Upgrading to MacOS 10.6 Snow Leopard

[Updated at end]

I hadn’t actually planned to take two days off work so I’d be off for the day of release of Snow Leopard. It just happened that way. I’d booked the time off in order to spend a little time with Sam’s mum (quack, quack). Then, it just happened that the second day I’d booked was the day of release.

So, it would have seemed rude not to go to Exeter, pop into the Apple Store, and pick up a copy of Snow Leopard Family Pack.

So we did.

It was packed. Really, amazingly busy. There were a few people buying Snow Leopard, but most of the crowds were there for Macs, accessories, iPods, support, training, etc. The staff were doing their best, and were doing a nice job of occasionally hurrying down the lines of people, apologising for the delays, and promising to get to everyone soon. I joined a queue after a while, and paid for Snow Leopard. I also had a mouse to sort out, but that’s another story.

I tried to convince myself that I wasn’t in a desperate hurry when we got home, but the pressure was too much. I soon gave in, and stuck the DVD in the drive. I made sure that Time Machine had backed up recently enough, then ploughed in to the upgrade. In a disaster, I figured I could always install again from the original Leopard CD that came with my Mac, and migrate the data and apps from the Time Machine backup.

There was no disaster.

It took around an hour in total, and I was left with a system that worked pretty much the same as it did before, with a few nice little tweaks. Purely subjectively, things feel nice and snappy – I think it’s faster in quite a few places. It’s always difficult to be sure with such things, though, without any real testing.

So far, the only app that didn’t work was CyberDuck, but a quick check for the latest version showed a new beta that worked fine. It turned out, that was the final anti-straw to get me to make a little donation to the developer. It’s a free app, and works really well.

All told, there isn’t a huge amount to get excited about in Snow Leopard, but for the small cost, it seems well worth it. An cheap, easy upgrade that made the OS smaller and faster, whilst polishing a few features.

Surely that shouldn’t seem as strange as it does?

I’m left with just a couple of oddities. Video is jerky in QuickTime, though it may only be when using Perian codexes. Hopefully an update to one or the other will sort it out soon. Also, when I close iTunes, it immediately restarts itself, and hides the window.

Neither are major problems for me, so I’ll just Google them occasionally – answers usually take a little while to appear for a new product.

Update: Found the solution to the iTunes problem. I was running a little app called I Love Stars, which put a control to rate tracks into the menu, hiding itself unless an unrated track was playing. Getting rid if it removed the problem. It wasn’t causing the problem until Snow Leopard, so either something changed, or it was quite a coincidence.

The jerkiness may be more widespread than I’d thought – some YouTube videos seem jerky now, and some animations, too. Aperture’s keyword controls are supposed to slide neatly into view, but actually appeared in a series of jumps, taking a long time to fully display. Right-clicking seems to take a very long time in a few places, too, including iTunes.

Reduced Ads

Getting PigPog back to just using AdSense worked nicely. Income was still tiny, but much better than when AdSense was competing with Project Wonderful.

I wondered what effect having less of the same ads would have. I knew from past experience that it isn’t always what you’d expect.

I removed the footer ad that was making almost nothing, and also got rid of the big ‘leaderboard’ ad along near the top of the page. It was bringing in around half of our income. Logically, getting rid of it would halve our income, but I suspected it wouldn’t.

It actually doubled. We’re showing less ads, giving more space to our content, and making more money by doing it (well, technically not actually making money, as the hosting still costs more than we bring in, but it helps to keep it as a cheap hobby, making it almost free.) With less ads all over the place, the site looks nicer, too.

Scanning to Evernote

Long, long ago, my dad upgraded his flatbed scanner, and gave us his old one. It was a perfectly decent Canon CanoScan N650U – nice and small, and runs entirely from USB, without needing a power supply. It sat in a bag, in the spare room.

I finally got around to digging it out today, only to discover that Canon have never made any drivers available for Intel Macs.

Fortunately, though, VueScan can use it without the need for a driver. It means having to pay around $40 to be able to use the scanner, but it works well, and that’s a lot cheaper than buying a scanner.

In testing, I’ve scanned pages from a notebook, with my own handwriting, and dragged the resulting file into Evernote. A short time later, Evernote’s servers have had a look at the image, and worked out what much of my writing actually says. A handwritten note I scribbled on paper is now searchable.

Sometimes it’s fun living in the future.

Almost Quitting Evernote

I have something of a love/hate relationship with Evernote. I love what it can do. I love that it can handle so many formats of data, at least when just pasted into a note. I love that there are real native clients on every platform, rather than relying on web-based ‘apps’. I love its ability to read text in pictures. I love the way it makes the 40Mb of monthly data transfer you get for free go such a long way – I haven’t needed to upgrade to the paid service yet, even though I use it quite a bit. I love the fact that there’s even a neat syncing client for my iPod.

I hate the Windows client, though, which feels so clunky compared to the Mac client. I hate the way the iPod (iPhone) client just closes itself regularly when you’re using it. I hate the way it can’t access anything offline unless you’ve manually marked it as a favourite on the iPod.

I stuck with it, though, because it was the only thing that did what it did.

Then, a few days ago, things got worse. The iPod client just stopped syncing, claiming it had an error connecting to Evernote’s servers. The sync managed a few stages, so it obviously could connect to them. I tried logging it out and back in, and still had the same problem.

I decided it had to go.

I worked out what I really needed from a note-keeping app, and went on the hunt.

It turns out that Evernote is still the only thing that does what it does.

I plugged the iPod in, unticked Evernote, and synced. I ticked it again, and synced. I then ran Evernote, and it worked fine. Rather annoyingly, I’ve lost all of my favourites – they seem to be a local setting on the iPod. Still, I have my notes back, and I guess I’ll just have to live with the stability issues.

I do get the impression that Evernote (the company) keep working hard to improve the apps, so I’m hopeful that the Windows version will start to catch up to the excellent Mac version, and the iPod/iPhone version will get more stable with updates and server changes.

I finally came close to my free account limit last month, so I’ll probably be upgrading to a paid account soon.