Apple’s airtight secrecy has allowed it to do some wonderful things. But what happens when it’s difficult to tell the path of future operating systems? That’s the situation I’m trying to tackle with Mac OS X Leopard and now the upcoming Mac OS X “Snow Leopard.” The good news is, Apple says they’re focused on improving the "quality" of the OS. The bad news is, it’s not clear what the plan is for the existing 10.5 OS — or what it will take for OS changes to sync up with what we need as musicians and audio producers.

Current Leopard Changes: Still Some Bumps for Audio

First, let’s talk about the existing Mac OS X Leopard release. Leopard audio performance does seem to be gradually improving. (See our previous reports.) But we’re still hearing reports of regular issues, particularly now with FireWire devices (10.5.3 addressed at least some USB problems). These may indeed be affecting a minority of users, and many of you have no problem at all. But that doesn’t change the reality that they’re problems introduced by upgrading to 10.5 from 10.4. Whether Apple, the device vendor, or some combination has to fix the problem, it’s obviously something you’ll want fixed. And in a supreme irony, I can actually set up a more predictable Vista system for music right now than Leopard.

I was recently forwarded a message from a major pro audio developer. The message encouraged their development partners to test Leopard extensively. I can’t divulge the contents of that email, but I can point to two changes in 10.5 that could be related to at least some of the audio performance issues people are experiencing. (This stuff is complex, so please feel free to correct me here, particularly if you know something about, say, kernel programming.)

The significant changes are:

  • Multi-core thread scheduling: Leopard changes the way the OS handles thread scheduling on multiple-core systems. Thread persistence helps keep threads “glued” to specific cores, which should improve performance. The issue is, anything that changes the way threads are handled in the kernel can have an impact on digital audio. That isn’t to say the fault is always Apple’s if you are having trouble; these kind of changes can reveal issues in other code. But without assuming that this is related to all the glitches people are having with Leopard – since symptoms like clicks, pops, and dropouts can have a host of causes – it is possible that some of the bumps in Leopard are related to this change. (See Apple’s multicore feature page for Leopard.)
  • Memory changes: I’ve had less luck tracking this down, but at least one difference is that Leopard adds memory randomization, a security measure intended to prevent exploits by locating system libraries to random locations. Memory randomization is present by default on Windows Vista, but on Leopard it seems as though it may extend to system libraries and driver loading, whereas on Vista it’s something you a programmer has to manually flag to use. I’m not convinced this is actually impacting audio on Leopard, but it does demonstrate that security concerns in operating systems in general can cause significant changes, something we have to watch as audio users.

It’s not clear what the exact impact on audio is; if anyone knows and would like to share your own experience, please do.

The thread scheduling issue appears to be more significant to music and audio. Because audio tasks happen in real time, thread scheduling is vitally important. Of course, the long-term payoff could be better multi-core performance, which is something audio fans are likely to like. The issue is the intermediate time when you’re ironing out bugs. And that brings us to the mysterious Snow Leopard.

Snow Leopard: SP1?


Fairly or not, some Mac fans are already grumpily referring to Snow Leopard as  Leopard “Service Pack 1.” (If you’re a Windows user, let me explain: the highest insult to a Mac fan is basically to compare something to Windows. Don’t ever call a Mac fan’s mother “Millenium Edition” unless you’re itching for a fight.)

Making all of this worse was this statement from the press release:

“Rather than focusing primarily on new features, Snow Leopard will enhance the performance of OS X, set a new standard for quality and lay the foundation for future OS X innovation.”

Now, personally, I reacted as many people do – stopping adding new features and focusing on improving what’s there sounds great! It raises just two problems: first, if Snow Leopard is “focusing on quality,” what was Leopard focused on? Second, Apple calls this the “next major version” of Leopard, which usually means they’re charging for it. Microsoft, by contrast, doesn’t charge for Service Pack releases even when (as with XP’s SP1 and SP2) they do introduce new features.

I’m not actually so concerned about either of those questions, though. I think all three operating systems — Linux and Windows included — could stand to spend a little time focusing entirely on performance and reliability rather than adding eye candy and gimmicks. I’m even happy to pay for it — maybe even more so than other improvements. The issue to me is planning and wondering what happens with Leopard in the meantime.

That’s made more puzzling by the "new features" in Snow Leopard:

  • Multicore improvements
  • 64-bit for support up to 16TB of RAM
  • QuickTime X, a new version of QuickTime
  • OpenCL, a new library for running CPU processes on the GPU (GPGPU)
  • Microsoft Exchange support

See: Mac OS X Snow Leopard (Client OS page)

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? If in fact Snow Leopard really is just a "quality" release, why not skip Leopard and go straight to Snow Leopard? (This seems even more tempting than the Vista/Windows 7 split, especially as Vista 7 likely is a feature release and because Microsoft usually rolls out fixes directly in addition to putting them in bigger OS updates.)

