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  • The 10.6.3 Release is a Whale of an Update!

    March 29th, 2010

    So after being predicted for weeks, Apple’s Mac OS 10.6.3 update appeared Monday, sporting loads and loads of fixes stuffed into a file that contains over 719MB of stuff. But, yes, if it shows up in your System Update preference pane, it’s apt to be somewhat smaller, so don’t think anything is wrong. Supposedly Apple tailors the upgrades to the needs of a specific model.

    The short list for 10.6.3 consists of the following:

  • improve the reliability and compatibility of QuickTime X
  • address compatibility issues with OpenGL-based applications
  • address an issue that causes background message colors to display incorrectly in Mail
  • resolve an issue that prevented files with the # or & characters in their names from opening in Rosetta applications
  • resolve an issue that prevented files from copying to Windows file servers
  • improve performance of Logic Pro 9 and Main Stage 2 when running in 64-bit mode
  • improve sleep and wake reliability when using Bonjour wake on demand
  • address a color issue in iMovie with HD content
  • improve printing reliability
  • resolve issues with recurring events in iCal when connected to an Exchange server
  • improve the reliability of 3rd party USB input devices
  • fix glowing, stuck, or dark pixels when viewing video from the iMac (Late 2009) built-in iSight camera
  • If you are at all curious about reading the entire list, you can consult it via this online document that describes some 49 fixer-uppers. However, don’t assume that’s everything. Over the next few weeks, as more and more power users download and install 10.6.3, they’ll come up with evidence of other changes, along with the full bill of particulars, which is the list of files actually replaced or added by the installation. What’s more, there are loads of security fixes, over 70 in fact, as documented in this message. If you haven’t migrated to Snow Leopard and you’re living with Leopard instead, you’ll be able to install a Security Update 2010-002 that contains all or most of the same security changes. In addition, there’s a version of the 10.6.3 update for the Server version of Snow Leopard.

    The regular changes are understandable and expected as something that arises in the natural course of events for any large personal computer operating system. I could say the same for the security fixes, but you just know that some of the fear merchants will use this as evidence that Mac OS X is heavily-laden with security leaks that will be exploited any day now. So beware and be afraid, be very afraid. Maybe you should look for the nearest cave.

    On the other hand, I think most of you know that, because a security hole is discovered on an Apple product doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be exploited anytime soon. Indeed, some of the changes don’t impact Mac OS X so much as the open source software that comes with it. Here, Apple gets consistently attacked by some members of the tech media because it doesn’t react quickly enough to such issues. Since Apple isn’t terribly forthcoming about such matters, though, I suppose we can just keep guessing.

    In any case, installing the update you need ought to be a pretty simple process. If Software Update doesn’t launch and present it to you, run it manually from System Preferences and be prepared to click Restart when the installation is finished. I fully expect that the vast, vast majority of Mac users can do that and have everything work just fine.

    On the other hand, Mac troubleshooting sites will detail all sorts of religious rituals that you should engage in first to ensure a successful update. It starts with doing a full backup — and I can go along with that — but adds lesser preventive maintenance measures that have never demonstrated much of any value. The most consistent suggestion is to use the Repair Disk Permissions feature from Disk Utility before and after the update. While it’s perfectly true that permissions-related issues might cause trouble with certain applications and documentfiles, it doesn’t happen often enough to warrant this time-waster.

    When it comes to permissions issues, I have had just one since I began to work with Mac OS X starting with the Public Beta in September 2000. It happened a few months ago, and the sole symptom was the inability to launch a newly installed copy of Parallels Desktop 5. Yes, I tried running Repair Disk Permissions, but that didn’t change anything. In the end, I had to use a command line process in Terminal suggested by Parallels support, which fixed permissions on a single file that Disk Utility wouldn’t have touched in the normal course of events. What’s more, I don’t know any Mac users among my small circle of friends and acquaintances who have had any difficulties involving incorrect file permissions, though I’m sure some of you might have on a rare occasion or two.

    My best advice is just to hold off installing 1o.6.3 for a few days to make sure there are no reports of serious defects. Someone, somewhere will always report a problem, but if the general trend is highly favorable, do your backup, run the installation and don’t fret. It should work out fine. In the rare situations where something isn’t working properly, seek out the Combo updater from Apple’s support site.

    And, yes, I installed 10.6.3 on Day One and it’s working just fine, thank you. Then again, I never encountered any of the problems that it fixes.

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