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SoCoder -> Blogs Home -> Blogs

Created : 04 June 2014
Edited : 04 June 2014

Mac Rant!

Some of you know that a year or so ago, possibly a little longer, can't quite remember, I made the switch from a Windows PC to an OS X Mac Mini, that was a lot of commas in that sentence, I wonder if it was grammatically accurate?
Anyway It's time a my rant about it. For the most part, I've been very happy with the little computer. It's size means that it can sit nicely on my desk and not get in the way of anything. Although it isn't a powerhouse, it is good enough for anything I want to do on it these days. The OS is fairly easy to learn for the most part and looks quite nice.

Things I don't really like about the thing are small and few. We'll start with the fact that Apple user are more than happy to go along with whatever Apple tell them and to hell with the rest of the world. One day, I was tired of the dock. Now had this been Windows, there are dozens of start bar/menu replacements should you fancy a change because guess what? Other windows users are sometimes not happy with what Microsoft serves up and they do something about it.Is it the same on the OS X side of the coin? "Why would you want to change the dock? it's perfect already!" I'll admit, it looks nice, but a Windows style start menu is far more functional, especially from XP onwards. I think I managed to fine one, maybe even two examples of OS X users releasing some sort of desktop augmenting application menu but they weren't so good.

Same thing when I though the OS could to with a little graphical change. I've been using Stardock WindowBlinds for years and years now, with it you can change almost every graphical element of Windows to whatever your heart desires, with millions of pre-made themes floating about the net. On OS X guess what?! That's right, Not one person it seems in fifteen years of OS X has thought (and done something about it) "wouldn't it be nice if I could change the window borders a little!" Nope.

Yesterday, I though my Mac was booting up a little slowly. It was of course, it takes a couple of minutes to boot up these days. The many OS X users that can be found with a Google search are more than happy to point out that "resetting your file permissions" is the only thing you can do to speed up your computer. In actual fact this does nothing at all. My hdd was a bit on the full side, so after Googling a little, discovering that a full hdd will slow your Mac down more than anything else, I went through and deleted a whole bunch of crap (250+gb in fact). Did this speed anything up at all? Did it heck. In fact having been a computer user for most of my life, I'm appalled that I've still used up 135gb of space with very little to show for it.

Speaking of hdd space, theres an Apple spoon fed myth that users seem to eat up like no other. That is that you never ever ever need to defrag a Mac hard drive. This is of course nonsense. OS X apparently shuffles around small files all of the time, now I don't know if thats at all relevant, but it doesn't prevent files from being scattered all over the place, which as anyone knows, causes slowdowns when accessing files, be they in on part or many parts. Simply be moving all of your files to the center of the disk will speed up all file operations, makes sense to all but Mac users. So anyway as a consequence of this nonsense it is difficult to find any defraging software for OS x, never mind freeware to do the job.

So having found a demo of iDefrag, which does indeed show that my files are all scattered from one end of the disk to the other, even though they only use about quarter of the space, I'm backing up my hdd using time machine (first time ever, so it's taking bloody ages) so that I can restore my drive tonight (if I remember), thereby moving all of my files to the start of the empty space and hopefully speeding up my boot time to an acceptable pace. Why there isn't a FREE defrag tool bundled with the OS is beyond me, but oh wait, Apple say we don't need one, so it must be true!

Almost forgot that time recently when the entire internet was telling my I had to use the 'option' key for something, can't remember what it was now but my official Apple keyboard doesn't have a single key labeled 'Option', if however anyone had thought to call it the 'Alt' key, which my Apple keyboard has, then I wouldn't have spent hours Googling the subject.



Wednesday, 04 June 2014, 06:09
I've owned my MacMini for about 4 years, now. It sits on my desk, and acts as two things.
Primarily, the system is used for "Compile iOS Edition!", whereby I take my monkey code, stick it on the mac, double click the file, hit F5, then simply spend about 5 hours uploading all the crap and it's relevant data, fifty bazillion icons, and other shite, to Apple.

