Snow Leopard First Impressions

Well, my copy of Snow Leopard finally came the morning of the first day of classes, and as I didn’t have any classes until the afternoon, I took advantage of that last window of time to get it installed. The installation went smoothly and took just over an hour on my late 2007 model of the MacBook Pro.

Snow Leopard in my opinion has lived up to its claims of faster boot/shut down time, increased disk space, more eye candy, etc. Btw, speaking of increased disk space, the increase is not as large as it initially appears. Before I installed Snow Leopard, Finder reported 32.28 GB of free space on my hard drive. When I finished, it reported 49.14 GB. Sweet, I gained 16.86 GB’s! Not quite… Although Snow Leopard does remove a lot of legacy code used by the older PPC architecture, they also changed how GB (and KB and MB) are calculated. The easiest way to explain this is what consumers see as the discrepancy between what hard drive vendors report the size of a disk as and the size it appears to your computer. For example, I recently bought what was advertised as a 1 TB (1000 GB) external drive. However, Finder on my mac only reported it to be about 909 GB. Hey! Aren’t I getting gypped 91 GB? Not really. Computers and hard drive vendors measure KBs, etc differently. To a hard drive vendor (and most consumers) a kilobyte is 1000 bytes, a megabyte is a 1000 kb, etc. But to a computer, which use a binary (base 2) system of calculating, a kilobyte is 1024 bytes, a megabyte is 1024 kb, etc. (The technical term for these units of measurement is a mebi-, gibibyte abbreviated MiB, GiB, but hardly anyone calls them that.)

Ok, if i lost you somewhere in there among all those bytes, let me explain why that is significant. The reason is because Snow Leopard changes that. Instead of using the binary system where a kilobyte = 1024 bytes, it uses the base 10 system where a kilobyte = 1000 bytes. So although it looks like i saved 16.86 GB, in actuality I only gained 14.48 GB going by the new system or 13.49 GiB going by the old system. Still a significant savings. Clear as mud? Ok, moving on.

I’ll finish up this post write an additional post later with some of the things I really like about Snow Leopard, but first I’m going to deal with some of the quirks i ran into due to software that had not been updated to work with Apple’s new big cat, etc.

Upon first reboot, I was greeted with a couple boxes asking me to find System This is obviously a system app, and was changed in Snow Leopard. I quickly googled and found it was located at /System/Library/CoreServices/ and selected it. I believe the culprit apps that were asking for it were Caffeine and Isolator. These are free apps that run in the menu bar. Caffeine keeps your mac from going to sleep, and Isolator puts a background behind the current window, preventing any other windows or items on the desktop from being distracting.

As I attempted to find the location of System, I was met numerous times with a box from that needed me to authenticate. is used by an app called Afloat, which allows you to set transparency of Cocoa windows and force a certain window to always be on top. It appears this app is not compatible with Snow Leopard, and they provide instructions on their website of how to disable Afloat to stop the requests for authentication.

Next up were a couple Apple Mail plugins that notify me when I receive new mail, Growl Mail and MailUnread Menu.  I wasn’t terribly surprised to find them incompatible as Mail is known for breaking these plugin bundles whenever it updates.  I was able to find a script that could communicate with Growl through use of a rule, so I am still notified about new mail.   That script can be found here

The biggie that didn’t work that I was concerned about was Quicksilver.  Thankfully all that was involved was installing the new version and trashing the preferences folder (located at ~/Library/Application Support/Quicksiver).  Some of the plugins still do not work with the latest version (such as the Services Menu plugin) but hopefully they will be updated soon.  Let me just put in a plug for Quicksilver while i’m at it.  Quicksilver is much more than a application launcher or file finder.  If that were all it were, I would pass because Spotlight does that very well.  Quicksilver’s strength is being able to do anything you can think of on the computer, with the keyboard.  Say i have a file on my desktop and it needs to be put on a folder some where in Documents, with Quicksilver, all i need to do is click on the file , invoke QS (or invoke QS and type the name of the file), tab, type “m” (for move), tab, and type the name of the folder I want to move it to.  And it can do a lot more than this like, control itunes, append the selected text to a file, etc. For more information see here and here.

Another app that didn’t work completely was Logos, the most extensive Bible software available for Mac.  However, a quick check for updates, and we were on our way.

A third app was Reader Notifier, another menubar app.  This one checks updates on Google Reader.  Again, a check for updates, solved this as well.

Although this wasn’t a serious problem, I was annoyed by the fact that Snow Leopard breaks all 3rd party screensavers, of which i have several.  Thankfully, my favorite one, Skyrocket a fireworks screensaver, has been updated for Snow Leopard (and probably many of the others will be soon).  What’s cool about Skyrocket that I haven’t see with other screensavers is that you can control it from the keyboard to create your own fireworks show.  You can also control the camera the views the show as well.  Pretty neat. (It is also available for Windows and Linux, as it’s OpenGL)

This next error was brought to my attention by a friend as I don’t use this particular feature, but it appears that afp network shares do not seem to work correctly.  I was using smb shares, so it didn’t really affect me, but a quirk, nonetheless.

Two final things.  I like tweaking how my mac looks, so I installed Docker, to change the default appearance of the dock and Drawers for stacks (see TUAW writeup here)  Since Snow Leopard restored the default appearance of the Dock, all I needed to do was open Docker, change the preferences to what i preferred and apply them.  For drawers, I needed to add the .app suffix to my drawer file, change Display as to Folder, then back to Stack, and I was good to go.

Well, as this post has gotten rather long, I’ll actually post what I like best about Snow Leopard in a later post…


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