Seeing Snow Leopard Through Rose Colored Glasses

Surprisingly the griping about Yosemite is still going on. As I’ve frequently said I think people are remembering Snow Leopard through very rose colored glasses. Indeed the stories about Yosemite if anything remind me of all the griping about Snow Leopard at the time. Consider for example this Gigaom story “Snow Leopard: This Cat Has Fleas” (Great title)

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.

This was hardly alone. A quick Google from the era found lots of stories about people downgrading to Leopard from Snow Leopard.

Even major news outlets like the Christian Science Monitor compared Snow Leopard to Microsoft’s Vista disaster.

Don’t remember all the problems with early versions of Snow Leopard? Here’s a semi-partial list I made.

The driver model changed in 10.6 which affected a lot of people with 3rd party hardware (especially audio or video equipment)

There were tons of problems with the installer such that after the restart the system would just hang.

Snow Leopard broke all 3rd party screen savers. Even with new rewritten screensaver the computer would often freeze in early versions of 10.6 when leaving it.

The root account became disabled by default confusing lots of people (not really a bug, but a problem if you didn’t know how to enable it or setup sudo properly)

Time Machine backups on AFP shares stopped working.

SL changed how the app for files opened confusing and angering a lot of people.

Apple shipped a version of Java with serious security holes and downgraded the version of Flash leaving systems open to many attacks.

Address Book would sometimes show no contacts and freeze requiring you to force quit the application. This would also hang Mail if it tried to access the Address Book data. This was due to corruption of the database during upgrade to SL with certain Smart Group queries.

iTunes 10 was introduced with SL and (for many people) was the beginning of the end for iTunes being half decent. Lots of problems and syncing issues. There were many guides to downgrading back to 9. You remember iTunes 10. It came with the infamous Apple Ping social network.

Resource forks stopped working in SAMBA (Windows networking) with Snow Leopard.

System preferences would crash when opening a corrupt image or a screensaver accessing it – this sometimes required deleting the screensaver plist.

Snow Leopard changed the gamma from 1.8 to 2.2 screwing up many workflows.

Wake on Demand was a new Snow Leopard feature but in early versions would cause systems to come out of sleep at odd times (very annoying when you were asleep).

Lots of apps were incompatible with SL for a surprising long time. (Seriously software has been vastly more compatible with recent OS updates the last few years – this is because despite claims there were a ton of under the hood changes in SL)

SL broke most Haxies. Now Haxies were a disaster waiting to happen but were also very popular. So there were many disgruntled people.

Cisco VPN didn’t work. (Apple had started putting it in as part of OS X with Snow Leopard but it was very buggy for quite some time)

HP Printer drivers didn’t show up for months after the release of SL. Many Samsung printers didn’t update properly and you had to uninstall the printer and reinstall to get them to work.

Safari 4, introduced with SL, was the beginning of memory leaks and instabilities that really remained until the time of Mavericks.

SL was much pickier about memory (I’m not sure why). So if you had cheap memory that worked fine in Leopard you would often have mysterious problems in SL. Sometimes this lead to corruption during the installation of SL (which if you didn’t have a backup meant you were really hosed) More sophisticated users could typically figure out the problem was memory but more casual users couldn’t figure out why SL led to so many problems that Leopard didn’t have.

Now I know many of you installed Snow Leopard without problem and have fond memories of it. It’s great if none of these issues affected you. Guess what. That didn’t help those they did affect. Many of these bugs took months to fix. I remember waiting six months before some HP printers would work again.

Also, guess what? Just like you may not have been affected by Snow Leopard bugs, many people haven’t faced any serious Yosemite bugs. The only real bugs I’ve encountered have been a missing application folder icon in my Finder sidebar and a few weeks where Mail would sometimes crash in the middle of the night. My personal memories of Snow Leopard were much worse.

The reason people have such fond memories of Snow Leopard is because they are colored by the end of its life and not its beginnings. But it’s hardly fair to compare 10.6.8 to 10.10.0 or even 10.10.2 (that just came out last week).

