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Making Operating Systems Faster 667

Posted by michael
from the pinstriping-adds-extra-torque dept.
mbrowling writes "In an article over at kernelthread.com Amit Singh discusses 'Ten Things Apple Did To Make Mac OS X Faster'. The theme seems to be that since you won't run into 'earth-shattering algorithmic breakthroughs' in every OS releases, what're you gonna do to bump your performance numbers higher? Although the example used is OS X, the article points out that Windows uses the same approach."
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Making Operating Systems Faster

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  • by xenostar (746407) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:33AM (#9325368)
    ...to make OS X faster is to stop having it render the GUI through Photoshop filters.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:34AM (#9325392)
      Same thing with XP... I get a much better performance if I shut off all the fancy transparency effects. Sure, they look cool.. but are they really necessary?

      OS designers shoudl also cut down with bloatware and trying to 'integrate' everything into the OS...
      • I don't mind that they are a possible thing to include. What I don't want to see is them enabled/installed by default.

        You have to go through a bunch of settings to tweak it for "optimum performance" or whatever. Those should be enabled by default. The fancy stuff should be enabled easily but it should be up to the user to decide if they are turned on.
        • by tarunthegreat2 (761545) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:11AM (#9325802)
          I agree whole-heartedly. If Windows came installed 'Bare-Bones', there'd be a lot less annoyed people out there (but I'm sure we'd all miss Clippy)....however, that's one of the issues - who do you decide what should be an inherent part of the OS, and what shouldn't. Although you won't find anybody on slashdot propounding the beauty of having IE tied into Explorer, I know lots of AverageJoes who like the fact that they can just have that address bar on the TaskBar, and type a webaddress into it or a file path. Maybe "Where The Line Should Be Drawn" can be future Ask Slashdot article....
          • The problem, if Windows came "bare-bones", is that no one would buy it.

            If Joe Public doesn't see "improvements" in the next generation of OS (like transparent windows, integrated internet browsing, etc.), then MS isn't going to convince many people to upgrade.

            (And yes, the typical /. crowd may not see those things as improvements, but MS isn't selling to the typical /. user.)
            • by mjh (57755) <mark AT hornclan DOT com> on Thursday June 03, 2004 @12:01PM (#9327209) Homepage Journal
              The problem, if Windows came "bare-bones", is that no one would buy it.
              Why? Microsoft has a monopoly on operating systems. People don't buy windows because it looks pretty, performs better, has the correct API set. They buy windows because it came on the computer they bought, and that's the computer that they know will run the software they have.

              I'm sure there are some consumers who buy windows based on other criteria, but the vast majority of windows purchases are as a consequence of compatibility. If the actual statistics showed only 99% of retail windows purchases were as a result of pre-installation, that's about 0.999% less than I would have expected.

              $.02

              • OS are not slow (Score:3, Insightful)

                This discussion is pedantic.

                Sure - speed is good,

                But the speed of application is simply this - they must be fast enough to be tolerable - no faster.

                customers are not going to choose a product which makes drastic speed enhancements at the expense of features - provided those features can be run at reasonable speeds on available hardware.

                Rather - there are features out their waiting for hardware speeds to see the limelight.

                Voice recognition is often touted as waiting for higher CPU speeds.

                So is Live ren
        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:14AM (#9325846)
          > What I don't want to see is them enabled/installed by default.

          Let me guess, you don't sell OS's right? To move software, you have to have all the pretty stuff that makes it look nice ON by default. Because that's what the general population cares about. They'll look at it and say "Wow, that's ugly, what a crappy OS." ... and never buy it.

          When it's pretty, *you* will say "Wow, that's pretty, but it's slowing it down, let me go into control panels, and registry settings, and god knows what else to tweak my settings while I overclock the damn thing and stick it in a freezer." Then you'll bitch about it on Slashdot. Which is exactly what's supposed to happen.

          Because *they* don't know how to turn it on, and *you* do know how to turn it off. So the burden, by default, is on you. It sucks, but hey, what else is new?
          • by garcia (6573) * on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:33AM (#9326131) Homepage
            When it's pretty, *you* will say "Wow, that's pretty, but it's slowing it down, let me go into control panels, and registry settings, and god knows what else to tweak my settings while I overclock the damn thing and stick it in a freezer." Then you'll bitch about it on Slashdot. Which is exactly what's supposed to happen.

            There are easier ways to enable these "features" than creating a ton of hoops for BOTH sides of users.

            Instead of clicking through a bunch of menus, finding the options, selecting radio buttons, etc, just disable it by default and ask at install/setup time "do you want the 'pretty version'? Be warned that it may affect system performance."

            I think that eliminates the problems.
            • "do you want the 'pretty version'? Be warned that it may affect system performance."

              That's going to scare away non-technical users though.

              MS, love 'em or hate 'em, is doing it right: appeal to the largest market segment with the default settings. Those people who want to improve performance are still be able to, but need to make the adjustments post-install.
              • by silicon not in the v (669585) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @11:04AM (#9326565) Journal
                Something I like about KDE (and Gnome may do this too--I've just never used it) in this area over Windows is their performance/eye candy slider. You don't have to go through finding which settings are the eye candy and turning them off one by one. KDE has a slider that you can drag toward features or performance, and it shows below that the settings that are being turned on or off.
            • by Overly Critical Guy (663429) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @11:53AM (#9327148)
              There are easier ways to enable these "features" than creating a ton of hoops for BOTH sides of users.

