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Why I’ll Wait on Snow Leopard, and Why Maybe You Should Too

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snow_leopard_boxA new cat is upon us, but that doesn’t mean I’ll pounce on the latest upgrade, pardon the pun. Dare I admit in public I’m not an early adopter? Hey, if you like living on the edge, go for it. Go ahead and cook your poultry below 165 degrees or eat raw eggs.

Me, I play it safe. Mac users like everything to work out to the box and a new OS simply doesn’t. Do you really want to spend your weekend messing with a “better” operating system? Ask these guys about that.

I may be a lonely voice among the chorus of praise for Snow Leopard, but here are five reasons why I’m going to wait a bit before hearing this new cat purr.

1. It’s a Point 0 Release

Maybe it’s because I’m married to a Quality Assurance engineer, but I worry about unfixed bugs. I remember 10.5 having a critical data loss bug. Will 10.6 have it? I hope not. What other bugs will be discovered that first weekend? Several. Some could make your Mac virtually unusable, while others will be merely annoying.

Which ones will I face? None. I’ll wait for you all to find them while I sit back and read about your trials and tribulations. Online forums are already full of posts noting the prevalence of software-based kernel panics in Snow Leopard, and undoubtedly there are many bugs waiting to be discovered in the days ahead as the rough edges get sanded down.

2. My Programs May Not Work Properly

In theory, the code has been in hands of developers for a long time and they should have been able to update for full compatibility. However, Apple (s aapl) changes aspects of Snow Leopard after each build, and some builds can introduce bugs very late in the game. Do I have time to check each and every app and make sure it’s Snow Leopard compatible? Some incompatibilities might even prevent an install. 10.5 early adopters ran into big problems with “haxies.” What should we avoid with a 10.6 install? I’ll find out next month I’m sure.

Should I even mention Quicken 2007? If your business relies on Quickbooks, would you trust it in Snow Leopard, especially with older versions Intuit no longer supports? How about old versions of Creative Suite left over from your PowerPC days? Adobe says you’re on your own with that. Programs not designed for Intel-based Macs are the most likely candidates for problems.

If you don’t care about productivity, have fun this weekend. If you use your Mac to help put food on the table, your biggest risk is to lose your primary money maker for a few days. If you can afford the down time in this economy, go for it. I sure can’t.

3. Hardware Could Fail, and Fail Hard

A long, long time ago…I can still remember… How my Mac would start up with a smile. I can’t figure out how to change the words of American Pie to include the day AppleTalk died, but die it does in Snow Leopard, after outlasting System Enablers, floppy drives, and SCSI. That trusty laser printer you connect via AppleTalk becomes a big huge paperweight under Snow Leopard according to most reports. Someone might develop a workaround, but that isn’t going to help you with your deadlines.

Your printer isn’t the only casualty in Snow Leopard. An old Palm Pilot or Palm-based phone is no longer supported, and you’ll be required to buy third party software such as Missing Sync. As of this writing, Missing Sync isn’t fully compatible with Snow Leopard. What other hardware might have problems? Scanners are my next guess. Hopefully your manufacturer will develop a driver if your product is still supported. Speaking of support…

4. Lack of Support by Vendors

A vast majority of the support people you talk with will be completely flummoxed if you’re running Snow Leopard. They already treat you like a second-class citizen because you’re on a Mac. If they ask which version of the OS I’m running and I say 10.6, I suspect their brain will explode right then and there.

Snow Leopard will be blamed, not their product. Cable modem down: Snow Leopard. Printer making grinding noise: Snow Leopard. Health care claim denied: Snow Leopard. You’re probably laughing, but maybe not, if you’re one of many who’s run into something similar.

5. I’m Cheap

Sure, I’ll only pay $10 for the Up-To-Date program and others will only have to pay $29. However, my new iMac works great. Even $10 is an unneeded expense. Why mess with something that’s working well? My system works, I get things done. The last thing I need is to change everything. I’ll give it a few months until 10.6.1 comes out and the early adopters have done the hard work of finding problems.

