Last week, I heard about the impending release of MacOS X 10.6, aka Snow Leopard. So, being the early adopter, bleeding edge kinda guy I am, I pre-ordered a family pack from the Apple Store online. Apple moved up their release date, and lo, my copy was delivered via UPS to my doorstep Friday morning.
I have 5 Macs in the family: three Intel-based, and two-PowerPC. The PowerPC Macs aren’t capable of taking Snow Leopard, but the other three are. So, I went through my usual steps for an upgrade to my main MacBook Pro (late 2007 model):
- Ran DiskUtility to check the disk and fix permissions
- Upgraded all my applications with VersionTracker Pro
- Uninstalled PGP (see note)
- Ran DiskUtility again
- Ensured I had a fresh backup of the disk
And then I inserted the install disk. Unfortunately, this resulted in no great joy, as I got an error message about
Mac OS X cannot start up from this disk. Mac OS X cannot be installed on [my disk], because this disk cannot be used to start up your computer.
This is my regular disk! I’ve been booting the system from that disk for nearly 2 years!
The same error occurred when I booted from the DVD and tried the install. I ran the DiskUtility repair several times, to no avail.
A quick check of posts on the Innertubes revealed that several other people had the same problem, and the Apple techs they consulted were not able to help much. I was not at all keen on blowing away the disk with a reformat and install, which I assumed would have fixed things.
Then I saw a note on one of the Apple forums. It suggested that there was something wrong in the disk label or volume header that was causing the problem. So, I tried the following:
- Booted from the install DVD
- Selected and ran DiskUtility from the Utilities menu
- Within the utility window, highlighted the physical disk that my startup partition was on
- Selected the “Partition” tab
- Clicked on the little tab at the bottom of the partition window and shrunk the partition
- Then I moved it back to the same size with a new mouse click
- Clicked the “apply” button
- Quit DiskUtility
This works because of the allocation scheme used in the OS. If there is free space at the end of your partition, you can shrink or split it without difficulty – you don’t lose data. However, had my disk not already been formatted with a GUID volume header, this wouldn’t have been enough, but GUID is the default format for any Intel-based Mac boot disk.
The same partition “jiggle” procedure was required for my iMac install (early 2008) but not my new MacBook Pro install.
I then reran the installer and everything worked as it was supposed to work.
Tip: When you are doing your own install, be sure to click on the customization button at the lower left corner of the screen before starting the install on its merry way. You will find that there are things selected that you may want to omit, such as all the language versions and some of the printer drivers. This can save install time and a lot of space on your disk.
The installation took about 45 minutes. When it was done, I had regained about 9Gb of space on my disk! That alone was a good reason to upgrade.
Lots of little things don’t work now, and I need to wait for updates (if they will be released). Almost none of the programs I use on a regular basis are a problem – it is only some of the gadgets and little shortcuts that seem to need tweaking, along with some items that have start-up issues that are solved by reinstalling. Overall, the major software vendors have had releases out that were Snow Leopard-ready.
There are only a few programs I use regularly that don’t seem to work right and no updates yet available:
PGP explicitly does not work, and the folks at PGP send out email recommending uninstalling it before the upgrade, which I did. Judging from their past behavior, they’ll charge a hefty charge for the new version. However, I have not had good luck with GPG in the past, so I’m willing to pay the cost and either have the university cover it (for my work machines) or write it off as a business expense (home machine).
I have had one problem with VersionTrackerPro, which hangs when installing anything from the Omni Group (e.g., OmniWeb, OmniFocus). It may be because when mounting the disk image of the installers, those programs put up an interactive license agreement that somehow VersionTracker no longer notices. If I force-quit the VersionTracker program, it leaves a hdiutil process cranking away in the background using up 90%+ of one of the cpu cores. That requires termination with extreme prejudice (using a Unix kill -9 from a terminal window). My temporary workaround is simply to download the updates using VersionTracker and install them manually.
Oddly, a few old things showed up in my Dock and startup items — things I thought I had deleted months or years ago. I am not sure where they were or why they reappeared, but they were easy enough to delete.
There are a few noticeable changes in the interface to a few things, such as the Dock, that I am still getting used to. So far, I would judge that all the changes are good because they seem to add features that I wish had been there all along.
From a perception standpoint, 10.6 seems a bit zippier. It is definitely faster to startup and shut down, seeming to be at least twice as fast (no, I don’t have experimental times). Mail and Safari are also faster. Time Machine still seems to slow everything down when doing a backup, but it is tolerable.
By default, 10.6 boots into the 32-bit kernel. I tried booting all three machines into the 64-bit kernel by holding down the 6 and 4 keys while booting. It seems to work on the new MacBook Pro, but not on the older 2 machines. How to tell? Run the System Profiler from the “About this Mac” menu item. Click on the “Software” label and you get something like the following:
If the line with 64-bit Kernel and Extensions says “Yes” then it is running in 64-bit mode. I guess I’ll need to update these machines before too long. I usually do that on a 24-30 month cycle, so perhaps Santa will have a new MacBook Pro for me…..unless Apple comes out with their rumored tablet by the end of the year. Even so, I think a MacBook Pro with a large SSD instead of regular disk might be better for me.
Overall, with the exception of the disk volume header issue, the installation went smoothly and everything seems to be running fine. It took me about 4 hours (with other distractions and work) to get all three machines converted and running fine.
I will post followups if anything else interesting shows up.