The spinning beach ball...

matticus008

macrumors 68040
Original poster
Jan 16, 2005
3,336
0
Bay Area, CA
This is a lightheated thread about everyone's favorite OS X cursor, the beach ball. In a discussion with some other sysadmins, I said it was Apple's version of the BSOD (an overstatement that I made clear at the time) crossed with that damn paperclip guy in Microsoft Office. Clearly, it's not as severe as a BSOD (not that anyone takes a random BSOD seriously except servers and workstations), but it's a somewhat similar in productivity losses and screen interruption that steals a few minutes of your day. At least with the beachball, you don't always have to reboot and you don't lose any of your work.

So, the beach ball: annoying but infrequent distraction or spinning orb of doom?

I think all of us familiar with the Windows world know it's not as common as its Microsoft analog, the hourglass and that the beach ball (at least in my experience) tends to bog down the system, rather than just the application...so it's a bit more bothersome than that. Or is it just because we've grown so accustomed to the smoother experience that our standards for frustration become so much more demanding? Either way, this thread is a tribute to Apple's Mac OS.
 

wrldwzrd89

macrumors G5
Jun 6, 2003
12,107
75
Solon, OH
Most of the beachballs I get (and I don't get a whole lot of them) affect only the current application. For example, if Safari decides to give me the spinning beachball, the Finder and the Dock continue to be responsive. I guess you've been unlucky with the beachball.
 

Applespider

macrumors G4
Thankfully infrequent - if you're seeing it a lot, consider adding more RAM.

When it does appear, it does usually only bog down the current app, moving the cursor onto another app or the desktop switches to an active app. In the past week or so, it's affected the entire system once or twice tho.
 

Littleodie914

macrumors 68000
Jun 9, 2004
1,813
7
Rochester, NY
Hmm... I have a question about this evil beach-ball. It happens to me very rarely, but in one situation it occurs so often that I seriously expect it to happen.

Adding and removing bookmark's from Safari's bookmark bar.

Every time I try to do this, I get the beach-ball. Is there a way to fix this? Are other users experiencing the same problem in this situation? Thanks! :)
 

IJ Reilly

macrumors P6
Jul 16, 2002
17,892
1,477
Palookaville
Persistent spinning beach balls are usually caused by one of two problems:

(1) An accumulation of large swap files. Cure: log out, log in (or reboot).

(2) Corrupted permissions. Cure: repair permissions.

On very rare occasion I've been afflicted by beach balls that require more drastic measures, like running fsck on the drive.

Oh, and some resource-hungry applications (like Pages) will cause beach balls. Solution: quit the application.
 

broken_keyboard

macrumors 65816
Apr 19, 2004
1,144
0
Secret Moon base
The beach ball is not necessarily indicitive of a crash, it just means the program is not accepting any more input right now. It could be crashed, but more likely it is a single threaded program still doing the last task you assigned it.

The best analogy to Windows is not the bluescreen but rather the full (not half) hourglass pointer. Both of these deliberately remove the arrow from the cursor to try to indicate that no more clicks will be accepted right now.
 

matticus008

macrumors 68040
Original poster
Jan 16, 2005
3,336
0
Bay Area, CA
broken_keyboard said:
The beach ball is not necessarily indicitive of a crash, it just means the program is not accepting any more input right now. It could be crashed, but more likely it is a single threaded program still doing the last task you assigned it.

The best analogy to Windows is not the bluescreen but rather the full (not half) hourglass pointer. Both of these deliberately remove the arrow from the cursor to try to indicate that no more clicks will be accepted right now.
Yeah, I said that in my original post. I just meant that under Mac OS, we are so accustomed to a smooth and responsive environment, that the beach ball is a workflow interruption and a distraction. My Windows machines and Linux machines don't experience this systemwide slowdown, even with the hourglass. Fortunately, it seems as though I'm in the minority about the beach ball bringing down my whole system, as opposed to just the one application. We'll see if that continues with my new PowerBook (I hope it doesn't!).

Aside from kernel panics (which I've never experienced), this is the most inconvenient of OS X activities, and that's a true compliment...but it also makes that little colorful ball even more annoying. Quite the paradox.
 

