Bugs Fixed and Created

While Tiger is mostly a feature release of OS X, there are a handful of bugs that are fixed, but unfortunately, also created with the updated OS. 

In my review of the mobile experience of Panther, I complained about how I could never get the Keychain manager to remember my user names and passwords when connecting to any of my Windows shares.  It turns out that as long as I sent the password as plain text in the connection request, I'd never get asked for a user name and password again - but that's obviously not the most desirable solution. 

In Tiger, the password problem is thankfully fixed - I can connect to any of my Windows shares without having to keep on reminding the Keychain manager to remember my user name and password.

Unfortunately, that bug fix comes at the price of other multiple new bugs created.  More than anything, Tiger appears to have been rushed during its final stages.  Since I had installed and used on a regular basis just about every build of Tiger after the initial release to ADC members, I had a front row seat to watch Tiger improve and mature.  And while I steadily saw performance improvements as the builds progressed, I definitely didn't see a single build that was released to developers that was 100% bug free - which definitely worried me.  I tried to discount my fears by saying that I had never played with any Apple beta OSes and maybe this was just how things worked, but I kept on coming back to the same worry - with no public beta, and if the bugs aren't getting fixed in the developer release, then who's there to tell Apple when stuff isn't working right in Tiger?

Further indication of Tiger's hurried release is the fact that Quartz 2D Extreme, the complete handling of UI rendering and compositing by the GPU, is not enabled in the release version of OS X Tiger.  As such, users of Quartz 2D Extreme supported GPUs gain no performance benefits in Tiger as the CPU is still left to handle all UI rendering and the GPU handles all compositing after the CPU renders the interfaces to textures in AGP memory.  The only benefit modern day GPUs offer in Tiger (other than their improved performance in 3D applications) is that there are certain visual effects that are only enabled if you have a GPU that supports Tiger's Core Image.  For example, when dropping a widget onto the Dashboard, you get a very nice ripply-wave effect on GPUs that support Core Image; and on those that don't, there's no effect.  But from a performance standpoint, there's no benefit to either ATI's Radeon X800 XT Mac Edition or NVIDIA's GeForce 6800 Ultra DDL. 

Although it's most definitely an issue related to meeting Tiger's 1H'05 release schedule, I've always thought that Quartz 2D Extreme was best paired with PCI Express.  Given that Quartz 2D Extreme requires that all UI elements are rendered by the GPU, including every last character that appears on the screen, you can expect the size of your local frame buffer to play quite a major role in performance.  Obviously, not everything will be stored locally to the GPU, and thus, there will be times when the GPU is rendering or compositing data that is located within system memory, which at this stage means that the GPU has to go over a very slow AGP 8X bus (2.1GB/s) to get to the data that it needs.  With PCI Express, the GPU to system memory bandwidth is significantly increased, which has enabled technologies such as NVIDIA's Turbo Cache to gain a foothold, where things like AGP GART could not.  Although it's unthinkable that Apple would revise Quartz 2D Extreme to be a PCI Express-only technology, the fact of the matter is that it should be much better paired with a PCI Express based G5. 

Tiger also seems rushed in the sense that it's not a drastic shift to 64-bit computing; Tiger adds the ability for individual processes to have access to more than 4GB of memory.  As can be expected, any process using the 64-bit memory space can only talk to 64-bit libraries, which at present, doesn't include any UI libraries.  The end result is that you can have a 64-bit process, but it has to talk to a 32-bit UI process.  There are even more limitations beyond this, but the basic impression that I get from Tiger is that Apple is taking a much more transitional approach to the move to a full 64-bit OS than Microsoft.  In fact, if it weren't for AMD, I wouldn't be too surprised if Microsoft's move to 64-bit would be much more similar to Apple's.  The reality of the situation is that for the majority of users, 64-bit memory addressability isn't going to be a necessity for another few years still.  Instead of focusing a lot of attention on 64-bit today, Apple appears to be making a transition towards the goal of making the Mac OS a full 64-bit OS, but with Tiger, we are far from there yet.  Next week, you will be able to read my impressions of Windows XP x64 Edition, and from my experience with that, desktop users aren't missing anything from Tiger, being somewhat limited in its "64-bitness". 

