HiTek Review

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Tag Archives: OS X

Understanding flash on OS X

First of all
No, I am not dead. I just don’t like to say stuff that no body want to read anyway so I kept my mouth (keyboard?) shut for a little while.

Next review will be about whatever thing I’ll buy next. It will probably be an iPad or the new rumoured MacBook Pros. I can’t promise anything about this though.

Third, the reason of my post…
As many of you probably heard of already, iPhone OS 4 is coming soon and some of us, like me, already have the beta installed on their phones. Seriously, it is the best operating system I even seen on a phone since smartphone are in the market. There’s a lot of stuff in it that apple didn’t told you which can theoretically bring iPhone OS 4.0 up to par with any DESKTOP operating system out there. That’s just how great it is.

Unfortunately, all that we seem to ear about it these days are bad stuff… which is kind-off strange actually. A big majority wanted multi-tasking. Now that they’ve got it, all that we can read is stuff like: “I don’t really care about it, I would have preferred Flash that this.” Yes, this article is dedicated to you, people that doesn’t have any sense of mobile device logic.

Flash, a plague to avoid
The first reason why anybody would want to avoid Flash like a plague is about stability issue. Here’s a nice one, while I’ve been writing this article, look what popped on my screen!

See, it managed to crash while doing nothing! That little thing made me wonder so I started to investigate on was could be the reason of this crash. After running a little software called Shark, a performance analyzer tool that come with Xcode, I discovered somethings that should have remained buried. What it does it that is detect cache miss (moments when requested data is not available in cache and need to be pulled from an other cache level) in the L2 processor cache and list them.

I have exported the report to a text file and I’m providing it for you to read on this link. It is very easy to understand. The numbers to the left are the numbers of call to a function, the gibberish in the middle is the memory emplacement of the function and the text at the right is the name of the library that provided the function. Now keep in mind that this report was requested during a normal writing session. I have music playing in iTunes and a couple of software is running. Notice anything strange here? First process in the list is the mack kernel (or the OS X subsystems if you prefer). It represent roughly 14.2% of the entire cache misses which is normal. The second one though… I expected it to be iTunes since it is doing realtime audio playback and require frequent access to the processor cache but… no…

In fact, Flash Player represent 51.7% of all the cache miss that happened during this session. Basically, it means that half of the calls that the required my computer to access the RAM during the 10 seconds of profiling happened because of the Adobe Flash library. This is a very good reason to consider it like a plague as it use as much CPU time as a virus! In fact, flash player used 1 minutes 32.24 seconds of CPU time in 4 hours of not using it. As a little comparison note, iTunes only caused 4.4% of the misses and used 9 minutes 23 seconds of CPU time in constant playback during the last 4 hours.

So, what does it mean? It means that Flash is not only very hungry CPU wise but also memory wise. It also show us that it is not optimized at all and keep on doing more and more request to the system memory.

Touch is the future
Based on what we can see today, people consider touch screen devices as the way of the future. It does have a little futuristic sense to it but believe me there’s nothing impressive in them as they were in use since a good 10 to 20 years! Why am I talking about this? Because Flash is the complete opposite! Flash applications are generally built with a point-and-click interface so around 90% of them doesn’t work at all on a touch based device like the iPhone. There’s no way to access the various menus of the interface because you need to point at them and not click or tap on them. As a result even if you could run Flash on a touch based device like an iPhone, you would not be able of using it as it was not designed for this kind of usage.

Some websites like LinkedIn doesn’t use Flash and still have some compatibility issues with a touch based interface because they try to limit their content to the size of the screen and use scrollbars to let you access the rest of it instead of thrusting the web browser and letting it do it’s job.

Flash on the iPhone?
No way! Never! Not because it sucks performance wise and would drain your battery faster than light, but for the same reason I don’t want an HP Slate. It was not designed to be used with touch in the first place.

Every one apart me is a bloke

And you can’t argue with it!
No! You can’t argue with me about it and even if you want to try, and the only reason why you would want to do such a thing is that you don’t have a clue what a bloke is, then first go to this link to learn what it really means.

Now more seriously. Here’s the little backstory about it. I own a company based in Québec named “Centre de Solutions Informatiques Inc.” or C.S.I. for short. Our team is based on developers and hardware crack that follows 63 technology related RSS feeds that publish around 1 280 news a day. We are basically pure and polished specialist in computers and we’re endlessly learning and improving ourselves. Technology is everything we like, everything we do and everything we live for. We’re so enthusiast that, as I said, we’ve started a company. Yes! That’s how bad we are infected.