              What fucking hoops?

              Right-click My Computer->Properties->Advanced->Settings button.

              Choose either "Best Performance" or "Best Appearance." Or check each option individually. What a non-issue.

              If this was KDE, someone would have already answered with this, but because it's Windows, everyone just nods with the rest of the flock, "Baa, baa, yes, there are hoops to jump through, baa."

              Speaking of KDE, talk about fucking hoops. You've got a completely horrible control center, with three different areas for changing the looks of things like window styles, widget styles, and so on. Why the hell isn't that all integrated into one configuration dialog? Oh, I forgot, ease-of-use is a criticism we only reserve for non-issues on the Windows platform like checking a radio button to get rid of a blue theme.
      • I mentioned the eye candy slowness recently, and somebody came back with a reply that made sense:


        Windows's idea of eye candy was that menus (and submenus) would all slowly fade in. The process of navigating deep into hierarchical menus was maddeningly slow--at least until everyone turned it off.

        In osx, menus appear immediately, and then fade out after you select something. This is not only pretty, but functional: it gives you visual confirmation that you've selected a menu item, which can be helpful if
      • by Anonvmous Coward (589068) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:36AM (#9326171)
        "Sure, they look cool.. but are they really necessary?"

        Ugh I hate this question. "Is it really necessary?"... is the type of question you can ask if you really want to make anything go away. "Is a >500mhz processor really necessary? Is a color monitor really necessary? Is being connected to the net 24/7 really necessary? Is a color printer really necessary when B&W is cheaper?" Who really cares so long as you can choose?

        I'll answer your question, though: The more your UI gives you, the better reflexes you can build while using your machine. Have you ever reacted to a screen refresh? (Particularly in the olden days when the CPU had to fight harder...) Ever notice change in window focus simply by spotting the change in titlebar color? Etc.

        I have no problem with people turning the fancy stuff off to boost performance, but the "is it really necessary" argument does not apply. The question is really "Do I want it?"

      • I'm surprised by how much people are ignoring this. Every single time Apple releases a new version of MacOS X they cut out a bunch of Aqua special effects. The most notable thing was when they took the striping away from the dock, which made that critical UI element pop up much faster. These aren't really optimizations so much as "taking away features to make it go faster."

        For a comparison you can run X with fvwm in (not in rootless mode) on MacOS X and see the difference. Or turn on terminal transpare
        • by rworne (538610) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @11:23AM (#9326805) Homepage
          Apple removed striping from everywhere in Panther. Quite a bit of it was replaced by brushed-metal. Even so, all it is doing is replacing one bitmap with another. The only possible gain is if they do not need to use alpha for transparency. Yet not all of this is by "removing" stuff. Quite a bit of tweaking is being done to speed up the OS, the most recent software update resulted in quite a few reports of faster system operation, and there was no discernable change in the featureset or operation of the UI.

          The reason X runs slowly compared to Aqua is that Apple optimizes Aqua and allows harware acceleration (Quartz Extreme) and offloads lots of tasks to the GPU. I know of no X windowing system (aside from Apple's own implementation) that does this in OS X.

          10.0 and 10.1 were dog-slow. Especially when you had a couple of hundred files in a folder. Jaguar was a huge increase in speed and performance. Quite a bit of that was due to the Quartz Extreme, but even my lowly 500MHz dual-USB iBook saw quite a boost from Jaguar and it was not able to use QE at all. Panther did very little to the iBook, except make it take forever to boot. I need to check on that bootcache issue.

          My dual 800MHz Quicksilver is now almost three years old and I am still very happy with its performance. I expected to be wanting to replace it after two years, or after clock speeds have doubled, which is what I did when I used Wintel systems. Instead, I am considering keeping it around for the 10.4 release and at least another year or two. I attribute quite a bit of this to Apple's tweaks and performance enhancements of the OS.
      • by DunbarTheInept (764) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @03:26PM (#9329296) Homepage
        They are fine so long as they remain optional. There are times when a transparent window has functionality beyond just looking cool. The ability to see what's printed in the window behind the one you're typing into is useful when reading a manual (in the form of on-line help or a web page), and using that manual to decide what to type into an editor or shell prompt. (This is the same reason I hate systems that force the keyboard focus window to always be the topmost window. Ever since I first felt what it was like to have the two decoupled, using Sun's openView system in 1992, I never wanted to go back.)

        What really bothers me, and it is the main reason I have stopped using Gnome, is this: Developers often assume that the moment the computers get fast enough that they can respond to fancy graphic requests using 100% of the CPU time, that this is the point where all reasonable people would stop complaining about the time they take up, and would be happy to have the little graphic toys unconditionally turned on at all times. This I call "bullshit". It's only when the fancy graphic requests end up taking a teeny, tiny fraction of the CPU time that it starts to become acceptable to leave them uncoditionally on.