So, what are these bugs to which I keep alluding in Tiger?  For starters, applications do crash in Tiger (which happened in Panther as well), but now, Tiger allows you to "Reopen" the application after telling you that it's crashed - how nice of it, right?  Well, the problem is that occasionally, after re-opening an application that just crashed, Tiger will pop up a window and ask you if you want to keep the new settings that have been applied for the application that you're using.  What this appears to do is tell the application to revert to its default settings, but the question clearly doesn't word it like that.  The bug thickens, however; sometimes clicking "yes" or "no" is not sufficient enough, and more and more copies of the dialog box will appear.  This is a problem that I started noticing in some of the later ADC betas, but I figured it would just get fixed on its own. While it doesn't happen nearly as much as it used to, it definitely does happen even in the final build of Tiger.  The only solution to the problem is to hit Cmd + Q to quit out of the application after you've quickly hit "yes" or "no" a bunch of times to clear the stack of dialog boxes.  It's annoying, but luckily, I haven't had it happen to me too often.

Then, there's a new bug with Dock magnification that wasn't present in Panther.  I'll talk about this one in greater detail in the section on what's new in Finder.  And there are some minor bugs related to Dashboard and some of its individual widgets that I'll also go over later in the article.

Tiger is a lot more polished than it was during any stage of the beta program, but I would hardly call it a finished product ready for retail release.  One aspect of the entire Mac OS X experience has been that everything just seems to work the way it should, but with a buggy OS (regardless of how minor many of the bugs are), that experience is challenged.  Given the amount of time that Apple invested in touting not only Tiger's 1H'05 release date, but taunting Microsoft's delays with Longhorn, it's not surprising that aspects of Tiger appear rushed.  When I first heard rumors that OS X 10.4.1 was being worked on immediately after releasing Tiger to manufacturing, I feared that this may happen. The good news is that hopefully, 10.4.1 will address these issues and hopefully with the team hard at work at it, it will be out sooner rather than later.  But waiting for a patch to an OS before calling it final is usually something that we do in the Windows world, not something that Apple needs to be copying.

Installing Tiger Tiger: The Overprotective Parent?
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  • aliasfox - Monday, May 02, 2005 - link

    #31

    What you're forgetting is that in 1995-6, Apple wasn't losing money, it was hemorraging money. In 1995-96, Apple was irrelevant in regards to innovation of any sort. In 1995-96, Apple was selling PowerBooks with batteries (made by Sony, no less) that caught fire. When Jobs returned to Apple in '97, Apple's stock price hovered in the low teens.

    It doesn't matter all that much that Apple's marketshare hasn't grown as fast as the rest of the market (and yes, it is growing- Apple recorded most Mac sales in one quarter last month), in absolute numbers, it's not shrinking. And Apple is making money, which is more than Gateway (who has a bigger marketshare than Apple) can say.

    The goal of any company is to make money, regardless of size. In this respect, Jobs has succeeded. It doesn't matter if it was the Reality Distortion Field or if it was amazing marketing or if it was quality products that got Apple there.
    Reply
  • downtowncb - Monday, May 02, 2005 - link

    #43 "The bottom line is that [recoding Mac OS software for x86] will not be a big issue for the majority of developers, as you had originally argued."

    My original argument (#34) said nothing about Apple switching to x86; you must mean #39 by melgross.

    I simply meant to state that Apple hardware and software work together to increase Apple's bottom line. Sorry if that was unclear.
    Reply
  • msva124 - Monday, May 02, 2005 - link

    >If you want an example of an obscure motherboard, I believe that the TMC Ti5tv qualifies but perhaps not.

