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About that Silly 10.6.2 Speculation

All right, you don’t have to possess an inside track at Apple or be a registered developer to pretty much know that more Snow Leopard maintenance updates are on the horizon. So I will readily accept the possibility that there is surely a 10.6.2 in our future, and it may even arrive by the time you read this article.

That said, I’ve been fascinated by the online soap opera about what this update allegedly fixes and doesn’t fix. Among dozens and dozens of changes, there is supposedly one to address that insidious Guest account bug. That, in and of itself, might actually be more than sufficient to make this update extremely imortant, particularly if you’re one of the supposedly small number of people bitten by that bug.

In case you haven’t tuned on, that issue supposedly involves a Mac updated from Leopard to Snow Leopard, in which there’s already a Guest account. These accounts are designed for someone who, for example, wants to allow a friend, family member or coworker to use their Mac, but not mess with their settings or other personal information. When the guest logs out, all the stuff they created or configured is deleted. Unfortunately, this bug results in your entire Users directory being zapped by mistake. If you don’t have a backup, you’re screwed since there appears no other way to recover your data.

If anything, that problem is sufficient to call for fast action on Apple’s part, but you wouldn’t want them to repair the damage and create new problems. And that is the unfortunate side effect of rushed software development.

All well and good, but then there’s that claim that a recent 10.6.2 development build removed support for Intel’s Atom processors. Now you don’t need to remind me that there is no Mac using Intel’s low power and modestly performing chip, at least not yet. So what difference does it make?

Well, you see a fair number of those netbooks are powered by Atom. Of course, there is no Mac netback either, but a fair number of people are engaged in building Hacintoshes, slang for installing Mac OS X on a non-Apple computer. Indeed, Apple has an ongoing lawsuit with one company, Psystar, which has been selling not just computers preloaded with Mac OS X out kits to allow you to build your own Hacintosh.

Once news of the loss of Atom support in 10.6.2 was published, the expected complaints spread far and wide. But any way you look at it, none of these concerns seem at all resonable. After all, Apple is under no obligation to support components that they do not actually use in their own products. If a hobbyist wants to stretch the limits of Apple’s user license, they probably won’t face any legal consequences unless they try to make a commercial venture of it.

To make this soap opera even more fascinating, a followup story said that support for the Atom had returned in the next 10.6.2 build. So what’s at play here? Did Apple read the rumor blogs and realize they had made a dreadful mistake? Do they really want to allow hobbyists to become unofficial beta testers of Mac OS X on unapproved hardware? I mean after all this is a win-win situation for Apple. If they ultimately decide to add an Atom-based Mac, perhaps in a bid to make the ultimate cheap computer, they will have a fair indication whether customers will be satisfied with Snow Leopard’s performance.

That is, of course, whether this silly idea really makes any sense, and it doesn’t. If any of this is true, that support for an Intel processor that Apple doesn’t even use was somehow removed and then restored, it may well be that it all happened by accident, the consequence of other changes that were made during the ongoing development of 10.6.2.

It may even be that Apple never actually intended to really support Atom or an other processor they don’t use in a shipping product, but it just happened.

In the scheme of things, however, just where does any of this nonsense fit in with the real needs of Mac users who deserve a trouble-free operating system. It’s more important that, if a 10.6.2 is in our near future, Apple is addressing the most serious defects in Snow Leopard, and is not introducing too many new bugs as a consequence. That, too, is the unfortunate but expected side-effect of any software update, particularly when it involves an amazingly complex operating system, such as Mac OS X.

And in case you’re wondering, I have no interest whatever in buying one of those note-books, let alone installing Mac OS X on one. Sure I’d try one out as an experiment, but once my curiosity is satisfied, I’ll simply go on about my business.