Chaszmyr

macrumors 601
Aug 9, 2002
4,263
76
I get the beach ball for application crashes semi-frequently. Luckily, on this particular computer I for all intents and purposes never have system wide crashes.

(I've had several system wide crashes, actually, but every single one of them occurred while running a specific combination of applications, which I now know to avoid.)
 

darkwing

macrumors 65816
Jan 6, 2004
1,210
0
The SBOD, as near as I can tell, is actually the Linux equivalent of a thread sleeping on a wait queue in the kernel with its scheduling status set to SLEEP_UNINTERRUPTIBLE. This means that no asynchronous signal can have any effect on it, and only the kernel code that put it to sleep can wake it up again. Now, this may not be the case, as I know the ins and outs of the Linux kernel I don't know the Mac's kernel, but I would seem to think that is the case.

I can always get it in the finder accessing my external firewire drive when it is asleep, or by trying to disconnect a network drive when I removed the computer from the network. Large swap files, as previously mentioned, cause it because the thread must wait until its memory is ready. It isn't always related to disks, though. With 10.3.8 the Dock has twice crashed and locked up with a spinning beachball. It got stuck in some sort of infinite loop (was using 100% of the cpu) but would not respond to a kill -9.

I do know that if you write a program that does not sleep after so long, OSX will beachball it.

Steven
 

IJ Reilly

macrumors P6
Jul 16, 2002
17,892
1,477
Palookaville
Here's another problem I've seen that causes beach balls, and a solution. Sometimes the Finder goes nuts and becomes a real resource hog. I've seen it suck up 80% of the CPU in the Activity Monitor. Solution: force the Finder to restart, and it will go back to normal. You can be alerted to this situation by keeping the Activity Monitor in the Dock and setting it (the Dock icon) to CPU usage.
 

matticus008

macrumors 68040
Original poster
Jan 16, 2005
3,336
0
Bay Area, CA
IJ Reilly said:
Here's another problem I've seen that causes beach balls, and a solution. Sometimes the Finder goes nuts and becomes a real resource hog. I've seen it suck up 80% of the CPU in the Activity Monitor. Solution: force the Finder to restart, and it will go back to normal. You can be alerted to this situation by keeping the Activity Monitor in the Dock and setting it (the Dock icon) to CPU usage.
Good solution! That fixes about half of my system lethargy issues. Hopefully the other half can be solved as easily. Even more importantly, let's hope my new computer won't suffer from them at all :).
 

howard

macrumors 68020
Nov 18, 2002
2,017
2
when i need to do some intensive work on my poor little ibook and i don't care how "pretty" os x looks i run the program "shadowkiller" it actually works really well giving my computer some more poor, lessening the spinning beach balls and making it easier to work with.

I find that i do get most of my beach balls due to graphics issues. the standard processor intensive things where you always have to wait i don't count really
 

Fredstar

macrumors 6502a
Nov 3, 2004
595
0
Near London
I get beachballs when i am working on my website, with Freeway Pro, which is now a very big file, i think it stores all the pages in memory (it uses about 200-250mb) and when switching pages occasionally it takes that bit longer.
Also when i open idvd it does the beachball and freezes everything for about 20 seconds (dock, All other apps, Expose), and yes it can be a big frustration. After the initial freeze and beachball everything works perfectly
 

calhobbes

macrumors member
Jan 9, 2004
30
0
Cambridge, MA
I get a beachball in the upper right portion of my menu bar often after I use iSync with my iPod plugged in. I still haven't figured out the complete pattern, but what happens is that several of the icons in the menubar freeze (ie the clock no longer runs) and when I put the cursor over them, I get the spinning beach ball. Has anyone else seen this behavior?
 

yellow

Moderator emeritus
Oct 21, 2003
16,033
1
Portland, OR
AFAIK, the beachball is a splat put up by the window server when whatever it's waiting on isn't responding. Sometime this could be for "legitimate" reasons, e.g., the network isn't responding, or it's responding slowly, or the app is slow to respond, not enough RAM so it has to swap, etc.. or it could be an indicator of troubles, that it's waiting on a timeout, or it'll spin forever because whatever event the window server is twiddling it's thumbs over is jsut not happening.
 
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