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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  • melgross - Sunday, May 01, 2005 - link

    #21 With all that you said, you didn't really say very much.

    Yes, it's true that Apple is mostly a hardware company. They will sell "only" a billion dollars of software this year.

    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. As well as less copies of windows software by MS and others. It also means more copies of MS Office for the Mac sold.

    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.

    Perhaps if Apple licensed the Mac OS to MS both times when MS came knocking on their door life would have been different. :)
    Reply
  • michael2k - Saturday, April 30, 2005 - link

    #21: If anyone compares Longhorn to Tiger, it's because Microsoft has decided it's a valid comparison:
    http://insight.zdnet.co.uk/software/0,39020463,391...

    Allchin has made public comments regarding Tiger, when talking about Longhorn.

    On a technical level, Longhorn is implementing many of the features that Tiger, Panther, and Jaguar have, so comparison is unavoidable:

    Avalon vs Quartz
    Metro vs PDF
    DB/WinFS vs Spotlight/HFS+
    etc
    Reply
  • Eug - Saturday, April 30, 2005 - link

    #20: "So while Apple keeps braying to the moon about "Longhorn" I, on the other hand, am content to wait until Longhorn actually ships before making any sort of comparisons as I would prefer any comparisons that might be made to have some *meaning*...;)"

    Uh... I should point out that the Apple Mac OS X pages don't have a single reference to Longhorn anywhere, AFAIK.
    Reply
  • Ocaid - Saturday, April 30, 2005 - link

    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. Reply
  • WaltC - Saturday, April 30, 2005 - link

    I completely fail to understand this comparison with Longhorn...;) I mean, at one level I do understand it all too well--Apple PR, while completely ignoring Windows x64 as if it does not exist, enjoys boasting that it has "beaten" Longhorn out of the starting gate as a "64-bit" OS--but really this is just so very lame and completely transparent. Apple has always had an exquisite case of tunnel vision when it comes to picking and choosing what it will compare its products to...:D

    So this whole "Longhorn-Tiger" comparison is so predictible and infantile (as Tiger is shipping and Longhorn isn't--so nobody has a clue as to what Longhorn will be when it actually does ship a year or two from now) and right on par for Apple PR. So typical of Apple to compare its products with products that aren't shipping--wow, how much "safer" can you can get than that? So while Apple keeps braying to the moon about "Longhorn" I, on the other hand, am content to wait until Longhorn actually ships before making any sort of comparisons as I would prefer any comparisons that might be made to have some *meaning*...;)

    In this vein, I also wish that people would wake up and realize that Apple and Microsoft are not now direct competitors and never have been...;) Microsoft is software company--Apple is distinctly a hardware company--and the old saw in the industry is that the highest and best purpose for *any* Mac OS is that it serves as a dongle to protect and promote Apple's hardware sales.

    The classic mistake that I see so often is this misunderstanding that Microsoft and Apple somehow compete in the same markets--not true. Apple's competitors in reality are companies like Dell, etc., who--unlike Microsoft--make better than 90% of their net income from hardware sales. It's pretty simple, really, as >98% of Microsoft's net income is from the sale of software exclusive of hardware. The difference is so vast I am surprised it is so often overlooked. And yet it is...

    For instance, if Apple would decide to undertake to write an OS for the same x86 hardware standards that Microsoft does (Intel/AMD promulgated standards, mainly) *then* we could call them competitors with a straight face since they'd be competing for share in the same hardware markets. But the simple fact is that Microsoft doesn't even *make* the computers which run its OS's (and so of course cannot and does not profit directly from such hardware sales); but an Apple OS, on the other hand, is totally useless in the absence of an Apple designed-and-sold computer to run it. The enormous differences ought to be clear as daylight to everyone.

    Basically, the concept that an Apple OS is any sort of direct competition to a Microsoft OS is purely a wishful and irresponsible--not to mention inaccurate--fantasy. That's why talking about Apple's <3% share of the annual world-wide *desktop* computer market (which is far, far less in the exclusive server markets, or higher in the notebook markets, etc.)is somewhat of a bogus comparison in the first place. MS OS's serve "everybody else" apart from Microsoft (eg, Dell and the thousands of other companies manufacturing x86 PCs and components exclusive of Microsoft) while Apple's OS's serve only Apple-branded hardware exclusively. I am always surprised as to why this salient fact of the matter is so often ignored. But there it is...

    I'd love to see Apple competing directly with Microsoft in the much larger hardware arena of x86 platforms and standards--I would welcome the competition. But I honestly don't think Apple can compete in that market--and I believe that's exactly why Apple doesn't even try. I'd love to see Apple offer its own Apple-branded x86 PCs along with an Apple x86 OS which would run on "everybody else's" x86 box just as Microsoft's OS's currently do--but I'll tell you right now that I'm not going to hold my breath waiting on that to happen as I don't believe it ever will. Frankly, I don't believe Apple has either the balls or the brains or the will to do it--and that's the fact, Jack...:D
    Reply
  • michael2k - Saturday, April 30, 2005 - link

    #11: Obviously the article is not meant for you then. Does it occur to you that there are other reasons to use computers than play games? Video games are not the end all and be all of the computing experience. Reply
  • HansZarkow - Saturday, April 30, 2005 - link

    Repeatedly reading about how buggy Tiger is makes me wonder, why Apple pushed the release. Panther was doing alright and Apple is generally rather thorough when it comes to that.

    I think Tiger was originally to be released in 2H05 around the same time that Longhorn was scheduled. Then Microsoft pushed the release date back a year. Now Apple faced the situation that they couldn't release 10.5 only a year after 10.4.
    So not only wouldn't they be able to react to some features that Longhorn might bring along, but they would also leave Microsoft an undistored PR-window where they would be mere spectators.

    Hence, Apple rushed the Tiger-release to 1H05, approximately 18 months after Panther. That gives them another 18 months to fine-tune 10.4 and come up with an answer to every feature that Longhorn might pack.
    It's the price of being Apple, the (self-proclaimed) technology-leader, they can't let Microsoft talk about the (possible) advantages of Longhorn for half a year.

    This makes sense from a PR point-of-view, but it is definetly unfair to the people buying 10.4 because I doubt it will see its full potential before 10.4.3
    Reply
  • vailr - Saturday, April 30, 2005 - link

    #13: Not correct! My 3.2 GHz P4/WinXP machine can run PearPC/MacOSX 10.3.9, with "About this Mac" info indicating that it's a "Mac G3 running at 1.32 GHz".
    So, would be interested to see whether: WinXP64/PearPC/MacOSX 10.4, running on an "upper echelon" AMD64 chip could compete, speedwise, with OSX Tiger, running on native Mac hardware?
    Reply
  • jasonsRX7 - Saturday, April 30, 2005 - link

    I don't know if it's just because I'm more used to it, but I still like Quicksilver better than Spotlight. I find QS to be faster and more functional. Maybe Spotlight just needs to grow on me some more. Reply
  • DerekWilson - Saturday, April 30, 2005 - link

    #15 ... is that a joke (and coincedence) or an attempt to bring up the legal suit being brought against Apple by Tiger Direct for the use of the Tiger name?

    Haven't kept up with that much myself -- though it did seem fishy that they waited until this week to bring up the issue.

    http://apple.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/04/28/...
    Reply

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