OpenCL, QuickTime X, and the Exchange support are just libraries, so we can safely ignore them. It does raise the question of why Apple would roll these into an OS release, although that makes me suspect this will be a free, not a paid, upgrade, or that perhaps QuickTime X will be back-ported to Leopard and available on Windows. (Well, one would hope.)

But the multicore mention is a bit odd, because that was supposed to be what happened with Leopard. This could imply that Leopard’s multicore improvements weren’t fully baked before they went out the door. Of course, it could also mean that Leopard will continue to build on what’s Leopard.

Then again, that’s the fundamental problem: we don’t know. Apple keeps all of their OS development under NDA. Developers who don’t make the trip to WWDC may miss out on information entirely. And Apple is unlikely to communicate to the rest of us until the day Snow Leopard ships, whenever that is (since the pricing and schedule haven’t been announced). In fact, part of the reason I can talk about this at all is that I’m not at WWDC. Otherwise, I might have Apple legal knocking on my door.

Maybe I don’t "need to know" what’s going on. But my plea to Apple, if they happen to be listening, would be to coordinate closely when multicore improvements like thread scheduling can impact audio. I get the sense that this really wasn’t in sync on Leopard.

And of course, this whole issue isn’t unique to the Mac. Windows developers are in a similar boat, wondering what the plan is for Vista as Microsoft shifts its efforts to its own release, Windows 7. Like Snow Leopard, Windows 7’s features are vague, the plan is for "quality" and performance over new functionality and big changes, and it’s not clear how much energy is going into the current versus the future OS — especially as Microsoft tries to make its release schedule more prompt. Bizarrely, Cupertino and Redmond have each adopted parallel strategies.

A Better Way?

I’ll point it out again: as much credit as Apple has rightfully gotten for OS quality, their approach does have some significant downsides.

  • New computers ship out with the latest and greatest, whether or not it’s stable for the particular task the user has in mind.
  • Operating systems ship out blending various updates, from features for iPhone users to hardware fixes to critical security patches to iTunes updates to new features. There’s no granular control over what gets installed, which is sometimes necessary to maintain a stable system.
  • Apple’s "whole widget" philosophy sometimes causes them to compete with themselves. QuickTime updates get tied to improvements in iTunes, for instance — even if some of us use QuickTime for critical professional work and don’t touch iTunes.
  • Apple’s "everything’s a secret" approach makes it really hard to plan or fully understand what’s going on.

I do think Apple deserves their reputation for the work they do in software. So I’d really like to see some improvement. I’d like an OS upgrade mechanism that gives us more control. I think Apple could better document changes, and shift some of the knowledge that now is covered under restrictive NDAs to a more public sphere so that it’s easier for people to document and fix problems — many of which involve third parties but reflect poorly on the quality of the Mac platform.

And you do still have a choice in OS. Yes, even including Linux.

  • ernesto (costa rica)

    ok so there it goes another hundred bucks (in a country with a less than $10k yearly income) for an update that we hope just works. maybe by then I might no longer use firewire anyway cus apple it's not even capable of supporting their own protocols in the right way. hell I might drop apple altogether in the next hardware update, I need to make music don't care bout the iphone hype.

    not nice steve… i did not even followed WWDC for the first time in years it seems to me that apple is no longer firing for guys like me, but for the iphone crazy guys. good luck!!!

  • Well, the deal is this: they're doing a lot of talking about Mac OS X, just in private, NDA-covered developer sessions.

    I'm still hoping Snow Leopard is a free update. Fingers crossed.

  • m.0

    This is one of those damned if you do damned if you don't scenarios. We've just gone through period in which a lot of cool technologies and features have given us the ability to do things with music that I wouldn't have dreamed of a few short years ago. In exchange we've given up a lot of stability (no matter the platform). As users we share the blame because we are always clamoring for new features and are usually disappointed when upgrades seem feature lite. As things become more stable and standardized on the hardware side of things I think it's a good idea to take a breath, evaluate where we are at and go back and fix the things that got glossed over in the process. While I don't think we should have to pay full pop for an upgrade like that I also don't think we should expect it to be completely free. I think it's our attitudes about features versus the under the hood stuff that has kept companies from spending the man hours and cost required for taking this route. In fact, I would like to see music software developers take same approach. We have a lot of cools toys now so let's focus on getting those toys to actually work and then we can move forward. Finally, I think we've begun to take for granted how revolutionary this decade has been for software based music production. I personally think that we should give them some slack for wanting to pause and go there. Maybe if enough companies do this we can finally get the time back to focus more on music and less on being IT people. Bring on the service packs I say.:)

  • Well, wait a minute. Stability *and* feature needs for music are pretty basic. We need real-time, low-latency performance – period. When the OS mucks that up, everybody suffers. I don't think we're to blame for requesting "new features", because we're doing what we've always been doing, basically. So why is it that a top-of-the-line Mac Pro should be sputtering through the latest-and-greatest OS while an ancient computer running Linux or BeOS is just fine? Is that progress?

