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Snow Leopard System Preferences: System

There are many new features and tweaks in Snow Leopard and this is the fourth of a four-part look at the changes that have been made to System Preferences. Go to the Apple menu in the top left corner of the screen and select System Preferences. The System Preferences is where you can configure the look and feel, options and settings for OS X. It is divided into four sections - Personal, Hardware, Internet & Wireless, and System. (You may have a fifth section for other applications that you install yourself, but we're just looking at OS X here.)

In this part the focus is on the items in the System section.


There have been no changes to Accounts in System Preferences apart from a few minor changes to the wording of some descriptions.


Date & Time

There are no changes to the Date & Time tab in the Date & Time preference pane, but there is an extra option on the Time Zone tab to automatically set the time zone by working out your current location. This is great if you move around with a MacBook, say, and regularly cross time zones. When you switch on your Mac it will automatically set the clock to the correct local time.

This is a nice idea, but it hasn't been implimented well and it could be a lot better. When your Mac is connection to the internet it is assigned an IP address and you connect through an ISP using a well known network. It is therefore possible to work out where in the world you are located to around 50 miles or so and this would be sufficient to work out your time zone.

Unfortunately, Snow Leopard doesn't use this system. Instead you must have WiFi enabled and you must be within range of a WiFi access point that is known to the system. If you have a wired connection and AirPort is turned off then Snow Leopard won't know where you are, and if you aren't near a known access point then Snow Leopard won't know where you are. In Manchester (probably the UK's second biggest city), and connected to a BT (probably the biggest UK internet provider) run WiFi hotspot, Snow Leopard hadn't a clue where in the world I was. You might have better luck.

Apple, by all means use known WiFi hotspots, but you also need to fall back on geographic location services that are commonly used on the Web, such as for targeted advertising.

Another change to the Date & Time preference pane can be found on the Clock tab. There are now two date options and you can show the day of the week and/or show the date. It's unlikely that you won't know what day of the week it is, but it's really useful having the current date next to the time in the menu bar and it saves having to click the clock to find out.

Parental Controls

Parental Controls initially looks the same, but on closer inpsection you'll see a small change that is interesting. Select a user and configure the settings. On the Content tab you will see that there is a Hide profanity in Dictionary option. Underneath the text description has been changed and it now not only limits access to profanity in the Mac OS X Dictionary, but to "Sources such as dictionaries, thesauruses and Wikipedia." So it now extends to online sources and especially Wikipedia, which is interesting. Of course, it won't stop a determined teenager from accessing inappropriate content, but it is a useful option nevertheless.

Software Update

There have not been any changes to Software Update in System Preferences.



There have been no changes to Speech in the System Preferences and everything is exactly the same as with Leopard.


Startup Disk

There have been no changes to Startup Disk in the System Preferences and everything is exactly the same as with Leopard.


Time Machine

There have been no changes to Startup Disk in the System Preferences and everything is exactly the same as with Leopard. However, Time Machine has received some tweaks below the surface and you should find that it is faster than it was in Leopard.


Universal Access

When we were looking at the Trackpad preference pane it was noted that the option to ignore the trackpad when a mouse is plugged in had been removed. Moved is a better description and you will now find this option on the Mouse & Trackpad tab of the Universal Access pane. Is this a more logical location for it, or should track pad options be in the Trackpad preference pane?

Another change to Universal Access can be seen on the Hearing tab and there is now an option to play stereo audio as mono.

Part 1: System Preferences - Personal section
Part 2: System Preferences - Hardware section
Part 3: System Preferences - Internet & Wireless section
Part 4: System Preferences - System section

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