        I don't just want fast response from my UI when the system is under light load. I also want fast response from my UI when there's a runaway process I need to find and kill, or when I'm calculating some big raytrace in the background. So, yes, even in this day and age where you can't find a new computer with less than a Gigahertz clock rate, it is STILL worth it to provide the user with the ability to turn off features that require a good amount of CPU usage.

        It's up to the owner of the computer to decide what to spend their CPU time on, not the maker of the UI.

    • by Doctor Crumb (737936) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:28AM (#9326073) Homepage
      I know it was a joke, but apple's GUI is rendered using the video card's processing power, not your CPU's. So such fancy effects are using cycles that would otherwise be idle, giving no performance hit at all, and making it look fricking cool at the same time.
  • Faster? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AsnFkr (545033) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:33AM (#9325370) Homepage Journal
    You've got to be kidding me. XP is CRAZY slower than 2k. I suppose thats what happens when you add a Microsoft+ package to Windows 2000. Wanna make it faster? Disable all the useless services and shut off the ugly eye candy. *sigh*.
    • Re:Faster? (Score:4, Funny)

      by Smidge204 (605297) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:38AM (#9325427) Journal
      Phase 1: Release software that has been deliberately (but discreetly) crippled in performance

      Phase 2: Re-release same software under a different name or version, only uncrippled. Claim massive performance improvements.

      Phase 3: Profit as everyone upgrades/migrates to your product because of the great performance reviews

      Hey, it seems to work for AOL, and I bet it could work for Microsoft!
      =Smidge=
    • Re:Faster? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by KoriaDesevis (781774) <koriadesevis@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:42AM (#9325466) Journal

      XP is CRAZY slower than 2k.

      XP is faster to come up to the desktop. However, it is still busy accessing the hard drive and loading stuff in the background. You still have to wait for the OS to quit loading itself before you can use anything. Microsoft's claim that XP is faster than 2K was based on the time to desktop, apparently not time to usability.

      Once loaded, XP has an annoying habit of wanting to refresh the desktop from time to time. That slows things down even more.

      • Re:Faster? (Score:3, Informative)

        by baxissimo (135512)
        By "refresh the desktop" do you mean that thing when all the icons disappear momentarily and then come back, possibly showing the generic icon for a moment before the actual icons appear?

        If that's what you mean by "refresh", then that's actually Windows Explorer (which the desktop is an instance of) crashing followed by a background process realizing it died and starting it back up.

        If that happens to you a lot then maybe you've installed some unstable shell extensions? Or maybe you're talking about somet
        • Re:Faster? (Score:4, Informative)

          by Anonvmous Coward (589068) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:44AM (#9326278)
          "If that's what you mean by "refresh", then that's actually Windows Explorer (which the desktop is an instance of) crashing followed by a background process realizing it died and starting it back up."

          Um, no. XP gives you an 'Explorer just crashed' message when it tanks. Heh my coworker next to me is actually having this 'explorer likes to crash regularly' problem. When you lose your taskbar and all your icons in the system tray disappear, then you know Explorer has gone south and restarted.

          Windows does have a 'refresh and rebuild the desktop' function. It's the same one they use to put your desktop icons back when you change video modes. (I.e. playing a game.) That's exactly what the person is describing.
        • Re:Faster? (Score:3, Informative)

          by rhinoX (7448)
          Wow, all this speculation. When windows refreshes like that it's because you changed a "system" setting, and set a "systemchanged" event. This causes applications that support it to refresh their settings from whatever store they have them in.

          This happens when you say, change your proxy settings (on or off, hit apply - bang, a refresh).

    • by millahtime (710421) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:42AM (#9325478) Homepage Journal
      upgrading from 2K to XP on the same hardware will slow you down. Upgreading from OS X 10.2 to 10.3 on the same hardware will give you speed improvements a majority of the time.

      I can see how they can write an artice about how apple did this but to claim that Microsoft does it too. I don't see how. Unless Microsoft has improvements but enough of the new things they add slow it down so much more the gain is outweighted by the loss.
    • Re:Faster? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by GooberToo (74388) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:41AM (#9326224)
      Ya, benchmark after benchmark showed all of XP's IPC mechanisms to be much, much slower than previous releases. IIRC, several other subsystems were found to be slower as well. By those in the know, XP is widely regarded as Microsoft's slowest OS release in a long while. The only reason it's not widely realized is that machines constantly get faster and more memory is being used which hides the additional bloat.

      Anyone that thinks MS' OS, as a whole, is getting faster with each release is simply not living in our reality.
  • Reduce Bloat (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:34AM (#9325382)

    why does my 3ghz p4 choke on spellchecking a 50k doc with a 500mb text editor (Word2k3) ?

    why does explorer choke on listing 10,000 files ?

    why should i ever upgrade my word processing applications ? or can they type for me now ?

    bah, innovation is dead, shame

  • One word: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by swordboy (472941) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:34AM (#9325384) Journal
    Hard Drive

    Largest bottleneck in any modern system. If you've never had the opportunity to use a 15krpm (or something faster) system, do it now. It flies... I don't care if it is Windows or what... it doesn't matter when you've got usable bandwidth to the biggest chunk of storage out there.
    • by tomknight (190939) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:40AM (#9325447) Homepage Journal
      Hard Drive

      That's two words.

      Tom.