    And unfortunately, a lot of this is out of music developers' hands. No matter how complex or simple their software is, if the OS and other (often non-music) drivers get in the way, there's often nothing they can do.

    So I'm all for Apple focusing on quality. My concern is, will this quality include real-time audio performance? Will Snow Leopard ship fully baked, will developers be able to properly support it, or will it remain veiled by Apple's mystery machine until it ships and breaks everything all over again? I don't want to sound cynical, but I think it's not even about features vs. "quality", I think it's whether OSes maintain solid real-time performance. And that requires a massive amount of coordination between developers.

    Also, if it makes you feel better, a lot of the new features have no impact on performance, positive or negative. So in a way, these are separate issues.

  • chrisedmo

    i think you have to remember, this is going to be a year away, things could change.. but im all for them trimming the fat to streamline it for future, otherwise when you keep adding stuff you get bloatware..

    have they actually even said they'd charge for it ?

  • epiphanius

    I've got a little over a grand burning a hole in my pocket, to be used on getting a Macbook.

    Looks like waiting is the sensible thing to do.

    If Apple announced that Snow Leopard would be a free update, I'd be on my way to the Mac Store at lunch today.

  • cubestar

    Still running 10.4.x here, and the only issue I have is the stupid speed step issue where the CPU never clocks out of low power mode and so Live runs 40% slower unless you use CoolBook.

    Hoping they fix existing issues with Leopard and this issue, then I might upgrade!

  • have they actually even said they’d charge for it ?

    Indeed, 10.1 was a free update, they could make this one free as well.

    As far as apple focusing on audio performance, I'd say the fact that they own logic guarantees at least a minimum awareness of issues?

  • Leopard is a real pain, 10.5.3 changed nothing for me, and Apple's plan to provide a proper(?) update next year seems really disrespectful and unacceptable to me.

    I'm going to downgrade my MBPro to Tiger, illegally though. 🙁

  • Kobe

    just because Snow Leopard is scheduled for a year from now doesn't mean there won't be free stability updates for 10.5 in the meantime.

    i doubt 10.6 will be free. it's hard to compare to microsoft. on one hand, yes they do give service packs out for free & so far this reads like it is one, but apple charges less for their OS releases. & so far they've not been eager to implement their own type of 'genuine advantage' nagware to make sure your copy is legit.

    -also, before bashing apple & complaining that it's a year off & that it's almost a seperate point release, keep in mind that quality code takes time to write. maybe they're completely rewriting & revamping some things. sometimes it's better to just stop & start something and finish it all the way through.

    in dealing with software, especially the proprietary software for my own business, i communicate extensively with the programmers. i understand how sometimes, they just need to let things be as they are for a while, while rewriting something else, rather than smaller incremental patches. if they don't make clear cut-off points, then nothing will ever get done or finished. resources are finite.

    think about how they wrote OS X from the ground up, rather than continuing to patch up OS 9. that shit takes time. now think about vista. vista was SUPPOSED to be a ground-up rewrite, similar to how os x was from os 9, but they spent so much damn time on it, to the point where people were wondering if it was vapourware, to the point where they changed their minds, said, screw it, we need to get something out… and they came out with vista, which wasn't the complete rewrite they intended. what you have is something that is half-assed, bloated, unstable & inefficient, to the point where it's actually inferior to its predecessor. it's not quite what xp was, but it's not something entirely different either.

    the point is, yes, while vista took eons to develop, it still came out half-baked & not as it was originally intended due to impatience and pressure. if apple thought like this things would be much worse. we'd still be running os 9.7.3 right now, and we'd still be running Power PCs (oh you know what i mean. :-p)

    somewhere they had to STOP, take a deep breath & a step back, re-evaluate the direction they were going in, and start clean & clear.

    i'd rather they take their time and either start fresh or just clean everything up rather than to just patch things together or add new useless but shiny features to lure in suckers.

    it's an operating system. an operating system should be transparent, elegant, and efficient.

    if i want 'features' they should come within the apps themselves, or be seperate apps in & of themselves. to me an operating system is like a desk. i want a big, sturdy, robust, clutter-free desk, that i can fit all my shit on. if i want a stapler i will buy a stapler. i don't need one built into the desk.

    though i understand and completely commiserate with anybody who's having trouble, and paid all kinds of money for the 'walled garden' model -hell, i use a macbook pro, running leopard, logic studio, and an apogee ensemble. i am definitely not immune to these concerns! -i'm also just as if not more impatient than the next guy, but let's be realistic, that's all i'm saying. people are just quick to complain about the big evil company that doesn't care about them.

