Mac users give Snow Leopard upgrade mixed reviews

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Upgrading operating systems can be a frustrating experience.

When a new version comes out, which is every year it seems, users feel obligated to upgrade, adding more bells and whistles upon layers of other features until, as David Pogue of The New York Times puts it, “You wind up with a huge, sloshing, incoherent mess of a program, a pile of spaghetti code that doesn’t run well and makes nobody happy.”

If that sounds familiar and you’re a Mac user, Pogue and other reviewers are recommending Apple’s Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, released Aug. 28. It’s an operating system upgrade that’s marketed as leaner, faster, and easier to use than its predecessors. No new features are added, and it’s only $30 if you already have Leopard; $170 if you don’t.

Pogue says it installs in 15 minutes, then starts up faster, opens programs faster and takes up only half the space on your hard drive of what came before. Snow Leopard frees up 7GB, Apple says.

Snow Leopard works only on Macs running Intel processors. It offers 64-bit versions of Finder, Mail, iCal, iChat, and Safari Web browser with major security capabilities. Grand Central Dispatch is a new multithreading technology that provides “maximum horsepower” for graphics processing and games. Grand Central Dispatch makes it easier for developers to write programs that take advantage of chips with more than one processor.

Information Week reports online sales are quite strong, topping the chart in’s software category after a week on the market.

Jake Widman of upgraded smoothly. He said Safari “blazes,” but the speed increase is difficult to detect elsewhere. He experienced some glitches, but added, “don't upgrade a mission-critical machine until you've tested Snow Leopard elsewhere if possible, and have a bailout strategy if you need one. But judging from my experience, on the whole the upgrade seems like a no-brainer.”

Jim Rossman of the Dallas Morning News says "Yes" to the upgrade. He likes that Safari launches and loads the home page in 2 seconds. He likes the version of Apple Mail in Snow Leopard that brings “true compatibility” with Microsoft Exchange, including calendar scheduling, meeting invitations and the global address book. He also praised the new QuickTime X, with its video recording and editing features and its clean design.

One reviewer was somewhat underwhelmed by the speed. Rob Pegoraro, personal technology columnist for the Washington Post says the faster performance “remained somewhat elusive” after Snow Leopard was installed on three Macs. He also noted that this upgrade won’t accept all of your existing software and hardware. Wikidot, a Web site that tracks software performance, says Snow Leopard is not fully compatible with more than 100 existing Mac applications, games, and software utilities. Pegoraro said Snow Leopard’s predecessor, Leopard, “still functions quite well in its own right,” and suggested skipping Snow Leopard for now.

Chris Gaylord of the Christian Science Monitor says to check for system updates regularly if you’ve already upgraded; if not, wait until the bugs are worked out.


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