WWDC - Snow Leopard

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KB
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Mon Jun 08, 2009 10:50 pm Post

I'm trying not to be underwhelmed... Last year I bemoaned how I feared that Apple was becoming a phone company, as last year's keynote was solely dedicated to the iPhone which depressed the hell out of me; at least this year they spent three quarters of an hour on the new OS, Snow Leopard, before launching into the iPhone love-in (at which point my MacBook got closed). From a developer point of view, I'm really happy with what is happening with Snow Leopard - it's not going to take lots of extra code or conditional code ("don't do this on Tiger but do it on Leopard and maybe on Snow Leopard if the moon is gibbous etc") to get Scrivener up and running very nicely on the new OS. And it sounds as though it is going to be more stable, be a lot quicker and so on. From a user perspective, too, the cheap upgrade (well, we'll see about that - thirty dollars in the US will probably translate to forty pounds - sixty to eighty dollars - over here; they have yet to list the price on the UK Page) is well worth a more robust OS and the "Snow Leopard" moniker really makes it obvious that it's not a whizz-bang major upgrade to Leopard.

Still... Part of me really wanted to see the new "marble" interface introduced that has been rumoured for the past year. As far as I understood it, this would just have kept the current dark grey toolbars but got rid of the glowing blue controls that have been around since early Aqua - such as scrollers - and replaced them with something more subtle, such as the old iPhoto scrollers. But no such luck, and that's probably my biggest disappointment - that we are left with some controls that we use in every single application every day that are now looking rather hoary and kitsch. For something developed by Apple, that seems a little poor; especially when so much effort on their part is going into the iPhone interface. So my "it's a phone company first and a computer company second" concerns remain.

I do find it somewhat amusing - and indicative of just how much of an "under the hood" upgrade this was - to look at the Snow Leopard refinements page. You know that there's not much revolutionary or too exciting about an update when you see lots of space and blurb dedicated to features and bug fixes that would normally be relegated to the release notes - "PDF selection isn't so screwy!"; "disk eject isn't so buggy any more!"; "it works a bit faster!"; "we've refined the menus!".

Still, good news for me at least; except that the text system is as horrible as ever...

All the best,
Keith

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xiamenese
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Tue Jun 09, 2009 12:25 am Post

Harrummph! On the image of loads of icons on the refinements page, they've missed the most important icon, the one for the app. which is selling lots of Macs to PC users ... you've got it!

Bad Apple ;)

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Tue Jun 09, 2009 2:17 am Post

Still, good news for me at least; except that the text system is as horrible as ever...


And it's my surmise that this statement points to the true reason for your glum response to the keynote.

:D

Dave

P.S. I can't wait to see what happens when developers get their heads around OpenCL and its possibilities.

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gr
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Tue Jun 09, 2009 4:24 pm Post

KB wrote:Still... Part of me really wanted to see the new "marble" interface introduced that has been rumoured for the past year. As far as I understood it, this would just have kept the current dark grey toolbars but got rid of the glowing blue controls that have been around since early Aqua - such as scrollers - and replaced them with something more subtle


Sounds like you need to go into System Preferences and switch your Appearance from Aqua to Graphite. Small consolation, I know, but no more blue scroll bars.

--Greg

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Wock
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Mon Jun 22, 2009 1:43 pm Post

Open CL
The wheel is turning but the hamster is still dead.

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JackNewcastle
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Tue Jun 23, 2009 1:03 pm Post

I think Apple made the right move here. Mac OS X is becoming quite polished on the outside. It works very well overall; the annoyances of previous iterations' schizophrenic window dressings are now long gone. Plus, Leopard leaves us alone and just lets us work -- its primary strength over Windows, in my opinion.

That being said, we should examine the latest trends in computer hardware.

Memory
With huge amounts of dirt-cheap video RAM and system RAM now the norm, the core operating system needs to be able to address it all. The problem is that a 32-bit system can only read and write to 4 gigabytes, because each pigeonhole needs an address, and 32 bits isn't nearly enough addresses. 64-bit computing solves that for years to come (the amount of data addressable is now measured in exabytes -- which is... well, a LOT). Apple was ahead of the curve here -- maybe not first to bring out a 64-bit system, but it properly integrated the capability to where it didn't break existing apps. Now Apple can move forward with better hardware designs, unencumbered by weaknesses in the OS.

Processors
The next glaring weakness in future design is the speed barrier. In the past, you could simply design a new CPU with higher clock speeds to draw more performance. Not anymore -- we're running into thermal limitations. The higher the clock speed, the more energy gets wasted as heat. Once you hit about 3GHz, you gain no performance per watt by simply ramping up the clock rate. To solve this problem, new CPUs now have multiple "cores" -- that is, several CPUs on a single chip -- to crunch more computer code simultaneously.

However, there is a catch: most software is written to use a single core. Right now, you have to write your software specifically to take advantage of multiple CPU number crunching paths. Take it from a software developer: it's a pain in the butt and then some. With Snow Leopard, about 80% of the hard work of "threading" apps is now handled by the OS. For a developer, this is a godsend. It means you can write software that will perform multiple tasks at the same time with far less risk of introducing quirky behaviors into your app.

Review
RAM is getting cheaper and more abundant in hardware. Multiple CPUs (and graphics chips) are now the norm. Clock speeds are not going up by much due to little gains in efficiency. Thus, more cores per chip are the new race for performance.