  • JDBoyd

    Forgive me for the Windows comparison, but I think that Snow Leopard will be like going from Windows 95 to Windows 98. New libraries, some new APIs, but not that big of a change.

    While it isn't unhead of for Apple to add features in the minor releases, some of the features they are talking about adding are a big enough deal that I think it does justify a new OS release. For instance, ZFS will have full read/write support. Also it is entirely possible that OpenCL requires more than just a library to implement.

    While people saying cost unknown, I don't see any reason to expect it to be anything but $129 until there is hard evidence otherwise.

    Nothing was said about my biggest concern though, which is whether they will be dropping all PPC support (including G5s) or not. If they don't at least support G5s, the next update will be really hard for me.

  • Well, I should clarify:

    What worries me is that one year isn't *enough* time.

    I'm worried that music and audio developers aren't spending all their time wired into events like WWDC because they nearly all (Ableton, NI, Digidesign, Steinberg, even MOTU and Cakewalk) develop for multiple platforms.

    I'm worried that, in fact, features like OpenCL and, more likely, multicore optimizations involving the thread scheduler can have major implications for device drivers and real-time audio. (Read: before Leopard is even fully functioning, everyone's going to have to start redoing things for Snow Leopard.)

    Is the music software industry really ready to rewrite their drivers *again*? (Hosts may require changes, too.) And on this timetable? Will Snow Leopard's driver model include 64-bit, or will they have to rewrite drivers *again* for Purple Snow Leopard's 64-bit audio system 12 months later? (For an example of how badly this can go, check out 64-bit Windows Vista and XP x64 before it — or even lagging 64-bit support on desktop Linux.)

    Yes, I'm all for progress. But then, the veil of secrecy around everything Apple does, the lack of communication with their partners, the fact that they also compete with their own vendors in areas like Final Cut Studio and Logic, to me this is a recipe for more disaster.

    And unfortunately, a lot of people will simply give up on computer music production because it's too much work.

    Oh yeah, and @JDBoyd, I'll eat my MacBook if PPC support is included in Snow Leopard. Don't bet on it.

    So don't get me wrong. I think stopping and thinking about quality sounds great. (For the record, I *like* getting service packs on Windows.) I just wonder if this is all happening quickly, secretly, and without any kind of coordination with the other developers who work on the Mac platform. It seems like it's Apple doing their own thing again. If they don't have developers onboard, "quality" is the last thing you're going to experience when Snow Leopard ships.

  • m.0

    I completely agree and didn't mean to come across as if I was blaming us the end users for this and I'm definitely not putting any blame on developers, I heart music software developers! I too want the same thing. Rightly or wrongly I've found that some of the new features in Leopard have adversely affected core functionality. Could just be my misperception of how it all works. I sometimes feel that software companies are under too much pressure to add more features (and try to make everything do everything) in order to maintain the bottom line. Just one example for me is Time Machine. Time Machine played such Havoc with the performance of the system when I first upgraded I disabled it pretty quickly. It's a cool concept but it's kinda it's own can of worms. I know it's common practice to turn those features off but still it was a disaster because it was on by default and I didn't catch it right away. Some of the engineering man power that went into developing various features (most very cool) should also have been diverted or expanded to also stay on top of keeping the core system stable and reliable in first place and yes please, PLEASE start keeping developers in the loop!. Pretty much what you said. So I'm totally with you. I swear. I guess what I'm pushing for is for Apple (or whomever) to stop for moment and refocus how to make everything play nice with each other so you don't have to do silly things like remember to turn off your wifi every time you just want to make music. My reference about music software was a side reference and reactionary to some of the bloat that have been added over the years to some software that seem to impact performance versus older versions but that's a totally different thread. If Apple takes this time to clean up the muck I'll be stoked. If whatever they do makes things even worst then yes I'll be in line with everyone torch in hand. My first post was more about the hope and excitement about the possible focus on starting to get all the kinks worked out.

  • dig

    nytimes has anice bit on snow leopard, which fills in some of the gaps …

  • amoeba

    from what i gather, this is going to be a paid update, but lower than the usual price. i'm doing as much digging on what little there is out there, but this looks like it's going to be a "cut the fat" release, clean house, let go of a lot of legacy code, intel-only, full cocoa, 64 bit everything, new dev tools, better multicore support, and so on. nothing really "new" from a user standpoint, but something i would certainly pay for. every OS has it's probs, but man it's getting a little FUDdy around CDM these days wrt appleness.

    sure ain't perfect, but WAAAY better than anything else i have ever used. and i'm sticking to it. i am looking forward to everything i hear about this one so far. i'm happy. carry on.

