OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Clean Install

SnowLeopardBoxWell, I just finished running through a clean install of OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard on my iMac. I did a clean install, wiping out everything on the drive. I had read that it would be necessary to install Leopard first but found that wasn’t the case.

After verifying my backups I just popped the Snow Leopard DVD into the drive and double-clicked the install icon. I clicked the “Utilities…” button rather than “Continue” on the first screen. Then I clicked the “Restart” button. After the reboot I selected “Utilities” –> “Disk Utility from the menu. There’s no button, you have to go to the menu. Once Disk utilities started I formatted the drive and closed Disk Utilities. Once Disk Utilities closed the installer was there and I continued the install. I was not prompted for any Leopard disk. Probably since the installer was started under Leopard.

Not much else to say at this point. The entire process took about 45 minutes. There was one Software Update available after the installation – Remote Desktop Client Update 3.1.1. The installation took just a bit over 6GB on my drive. Performance of Finder (all I’ve used so far) seems snappier but that could be the nice clean install or my wishful thinking.

I’m copying my files from my backup and will call it a night since that will take 3 hours if Finder’s estimate is to be trusted. I’ll resume my software installs tomorrow.

Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Ships This Week

SnowLeopardBox If you’re someone who cares about this then you probably already know that Apple will be releasing OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard this coming Friday. Amazon has had the software available for pre-order for awhile now, but now the Apple store has it listed for pre-order with a Aug 28 delivery date.

I pre-ordered from Amazon and at that time Amazon was promising delivery on the release date. Now they’re back to their normal shipping options without a promise for release date delivery.

This marks a  milestone in Apple’s history and it’s a milestone many other software companies fail to reach. Apple announced a September release which most people (myself included) took to mean Sept 30th, or at best Sept 25th which would be the last Friday of the month. In this case Apple decided to go with “September means August”. What you think? Apple throwing Microsoft a bone with an early release to give the hype time to die out before the Windows 7 release?

Snow Leopard cuts the cord with the Power PC (PPC) processors and is only for Intel Macs. Along those lines it’s main claims to fame are improved performance and technology updates.

You’ll want to update your apps to universal binaries where ever possible before upgrading to Snow Leopard. Word is that one way OS X improves performance and uses less space is by not installing Rosetta by default (although it’s still available as an optional installation). Rosetta is used to run PPC binaries on Intel Macs.

Other improvements includes more 64-bit apps among the included apps and Mail now supports Exchange. OS X 10.6 will also include the full version of QuickTime rather than just the player.

My Plans

I haven’t decided if the Aug 28th release date is good or bad for me. It’s good because with my recent Mac problems a fresh re-install isn’t much of a problem for me. It’s bad because new software will have all new bugs and I’m not sure I want to deal with that now. I had already planned to take Monday off from work so I have a long weekend this weekend. I hadn’t really planned to spend it in front of the PC, but assuming Amazon keeps it’s promise and delivers on the 28th I may not be able to resist. I haven’t even begun researching my apps for Snow leopard compatibility so if I do go it may be a bumpy ride.

Browsing The Website Stats

I like to browse through my website stats to see how visitors get here and what is popular. Along with things like OS’s and browser versions I also occassionally find interesting searches that brought people here. I use Google Analytics and Mint to collect stats and of course no stats program is perfect, but here’s some current highlights.

Firefox is overwhelmingly the browser of choice for visitors to this site. According to Google Analytics 45% of visitors use Firefox, 27% use Internet Explorer, 19% use Safari and 6% use Chrome. Less than 1/2 the Firefox visitors used the latest version (3.5) while more than 1/2 of the IE users were on IE 8. Stats collect by Mint are pretty close to these percentages.

A year ago my visitors were mostly Mac users, these days 65% are Windows users and only 28% are Mac users. Nearly half of those Windows visitors are on Windows XP. I was a little surprised that 35% of the Windows visitors are Vista. Just under 6% are Linux.

