Get the Speed of Apple "Snow Leopard" Without Buying a New Mac

Apple just announced that it's next update to OS X, dubbed Snow Leopard, will ship on Friday. That's great news if you own an Intel Mac, but if you own an older machine, you're out of luck--version 10.6 won't support PPC Macs. But that doesn't mean you can't have all the refinements packed into Snow Leopard. Here are six workarounds that will keep your old warhorse running with the best of them.

Optimize & Clean

Apple says that 10.6 will sport optimizations that cut waste and keep your Mac running cleaner and faster. There are several third-party apps that do just that, but one of the best is Onyx, by Titanium Software. It allows you to clean out the crap that slows your Mac down, as well as toggle on and off some of the animations, processes and checks that make your Mac lag. That's just the tip of the iceberg, though; Onyx really is the Mac's missing preferences panel, allowing you to set automations, repair permissions and more.

onyx

Another great tool for digging around in the OS is TinkerTool, which acts like another layer on top of System Preferences and unlocks things you never knew existed.

Better Finder

Apple also says that two of the Finder's killer apps, Stacks and Expose, will get a makeover in Snow Leopard. You can improve Stacks now, with just a couple of commands in the Terminal. One great feature to add: a recent items stack. Here's how.

recent

Enter the Terminal. Then type this command:

defaults write com.apple.dock persistent-others -array-add '{ "tile-data" = { "list-type" = 1; }; "tile-type" = "recents-tile"; }'

Then type the command "killall Dock" to restart the Dock, and your new stack should appear.

You can also make a System Preferences stack by following these directions from MacOSXhints.com:

Make a folder and drag in aliases to all your frequently used preference panes. The panes are located in each of these locations (for some reason, some panes appear multiple places):

* ~/Library/Preference Panes
* /Library/Preference Panes
* /System/Library/Preference Panes

Create a folder (I keep it in my home directory, but it can be anywhere) called System Preferences to hold these aliases, and drag that folder to the right side of the Dock. Lo and behold, a cascading System Preferences menu.

The Big Sleep

Mac notebooks take up to 20 seconds to go to sleep, because they're saving the state of your RAM to the hard drive. That's a feature called "safe sleep," and it ensures that if your power is cut, or your battery dies, your Mac will be able to preserve the contents of the memory and start you where you last left off. If that's not really a concern of yours, you can disable safe sleep in the Terminal and make your laptop sleep in as little as two seconds. Type these commands into the Terminal, and hit enter after each.

$ sudo pmset -a hibernatemode 0
$ sudo nvram "use-nvramrc?"=false

To re-enable safe sleep, repeat the above, but change "hibernatemode 0" to "hibernatemode 3," and =false to =true in the second command. Then reboot.

sleep

If you don't have a laptop, you can also get sleep moving faster by using the built-in keyboard shortcut for sleep: Command-Option-Eject, held for two seconds. Hit that key combo, and watch your Mac go down like a tranquilized elephant.

previewBetter Preview

Snow Leopard will improve Preview, Apple's built-in document and picture viewer. Right now, it's not so hot at manipulating PDFs; things like selecting text can be unwieldy.

To beat Preview, download Skim, a potent little doc viewer that lets you preview links inside your PDF, copy text, and create snapshots of documents.

Smarter Ejecting

ejectMac OS X isn't so great at ejecting CDs and DVDs sometimes, leaving users baffled. The Snow Leopard Finder will be a little more aggressive in closing down programs that try to hang onto disc media, but you can force-eject a disc using one simple command in the Terminal--no need to restart. Just type the command "drutil tray eject" and out comes your disc.

High-Res Video Chat

The new iChat will support higher quality video chatting, but you can get that right now with a quick Skype workaround and your trusty iSight camera.

skype

Follow these directions, courtesy of the Skype Garage, but first make sure your version of Skype is up to date.

Quit Skype, and navigate to "~/Library/Application Support/Skype/yourskypename/", i.e go to your home folder, and then the Library folder in it, and then Application Support in Library etc. Find the file called config.xml.
Open the file and find the <Video> block that is itself inside the <Lib> block. The <Video> block probably looks as follows:

<Video>
<Device>Built-in iSight</Device>
</Video>

Now, edit this <Video> block, adding capture height and width settings. The block should now look like this:

<Video>
<CaptureWidth>640</CaptureWidth>
<CaptureHeight>480</CaptureHeight>
<Device>Built-in iSight</Device>
</Video>

Save and close config.xml, restart Skype and do a video call. The remote party should now see your picture in 640x480 resolution, instead of the standard quality 320x240.

If you've got more workarounds that mimic 10.6 functionality, please let us know below.

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2 Comments

  • William Garrity

    Tsk, tsk: "Apple just announced that it's next update to OS X, dubbed Snow Leopard, will ship on Friday." It should be > its <.

  • Steven T

    Yeaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!! I can't believe they came out with it early. I was sure that when they said September, it would be late September. I never expected late August!