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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  • msva124 - Sunday, May 01, 2005 - link

    >"Oh we have to support this obscure motherboard as well as this..

    Can you give an example?
    Reply
  • downtowncb - Sunday, May 01, 2005 - link

    I would say that Apple's software and hardware exist to further each other, not just the software selling the hardware.

    Apple creates hardware, and then develops software to run on it.

    Apple develops software, and then creates hardware to run it.

    Software is easier to write, less buggy, and faster if you know exactly which hardware it runs on. No "Oh we have to support this obscure motherboard as well as this...," etc. In that way, the software is #1 and the hardware is simply built to support it. You can sell computers without software, but Apple probably wouldn't survive if everyone had to install Linux on their machines themselves in order to do anything.

    IMHO, the hardware and software support each other.
    Reply
  • michael2k - Sunday, May 01, 2005 - link

    WaltC:
    "While being winners in terms of Apple's short-term survival as company, Jobs' strategies have also resulted in Apple's reduction to merely a negligible status today in terms of computer market share percentages world wide. Indeed, look how much of Apple's present profit and revenue derives from the iPod, for instance, which is not a computer of any type. "

    Um, you do know from 1985 until 1996 Steve Jobs had no presence at Apple? That he had his own companies, NeXT and Pixar to deal with? His strategies, if you want, were the following:

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

    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)

    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.

    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.
    Reply
  • WaltC - Sunday, May 01, 2005 - link

    #25 "But what you forget is that every Mac that sells takes away a sale of a copy of Windows from MS."

    Conversely, every Windows PC sold, along with SUN boxes and various Linux boxes of all types, etc., takes away a Mac sale from Apple...;) Heh...;) Sort of sobering to think about it like that, isn't it? Kind of clarifies Apple's <3% world-wide market share, doesn't it?

    #25 "Apple will sell more that a million more computers this year than they sold last year. That's over a million fewer copies of Windows sold. As well as less copies of windows software by MS and others. It also means more copies of MS Office for the Mac sold."

    Oddly enough, again, your vision is distinctly tunnel. I would hope it is not your contention that Apple alone of all the PC makers is growing...because by your reasoning every sale they make takes an equal bite out of the Apple, doesn't it?...;) Every sale they make is not an Apple sale, is it?

    #25 "It's just dumb talking about "balls". This is a business. Maybe you like to play chicken, but companies that like to stay in business don't."

    Heh...;) Tell that to AMD--or any number of successful companies today...;) In 1998 almost every "analyst" alive was writing off AMD and declaring that AMD was all but finished. Intel was considered an unbeatable juggernaut. The past six years at AMD have put the lie to that sentiment convincingly, I think...;)

    Launching the K7 at AMD took every bit as much balls as it did brains (after all, what good is a great idea if you lack the courage to follow it through?). AMD proved the prevailing wisdom that said Intel was unassailable dead wrong, and is living long and propsering as a result. Launching the K7 and following through with everything since that AMD has done took guts and confidence out of the yin-yang...;)

    So what's the only thing stopping Apple from actually competing directly with MS on the OS front? Why, it's nothing more than the firm belief that if it does it will fail. And there you have it completely...
    Reply
  • WaltC - Sunday, May 01, 2005 - link

    #22 "The fact, "Jack", is that this is marketing and Apple does make nice hardware and a great OS for some people. And I do agree with some of your salient points. But for a company that "is not a direct competitor to MS", some of you guys sure seem to worry a lot about them."

    So the fact that it is "marketing" is supposed to make up for the fact that Apple likes to fantasize that it's "ahead" by comparing its shipping OSes with MS's future, unreleased, unfinished, non-shipping OSes? That's bizarre, since Longhorn isn't close to shipping, let alone close to being finished, and so what's there to compare? Seems like shadow boxing to me, but, well, that's just Apple for you.

    Yes, I worry--but probably not for the reasons you suspect. I worry that Apple seems congenitally unable to understand that *most people* see right through this kind of delusional "marketing" and get turned off to Apple in the process. But they don't call Jobs the King of the RDF for nothing, do they?...;) I suppose that if the RDF was ever dismantled and discarded in favor of something real that Apple's market share just might rise precipitously. I worry that Apple itself doesn't appear to understand this to any degree whatever.

    I mean--Jobs has known for decades that unlike Apple, MS is not a hardware company. Yet he seems constantly confused about precisely *who* his actual competitors really are (he also occasionally seems to see clearly enough to spot Dell and other companies)--and the result is that mostly under Jobs tutelage in the last decade Apple itself has survived at the expense of approximately 80% of the market share in the worldwide consumer computer markets that it held in 1995 and earlier (down from 10% to about 2%.)

    While being winners in terms of Apple's short-term survival as company, Jobs' strategies have also resulted in Apple's reduction to merely a negligible status today in terms of computer market share percentages world wide. Indeed, look how much of Apple's present profit and revenue derives from the iPod, for instance, which is not a computer of any type. Subtract Apple's iPod revenue and profit from Apple's bottom line and you'll see the true picture of Apple as a computer company today. Seems to me there's plenty to "worry" about in that sense. But, then, the RDF has never afflicted me so I guess I "think different" in that sense...;)



    Reply
  • WaltC - Sunday, May 01, 2005 - link

    #23 "Uh... I should point out that the Apple Mac OS X pages don't have a single reference to Longhorn anywhere, AFAIK."

    As well they shouldn't...;) You tell me, then--why are so many others comparing a shipping OS from Apple with an unfinished, unreleased, non-shipping OS from MS? Sure beats me...;)
    Reply
  • chennhui - Sunday, May 01, 2005 - link

    #20 michael2k, It is true that gaming is not all, but a important part of computer experience. If you don't game, a P3 or G4 will probably does a good job overall.

    Most applications available for Mac is available for PC. In fact, I feel MS Office is faster in PC compared to Mac (thank to Bill). So obvious Mac or PC is just a matter a taste (and may be you game or not).
    Reply
  • Jbog - Sunday, May 01, 2005 - link

    To say every Mac and OS X sale takes away Windows sales, is like saying the number of illegal mp3 download equals to the lost revenue for record companies. One should consider the possibility that some buyers are not even interested in buying Windows machines and vice versa.

    The Slashdot article thread was amusing. The legal dispute between Apple and TigerDirect reminds me of the time when Spike Lee sued Spike Channel. He argued that people would think of him when they see Spike Channel. I think they eventually settled out of court.
    Reply
  • mircea - Sunday, May 01, 2005 - link

    #25 said:
    "But what you forget is that every Mac that sells takes away a sale of a copy of Windows from MS. Apple will sell more that a million more computers this year than they sold last year. That's over a million fewer copies of Windows sold."

    I think your judgement is a little off. Every Mac sold will mean a x86 based PC not sold. And on all these PC's it might be that if they were sold it would have been equiped with a Linux OS or something proprietary just as well as an Windows OS.

    If there is to talk about comparison then it would be about how Apple, a hardware company is able to create an OS that can compete on functionality with a company that works almost exclusively with software. So if something is unjust on this comparison is that Microsoft is unable to stand out head and shoulders above a company that solds primarly hardware.

    P.S. I never owned or currently own a Mac. Only used it at school on a music score editing software (Finale 2005) that I own on PC as well.
    Reply
  • msva124 - Sunday, May 01, 2005 - link

    >But what you forget is that every Mac that sells takes away a sale of a copy of Windows from MS.

    Perhaps there are dual users who purchase macs in addition to, rather than in place of, their windows computers.
    Reply

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