Conclusion
Apple has wisely seized an opportunity: to smoothly implement the fundamental shift from single-core apps to ubiquitous multi-core, computationally efficient apps. This is the most logical direction to squeeze more performance out of software -- the old school of single-threaded apps running at higher speeds is dead.

This is why Snow Leopard is probably the most important release of the Mac OS since the transition from Classic to OS X. Apple must get the underlying architecture right, because it will affect every piece of software written for at least the next five years. We are witnessing the next great evolution in software, at least, from the perspective of those poor slugs that have to write all the code to make it work.

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Tue Jun 23, 2009 1:28 pm Post

But I *like* writing nasty multithreaded code.

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Jaysen
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Tue Jun 23, 2009 1:53 pm Post

JackNewcastle wrote:We are witnessing the next great evolution in software, at least, from the perspective of those poor slugs that have to write all the code to make it work.

Slugs? Couldn't we have stuck with cretin, or dork, or nerd? In know that many of us have hygiene issue but must we insinuate a general slime trail?

Geesh.
Jaysen

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ImageImage

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Sean Coffee
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Tue Jun 23, 2009 3:11 pm Post

Keith:

Think you're being a little shortsighted. Apple's still a computer company -- some of their computers are just getting a lot smaller, and you can make phone calls on a few of them. The Mac and the iPhone are not on parallel tracks; they're traveling along converging lines. Seems to me that soon, Apple is going to return to one OS that works on everything, and iPhone news* will be Mac news.

S


*and [INSERT NEW TABLET-LIKE PRODUCT HERE] news

hm
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Tue Jun 23, 2009 7:12 pm Post

I agree with Sean.

OS X on the iphone and Mac OS X are sharing code when feasible.

Core Data was evolved in Mac OS X and now has moved over to the iPhone. Quicktime X in Mac OS X was borne from the iPhone's Quicktime stack.

I like this because it forces Apple to keep API small and as lightweight as they can get away with.

Mac OS X is not dead in fact it just may see a revival.

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KB
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Tue Jun 23, 2009 10:12 pm Post

Snow Leopard is getting a smaller footprint because it does away with all the PPC legacy code. I'm not being "short-sighted", thanks, just expressing my opinion. OS X is lovely in general and light years ahead of other OSes but there are a lot of areas that could do with work that haven't been touched for a while (by which I mean years), and speaking as a developer this can be frustrating. The text system is a prime example of this - the rich text control in the Windows API ten years ago was in many ways more advanced that the NSText system in use by OS X today, which is what many programs (such as Scrivener) have to rely on. I'm sure Snow Leopard will be very nice - Leopard is superb and it sounds as though my major gripes with Leopard are gone - but after two years really we are just getting a minor update to Leopard, with lots of internal fixes; the interface has yet to be properly unified and there is still stuff outstanding. To me it seems as though Apple are trying to trumpet something that they know is really a point update because most of their focus has been on the iPhone. And it is a little unrealistic to think that the iPhone and a full Mac can ever run exactly the same OS even if the OSes are based on the same code.

Sorry, and with all due respects to Alexander Bell, but I'm just one of the few who cannot get very excited by a mobile phone. But then, grumpy luddite that I am, I think that the mobile phone is one of the worst inventions of the modern age anyway. Fantastic things for when you've broken down or find yourself in the middle of nowhere, but the most annoying things on the planet when you're trying to read a book on a bus or train - and no amount of apps in the App Store will fix that, unless they have got one that tells the user to shut up and let the people around him or her sit in peace. :)

I hope that JackNewcastle is right and that Apple have put a lot of work into getting the underlying architecture right for the next ten years. And I am heartened by the rewrite of the Finder in Cocoa - that shows a strong commitment to Cocoa that stands us Cocoa developers in good stead. There are just other hoary old issues that I wish they'd sort out too.

Apologies for the grumpy reply but I'm not big on being called "short sighted" and I've just come out the other side of two hours of hideous paperwork with never puts me in the best of moods!

Best,
Keith

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Tue Jun 23, 2009 11:02 pm Post

Oh they do have that App, though it is illegal in most countries.
.:.
Ioa Petra'ka
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Sean Coffee
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Wed Jun 24, 2009 3:04 pm Post

hmurchison wrote:I agree with Sean.


Well reasoned and insightful comment! Welcome to the forum!


KB wrote: ... I'm not being "short-sighted", thanks, just expressing my opinion.


I'm sorry. I meant narrow minded.*





*A joke! I kid! I just like to poke fun at the short sighted, because they never see it coming. I apologize for calling you a name. You grump.

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KB
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Wed Jun 24, 2009 7:02 pm Post

Oh, "grump" and "narrow-minded" I can live with, my better half calls me those every day. And for your information, my astigmatisms quite cleared themselves a number of years ago so am glasses-free these days thank you very much.

Amber - I have wanted one of those for so long; I completely empathise with the architect.

Ap
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Wed Jun 24, 2009 7:12 pm Post

I want one of these too:

http://www.tvbgone.com/cfe_tvbg_main.php

It is a tiny remote that turns off TVs. That is all it does. I had to have my car repaired and this place has a huge, loud TV in the waiting room. I knew that I would be there for two to three hours. So... when no one was looking I pulled the plug out just enough so that it looked plugged in but the TV wouldn't work. Watching the people trying to get the TV to work was better than the book I had brought. No one tried the obvious which was the plug.

:D

Apollo16