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MacBytes
Dec 14, 2005, 12:34 PM
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Category: Opinion/Interviews
Link: OS X Is Holding Back the Mac (http://www.macbytes.com/link.php?sid=20051214133443)

Posted on MacBytes.com (http://www.macbytes.com)
Approved by Mudbug

Lacero
Dec 14, 2005, 12:39 PM
Interesting article, although there's more to OSX than the Mach microkernel that's supposedly keeping the Mac slower than it should be. Linux would be nice, only if were for bragging rights so PC users will stand up and take notice.


Here's to the Crazy Ones http://forums.macrumors.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=35452 (http://www.uriah.com/apple-qt/movies/think-different.mov)

greatdevourer
Dec 14, 2005, 12:54 PM
A different OS that hasn't always played well with Windows It could be better, but at least it plays at all, unlike Windows.

Good find

Yvan256
Dec 14, 2005, 12:58 PM
If Apple can switch to x86, have stuff like Rosetta and fat binaries, it wouldn't surprise me one bit if they changed the core of the OS to something else. After all, it's all supposed to be system calls and such, isn't it?

As long as it's transparent to everyone (including developpers), I wouldn't mind.

If it changes anything for users and program developpers, however, it's a bad thing (the x86 transition is already enough, we need at least another 5 years after that before they can do something else).

x86isslow
Dec 14, 2005, 01:04 PM
i think the linux kernel's license would be an obstacle, apple's choice of bsd was because they could sell things they made based on it. if they went with linux, they'd have to make their OS free.

dashiel
Dec 14, 2005, 01:08 PM
exactly who is complaining about OS speed on any apple modern apple hardware? this strikes me as a fanboy wet dream that has very little upside and loads of headaches.

mduser63
Dec 14, 2005, 01:49 PM
i think the linux kernel's license would be an obstacle, apple's choice of bsd was because they could sell things they made based on it. if they went with linux, they'd have to make their OS free.

RedHat (and many other companies) seem to do just fine selling Linux. RedHat offers Fedora Core Linux free, but Apple has offered Darwin for both x86 and PPC free for a long time.

arkmannj
Dec 14, 2005, 02:15 PM
I don't know enough about the intricacies of Kernel's, other than a general knowledge.
However, I do have to think that Apple likely weighed out the pro's and Con's of various solutions, and the Mach microkernel that they use likely hit the most of their intended goals.
(maximum speed possible only being one of those goals)

I have to think that they chose the "overall best" solution.
maybe the Mach microkernel Apple chose does hold back some of the speed
but what are other benefits we enjoy, and what potential does it have ?

Like I said, I'm not a kernel guru, maybe someone can help me understand that better ? but I do think I understand that Apple wouldn't arbitrarily choose a setup without some plan, goals, etc.

CanadaRAM
Dec 14, 2005, 02:17 PM
exactly who is complaining about OS speed on any apple modern apple hardware? this strikes me as a fanboy wet dream that has very little upside and loads of headaches.
OSX Server has fundamental issues that makes it terribly inefficient as a multiuser server.

longofest
Dec 14, 2005, 02:31 PM
The guy goes on and on about Mach's weaknesses, but doesn't talk about its strengths, like the security benefit of only having necessary processes running in the kernel, etc...

Apple has done a great job I think of toning down Mach's weaknesses.

By the way... for those who think that the kernel in OSX is BSD... nope. It's Mach. OSX is a hybrid between Mach and BSD, where the kernel is Mach which handles IPC and memory management, etc, and BSD handles system calls and other user-level functionality.

macjunkie82
Dec 14, 2005, 02:44 PM
exactly who is complaining about OS speed on any apple modern apple hardware? this strikes me as a fanboy wet dream that has very little upside and loads of headaches.

The site is called "Low End Mac". I'm using a 450 MHz G4 PowerMac and I can relate to some of what he's talking about. But, I do think his argument is flawed as others have pointed out. :)

Plus the title of the article seems a bit dramatic, perhaps to get hits?

Fiveos22
Dec 14, 2005, 02:56 PM
The underlying kernel is a bit of a hack, ported from NeXT's x86-based OS to the PowerPC, and moving the Mac to Intel CPUs will improve things.

Really? After nearly a decade of tweaks for PowerPC architecture, will the twisted and strained underpinnings just nicely unwind and smooth out? He mentions that the NeXT PowerPC port was scrapped when NeXT 486 was released, but perhaps that material, or at least their plans, can be adapted to the OSX86 transformation.

Perhaps this is a moot point already, because it appears that we already have a working (and working well) edition of OSX86.

Can someone explain where the Darwin foundation fits into this? In relation to the Mach microkernel, is Darwin on top or underneath, and is Darwin compatable with the Linux monolithic kernel?

otter-boy
Dec 14, 2005, 03:00 PM
RedHat (and many other companies) seem to do just fine selling Linux. RedHat offers Fedora Core Linux free, but Apple has offered Darwin for both x86 and PPC free for a long time.

RedHat charges for support of RHEL and also includes customizations that run on top of the OS.

