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Switcher Hangout The place for switchers to discuss their new machines, and how to work with OS X. General support can be had here for newbie stuff, like "How do I restart my new iMac?" :)

A few questions from a prospective switcher


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Hyperluminal
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Recently I've been thinking about switching to the Mac, and I've got a few questions.

First of all, a little over 2 years ago I got very fed up with Dell, and their lack of any real regard to quality of customer support (I was having a nasty problem with my Dell laptop, and long story short, it took 8 months and many, many wasted hours on the phone to finally get my PC replaced). At that time, I decided to buy a 12" iBook. The problem was, I got a pretty cheap one, so it was slow (600 MHz G3), and the screen was just too small and low res. So I returned it.
When Dell did eventually replace my PC a few months later, to their credit, they gave me a top of the line system, which was worth much more than my original PC was worth, even when it was new. Anyway, that PC is now almost 2 years old, and since it's been pretty annoying at times too, I'm interested in getting a Mac again. I just have a few questions.

I'm interested in probably getting a 15" 1.33 GHz PowerBook G4.

First of all, one problem that I have is that with Windows, a program can basically bring the system to a grinding halt by just using the CPU to full capacity; this can happen when doing a Photoshop filter, or even when burning a CD. It can get so slow that the OS barely responds until the process finishes. And it happens with fresh XP installations; it definitely isn't software. My PC is pretty powerful too-- it's a laptop with a 2.0 GHz Pentium 4 and 512 MB of RAM. It seems ridiculous for a modern OS to allow this to happen.. my question is, does this happen on OS X? C'mon, you can be honest...

Another thing is, would the 1.33 GHz G4 be enough? I don't need something especially fast, just basically for it to be at least somewhat faster than my 2.0.

Also, I've heard that the aluminum on the PB's palmrest can sometimes corrode from sweat, over time. Is that at all true?

And what kind of battery life do they get, in real world use? One of the nice things about my big Dell is that you can put in 2 batteries at once; when I first got it, I could get up to 4 hours of use, although now it's more like 2.5. Although if the PB comes with the kind of adapter that my iBook had-- where you can remove the large AC cable and snap on a little travel adapter with fold-in prongs to plug the power brick directly into the wall-- that'd be a big step in the right direction.
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Danster
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If an applicaiton crashes it's almost impossible to bring the OS down with it.
Usually when I'm using Microsoft Word or Exel the application crashes and the fans start to come on so I just look into the force quit menu and it says "app not responding" then I just click force quit, then load it back up again in a jiffy.

oooo ya gotta love that :p
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Hyperluminal
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Thanks. Although maybe I wasn't really clear enough.. I didn't mean when a program actually crashes, just that if it's especially busy and hogging the CPU (like doing a complicated Photoshop filter), that on my PC, other programs (and Windows itself) often won't be able to respond until that program is finished. I was wondering how the Mac handled something like that?

Although, good to know about the crash thing too...
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Thud
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hyperluminal
Thanks. Although maybe I wasn't really clear enough.. I didn't mean when a program actually crashes, just that if it's especially busy and hogging the CPU (like doing a complicated Photoshop filter), that on my PC, other programs (and Windows itself) often won't be able to respond until that program is finished. I was wondering how the Mac handled something like that?

Although, good to know about the crash thing too...
OK, a pseudo-technical explanation of what's happening:
Any processor, be it Pentium 4, G4, or G5, is only capable of doing one thing at a time. By switching back and forth rapidly between various tasks/threads, it gives the appearance of doing many things simultaneously. The operating system controls this task/thread switching.
The photoshop thread is running at highest priority... the system IS still doing stuff in the background (because like OSX, Windows XP is a true multitasking OS) but the background processes simply aren't getting enough CPU time to do their jobs in a reasonable amount of time.
OSX might be better at letting background threads run, I dunno... I never tried a photoshop filter on a mac. The operating system might force the thread to run at a lower priority so that the system can still do its other stuff.