    • That's 2 words. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Moderation abuser (184013) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:45AM (#9325527)
      Anyway... You are completely correct but...

      My 2 words are RAM DRIVE. You think you can't justify 4Gb of RAM? Course you can.

      Dedicate 2-3Gb of it to a ram drive and mount it as your root, /usr, /opt partition, whichever one you have all of your applications installed on. Copy the hard drive to the ram drive at bootup. DD can do it quickly if you just zap the whole partition across. I think there are mount options to tell the Linux filesystem buffer not to cache a particular filesystem.

      The difference in performance can be stunning.

      • Re:That's 2 words. (Score:3, Informative)

        by Dibblah (645750)
        You have an interesting definition of "justify". Besides, letting the VM do it's own thing with the buffer-cache does *much* better than stuffing RAM full of some random portion of disk that you think is 'important'.
      • Re:That's 2 words. (Score:4, Informative)

        by mbbac (568880) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:04AM (#9325729)
        Doesn't most unixes extensive use of cache really eliminate the benefits of that approach? I know Mac OS X will use almost all of however much physical RAM it's given.
    • Re:One word: (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AviLazar (741826) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:49AM (#9325566) Journal
      Agreed. My Pent III 800 mghtz, SCSI computer (scsi hard drive, dvd player, cd rom) with 512 ram, Hercules 64 Meg video card runs games like Diablo II MUCH MUCH Faster then my 2.2 ghtz laptop with 512 ram, a better video card (Nvida GForce 4 Go card), "faster" IDE dvd rom. A better test. When I upgraded from IDE to SCSI I performed a DOS level copy. The screen would scroll and periodically pause when reading from the IDE drive. The IDE drive was 7600 RPM, the SCSI HD is 15k. When it would write to the SCSI drive, it FLEW! Never once did it pause. WHile scsi is expensive, runs extremely hot (meaning you need more fans), and is fickle at best - when it works it does WONDERS.... For those people who like to have a RAID system - SCSI is still faster as it reads & writes faster... but again it is more expensive (usually about double - triple) -A
    • Re:One word: (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mbbac (568880) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:00AM (#9325689)
      Yes, but a 10,000 RPM SATA drive is so expensive! A 73.4GB Western Digital "Raptor" 10,000 RPM is the same price as a 250GB Maxtor MaXLine Plus II 7200 RPM.

      Maybe 10,000 RPM model would make a good boot drive with all of the home folders on the 250GB 7200 RPM drive. Then again, most file access would probably be from the slower drive. Eh.
  • pretty much (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LBArrettAnderson (655246) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:34AM (#9325393)
    So pretty much, Mac and Windows are made faster by using resources when they're not being used already. Not a genius idea, but the hard part is figuring out how to do that, which is what the article discusses.
  • by torpor (458) <ibisum@gmail. c o m> on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:35AM (#9325402) Homepage Journal
    .. but I thought that the primary 'reason' for OSX slowness was that Apples binary format is designed to maintain 'compatability' with the register set of the 68k processors, and in fact they're not using all the PPC registers in a way that is most efficient?

    I haven't looked into it for a while (mod me down for being uncertain if you like), but I seem to recall that there were serious leaps and bounds still left in OSX performance, with a change to the ABI register use, potentially, in the future ...
  • by xplosiv (129880) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:37AM (#9325416)
    Check out www.blackviper.com [blackviper.com], it's one of the better sites dedicated to tuning and increasing performance of Windows 2000/XP
  • by Pike65 (454932) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:37AM (#9325422) Homepage
    More hamsters!
  • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:39AM (#9325440)
    After all, they make OS X for a very limited subset of hardware that they also produce (or at least assemble). Presumably they write all the drivers (or at least have input to them) and are already making use of a lot of good work from the Open Source community.

    What takes genius is getting every ounce of speed from a Linux or Windows box that can be a conglomeration of different motherboards, CPUs, graphics cards, hard disks, etc.

    • What takes genius is getting every ounce of speed from a Linux or Windows box that can be a conglomeration of different motherboards, CPUs, graphics cards, hard disks, etc.

      No. What takes genius is getting every combination of different motherboards, CPU, graphic cards, hard disks, etc and make it *ALL* work flawlessly and without any configuration at all. Just plug it in, turn it on and it's ready.

      No updating drivers. No having to check for incompatibilities between different mobos and wifi chipsets (o

    • by Matthias Wiesmann (221411) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:57AM (#9325657) Homepage Journal
      Actually, if you had bothered with reading the article instead of repeating the old Apple has it easy with limited hardware cliché, you would have noticed that this is absolutely not related to driver performance.

      Only one optimisation presented is related to hardware drivers, and it is cache of what kernel extensions will probably be loaded. Most of the optimisations (basically lots of caching and dynamic defragmentation) could be implemented in Linux, regardless of the amount of supported hardware.

    • by ktulu1115 (567549) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @11:30AM (#9326883)
      Eh.. I'd argue differently.

      IMHO, the next major revolution in OS design (and performance) will be from an exokernel [mit.edu] architecture. For those who aren't familiar with them, it's a completely radical and different approach to kernel design, the main idea behind it is seperate protection from management. If you really think about it, who (I use that term loosely) would know better what resources, scheduling, etc an application will need - the kernel, or the application itself.

