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OS X Snow Leopard Details 489

JD-1027 writes in to kick off a discussion of OS X Snow Leopard. Apple's stated goal: "Taking a break from adding new features, Snow Leopard — scheduled to ship in about a year — builds on Leopard's enormous innovations by delivering a new generation of core software technologies that will streamline Mac OS X, enhance its performance, and set new standards for quality." The technologies: Grand Central to get better use of multiple processors and multicore chips, OpenCL to tap the power of the GPU, 64 bit so we can finally have our 16 TB of RAM, QuickTime X for optimized modern codec performance, and built in Exchange support in iCal, Address Book, and Apple Mail that most likely will help get Macs into corporate environments. We've previously discussed ZFS in the server version of Snow Leopard."
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OS X Snow Leopard Details

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  • One wonders... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wandazulu ( 265281 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @01:08PM (#23781049)
    ...if this will be a free upgrade similarly to the upgrade from 10.0 to 10.1. It would seem hard to justify a purchase price of anything more than $20 that adds only additional stability and developer tools. If anything, this version seems more geared for developers than end-users.
    • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @01:25PM (#23781395)
      Jobs announces he's going to enormously simplify the morass of parallel programming and then also take GPU programming languages far beyond NVIDIA. And he's going to make this all in the core of the OS so it will be ubiquitous.

      Oh and one more thing, we've already done it and it's going to be in our next release

      Then I read posts about "well what about NTFS or Power PC".

      Jebezus! get a sense of proportion here. Yeah NTFS might sell a few enterprise computers. So maybe that matter financially. But apple's doing fine with it's cash flow and we won't be talking about NTFS 5 years from now.

      We will be talking about the future of computing which is how to tame and unify alternative and multicore architectures in a way the programmer does not need to worry about.

      That's earthshaking if it could be done next year! Now a lot of people have blunted there spears chargin at this one so one needs a healthy dose of skepticism that it could be accomplished in a decade let alone in a few months. On the other hand the one person we know not to scoff at when he says he's going to make something complex really simple, retain 99% of it's power, and deliver it ubiquitously and accessibly is Jobs/Apple.

      So doubt and wonder. Pour awe and skepticism. But fuck, don't ask about NTFS when this kind of thing is being annouced. You might as well ask about Zune support in Itunes.

      • by pla ( 258480 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @02:18PM (#23782363) Journal
        You might as well ask about Zune support in Itunes.

        Well... What about Zune support in iTunes?
      • by prockcore ( 543967 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @03:37PM (#23783545)

        Jobs announces he's going to enormously simplify the morass of parallel programming

      • by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @03:46PM (#23783677)
        I don't think its fair comparing NTFS to the Zune.

        NTFS is an integral feature in win xp, which is an upgrade for most informed vista users.
        As such ntfs is the future of the pc market.

        The Zune, however, is to music players what the edsel was to automobiles.

        When the comp usa's went belly up in my city and had their closeout sales, even the shelving units went before the piles of zunes left sitting in the middle of the empty salesfloors (I wish I had photos, it's not an exaggeration).
    • Re:One wonders... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Phat_Tony ( 661117 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @01:29PM (#23781495)
      And thus Microsoft dominates. The prevailing attitude is to pay for new features, but not to pay for stability, security, or optimization.
      • Re:One wonders... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by kestasjk ( 933987 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @01:57PM (#23782023) Homepage
        Well, yeah.. If Apple sold Leopard at a discount because of its instability, insecurity and inefficiency then they could charge for upgrades to those aspects. But I don't remember hearing about anything like that from Apple, and now they want to charge for something we expected to be in there anyway?

        This is why no-one expects to pay for service packs. Can you imagine the uproar if MS charged for XP SP1/2/3?

        The fun part is the counter-argument has always been "This OSX point upgrade has over 200 breathtaking new features!", but here even that doesn't apply; it really is going to be a stability upgrade like a service pack.