  • Thomas Cermak


    10.1, primarily a stability upgrade, was free, so 10.6 might be similar in this regard.

    Peter, I hope that OS X is being used in smaller, more compact forms (such as the iphone), in what are an essentially low-latency demanding application (the touch screen GUI) that we 10.6 will is indeed the OS update (probably just multi-core Intel Mac users) have been waiting for. Remember, both the iphone/ipod touch are becoming gaming platforms now as well, which will further require them to function with lower-latencies within all the audio/visual/tactile domains.

    I'm absolutely on board with you about the need for more OS development transparency. Their developing the OS as if they didn't realize how intelligent/professional their user-base is, and how much of their work relies on stability.

    I'll just add though that OpenCL does look promising as well. It will be cool to see if even audio applications can gain a foothold from some GPL exploitation. I'm not doubling as a VJ so I'd like to see Ableton/Max exploit some GPU cycles for my audio processing. I'm not a programmer though so I have no clue about this really.

  • Thomas Cermak

    "a lot of people will simply give up on computer music production because it’s too much work."

    I mostly use an MPC 1000 (with JJ OS) for music production and performance largely because of everything we're discussing here. I'm seriously ready to drop whatever on the yet-to-be-released (most-wonderful-wetdream-of-my-life) Linndrum 2. If this device will function how I predict it will then I will forget computers for everything in the audio domain except running soft synths, mixing and mastering.

  • I'd have thought that Snow Leopard wold include a completed version of resolution independence (see… which would be ideal for a touch-screen version of OS X which is surely coming.

  • @dig: that NY Times article steamrolls over some key issues here.

    First, it's great that Apple has a new multi-threading architecture. But what's the relationship between Grand Central (Snow Leopard) and the multithreading features in Leopard? And if this is essential, again, it's frustrating that so much is protected by NDA. It reduces the press to talking in generalities and repeating Apple PR points. Oh, wait. That's the idea, isn't it?

    Second, the author makes *huge* assumptions about processing on the GPU. These still have laragely theoretical gains in practice. I'm a big fan of GPUPU but because the GPU is a specialized processor, it doesn't simply make things "faster" than on a CPU. That's again buying Apple's pitch. Jobs made the same mischaracterization when he described Core Image's advantages and the acceleration of the GPU versus the CPU. (Meanwhile, CPUs continue to accelerate quite quickly, thank you very much. And the article ignores the benefits of faster RAM and central architectural features that reduce bottlenecks.)

    The example they give, bizarrely, isn't even a GPU anyway (the IBM Cell). It's a CPU that happens to be used in a game console. So the article distorts the facts there, as well.

    That's not to discount the potential advantages of the GPUPU approach. This could be huge. But, seriously, what gives? "If Apple can use similar chips to power its future computers, it will change the computer industry." It's as though only Apple can innovate in this space and no one else can?

    I remain considered about the practical issues, the timeline, and how developer integration is going to work. And I'm especially concerned about driver support. And there's a huge amount of missing information around 64-bit.

    (The Apple site makes odd claims about that, too, claiming that software runs "faster" on 64-bit because it uses RAM instead of hard disks for virtual memory. That's only true if you're pushing the Mac's currently ample 4GB memory per-app space. For music, we'll be waiting on everything getting rewritten as 64-bit)

    In other words, what Apple may have done here could be huge. But it's going to require a huge amount of effort from the developer community to make it work for the end user. And most developers still have to live in a cross-platform world.

  • amoeba

    i'm no expert, but i don't think peter's comment about everything having to be rewritten for 64 is entirely true. 32 can run just fine in apple world, but obviously 64 things will take advantage of the environment.

    but if so, that's part of living in the mac world. a choice, and a frustrating one waiting for the payoffs to come at times. but i feel my choice is right (at least for me, damn sure about that).

    apple will always piss off devs. the secrecy, the yanking of rugs from under, etc. but i do think they have the advantage of being nimble and making crazy ass sweeping changes, for better and every so often for worse. either way, they keep devs on their toes and push the envelope like no other tech company i know.

    i will admit to one thing – when the tables finally turn (apple > ms) jobs will be a way worse dictator than anyone at the helm of MS ever was. as much of a prick i think jobs is, he's who i chose to follow for at least the near future. i feel in my gut he's more interested in the experience than the monopoly. but i do worry about the day the monopoly comes…

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  • I think you're quite right about the threading issues and system stability. If you take a look at the typical issues with threading, you'll find that something like deadlocking, thread starvation and priority inversion can easily creep into seemingly innocuous changes and absolutely destroy the ability of a system to respond in a realtime or even a predictable time manner. Couple this with the fact that third party software is being run in a cooperative scheduling manner with the IOProc in CoreAudio and you've got a recipe for disaster that developers just weren't prepared for.