      Traditional kernel design techniques give the (pretty much) the entire management of resources to the kernel itself and hide it behind a HAL (hardware abstraction layer), allowing the application little to zero say in the matter. Exokernels throw that idea out of the window, taking a completely opposite view on the issue. Once you give the power to the application, it opens a whole new world of OS design.

      It's really quite interesting, for more information on different kernel designs you can check out the Microkernel entry [thefreedictionary.com] at thefreedictionary.com
  • by Paulrothrock (685079) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:40AM (#9325443) Homepage Journal
    I've been using OS X since public beta, and every upgrade has been considerably faster, even on my four-year old G4/400. I expect to be using that machine as a server well into the future, mostly due to the fact that Apple is doing such a good job making operating systems work well on older machines.

    And the fact that I won't be discouraged from keeping 10.3 or 10.4 on that system if the next version doesn't support my hardware through annoying EULAs.

  • by Stevyn (691306) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:40AM (#9325446)
    I wish these were incorporated into linux more. I don't care what anyone says, comparing windows and linux on the same machine has always shown to ME that windows seems a lot faster. Applications take longer to load in linux. Mozilla for example, takes longer to load than it did in windows on the same computer. Other applications that I can't compare directly seem to take a while when they're just small apps.

    Aparently, windows caches a bunch of stuff and has a bunch other little hacks that allows this. So why can't linux and the kde people do this. They've copied everything else, why not this?

    Before you mod me as flamebait or troll, I switched over to linux a while ago and I have no intention on going back to windows. I'm not some ms fanboy bitching about my 10 minute experience with linux. All I'm saying is that here are some points where linux annoys me.
    • by pb (1020)
      ... prelinking.

      What distro are you using?
    • by poptones (653660)
      I know what you mean. In fact, I wrote a "call for help" a very loing time ago about just this, as I had purchased (at very low price) a bunch of old vectras for use as "giveaway desktops" and I was looking to make the most of their 200mhz pentium mmx cpus. I tried several different linux distros with minimal windows managers (like blackbox) and none of them felt as snappy as the same machine running windows 2000.

      So, I know what you mean. And I've even noticed the same thing when trying ootb installs of ma

    • by GooberToo (74388) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:53AM (#9326407)
      KDE apps has down right painful startup times, especially if you don't run KDE. That being said, I find parity in application start ups between the two and generally find Linux to be faster for most everything I do, save only for playing games (like NWN).

      Some efforts have been going into making KDE and KDE applications start up faster. Just the same, if it bothers you that much, don't run KDE or KDE applications. There are many window managers to pick from. Even GTK+ applications tend to load much faster than KDE applications (C versus C++, which is the root of one of the speed issues).

      The overall performance of X and Linux will be faster and more responsive as the 2.6 kernel starts to become more common. A typical desktop user should see something like 20%-40% better performance and responsiveness. Even servers typically see 20%-30% improvement in almost all areas. Improvements like these, make applications like apache and samba, which already blew the doors off of Windows, that much more impressive.

      Beyond that, start up time, in my mind, is a complete waste of time. Unlike Windows, Linux does not become unstable as you load more applications into memory. Start your computer and all of your applications (memory is cheap; tuning you swappiness as needed) and never have to load them again. I find that application crashes are rare; well, the ones I run. This means, rarely needing to restart your applications. As such, restart time is lost in noise. Furthermore, system stability can easily be measured in months or years as long as you're not running a closed source 3rd party driver (*cough* nvidia, ati).

      Long story short, while I hear you and think you have a valid point, the long of it is, it's completely lost in the noise and really doesn't matter.
  • by wiggys (621350) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:42AM (#9325477)
    1) Don't install so much crap on your computer. 5 megapixel photos set as wallpaper along with Real Player, Gator Spyware Crap, Quicktime Task, HP scanner registration reminder sofware, webshots, Norton anything, MS office bar etc running on startup will make your nice shiny new computer run like an arthritic snail on sleeping tablets.

    2) Turn off some of the eyecandy. All those fades and whooshes and stuff don't actually do anything useful, they just consume CPU cycles and waste your time.

    3) Use Ad Aware and SpyBot regularly to keep scumware out of your computer. I had to clean up a PC this morning which had stopped working because the BASTARDS at NewDotNet wrote some software which fucked the TCP/IP stack backwards.

    4) Defrag regularly and run MSCONFIG to check what crap is sneaking back on to your Startup scripts.

    BTW, Windows 3.1 sitting on MSDOS 6.2 ran like shit of a stick on my old P133. I wonder if/how it would run on a modern system?
    • um, no (Score:3, Interesting)

      by millahtime (710421)
      Problem with this is that it's things the user needs to do. The article is about what apple did that is independant of the user.
    • BTW, Windows 3.1 sitting on MSDOS 6.2 ran like shit of a stick on my old P133. I wonder if/how it would run on a modern system?

      I don't know, but I ran Windows 3.1 on top of OS/2 3.0 and on a P133 and it worked perfectly, and its speed was acceptable. It must have run significantly faster on native DOS.
    • by mbbac (568880) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:09AM (#9325772)
      5 megapixel photos set as wallpaper
      Actually, Quartz does an extremely good job of displaying 6.2 megapixel images on the desktop even on slow and old Macs.

