Snow Leopard: This Cat Has Fleas


After nearly a year in release, Mac OS 10.6 Snow Leopard still seems be a work in progress.

I keep trying to upgrade to Snow Leopard, but always end up back with Leopard. I have both operating systems installed, using separate partitions of my MacBook’s hard drive, and keep thanking myself that I didn’t cut the umbilical cord to Leopard when I installed Snow Leopard late at OS 10.6.3.

My procrastination about installing Snow Leopard had much to do with there being no really “gotta have it” new features in 10.6, but I’ve discovered that there are lots of small tweaks that I like and appreciate using. Unfortunately, it’s just been too buggy to make it worth my time.

The Bugs

Even at OS 10.6.4, Snow Leopard is still as buggy as a flophouse mattress. Here are some of the issues I (and others) have encountered.

Spaces support keeps crapping out, taking keyboard response with it, requiring endless Dock quits and reboots in order to get things working again. See here, here, here, here and here for examples, discussions, and workarounds pertaining to this bug. Less monotonously aggravating, but occurring frequently enough to be tedious, I’ve found that keyboard input also sometimes dies randomly independent of the Spaces issue, and in those instances doesn’t respond to quitting and restarting the Dock. I’m left with just the trackpad or mouse to shut things down in a reasonably civilized manner and reboot the system.

My MacBook will randomly wake up from sleep unbidden in Snow Leopard. More discussion of this bug here and here.

The Heat

Adding insult to injury, my MacBook (2.0 GHz, 4 GB RAM) runs some 15° to 20°C hotter in Snow Leopard than it does in Leopard, with the same suite of applications in play. I absolutely hate fan noise, but it’s nearly constant background accompaniment in Snow Leopard. And I thought OS X .6 was supposed to be leaner and more efficient, imposing lower overhead demands on hardware? Discussion links here and here.

I can only tolerate three or four days of this before losing my patience and booting back into the serenity and stability of Leopard space. I guess I should be thankful that Leopard continues to do such a fine job, and I am, but the problem is that more and more applications are requiring 10.6 and later for their latest updates. MacSpeech Scribe, for instance, requires OS 10.6. The proverbial writing is on the wall.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that an OS 10.6.5 update  will squash some of this bugginess, but I have to say that it’s not a very lively hope, given that the problems cited here were evident in OS 10.6.0, and four revisions later they’re still with us.

And yes, I don’t doubt that there are lots of users out there getting excellent service from Snow Leopard. I’m happy for them, but that hasn’t been my experience with this cat species, nor the experience of others who echo my complaints. Leopard, and Tiger before it, are proof that Apple can do better.

What about you? Nearly a year later, what has your experience with Snow Leopard been?

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