September 2, 2009

Trapping the Snow Leopard

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The OS War between Microsoft and Apple has been going on since the release of the Macintosh in 1984.

As we approach closer to present day, the release of Mac OS X in 2001 completely changed the playing field. 2009 is looking to be a turning point for both operating systems with Microsoft slated to release Windows 7 in October and Apple releasing OS X Snow Leopard on August 30. Both systems boast better performances, and seeing as I’ve already turned my skeptical eye to Windows 7 in a previous blog, I feel that it’s Apple’s turn on the chopping block.

So let’s evaluate this puppy for all its worth.

First and foremost, OS X Snow Leopard supports 64-bit processors. That simply means more RAM access and theoretically, a faster machine. However, the increase in RAM access is only given if your computer breaks the 4GB RAM barrier that 32-bit machines are limited by. So unless you have a 64 bit processor, you probably won’t notice much of an increase in speed and performance. In fact, since most of your applications probably load in about a second on OS X Leopard , upgrading to Snow Leopard may not produce immediately noticeable results.

But what about all the apps that haven’t yet been upgraded to 64 bit from 32? Fear not, for the all-knowing Steve Jobs has foreseen this problem and included 32-bit support in Snow Leopard. However, because you’re not actually getting a physical RAM or processor upgrade with Snow Leopard, a lot of programs will still be using 32-bit versions of that program if you currently have a 32 bit processor. The performance increase would then be negated in that the computer has to switch back to 32-bit. But Snow Leopard promises better multi-threading capability via Grand Central Dispatch, so we might actually see the hindrance from reverting to 32-bit as almost nonexistent.

A lot of the new features are largely aimed at parallel processing and utilizing every ounce of RAM available to a Mac. While this may sound good on paper, unless you’re working with files the size of Olin library and more than 4GB of RAM, the improvements will hardly be noticed.