June 15, 2006

What I hate about my Mac

I love my MacBook Pro. But there are some things that are driving me crazy.

- Microsoft Powerpoint for the Mac was always a bit annoying, with dozens of "Converting Metafile" popups for any Windows-drawn presentation, as it converts the pictures into a more useable format. If you don't resave the presentation, it will do this every time you load it.

Running PPT on Rosetta makes it intolerable -- any presentation I open requires 2 to 3 minutes of waiting while it figures out how to render it. Saving a file takes 15 to 20 seconds. Once it gets going, it's somewhat useable. But frankly it's faster to boot up the Parallels VM and use MS Office there.

- I migrated my iMac G5 onto the MacBook Pro. This normally works well, when I went between my Powerbook and iMac, and for all observable effects also worked well for me on the MacBook, but may be the source of some of my woes below.

- I have many, many Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint documents. Perhaps as a side effect of this Rosetta-only support, Spotlight absolutely crawls on my system. A typical query takes around 25 to 40 seconds to run.

- The design of Spotlight is completely unusable for a system with a large number of files if the queries take this long. As you type, the incremental search kicks in, and usually pauses while in mid-word. If I have a spelling mistake, it takes a good 5 to 8 seconds for my delete and rekey to take effect, wasting a significant amount of time.

- Furthermore, I can't select an item on the Spotlight list until the entire query has finished, as the list is continually shifting around -- one minute the file I want is there, the next minute it disappears. I try to click "Show All" to get a more stable view, but every time I scroll down the window, it insists on resetting the scrollbar to the top of the window as it adds more files to my search set.

This is utterly maddening -- it means I have to sit and wait the better half of a minute for any search. The whole point of Spotlight was to make it quick to find anything within 10 seconds. It's almost faster to poke around with the Finder now unless I'm completely clueless as to where the file is.

I've heard that Quicksilver is a better interface to Spotlight, but I haven't acclimated to it yet.

- One final note on spotlight: Sometimes, for inexplicable reasons, "mds" and "coreservicesd" (which I believe are Spotlight services) will take up 50% to 80% of my CPU for 2 to 5 minutes, which means I'm basically using almost a single core in my Core Duo for indexing.

If I'm running Parallels VM at the same time, this translates to around 120% CPU usage at idle. Now, this normally goes away down to acceptable levels (Parallels tends to consume 15% CPU at idle).

- There is currently no great way to play WMV media files on the Intel Mac platform. The options are, in order of performance: use the legacy and deprecated Windows Media Player 9 from Microsoft under Rosetta (around 15-18 fps), install Flip4Mac WMV Components 2.0.2 under Rosetta (which is not supported and requires flag setting contortions to get to work, and is maybe 10-12 fps). VLC is not an option, as it doesn't play WMV3 files.

- Sometimes I get the "spinning wheel of death" upon awakening the Macbook Pro and have to perform a hard reset. This last happened when I was trying to select a WiFi network shortly after awakening.

- While I know its not supported (and there's a cabal of Mac users at BEA that keep clamouring for it), WebLogic Server 9 (based on the AIX install) seems to be really, really slow on my Mac. WLS 8.1 was much better. I haven't had time to investigate whether there's a new "fast=true" flag I'm missing.

- Boot Camp Beta's repartitioning feature is not foolproof -- it's best to run this on a fresh boot. I ran Boot Camp a few months ago and undo it. Decided to re-install XP recently. Boot Camp locked up at the end of its repartitioning (spinning wheel of death). After a hard reset, XP proceeded to install, but my OS X Install would kernel panic every time I selected it.

After picking myself off the floor, I discovered through Apple's support forums that the repartitioning apparently didn't properly handle swapfiles, corrupting my filesystem a bit. Performing an "fsck -fy" resulted in an "invalid extent entry". So, I boot to single user mode (Cmd-S), move the old swap files (with bad blocks) to a new location, so the next time OS X boots it recreates them on "good extents". It's good there was a way to recover with command prompts, I guess, but most sane people would have just re-installed....

Minor quibbles:
- When looking at album booklets in iTunes, they show up in the little postage stamp of a window, but when I click on it, it doesn't expand into a larger window, no matter what I do. I have to drag the file from the Finder onto Quicktime to actually play it. iTunes Videos work fine, just album booklets seem to have this problem (I am referring specifically to Zero 7's The Garden, which I bought off iTunes).

The list of things I love about my Mac would be much longer than this list, which is why I stay on the platform. But I really needed to vent, because my likely interim solution is a reinstall -- something I left Windows for in the first place.

Posted by stu at June 15, 2006 06:08 AM