Who else is going to skip curling up with a new cat this weekend and wait for someone else to find the sharp claws?

81 Responses to “Why I’ll Wait on Snow Leopard, and Why Maybe You Should Too”

  1. Surely there is less risk off bugs as this is not a whole know OS like previous with loads of new features. Its a refined version of 10.5 so i’m thinking not much chance of bugs.

  2. Tom Something

    I understand your hesitation, but most of your points are along the lines of “this hasn’t been tested on a million computers yet to see what could go wrong”. Of course, if everyone felt that way, the OS would never be adopted.

    Let’s hear it for the brave folks sail through stormy waters to bring back tales of adventure and, inevitably, bug reports.

    Oh, and can we call those people “gamma testers”? I’d really like that to catch on!

    • OK Gamma boy – go for it. I will be a Delta tester, which means I’ll be reporting back here (or here abouts) on Monday to lap up your tribulations and tales of woe before going for the install. Will definetly buy it this weekend, but I’m going through a major system reorganisation at the moment and want to finish that before firghtening my 1st Gen Intel iMac with a scary new pussy cat!

  3. Adam Jackson

    All of these things …could… happen. This is extreme scare tactics and I mean extreme.

    Thanks for scaring users into not upgrading with talk of complete hardware failure. Why don’t you link to documents that show what software does work and link to more resources. Finally, I hope Apple Blog will be there for us to cover, in great detail what issues do arise that first week instead of saying “i told ya so”

  4. Catmanrog

    I’m with Jake on this one and will install on arrival. If problems arise, my Superduper backup will rescue me. Dave you weren’t adopted as a child from the “Sky is Falling” Little family were you ? …. BTW, my adoption hasn’t left procrastination behind… :-)

  5. Gilgamesh

    I think your strategy of waiting months is excessive for a tech writer on the Appleblog, but to each his own. I would rather have my Mac cake and eat it, too. I back up my entire system with Super Duper every day via firewire 800, in addition to separate backups with Time Machine and automated home folder sync to iDisk, so I’m as bullet proof as can be. If Snow Leopard starts eating things, I’ll reboot with my external drive, clone it back to my internal drive, and put the Snow Leopard DVD in a desk drawer until Apple fixes it.

  6. BSBarrows

    I am going to buy it on Friday, I will be waiting in line (most likely 1st :P) Get my free shirt (hopefully there will be shirts) But I won’t be able to install it because I have to move into my dorm on Saturday. So I will hear all about the problems before I make the dive into Snow Leopard.

  7. I’m waiting. I don’t need the extra hard drive space, and the increased speed just isn’t an enticement at this point, given that my new MacPro screams under 10.5.8. There’s nothing I use in my business that isn’t working now but will work under Snow Leopard, and nothing critical that will work better, as far as I can tell.

    But I do appreciate all the early adopters who so bravely dive into the fray and battle the bugs so Dave and I don’t have to. If that disqualifies us from fanboyhood, so be it. I can still be one in my mind.

  8. Our family pack won’t arrive from Amazon until early next week, plenty of time for us to see over the weekend what the bugs everyone else finds are. My big concerns are right now that it looks like 1Password and Photoshop Elements won’t work with Snow Leopard. Those are high-usage applications for me so I may have to hold off on installing Snow Leopard for awhile.

  9. My copy came today, a few days early and it’s running just dandy…very quick mostly bar some slighty delay with the new expose views which i don’t like to be honest.

    Quicktime is extremely fast but i find the UI look of the black really at odds with the rest of the visual schemes. other than that I’ve had zero issues, upgraded from 10.5.8 and the darling installed fully within Leopard and only restarted to finalise…thats a new one on me!

    Go on dive in, the Snow Leopard waters are lovely!

  10. no name

    i am going to upgrade ASAP, hoping that 10.6 fixes *horrible* USB audio distortion problem that my Unibody MBP has, making me reboot it every day, sometimes multiple times.

