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Apple seeds Snow Leopard build w/Cocoa Finder, more

updated 12:05 am EDT, Sun October 26, 2008

New Snow Leopard build

Apple's second build of Snow Leopard, which was released to developers earlier this weekend, brings a number of changes to the next version of the Mac OS X operating system, including a new "simplified" installation experience, preliminary support for HFS+ file system compression and 64-bit kernel, a rewritten Cocoa-based Finder for performance improvements, a new default gamma setting for viewing colors, and basic reading and editing support for Microsoft Exchange in Mail, iCal and Address Book. Apple also noted other multi-core enhancements and low-level kernel operating system changes, including those to queue management in Grand Central its technology for enabling developers to better leverage multi-core processors. The pre-release software, offered to developers for testing, is the second version made available, following the initial preview release at WWDC in June; the final version of operating system, designed for Intel-based Macs only, is expected to ship as Mac OS X 10.6 next year.

Apple's Snow Leopard is expected to take the 64-bit support introduced Leopard to the next level. The latest build enables 64-bit kernel support on some Macs and enables both audio and AirPort support for testing purposes -- specifically that early 2008 models of the Mac Pro, 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pro and Xserve can be used for 64-bit kernel development. Apple noted that in SnowLeopard, the 64-bit kernel will be used by default on the Xserve and the Mac Pro and MacBook Pro systems (developers were given both startup key options and terminal commands for booting into the 64-bit kernel). Apple also offered the necessary support for porting kexts (dynamically loaded extensions that provide additional OS or kernel functions) to 64-bit and "strongly encouraged" developers to begin the transition.

The release notes cautioned, however, that some 64-bit features were still in development and that Shark, Apple's performance testing tool for developers, does not work with the new 64-bit kernel and that both sleep / wake and power management and graphics acceleration is not yet supported.

HFS+ file compression

Although not as high-profile as the ZFS support expected in Snow Leopard, Apple noted that it has continued to build on the HFS+ file format, saying that new file compression has been added to the HFS+ file system. Apple said that the compression was designed to be used with Apple System and Application files that are normally read-only/updatable.

Apple emphasized that it is not a new file system, but that developers who write disk utility programs would need to recognize these files exist and some details about how they are implemented. The compressed files would be supported on both Tiger and Leopard systems, but would show up as files of zero size and have the indicated extended attributes.

"These files are not normally copied by users, however, if they are, the copies will be expanded to their normal size," Apple noted in the release notes. "This is not a new file system format and does not require volumes to be repartitioned."

Cocoa-based Finder

Confirming earlier reports, Apple says the latest Snow Leopard build has made "much progress" in transition of the Finder from a legacy Carbon application to Cocoa. The transition, expected to be completed in time for the release of Snow Leopard, includes all user-facing applications in Mac OS X and has Apple has completed much of the transition with the exception of a select few application, it said in the notes.

Default Gamma setting changed

Apple also said that it has changed the default gamma display setting to help both consumers and professionals. The Cupertino-based company made adjusted the default settings to be closer to those used by Windows PCs and televisions. According to the latest Snow Leopard release notes, the default gamma setting has been changed from 1.8 to 2.2 -- which is recommended by many professionals -- and that applications that override the deftault and assume a gamma 1.8 setting may have different onscreen and printed output than they did in previous releases of Mac OS X. Although the 1.8 setting has been used as the default by Apple since its earliest monitors and laser printers, Apple already actually recommends on its website to re-calibrate monitors to the 2.2 setting for photographic work.

Enhanced Exchange support

Specifically, Apple said that Snow Leopard now contains additional support for Microsoft Exchange 2007 via Mail, iCal and Address Book, including support for basic browsing as well as creation and editing of Microsoft Exchange data. The company, however, said that "much functionality and polish is still forthcoming which may impede full Exchange use in this seed."

The company, however, urged developers to test a variety features, including a new auto-discovery feature in Apple's application designed to streamline the configuration process and simultaneously configure both Address Book and iCal. For servers that do not support auto-configuration, users can select "Microsoft Exchange 2007″ as a new account to type and manually enter server settings. The new Exchange support allows reading and writing of Messages, Notes, and To Do's as well as scheduling events and checking recipient and room availability within iCal, Apple's free calendaring application and adding contacts and groups within "Address Book" (version 5.0) -- although it appears that Apple has also bundled the older Leopard version of application as "Address Book (Leopard)" for legacy support.