We’ve taken a big time looking at the market and I can assure you that in our current service zone, there is just no one that will do a better job than us for better pricing and better time. To do this analysis, we used the latest technology in marketing which is… ours beloved clients! We actually used feedbacks from our clients to build our price tags. Anyway, enough advertising and here comes the story.

One bloke in the see
I (not we) currently deserve personalized services to 2 company and around 25 persons. That’s in fact rather good. But in the end, every single one of my clients keep on… deserting me! Yes! I have absolutely no idea why, but every time they’ve got a problem, they first call me, I then friendly give them consulting and they finally go off like they suddenly knows anything about the computer world, which they obviously don’t, and make an ash of it.

This annoy me so much that it made me write this post just so that I could cool down instead of bashing through the head of one of them that did it an other time just a day before I’m writing this. I will not go into the details to respect his privacy but, he actually made Windows XP installed on an Intel Core i7 computer! Now, if you’re a bloke about computers, which I’m not, you’ll already scream at him because you know that Windows XP just can’t handle a dual core correctly. And this is not a dual core, it’s a quad with hyper-threading which make it even more difficult. You need at least Windows Vista or Windows 7 to handle all of that power correctly but WAIT! Their’s more! This computer is actually… the latest iMac.

I’m not joking. This is true, I swear that this is true! Now I’ll show you an other time that I’m not a bloke in this kind of stuff. You see, Windows XP has horrible power saving features. In fact, it doesn’t support half the the power saving features that are on that brand new computer. Now you’re probably already laughing at me saying that this is a desktop computer and that it doesn’t need power saving features! WRONG! Let me show you my point with a simple table:

Component Avg. consumption
CPU 85 watt
Memory 25 watt
Motherboard 15 watt
Graphic card 135 watt
Hard drive 5 watt
Monitor 50 watt
Total 315 watt

Now that look pretty normal, isn’t it? Nop; This is enormous! I have a server which has a very similar configuration to that and it’s doing 80. My Mac Pro is averaging 145 watts and it has 10 GB or HUNGRY fully buffered DDR2 memory and two old and not very economical Xeon 5400 series CPUs. That’s without counting the supercharged 8800 GT that benchmark like a 9800 GTX!

So, not only does he’s iMac now require a nuclear power plant to run, it also require an earth-sized power supply; which it hasn’t. The 2009 iMac has only a 365 watt power supply. Now you’re still laughing at me saying that 315 is smaller that 365. Well… Yes it is… But, this PSU only has 85% efficiency which move its maximum output to 5 watt less that the average needed. This could cause a problem.

Windows XP will basically kills my client’s computer. That’s how simple it is. By the way, if you’re interested, putting Windows Vista in it would decrease the consumption to 175 watt which is 45% less. That’s without saying that the performance would increase as Windows Vista is much better at handling multiple CPU cores.

The result
Not only this guy had an horrible services that will rot is computer on the mid/long run. It will also cost him 100 $ more to run his computer at the end of the year that it costed him if he installed Windows Vista in the first place. And here’s the interesting part: I didn’t even mentioned OS X yet. And here’s why: I’m not talking about dual booting or anything. The guy actually removed OS X 10.6 and put Windows XP in place claiming that it was a much lighter and faster operating system!

That basically means that my client, who decided to bought a Mac to give it a try, will not even see what OS X look like. Not to mention that OS X has even better power management capabilities than even Windows 7. Running Slow Leopard, that computer actually get down to 95 watt on average use which would save him 160 $ a year just in electricity.

The point
Every single one of my clients do that every single time. They always end up in my office begging for help to solve the issues that caused the idiot that they went to in the first place. And they do that, even when they are old friend of mine. I have absolutely nothing agains competition, in fact I even found it sporty, but when all the competition there is is that… I’d prefer to kick them in the face with a very, very big hammer.

That’s exactly why me and two of my friends started this company. We are so sure about this that we’re planing, building… no… it became hand-crafting, swinging and then throwing that hammer to their faces ourselves the best we can possibly do. We believe that average computer knowledge here in Québec sucks and we think we might just be what the province need to get up on its feet an finally learn how to appreciate that latest gadget that came out without having to ask the vendor how to turn it on.

