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Tiny Mac OS X 10.6.1 Update Fixes Some Bugs

Hewing to the traditional two-week lag between a major release of Mac OS X and the first bug-fix update, Apple has now released Mac OS X 10.6.1. The quick release shouldn't be surprising: software engineers start working on .1 releases of software as much as four to eight weeks before a .0 release ships.

Oddly, the release is tiny - only 9.8 MB via Software Update on some Macs and about 70 MB on others. The version Apple posted on the Support Downloads site weighs in at 71.47 MB, a fraction of what we've become used to with updates to Mac OS X.

Network administrators also get to join in the fun with the release of Mac OS X Server 10.6.1 Update, a 71.57 MB download that appears to address the same issues covered below as well as offering improved reliability of services using Grand Central Dispatch and fixing a problem with duplicate serial number alerts on servers with multiple network interfaces.

We suppose it's possible that architectural changes to Snow Leopard allow Apple to ship much smaller updates, but it seems more likely that Mac OS X 10.6.1 was pushed out quickly to address only a small number of particularly egregious bugs.

We're pleased that Apple continues to provide some useful detail about software updates, a change that kicked in several months ago. Now, we'd like to encourage them to hire short-story writers and humorists to flesh out some of the more obscure bullet points. (We've made a pass ourselves.)

The 10.6.1 release notes are brief, calling out only nine specific improvements in a KnowledgeBase article:

  • Improves compatibility with some Sierra Wireless 3G modems. These modems are used for mobile broadband connections, and it's not surprising that the initial version of Snow Leopard had problems with them. "I gazed across the room, thick from the smoke of too many netbook batteries dying smoldering deaths. The light on her USB dongle was blinking. 'It's...Snow Leopard,' she said. I took a deep breath. 'I have the answer,' I whispered. 'Download 10.6.1.'"
  • Addresses an issue in which some printer drivers might not appear properly in the Add Printer browser. This is a broad statement, and it's not clear what was specifically changed. We've received a number of complaints about some printers not being supported in Snow Leopard. One reader escalated a support call to HP through multiple levels until someone finally told him that the 10.5.3 drivers for his HP Color LaserJet 2600n would work in Snow Leopard, even though the printer was not listed as being compatible with Snow Leopard. Since most of the industry expected Snow Leopard to ship at the end of September, anecdotal reports indicate that printer manufacturers especially seemed unprepared for the release. (We threw in the towel and reverted to ASCII art and dot-matrix printing during the last two weeks.)
  • Addresses an issue that might cause DVD playback to stop unexpectedly. People still watch movies on DVD when it's so much easier (and quieter - no drive noises!) to rip the files to hard disk and watch from there?
  • Addresses an issue that might make it difficult to remove an item from the Dock. We suspect this had to do with someone spilling Mountain Dew in the source code.
  • Resolves an issue in which the Command-Option-T keyboard shortcut would sometimes bring up the special characters menu in applications such as Mail and TextEdit. Also, pressing Command-Shift-Option-Left arrow while dancing no longer causes milk to come out of our noses.
  • Addresses instances in which auto account setup in Mail might not work. This is likely related to the next bullet point, or it could have been Mail just being snarky. "Mail won't set up right / A thousand notes are unsent / Snow Leopard Mail FAIL."
  • Resolves issues when sending mail with certain SMTP servers (see "Apple Mail Sending Issues in Snow Leopard," 2009-09-03). Apple changed the order in which Mail tried to connect to outbound SMTP mail servers; Apple described this in a KnowledgeBase article as changing the order in which ports are tried. The article provided some help, but this update should resolve the problem for anyone who left the settings as they were, or who upgrades to Snow Leopard from now on. (The technical issue: Some mail servers use port 587 for authenticated outbound connections, and port 25 doesn't support authentication. If Mail tried to communicate with port 25, authentication would fail, and messages would not be sent. In other words, someone in the mailroom was paying more attention to Facebook than to distributing mailbox keys.)
  • Addresses an issue in which Motion 4 could become unresponsive, a bug that was fixed by Apple's special irony SWAT team. [Editor's note: Tonya gets 100 points for correct use of the word irony.]
  • Includes an update to the Adobe Flash Player plug-in version (The 10.6.0 installer installed an earlier version of Flash Player.) Various earlier versions of Flash Player have exploitable flaws, and Snow Leopard overwrote user-installed updates of newer versions. This update gets everyone back into parity. (For more about Flash Player and 10.6.0, read John Gruber's rundown at Daring Fireball.) As Gruber wrote in a followup, "Hard to believe we survived without it."