RedHat could sell Linux, but it is compelled by the GPL to give away any contributions to the Linux OS itself (i.e. provide source code free of charge)

RedHat does not charge for Fedora because Fedora is not eligible for support.

Stella
Dec 14, 2005, 03:47 PM
Personally, OSX is *why* i got a Mac. I used to use Linux but got fed up with the maintenance. Don't like Windows. OSX it was - it had a good GUI ( I loved the original Aqua look ) plus Unix under the hood.

It would be a long time before I start using Linux again as my main OS - though I use Linux for my servers - cheap old hardware runs fine ( P1 at 120Mhz).

Photorun
Dec 14, 2005, 08:28 PM
Whoever upthread used "fanboy" hit the nail on the head. The guy seemed to, between the lines, be whining (or should I say pining?) for Classic 9.2 to rear it's (ugly 32 color) head again. Classic was good, but Classic is dead, long live Classic... on outdated machines.

And why should Macs play well with Windows? I get tired of this argument, how about Windows playing nice with Macs... or hell, Windows playing nice with ANYONE! They're the closed-source knuckleheads keeping the computing world kicking and screaming barely out of the DOS era but you don't see people pointing figures that direction.

Analog Kid
Dec 14, 2005, 10:33 PM
Oh man... OS X built on a Linux kernel?

Can you imagine size of the explosion when one camp disagreed with the other about some little detail?! A nuclear bomb doesn't go off because part of the mass necessary to go critical is kept separately from the bulk of the uranium. Bring them together and BOOM! Kinda like what would happen if you brought Torvalds ego together with Job's...

No, thank you. I'll limp along on the microkernel...

aquajet
Dec 14, 2005, 10:59 PM
ugh, I always dread seeing the lowendmac domain pop up on good websites devoted to the Mac. I've reviewed the site extensively in the past; it's filled with inaccuracies and amateurish writing skills. And as such, I stay away from it whenever I need information on something Mac-related.

Outward appearances seem to suggest the author thinks he knows about the virtues of monolithic kernels and why they are better than microkernels, except he doesn't explain what exactly makes them better and simply regurgitates some vague explanation he read in the wikipedia. I certainly don't know the difference between kernels, and I don't think he does either.

It's a shame the garbage over on that site made it's way over here. :rolleyes:

rei1974
Dec 15, 2005, 03:07 AM
And why should Macs play well with Windows? I get tired of this argument, how about Windows playing nice with Macs... or hell, Windows playing nice with ANYONE! They're the closed-source knuckleheads keeping the computing world kicking and screaming barely out of the DOS era but you don't see people pointing figures that direction.
Hehe a bit harsh judgement but I agree. I really hope that the new Intel Mac won't make life even more difficult for us developers :(
Is already a pain the incompatibilities between 10.3 and 10.4 and now they even put a Intel processor inside the mac? it's too much... :(

Paul O'Keefe
Dec 15, 2005, 06:47 AM
Lowendmac is an extremely good resource. It's one that I call on often. This article, however, is probably out of their element and knowledge area. I think it came out of a recent bunch of stories dealling with linux experiences on older mac hardware.

gregnacu
Dec 15, 2005, 08:54 AM
Microkernels have other strengths that monolithic kernels don't. Such as Extreme Dynamicism. At the cost of effeciency, but because, all work except memory management (and interprocess communication, as someone already mentioned), is done in seperate processes, they can be stopped and started and added to on the fly. I've worked with microkernels on a low level and at a low level, and they kick @ss. They are ultimately better for the single end user system. They fall down most in massively multi user servers that require the maximum effeciency and throughput possible, and don't NEED to change. I think apple (and perhaps Avie) cares more about the aspects that make microkernels good, than they care about the server market. Objective-C's Extreme object orientation, coupled with a microkernel makes for an inefficient OS that is capable of doing more flexible and more powerful things than Linux or Windows people have probably ever conceived of. As CPUs get faster, and the code gets tighter, the inefficiencies of the microkernel will become less important, and we'll be glad we've got it.

jdechko
Dec 15, 2005, 12:41 PM
Couldn't it be a possibility that we will see a different kernel in OS XI? I don't know a lot about Unix or what's under the hood in any OS really. But if Jobs wants to keep using the title of "World's most advanced operating system" (which I think is true having used Windows, OS X and various linux distros), then he should really keep his options open when developing the OS. What was good back when OS X came out isn't necessarily the best way of doing things now. Technologically, we are a lot more advanced and may require new software technologies to keep up with where we are on the hardware. Plus, by OS XI, I believe that we will be completely 64-bit in nature (OS X supports 64 bit, but has the issue of having to support 32-bit as well). It seems like a reasonable transition in 5-7 years, as OS X will be 10-12 years old.

Sunrunner
Dec 15, 2005, 01:09 PM
The guy goes on and on about Mach's weaknesses, but doesn't talk about its strengths, like the security benefit of only having necessary processes running in the kernel, etc...

Apple has done a great job I think of toning down Mach's weaknesses.

