Snow Leopard will vastly shrink OS X bloat

According to Apple Insider, OS X's upcoming 1.06 update, Snow Leopard, will at least have one immediate benefit for all upgraders: it'll shrink the bloated baseline of your OS X install significantly.

The big shrink probably comes mostly from Jobs giving PowerPC support the hobnailed boot in 10.6. Without having to key relics of IBM bloat around, Mail.app will drop from 287MB to 91MB, iChat from 111MB to 52MB, and iCal from 89MB to 48MB. Even the tinier apps will shrink: Calculator will only be 2MB. At the end of the day, the applications folder will be a mere 25% the size it was in Leopard.

Apple, my gasping hard drive thanks you. It's already oozing bytes from both ends.

Update: Check out the comments. There's some fascinating stuff in there from people telling me I'm wrong, and what the real bloat from OS X comes from. Thanks, guys!

Five Undisclosed Features of Apple's Mac OS X Snow Leopard [Apple Insider via Gizmodo]

Join the Conversation

26 Comments

  1. The PowerPC binaries have little to do with it, the bulk of Mail came from the various localisations. The reductions also come from resolution independent vector graphics, as well as more shared resources.

  2. Please remember that these are RUMORS and/or NDA-violating leaks, and that the RUMOR is that Snow Leopard is about a YEAR away.

    “There’s many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip.”

    Also: there are shareware/freeware “localization removers” available. It’s possible they might cause a problem later, IF you decide to switch your UI into a language that you’ve removed.

    More or less the same warning for the “de-fatters” that remove unneeded binaries (ie. PPC-format binaries on your Intel box). — Might cause a problem someday, if you copy system pieces from machine to machine.

    Therefore, since you already MAKE BACKUPS, just test a restore to make sure your backups are valid, and then experiment away!

  3. The PowerPC binaries have little to do with it, the bulk of Mail came from the various localisations. The reductions also come from resolution independent vector graphics, as well as more shared resources.

    More shared resources sounds to me like more opportunities for things to break or become incompatible.

    Seriously, who cares about megabytes?! We have 500GB laptop hard drives now!

    We can afford to “waste transistors” (er, disk space). Human effort/time is the rate-limiting factor here, not storage.

    Why risk it?

  4. Having used OS X through version 10.2 on a machine which came with a 10 Gig hard drive, I have previously done a pretty thorough analysis of what’s taking up space. And the biggest space hogs weren’t the applications themselves (although those weren’t small), but the application support stuff. They have templates for iDVD projects, samples for GarageBand, templates for books you can order from iPhoto, and other similar things. Finding smaller ways to store some of that would also make a pretty huge difference. Although I will give them credit for moving the GarageBand samples to now be losslessly compressed to about half of their previous size.

    There’s another enormous space hog that you would probably not expect: Printer Drivers! On my old 10 Gig installation, I saved a whole gigabyte by removing printer drivers for printers I don’t have. On my newer machine, they take up 3.13 GB. I don’t understand this at all. GimpPrint covers hundreds of printers, produces good quality prints (sometimes better than manufacturer’s drivers) and takes 10MB. Why does it take 3.13 GB to achieve slightly wider coverage? I know that a lot of the printer drivers come from printer manufacturers, but this is ridiculous. If nothing else, why not store them in compressed form and decompress them only when an appropriate printer is found? Heck, why not just make the default to just not install them and then automatically download them as needed? You’d want a hard-drive install option for people who might find themselves with unknown printers and without internet access, but I know that I’d much rather have the space.

    I should actually note that the worst offender for printer drivers is Epson. Their drivers are 1.41 GB. Apple really ought to go talk to them and see if they can make their drivers a little smaller. I’m also not sure why HP weighs in at 688MB for theirs when their linux drivers (hplip) are 11MB.

    Currently, on my system, my /Applications is 5.15 GB and by /Library is 9.2 GB. About 3 GB of that is application support, 3 GB is printer drivers, and most of the rest is a half Gig apiece of: GarageBand Loops, Documentation, Dictionaries, and .pkg files. The application support part is mostly GarageBand, iPhoto, and iDVD.

    So if they’re really aiming to tackle bloat, they’ll shrink what’s in /Library.