      All those fades and whooshes and stuff don't actually do anything useful, they just consume CPU cycles and waste your time.
      Most of that is handed off to the GPU via Quartz Extreme.

      Defrag regularly
      HFS Plus already does that for me.
  • by mac-diddy (569281) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:43AM (#9325484)
    Sure, prebinding does speed up loading, but it also breaks everything from tripwire, to backup. Since the file is changed out from under you, all traditional unix tools that use checksums or file size to determine file changes break.

    Apple, and other system vendors need to consider these types of management issues when making a change. Speed improvements are only good if they are "management friendly"

  • Missing Step (Score:5, Informative)

    by baudilus (665036) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:44AM (#9325510)
    The number one thing they should do IMHO is reduce overhead. Using Microsoft Windows as an example, windows 98 has much less overhead than 2k, which in turn has much less than XP. A lot of it is eye-candy, which is all well and good, but those should be options that are OFF by default. XP differs from previous versions because it uses a 'shell' based gui (similar to KDE / GNOME, etc), which, while nice, is going to cause some system slowdown. Using the 'explorer' shell, which is heavily intergrated into the Windows OS, is the fastest, and should be the default. Then if people want to change it to look pretty [litestep.net] they can, by sacrificing speed (in slower machines).

    Stop adding services / features that are on by default, and you'll see a huge improvement in speed.
    • Re:Missing Step (Score:4, Interesting)

      by lpangelrob2 (721920) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:03AM (#9325727) Journal
      I'm not sure if one can say on a general level that even the majority of users considers speed to be important. I'll take up OS X because I remember reading a quote on an Apple webpage -- Why did we do it [fancy graphics *everywhere*]? Because we could.

      I'll simplify the comparison quiter a bit, but I think Apple decided to trade speed for distinguishing features. It must've worked, because people noticed.

    • Re:Missing Step (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Draknor (745036)
      While I agree with you, there's a very good reason Microsoft won't change their defaults: because its more important for Microsoft to get version differentiation / recognition by the unwashed masses than it is to get best performance. You set a novice computer user in front of Windows XP (with the fugly XP shell) and Windows 2000, and John Doe *immediately* knows which one is XP. So when John Doe is ordering a machine from Dell, or standing in Best Buy or CompUSA, he knows he's getting XP (which he wants
  • Apparent Speed (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rf0 (159958) <rghf@fsck.me.uk> on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:50AM (#9325570) Homepage
    Of course one could argue that is worth making the GUI faster to give an apparent speed increase whilst allowing improvments in CPU/Disk to carry the rest of the OS. Then again of course I know nothing about system design

    Rus
  • by joshds (768748) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:50AM (#9325572)
    Hard Drive is the bottleneck........ Has anyone tried using a RAMdisk as their OS drive? I've read a lot and heard of people trying, but never come across a comprehensive how-to + review. With the amount of ram we can have nowadays (new pc's coming with 6 banks for dual-channel DDR), I'd pay $250 for an extra 2GB of ram in order to have my OS + key apps run off of that. Other solutions? (CF too slow?)...
    • by phillymjs (234426) <slashdot@nospAM.stango.org> on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:24AM (#9326003) Homepage Journal
      Has anyone tried using a RAMdisk as their OS drive?

      Many moons ago, it was possible to make a RAM disk on a Mac, install an OS on it, and (warm) boot from it. It would remain in memory and work perfectly as long as the computer wasn't shut down-- it could only be restarted. I tried it once or twice just to check it out, and the computer booted and ran like lightning compared to the normal hard drive boot.

      One of the utility suites back then (Central Point Utilities?) even had a feature where the machine would boot from a RAM disk with the utils on it, to fix the occasional really serious Mac problem.

      Booting from a RAM disk stopped being possible after Apple made a hardware change in newer Macs that had the side-effect of making the RAM non-persistent through warm-reboots (i.e., your RAM disk would go bye-bye). I forget exactly when it happened... perhaps after the first generation of Power Macs, when they went from using NuBus to using PCI?

      Here's another interesting fact. The Macintosh Classic, released in 1990, had System 6.0.8 (IIRC) burned into its ROM-- you could boot it disklessly from the OS in ROM by holding down Command-Option-O-X at startup. Nobody really knows what that feature was intended for.

      ~Philly
  • by turgid (580780) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:50AM (#9325576) Journal
    For you noobs out there, here's how to make Linux faster.

    Download yourself the latest cutting-edge gcc from the 3.5.0 branch on CVS and do a make bootstrap. Install this over your original C compiler.

    Get the latest 2.6.7-preX kernel from kernel.org and configure it with no modules: everything build it. Modules slow you down.

    Enable all the EXPERIMENTAL drivers. They are ususally much faster than the old ones that may have been in the kernel now for 6 or more months.

    When you have saved your configuration, hack the top level Makefile to add "-O9 -fomit-instructions" in the CFLAGS macro.

    time gmake -j64 bootstrap. Even if you have a single CPU system, building with lots of processes in parallel is faster because it soaks up CPU idle time when waiting on I/O operations.

    Enjoy.