Over 90% of my visitors have 1280 X 800 or bigger screens. Eighty-five percent of visitors have Flash 10 and less than 4% had no flash at all. Eighty-eight percent of visitors have java enabled. Of course, user like me who browse with the Firefox no script plugin wouldn’t be seen with Java or Flash unless we specifically enabled it.

Fifty-two percent of you come from the United States which is less than a year ago. The U.K. is second in the list with just over 8% of visitors and Canada sends 6%. Germany is the highest non-English speaking country with 3% of the visitors. Google Analytics identifies 111 different countries/territories visiting the site. Thirty one of those countries brought just one visitor.

While Google Analytics couldn’t determine the connection speed for 24% of my visitors less than 2% use dialup. Cable connections top the list with 37% and DSL is second with 28%. T1 and OC3 connections are less than 10%. I find this a little surprising. Since most of my traffic is during the business day I guess businesses a big into Cable and DSL rather than the T1’s I expected. Or, it could be that Google Analytics doesn’t do a good job of determining connection speed.

Searches

While the percentage has been going down, search engines bring the majority of traffic to my site. Google is preferred by a whopping 93% of visitors while Bing brings just over 4%. With Yahoo at under 2% the Bing/Yahoo search combination still won’t make a dent in the Google numbers for this site. Some of those Google numbers are because another brand of search engine uses Google. For example, a Comcast user who searches through the Comcast website gets Google results.

Favored search topics that arrive here are iTunes, Windows Home Server, Windows Home Server and iTunes, AOL and Ubuntu/Linux.

There a few interesting ones. For example, someone searched for the term “comcast customer – ? why do I need windows vista to subscribe” using the Comcast website. The top result for that search is my Comcast Disservice post. Now that’s actually a Google search and not the results of using the Comcast site to do the search, but I don’t get the connection. “Subscribe” does appear in the sidebar but “Vista” is no where on the page. I suspect that person left the site rather quickly.

One the other hand, a search for “reset home server” returns by post on Windows Home Server Recovery which explains how to, you guesses it, reset home server.

Google Analytics says over 3,500 unique search terms have been used to find the site in the last 30 days, only 57 were used 10 or more times.

SquareSpace Considered

squarespace_logo SquareSpace has been getting a lot of publicity in most tech podcasts I listen to. It had the feel of an orchestrated publicity campaign so I didn’t pay much attention to the hype and ignored it for awhile. But the thought of having a hosted website along with the ability to extensively customize the site made me decide to take a look at it, so I signed up for their free 14 day trial. The bottom line, there’s a lot to like but I won’t be moving any existing sites to it.

I started off reviewing Squarespace by looking at things that were important to me but were lacking in most hosted website solutions.

  • Ease of importing an existing site
  • Ability to do my own backups and ease of moving the site to another host
  • Ability to customize extensively (add java scripts, html code, etc…)

SquareSpace does better than other hosted solutions (WordPress.com, Blogger, etc…) in these areas but it just wasn’t quit up to what I wanted. In short, I didn’t like the loss of control. Of course, to others this isn’t a problem at all.

Importing an Existing Site

SquareSpace provides the ability to import a WordPress blog along with Blogger, Moveable Type and TypePad. WordPress and Blogger can be imported over the wire, the others need to be exported to a file then imported. WordPress can also be imported via a file exported from WordPress.

I tried importing this site but received an error both when importing over the web and from a file. So I used another one of my sites (much smaller) which imported fine over the web.

The import took all the posts and moved all the graphics hosted on the site over to SquareSpace. Since the URLs changed I opened a support ticket to see if there was a way to maintain the old URL structure. Here was the response:

The Web importer preserves old permalinks within our system. Even though we save a user’s journal entries under a new, Squarespace specific URL, any requests for their old permalinks will be redirected properly (301 Permanently Moved) to the new Squarespace URL location. This should preserve your existing PageRank and any other google/search engine juice you’ve accumulated over time. Even though your old urls are not displayed in the browser URL bar, we are still redirecting your old traffic properly.
This will work when you map your own domain to your Squarespace account.

