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Finders to Keepers – Reg readers on speeding up Mac OS X

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How can Apple rescue Mac OS X from its sluggish performance trough? And what should Mac developers really write to, Carbon or Cocoa? As ever, Reg readers have offered plenty of suggestions to both questions.

In his contribution to the "Fireside Chat" at Apple's World Wide Developer Conference in San Jose on Monday, Avie Tevanian cautioned against drawing judgements on the OS based on its first couple of months. Wise words, but with the core of the new OS already fifteen years old (NeXT debuted in 1987), Apple users are getting impatient for a fix right now. Salvation may be at hand, so read on for a few smart tips. In fact print it off right now, so you can read it while that spinning CD-ROM cursor goes round and round...

Carbon dated

"It's real simple," writes Matt Hennessy.

"Classic sucks unbelievably massive quantities of ass. Carbon merely sucks large amounts of ass. Cocoa is usable and good."

"Carbon stuff, while relatively crash-safe and smart about RAM, has no additional multithreading or multitasking capability. Cocoa stuff (like OmniWeb) is pants*. It is super responsive, flexible, and looks like jelly candy, while rocking massive Unix old school."

"So, Carbon stuff will feel very very slow (particularly Finder and MS Exploder) because it is not handling context very well. It also probably carries lots and lots of cruft/kludgery which is best abandoned wholesale when porting to OS X. In other words, Carbon is a temporary hack, and should be positioned as such. Cocoa is where MacOS needs to be."

On the other hand reader Nick Nallick doesn't think it's necessary - they just have to speed up Carbon, he reckons. That's a point echoed by several other readers. But folks, Carbon doesn't get you the crown jewels of the old NeXT system - the rapid development environment or the rich services, and without those, the Mac faithful may as well be running QNX or BeOS, for the advantages they gain. Register Mac guru Tony Smith recommendsusing the pure-Cocoa OmniWeb browser on OS X, which we heartily agree with. It's a fine advert for Cocoa.

But Chris Young, from Avie's old stamping ground, Carnegie Mellon, is getting a bit fed up with the Cocoa clamour from NeXT developers. He doesn't think they've got much to brag about in the UI department:

"Though they were fine from a hacker point of view, I don't believe they were ever really fit for regular users. The interface, though better than most Unix interfaces, was still not good for a typical user. In fact, I think user interfaces is something that NeXT developers just don't seem to really grasp," he writes.

And regular correspondent Vasa Muppalla thinks Apple should simply have put its efforts into creating its own-brand Linux distro, "as it runs much faster than OS X". (OK, but what doesn't?) Hindsight's a wonderful thing, but we doubt that even if Apple had jumped on the Linux bandwagon so early, late 1996, it would have a system fit for its graphics and audio pro users even now. Still, it's a fascinating pub conversation point.

Better Finders

OK, enough whinging you lot. Better Finders are out there, and you couldn't wait to tell us about them.

We mentioned Rbrowser, which is the old NeXT file browser for rifling through network directories. It's rough and ready (it shows all the hidden files you probably don't want to see), but it's zippy, and shows that Cocoa apps really can run faster than greased pigs.

But user feedback is welcome on the following tips from readers:

Jose Diaz recommends the prototype Toasted Marshmallow. It's got a tabbed shelf and four file view modes: "You can even add as many shelves as you want. It is very nice, even if it is 'just' a prototype release."

Or has anyone seen Chikarax, apparently centred on SourceForge here. It's another nascent Cocoa Finder first publicised in a MacNN thread that can be found here. Or we can just wait for the fixes to trickle out, which they do with gratifying regularity, in the hope that one finally sits up, plays Guacamole and clobbers those Finder latencies for good.

The last word goes to our (unnamed) ex-Apple exec, who we thank for contributing to this article and its predecessor, and who after listing the deficiencies of the OS X Finder, lamented: "I suspect some politics was involved in this." Ech, with Apple, would we expect anything else? ®

Bootnote By 'pants', we assume young Matt means 'good' , since he goes on to praise 'pants' Cocoa's super responsiveness and flexiblility. 'Pants' has a very different meaning over here in the UK...

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