That said, there are clearly other changes. In our use of 10.6.1, we've already found that a number of minor inconveniences have been removed:

  • The "black screen" problem with screen sharing that appeared for some users and not others appears to be solved on some systems. With four remote systems that previously displayed a black screen, and required "jiggling" the View menu to get an image, the remote screen appeared immediately or with a 1-second delay. On another computer, the problem remained. (See "Solve Snow Leopard's Screen Sharing Bug," 2009-09-07.)
  • In iChat, we found that at least a couple of us couldn't send files back and forth. With 10.6.1, that problem has gone away. Good to know that we can let the carrier pigeons take a break after pressing them into service under 10.6.0.

On the downside, some bugs remain, including this one:

  • Preview's handling of multi-line URLs is still broken (see "Two-Line URLs Broken in Snow Leopard's Preview," 2009-09-01). In fact, since we published that article, we've learned that the problem is worse than previously realized. There are some URL formats, the permanent links to TidBITS articles included, that Preview doesn't recognize. So, if you saw http://db.tidbits.com/article/10519 in a PDF (one that has a proper PDF link box on top of the URL), clicking any part of the URL before "article/" would take you to http://db.tidbits.com/article/, which isn't a valid page on our site. Clicking the article number, because Preview doesn't recognize it as part of the URL and thus honors the PDF link box, works properly. Given how much the Take Control ebooks rely on URLs working, we can't find anything amusing to say about this bug.

And at least one new bug was introduced (and reported):

  • For Glenn, the 10.6.1 updater wiped out nearly all his login items, including those set automatically by software that adds daemons or agent startup scripts and those he had added manually. Other TidBITS staffers did not experience this problem.

All in all, we recommend that you take a screenshot of the Login Items view for your user account before you install the update. That way, if your login items are toasted, you'll at least remember what they were. (If you can't recall your screenshot keyboard shortcut, check the Keyboard Shortcuts view in the Keyboard system preference pane. In Snow Leopard, your screenshots are no longer named "Picture 1," "Picture 2," etc.; instead look for a file on your Desktop called "Screen shot 2009...".) Once your screenshot is in place, you too can share in the spills and thrills of the Mac OS X 10.6.1 update.


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Comments about Tiny Mac OS X 10.6.1 Update Fixes Some Bugs
(Comments are closed.)

Jeffrey Puritz  2009-09-10 17:41
But it didnt fix the "change in behavior" in itunes 9. i used to be able to click the green button to switch to the mini window mode (after resizing once). now mini mode is only available via the menu.. clicking the green basically now does nothing...
hope they change this back.
Guess we'll need to use Shift-Command-M in iTunes 9.
...'cause the green button now reverts to normal OS X behaviour, which always appears to me to be 'change the size of the window to some other random size!' :)
peter lane  2009-09-10 18:45
option click the green button does the trick
Novell afp://IP/ still does not work. Note - I am told that SMB://IP/ works but of course your IT staff must have that enabled on your Novell system (ours doesn't).

With rapid updates by Scott et al. Mail Act-On and MailTags work with a few lingering problems.
Chris Schram  2009-09-11 01:02
Background: As some of you may already know, a number of users are reporting that their FireWire 400 disc burners are failing to operate properly under Snow Leopard (10.6.x), though they still work flawlessly under Leopard (10.5.x). I, myself have such a problem with the external drive on my iMac, but when I tried to get some "support" from Apple Tech Support, I was informed that Snow Leopard no longer supports FireWire 400.

Since my FireWire 400 Time Machine drive still works just fine, I found this answer to be a bit, shall we say, oversimplified. Others chimed in that the tech support person didn't have a clue what he was talking about.

Fast forward to today: Hoping that this annoying bug had been squashed in one of those unspecified "compatibility" updates, I installed the Mac OS X 10.6.1 update shortly after it came out. The short answer is: no, they didn't fix the bug, but they may have made it worse. Mostly, Snow Leopard can see the FireWire interface, but can't see anything in the drive within. Sometimes a disc appears on my Desktop, but any application that tries to access it "beachballs."

I'm going to try to get this burner operational by connecting to a USB Universal Drive Adaptor. If that works I'll see if I can find a proper enclosure that's Snow Leopard certified.

