Monday, August 31, 2009

Snow Leopard "Review"

I installed Snow Leopard last night on my MBP and there are already a few little things that I really like:
1. Cisco IPSec VPN support. I can now connect to my work's VPN without using Cisco's really crappy client. Not too surprised about this since Cisco VPN support has been on the iPhone for a while now and that runs on a 10.4 code base.
2. New Airport menu item gives you signal strength, encryption status, and automatically refreshes without having to close and reopen. That pretty much eliminates the need for iStumblem in most cases which is good since that program is apparently not 10.6 compatible. Also, I seem to be able to connect to see and connect to networks that were previously too weak. Especially nice since my current router is showing signs of aging and occasionally dies.
3. Automatic time zone detection. Haven't had the opportunity to use this yet (by switching TZs), but I turned it on and it successfully located me. It should be useful.
4. Much better handling of disconnected shared volumes. 10.5 already improved this dramatically (i.e. instead of spinning beach ball for 20 minutes, you get it for 30 seconds), but SL is even better. Almost instantaneously you get a dialog saying the connection to the server(s) has been lost and gives you the option to ignore it (I imaging it'll try reconnecting again later), or eject the volume (or all the volumes at once). No more beach ball at all.

Things that have changed that haven't affected me:
1. The Finder recode. This is something that really should have happened by 10.2. Now I actually rarely find myself in Finder so this doesn't affect me much since much more of my work is in the cloud I don't have directories full of hundreds of files. Except for my pictures and music in which cases I use iTunes, Aperture, and/or iPhoto to manage them. So the speed difference doesn't really affect me since I didn't find it slow before. Maybe I'll notice a difference later. Don't get me wrong, this is still a good thing... but a little late in my opinion.
2. OpenCL. This is the framework that will allow developers to leverage the power of the GPU in things other than graphics (i.e. using the GPU as an extra CPU). This hasn't affected me yet but only because there are basically no apps that use it yet, but I am quite excited about it. The GPU is super fast/efficient at certain types of calculations so we could see some serious speed ups soon.
3. Faster shutdown. Most useless feature to me since I pretty much never shutdown any of my machines. When I do, a savings of 30 seconds doesn't really matter.
4. Dock in Expose. I never got into Expose much at all. Its cool looking, but it never worked into my flow. And I pretty much never use the Dock anymore except maybe to force quit an app. I just hide it, forget it and enjoy the extra free space. I use Quicksilver for everything that it does and more in a much faster way.
5. Exchange support. I'm glad they have this so that people in Windows-centric corporate environments (I hear there are a few here and there) have a more realistic option in using a mac. But I'm not in an environment like that so this doesn't affect me at all. And I hope it never will.

SL Annoyances:
1. Broken apps. Due to this upgrade being much more of a "under the hood" update, many apps have been broken:
- iStat Menus. There's an update coming soon. They were on track on releasing it in time with SL, but then Apple went and released ahead of time catching them off guard. I miss this app, so I'm looking forward to its return. The iStat widget is nice too, but I hate the Dashboard, so its a poor substitute for me.
- Quicksilver. Even though development has officially stopped on this wonderful app, there was a beta version available that works in SL so I don't yet have to abandon it. Sadly most plugins aren't being updated anymore and general interest in is slowing so its days are numbered.
- iStumbler. It can no longer scan for networks. Since the Airport menu is so nice now (see above), this doesn't matter too much. But for scanning for hidden networks, I'll have to find an alternative. iStumbler is old anyway. No real loss.
- Macfusion. This app allows you to define mount points for sshfs in MacFUSE. Useful for mounting work stuff when working at home. There's an update coming, but there's also a workaround in the meantime:

Overall, a nice update I think that should get even better as apps are updated to a) work and b) take advantage of SL features (i.e. OpenCL). I haven't really noticed a speed increase, but things were pretty fast on my brand new MBP anyway.

In other news, I'll finally be setting up Time Machine to back up my machine even though that feature came out with 10.5. At least I know they've ironed out the bugs.