    • Sounds like the same problem I was having before I switched to a Firewire audio interface. Restarting the application (in my case Garageband or Logic) seemed to temporarily fix it for me.

  11. Howie Isaacks

    I’m an Apple Consultant, so I have to upgrade. I’ve got a backup, so no worries. I need to be familiar with all of the annoyances and bugs before my customers start calling me for help. I recently bought a Mac mini, and beefed it up a bit so that I can test Snow Leopard Server before deploying it in a production environment. My biggest worry with Snow Leopard right now is that Kerio Technologies has not yet released an update that will make Snow Leopard work well with their mail server technology. That’s going to be a big pain in the ass for my company since we provided hosted email to thousands of users, mostly on Macs.

  12. My (sensible) plan is to install 10.6 on my Mac Mini and test out all my apps, while leaving my Mac Pro at 10.5.8 for a week or two until the dust settles.

    Then again, I do have a spare 1Tb hard disk for the Mac Pro and when the Snow Leopard box hits the doormat I may just install it on the spare disk for a play…

  13. I was wondering if my trusty 14 year old Apple LaserWriter 360 would work with Snow Leopard, so I did a Google search and up popped the following at MacInTouch:

    One of the respondents noted that he was able to successfully print using his old Apple laser printer that also has a parallel port. He connected the LaserWriter using a Belkin F5U002V1 USB Parallel Printer Adapter:

    I agree with Dave that waiting to see how things shake out is a wise course of action, since there are likely to be compatibility issues that have not surfaced during beta testing. Waiting to upgrade is especially important if you depend on your Mac(s) for work, school, etc.

    Having said that, I have already ordered SL to take advantage of the $25 deal offered by Amazon and the Belkin adapter as well. But I won’t be installing SL right away…

  14. I’m upgrading the moment I get it in my hands. I did it with Leopard and turned out oK. A few of my apps were screwy but I enjoyed the whole experience. Then again, I only need MS Word, Safari, and Mail to function for me to get my work done.

  15. I will be entering my office early Friday morning and installing snow leopard on my iMac at work. After running through it for the day, unless I run into a critical issue I will be heading home to do the upgrade on my home iMac as well. I don’t expect to run into too many issues, as all my software vendors are pretty reliable at providing up-to-date support, Adobe CS4, Coda, XCode, Versions, etc…

    However, I do also have a few deadlines to meet this weekend and will be checking around the net as well as checking in here frequently to see if anyone finds anything that might stop me from hitting these deadlines before I upgrade my home mac.

    Btw, how do you guys get a photo for your comments? I have been looking for a place to update.

  16. Dave, please consider this formal notice of the revocation of your “Apple Fanboy Club” membership. I, along with the other members, think that you have shown a severe lack of fanboy character, and therefore are no longer welcome at the clubhouse. Please return your club t-shirt and Steve Jobs shrine to the clubhouse and empty out your locker ASAP.

  17. Ben Jones

    I know what you mean about number four. I got Google Voice when I got my new iPhone. When we found out that texting was borked a day later. My mother freaked and demanded that I remove Google Voice. She was convinced that GV was causing the problems. It wasn’t. AT&T, in it’s infinite wisdom, decided to turn off our texting plan when we got my iPhone. Screw AT&T.

  18. Jake Coventry

    Come on.. live by the seat of your pants..

    Stop worrying about what ifs.. nothing in this world is mission critical unless you are talking about life.. so maybe if you have your mac running your granny’s life support system (by firewire, or USB2) you might want to wait a few weeks.. but otherwise .. take the plunge and enjoy..

    Your reasons are a bit geeky anyway, you need to chillax a little ;-)

  19. I use my mac for my business but I will be installing it instantly due to the speed boost that it promisses, if it’s anything like the boost the iPhone got from 3G to 3GS (I know that’s hardware not software) then it’ll be great.
    I will be running a dual boot system though so if anything should go haywire I can easily swap over to 10.5.8.