Snow Leopard, yes but…

.. it’s not that good
Hi everyone, I’m sorry if I let you in the dark for two weeks but I had a lot to do recently and didn’t had much time write. Who knows, it might even get worse as time goes on. Anyway, I’m here to talk about Apple recently released operating system. Snow Leopard, as it is called, is a very nice OS. It does have a lot more punch than his predecessor 10.5 but I’m not here to talk about stuff that you already know.

Core upgrade
Apple rewrote a very big part of the os with snow leopard and that’s nice for performances but, they also introduced an incalculable number of bugs. Nothing major but all of those things just keep on bothering you until you want to kill yourself. That’s what I’m going to talk about. The way Apple bunched 10.6 to release it before Windows 7.

First, Exposé. They did a lot with it and the new version is gorgeous; if you don’t have a MacBook. If, like me, you do, well, you’ll want to punch yourself in the face each time you use those wonderful 4 finger gestures. There’s a glitch with them that cause Exposé to stick and render it unproductive. If you bring Exposé and close it using your trackpad without lifting your hand of it first, shit will happen. It will get stuck in the mode you activated and the only way to get your windows back is to do the inverse gesture! It’s a very easy thing to solve and could take about ten minutes to fix but it look like it didn’t make it in 10.6.1 released just one week after the official release.

Next, Stacks. Finally, we can walkthrough a folder hierarchy without open a finder window. This was a long awaited feature but… It’s buggy too! It work very well until you have a stack of a network volume. Here’s what happen. First if the volume is not available and you click on it, it will display a transparent interrogation mark which is great but, if you click on it a second time, they stack up! Indefinitely! If the volume finally came online, they’ll stick there! They don’t even go away! Well that’s most of a graphical problem and is indeed pretty minor. But still, it’s just the start. As you’ll use this stack, you’ll realize that some obvious feature doesn’t work. Deleting a file for instance. Yup, you can’t delete a file from a network volume stack. Don’t ask me why but dropping them in the Trash Can does nothing.

Finally, Upgrade. OS X was always stated for it’s upgrade capability. I decided to test it, just for fun. I installed 10.5 and then upgraded to 10.6. No change in the settings, no app installed. And guess what. After one week, half of my icons doesn’t appear, VMware fusion icon display as 512×512 pixel of garbage, spotlight sometimes refuse to listen to my keyboard, and I’ll pass over random freeze (not kernel panic, just complete computer lockup) and random application crash.

Ho, I just forgot! There’s also a keychain issue with the clean install that can get you locked up from your own computer. The only solution, if it is a solution, is to make your way to the keychain application and reset your keychain password.

OS X 10.6 is a great operating system. It does work faster and has some new interesting stuff. On the other side, don’t, ABSOLUTELY DON’T try to install it as an upgrade. You’ll want to punch yourself so bad that you’ll actually do it before doing a clean install.

Flash News: Snow Leopard shipped!

Did you received your copy yet?
I did not… But hey, the package got shipped yesterday (August 27) and with express shipping, I might even get it today! If I do, count on me to do a review of it this weekend. So for those of you how where unsure about if it will ship ON August 28 or FOR August 28, I think you have an answer and it’s the one you where dreaming for 😀

As a side note, the screen cast series will now be about windows 7 vs OS X Snow Leopard since I wont have 10.5 anymore. I’m not sure I’ll have the time to make a new screen cast this weekend but if I do, I’ll keep you posted.

Screen Cast the first

I’ve started a series of screen-cast on youtube that compare some basic features of Windows 7 and OS X Leopard from an end-user point of view. I try to keep a humoristic tone (specially when something goes wrong like in this first video :P). I do one take per OS unless something preventing me from publishing the video happen. The idea is to show how each OS react on a first try. The settings related to the tests where also rested to assure the authenticity of the video.

For the editing part, I try to keep it very close to the original. I will never cut a shot unless it’s preventing me from publishing the video. In that case, there will be a notice in the video. Everything is shot in HD to help you see what I’m doing during the screen-cast.

You can take a look on Youtube if you’re interested. The first part is about some basic file and screen sharing over different network type. Which one is easier to use and what kind of features are to be expected with the DEFAULT OS configuration.

Flash News: Apple released Snow Leopard

Apple unleashed the beast… not quite…
You can already pre-order your copy of snow leopard from the Apple web site. It cost $29 for one license and $59 for the family pack (3 licenses). There’s also a version sold for $169 that include iLife ’09 and iWork ’09, if you want them. It will be shipped on August 28. If you want to be the first to get your hands on it, you might want to say good by to free shipping and pay for the express shipping option.

Get your copy now at www.apple.com and have a good day!