Saturday, October 3, 2009

Snow Leopard: 2 steps back, and …

Like a lot of Mac fanboys, I went out and bought Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6) when it came out. It was cheap ($49 for the family pack, $29 for the single copy) and supposedly was faster and more compact.

After installing it on one computer, so far as I can tell, there’s no there there. Yes, it’s 64 bit — which makes sense for a server but not my underpowered laptop or bottom of the line desktop.

What’s clear is that there’s two major ways that 10.6 is less than 10.5. The first is eliminating PowerPC support. OK, we knew it was coming, they announced in the runup to 10.6, and these are the oldest machines around. However, at our house, half of the machines in daily use are PowerPC (not counting two archaic laptops we keep in reserve). This makes the economics of the family pack more suspect.

It was also interesting that Rosetta — the PowerPC emulator for Intel Macs — is not installed by default, although the OS will install it for you when needed.. Given Apple’s desire to wipe out compatibility mode as quickly as possible (cf. PowerPC, Classic, etc.), I suspect that Apple is trying to find out how many Macs actually have it running — e.g. from crash logs — and then will use that to decide how quickly they can kill it.

Which brings me to the other major step backwards. Snow Leopard deletes AppleTalk.

I know the Nexties who came to Apple in the reverse takeover of 1997 have been wanting to kill AppleTalk for years. When I was a developer, I heard numerous speeches that justified killing “legacy” code. So I can’t say they didn’t warn me.

Without AppleTalk, almost any laser printer can be used via LPR/LPD. But this is a giant step backwards, because it provides no feedback — paper out, paper jam — which is something that has been available on Mac network printing for 25 years.

The bigger problem is that AppleTalk is the only way to discover most older printers — including my 2002 laser printer at home. So if I go to a strange office and don’t have AppleTalk on my laptop, I won’t be able to find the printers unless I can manually figure out the IP address of the printer. This is very un Mac-like.

So right now the 10.6 is installed on the iMac where it does little damage, but it’s definitely not going to mess up my main machine, the MacBook Air. Paying more for less? Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

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