Snow Leopard changes the meaning of kilobyte, defective install discs and fixes Leopard

I was doing some ‘research’ today to see what issues have arisen as a result of Snow Leopard being unleashed upon the world.  For the most part, it seems to be going fairly well.  Like any other operating system release, there have been the usual horror stories as well as the ‘I’ve installed it on a thousand computers and didn’t have one problem’ types of posts and stories.  During my reads, though, I did find a couple of interesting issues.  The first is rather surprising to me:  defective installation media from Apple.  Apparently, they did not acknowledge this at first.  I suppose several thousand calls, emails and forum posts convinced them that it was, in fact, a problem.  I think it was reasonable, on Apple’s part, to blame the calls on bad drives or user error.  When numbers hit a certain point, however, a company will generally investigate and own up if there was a problem.  Apple did it’s duty and will be replacing the defective discs.  Good for them.

The second and more interesting issue I read about has to do with a change made to the way that Snow Leopard calculates file sizes.  Instead of using the more standard kilobyte is 1024 bytes calculations, a kilobyte is now 1000 bytes.  This makes it easier for the ‘normal’ person – and Apple’s alleged audience – to comprehend, but makes it inconsistent with the rest of the computing world.  And, no, the marketing scheme cooked up by the hard disk makers does not count.  There’s an interesting story about this over on TUAW, but the comments-almost all of them defending Apple on this, what a shock, are far more interesting. 

In typical defend-Apple-at-all-costs fashion, the fan kiddies responded to every negative comment in droves.  Some of the comments are just hysterical.  Others, just sad.  Most, though, are very well thought out, even the pro-Apple ones.  The general consensus, though, is that there should have been a toggle somewhere in the preferences that controls how this number is returned. 

The really interesting thing about the switch and the ensuing debate is the inconsistency within the operating system….something most of the Mac users that I know say Apple is very good about.  I also know, however, that it is just a perception and the real truth is that it is just as inconsistent as Windows, Apple just does a better job at masking them than Microsoft does.  (As an aside, Windows 7 is a great leap forward in this area.  I plan on writing about that after Windows 7 is released.)  So, apparently the underlying BSD framework that Mac OS X is built upon, returns the numbers the old fashioned way where a kilobyte is 1024 bytes.  Finder returns a kilobyte as 1000. iTunes (yes, I understand it is NOT part of the OS) says 1024 as well. 

When I first read about the switch in the meaning of kilobyte, I thought ‘well, that’s how they achieved the savings in disc space…they just redefined what a kilobyte, megabyte and gigabyte were.’  That’s not the case, however.  What they did was remove support for the PowerPC chip and bunch of drivers that can now be downloaded on demand…much like Windows has done for years.  I’ve seen, in various places, savings of six to twelve gigabytes (as in 1024 megabytes.) 

Apple, seemingly, has done a good job with Snow Leopard and corrected the multitude of problems that was Leopard.  Yeah, the dirty little secret-and one I’ve written about quite a bit-is that Leopard was a lemon.  You won’t find many die hard Mac fan kiddies admitting this (though, a few have…like the guy who was afraid to let his Windows computer out on the Internet.)  Like Microsoft with Windows 7, Snow Leopard is Apple’s apology for its previous buggy operating system.  Good for them.


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