  • by G4from128k (686170) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:51AM (#9325595)
    Early versions of some film scanner software that I worked on were terribly slow. A quick profile of the running code showed that about 10% of the time was spent in a little piece of code called TtoF(). This code parsed and coverted text into floats.

    The earliest versions of the software did not convert key preference/calibration/setup files into internally stored numerical values -- instead, anytime the code needed a calibration/setup value, it went to the file, read it, and converted it. Needless to say, that "feature" was quickly corrected.

    That's not as bad as an early VAX image processing program that prepped newly allocated file space by setting all the bytes to zero, one byte at a time.
  • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:01AM (#9325695) Homepage Journal
    Rewrite it!

    This holds especially for applications, but it definitely applies to operating systems as well. Most modern software is simply bloated beyond belief.

    BeOS, by all accounts, is a full-fledged OS, and it takes a Pentium (not Pentium 4, but original Pentium) 15 seconds to boot it, including the GUI. What's up with Windows and OS X taking over a minute on hardware that is several times faster?! On Linux, you could at least skip most of the init stuff and boot in seconds (likely mostly pauses that you have to keep for faulty PC hardware).

    Then there's the libraries. glibc is well over 5 megabytes. You are not going to convince me that isn't bloatware. If all that code doesn't eat CPU time, it at least eats memory, which could lead to more swapping. GTK is also typical - ever resize a GTKWindow? It's visibly slow! That doesn't happen to Windows 3.11 on my grandpa's 486! What is that code doing?!

    Applications... Firefox is what? 10 megabytes installed size? And that's a light weight browser. What? We need 10 megabytes on top of libc, X, and GTK for parsing a simple markup language and rendering those widgets? Excuse me! Even lynx is hundreds of kilobytes, and it mostly just reads data from a socket, strips the tags, and spits it straight out. What the fsck? Say "OpenOffice.org" or Java and I'll explode.

    All we have today is bloatware. I'm *really* tempted to roll my own OS and applications, and I am going to have a shot at it this summer.
    • by Ath (643782) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:34AM (#9326151)
      I have a nice utility from Logitech called iTouch. What does it do? It handles key mappings for their keyboard that has some custom key.

      Application memory space during runtime? 15MB.

      I remember when Borland spend a lot of effort to optimize their Quattro Pro spreadsheet so that it was monitoring it's own memory usage down to 512 byte increments. It would start discarding portions of itself that it no longer needed.

      Those days are over, for sure.

  • Easy! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:03AM (#9325722) Homepage Journal
    CFLAGS="-O99 -march=p4 -fomit-frame-pointer"

    At least, that's what I heard on IRC. Oh, and use about a gram of silicone grease on the northbridge - that'll speed up your RAM.

  • by Efialtis (777851) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:15AM (#9325876) Homepage
    I worked there for years, through the development of Win95 Osr2, Win98, Win98 SE, Win ME (but that one wasn't my fault), WIn 2k, Win XP and into the first little bit of Longhorn... Longhorn will be as slow as or slower than the current XP systems, even when properly configured. We don't call it "Bloatware" for nothing. One way to make it faster is to cut out all the crap. If someone wants to install Solitaire, FANTASTIC, let them choose to do so, but for crap sake, DON'T install it by default... Fix the File Tables, Fat32 was good, NTFS is better, they say the new schema for Longhorn will be better, if they can ever get it working... If a user wants the colors and blinking things, then let them set it that way...don't make that the default... Just because a processor can hit 3.2 GHz DOES NOT mean you have to use every Hz of speed... Just because Hard Disks are not in the hundreds of GB, does not mean you must fill it up with an OS... Just because memory is "cheep" and some systems can handle 2 gig or more, does not mean you must use the whole thing to manage your OS... The system requirements for Longhorn are rediculous at best...when Longhorn ships, Linux will finally get the break it needs!
  • Looking elsewhere (Score:5, Interesting)

    by aking137 (266199) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:17AM (#9325901)
    This is technically offtopic, but often much of the 'slowness' we still experience on our computers which people often blame on their 'operating system' isn't really down to the operating system (i.e. kernel), but more the higher level stuff that runs on top of it. It seems that lots of efforts are going into making operating systems more efficient, since there's lots of interest in this area, but that efficiency is more than lost further up. (Not that I should be complaining, since I'm just another person not doing anything about it.)

    Try running Windows NT on a new Intel system (say 2-3GHz) for example - it'll run blazingly fast, and with software versions from around the same time it'll still do much of what everyone wants to do - email, web, office, graphics manipulation - but really much faster - things will load practically instantly, rather than after five or ten seconds, and it's all still nice and graphical and everything, just like people want.

    Many (but not all) XP machines I meet still seem to take 2-10 seconds even to do basic things such as open My Computer, Internet Explorer or a properties dialog, which one has to wonder is worth the wait for the extra functionality - basically lots of drivers, a couple of extra bundled programs and supported file formats, minor changes to the interface and the other couple of things I'll get flamed for forgetting. Microsoft have no doubt made some improvements to the kernel between releasing NT and releasing XP, but most still seem to be no faster to use, if not slower.