    Luckily, these issues can and should be addressed without a major overhaul. That's not to say that these issues should have hit the public, there's a big gap in some of the qualification there, some to be done by the OS team, some to be done by the DAW and hardware manufacturers. The important lesson is that no organization can afford to bury their heads in the sand any longer.

    Now, I understand that a lot of people are somewhat unhappy with the performance of Leopard and Audio on Leopard, but I really feel like this blog has been sensationalizing these issues for profit. I know a bunch of people (myself included) that run Logic Pro on Leopard with no issues. Similarly, ringing the alarm bell on 10.6 at this stage (and insinuating that GCD, an advanced opt-in API that I'm sure few readers of this blog really understand will somehow be foisted upon audio developers without consent ).

    There are a ton of reasons why 64 bit (x86_64) is at least as fast as 32 bit i386, including a larger set of registers and better synchronization primitives. It has been noted many many times that these speed increases have to overcome the fact that pointers use 8 bytes instead of 4, and so many algorithms will take a hit copying pointers into and out of registers.

    I guess what I'm a bit bothered about is that though some of these pieces of criticism could be constructive if they were restricted and better directed, but nebulous complaints are largely useless gestures, and hand-waving is hand-waving. On the whole, creating digital audio is MUCH easier than was the case with Music 1 through C-Sound. DAW's have become quite complex and even bloated. Even so, since version 7.2, every crash of Logic Pro I've experienced has had NI calls in the backtrace. Yet, through all of that I've never been more pleased with my production environment. I doubt anyone will give up on audio production.

  • Thomas Cermak

    Mark, I do agree with your last statement. I've often complained about Leopard (and Abelton Live) but I'd have to say, aside from the audio stuttering and latency, I've never enjoyed such a convenient, feature-ridden environment (Live 7 + 10.5 for me) in which to produce music quite like this.

  • @amoeba: Sorry, I should qualify. 32-bit applications generally only have to be rewritten as 64-bit in order to take advantage of 64-bit processing and memory space. The trick is that plug-ins would also need to be 64-bit. Also, this could require 64-bit drivers for compatibility; I don't know. These things are generally true on any 64-bit platform. I'm just unsure how all of this work syncs up; that is, are developers going to have to juggle new threading, new driver models, and a 64-bit transition starting only months into the existing major upgrade? I'm just speaking from experience and practicality to say that, if that's the case, that's likely to be too much. And we've seen how frustrated people get when music vendors in particular fall behind.

    For what it's worth, I think a lot of what has grown in this industry has come from actual work, not "dictators." You need executives. You need the rest of the ecosystem, too.

    @Mark Pauley: I don't know how these complaints are particularly sensational; as for the "profit," I'll let you know when it comes in. But yeah, I take the "nebulous hand waving" thing to heart, and frankly, I agree – I am. The problem is, any of the technical details are covered under NDA, and are likely to remain so until the thing ships — that is, until it's too late.

    I'm not opposed to Apple doing innovative things with their OS. I'm hopeful about the basic functionality here. We need new libraries to take better advantage of the GPU, particularly since a lot of the time computers aren't playing games. We need ways of better managing tasks across multiple cores. The question I have is, how is communication and compatibility being handled during those changes? That's not a complaint about an OS that hasn't shipped yet. That's absolutely relevant to what happens *before* the OS ships, which is a critical timeframe.

    And I think it's high time we started asking those questions about all OSes. We've seen two separate platforms (Leopard and Vista) that caused widespread compatibility problems — not universal, true, but widespread. Maybe that's a necessary evil, but then, they were also presented as stable, mature releases before they'd really gotten there, which in turn does a disservice to what was in them.

    Anyway, my whole point is simply that I think there's value in –

    * information — more and earlier

    * coordination with third parties (which is partly contingent on the third parties, incidentally, I recognize that)

    * flexibility in how updates are rolled out, so that the user community isn't immediately pressed into features before they're stable or before they're needed

    I think those three points would benefit *any* OS, not just Mac OS.

    If that's sensational, then our expectations for OS development really have gotten low.

  • ericdano

    I think it is funny that you can write an "article" about this when there is very little to go on. And Apple is also likes to play spy with things. Look at the iPhone. Look at generally everything they do. It is secret.

    If 10.6 means that my MacPro will go even faster, then I'd gladly pay for it. If running Digital Performer, I can squeeze out 40% more performance on the same hardware, that would be great.

    If companies like Digidesign can't get their shit together, then I'll use something that does. Like Logic. Like Digital Performer. Those two companies seem to have their code base cleaned up and provide updates that work with a new release right away, or within a week or two. Not like Digi, which is STILL working to get Pro Tools working.

