Snow Leopard: First impressions

Amazon promised me that my copy of Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard (I type it out in full here only to accentuate the ludicrous number of characters it occupies) would, thanks to two-day shipping, arrive today, and indeed it did, though at the rather late-ish hour of 6:30 pm. Still, there was time to install it and offer all of you a few first impressions.

  • Upon starting the install process, I was given the optimistic prediction of a 45 minute install, which number quickly leapt up to 1:04. In the end, the installation actually took 50 minutes, splitting the difference nicely.

  • There was a moment of pure panic during the installation process when, after what I took to be one of several mid-install reboots, my monitor remained stubbornly blank. What was I supposed to do in this situation? Restart the computer manually in its mangled half-updated state? Thankfully, it turned out that the monitor had just decided to turn itself off for some mysterious reason, and the computer was chugging along unimpeded.

  • I knew that Rosetta would need to be reinstalled, but I was a bit surprised to find that there was no option to do so during the install process. But it installed quickly when first needed in practice after installation.

  • Another moment of panic came when I first started Mail, as I was told that my mailboxes would need to be updated. I've been keeping mail filed locally on my hard drive since I first installed the OS X Public Beta in 2000; would this process, not designed for email pack rats like me, take hours? In fact, it completed in less than three minutes, to my great relief.

  • As promised, upon restarting, I found that a significant chunk of hard drive space had been freed -- more than 15 GB.

  • None of the applications that I use regularly and find crucial had any difficulty with the transition -- not even such creaky standbys as Quicken 2002 and Photoshop CS.

  • What about those promised performance enhancement? Well, absent rigorous quantitative testing, I'm not really qualified to say. Some things certainly seem snappier, which I realize is a maddeningly vague verb often abused in these kinds of reviews, but my relatively new MacBook hadn't had time to seem sluggish to me in the first place. One place I did notice definite improvements was in Mail, where the indexes of some of those aforementioned enormous mailboxes now loaded much more quickly.

  • The biggest negative surprise? On Firefox (my primary browser), the fonts for many if not most Web pages are suddenly different, and rarely for the better. A weird bug, or a secret plot by Apple to force me to Safari? I'll see what I can find out!

Obviously, I'm going to be spending a lot of time with this new OS over the next week or so, so, barring some major excitement/disaster in the world o' Apple, expect at least another couple Snow Leopard posts on this blog over the next few days.

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