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Snow Leopard: Another upgrader's experience

David Winograd

I got to the Walt Whitman Mall on Long Island yesterday and they were doing land-office business, according to the blue (not orange) shirt I was speaking with. He told me that he lost count, but they must have moved over 150 copies of Snow Leopard per hour.

Two minutes later (they really do have their system down), I left the store in a foreshadowing downpour. After looking at the startup, shutdown and disk capacity notes I've been collecting for a few days, I removed the shrink wrap and got down to business with the hopes of upgrading four computers today. Yes, I did buy the family pack. Five hours later, I'd only upgraded two machines. This is not because the upgrades didn't move along speedily, it was because I had some real head scratching problems to deal with.

The first: my 8GB 17" Unibody Macbook Pro running at 2.93 Ghz, took about 34 minutes to upgrade. As I thought, Apple hadn't gotten any better about realistic install times with the last 'under a minute' taking 7 minutes. No news there. Additionally, I gained only 2 GB of usable storage; I did do a Rosetta install. Damn you Quicken!

If you haven't installed Rosetta, and find that you need it, a very helpful box is displayed asking if you want to. It really didn't take a lot of storage at all.

I'd suspected that much of the reclamation of storage is due to clearing out caches and other garbage. What led me to believe this was that I ran Onyx beforehand, and that gave me back about about 8GB of storage right there from maintenance and cleanup. The truth about SL's space savings, however, according to David Pogue: most of the excess storage given back is saved in compressed code and not installing gigabytes of printer drivers that most users will never need.

What follows are a few initial notes from an installation that didn't go quite as smoothly as I had hoped.

When the installation concluded what I saw first was an Open File dialog, asking me to find 'System Events,' which was nowhere to be found, so I cavalierly dismissed it. I'm sure this will come back to haunt me later.

iStat won't work. We had some initial warning on this and it's not supposed to be all that reliable in the first place, but I love iStat and was sorry to see it go. My menubar looks naked without it.

The MobileMe sync client quit unexpectedly, which was no big deal since it seemed to right itself after annoying me a few more times.

AstoundSound, an audio preference pane that expands the iTunes sound field, didn't work. In fact, it rudely tossed me the following error for a while:

/System/Library/Extentions/CDSDAudioCaptureSupport.kext was installed improperly and cannot be used, try reinstalling it or contact the product vendor for an update.

Naturally the file was nowhere to be found and certainly not along the path suggested. Eventually the warning stopped showing up.

Safari would not download anything, while Firefox would. I tried to reinstall Safari and was told that I needed software version 10.5.8 or higher and was greeted with the yellow stop symbol. As a former math student, I know that 10.6 IS higher. Five minutes later, Safari connected with Speed Download and the ability to download was back.

Fruit Menu and other Unsanity preference panes didn't work, but Unsanity was nice enough to acknowledge it and say that an upgrade was coming.

Growl, one of my favorites, didn't work. I tried to uninstall it, but it kept asking me to find the and showed me a window where it should have been. Spotlight was no help. Eventually I reinstalled Growl on top of Growl. Not sure if it's working but I do know that GrowlMail does not work.

After what looked like a few permission problems, I ran Repair Disk Permissions and was delivered a nastygram saying that:

Warning SUID file "system/library/coreServices/Remote...S/ARDAgent has been modified and will not be repaired.

I didn't know what that means, nor did the folks I was chatting with -- although later it was suggested it might have something to do with a past fix for the ARDAgent setuid vulnerability. I did run last week's ARD client update again to no avail. Screen sharing works, so it's not that. Eventually I zeroed in on the relevant Apple support article here... and the long and the short of it is, the error message is in error because there's not really a permissions problem. Seems like between 10.5 and 10.6 they might have taken the time to straighten that one out.

Now to some good news:

  • The computer is faster.
  • Boot time is faster. Before, it took around 1:18, while under Snow Leopard it's about 48 seconds. My guess, and it's only a guess, is that there is less memory checking going on.
  • Shut down time is also faster, going from 10 seconds to 3 seconds.
  • There was a rumor that Microsoft Office 2008 really crawled, but I found that it ran well. Word came up in under 2 seconds.
  • Adobe Photoshop Elements 6, despite rumors to the contrary, does work and is much faster than before.
  • My second Mac is a MacBook 2.44Ghz, 4GB machine. Installation took 41 minutes and I reclaimed about 19GB of storage (without running Onyx, which I had done on the first machine).
  • Shutdown took 3 seconds instead of 9 and boot up took 43 seconds instead of the earlier 56 seconds.
  • All the software problems and benefits experienced on its larger cousin were born out on this machine as well.
These are my initial impressions. I'm sure that more will be on their way.

To sum up: upgrading is not flawless, but then again, what is? I recommend going for it. But just give yourself a good chunk of time for head scratching, and be sure to back up.

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