Working with the build, Apple told developers about several Exchange limitations, including noting that working offline mode in is not yet supported and that event invitations, delegation authorizations; some other types of messages are not currently displayed and conversion of messages moved between Exchange and other accounts was still buggy; that undo is not fully supported within Mail; that creating calendars on Microsoft Exchange accounts is not yet supported in iCal.

Finally, Apple also noted that split view support has been added to Terminal, tab support has been enhanced with a contextual menu and that it has added the ability to create new tabs by double clicking. In addition, Snow Leopard uses Java SE 6, released for Leopard systems in September, for all Java applications and applets.

by MacNN Staff



  1. revco

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Intel only

    I knew it had to come sooner or later. It's a bummer anyway. My Quad G5 is only 25 months old :( I should be able to squeeze a few more years use out of it (that is if it doesn't spring a leak first).

  1. Geobunny

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: Revco & Intel only

    As far as I'm aware, Apple hasn't made any announcement about that. Like you, I have a quad-core G5 which would thoroughly appreciate "Grand Central", so I'm still living in hope...

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: Intel only

    The release will obviously be Intel only. Apple doesn't like wasting time supporting us deadbeats (I have a dual G5 myself). They want people to buy new computers, and updates their operating systems to try to push that.

    The bigger question will be "When will Apple stop shipping universal binaries of its applications?" Sure, the developer tools make it 'easy' to produce universal binaries, but it isn't a requirement for any developer. And once Apple stops doing it, you know a lot of others are going to take that as the sign they can stop spending the manpower to produce those as well.

  1. joecab

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I guess it's time

    I'm okay with the inevitable switch to Intel only already on the way. It's not like our old systems magically stop running. Heck, we're still on Tiger at work (graphic design studio with a very occasional need to access OS 9).

    I wonder if this Finder rewrite means Finder windows will FINALLY update their contents on the fly? I keep all my directory listings in order by date, and it's really annoying to try to doubleclick on the file you just updated when it's fourth from the top but jumps to first place when you click on it (its modified date in a Finder window doesn't change until then) but you end up opening whatever file is now in the fourth slot. Very annoying.

  1. revco

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I (heart) PPC

    There's still a huge base of G4/G5s out there still working reliably. I just don't think Apple will alienate all of its PPC customers in one revision. Like testudo, I think G4s will be unsupported in the next revision, followed by G5s with 10.7 (which I'm hoping will be called Mia Cat).

  1. Guest

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Why does Apple have to do all the work to make an Exchange client out of the Mail app? The MS Mac people are prevented from doing it themselves? Or probably, they can't do it right -- I just completely and forever ditched Mac Office for NeoOffice, which runs better and worked with Windows Office documents better than Mac Office anyway.

    But glad to hear about the gamma setting thing, however minor that is. I'm tired of explaining how to change gamma to Mac newbies, or why 1.8 doesn't work for web or photos to Mac veterans.

  1. frankns

    Joined: Dec 1969


    No off-line support ...

    "working offline mode in is not yet supported" in Exchange.

    Well that makes it useless.

    Have to believe this will be done by release date. But Apple Mail has always been weak at the enterprise level. Will they pull it off?

  1. ophiochos

    Joined: Dec 1969


    no powerpc surely

    with a 'normal' increment, Apple ususally work to keep older machines in the game. But since Snow Leopard is a pause, rewrite, catch your breath and optimise it doesn't make sense. If the idea is NOT to introduce more user features but to invisibly streamline and optimise, then you won't gain anything by upgrading a G4 or 5, will you? If Snow Leopard is about things like using extra CPU properly, what's the point of rewriting it for a set that is by definition single CPU?

    Probably a few new features will creep in. But I don't WANT apple to spend time and cycles including older machines. I want a really really streamlined OS. OS X has got gradually slower and more crashy since about 10.2. Bring back lightning speed. With Snow Leopard's successor which brings in new features, then G5 owners can complain - and their machines will be, what, 5, 6, 7 years old?

  1. ophiochos

    Joined: Dec 1969


    no powerpc surely

    my bad, realised as I posted. Of course there are multiple CPU G5s. but you get my drift...

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