        No-one but Apple would escape criticism for selling stability, security and performance updates...
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by hcdejong ( 561314 )

          it really is going to be a stability upgrade like a service pack.
          As far as we know now, anyway. It wouldn't be unlike Apple to pull a rabbit or two out of the hat at the last minute. There's plenty of stuff they can do that wouldn't need a year of advance notice to developers.
        • Re:One wonders... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Phat_Tony ( 661117 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @02:52PM (#23782903)
          You make it sound like "features" exist on some continuum, where you can always add more, but stability, security, and optimization are some binary quantities where the OS either has them or does not. If it doesn't, then you're getting ripped off. If they say they're going to improve the features of the OS, you say "OK, that's worth paying for," but if they say they're going to improve one of the other three things, than you take that as evidence hat it didn't have those to begin with. Why not say "whoa, why should I pay for new features- it's just admitting that there were useful features that should have been here in the last release."

          In reality, all four of these things exist on a continuum. OSX Leopard is very stable, hasn't had any serious security compromises in the wild, and isn't particularly slow either. It stacks up well against the competition. Yet, there have been things around before like BeOS- sure, it had its problems, but it was just blazingly, impressively fast, and it was beautifully, wonderfully responsive. OSX could be like that. And while OSX hasn't been the subject of major security exploits, researchers say the vulnerabilities are out there. And while it rarely kernel crashes, it certainly does sometimes.

          So Apple sells an OS with a nice, competitive feature set, great stability, apparently effective security, and decent optimization. They need to decide what to do with their developer time for the next release. If they concentrate on features, they can make approximately $300 million dollars off it in the first week of selling it. If they concentrate on making it super stable, blazingly fast and responsive, or having security like a hardened SELinux or OpenBSD installation, then the attitude is "Why didn't they do that already for free? I'm not paying for that."

          That attitude makes short-term profit motivation favor lots of new features with half-assed security, stability, and optimization. It takes someone visionary like Jobs to back of and say "look, we can't make a quick buck off this other stuff like we can some shiny new widgets, but these things have a big impact on user experience, which will affect the long-term viability of our platform, so we're spending money on it anyway."

          But if users would just consider features, security, stability, and optimization all as things worth paying for, there'd be a lot more competition to deliver them.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by tgibbs ( 83782 )

            You make it sound like "features" exist on some continuum, where you can always add more, but stability, security, and optimization are some binary quantities where the OS either has them or does not.

            Charging for stability is not going to go over well with consumers, because lack of stability is a product flaw, and consumers do not appreciate being charged for fixing a product flaw. People will certainly pay for improved speed, but it needs to be enough of an improvement to make a difference.

            Of course, Sno

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )
            People will often say they're not paying for security, stability, performance and the like, but they do, and usually will do so willingly.

            Case(s) in point:

            Windows 98 -> 2000. People jumped on that ship pretty quickly, even though 2000 offered diminished graphical performance. The only people who stayed with 98 were people with low-end hardware, people who'd been bit by upgrading MS software too soon in the past, and by those who were hardcore gamers and didn't mind the stability for an extra 5fps.

    • Re:One wonders... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gomerbud ( 117904 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @01:38PM (#23781677) Homepage
      Native Exchange support for Apple Mail is well worth more than $20. I won't have to suffer as a second class citizen at work any more.
    • by DancesWithBlowTorch ( 809750 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @02:05PM (#23782159)

      ...if this will be a free upgrade similarly to the upgrade from 10.0 to 10.1. It would seem hard to justify a purchase price of anything more than $20 that adds only additional stability and developer tools.
      While reflections on the desktop and a new way to flip through folders would be worth $120 to you?
      You see, this attitude of consumers is exactly why companies like Apple and Windows have so far focussed more on building OSes that look good, rather than work well. People want a shiny new thing, not a really efficient, rock solid operating system, because they have got used to crashes, useless error-messages, viruses and spam.

      For me, this is the most enthralling idea in the End-User computer market in years. Finally, a company decides it's time to stop adding new eye-candy. Instead, Apple is taking a step back and taking their time to iron out the bugs and add actual innovation.

      OpenCL sounds amazing. If it works as advertised, it will give developers who really care about performance the option to tap into the hugely parallel architecture available on the GPU that was inacessible to most of us so far (unless we wanted to learn the obscure proprietary semi-languages of ATI, IBM and nVidia).

      Grand Central seems to be just the opposite of this: It will make sure those eight cores we'll soon all have in our machines will actually get used, even if the developers who wrote the programs we run didn't care to think about parallelization.

