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AlBlue’s Blog

Macs, Modularity and More

There's no Snow Leopard here.

2009, mac, zfs

So, I'm still on 10.5. Why, I hear you ask, when the world has gone Snow Leopard crazy? Should I worry?

Well, generally not. Of course, it doesn't help that Apple bungled Snow Leopard with an insecure version of Flash with known exploits, but let's face it, every Apple 10.x.0 product has had its own subtle set of flaws in their own way. One lets the great unwashed try out the .0 (and .1) releases first, and then after .2 comes out (and importantly, the retail discs are re-cut to have a default version of 10.x.2 on them) is it worth buying.

But even in this case, I'm still not getting Snow Leopard. How come? Well, let's count the ways in which Snow Leopard will improve my life:

OK, let's now count the ways in which it will impact it:

  1. I will have to buy a new PowerMac (sorry, MacPro) because the G5 isn't 64-bit enough for Apple's Intel fascination. This is despite the fact that the hardware still has a good few years of life left in it, and the fact that since it has an attached ADC monitor, replacing the PowerMac will also require the purchase of some new displays to go along with it. That's a lot of moolah for a point upgrade.
  2. There's no ZFS support. Yes, I've written about ZFS many times before on here (including packaging up a decent installer) but that's gone the way of the Firewire. Yes, that came back after Apple relented and provided a feature that everyone wanted (much like the much-derided missing Matte screen option). So ZFS may turn up again in 10.7, in which case I'll have saved the purchase price of 10.6 in the meantime. Given that I use ZFS exclusively for data (both on my disk storage array and on my laptop, where it provides me with a compression ratio of 1.36x as well as providing block-level integrity, thankyou very much), not being able to access that would be a major downside.
  3. There's still likely to be an app market for the 10.5 stream for some time. Apple's apps may always require the latest and greatest, and as completely new versions of apps may get released, there's very likely to be a combined Universal and 10.5 compatible version of the program. Apple's pricing for the 10.6 update is expected to get as many people writing for 10.6+ only, so that when 10.7 comes on stream, anything less than 10.5 can be written off as a statistical anomaly. That gives me a year (or two) of breathing space in the meantime.
  4. Who needs 64-bits, anyway? Not for memory, at least on laptops and small devices; my G5 has less memory than my laptop does. Yes, more efficient, registers etc. but frankly, it's better to access data than to not be able to access data faster.
  5. Security features are veritably worthless. Apple's gone overboard on writing up the changes, like address space randomisation, but the start up of the dynamic linker is in exactly the same place as it always was. Can't find that return-to-libc exploit in memory? Just load libc via the dynamic linker, and away you go. It's a bit like saying that you've put shutters up over every window with high-tech frikkin' lasers over everything, but neglected to actually close the front door on the way out.
  6. My wife thinks I spend too much on techy stuff as it is.

What 10.6 is is a developer release. It's like a massive-scale beta early-access test of the next version of 10.7. Instead of it being available to just a handful of developers who pay through the orifice to get their mitts on the latest and greatest. Well, 10.6 is the latest and greatest, and it'll only set you back a few quid. And it's got all sorts of cool technologies (yes, GCD is cool, but NSOperation does much the same thing – at the high level for Cocoa in 10.5, and in 10.6, it's based on GCD anyway). But most of those won't be immediately visible to the user of the system. Granted, it's got a few benefits for the kind of mass data crunching apps (the Photoshops of the world, which in any case are still encased in Carbonite) – but in reality, a lot of subtle touches make it feel slightly snappier. But that doesn't make Leopard any slower, and in any case, the only time I ever shutdown and restart is when I'm installing a system update, frankly, which is once every month or two.

Meanwhile, rabid fanatics like RoughlyDrafted are giving even hardened fanbois the chance to cringe in embarrassment with statements like "As jingle-pundits desperately try to denigrate Snow Leopard as a Service Pack ... " when in reality, it's not even that. There may be a lot of foundation shifting under the hood (and 10.6 is likely to be the last 32-bit release for a Mac OS X computer; though hardware devices like the Apple TV and iPhone are likely to continue with 32-bits for a while) which will set up for a great 10.7. And by the time that comes, my dual-core G5 will probably have reached the end of its useful life in any case and I'll bite the bullet to upgrade to a shiny-new 16-core system in 2011. By then, it will either have ZFS or the equivalent Apple invention (though HFS+++ should really die a horrible death, and hopefully pretty soon) and I'll be able to continue on as before.