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Snow Leopard improves Boot Camp, Exchange, Cisco VPN

Monday, August 31, 2009

For cross-platform users, Apple's Friday release of Snow Leopard includes some new users features, despite being a touted as an under-the-hood upgrade. Improvements include a better Boot Camp for booting a Mac with Windows, better Exchange Server compatibility, and improved VPN. Mac OS X 10.6 also includes "native support" for Cisco IPsec VPN connections. Snow Leopard Server, also released on Friday, offers a number of new features for Mac clients, though little for Windows clients.

Better Boot Camp drivers for trackpad, video

Snow Leopard's Boot Camp 3.0 adds read-only support for access to the Mac partition from within Windows, enabling Windows users to copy files to the Boot Camp partition, but not the other way around. Previous versions of Boot Camp did not provide any access to the Mac partition. (Mediafour's MacDrive does provide read-write HFS drivers for Windows.)

Boot Camp 3.0 also improves Windows drivers, particularly for trackpads in Mac notebooks. You can now use tap-to-click for a mouse click within Windows. The new drivers are also reported to fix the problem of conflict between the trackpad Windows driver and the NVIDIA graphics driver that could cause crashes with Windows video applications. (If you can verify or refute this fix )

Windows users can now control how an Apple Cinema Display power button functions. You can also disable the brightness controls. These functions are included in the Boot Camp control panel. There is also a new command-line feature that enables a system administrator to remotely change the startup disk setting for a Mac running Windows.

Exchange compatibility

Mac OS X 10.6 also adds access to Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 directly from Mail, iCal, and Address Book. In Mail, users can do a Spotlight search on Exchange data, and accept or decline meeting invitation. Mail also lets users use Mac OS X QuickLook to preview Office documents that are attachments to email messages -- even if the user doesn't have Office installed on the Mac.

Address Book displays a list of Exchange users and groups from the global address lists (GALs) next to personal contacts. Another way to schedule a meeting is to drag an Exchange contact folder from Address Book to iCal.

You can schedule and accept meetings in iCal as well as check the availability of people and rooms. In a new iCal event, users can go to the Location field and search the GAL for a meeting room. If the time slot is taken, iCal will search Exchange for the next available time and propose it. iCal users can also send and receive invitations via email as .ics attachments.

(See our previous coverage of Snow Leopard's Exchange features.)

Snow Leopard Server

Apple also released Mac OS X 10.6 Server on Friday. While three are number of new and improved services for Mac clients, including Address Book Server, iCal Server 2, and Spotlight Server, there's not a lot of improvement for Windows clients.

If you want to administer Snow Leopard Server from another Mac, you will need a Mac running the Snow Leoaprd client. Server Admin Tools 10.6 is required for Snow Leopard Server don't run on Leopard clients. Server Admin Tools 10.6 can also administer Leopard Server.

We'd like to hear from you about Snow Leopard and cross-platform features such as file sharing, Boot Camp, Exchange compatibility, and VPN connections. if you think Mac OS X 10.6 fixes some old problems or causes some new ones.

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