      I'm bying Apple stocks. At a time when Microsoft's developers are once again falling victim to the marketing department (remember when Windows 7 was supposed to be a clean new start?), Apple is taking a bold step in what I think is the right direction.
      • by chaim79 ( 898507 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @02:19PM (#23782371) Homepage

        To add to your mentions of OpenCL and Grand Central, from what I've seen it looks like both will be used in the background for most processes, so by default your system will be sending blocks of instructions to CPU or GPU cores depending on who would get it done faster. This would seriously rock and really increase the power of the system!

        I can even see that chip company Apple bought creating specialized chips that can be dropped in place and used by Grand Central and OpenCL automatically without the developer having to worry about it.

        I will definitely be purchasing 10.6, if nothing else to show support to a company willing to spend time/resources going back and cleaning up their work. It's something I've always wanted to do after every project I've worked on, but it's something that's nearly impossible to sell to the customer.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cowscows ( 103644 )
        While I certainly agree that it's nice to see Apple totally focusing on the back-end stuff for this version, I don't think you're entirely correct in saying that up until now all we've ever been getting is eye candy. The people who design shiny buttons and fancy graphical effects are probably not the same people writing multi-processor optimization code, and it's not useful to pretend that doing one precludes any possibility of doing the other.

        Apple in particular has been steadily improving the inner workin
      • by nilbog ( 732352 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @02:56PM (#23782985) Homepage Journal
        To be fair, Leopard wasn't just about adding a few "shinies." In fact, they really only added coverflow, the dock thing, and the transparent menu bar. A lot more innovate features were included like webclips, stacks, updated finder, new front row, better ical and address book, nifty new ichat features, fixed airport menu, parental controls, preview, quick look, better security, spaces, better terminal, TIME MACHINE, full Unix certification, and a whole host of developer tools and under the hood stability improvements.

        Apple didn't just add bling - they made the operating system more stable and fixed a lot of bugs. So, be fair - we didn't pay $120 for a new dock.

        Full list of new features in Leopard: []
      • by commodoresloat ( 172735 ) * on Friday June 13, 2008 @04:19PM (#23784127)

        (remember when Windows 7 was supposed to be a clean new start?)
        It was a clean new start! It had Drag and Drop. And Balloon Help!!!

        Oh, never mind; I thought you said "System 7."
      • by philipgar ( 595691 ) <> on Friday June 13, 2008 @04:20PM (#23784139) Homepage
        As much as these new technologies look great, the question is how easy will it be to use? If the answer is harder than a single core processor (which it most assuredly would be), than the question becomes how much harder is it to use?

        In recent times, there has been no end to proposed tools and languages to help express parallelism. These are made by extremely bright people, and many have some neat and interesting features. However, so far, few people can really take advantage of them. Experts can design programs on them and use them, but these experts are a far cry from your run of the mill people. These are not the programmers you can hire for $40k or even $80k oftentimes.

        New technologies are needed to take advantage of parallel computing. However these technologies must be as easy to use as Visual C++ is (really it needs to be as easy as VB, but that's another story). So far they all have problems, and a programmer cannot have a serial mindset when programming these architectures. Unfortunately, the brain does not seem to be very good at expressing parallelism, and the tools we currently have do not do enough to prevent developers from shooting off their legs.

        Will these new technologies be useful in snow leopard? Possibly, they will probably be used in Quicktime, and some of Apple's video software. It's possible that open source video codecs might take advantage of them, but that depends on whether people make research projects out of them. Photoshop might make use of it for some of their operations, but don't expect everything to be done that way, as it's expensive to rewrite complex algorithms in parallel.

        I just laugh when I read everyone clamoring about how this technology will change the world... It is a step in the right direction, but there is no panacea to make parallel programming easy. The first step involves making libraries of many of the compute intensive functions available to programmers. Joe programmer can call library routines. . . at least if they fit into normal programming paradigms. Expect these libraries to be expensive though. Writing highly parallel optimized code to do the compute intensive operations people need is expensive. The experts capable of doing it are extremely expensive, and it isn't like they can do this work overnight, or in a week sometimes. Also, expect HDL coders to be in demand. They understand parallelism and might be capable of using these new tools.