    Why not go get a developer's account from Apple so, instead of speculating about this and that?

  • I can't get a developer account, because the material covered would be under NDA. Doesn't help the press — could actually mean we can say less; I can say this because I'm not privilege to any NDA-covered material.

    Anyway, it's not all speculation; we actually have some documentation here of what this means — beyond Apple's scant documentation of Snow Leopard, some of this is described in Leopard and in generic terms beyond the Mac platform.

    It's not an article, it's a blog. So take it as you will. The idea is to generate discussion, hopefully without violating any NDAs.

    I can guarantee that there is potential for trouble even beyond Logic and DP — think hardware, firmware, etc. That's the nature of the beast.

    But back to other topics, anyway.

  • flip


    I bought 10.5 in October but only did the transition from 10.4 to 10.5 this past week between some big jobs. It literally took me 5 days to do a clean install + all the plug-ins and 3rd party software (too many zeros and ones!) I am happy to say I hit the ground running and haven't hit any bumps. Luckily, I have everything backed up just in case.

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  • ernesto (costa rica)

    I think that the problems arise under certain combination of hardware and drivers, for me its all about firewire. most people I know with usb related issues are running just fine with 10.5.3. the thing with my case is that the setup is very very unstable right now, audio drops just might happen anytime and the workaround requires rebooting.

    I though I was going insane until Peter started posting the whole story and I can't think of an apple bashing plan from CDM to turn profitable really….

    I love my mac and really want everything to be as smooth as when my old trusty powerbook roamed the earth, I guess many people feels the same

    and oh yeah, off topic, you can grab one of those properties where mel gibson lives…. if you are mel gibson or alike. certainly not a costa rican dude.

  • 10.5.2 to 10.5.3 specifically addressed USB audio performance on "some" interfaces. It looks to me like *most* of the remaining problems indeed have to do with FireWire.

  • Thomas Cermak

    I'm still experiencing problems with two different macs and two separate usb interfaces and I'm running 10.5.3.

  • Sad blog

    This is the third time I read undeserved bashing at Leopard. 10.5 works fine when working with the right hardware and software.

    Why do you blame Apple? Some 3rd part developers are non competent and still messing with really old code. Other 3rd part developers had their DAWs and audio interface drivers ready at the release of 10.5.0! HEEELLO? Now why do you think that is?

    Nevermind, you don't need to answer. I just removed your blog from my RSS reader. Your articles are wasting my time. I will spend that time creating digital music instead. Using 10.5.3.

  • @"Sad blog" You may not be interested, but I'm obligated to at least defend myself. We had developers whose software and drivers worked with 10.5 and stopped functioning at 10.5.2. Some of the 10.5.2 issues were recognized by Apple and fixed in their OS. We called attention to lapses by both Apple (OS vendor) and Digidesign (developer). If you're not interested in reports that help other people resolve issues with their system, skip those reports. If you don't want to read CDM, that's your prerogative.

  • maxamillian

    Man, aren't the Mac fanboys easily-excitable 🙂

    I don't always agree with this blog either (too much pointless IDM-geekery) but that doesn't mean it's worth posting tediously uppity comments.

    I'm glad Peter covered this story because coverage elsewhere is virtually non-existent (I was very surprised there were no posts on Gearslutz about it for example).

    Apple does some cool things and I really appreciate them, but they really do a lot of retarded things (continuous fucking with the AU spec) and downright unfair things too. They are very very selective about the developers who get early 'inside' knowledge of new OSX versions (even ADC subscribers), and I'm willing to bet Digidesign didn't get proper inside info about latest versions of OSX. It wouldn't be at all surprising since Apple is in direct and pretty hostile competition with them (protection-free and ridiculously cheap Logic 8, subsidized by Mac sales). Macs are really cool, but the situation is not helped by reactionary fan-boy comments.

    In conclusion, Sad Blog, (and I know you will be reading because you really do seem to be that sad) all I can say is that your comment was really really retarded, as it actually made me defend Digidesign. What is the world coming to… sheesh 🙁

  • If anyone always agreed with me, I'd be worried. I don't even always agree with me. 😉

  • ernesto (costa rica)

    oh yeah I just removed a couple blogs last week too much global warming nonsense. beaches are so freakin cool here, HELLOO people at Greenland what's the fuzz all about?? I guess you chose the wrong country to be born at.

  • Captain Howdy

    Still using Tiger here, and probably will be for quite sometime. Can't justify trading several apps that I need and that Leopard breaks, for some new and useless eyecandy.

    Better luck next time Apple. IMO, Leopard is about as much a step forward as Vista is.