By the way... for those who think that the kernel in OSX is BSD... nope. It's Mach. OSX is a hybrid between Mach and BSD, where the kernel is Mach which handles IPC and memory management, etc, and BSD handles system calls and other user-level functionality.


Apple made a smart decision by chosing a secure and efficient kernal. Mach is time-tested and robust, and that is a BIG plus for any system engineer. I would rather have a high degree of stability and very few vulnerabilities over a 5% speed bump any day.

Sunrunner
Dec 15, 2005, 01:12 PM
Lowendmac is an extremely good resource. It's one that I call on often. This article, however, is probably out of their element and knowledge area. I think it came out of a recent bunch of stories dealling with linux experiences on older mac hardware.

Perhaps, but it seems more like a Linux fanboy wrote it more than anything....

Peace
Dec 15, 2005, 01:18 PM
Linux is so far behind OSX it's not even worth discussing:cool:

123
Dec 15, 2005, 01:23 PM
There's a lot more in OS X's kernel space than Mach these days. It's actually wrong to call this a Microkernel. It doesn't have a microkernel's strengths but also doesn't have its weaknesses. However, the BSD/Mach hack certainly isn't the cleanest architecture, and not the fastest either.

AlmostThere
Dec 15, 2005, 03:37 PM
Apple made a smart decision by chosing a secure and efficient kernal. Mach is time-tested and robust, and that is a BIG plus for any system engineer. I would rather have a high degree of stability and very few vulnerabilities over a 5% speed bump any day.

Thing is it is not 5%, it is 500%. I am assuming that the comments are based on the two Anandtech comparisons of G5 / x86 OS X / Linux benchmarks, from which there have been many theories about the reasons. OS X has some serious performance issues for a server OS. These reviews have been well quoted but we don't even get any reference to OS X performance problems in the article. For anyone interested, who hasn't read them:

Original Tests (http://www.anandtech.com/mac/showdoc.aspx?i=2436)
Start of follow up review after critcisms (http://www.anandtech.com/mac/showdoc.aspx?i=2520&p=1)
Results from benchmarks (http://www.anandtech.com/mac/showdoc.aspx?i=2520&p=5)

That said, I wouldn't trust the opinion of this guy very far anyway. From his Linux "tests", he obviously lacks some technical competence and judging by his choice of hardware, is not particularly pro-Linux either.
Quite why he couldn't test Linux using a bog standard x86 desktop is beyond me.

AdamR01
Dec 15, 2005, 04:12 PM
Technically, OS X does not use the Mach kernel, it uses the XNU kernel which is a hybrid of Mach and BSD.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XNU

bousozoku
Dec 15, 2005, 04:29 PM
ugh, I always dread seeing the lowendmac domain pop up on good websites devoted to the Mac. I've reviewed the site extensively in the past; it's filled with inaccuracies and amateurish writing skills. And as such, I stay away from it whenever I need information on something Mac-related.

Outward appearances seem to suggest the author thinks he knows about the virtues of monolithic kernels and why they are better than microkernels, except he doesn't explain what exactly makes them better and simply regurgitates some vague explanation he read in the wikipedia. I certainly don't know the difference between kernels, and I don't think he does either.

It's a shame the garbage over on that site made it's way over here. :rolleyes:

Yes, it seems he's a (monolithic kernel) conformist but he doesn't like conformists.

I think it's true that Linux and Mac OS X don't get much mindshare because they're different. It's like a recent message I saw about how people who buy Abercrombie & Fitch clothes would jump off a cliff, if it was fashionable. People in the U.S.A. tend to buy into individuality, as long as it's safe. How can you be an individual, if you and 300 million other people are wearing the exact same hairstyle and act the same way? Desktop wallpaper, right? :D

Considering that there are a number of operating systems currently using kernels based on Mach, it's surprising to hear that they just don't work well. When IBM announced their Workplace OS, it immediately brought attention to the Mach kernel--the same with Windows NT. As far as I know, both OS/2 (Communications...what's the name now?) and WinXP are still running modified Mach kernels, just as Mac OS X is.

MS made the kernel less stable by moving the graphics subsystem into the kernel in WinNT4 to speed up the system, but I'd say overall, Mach has done its job quite well.

QNX and RTX are both microkernel operating systems and they both work at real time speeds. QNX until recently touted the fact that their microkernel had still not exceeded 64KB.

I'm sure if Apple and others wanted the greatest efficiency, they could do it, but the price of the operating system would be quite a bit higher--on the scale of enterprise operating systems.

(By the way, you use it's in two contexts. its is the possessive.)

sjk
Dec 15, 2005, 11:04 PM
Imaybe the Mach microkernel Apple chose does hold back some of the speed
but what are other benefits we enjoy, and what potential does it have ?

Like I said, I'm not a kernel guru, maybe someone can help me understand that better ?Try What is Mac OS X? (http://www.kernelthread.com/mac/osx/) now and buy Amit's Mac OS X Internals (http://www.osxbook.com/) book later for Tiger-inclusive info. There's lots other good stuff at kernelthread.com (http://www.kernelthread.com/) you might find interesting.