I do think it’s a fair criticism that upgrades started coming faster with Lion. Snow Leopard came out August 28, 2009. Lion came out July 20, 2011 nearly two years later. However Mountain Lion came out July 25, 2012, only a year later. It’s been around a year for each release since. That is we no longer have the stability of a year with a solid mature OS with most of the major bugs fixed.

While this time of upgrades is a valid concern let’s not try to cast it as Snow Leopard being a great initial release. Because frankly both Mavericks and Yosemite were far less problematic releases than Snow Leopard in the beginning.



Edit: in the original version of this post earlier today I accidentally had iTunes 11 coming with Snow Leopard. I meant to type iTunes 10. That included Apple’s infamous Ping social network. iTunes 9 was introduced a few days after Snow Leopard was released (Sept 9 vs Aug 28, 2009) and iTunes 10 came out the following year (Sept 1, 2010). I corrected these typos in the above. I should note that while iTunes 9 had lots of complaints it wasn’t regarded nearly as poorly as 10 was. However both took place in the Snow Leopard era.

6 thoughts on “Seeing Snow Leopard Through Rose Colored Glasses”

  1. I’m aware of no one who contends that Snow Leopard was error-free out of the gate. I’m painfully aware, however, of legions of people for whom 10.6.8 is an accessible, stable, capable OS, and who make lamentably cogent arguments for it embodying both laudable features and philosophies that Apple has abandoned in its subsequent OS releases. With Apple’s once-a-year OS release policy, there’s also very little likelihood of any post-Snow Leopard OS ever being refined to the same extent.

    Despite the conflation in your article iTunes and an OS are not the same. Everyone booting an OS has to use it to some extent; nobody has to use iTunes, at all, and lots of people don’t. iTunes’ evolution, broadly speaking, has paralleled Apple’s OSes, in that both used to exhibit greater ease-of-use and retained well-established interface characteristics. Apple has “fixed” things that were not only not broken, but which substantively defined the Mac experience, and has done so for both their OS and iTunes.

    Using OS X since Lion’s release has not been the same predictable, relatively seamless user experience it had been through Snow Leopard. Post Snow Leopard releases have been regularly derided for displaying in increasing degrees precisely the same qualities that Mac-heads used to deride Microsoft’s products. Whatever else such comparisons might mean, they certainly do not herald widespread perception of overall improvements, either in philosophy or features. All iterations of an OS arrive with deficiencies. Not all of them possess them by design, however. Post-Snow Leopard releases describe a different developmental trajectory than earlier ones, and a substantial number of people do not consider it a better one.

    1. “MyOwnBusiness” I think I mentioned the year of being more stable — although to be fair that Gigaom article was about Snow Leopard after a year. I don’t recall too many similar articles that scathing about Mavericks after a year. (Maybe I just missed them but I did do a Google search on Mavericks for September onward)

      As others have noted, one doesn’t have to upgrade to the latest OS. Wait until 10.10.3 and upgrade in March or April instead of September. As for me, while there have been some very minor bugs overall Yosemite’s been very stable for me. And the new features easily outweigh the bugs.

  2. Would you happen to know if the improved battery life that Mavericks provided for the MacBook Air is still there with Yosemite?

    Curious because we failed to upgrade to Mavericks and now you can’t get it!

    So, we’re still on Mountain Lion, but have concerns about the downsides of Yosemite!

    1. Sorry, I don’t know about battery issues. My old laptop had the NVidea logic board problem so I rarely use it. Of all the gripes about Yosemite though I’ve not heard the battery one. I’d check in Ars’ Yosemite thread. Maybe raise the question there. You can search just the thread by clicking on the search bar at the top of the thread. Check the dates though. Most of the battery complaints were with the betas not the release let alone 10.10.2.

  3. No question, but OS 7 and Word 5.1 were the best! :-)

    Nothing has ever compared to them! :-)

    Well, except for most OSs and most versions of Word (except for 6.0) since then! :-)

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