Third-party screensavers return to Snow Leopard

When Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6) was first released, I noted that many (maybe even all) third-party screensavers would no longer work in the new OS. This was because 10.6 required 64-bit compatible screensavers, whereas existing screensavers were 32 bit.

Unlike for the similar problem affecting third-party System Preferences panes (which can be solved by having System Preferences relaunch in 32-bit mode) or plug-ins for applications such as Safari (which has an Info window option to open in 32-bit mode), there is no 32-bit work-around for screensavers. As a result, after upgrading to 10.6, I abandoned all of my old screensavers and went instead with one of Apple’s defaults: Cosmos. Not only are the outer space images impressive but, if you have two monitors, a different image appears on each screen.

Fireflies
Content with this arrangement, I stopped checking on the status of my former screensavers. Recently wondering what had happened to them, I visited their Web sites the other day. Pleasant surprise. All four of the screensavers that I had used the most in 10.5 have now been updated to work in 10.6. These are: 3D Weather Globe, My Living Desktop (formerly Serene Saver Pro), Fireflies, and Marine Aquarium 3.

All the updates except Marine Aquarium 3 were free. As I had Marine Aquarium 2.6, there was a $10 charge for the upgrade. I decided to pass on this.

The only install problem I had with the three remaining upgrades occurred with Fireflies. The Desktop & Screen Saver pane refused to install it, claiming it was still not compatible with 10.6. Quitting and relaunching System Preferences solved this glitch.

I had a bigger problem running Living Desktop: although it overall worked in 10.6, it did not randomly select a scene each time (repeatedly staying with the same Serene Saver default movie). Oddly, even though I had downloaded and installed the supposed latest (4.55) version, if I clicked the Check Now button for “Automatically download scenes” in Living Desktop’s pane, I was taken to a special Web page claiming that I needed to spend $14.95 to upgrade to a newer version. I could find no link to this option from the site’s Home page. Weird.

Before paying for this mystery upgrade, I tried the vendor’s troubleshooting advice. It had no effect. So I gave the upgrade a try. This did give me access to 5 new scenes, as promised, but otherwise offered no newer version of the software. The problem with random selection remained. I have still not resolved this issue.

If like me, you’d given up on and forgotten about your old screensavers, now is a good time to revisit them. They may now work, or at least mostly work, in 10.6.

Of course, many people have given up on screensavers altogether, having their Macs shift directly to display sleep (or even computer sleep) after a period of inactivity — in order to save energy. I haven’t gone quite that far yet. My screensaver kicks in after 10 minutes of idle time. Display sleep takes over after another 10 minutes. This way, I get to enjoy the screensaver for a few minutes before the screen goes dark.

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