My Snow Leopard experience so far


I’ve been drafting this since the day after I upgraded and it completely slipped my mind, so here it is after (very few) tweaks. I’d write more, but right now I need to rest more and I’d rather spare my readership the usual daftness of “One Month Curling Up With Snow Leopard” posts that are sure to start popping up any day now and just give you the straight facts.

The short version: it works. It feels great. But it could be better if, like me, you work in a corporate environment.

Most people are quite likely to want to know more, so here are a few details, grouped in sets of five in homage to Merlin Mann.

The long version’s good bits:

  1. It feels faster on older hardware.
  2. I haven’t had any problems doing (or watching) upgrades on roughly seven machines (all told) by now. No application issues (I did make sure I had the Rosetta option ticked on my machines, though).
  3. I had no significant driver problems (I got rid of all proprietary HP drivers on all machines I upgraded, which helped a lot for sure).
  4. The new UI tweaks that have been blogged about to death are quite pleasing to the eye.
  5. Being able to properly use Spotlight and use Quick Look on my corporate e-mail is a godsend.

The so-so to bad bits:

  1. CVS was gone after the upgrade. On one of my machines installing the Developer tools brought it back. On another, not (yet). I’m assuming that I have to go through my shell .profile files and whatnot to figure out what happened.
  2. As usual, it was simpler to nuke my MacPorts tree and rebuild the stuff I needed as required.
  3. A bunch of my 3G drivers stopped working (fortunately those for hardware I wasn’t using anymore, but I foresee interesting times ahead until updated versions become available1).
  4. I still have to hack my way around to get stuff like DFS to work.
  5. Using Automator to build services seems like a nifty idea until you realize how absurdly slow it is to have the system even acknowledge it’s starting a workflow in response to a shortcut key.

This last bit bears some explanation, and I have a ready example: In practice, I’ve found it’s best to start my personal archive workflow and keep my hands off the keyboard and mouse for up to ten seconds, lest I select the wrong messages while it’s still starting.

I could rant on about how much better these things could be implemented by allowing you to pass more kinds of data (such as e-mail messages) directly to Automator, but I don’t have much hope given that some similar things are still broken for me).

The really annoying (mostly corporate-related) bits when switching from Entourage to the “native” Exchange stuff:

  1. Mixing and matching personal and work mail accounts in Mail resulted in a number of things being mis-filed by over-aggressive rules (took me a couple of days to figure that one out, and the results weren’t pretty…)
  2. For some unfathomably stupid reason, the “Mark | As Flagged” shortcut key vanished from Mail for me (it’s easy enough to add the same shortcut key to both “As Flagged” and “As Unflagged” to restore the Cmd-Shift-L binding, but it’s just too strange).
  3. Exchange support works well enough (even notes work, which makes it even more irritating that I can’t sync the to the iPhone, but there are obvious missing features like managing Out-of-Office replies. Fortunately, the one possibly disastrous pitfall I was kind of expecting (having to change my password in three places when it expired) never occurred, for apparently Mail, iCal and Address Book share the same keychain entry.
  4. On that note, using iCal, Address Book and Mail “offline” from work or outside the intranet became a hassle beyond belief, because there’s no easy way to flag all three services as unavailable when I’m away from the office and disconnected from the corporate servers – which means I get at least three different dialog boxes warning me that the service is unavailable (one for each app).
  5. Also, free-busy management in iCal is somewhat daft, since I can’t see tentative bookings (I can in Outlook, so I’m assuming the server glue for this isn’t very clever at one of the ends involved).

Overall, though, all the machines I’ve upgraded are snappy, and little things like the ability to drill down Stacks placed on the Dock (I actually place network shares there) make it a very worthwhile upgrade.

So go grab yourself a copy, do a backup, and join the fun. With winter coming, the extra fur will make your Mac experience a little smoother and comfy.

1 There’s an updated version of the Vodafone drivers for Mac that came out since I started writing this (and that I happened to help test during Summer) that may help you there – me, I still insist on setting up 3G connections manually on all my Macs out of sheer habit, but it is a great improvement over past versions.