    How does the TMC Ti5tv require Microsoft OS developers to deviate from programming for the x86 spec as usual? You stated before that programming around obscure hardware causes development problems and bugs, and gave motherboards as an example. I will not waste my time contacting Microsoft, since they know as well as I do that your argument is an unproven hypothesis. A hypothesis that is contradicted by the stability of x86 Linux, and unsupported by any sort of scientific evidence or systematic testing.

    >Programs for x86 that use hand written assembly code or are othersiwe highly optimized would need to be redone. But whether this is "most" programs or not I don't know. Certainly not every single program, that is true.

    I doubt that even 20% of mac software uses any assembly language whatsoever. Within that 20%, it is typically just one or two heavily optimized loops per program, which would take little time to recode for the x86 platform. The bottom line is that it will not be a big issue for the majority of developers, as you had originally argued. In fact, that argument is so preposterous that I can only assume that your initial post and all subsequent ones were flamebait. I will not respond to any more of your posts until you can convince me otherwise.
    Reply
  • downtowncb - Monday, May 02, 2005 - link

    msva124,

    If you want an example of an obscure motherboard, I believe that the TMC Ti5tv qualifies but perhaps not. If you need other examples of obscure hardware Windows supports, contact Microsoft.

    Programs for x86 that use hand written assembly code or are othersiwe highly optimized would need to be redone. But whether this is "most" programs or not I don't know. Certainly not every single program, that is true.

    If Apple isn't taking away from the Windows market, then which market is it taking away from? If we're talking percentages, something's got to give. Not that Microsoft's growth in terms of numbers of copies of OS sold won't outpace any such loss to Apple or whoever. I'm curious as to what you think.
    Reply
  • Jbog - Monday, May 02, 2005 - link

    #39 melgross, you say Apple directly competes with MS on the OS front. You also say Apple has always had different hardware. Sounds to me it's more like Apple trying to come up with more appealing OS in order to sell its platform. I mean, you can't just buy Tiger OS and replace Windows XP.

    If any strong argument can be made, it would be between Windows and Linux instead. One can migrate from Windows to Linux without having to buy a whole new set of hardware. You can even dual-boot Windows and Linux.
    Reply
  • msva124 - Monday, May 02, 2005 - link

    >If Apple were to change to an x86, then every program would have to be redone. That would be almost impossible for the many Mac developers out there .

    Most OS X programs are written in C or Objective-C, using the Carbon or Cocoa apis. Only those apis must be ported to the x86 platform, not every single program.

    >Apple's increase in marketshare takes away from the Windows market itself

    Right, except it doesn't.
    Reply
  • melgross - Monday, May 02, 2005 - link

    #32 Most of what you said is ridiculous.

    First of all, Apple's market share is growing. Of course other platforms sales aren't Apples sales. But most other sales aren't either Apple/Sun, etc.

    This is mostly an Apple/Wintel market. Sun is only servers and Apple doesn't compete much in their space yet. Apple's server sales are increasing, but are only now ramping up. Except in the scientific Unix space, Apples server sales would be against Windows servers. They don't yet have the breath to compete in the higher areas yet.

    Otherwise, it's Apple vs. MS.

    Sure, other pc companies, or rather company (Dell) are growing, but that takes sales away from each other. Apple's increase in marketshare takes away from the Windows market itself. If Dell takes sale from Gateway, it's still a sale for MS. That's the point.

    I suppose that Apple is taking away a few Linux sale as well, but it's almost all MS's.

    All AMD did was to finally come out with better processors that they could actually make, rather than just announce, and then NOT make. While the 64 bit extensions was a little balsy, it's true, it didn't take away from their chips either. Even if it didn't go over, the chips would still have had the same characteristics as before. The extensions would not have been used, that's all.