Ideally, you'd need a dual processor system. So even if one processor is 100% utilized doing that photoshop filter, the other processor will be able to handle the other operating system tasks. But you won't get that in a notebook.
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Kokopelli
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It is a little complex but the answer is yes, but generally not to the extreme of Windows. This is good and bad. Generally all programs will stay responsive, though slow down as load increases, but it also means that it is difficult to devote all resources to one thing, excluding all others.

For a more complex answer I would suggest invesigating OS X scheduling system and nice values. That is not light reading though.


EDIT: Thud beat me to it. Generally it is harder for a user space thread to pull all of the resources in OS X then windows. (Where a single program uses up all processing so that you can not even <ctrl><shift><esc> to kill the rogue process.) Crank a nice value high enough though (-20) and use up all the clock cycles and you would likely have a similar effect.
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Hyperluminal
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thud
OK, a pseudo-technical explanation of what's happening:
Any processor, be it Pentium 4, G4, or G5, is only capable of doing one thing at a time. By switching back and forth rapidly between various tasks/threads, it gives the appearance of doing many things simultaneously. The operating system controls this task/thread switching.
The photoshop thread is running at highest priority... the system IS still doing stuff in the background (because like OSX, Windows XP is a true multitasking OS) but the background processes simply aren't getting enough CPU time to do their jobs in a reasonable amount of time.
OSX might be better at letting background threads run, I dunno... I never tried a photoshop filter on a mac. The operating system might force the thread to run at a lower priority so that the system can still do its other stuff.
Yup, thanks for the explanation. That's exactly what I was talking about. I just wanted to know if OS X is a little more proactive at throttling down other programs, if you try to do something else at the same time. The best example of why I asked though, is this: when I take my laptop out of suspend or hibernation, occassionally, if I have FireFox open, it'll use 100% of my CPU immediately. This actually causes my computer to sometimes take as much as 5 minutes to come out of suspend. Now, this is mainly a FireFox problem, but I just thought it was ridiculous that a true multitasking OS would allow itself to by stymied by a rogue process like this, under any circumstances. Now it's possible that the actual problem goes deeper than this, and its using 100% of my CPU isn't the only factor causing it to take so long coming out of suspend, but it doesn't at least outwardly appear to be anything other than FireFox using 100% of the CPU time (if I manage to terminate its process, the computer immediately recovers and finishes coming out of suspend normally)...
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Hyperluminal
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kokopelli
EDIT: Thud beat me to it. Generally it is harder for a user space thread to pull all of the resources in OS X then windows. (Where a single program uses up all processing so that you can not even <ctrl><shift><esc> to kill the rogue process.) Crank a nice value high enough though (-20) and use up all the clock cycles and you would likely have a similar effect.
Ah, interesting. Thanks...
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Kokopelli
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You are welcome. Just a note of clarification. <ctrl><shift><esc> is a Windows command, not a Mac one.
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mmoy

 
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> First of all, a little over 2 years ago I got very fed up with Dell,
> and their lack of any real regard to quality of customer support (I
> was having a nasty problem with my Dell laptop, and long story short,
> it took 8 months and many, many wasted hours on the phone to finally
> get my PC replaced). At that time, I decided to buy a 12" iBook. The
> problem was, I got a pretty cheap one, so it was slow (600 MHz G3),
> and the screen was just too small and low res. So I returned it.

> When Dell did eventually replace my PC a few months later, to their
> credit, they gave me a top of the line system, which was worth much
> more than my original PC was worth, even when it was new. Anyway, that
> PC is now almost 2 years old, and since it's been pretty annoying at
> times too, I'm interested in getting a Mac again. I just have a few
> questions.

We have four Dell systems, three laptops and one desktop and they're
generally one to five years old and all work fine. Most of Dell's
business is with companies and they provide their best service to
company clients which is why I've ordered from their Small Business
department instead of their Home section and I've been pretty happy
with their service. I haven't really used it that much but, outside
of a few phone calls with some folks in India, it was good.