I never moved my domain to SquareSpace but it does seem like the URLs would redirect properly if I did. Along these line, internal links within posts were properly redirected to the new SquareSpace URL.

What was a bit of a problem was that the static pages were not imported. They would have to be moved over one by one. Also, my tags were not imported (categories were).

Ability To Do My Own Backups and Move Site Out

This is where SquareSpace falls short for me. While SquareSpace itself seems to have a solid backup regimen with real time backups to standby servers and periodic offsite backups there’s no good ability to create my own backups.

I can create a Text Snapshot which contains the structure in a XML file although the ability to use this to another system depends on the other system. This export can not be used to restore a SquareSpace site or import into another site. The Journal module (blog) can also export it’s data to a Moveable Type format which some other systems can use to import. Both of these must be done manually.

This is really no worse than other hosted platforms like WordPress.com or Blogger, but I like the ability automate backups and have the results in my possession. Moving from one CMS platform to another is never easy but some of the hype around SquareSpace implied you could get your site out as easy as put it in. While SquareSpace makes it about as easy as they can to get data out, it’s no magic bullet. There will be considerable work moving from SquareSpace to another platform.

Ability To Customize Extensively

Here’s were SquareSpace excels over other hosted platforms. There are extensive configuration settings for the various modules. So many, that it can be a bit overwhelming and not always intuitive trying to figure out what each one does. To help with that there’s support videos along with a good online manual.

All the site configuration and design, along with the the actual content creation is all WYSIWYG and done online. If the WYSIWYG editor doesn’t give you enough control you can also replace or tweak the CSS.

I didn’t spend too much time playing with the design tools since I’d already decided SquareSpace wasn’t for me at this point in time. As with most WYSIWYG editors you may run into some limitations if your looking for a specific design, but it certainly seemed robust. I did have a couple problems with the editor. Once the screen locked up on an edit page while inserting a script, in another case the settings dialog stopped taking input in many fields. In both cases canceling and repeating the action resolved the problem. I was impressed with speed of the editor despite being all online and extensive use of ajax.

Summary

Pros

  • Hosted by SquareSpace – no software for you to maintain
  • Hosted on grid computers – your site does have limits based on your plan, but if the site gets dug or slashdot’d it will handle the traffic.
  • Reasonable and Tiered pricing structure so you only pay for the features you need.
  • Extensive analytics included and supports rss feeds.
  • Moving an existing blog is simple 

Cons

  • Hosted by SquareSpace – Yup, it’s also a “pro”, depends on your point of view. You do give up control.
  • If you want a truly unique, complex or specific design it requires HTML and CSS knowledge or the hiring of someone who can do it.
  • In my opinion the ease of use has been over-hyped. While it is easy to use at the basic level so are the free solutions. Once you get past a basic blog and built-in templates the interface and options take some getting used to.

SquareSpace does cost, unlike WordPress.com or Blogger. The prices seem reasonable for what you get. The question is, are those features worth it to you? Plans range from $8 – $50 although you can get a discount code at many tech podcasts these days and there are discounts for multiple sites. You’ll need the $14 account of you want to map it to your own domain name. You can sign up for a free 14 day trial, no credit card needed. If you don’t buy a plan after 14 days they just drop your account.

Comcast Customer Disservice

Comcast It was recently reported that Comcast would be hijacking DNS error pages. Instead of returning a website not found error for typos Comcast will return a search page with ads. When I first heard about this I could understand why a company would want to do this (money) and while I didn’t like it I didn’t get mad. Just a company trying to maximize the bucks. I was even encouraged because it seemed like Comcast was taking a smart approach as opposed to other ISPs that do this.

Then I got the e-mail from Comcast announcing the change and that sent me over the edge and reminded me why I hate dealing with Comcast. Like a politician they need to make it sound like they do everything only to benefit the consumer, and money is never a factor.