    Apple does directly compete with MS on the OS front. Apple has always had different hardware. When Apple went to the 68000 rather than the 8088 way back when, there were few arguments that the 68000 was not a better chip. Apple simply went on through from there.

    If Apple were to change to an x86, then every program would have to be redone. That would be almost impossible for the many Mac developers out there . It's just like the Itanium. Little software development has been done for it. Why should Apple be caught in that trap?
    Reply
  • michael2k - Monday, May 02, 2005 - link

    If you want to call it "RDF", that is your choice.

    I'm using Microsoft's publically announced information to compare Longhorn to Tiger.

    Nothing I've mentioned is 'rumored'. It's all been 'confirmed' by Microsoft.
    Reply
  • WaltC - Monday, May 02, 2005 - link

    #33 "Um, you do know from 1985 until 1996 Steve Jobs had no presence at Apple?"

    I believe I said the better part of the last decade to begin with, as I recall...;) Yes, I know that he was originally fired/pushed out by the Apple board around '85 and went on to NeXt--which failed, btw.



    #33 "Release a simple, affordable, powerful, computer in 1984: Original Mac, which became a strong model of the computing industry for the next 21 years."

    Oh yes--I suppose that's why the board fired him in '85...;)

    33# "Release a powerful, modern, OS and computer in 1989: NeXTStep, which is now the foundation for Mac OS X and is now Tiger, and is AGAIN a strong model for the computer industry (Longhorn, Linux)"

    Both NeXt and NeXTstep failed commercially as I recall. The "foundation" for OS X was kind of forced into play, you know...;) And, it was years late and initially very lacking in promised features (many of which it still lacks.)

    #33 "Create the world's most popular mp3 player, the iPod, in 2001: It's a computer in every sense of the word, with a display, input, storage, and output functionality. It's 'revolutionary' status is because it was the first, smallest, fastest, highest capacity (all at once) device, though there were smaller, with smaller capacities, or larger, with larger capacities, and none with faster upload or UI in 2001."

    Sorry, but the iPod is *not* a personal computer. But that's RDF thinking for you without a doubt...;)

    #33" Again, as for why compare Longhorn to Tiger?

    Because everything Longhorn WANTS to do, Tiger does.
    Longhorn wants a DBFS, called WinFS, not due until next year. Tiger achieves 90% of that now, and by next year will be even better.
    Longhorn wants better search, to be achieved with WinFS, not due until next year, when Tiger has Spotlight now.
    Longhorn wants a 3d accelerated display layer, and is not due until next year. OS X has achieved that since 10.2 in 2002 (a small step with hardware accelerated compositing), now more fully implemented since 10.3 and 10.4 with 3d and 2d acceleration, and with even more to come by the time Tiger comes out.
    Longhorn wants a 'modern' UI, which is not due until next year, where OS X has had it since 2001, with each year bringing out more usability and functionality to the UI (Dock, transparency, animation, Expose, Dashboard, etc).
    Longhorn wants better security, again not due until next year, while OS X has it now, and since 2001
    Longhorn wants a shell and CLI, again next year, while OS X has had it since 2001

    You ask why we compare: I think it's stupid NOT to compare. Longhorn wants to be a 'next generation' OS, and it's prototype and model 'next generation' OS is available now, and has been for four years, in Mac OS X.

    We're not the only ones comparing. As I said before, Allchin of Microsoft has made direct comparisons, to Microsoft's detriment."

    Ah, yes, the RDF again...;) The truth of course is that *nobody knows* what Longhorn will be since Longhorn is a long way out. I see nothing wrong with a Tiger-x64 comparison because MS is *shipping* x64. Pretty simple, really.
    Reply
  • superduperjacob - Sunday, May 01, 2005 - link

    Anand - on page 7 you say:
    "To remove a widget, you have to still be in the add/remove widget mode and just click the x that appears next to all of the widgets."

    If you hold down the option key in normal widget mode, the x appears and you can close the widget.
    Reply

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