OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard)

I just installed Snow Leopard and I must say that I am very impressed. Apple has once again done an excellent job and rounded off the rough edges on Leopard, which was already a pleasure to use.

Although Apple recommends doing an upgrade install over a clean install, I opted for a clean install because I've modified various parts of my OS X Leopard installation over time (installed Python 2.6 over 2.5, installed KDE for OS X, a few MySQL installations/upgrades, etc) and I wanted to try a fresh start of OS X. Formatting the hard disk took and the installation was about half an hour from start to finish, and I was able to use my new system as soon as the Snow Leopard installer rebooted the machine for me.

One of the first things I noticed was that everything was much more snappy compared to Leopard. Everything I do seems more responsive while using Snow Leopard; all of the small lags or delays (while restoring a minimized window, for example) are gone. On the other hand, more intensive tasks like opening a large application or restarting the machine are noticeably faster. Phoronix released an article today comparing the performance of Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6) vs Leopard (OS X 10.5), and at first glance it seems like OpenGL performance has dropped a bit, but otherwise there are enhancements all around.

I was a bit worried as I was upgrading because I had read this document describing that certain (popular) software titles were incompatible and would not open on Snow Leopard. As it turns out, I had no problems at all with any of my software. All of the software I was using with OS X 10.5 works perfectly with OS X 10.6, including Thunderbird 3.0b3, MacFUSE+NTFS-3G, Starcraft and It should be noted that for Starcraft and other PPC-based applications to work, you need to install Rosetta from the Optional Installs of the Snow Leopard installation DVD.

So if you're reading this on a Mac with OS X 10.4 (Tiger) or 10.5 (Leopard), I recommend that you grab a copy of Snow Leopard the next time you are nearby an Apple store or reseller. Snow Leopard is being sold at $35 for a single license or $55 for the family pack (5 licenses for use in one household) and the feature and performance enhancements it brings are well worth it.

For what it's worth, one of the changes I particularly like is how Snow Leopard reports disk size, which as documented here, has changed. All tools in Snow Leopard now report disk size using base 10 measurements, meaning a 200GB hard drive appears in your system as 200GB and not 186.26GB. I'm glad that somebody has finally made a move, because users - myself included - honestly don't care if a GB is 1024 or 1000 MB. That is irrelevant. What does matter is that the measurement doesn't change in one context and another. Otherwise, it isn't much of a standard measurement, right? It would be ridiculous to propose that the same unit "kilometre" represented a different distance depending on if you walked or drove from point A to B, but essentially that is what has happened in the computer industry. Depending on if you are shopping for or writing information to a storage medium, its size changes with the same unit. It's pretty odd to explain that when someone asks "where has the remaining 300MB gone on my 4GB USB key? I only see 3.7GB."

iTunes 8.2.0

Apple Software Update just popped up with an update for QuickTime and iTunes... The changelog indicates that it has added support for iPhones OS 3.0. I am installing it now, back soon with more info.

Edit: Okay, so apart from bug fixes nothing much seems to have changed for now - iPhones OS 3.0 isn't available immediately.

The MacBook Pro Latch

If you've been following my blog (I don't post often do I don't blame you if you don't Wink) you know that I've become a pretty big fan of Apple. Even though you do end up paying a slight premium for Apple hardware compared to a Dell let's say, the peace of mind from using OS X and the bundled software is well worth the extra cost.

I only have three complains about my MacBook Pro 4,1 (early 2008 model): A small and very bright white dot on the screen that only appears when displaying white pixels, small amounts of corrosion on the hand rest area near the trackpad (aluminum pitting), and finally the latch button to pop up the display has been stuck pressed in for the past two days and so the screen won't stay close properly.

Turns out that there isn't much I can do about the first problem; many other owners of MacBook models with LED-backlit screens also seem to have the same problem. The second is slightly annoying, but rather harmless... I doubt my sweat will be able to react all the way through the aluminum casing. However, the last one also seems to be a relatively common problem, and fortunately it's easy to fix! After two hours of fidgeting with a paperclip and protractor trying to push the latch forward, I finally decided to shine a flashlight into the small holes near the trackpad and latch mechanism. Sure enough, there was a small piece of plastic that had fallen into the hole and was blocking the latch from springing forward. I used a small metal hook to carefully move the piece of plastic upwards and not slide it ;across ;(where it would eventually just obstruct the latch again) and then removed it. Voila, the latch was working again!

iPod touch

I have to say, I'm impressed. I'm typing this from an iPod while listening to citizen cope... You can even type with two fingers! ;)

I'm tired of this (rev3)

Apple has been in my good books for a long time because as their computers have no problems. Nearly no viruses, popups or adware at all. No additional software needed. Their computers 'just worked', right out of the box. I'm seeing more and more things in Apple that I don't like, things that I stopped using Microsoft's products for. Apple's products work wonderfully, but in many cases only with other Apple-based products. iPhone. iPod. iLife. iMac. And even then I find they don't work that well all the time.

A perfect example is recently when I was creating a slideshow using music purchased from iTunes. The iTunes Plus tracks worked flawlessly - Drag & drop, that was it. I'm happy Steve Jobs supports it and I really hope the industry moves DRM free... But I'm getting off track. I try the regular iTunes tracks (DRM encumbered) and turns out they refused to be added to the iMovie slideshow claiming the computer wasn't authorized. I entered my password, authorizing from iMovie which didn't work so then from iTunes too. I even deauthorized and reauthorized the Macbook in iTunes to make sure. Then I tried playing the tracks in iTunes - It worked. I switched to iMovie and what d'ya you know, same results. In the end I burnt all the songs to two CDs and then ripped them. Another two hours of my time wasted. Apple's FairPlay doesn't seem too fair at all - I couldn't use it on the very same computer I had purchased the songs from, and forget even trying to play them on another computer. I don't even know if you can put songs purchased from iTunes onto non-iPod players without having to break the DRM first (which is illegal in the US).

This time, Apple has added encrypted firmware and hashes in the database which makes it near impossible to use a new iPod with 3rd party tools (see the article I posted at the beginning of this entry). To make it worse, the encrypted firmware makes you unable to run Linux (aka Rockbox) on it to workaround the database issue. One could say otherwise, but I don't see the advantage of encrypted firmware or hashes in the database to users... What do the 3rd party tools change from Apple point of view? Users have still purchased their iPods, and whether people update iPods from iTunes or GtkPod doesn't make a difference to Apple whatsoever.

Considering one can't use an iPod with Linux anymore, I'll have to use iTunes from Windows or Mac OS X. And considering what happened the last time I used iTunes, I won't be buying the new iPod everyone's talking about either.