and will be right where you left them before you upgraded. After a couple of reboots, you’ll be done. Apple has stated that there needs to be 5 GB of free space to install Snow Leopard, but in the end, the new OS will actually free up 7 GB.

What Mac die-hards will immediately notice is the renovated Preview, Finder, and Apple Dock features. The idea is to make navigating files and specific applications a smoother process. The Finder has been completely rewritten from the ground up using the Cocoa framework and handles larger and fuller hard drives a lot better. Icons can be a maximum size of 512×512, which is four times the resolution allowed in Leopard.

The rule of thumb is that Snow Leopard has an overhauled Finder and runs basic functions and first party software a lot faster.  Apple has promoted the fact that PDFs run 1.4 times faster and JPEGs load 2.3 times faster, which seem fairly accurate by accounts. For those of you with Macs in the office, Snow Leopard supports Microsoft Exchange right out of the box. Mail, iCal, and Mac Address Book have been upgraded to support Microsoft’s hosted messaging, calendar, and contacts system. This means that calendar invitations from Outlook sent through an Exchange server can finally be shared between operating systems.

The big news for the whole “under the hood” experience is that Snow Leopard is a true 64-bit operating system.  With this new OS, there are both 32-bit and 64-bit libraries available that access a 64-bit system. Not all drivers are 64-bit compatible as of yet, but because of the 32-bit support, there should be plenty of backwards-compatible support for users. This is the primary reason why users won’t see a huge difference in performance after upgrading to Snow Leopard. For the most part, the programs you have installed on your Mac are 32-bit based and have yet to take advantage of the new Snow Leopard environment.

Some of the applications that are popular with Mac users have received an upgrade. One of these programs is iChat, Apple’s instant messaging and video conferencing utility. The maximum resolution in iChat Theater is now 640×480, while at the same time, it manages to decrease the necessary bandwidth by 33%. Another exciting release is QuickTime X, which comes with basic video editing tools similar to what was released with the iPhone 3G S. Although it’s not to be considered a video editor, it adds some needed flexibility. The best thing about QuickTime X has to be the new share feature, which offers one-click uploads to MobileMe or YouTube.

For all Mac users, Snow Leopard is the best $29.99 that you will spend for your computing dollar this year, guaranteed. Not only are you getting a new operating system with a new architecture and cool features, but the installation also frees up 7 GB of space. For those of you with more than one Mac, there’s a $49 Family Pack that allows for the program to be installed on five machines. For a sleeker, faster and cooler Mac, Snow Leopard is a sure-fire winner for Mac poker players.

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