Apple released its new upgrade of the OS X operating system today. I had pre-ordered it, so the FedEx driver appeared in my driveway today about 11:00 AM. By 12:30 the new operating system was running on my desktop Mac.
Installing OS X.6 (also known as "Snow Leopard") was a typical Macintosh experience: nothing unexpected happened. I simply unpacked the newly-arrived box, inserted the single DVD-ROM disk into the Mac, and followed the instructions that appeared on the screen. About an hour later everything finished, and the Snow Leopard operating system was functional. I have now used the new operating system more than an hour and, so far, everything works as expected.
The upgrade requires about an hour to install. When I first started the upgrade, I should have gone to lunch. There was nothing for me to do except to stare at the screen. The system never asked for any input. I simply stared at the little blue bar as it slowly crept across the screen, indicating that the upgrade was in progress. At the very end, the system asked me to re-boot. I accepted, and a minute or so later the new operating system was in operation.
The advertising claims that Snow Leopard is supposed to run faster than previous versions of Macintosh OS X. I found tist to be true, although the speed-up on my desktop system appears to be modest. To be sure, windows do appear to open a bit more quickly than before, and programs load a bit faster than before. However, I probably wouldn't notice the difference if I wasn't looking for it. Still, it is nice to have a speed-up. When was the last time you heard of a new version of any other operating system that runs FASTER than the previous release?
If you are running a 64-bit processor, you may notice even more improvement than what I saw on my older 32-bit system. Many of the new included applications (Finder, Safari, etc.) now have 64-bit versions included. The 32-bit versions are also included for those of us with older hardware. However, Snow Leopard is only for Macs that have Intel processors. Older Macs with G4 or G5 processors cannot use the Snow Leopard release.
Snow Leopard includes QuickTime X, a completely new QuickTime player with improved performance and a sleek interface that completely disappears (even the borders) when you move the mouse pointer out of the window. QuickTime X is packed with support for modern video features such as HTTP streaming, and it includes a built-in screen recorder that lets you record all your screen actions and anything you speak into the microphone. You can also record video of yourself by using your Mac's built-in camera.
The biggest changes in Snow Leopard, however, are hidden. The biggest reason for the improved speed is new technology called Grand Central Dispatch (GCD), which shares tasks among the multiple cores of modern Intel CPUs and frees developers from the headache of splitting software tasks into separate "threads." In short, things written for the GCD run faster. That includes all of the new operating system 10.6 and the applications that Apple bundles with it, including Finder, Safari, QuickTime X, etc. However, your old third-party applications will not run any faster because they have not yet been written to take advantage of GCD. As new versions of the various applications appear, you can expect that most will utilize the new benefits of GCD.
Did you ever have difficulty in the past when using the Finder's EJECT command? Would it not eject a CD or a jump drive or a camera? The new version of Finder is reportedly more reliable and, if it still encounters difficulty, it will tell you which application is preventing you from removing an external drive or camera, so that you can shut down that application and safely remove the drive.
The new Snow Leopard supposedly includes all the required software to work with Microsoft's Exchange Server, used by many corporations. I find it a bit amusing that even Microsoft does not include all the required software to work with Exchange in Windows; you must install still more software that is shipped with Exchange. However, I will not be testing any of this as I don't use any e-mail accounts that use Exchange. I can tell you that the two e-mail applications I use (Apple's Mail and Mozilla's Thunderbird) still seem to work exactly as before.
I have described my first impressions but won't describe all the other features of Snow Leopard as there are hundreds of such reviews already posted elsewhere on the Internet. I don't see much need to add one more review. You can find many other reviews at http://www.google.com/search?source=ig&hl=en&rlz=&q=%22snow+leopard%22+review&aq=f&oq=&aqi=g1g-z1g2g-z1g4g-z1.
Snow Leopard is available for $29, a bargain in my opinion. Other commercial operating system providers typically charge much, much more for their upgrades. You can find more information or place an order at http://www.apple.com.
I would suggest you "clean up" your system as much as possible before installing ANY operating system upgrade. Delete unused files, uninstall unused programs, fix any bad permissions on the hard disk, etc. I use Onyx for tist. I spent an hour or two yesterday running Onyx, scanning my system and fixing any problems it found. Onyx is a great program that simplifies clean-up operations on the Mac. You don't need any systems expertise to use Onyx. Best of all, it is a free program. Onyx is available at http://www.titanium.free.fr/pgs/english.html.
Update: This evening I installed Snow Leopard on my MacBook laptop. It was a repeat of the earlier installation: it installed easily with no surprises.