Snow Leopard Preview

I decided to give Snow Leopard gold master(10a432) a try on my fancy Macbook unibody.  I had become accustomed to some of the particular quirks and performance of Leopard 10.5 on my hardware, and wanted to see what new features or performance I should be expecting for the next release of OS X.

Booting up the install USB disk, I notice that the background is slightly changed.  It’s still Leopard-esque, but slightly different.  I’d heard several things about it, one being that it had a much faster install install time, another being that they tucked printer drivers away in a remote repository.

I chose to to install printer drivers for “Printers around me”(there were none), which still totalled up to 1.65GB, instead of the whole enchilada weighing in at 2.13GB.  It seems silly to build an entire network-based repository to offload the massive girth of OS X’s printer drivers, and only offload 500MB of the 2GB.  Even choosing to install some printer drivers, the install formatted my drive and copied files in 14 minutes 19 seconds.  A damn sight faster than the old Leopard.  Bootup time was 41 seconds from button press, and shutdown time was under 6 seconds!

The next rumor I heard is that Snow Leopard is significantly smaller.  I’d say they accomplished it–just.  With foreign character support, Japanese foreign language support, 1.65GB of printer drivers, and X11 the final install size is 6.67GB.  You’re still not installing it on a bargain-basement 4GB netbook, but 8GB seems totally doable now.  I remember shoehorning Leopard onto an 8GB CF card(ghetto Macbook SSD), and that was a very VERY tight fit.  Upon first reboot, Snow Leopard creates a file named /var/vm/sleepimage the size of your RAM, this could greatly increase install size.

Just starting out at the desktop, I get a wow factor.  The “Aurora” wallpaper seems to make the entire screen glow.  The default finder window now has a scrollbar in the lower-right hand corner which seems to do nothing more than adjust icon size.

Opening the Applications folder and “zooming in” all the way show me that the icon size is very impressive.  I would have preferred vectors, but gigantic detailed bitmaps still look beautiful.

Cover-flow style Finder navigating loads icons and previews instantly, unlike Leopard.  Right-clicking on dock items shows a new transparent menu.  It seems Apple intends to replace the brushed aluminum look with transparent darkness.  I’m not sure if I appreciate the style.

RAM usage on an idle desktop looks to be 1GB idling.

Spotlight seems to come with an index of files already, which is great because I like launching Activity Monitor from it, and typically have to wait a long time for a freshly installed OS to index.

Connect to Server loads NFS shares much faster.  Additionally, detection of no-longer-available network shares works much better.  Finder seems to cache the contents and icons of network folders, and keeps them around for subsequent Finder windows.  When a request does not respond for 10 seconds, OS X says the share is no longer available, and presents a new dialog box for disconnecting.  A SAMBA connection to the same server failed.

iTunes is version 8.2.1.  Since my internet connection was out, I loaded my Stepmania folder into iTunes to test the import feature.  It behaves and performs the same as the previous Leopard version.  Upon quitting, I noticed that it took several seconds to quit a seemingly-idle iTunes session.

The QuickTime 10 interface appears much different than the iterations in Leopard.  Windows are now black-tinted translucent with opaque titlebars, which display “Loading Video” instead of merely providing a blank window as with previous versions.  Although Perian will install correctly and enable QT10 to play AVI files, it will not recognize MKVs, which saddens me greatly.  I hope the Perian folks get this worked out soon.  A 4.3GB 720P X264 video will play hovering around 35-40% CPU usage on my 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo.

The dock and top taskbar both appear the same, however the wifi menu now shows signal strength next to encryption status.

The animations for the spring-loaded folders in the dock work terrifically.  Highlighting windows when zoomed out in Spaces now gives them a blue outer border-glow.  Additionally, zooming out will do some more intelligent arrangements and even provide window text.

The System Preferences menu looks untampered.

Under sharing there is now the “Bluetooth Sharing” option, which merely serves to transfer files between Bluetooth-enabled computers.

Strangely, comes with a different font and size now.

The ‘Services’ menu available in the taskbar now provides grouped services instead of a gigantic list as well as a “Services menu” in the System Preferences, allowing you to set what items will be available in the Services menu.  This makes the menu not useless!  One cool unchecked-by-default option is ‘Add to iTunes as a Spoken Track’.  Curiously missing is the “Speak” command.  The voices are still there because I can make it speak with the ‘say’ command in a terminal.  Looking at the voices, I am delighted to say that the Alex voice has shrunk from 700MB to 382MB.

Sleep still seems to take longer than it has in the past, but wakeup occurs even quicker now.  A wakeup followed by loading Safari and browsing a web page doesn’t lag by wakeup, loading, or network!