    I maintained a school network up until last year which still ran NT and KDE2 on around 2/3 of systems, and then when my replacement went and wiped everything out and replaced it with new machines running XP (with an enormous cost to them), many staff told me that there were lots of things that didn't work any more, and there'd be frequent outages of the entire network.

    On a Linux+X system, running X on its own (i.e. just the one program you want) or with a light window manager (fvwm or whatever) is again noticeably faster than running Gnome or KDE. Loading Mozilla or OpenOffice.org means loading the entire frameworks they run in, and often we're loading up a great deal of functionality we don't want in that particular situation. I think a good example is Dillo [dillo.org], a web browser written entirely in C that just does the basics (launches in around 0.7 seconds on this Athlon 700 system, compared to Mozilla, which takes around 5, and Mozilla Firefox, which isn't far off that) - it'd be interesting to see if they could add things like CSS or SSL support and still keep it fast.
  • FS Journaling (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mslinux (570958) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:27AM (#9326056)
    Filesystem journaling does not make the filesystem faster, and it's silly to suggest that it does.

    In fact, journaled filesystems are generally noticeably (one might say significantly) slower than non-journaled ones.

    The only 'performance' gain one gets from journaling is after an unclean dismount (a crash or power outage). The system will boot up much quicker, but that's it.
    • Re:FS Journaling (Score:3, Informative)

      by tgibbs (83782)
      Filesystem journaling does not make the filesystem faster, and it's silly to suggest that it does. In fact, journaled filesystems are generally noticeably (one might say significantly) slower than non-journaled ones.

      As you'll see from this benchmark [macnn.com] Apple's implementation of journaling has generally negligible effect on performance, and some operations do in fact run faster.

  • OS/2 Warp (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ToasterTester (95180) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:37AM (#9326182)
    Do like IBM did with OS/2's big revision Warp. All the changes to Warp slowed performance down in general so IBM used smoke and mirrors. They worked on speeding up screen I/O as much as possible. End users raved about how fast Warp was. Looks faster, feels faster, but any program that required much prcessing was getting slower and slower. But joe user thought he had a speed deamon becasue the screen painted real fast.
  • 1. turn on apple II series box.
    2. Press Ctrl+break (? it's been a looong time since I used one).
    3. You're done.
    It takes under 2 seconds. Show me a "new" machine (see: desktop,server or notebook from the last 5 years) that actually boots that fast, please! (not just turns on the monitor)
  • Sleep vs Hibernate (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hiroto. S (631919) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:46AM (#9326300) Journal
    10. Instant-on

    Apple computers do not hibernate. Rather, when they "sleep", enough devices (in particular, the dynamic RAM) are kept alive (at the cost of some battery life, if the computer is running on battery power). Consequently, upon wakeup, the user perceives instant-on behavior: a very desirable effect.

    I don't know how they can be proud of not hibernating. Windows can sleep OR hibernate. Although being a Mac household, hibernation is one reason I MIGHT consider windows for my next laptop. The ability to get back to all you have left around with your laptop hibernating for a few days unplugged and still have full battery power when you open it up is VERY nice.

    • by boobert (7652)
      My ibook can "sleep" for several days. Also I really like the fact that I can close it move around the house and my ssh sessions are still up when i open it up again.
    • by argent (18001)
      And I turn off both sleep AND hibernate on my Windows laptop because the Windows sleep and hibernate don't work... the battery goes flat just as fast whether it thinks it's hibernating or not.

      The APM hibernation that the laptop's own BIOS implements works fine in FreeBSD, though. Wish Windows didn't take over that functionality.
  • by HungWeiLo (250320) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @11:09AM (#9326623)
    device=himem.sys
    device=emm386.exe noems
    files=40
    buffers=10
    smartdrv c+ 10000
  • by ebcdic (39948) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @11:18AM (#9326736)
    Whenever you install new software, you have to wait while the system "optimizes" it, which in fact means checking for applications that need their prebinding redone. On a 700MHz imac - less than 2 years old - this sometimes takes 15 minutes or more. Since I bought it, I've wasted hours, if not days, waiting for installations to complete because of this, which is far longer (and more frustrating) than the total time saved starting programs.

    I don't understand why it doesn't just leave the prebinding to be done the first time the program is run.
  • Two kinds of speed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Erik Hensema (12898) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @12:39PM (#9327581) Homepage

    There are two kinds of speed: things that are fast and things that feel fast.

    The article and the comments here on /. are mainly talking about true benchmarkable speed. Things that are fast.

    But some apps don't really need to be fast. They just have to feel fast. This holds true for most interactive applications. It's all about psycholigy with this one.

    Ever wondered why Windows Explorer builds up its icons from the right bottom to the top left? Doesn't matter in real speed, but it just feels faster. Your brain just isn't used to this flow: usually you read from the top left to the bottom right, or you read from the top right to the bottom left. Your eyes immediately focus on the spot your brain expects the icons to appear. But instead the appear in the opposite corner. By the time your brain figures out it has been tricked, the window is already full of icons.

    More tricks: ever wondered why windows wastes memory by trying to have some free memory ready all the time? It makes starting new apps faster. But on average the system is slower.

    In the Unix world there is only raw, benchmarkable speed. And that's why KDE and Gnome are slow. They aren't slow, they just feel slow.

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