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2/15/02 Friday's News: Story DetailReturn to News Page

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More Comments on Aqua Interface/Themes
and OS X Performance Tips

Last Updated: 2/15/2002, 9:14:04 PM

Another reader sent comments on 'themes' for OS X and a list of general OS X performance tips.

    "Hi Mike,
    I use a different theme called "Grey Aqua" from http://homepage.mac.com/c__c/, installed using a program called "Duality3" from http://conundrumsoft.com/, which is analogous to the Appearance Manager in Mac OS9.

    Grey Aqua turns down the excessively white window details in Aqua - making it more pleasant to use on the eyes. But the most important thing Grey Aqua does is to turn off transparency in the Aqua interface. Transparency slows down the drawing of menus and windows significantly.
    It also clutters up the screen. It is more difficult to pick out menu items when the menu is transparent and overlaps text below it.

    My main computer is a Pismo G3 Powerbook with 640 MB of RAM and a 48 GB IBM hard drive, in a dual monitor setup with a 21-inch Mitsubishi Diamond Pro 2040u monitor, external Microsoft split-key Internet Pro Keyboard and Explorer Trackball.

    I've found other performance tuning techniques which have greatly improved the enjoyment and usefulness of Mac OS X 10.1.2 on my PowerPC G3 laptop. With these tweeks, I have been able to completely switch to using Mac OS X full-time on the job. The speedup is significant enough that I can wait until Apple introduces the dual-G5 processor macs before I will purchase a new desktop machine. The current dual 1 GHZ G4 machines do not give a large enough jump in speed when doing database work since they are only about twice as fast as a 500 MHz processor G3. [I disagree with this comment - even without Altivec support, a dual G4 1GHz in OS X should be more than twice as fast as a G3/500 for even a CPU bound application. And databases are often affected by disk performance - the desktop hard drives have better performance than 2.5" notebook drives.-Mike.]
    For graphics work, they are great. But for work on a database, such as Filemaker, I think single processor clock speed is the most important determinant of database performance. [I use Filemaker 4.x, which is single threaded and I think even FM 5.0 was still single-threaded. I don't know if the latest version is now multi-threaded, but otherwise that's a real bottleneck for using it in web applications for instance. -Mike.] The following is an article I've written that lists the performance tuning techniques:"

(I know most readers already know these tips, but it can't hurt to post a reminder-Mike)

    " Performance Tuning your G3 Mac and Mac OS X by Romeo B. Mariano

    The best way to speed up Mac OS X 10.1 I've found is by reducing the complexity of graphics it has to process. Here are some performance tuning techniques I recommend to speed up Mac OS X on your Mac:

    * REDUCE NUMBER OF COLORS ON THE DISPLAY. Do this via the Displays System Preference. This is O.K. so long as you don't do Photoshop work. I've set it to thousands of colors. [Note: Apple posted this tip last year also in a TIL article.-Mike]

    * REMOVE TRANSPARENCY. Use a theme other than Aqua to remove transparency. I use "grey aqua", installed using a program called "Duality3" - which does a function similar to the Appearance manager of Mac OS 9 or a Mac OS 9 application called Kaleidoscope. Transparency clearly takes more CPU cycles to produce. It also clutters up the user interface. By removing transparency, menus have more "pop" when selected. The user interface is much cleaner without background distractions.

    * DISABLE FONT SMOOTHING. Disable font smoothing via a program called "Tinkertool". Font smoothing takes out the "snap" from Mac OS 9. It does this greatly to Mac OS X too. You have to first REPLACE the Arial and Times New Roman fonts in Mac OS X with the updated versions from Microsoft.com. Use a program called "XRay" to make sure the permission settings of these fonts are corretly set when you replace them. The ones installed by Mac OS X were later discovered to be corrupted and can cause incorrect rendering of text or graphics, and can cause problems in printing. I'm surprised Apple hasn't updated them, leaving them corrupted.

    * ENABLE WINDOW COMPRESSION. Mac OS X saves each application's windows as a separate layer in memory. Retrieving this data when redrawing the screen is slower when the data is uncompressed vs. compressed. Unfortunately, compression is not enabled by the default installation of Mac OS X. I use a free program called WinCompressX to turn it on. This greatly speeds up window redrawing speed in Mac OS X. (I believe a future update to OS X will have window compression enabled by default). [Note: The 2D window compression mod was noted in the October 12th, 2001 news page here. (I'm not sure if 10.1.2 enables this now by default however - there was talk that the feature should be standard, but was disabled in 10.1.0 originally due to a bug that was only fixed at the last minute.).-Mike]

    * GET MORE RAM. Mac OS X is more memory intensive than Mac OS 9. This is illustrated by its relatively inefficient storage of window information in RAM. More RAM equals more speed.

    * GET A FASTER HARD DRIVE. When I replaced the original 12 GB hard drive on my Pismo, with a 48 GB 5400 RPM IBM Travelstar, the speed increase was remarkable. Photoshop redrawing is much faster with a faster hard drive.

    * RUN A SECOND MONITOR. A quirk I found on my Pismo G3 laptop is that screen redraws seem to speed up when I attach a second monitor running at 1024 x 768, and run a dual monitor desktop configuration. It feels snappier than by using the laptop's LCD screen alone. Go figure.... Perhaps this is a quirk in the ATI graphics chip of the Laptop. Perhaps this may also work for you. The speed up doesn't occur at higher monitor resolutions for me. [This seems strange... a 2nd monitor increases the load on the graphics chip and it's more screen area for the system to redraw. -Mike.]

    * INCREASE THE PRIORITY OF IMPORTANT PROCESSES. Mac OS X will give more attention to certain programs/processes if you tell it to. This may speed up performance of that process. For example, you may want to increase the priority of the Window Server (a system process) or the priority of the Finder or the priority of the Print Manager. I use a free application (which installs its own menubar icon) called Process Wizard 1.0 to do this. It lists all the applications and background processes on your machine and allows you to select individual ones to prioritize. Otherwise, you have to manually do this in the Terminal window with a command called "renice".

    * SPEED UP YOUR MOUSE AND KEYBOARD. In the system preferences, increase your mouse tracking speed. Increase your key repeat rate and shorten the delay until repeat for your keyboard. This makes the machine much more responsive to your input because it has to pay more attention to you. Remember that having the machine pay more attention to your actions improves its "snappiness" and "feel" - particularly if the operating system is "preemptive multitasking".

    * TURN OFF UNNECESSARY EXTENSIONS IN CLASSIC. This includes graphics processor drivers, network extensions and CD/DVD drivers which are redundant or not used in MAC OS X. This greatly speeds up loading of Classic - to less than a minute on a 500 MHz G3. And this significantly speeds up the snappiness of Classic applications.

    * CHANGE DOCK MINIMIZER EFFECT TO "SCALE" RATHER THAN "GENIE". The Genie effect takes more horsepower to render than the Scale effect, thus slowing down your machine.

    These speed tweeks have greatly improved the "snappiness" of Mac OS X without removing much of the flavor or feel of the operating system."

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