  20. Rizwan Reza

    I think you’re wrong when you say because its a point o release. It’s clear that Apple refactored their code, revamped their underlying architecture and fixed bugs in Snow Leopard. That’s why we’re not seeing any UI changes and wow features. Leopard would have more bugs than Snow Leopard. May be my hopes are too high.

    • Hm, I would actually think the opposite. An OS upgrade that adds a bunch of new features, but more or less leaves the backend code alone would probably find most of it’s problems in the new features, but remain relatively stable on the whole. An upgrade where much of the underlying code is rewritten and redone would potentially cause instability.

  21. Yea, these are valid arguments. I would wager that by the middle of September there won’t be any programs that don’t work in Snow Leopard. I’m running the latest Seed, and I’ve only run into one problem (Crossover). Which I don’t really use at all, just have it installed just to have it ever since their free giveaway.

    If you DO want to install right away though, here is a link to a Wiki that lists compatible programs.

    • I was ready to buy it and install it tomorrow, but looking through that list of compatible (and more importantly, INcompatible) apps, I think I might actually hold off, at least for a week or so, and observe. I’m just not in the mood for unnecessary headaches.

  22. James Bailey

    Certainly the many Mac users should wait at least a few days. It is fairly common to have show stopper bugs in first releases even from Apple. Waiting to see a few reports from reputable sources (note: this does not include PC-World, CNET nor Wired) will give you a better idea if you want to undergo the problems inherent in new OS software. And waiting for 10.6.1-10.6.3 is a good idea for anyone with mission-critical applications on their Macs.

    Having said that, the majority of Mac users don’t have to wait. Most Macs are used by consumers for tasks that are probably thoroughly tested. If you use your Mac for email/web/photo editing using iPhoto etc., it is unlikely that any problems will cause you huge headaches. Upgrade and have fun.

    For those waiting, watch and for information about problems with the release and installation and ignore flame-baiting articles from the usual suspects trying to scare you from Apple products.

  23. I think you are exactly right, and I plan on waiting also. It always amazes me when I see people, who depend on a Mac for their business, and they are reporting some problem with the OS or a new version of software after they jumped on it as soon as it was released. Then they cry “please help me – I got this deadline in two hours and the OS/program won’t work/deleted my file/overcooked dinner or whatever.” I have my drive cloned, so I could upgrade right away, but how do I test everything after the upgrade? What if I find a problem a week later, when my clone is no longer current, at which point it would be difficult to downgrade to 10.5? I appreciate your words of caution and plan to do likewise.

    • i knew this day would come! i ordered top of the line quad g5 and then apple went intel, i feared that all apps will be intel. and boy am i glad i got rid of that just in time!

  24. JEff Edsell

    Absolutely valid points, and an absolutely valid strategy. Personally, I will be upgrading as soon as I can, because that’s just how I roll.

    But also, I’ve cloned my hard drive to an external drive, and will update the clone last thing before upgrading…and I will perform the upgrade with the external drive disconnected. I highly recommend this strategy.

  25. Kenneth H.

    I am hoping that my copy of Snow Leopard will arrive a day or two late, giving me a chance to view the SL Day +1 and +2 issues before I take the plunge into the new 10.6. Even if it does arrive on time, I will probably wait til the 29th or 30th to even think about installing it. School will be starting soon again and I don’t want to be struggling with bugs during lectures.

    I started out with 10.5, so I’ve never had to deal with an OS upgrade on OS X. How long did it take Apple to address the big bugs 10.5 had a launch?

  26. I’m going to upgrade and hope for the best. I have a new harddrive enclosure coming so I can backup my music and videos. Past that I’m ready. I would have installed a prerelease version if I didn’t feel like it was so unethical. I’m sure, since it was made for new macbooks and such that it will be fine. An older macbook, maybe i’d be a little more hesitant. But I trust Apple to make a product that should for the most part go off without a hitch. I may wait a few minutes before I install to make sure there are no major bugs though.