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Snow Leopard: Refinements, Technology, Exchange

updated 09:10 pm EDT, Mon June 15, 2009

Snow Leopard upgrade

Apple recently showed off the next iteration of its Mac OS X platform, Snow Leopard. The company called upon Bertrand Serlet, its vice President of Software Engineering, to outline some of the key new features during the WWDC keynote presentation. Serlet began his presentation by noting that Apple was very happy with Mac OS X 10.5 and began working on 10.6 with the goal of creating "a better Leopard." The presentation was then broken down into three different categories: refinements, technology, and Exchange support.

The developers focused on improving and refining 90 percent of the operating system. The work should be reflected in a more responsive Finder, a faster Mail application, a 64-bit version of Safari 4, a new Dock Expose feature, and more. The Finder interface has not changed in Snow Leopard, but the underlying architecture has been completely rewritten using Cocoa and 64-bit optimizations. Overall, the Finder is said to be more responsive and will include several new features such as customizable Spotlight search options, an enhanced icon view that acts similar to Quick Look, and a new Services menu, among others.

Snow Leopard is said to install up to 45 percent faster than the previous release, while the required disk space has been cut in half. Apple claims that users should recover almost 6GB of hard drive space after upgrading to Snow Leopard. Additionally, the OS installer now verifies all of a user's installed applications for compatibility after the upgrade. Any applications that are deemed incompatible will be set aside and users will be able to deal with them accordingly. Refinements have also been made to Time Machine, which is said to be more efficient and 50-percent faster at completing the initial backup to a Time Capsule device.

Apple also took the opportunity to show off its new Expose feature and Stacks update. In Snow Leopard, the window management system that has come to be known as Expose will be integrated directly into the Dock. The new functionality allows users to click and hold on an icon in the Dock and all windows related to that application will then be displayed in the standard Expose style. A similar function is currently available in Leopard but requires users to first find and select a window from the desired application. Snow Leopard will also bring changes to Stacks allowing them to better handle a large number of files more efficiently. The grid view now includes a scroll bar and also allows users to move into sub-folders without having to leave the stack view.


Dock Expose feature




Stack update showing scrollable stack functionality





QuickTime X made its official debut during the presentation and is said to be completely rebuilt, including a revamped user-interface. The new interface now overlays the playback controls on the video and fades all controls when not in use. QuickTime X will also include options for trimming videos and exporting files to iTunes, MobileMe, and YouTube. While watching a video, a user can turn on the trim mode which then displays a timeline across the bottom of the video. Controls can then be used to scrub through the video and select only the desired portion. Another feature announced for QuickTime X is the ability to capture audio and video using a Mac's built-in microphone and camera.


QuickTime X interface





Snow Leopard is also set to continue the move to a true 64-bit system that started with the release of Leopard. Nearly all of the core system applications have now been rewritten as 64-bit applications which enables them to address far greater amounts of memory than previously possible. According to Apple's testing, the new 64-bit applications are able to deliver faster overall performance while increasing security. In order to ensure that a user's applications still work, Snow Leopard will still be able to run 32-bit applications. Despite the backwards compatibility, Apple still encourages developers to move their products to the new architecture.


Speed comparison between 32- and 64-bit





Grand Central Dispatch is another updated technology introduced in OS X 10.6. The system allows software to better utilize multi-core processors by efficiently distributing tasks. During the keynote presentation, Serlet addressed the idea that technology has shifted from increasing processor clock speeds to adding additional cores. The transition provides improved performance and requires less power consumption, but adds the need for a special programming technology called threads. In the past, each application required its own threading code and was often difficult for developers to effectively implement. Grand Central Dispatch is a system that lets the operating system handle threads instead of individual applications.

The third technology Apple is introducing for Snow Leopard is OpenCL. The architecture allows developers to make use of the unused computing resources on graphics chipsets and multi-core processors. Applications can be coded to route processes to the GPU cores that would typically be handled by the CPU cores. The optimized resource allocation should result in faster application functions, as a portion of the processing can be performed aside from the CPU to free system resources.

Snow Leopard will also feature built-in support for Microsoft Exchange Server, integrated directly into Apple's Mail, iCal, and Address Book applications. To set up an Exchange account, users begin by entering their login information in Mail's Accounts pane and then selecting which applications to configure. When using an Exchange server with Autodiscovery enabled, all settings will be pulled from the server and automatically adjusted. By integrating the support into Apple's own core applications, users can continue to take advantage of many of the OS's other features. Spotlight can be used for searching through an Exchange e-mail account for specific messages, while Quick Look can be used for opening attachments without opening them, and data detectors can be used for interacting with dates, phone numbers, and addresses.