  5. There’s another enormous space hog that you would probably not expect: Printer Drivers! On my old 10 Gig installation, I saved a whole gigabyte by removing printer drivers for printers I don’t have. On my newer machine, they take up 3.13 GB.

    So what; I’d rather have all the possible printer drivers installed so that it “just works” when I stumble upon a random printer on the road.

    Instead, I want Apple to focus on including X11 and Xcode by default. It’s so frustrating to not have the X11 SDK for an application, or to be lacking GCC for MacPorts.

  6. The printer drivers are larger than they are for Linux for a variety of reasons. One is that, as far as I can tell, every model has its own complete driver; another is that they are localized, which — as has been noted — can take up quite a bit of space.

    Concern about disk space used by an install matters, even in these days of terabyte drives, because of the increasing importance of flash storage. The Macbook Air, for example.

    Keith, the stuff you mentioned can all be optionally installed. However, as the system comes from the factory, it’s got everything installed. Including some sample applications and games, depending on the system. To get rid of everything, you’d really need to install from the restore media, and then select what you’d want. I don’t think they have a way to selectively remove things, other than drag them to the trash, post installation.

    I don’t know that dropping PPC will save a lot of space, since until they drop support for Rosetta-run applications, all the shared libraries will still need to be built PPC, in addition to the Intel architectures. I don’t know if Rosetta-spawned processes have to be PPC; I can easily imagine they do (in order to ensure that the parent and children have the same byte order, in case of IPC), which would mean that the applications couldn’t drop PPC either.

    And that’s assuming the rumours are right; has Apple stated that PPC is being dropped?

  7. The concept of 2MB being a “tinier app” is evidence that the efficiency issue goes far beyond dual-pathing.

  8. Wow. I thank all of you guys from the bottom of my heart, as does my brand new Mac Mini’s disk space (down to fifteen gigs free after re-assembling my crucial files).

  9. Concern about disk space used by an install matters, even in these days of terabyte drives, because of the increasing importance of flash storage. The Macbook Air, for example.

    The MacBook Air uses a 64GB SSD.
    So, no, saving literally a few gigabytes still doesn’t matter, even with current flash storage (which will only get larger and less expensive as time goes on).

    I’ll take bloated over brittle software any day.

    1. @zuzu: False dichotomy. Who says the Snow Leopard install can’t be smaller and more stable. That is the stated intention, after all.

  10. False dichotomy. Who says the Snow Leopard install can’t be smaller and more stable. That is the stated intention, after all.

    Ha! I knew as I wrote that someone might call it out as a false dichotomy.

    I’m speculating that relying on shared localization files, rather than each application managing its own localization (i.e. encapsulation), sounds likely to reduce fault-tolerance and increase interdependency side effects. Echoes of DLL hell.

    (Ah, apparently generalized as dependency hell.)

    So, I think this would be a legitimate dichotomy; sacrificing persistance/stability for storage.

    (I’d prefer to see Apple provide a means of freezing (ala “save state”) and unfreezing application statefulness, so that I can recover “unsaved” data when an application crashes by reinstating a previous timestamp of the application running. Supposedly the coredump function of any UNIX-like system can do this, but I’ve never seen it well documented.)

  11. @Joel: Some people want to “just plug in a new printer” and use it without fetching a bazillion MB of drivers over the supposedly “broad” band. Since there are a LOT of printers (another 30 every month), that means installing a lot of what some would call “useless bloat.” (Even if it’s compressed 3:1, that’s still a LOT of disk space.)

    Also, sure, computers have LOTS of storage, but people are now downloading entire ANIME SERIES (10 GB-ish).

    You can’t satisfy both camps at the same time. Up until now, Apple has been catering more to the “just works, who cares how much disk space” camp, and the shareware authors have been catering to the “get rid of bloat” camp.

    So if you hate bloat, get some shareware, and we’ll see what’s in The Next Cat.

  12. Also, sure, computers have LOTS of storage, but people are now downloading entire ANIME SERIES (10 GB-ish).

    Again, there are those aforementioned 500GB 2.5″ hard drives, or Network Attached Storage (NAS). Does it make sense to expend the effort, time, and inconvenience of removing 3GB of printer drivers just to store maybe 1.5 hours of HD video compressed with H.264/AVC?

    So if you hate bloat, get some shareware, and we’ll see what’s in The Next Cat.

    I like this compromise. What I don’t like is default bloat removal causing other problems, and that X11 & Xcode aren’t installed by default.