I'm posting this message to comp.sys.mac.system, Apple Feedback and my user group blog . I'm also forwarding a copy to Joe Kissell, author of Take Control of Upgrading to Snow Leopard, whom I've been keeping in the loop regarding this problem.
Nick Morris  2009-09-11 03:30
10.6.1 also seems to fix an iCal problem that was preventing calendars that contained all-day events being viewed once published on MobileMe.
Castaicmac  2009-09-11 13:58
SpellCatcher (SC) 10.3.2 seems to lose its former functionality in Snow Leopard (SL). I had hoped that I could defeat the "dim the desktop" effect that occurs when I try to use SC in SL making it useless--unless someone knows the work-around.
Castaicmac  2009-09-11 14:07
Well, holding control key down as I select SC on the dock stops the dimming and gives me the familiar menu options, BUT, no window then opens to help with spell check or look up.
I don't know about SC, but automatic spell checking and correction is build in to Snow Leopard.
Castaicmac  2009-09-14 18:38
Thanks. I did see some of that via Edit>Spelling and Grammar>Check Document Now.

I'm just so used to SC performance, I'm not certain why we need to darken the finder when we click on a dock icon. Seems like a form vs function thing. Perhaps SC developer will issue update as I understand a lot of them were caught by surprise at the timing of Snow Leopard release.
The finder does not darken in SL when you click on the dock icons. Exposť is activated if you click AND HOLD on a dock icon. I think your installation of Spell Catcher is messing things up.

As a general hint, when you install a major OS update, hold off on reinstalling all your utilities if possible, this way you know what the OS is like and can better see when it is something else that is causing undesired behavior.
Castaicmac  2009-09-15 09:10
Sorry, I should have stated "Click and Hold" as that is the way SC operates after one selects a word or section.
Thanks for your replies and sage advice this thread. I'll come back with any progress report worth sharing as I try some work-arounds. Others are having issues with SC and SL. I'll see how they do.

The Rainmaker Research site has a temporary solution involving users of a 64 bit app to run it as a 32 bit app AND, they are re-writing SC to be 64 bit compliant with Apple's total move to 64 bit.

I can use the SL spell check for now an wait for the upgrade of SC. Thanks again.
WetcoastBob  2009-09-12 12:32
I have noticed that it is R.I.P. for Image Correction tools in Preview.

A very brutal approach to image correction but I have found it useful from time to time.

Sorry to see it go
Glenn Fleishman  2009-09-12 16:51
I can't find anyone else who has had startup items wiped out. It happened on two of three updated systems.
Just lucky? I've installed 10.6.1 on several machines.. (counts%u2026 8 I guess) and none had this happen.

Snow Leopard has been largely painless for me; some printer issues with older printers and a few times a machine has gone 'weird' and needed to be rebooted. And a few things just don't work (most menu items are 32 bit and will not run, for example). The only thing I am really missing is that none of my lyrics widgets seems to work at all anymore. Sigh.
Craig Barker  2009-09-15 09:15
My startup items were wiped out, but I haven't installed 10.6.1 yet... so I don't think it is that install. I have no idea what did it. I rarely log out so I just noticed it several days after installing 10.6.
Oh yeah, that happened to me on my MacPro after installing 10.6, but I was still in the process of setting stuff up, so I figured I'd forgotten to mark the apps to open at startup. Still, i doubted I'd forgotten to mark ALL of them. Long before 10.6.1
Charlie  An apple icon for a TidBITS Benefactor 2009-09-13 08:14
Prior to installing the 10.6.1 update I was experiencing frequent Safari crashes when I printed a webpage as a PDF. Following the update, no crashes. Probably just a coincidence but maybe some extra fairy dust fell on the naughty bits that were causing my problem.
As an aside, one thing to note is that application crashes and recoveries in Snow Leopard are very fast and though they are always annoying, don't slow you down as much as they did in Leopard :)
My La Cie Big Disk Firewire 800 HD won't mount anymore since the 10.6.1 upgrade
works fine with usb2.0 though
any help would be appreciated!!
Glenn Fleishman  2009-09-15 09:55
Have you contacted La Cie? We typically are the court of last resort: if you haven't gotten a response from the company that makes the hardware, that's when it's time to call for help (and to explain what help or lack thereof you've already received).
well it appears that my firewire card reader won't work as well, so id say it has nothing to do with la cie
the problem appeared right after the 10.6.1 update so it's a software problem...
I found a fix for this problem here:
In my case, the Firewire extension in the system library has been disabled by the 10.6.1 update
Hope this can help.
Bertrand Morin  2009-09-15 10:54
Same here (as posted elsewhere) with my Pro Drive (1TB) from Simple Tech.Both USB2 and FW400 are OK, but not FW800! Could it be the FireWire Port on the iMac?