  • AJ

    For musicians (or at least audio developers) the key move forward is using the GPU's horsepower. If there were a standardized way for audio apps and plugins to use OpenCL to accelerate processing, it'd mean a HUGE leap forward for DAW performance under 10.6.

    Why drop $500-$1000+ for a proprietary DSP card and proprietary plugins — or more — when the OS can thread out DSP-type operations to a $200 graphics card? (heck, you could just buy another NVidia card for DSP purposes, and not even connect it to a monitor).

  • @AJ – Key point here is that everything you've just said is already true of the CPU (although that's why multicore improvements do have potential for audio, too). There are already some implementations of GPGPU out there, and not much has happened with audio. It's coming, it's just a non-trivial problem. From what I've heard, OpenCL should help you maximize your onboard hardware by keeping your GPU busy when doing audio tasks. I don't yet see this as a revolutionary change, though — certainly not immediately. Long-term payoffs become more interesting, particularly as the architectural bottlenecks between CPU and GPU are cleared. In the meantime, I don't think you need to drop money for proprietary DSP *now* even without GPGPU. You'd do that basically because some effect/instrument you want to run requires it.

  • Seba

    All I have to say is that I'm sure glad I'm still running 10.4.11

    Nice and smooth.


  • Captain Howdy


    For musicians (or at least audio developers) the key move forward is using the GPU’s horsepower.

    Errr… what about sound? The recent AirPort 5.3.1 update completely screws up the audio on OS X. I also hear similar horror stories regarding Leopard.

    Call me silly, but playing audio without having to worry about the OS causing stutters and glitches in the sound, is important to me.

  • ernesto

    it seems there is no PPC support on 10.6. anyone with more info?

  • Otend

    Must. Not. Drool.

    I seriously want a Mac more than ever. Just the GPU for general processing makes me want to beg for a beta and a free Mac to use it with.

  • Rafael

    I like your blog, although I think this post is a little misguided and too reactionary and with many misconceptions regarding Operating Systems (especially Leopard). Bashing Snow Leopard (or any other OS) just by speculation doesn't add too much to discussion.

    I'll leave you with this quote:

    "You can separate the OS X feature engineering work done by Apple into two categories. There’s the features that are exciting to the typical Mac user, and then there’s the features that are only exciting to software developers. When Apple says that they’re “hitting the pause button on new features”, they’re talking about that first category of features. From a developer’s perspective, Snow Leopard is overflowing with exciting system enhancements, tantalizing new goodies to allow for faster development and huge performance improvements."

    ( for the rest of the article :… )


  • Rafael

    Truth is that nowadays the hardware in our hands is way more advanced that the software that runs it. We really need under the hood changes in Operating Systems to allow application development that takes advantages of the hardware we now have at our disposal( as in NOW not in the next generation)

    Be patient my friend, we really need to do this ( the industry in general) otherwise we'll keep having this multicore machines with no real way of utilizing all their potential.

    Meanwhile, don't upgrade with something that works right now and if you are getting new gear, really research that works well together (this sucks as one must end up replacing more gear than needed). As a personal anecdote I had to that with Leopard (stolen laptop, new one with leopard) and my interface (m-audiio) didn't work. I had to swallow it and bough another one (with a new midi controller to boot) and it works great, yes, I know the new hardware purchase was unwarrented for but if my laptop hadn't been stolen, I wouldn't have replaced anything in the fist place.

    My point is, if it works don't upgrade. It really doesn't make a difference right now. we've reached a plateu and current upgrades aren't really a great leap forward, to do that we have to overhaul the inner workings of OSs to take advantage of all the hardware and technologies, not just use them but really take advantage of them, take a leap forward.

    I really applaud Apple's decision in taking this route (it's not a popular decision, but necessary and it will reap benefits in the medium/long term).

    P.S. ernesto: snow leopard WILL drop PPC support (keep in mind that when SL ships the newest PPC systems (late 2005 g5 quad cores) will be more than 3 years old

  • keep the faith. snow leopard will blow your mind when it drops. the move for apple right now is to extend their os to the web in a huge way. the iPhone is the bridge. mark my words.

  • apoclypse

    I was having issues with my firebox with 10.5.2. It would kernel panic every time I connected the interface and it was an issue with firewire only as my USB audio device had no issues. Once I updated to 10.5.3 I have had no issues with stability at all and the interface works as it should. I can suspend my Mac with the interface connected and wake it up and it will still work properly, in-fact I keep it connected full time now unless I'm traveling and need to take my MBP somewhere. While I do think performance isn't as good on OSX as it was when in XP using ASIO, the only crashes I get with Logic are usually from 3rd party plugins, and I haven't had any major issues with that since I update from Tiger.

    I 'm sure many here are having issues with 10.5.3 but I think that some of it is more sensational than it ought to be.