  • by rsborg ( 111459 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @01:11PM (#23781107) Homepage
    The dev builds don't support it now, and Apple claims [] that:

    Snow Leopard dramatically reduces the footprint of Mac OS X, making it even more efficient for users, and giving them back valuable hard drive space for their music and photos.
    Is the universal binary on it's way out?
    • by MBGMorden ( 803437 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @01:35PM (#23781605)
      There are already some programs that provide only Intel builds out there for Mac. It's annoying, but my Intel machine is my main one (the PowerPC one I keep just because I don't want to sell it or throw it away :)).

      It's just the Apple mindset, and it's kind of ironic. Apple computers do tend to be well built, and last a good while, but Apple's stance seems to be that everyone should always be buying the latest and greatest, and that you should ALWAYS have their latest OS release.

      Look at software applications for example. Many of them already now require OS X 10.5 or newer. My PowerPC mac runs 10.4 and I have no intention of upgrading it, so I'm shut out of those applications completely (except for older versions). Windows software on the other hand: most stuff out there now will work at least as far back as Windows 2000. Not as much, but still a lot of stuff will work back to Windows 98 and some ever Windows 95.

      Basically just accept: if you want to be part of the Mac club, Apple expects you to be regularly dishing out cash for their stuff.

      For what it's worth, I do thoroughly enjoy using a Mac (though I have Windows and Linux systems too). I just am not happy being forced to move up from 10.4 to 10.5 when I didn't want to at the time.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by evand ( 2571 )
        I don't understand how it's Apple's fault that the authors of the software you want to use choose to only support 10.5. I understand why they would, as Leopard has some pretty nice upgrades for developers, but Apple certainly doesn't mandate that they do so.
        • by MBGMorden ( 803437 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @01:57PM (#23782017)
          Apple indirectly causes it by setting up Xcode so that by default (and often by requirement depending on the features you want to use) it always wants to produce code that works on the same version it's running on.

          There's also the case where many of Apple's own applications work in much the same way (the newest version of Safari for example, requires not only 10.5, but 10.5.2).
  • by AtariKee ( 455870 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @01:11PM (#23781113)
    It is rumored that 10.6 is going to be the end of PPC support. I suppose it's time, although there are some PPC machines that are less than 4 years old. Still, as bittersweet as it is, it's probably time to let go of the legacy code and firm up the OS. I'm happy running Leopard on my Frankenmac 1.8ghz (Sonnet upgraded).

    A good analysis of this decision can be read at RoughlyDrafted Magazine [].
    • by GreatDrok ( 684119 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @01:27PM (#23781455) Journal
      I don't see why they would drop PPC support yet. Certainly, stripping PPC code from an Intel Mac doesn't make much difference to the disc space use. Mostly, stripping out unused languages makes much more difference. I gained 2.5GB of space on my MacBook Pro by doing so and I now have universal binaries that are very similar in size to those seen in Snow.

      They still have to maintain a port of Mac OS X just in case, and the also have to keep OS X running on the iPhone (Strong ARM) so I don't see the benefit of focussing just on Intel CPUs. In addition, keeping code running on PPC will help with keeping bugs down as it is often the case that just the act of compiling C code for a different architecture can result in unseen bugs showing up. As for performance tuning, rarely do you need to worry about much more than some small parts of the code to fine tune for a specific platform.

      I'm not surprised that this developer preview is Intel only but I will be surprised to see the final release be Intel only. Leopard on PPC could no doubt do with some fine tuning although it does run surprisingly well on my nearly five year old G4 iBook. Besides which, the last of the PPC machines were being sold by Apple as late as the end of 2006 (PowerMac G5s) so I think it would be a bad move for them to drop support this early.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Angostura ( 703910 )
        I would mark you insightful, if I could. Moreover, if it really is a question of saving disk space by avoiding redundant different-architecture code, the installer should be able to do this just fine: Put code for both architectures on the install DVD and then let the installer select the right code for the machine.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 13, 2008 @01:21PM (#23781325)
    It is about time. We have zillions of programs for every major OS; so why waste time and money on adding features to the OS while third-party already do it? I believe it's a clever idea to enhance the core OS while keeping the outside intact (no new feature). Microsoft tried it with Vista, and they failed miserably. Was the task too big? Maybe. I hope Mac can achieve a complete OS core overhaul in a timely manner. It would set the bar pretty high for other OSes.
  • Strategy? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CallFinalClass ( 801589 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @01:48PM (#23781871)
    For a while there, I was thinking that perhaps Apple would merely *say* they wouldn't release many new features in Snow Leopard, but then turn around and at the last second release a feature-laden OS. But then I realized how hard it would be to do that. Too many third-party developers would have to be in the loop for this to work.