Dealing with large companies can be a headache if you're not
comfortable with being very annoying.

> First of all, one problem that I have is that with Windows, a program
> can basically bring the system to a grinding halt by just using the
> CPU to full capacity; this can happen when doing a Photoshop filter,
> or even when burning a CD. It can get so slow that the OS barely
> responds until the process finishes. And it happens with fresh XP
> installations; it definitely isn't software. My PC is pretty powerful
> too-- it's a laptop with a 2.0 GHz Pentium 4 and 512 MB of RAM. It
> seems ridiculous for a modern OS to allow this to happen.. my question
> is, does this happen on OS X? C'mon, you can be honest...

In Windows XP, you can set the priority of programs using the Task
Manager. If you know that you'll be running something that could
saturate the CPU, just set the priority to below normal. Or keep
the Task Manager running and set it to high priority so that you
can modify processes that are saturating the CPU.

Same deal with Unix/Linux/OSX. I don't recall the commands for setting
process priorities on Unix as I have a dual-processor Linux box at
work and the processors usually have lots of spare cycles.

A 2.0 Ghz Pentium 4 is a low-end machine these days. I don't know if
you can still get machines this slow. My current laptop is a Athlon
64 running at a 3.2 Ghz Pentium 4 equivalent and my CPU is on the
low end of the scale. The upper end is 4.0 to 4.2 Ghz equivalent.

> Another thing is, would the 1.33 GHz G4 be enough? I don't need
> something especially fast, just basically for it to be at least
> somewhat faster than my 2.0.

My guess is that it depends on the software that you're running.
I've only had a machine since Monday but it appears to me that
great performance is directly related to optimization work. The
G4/G5 have Altivec parallel instructions but your program has
to be programmed to use the parallel instructions.

> And what kind of battery life do they get, in real world use? One of
> the nice things about my big Dell is that you can put in 2 batteries
> at once; when I first got it, I could get up to 4 hours of use,

Some Dell notebooks can take two batteries and some can only take
one. One of my older Dells can get 7 hours on two batteries.

Pentium Ms generally have the best performance to battery life.
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Hyperluminal
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mmoy
In Windows XP, you can set the priority of programs using the Task
Manager. If you know that you'll be running something that could
saturate the CPU, just set the priority to below normal. Or keep
the Task Manager running and set it to high priority so that you
can modify processes that are saturating the CPU.

Same deal with Unix/Linux/OSX. I don't recall the commands for setting
process priorities on Unix as I have a dual-processor Linux box at
work and the processors usually have lots of spare cycles.
Yup, I've definitely tried using Task Manager to reset processes' priorities, and it does work to an extent. Unfortunately, some processes still slow down the system especially, despite using Task Manager.
I do like the idea of raising the priority of Task Manager though; I've never thought of that.


Quote:
Originally Posted by mmoy
A 2.0 Ghz Pentium 4 is a low-end machine these days. I don't know if
you can still get machines this slow. My current laptop is a Athlon
64 running at a 3.2 Ghz Pentium 4 equivalent and my CPU is on the
low end of the scale. The upper end is 4.0 to 4.2 Ghz equivalent.
Yes, in terms of todays machines, a 2.0 GHz is pretty slow. What I meant was that I wasn't running on an anemic, old processor, like something at 500 MHz. 2.0 should be enough to run average programs decently; what I meant was that this wasn't the fault of an especially slow processor.
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Hyperluminal
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So, any insights about my other questions?
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iDVFH.
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1.33 ghz IMO would be enough..laptops aren't made to be pushed like a desktop but the Powerbook is the ideal laptop if your looking to do strong activity on a laptop..my iBook isn't really made for that..Apple pretty much explains it all by the names of their machines (iBook portable,iMac desktop. Home machines for the family: Powerbook portable, Powermac desktop)Machines used for more powerful, time consuming programs.Used more for actual purpose than surfing the web, chatting etc.)
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