Friday, November 21, 2008

Apple's Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard: Full Throttle

Apple's new OS, Snow Leopard may be arriving sooner than expected. This news inadvertently broken by an Apple director is surprising as it was originally announced at WWDC '08 that the 64bit operating system would take a year to bring to market. But, apparently $11Million dollars in R&D will get you results. Snow Leopard will include many advancements never before implemented in a consumer level operating system. One feature, that was really a hopeful but not expected is OpenCL, a royalty-free, open parallel computing standard being created by Apple. Apple partnered with the standards overseer Khronos Group as well as AMD, Intel and Nvidia in order to set an industry record to bring the computing standard to it's imminent approval in only six months. A feat that usually happens in a 5 year time frame. The new operating system may be fast but it's development has been blazing!

While there will most likely not be very many visual changes to the new operating system, it will clearly be the most advanced consumer level operating system ever. Here are a few of the advancements we are promised to see in the new release:

True 64bit Computing: The current implementation of OSX sports a 32bit kernel that uses some neat tricks to handle 64bit apps. Snow Leopard will feature a 64bit kernel which in addition to being able to directly handle 64bit apps will support well over 32GB of memory. The current implementation of OSX can address 32GB of memory which in itself is a feat because 32bit operating systems can only address 4GB of memory. For those of you reading this on a windows system that may have sounded a little off. It that is the case, I hate to be the one to tell you this but it's true. Your computer cannot possibly handle more than 4GB of ram. In many cases, if you have a video card with 1GB of memory the usable ram shrinks to 2.3GB. I know what your saying "but my system properties window tell me my 8GB of memory are installed!", sorry but Microsoft and the computer manufacturer lied to you.

OpenCL: As described above OpenCL is a royalty-free, open parallel computing standard being created by Apple. All the ways in which OpenCL will benefit Snow Leopard have yet to disclosed but this much is known: OpenCL will allow applications to take advantage of multi-core CPU's in ways never before possible and will also enable all applications to utilize the graphics and physics processing power of the GPU and it's multiple cores if they are present along side of the CPU. GPU processing power has to date generally been a relegated to gaming. For Snow Leopard look to only see performance enhancements. In following OS's look to see stunning visual effects within the operating system and the applications it will spawn. OpenCL is also said to be able to be scaled down for smaller devices such as smart phones. It will be interesting what OpenCL can do for smart phones such as the iPhone.

HFS+: HFS+ and enhancement of HFS the current file system used in OSX features many enhancements of which there are to notables to us common users. One is that the HFS+ file compression implementation will ensure that the operating system takes up much less disk space. The second is drive and file size. If you have ever worked with large files such as lossless video you know that computers have their limits when it comes to how big a file you can save onto the drive and also that drives can only be so big until the OS does not recognize the increased size. HFS+ can handle a max file size of 8EIB (EIB = Exbibyte) and a max volume size of 16EIB. To put that into perspective 1EIB is equal to 1,073,741,824GB!

ZFS Support: Although it won't replace HFS+ outright the Sun Microsystems developed ZFS file system will be supported with the ability to read and write to the file system. If you're wondering what's so cool about ZFS then consider this: HFS+ is a 64bit file system (we just saw how cool that is), but ZFS is a 128bit file system!

Native Microsoft Exchange Support: The ability to create and view content pulled from Microsoft Exchange servers in Address Book, iCal and Mail will be available. Automator can also send out its completed workflows as operating system services. If you work with MS Exchange you're already giddy, if you don't basically this means your IT admin will have less reason to shun your request for a Mac workstation.

Cocoa Finder: 64bit Cocoa finder will be faster with a more consistent appearance and behavior as the rest of the OS as a whole.

ImageBoot: Similar to virtualization software, ImageBoot will allow multiple disk images to boot from either on a secondary partition or external drive. This technology, mainly to be used as a testing environment for developers may hint at a future with true Mac virtualization which may also hint that Apple has it's eyes set on the enterprise market.

OSX Apps On A Diet: All applications bundled with OSX along with the operating system itself is being put on a diet. This move is being made to increase performance, reduce resources required, and reduce HD space being used by OSX and it's bundled apps. Other than the fact that this just makes common sense, Apple is moving in this direction so that OSX being smaller and faster will behave more robustly on the smaller more portable systems that the industry is moving towards. Currently the applications bundled have with OSX have lost over 500MB of bulk in the latest builds of Snow Leopard.

Text Auto-Correction: Many of the modern text-handling technologies made popular on the iPhone will make their appearance in Snow Leopard.

Apple is steaming ahead full speed to bring us the fastest most advanced OS anyone has ever used. On Wednesday it came to light that Microsoft knew that the then current Mac OS, OSX 10.4 Tiger, was far beyond the yet to be released Vista OS and were worried about it back in 2005. Leopard has been released blowing away Vista with Snow Leopard only months away. I can't imagine how worried / scared they are now. Keep Dancing Monkey Boy!

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