Installing Snow Leopard

Well, I did it. I took the bit in my teeth and installed Apple’s latest version of its operating system, Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6), this last week. I wish to report that I was pleasantly surprised with how well it went. You see, having used Microsoft Windows for nearly 25 years, I knew better than to install a new version of that operation system (OS) on an older machine. If I was buying a new machine, sure, the latest OS was worth it because I would be installing the applications etc. from scratch. However, to install an updated version (major revision) on an older machine on top of already installed applications was just asking for trouble for which new versions of Windows were notorious.

So, it was with some trepidation that I approached installing Snow Leopard on my 1 1/2 year-old iMac. I read all the reviews and understood that Apple was not Microsoft; that because they had better control over their computers, they could better handle an OS upgrade. Thus, with some time available to handle any problems that might pop up, I gritted my teeth and purchased an upgrade copy of Snow Leopard.

The sales guy at the Apple store confirmed the install should be relatively painless but did caution me to backup all my data etc. just in case. After all, stuff does happen, like power failures during the install, and occasionally a bug in a specific configuration does appear. I backed up my data to both my external hard drive and a DVD, and then popped the Snow Leopard DVD into the machine and let Apple take over.

Installing an OS upgrade is not like installing the latest version of a favorite application program. It takes time as configurations must be copied, stored and reestablished, and documents and files swapped back and forth. As long as my computer screen didn’t go blank, blue or otherwise indicate a serious problem, I let it proceed for the 20 or 30 minutes it took to make the change. After the perfunctory reboot, my familiar desktop came back up on the screen with little noticeable change.

The first thing my new system wanted to do was check for updates via the Internet. That revealed the first problem: my system couldn’t find my Telus 3G card which serves as my “high-speed” Internet connection (we don’t have regular high speed here in the country, despite the “Alberta Advantage”). Upon checking my System Preferences, I found I had a new Internet connection using the Telus card through a Wireless Wide Area Network (WWAN). Once I activated it in Preferences, I found a new icon on the menu bar at the top of my screen. Connecting to the Internet was now just a click away. So off I went to the Apple site to download the latest update for Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6.2). That’s a 500+ Mb download that took the better part of five hours.

Next to check was the connections with my peripherals. My HP photo-quality ink jet printer passed with flying colors. However, my HP laser jet printer did not. Although, the system recognized the printer, the printer would not accept print jobs. What to do?

After double checking all physical and software connections and double checking with the HP web site about a revised print driver (where I was informed it was included with Snow Leopard), I phoned Apple technical support. Now, over the years I’ve also learned not to expect much satisfaction from telephone technical support. Of course, Microsoft was the worst for this because if you had the temerity to obtain your Windows already installed on your PC, Microsoft washed its hands of any support and referred you to the computer manufacturer. In my case, that meant talking to somebody in a heavily accented English who quickly dismissed my problem as a Microsoft one (I so love “Catch-22”).

However with Apple, I found myself talking to someone who actually attempted to understand my problem and seek a solution. She confirmed what actions I had already taken and then stepped me through some others. Unfortunately, she could not figure out why the printer would not print. She then put me on hold while she sought her supervisor. He quickly came on line, apologized for my problem, and reviewed the steps that had already been taken. Soon, he was stepping me into the inner workings of the OS where we deleted some files. I rebooted the machine and voila, my printer worked. Apparently, and old configuration had to be deleted before the system built a new one. Thank you Apple for providing the support I needed. You are an example of what customer service should be about!

Next I tried my Nikon slide and film scanner. No problem, it worked like a charm like it always has. Next, came my HP flatbed photo scanner. Problem! Snow Leopard didn’t know it existed. Before calling Apple again I decided to do some research. Using Google I soon found myself at the Apple and HP support forums where I learned HP had stopped supplying upgraded print drivers for this particular scanner for several years, and Apple confirmed this scanner was not supported. As a result, I joined the throng of dissatisfied HP customers on these forums pledging not to buy another HP scanner.

Fortunately, I still have a Windows laptop (XP) that will drive the scanner. Since I bought my Nikon scanner, I have little use for the flatbed other than photocopying. However, I do need one for other purposes from time to time. So, I will let the laptop fill the gap until I find a suitable replacement.

Thus, if you use a Mac, I recommend upgrading to Snow Leopard. It has a smaller footprint and several other enhancements that improves your experience. However, as with any OS upgrade, be prepared to take some time to fine tune; and don’t fear approaching Apple Support. They will indeed help you!

So, what’s wrong with that?

www.donmeredith.ca

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About Don Meredith

I am a writer and biologist living in Alberta, Canada. I write a monthly column for the Alberta Outdoorsmen magazine.
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