    The idea would be to stop Redmond from using Apple as the R&D labs, as many suspect winds up being the case ("Start your photocopiers"), and deny MS even the opportunity to borrow for Windows 7.

    The more I think about it though, the more obstacles I see to this. But it would be sweeeeet...

  • by foo fighter ( 151863 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @02:40PM (#23782717) Homepage
    Don't forget that 10.6 drops support for PowerPC CPUs!

    The last Power Mac G5s were released in late 2005 and weren't replaced by the Mac Pro until late 2006.

    The last revision to the PowerBook line was also released in late 2005. I'm still very happy running 10.5 on my 12" PowerBook G4/1.33Ghz from early 2004.

    The last iBook came out in mid-2005, replaced in mid-2006. The last PowerPC iMac was released in late 2005. We have 10.5 happily running on my wife's 12" iBook G4/1GHz from 2003 as our kitchen TV.

    It's pretty shitty that Apple is dropping support for machines less than 4 years old, and older machines that run 10.5 very well. It's especially galling that they are dropping support with a release that sounds like it should really be a free service pack or point release to 10.5 anyway.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Don't forget that 10.6 drops support for PowerPC CPUs!

      Wait till the rumor is actually confirmed before complaining about it. The developer preview doesn't support it... yet. We still don't know if they plan on PPC for the final version, or if we do we signed an NDA.

  • Kick the Finder. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by delire ( 809063 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @06:12PM (#23785761)
    I work in a multi-OS educational environment and see the weaknesses of all popular OS's in a short-exposure, high-contact learning context. The one area OS X really falls down is in the area of file-system and application navigation. I often see a student coming from Windows become comfortable managing both their files and applications with Linux (GNOME or KDE) far faster than they do with the Finder/OS X interface. While perhaps being a tired metaphor, the application tray, where any application minimised or otherwise can always be found (regardless of virtual desktop) works: they have per-application visual contact with what is active in their desktop session, uncomplicated by a dock doubling as a menu of popular applications.

    After years of complaints from OS 9 and OS X users about the Finder Apple should confess to the difficult reality that - for many, not all - it is a major bottleneck to ease-of-use and therefore adoption. Students of mine - in general - spend far too much time second-guessing OS X where file and software management is concerned. Why are users' *losing* software and files so often that they need a *Finder*? Why are they so dependent on Spotlight that OS X might as well house all files in a flat-file-system? Why does the parent-window of an application still dominate the core navigation context even when minimised? This stuff confuses and frustrates people far too often I think.

    It may not be the case for pro-users but I see students of mine spending far too much time clicking and dragging windows around in the course of trying to find and get stuff done on OS X.

    My 2 clicks.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Tell them to use Apple-H to hide the app instead of minimizing. I almost never minimize something on my Mac and constantly complain that I can't just Hide something when using Windows. >>Why does the parent-window of an application still dominate the core navigation context even when minimised?
  • by gig ( 78408 ) on Saturday June 14, 2008 @12:50AM (#23788983)
    For the follow-up to Leopard to focus on under-the-hood improvements without changing the UI and user experience dramatically has precedent in Mac OS X Tiger for Intel. Apple did Tiger with many new user features, then Tiger for Intel was made to look completely identical to the user, but it brought with it dramatic under-the-hood differences. Leopard and Snow Leopard are the same thing again.

    With Tiger they said "come get Tiger" and with Tiger for Intel they said "come get Intel". With Leopard they're selling Leopard and with Snow Leopard they'll sell a larger number of processors and more memory than Leopard can support. One release they sell the software then one release they sell the hardware. They don't have to worry if Snow Leopard in-a-box doesn't sell all that well, because Snow Leopard in-a-Mac will sell really well, it'll be designed to drive new Mac sales. They already mentioned ungodly amounts of RAM in their first PR about Snow Leopard.

Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap; it will be dear to you. -- Thomas Jefferson