Note that I didn’t say “whether.”
Apple has announced that their new system for the Mac — Mac OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard” — will become available this Friday, 08.26.09.
Apple typically delivers big with their upgrades. Since I started watching more closely in 1993, each new major version of their OS [operating system] has been a massive improvement, and inevitably a must-have. Indeed, since any new Mac will come with the latest system, you have to spend effort to avoid it.
This OS X 10.6, however, was not designed the way most big revisions are. It has been promoted as a “performance” upgrade. Much like the latest iPhone model, Apple has focused not on bells and whistles, but on the need for speed. It purports to make a Mac “faster, more reliable, and easier to use.” The reports that have come since 10.6 was in released to software developers, and reviews in the media this week, have been stellar, affirming that Snow Leopard is slicker, smoother, snappier, and more stable.
Well, sign me up! Right?
SHORT ANSWER: Hang tight, McCoy. Don’t buy Snow Leopard on Friday. Wait two or three months, and then ask around, check MacFixIt, or call me.
Also, if you’re one of our clients, we respectfully request that you read the following before buying 10.6, installing it, then calling us to say, “Help, it’s not working!”
Now, the proper answer:
I’m not going to delve into the specific improvements Apple has made. Their OS X page spells out the big stuff, highlighting the “refinements,” the geeky details of the underlying technologies, promising additions for those with disabilities, and the new compatibility with Microsoft Exchange services. That last, if it works, could be huge for shoehorning the Mac deeper into the workplace.
So, the nut: When should you, dear reader, consider the switch?
Consideration 1: Hardware. Snow Leopard will work on any Mac with an Intel processor, which includes most Macs purchased since January 2006. If you have a pre-2006 Mac, please review “my standard spiel” in this post. If you buy a new Mac, it’ll come installed with Snow Leopard.
While Apple officially requires 1 GB RAM, we always recommend that you put as much RAM in your Mac as budget and specifications allow. Any Mac purchased since 2007 should have at least 4 GB RAM.
Snow Leopard significantly reduces the hard disk space taken up by the operating system, the “footprint.” You’ll need 5 GB of available space on your startup disk, down from Leopard’s 9. Shweet! Note that you won’t reclaim the savings until after installation; in other words, the install has to complete before you learn what will get deleted. But word up, yo: if you don’t have at least 10 GB free on your drive at all times, you’re playing with fire. I peg my upper tolerance at 90% full.
Consideration 2: Price. OS X 10.6 will cost a very affordable $29 for any Mac with Leopard 10.5, or $49 for a “Family Pack” of five licenses. Apple’s previous updates have retailed at a standard $129. Thirty dollars says that Apple believes that everyone currently running 10.5 will benefit from this upgrade. That’s a bold and generous move, considering the pain and expense that Microsoft has put their users through with the much-maligned Vista, and the imminent, costly Windows 7.
If you purchased a Mac after June 7, you qualify for Apple’s $9.95 Up-to-Date program.
Consideration 3: Compatibility, or Will It Work? Probably, yes, but if you’re in a production environment, using apps such as Adobe Creative Suite, you will want to wait until all the reports are in. (Adobe guarantees nothing about CS3, but supports CS4 as 10.6-friendly.) If you have any kind of specialized hardware or software, you will really want to test it out in Snow Leopard, running from a separate hard drive, or on a machine that no one else is using.
This guy has a too pessimistic but nonetheless practical view of how compatible new releases typically are.
Consideration 4: Process.
!!!!! For the love of Mike, please backup Backup BACKUP all your stuff. Run both your daily incremental Users backup and your weekly HD clone. !!!!!
Lifehacker has a nice rundown about how to go about the upgrade. And Engadget reports that the Archive and Install that I have previously recommended may be moot.
DID YOU BACKUP YET?
Consideration 5: Trust. Early adoption is fun, but early adoption can also be an adventure, and any good adventure involves risk, exhilaration, sweat, swearing, glee, despair.
Your Humble was one of the fools who bought an iPhone 3G on day one. !@#!@*$&#(%&#$)$*$*T#&R(*$#$#@!$!#@$&(!#@$!!!!!!!! Similarly, I remember too painfully how Leopard Server completely chewed up Apple File Sharing, all the way through version 10.5.2. Like a freakin’ sushi chef who can’t cook rice. Sheesh.
On the other hand, Leopard client itself was pretty smooth, and iPhone 3.0 and the iPhone 3GS were nearly flawless.
Mac users typically see reward for sticking with the platform, but we don’t need anything screwing up productivity in our profit centers. Therefore, my official recommendation to our clients is to wait until at least 10.6.2 before you start rolling out Snow Leopard, especially to non-geek family members or co-workers who would have a hard time working around problems.
I can think of several options to offset the risk of trusting Apple: Maybe you have a second workstation to can test 10.6 on. I am going to clone my server to an external drive, and do a fresh install, because servers have so far always wanted that. I could also run a completely separate test copy on a cheap external hard drive.
[END LONG ANSWER]
You can guess that I can’t wait to put the new system on my second MacBook Pro, and on my Server. I’m gonna like poking around and discovering all the new goodies, and the finessed details. I know, that, in the short or the long term, it will do well by our Macs, and by our trust.