Li'l orphan Apps

One of the most heavily-touted features of Snow Leopard was its ability to save you some installation space compared to a Leopard install. Now, it's well known that Apple's used roughly 50% truth and 50% marketing here, what with Snow Leopard's insistence on a decimal rather than binary interpretation of what a megabyte actually is to calculate the new drive size. I was still rather pleased to discover that a MacBook that had previously been struggling along with 2-3GB free suddenly had 15GB free. That can't all be new fancy Apple marketing mathematics, surely?

It's human nature to want more and, inspired by all this free space, I tried to work out where else I could find a bit more free space to play with. At the same time, I was curious about which of my already installed programs actually would work under Snow Leopard, especially as it's apparently been a "bungled" launch. Not so much in my experience, but I do know people who have had problems.

So I set about culling my applications folder. So far, I've only found one program that won't work, and annoyingly it is one that I use pretty often: the free WiFi signal strength meter program iStumbler. For whatever reason, iStumbler under Snow Leopard won't view any networks, and it seems that competing wireless signal strength monitors all have the same issue. Presumably Apple's done something funky with the way Snow Leopard reports WiFi signal strength compared to the way Leopard used to do it. Given that the last update to iStumbler was way back when Leopard first launched, I'm not holding my breath for an update, so if anyone does know of a good WiFi signal strength utility that works under Snow Leopard, I'm all ears.

iStumbler was the only major application I had that didn't work, but what really struck me was how many other applications and utilities I had on my MacBook that I really didn't need. I had Parallels, Sous Chef, Multiwinia, OpenOffice.Org and about a dozen other programs that were basically just taking up space. That's not to say they were no good or didn't work — just that I wasn't personally using them much, if at all.

Some dragging, dropping and the judicious use of AppTrap and hey presto — instant extra 10GB. Or is it 8GB in the non-binary adjusted world? It's certainly easy to become confused as to which measurement is actually "correct".

With the wealth of applications available for OS X it's all too easy to let little orphaned applications build up like this. Oddly, it's one thing I was rather more immune to when I was a Windows user, and that's largely thanks to the Add/Remove Programs utility. I'd tend to head in there to delete a specific space-hogging application (often a game) and spot my orphans, at which point they could be safely culled.

(Note to self: All this talk of culling orphans would make a great movie, the out-of-copyright works of Charles Dickens be damned!)

Anyway, Apple makes it easier to remove applications, but in doing so without the use of a list-based interface, it was a whole lot less likely that I'd do so on a regular basis. Possibly that's just the way my brain works on the matter.

Still, as cluttered as my OS X installation had become, it's got nothing on the state of the iPhone. I've currently got over 90 apps installed on the wee beastie, and I'm sure some judicious culling could cut that number in half. Again, most of them are fine applications, but I either only need them once in a blue moon, or they've been outmoded by a newer application that covers their functionality. Then again, some of them are Kitty!. I can probably lose Kitty! if I'm being honest. Or even just if I'm being sane.

I have been a little more diligent with my iPhone's App orphans, especially as in the pre-OS 3.0 days, it wasn't easy to search through huge numbers of Apps. Still, my iTunes library doesn't care about that, and it rather more acutely reveals the size of my orphaned Apps problem. While my iPhone might only report 90-odd Apps, iTunes tells me I've got an equal parts impressive and scary 176 apps downloaded, just waiting to head home to any future systems.

How often do you cull excess Mac or iPhone Apps? Should I stop collecting iPhone Apps as though they were endangered species? Discuss it with me at MacTheForum!

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