Mail Exchange support




iCal Exchange support





Mac OS X Snow Leopard is scheduled to ship sometime in September. Current Leopard owners will be able to upgrade for $29, while a family upgrade carries a price of $49.




by MacNN Staff

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Comments

  1. bobolicious

    Joined: Dec 1969

    -6

    Tiger seemed better...

    ... albeit fewer features but I've had no end of trouble with 10.5 - it really is all hype from my experience - crashes, hangs, pages of permissions warnings (ad nauseam http://support.apple.com/kb/TS1448?viewlocale=en_US ), slower speed & forced migrations if one wants to get a faster more capable computer. Ironiacally I installed 10.4.11 today & it gave me confidence & felt snappy™ and 'whole' !

    Let the fanboy flames begin!

  1. LouZer

    Joined: Dec 1969

    -8

    hmmmm

    No mention of ZFS? Oh, that's right, they pulled it without nary a word.

    Wow, and they save a whopping 6 GB of disk space? I don't even recall Leopard even taking 6 GB of space. But a lot of that savings probably came from just removing PPC code.

    And it installs 45 percent faster? That's exciting and fun. Except how important is that? I mean, how often are people installing OS X that taking 15 minutes vice 30 is a big selling point?

    Nice of them to deem applications incompatible (what exactly does that mean? Do they have a list? Are they looking for particular problems? Or are they just going to go through and say "We don't like it, we're putting it over here". And can you run apps they 'deem' incompatible, or do they flag them so even if they are, since they have been deemed, you can't?)

    And stacks is being improved. Remember in tiger when you would click a folder in the dock, and it would open a window, and you had to navigate your way through those tiny lists and icons to find a file? No longer. Now you click a folder, and a big window appears that lets you navigate through big icons to find a file!

    And glad to see the Finder is getting a new Services menu. Not that anyone really uses Services, but it always sounds good.

    And no offense, Apple, but I think you're getting too used to playing with click-and-holds and right-clicks for interface elements.

  1. chas_m

    Moderator

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +1

    The trolls ...

    ... are out early ...

  1. lowededwookie

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +2

    ZFS is unproven

    I mean seriously, how many people bar geeks use ZFS anyway?

    So it's not being supported by Apple so what? If I was Apple I'd go with something I KNOW works rather than be wowed by some promises that are largely still in production.

  1. kkthompson

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Smaller/Faster?

    "Wow, and they save a whopping 6 GB of disk space? I don't even recall Leopard even taking 6 GB of space. But a lot of that savings probably came from just removing PPC code.

    And it installs 45 percent faster? That's exciting and fun. Except how important is that? I mean, how often are people installing OS X that taking 15 minutes vice 30 is a big selling point?"

    So my guess was that they just aren't installing all the extra languages for every piece of software. If you already use Xslimmer or similar to pull out every language but your own, plus ditch the multi-binaries, you're probably not going to see any savings. Always thought it was odd they didn't allow you to ditch the other 14 languages you don't use...

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +1

    Re: ZFS is unproven

    I mean seriously, how many people bar geeks use ZFS anyway?


    Yes, you're right, not too many people use ZFS. Why is that? Oh, right, because it hasn't been brought to the other OSes. MS isn't going to do it, but, as people here say, they never lead anyway.

    Then again, why the h*** did Apple add displayport tech to their new computers? Who uses that, except some uber geeks and Dell idiots? No one! Oh, but that's considered moving forward.

    But what most people refuse to see is what Apple always does. They remove/kill items (be it hardware or software) and act like it never existed. And don't give me the "It's not released, so it could change", because everyone mocked MS for all they pulled from Windows Vista before it launched.

    At least MS tells you what they're planning, and they'll also tell you what's being scrapped or changed. Apple just changes stuff and hopes no one notices.

    So it's not being supported by Apple so what? If I was Apple I'd go with something I KNOW works rather than be wowed by some promises that are largely still in production.

    What is that, HFS ? Because, hate to tell you, HFS has its issues that date back years. Why do you think so many people have the "You should always keep 10% of your hard disk free" rule?

  1. ggirton

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Recover 6GB

    Sorry guys, but this means a lot to me. I like the faster install, too..

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