The MacMini's alternate purpose is videos, because it's astoundingly good at screen captures of my games. Much more capable than any PC I've ever owned in my life.
Coupled with ScreenFlow, the MacMini has certainly made up for it's price, in as much as my game trailers now have audio.. .. and in-sync audio at that!!

Occasionally it also gets used for DVDs, but I'm now watching much more content on my iPad, and my DVD collection is pretty much just sitting gathering dust at this point. :\

The MacMini now gets switched on* about once a week, and that's about as much use as it gets. As much as I initially thought "OK, I'm a Mac user, now!!" it really didn't turn out that way. And since I got my Laptop (Oct 2012) I've not looked back.
Windows might annoy the bejesus out of me, but I'm comfortable with it, I know what does and doesn't work, and my entire development kit is on the thing.. I wouldn't want to change it for the world.. (although, this is an exceptionally well timed post, due to what I just did..)

* It's always on sleep mode, as it's being used as my iPod's charger!!
Wednesday, 04 June 2014, 10:03
OSX 10.2+ has automatic defragmentation routines built into the OS. However, if there is less than 10% of free space on your drive, then there is not enough room for the defragmentation to work. Nor is there really enough room for the swap space and the system will slow down. You really need to keep 15% free to keep the swap space happy.

If space is really an issue 10.6 introduced compression.

As to defragmentation:

~ OS X’s HFS+ file system tries not to use recently freed file space on a disk. Instead, it looks for larger free areas already present on the drive, thereby avoiding fragmenting files just to fit them into available space.

~ OS X dynamically gathers groups of small files and combines them into larger areas on your disk automatically. The process of writing the files to a new larger location defragments all of the files in the group.

~ OS X implements Hot File Adaptive Clustering, which monitors frequently-accessed files that do not get changed (read only), and then moves these often-accessed files to a special hot zone on the hard drive. In the process of moving these files, OS X defragments them, and then stores them in the area of the hard drive that has the fastest access.

~ When you open a file, OS X checks to see if it is highly fragmented (more than 8 fragments). If it is, OS X will automatically defragment the file.

HFS+ is a more logical file system than NTFS and FAT/FAT32. Modern file systems really do not suffer as bad if files "appear" to be spread out a bit. Defragmention is not as crucial as in older archaic file systems. Even Microsoft has stepped into the modern age with ReFS.

So, for OSX, there isn't many defrag utilities, because it is automatic and built into the OS, unlike Windows. However, since the file system is radically different from what you are used to in Windows, the methods used for defragmentation are different, as well.

Also, with a more modern file system, it is not a major issue like on NTFS/FAT32. For OSX, free space is your biggest issue. You need enough space for the defrag to work properly and for the swap space to work properly. 15% is usually good to aim for if you want both happy.

I am dealing with similar issues with Linux after having ditched Windows. I am learning to appreciate an OS that is well thought out and not filled with as much legacy crap.
Wednesday, 04 June 2014, 11:10
Restored my backup, which pushed all of the files to the start of the drive and speeding up my boot time by about 30 seconds.
Regardless of what OS X is doing with files, the fact that files eventually get spread out the way they do means that some files are accessed quicker than others, resulting in similar issues to a Windows fragmented drive.

I will be performing this task in the future whenever I have enough time to make a cuppa during my computer booting up. Just as I did with Windows.
Wednesday, 04 June 2014, 16:32
I run a similar setup to Jay, My Mac Mini at work is purely used to compile from unity and hopefully soon monkey-x to the relevant platforms.

It was also running really slow and turned out that the machine basically wa shipped with the bare minimum of 2gb of ram which was slowing the machine up no end, just from running unity. Now it has 8gb it's a lot speedier.

I just don't like the OS though. I spent a good week getting to know it and it was..err okay but it didn't even ship to me with a text editor!

The dock is fine if you only have a couple of programs on there but yeah, over a certain number it just gets out of hand.

I really don't like the filesystem though, eurghhh. I want drive letters!
Friday, 06 June 2014, 14:48
I haven't tuned my Mac on since I updated it with Mavericks (and regretted it as Parallels 6 no longer works with it). Prior to that I hadn't used it in probably a year.