Instead of just owning up to the reason for doing it and saying the pages would be laden with advertising which would generate income for Comcast they promoted it as a customer service oriented enhancement. I’d have been unperturbed if it was a smaller lie like “In an effort to keep your costs down we’re serving ads when you make a typo.”

But no, they start off by telling me it’s to help me, the first line:

At Comcast, we’re constantly looking to deliver a better high-speed
Internet and online search experience.

No where do they mention it’s an advertising page. And to rub it in they promote their opt-out page as easy. It sounds easy, all you have to do is use their table to figure out which is the mac address and then type it into a form. OK, it’s not difficult and readers of this blog could easily do it. So even though their providing true opt-out by tying it to hardware and your IP address and for everyone in the house, they still had to put a speed bump in.

My problem is Comcast had a extremely easy and secure way to let customers opt-out. They already have my cable modem mac address and have associated it to my account. I have to call with the new mac address should I change my modem. All they had to do was put a opt-out option on my account page that requires a logon. If they really had their customers in mind they wouldn’t have required me to write down a small 12 digit number, enter it into a form and wait for two emails.

This is why while I use Comcast I only use their wire. I don’t use their homepage, I don’t use their email and I don’t use their DNS. Even though I don’t use Comcast DNS I went through the opt-out procedure to avoid being counted as one of those customers happily using the “enhancement”.

By the way, Comcast promised to deliver a bandwidth meter by January 2009, anyone seen it? Another example of their customer focus. Impose a cap, promise a way to monitor usage to make sure you stay under the cap, then fail to deliver even 7 months later. Sure, I’m well under but I have to use the tomato router to track it. Even my cell phone company lets me see my minutes used.

What really burns me is my only alternative is a slow DSL connection from AT&T. A company with worse customer service than Comcast. End of rant.

OS X 10.5.8 Update

Apple has released OS X 10.5.8 for Leopard. The update includes a generic list of fixes:

Upgrades Safari to version 4.0.2.
Improves the accuracy of full history search in Safari 4.
Resolves an issue in which certain resolutions might not appear in the Display pane in System Preferences.
Dragging an Aperture image into Automator now invokes an Aperture action instead of incorrectly invoking an iPhoto action.
Resolves an issue that could prevent importing of large photo and movie files from digital cameras.
Improves overall Bluetooth reliability with external devices, USB webcams and printers.
Addresses an issue that could cause extended startup times.
Improves iCal reliability with MobileMe Sync and CalDav.
Addresses data reliability issues with iDisk and MobileMe.
Improves overall reliability with AFP.
Improves overall reliability with Managed Client.
Improves compatibility and reliability for joining AirPort networks.
Improves Sync Service reliability.
Includes additional RAW image support for several third-party cameras.
Improves compatibility with some external USB hard drives.
Includes latest security fixes.

On a side note related to my problems with OS X 10.5.7: I restored the setting that caused the lock-ups and was immediately able to cause the lock-up. Then I did the update and have so far been unable to cause the lock-up.

So far the update seems to be fine on my iMac, but recent experience has me keeping my fingers crossed.

Frustration Comes Then Goes

It wouldn’t be beta if there weren’t some problems and frustrations with Windows 7. After installing Windows Update KB72636 (a compatibility list update for IE 8) my screensaver and energy saver stopped kicking off. No problem running the screensaver manually. Coincidence maybe, but it always worked up until that point and that was the only change.

The quick troubleshooting like resetting it and rebooting didn’t work. I was going to sit down and tackle it this weekend but decided to see if there were any other updates. There were, a Silverlight update and some nvidia driver updates. So I went ahead and installed them and did a reboot.

That was all it took. The screensaver kicked in after 30 minutes and all was well. Not sure how the IE updated cased it although there’s some logic in it being fixed by a driver update. No sense trying to apply logic to an OS, I’ll just be happy it’s working.