  13. My wife has an iBook. It’s only a few years old. She can’t upgrade from 10.3 because later versions of OS X don’t fit. Here’s hoping that maybe 10.6 will..

  14. The printer drivers and languages are by far the biggest waste of space.

    I had a good laugh when i discovered that the reason you never need drivers for any printer in OSX is because the OS comes pre-installed with 2 gigs of printer drivers!

  15. My wife has an iBook. It’s only a few years old. She can’t upgrade from 10.3 because later versions of OS X don’t fit. Here’s hoping that maybe 10.6 will.

    Or, pay $110 for a 250GB internal hard drive upgrade; which is less than the cost of an OSX upgrade.

    (Western Digital Scorpio WD2500BEVE 250GB 5400 RPM 8MB Cache ATA-6 2.5″ 9.5mm Notebook Hard Drive)

  16. My wife has an iBook. It’s only a few years old. She can’t upgrade from 10.3 because later versions of OS X don’t fit. Here’s hoping that maybe 10.6 will..

    It wont work. 10.6 will not support PPC processors, like the one in your wife’s iBook. But a hard drive upgrade is a good idea. Install the maximum amount of RAM and she should be happy for a while.

  17. Seriously, who cares about megabytes?! We have 500GB laptop hard drives now!

    My MacBook has an 80GB hard disk. I have no external storage, and 2GB free space. Shaving off 100MB is significant for me.

  18. haineux, you would really rather install 30 new printer drivers every month than downloading *one* in the incredibly rare instance of you actually getting a new printer?

  19. I don’t care so much about how much disk space the apps are using. I care about their memory footprints. I’m thinking an app with less on disk is also going to put less in memory, though, of course, that’s not necessarily true. A moot point for me at the moment, since my newest machine is a G5 tower, but something to keep an eye on; if it turns out 10.6 really is all that and a bag of chips, I’ll be watching Craigslist for Intel Macs.

  20. My MacBook has an 80GB hard disk. I have no external storage, and 2GB free space. Shaving off 100MB is significant for me.

    First of all, I’m both amused and frustrated at how OSX users are “trained” to keep 2GB of disk space “free” so that their swapfile can grow to fill it. Apple could just default OSX to using a dedicated swap partition (as Linux does), so that “free space” actually meant free space, and not “space I keep around because the swapfile might silently want to use it at unpredictable times”.

    Secondly, it sounds like you need to grow the pie and install a bigger hard drive, rather than try to reclaim space from obscure locations. $70 for 160GB or $110 for 250GB. Then put your old 80GB drive in a Firewire+USB enclosure for about $30 and you’ll have a spare drive for data (or backup booting) too.

    I don’t care so much about how much disk space the apps are using. I care about their memory footprints. I’m thinking an app with less on disk is also going to put less in memory, though, of course, that’s not necessarily true.

    Memory footprints aren’t really the problem so much as the continued ceiling of only 4GB of RAM in Apple laptop hardware. We could really use a ceiling closer to 8GB or 16GB, if only memory manufacturers would produce 4GB SO-DIMMs. However, it seems that the Windows x64, OSX, and Linux users don’t constitute enough of a combined market to convince memory manufacturers to offer products for addressing greater than 2^32.

  21. Instead, I want Apple to focus on including X11 and Xcode by default. It’s so frustrating to not have the X11 SDK for an application, or to be lacking GCC for MacPorts.

    …because the average Mac user is exactly like Zuzu, or should be! If you use iLife, you use GCC! Am I right?

  22. …because the average Mac user is exactly like Zuzu, or should be! If you use iLife, you use GCC! Am I right?

    Rather, I think of it like a condom: better to have one and not need it, than need it and not have one.

  23. Instead, I want Apple to focus on including X11 and Xcode by default. It’s so frustrating to not have the X11 SDK for an application, or to be lacking GCC for MacPorts.

    Leopard does include X11 by default.

    I understand your desire to have XCode/GCC/X11 SDK in there too…your average MacBook Air may use the X11 runtime, but is wasting 2% of their limited storage on devtools a wise move? Printer drivers on the other hand are out of control, I hope Snow Leopard supports 95% of printers with GNUPrint/PostScript/PCL and make those gigs of proprietary drivers optional or net-based install-on-demand.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *