Mac OS 10.2 Has No Clothes

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Date: Monday, October 14th, 2002, 09:00
Category: Archive

Happy about the performance of Mac OS X Jaguar? Or are you just too hard-core to admit what more and more professional Mac users are coming to terms with? The lack of real speed under any version of X.

I’m talking about the most important discussion going on right now in the Mac community. The OS Migration. It’s about the death struggle of Mac OS 9 and the powerfully marketed, and very soon the only bootable operating system available on the Mac, OS X.

If you own a G4 Macintosh and have serious thoughts of moving to Mac OS Jaguar, think different. Don’t bite to hard into the Apple fluff. Mac OS 9 is probably going to be the faster OS under any currently available hardware.

Any honest power user will tell you that OS 9 runs much faster under one (1) processor than OS X Jaguar does under two (2). And this is not just about the OS itself. But basically every application available on both Mac OS versions!

Read more about some of the shocking realities of Mac OS X performance by clicking the headline or the link below. Warning: this article is not for the weak of heart.


Happy about the performance of Mac OS X Jaguar? Or are you just too hard-core to admit what more and more professional Mac users are coming to terms with? The lack of real speed under any version of X.

I’m talking about the most important discussion going on right now in the Mac community. The OS Migration. It’s about the death struggle of Mac OS 9 and the powerfully marketed, and very soon the only bootable operating system available on the Mac, OS X.

If you own a G4 Macintosh and have serious thoughts of moving to Mac OS Jaguar, think different. Don’t bite to hard into the Apple fluff. Mac OS 9 is probably going to be the faster OS under any currently available hardware.

Any honest power user will tell you that OS 9 runs much faster under one (1) processor than OS X Jaguar does under two (2). And this is not just about the OS itself. But basically every application available on both Mac OS versions!

Sure, Jaguar is extremely stable. Unfortunately many native X applications are not. And yes, true multitasking is a wonderful feature, built into the technology of the operating system from Apple. But this is however far from saying you actually save time with the multitasking available under OS X Jaguar.

In my experience, the multitasking on the new Mac platform has more to do with addressing stability issues in previous versions of the Classic OS.

So where is the speed then? Keep in mind that the recently released Jaguar is just a brand name. A marketing vehicle that has few, if any, comparative features to the speediness of that (or any other) cat species.

I think of Mac OS 10.2 as more of a sea turtle. And as a metaphor, the turtle fits better with the beach ball that I constantly get from doing the most mundane of Finder related navigation.

My G4 500 DP with 1.2GB or RAM is not the fastest Apple machine in the universe. But still, Apple has charged thousands of people twice in little over a year for an operating system that underperforms every version of the Classic OS ever compiled. Including the infamously unstable 7.5.3.

But more importantly, the most recent Classic 9.2.2. will outrun anything labeled X.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the promise of the new OS. But when compared to the speed (and price) of all of its relevant market competitors, Apple’s new OS has a feel and a performance level that is pretty darn sluggish.

In fact, in a recent test, in which I took partook, a fairly new laptop from Dell beat the fastest available G4 by a humiliating 150%.

The test consisted of clocking download time of uncompressed image files from a Nikon D1 (professional digital camera) to two Firewire enabled computers (a maxed out stationary G4 and a standard issue Dell laptop) using Nikons proprietary software for image transfer. File sizes were at approximately 500-700MB each.

As much as I hated seeing this happen, the Dell kicked the Mac’s butt all the way to Texas.

Now, you might complain and say that this has little or nothing at all to do with Apple or OS X. But I disagree. Who else should be helping Nikon develop the right drivers or tweaking the software if not Apple? The photographers? Third-party developers? Let’s face it. If people in the media and advertising business start to lose faith (and money) because of Apple’s inability to provide enough resources for optimization of third-party software, we will all soon be standing by the Gates of Hell.

And I haven’t even mentioned the ridiculously poor performance of all major graphic software tools.

Yes, most applications on top of OS X work fine. But what about performance? What good is a stable application if everything you want to do with it is snail-slow and gets completely outperformed by platform versions from the dominating and substantially cheaper PC world?

I know quite a few individuals who work in the ad industry and who are doing what they can to lower costs and improve profits. Creative people who depend on cost-efficiency for their very survival in today’s struggling advertising business.

These folks don’t want to be forced into buying equipment they can’t use in production. Especially by a computer maker who constantly shifts focus and negates responsibilities towards core markets; desktop publishers, media professionals and educational institutions.

How Apple is going to convince this professional market base (niche) to migrate to an OS that not only lacks compatibility with key tools (like Quark XPress), but that they will also have to pay more for less performance, will truly be a magic trick worth taking note of.

As we all know and appreciate, Apple is a fantastic marketer. All of their products shine handsomely and each individual product is loaded with innovatively engineered features and ground breaking industrial design.

Having stated this, I must tell you that I am ever so worried. Worried about what is going on inside Apple’s Cupertino campus. I have this gut feeling of an ongoing internal struggle. A battle between what works and what sells. And this internal conflict is costing Apple tons of new business as well as undermining the very essence of what made the company a famous, user-minded computer innovator.

For what it’s worth, I believe that the core OS X development team is caught between Apple’s whimsical marketing strategies and what Motorola is able (or unable) to roll out in chip design/performance.

In other words, there’s plenty of eye candy to “Whoa” customers, but Apple cannot produce any hardware that is snappy enough to run it all on. Like a jaguar on Prozac.

The techies are loosing to the smart marketing gurus. More features are added (as well as an abundance of more or less useful programs and utilities), and less time/money is spent on actual tweaking of various components and applications.

The NeXt people, the UNIX folks and the hard-core Classic developers working at Apple are probably as worried as I am about the future of Apple. But there might be a big surprise come January 2003. According to current rumors, the next edition of Macworld Expo (Jan. 2003) will unveil a revolutionary CPU. A 64-bit processor called the G5. A chip that will put Apple back in the race and (finally!) do justice to what at least I hope was initially intended for Apple’s UNIX-branded OS.

If there is any truth to these rumors, the introduction of the new chips will explain why the currently shipping G4’s stationary enclosure is equipped with extensive cooling facilities. And it will also explain why 2003 Mac models will no longer permit OS 9 to be a bootable OS. As a 32-bit operating system, OS 9 will therefore only be emulated in a 64-bit CPU’s software environment.

Like Sun and Silicon Graphics, most UNIX software environments use a 64-bit processing chip. If the G5 sees the light of day early next year, then Apple’s OS X should be able to take full advantage of the rumored G5’s 64-bit chip architecture.

This could give Apple’s power users a tremendous speed bump and more clearly motivate investing in snappier systems. The sluggish performance of their current models, running any flavor of OS X, does not.

And when finally up to speed, maybe the consumers will again listen.

[I have to concur with most of the author’s problems with the speed of OS X and I told a similar tale of woe to attendees of last month’s PPUG meeting in Philadelphia. Try this: under OS 10.2.1 run Photoshop, GoLive, Illustrator, BBEdit and Chimera and actively switch between them (like any production artist would do). Note how many times you see the beachball and how much time you have to wait. Add Word or Excel to the mix if you are a glutton for pain. Now try the same test in Mac OS 9 and you will notice it is much faster, almost no comparison. And I am using a TiBook 800MHz with 1GB of RAM. -Ed]

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