Tuesday, August 9, 2011 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Lion Is a Quitter

Matt Neuburg:

On the other hand, the fact is that when Lion caused Preview to quit automatically yesterday on my machine, I was using Preview. I wasn’t using it actively at that moment in a way that Lion knew about — there were no open Preview windows, and Preview wasn’t frontmost — but I was engaged in some activity involving Preview. I had switched away from Preview only in order to prepare things in the Finder so that the document I intended to open in Preview would be ready. But when I switched back to Preview with Command-Tab, Preview was gone. That’s not helpful or useful; it’s annoying, confusing, and a hindrance. I had to launch Preview explicitly again in order to continue with my task.

I’ve seen the same issue with Preview, QuickTime Player, and TextEdit. Since I don’t use Command-Tab, it doesn’t really bother me except for the constant appearing and disappearing from the Dock. If there’s no memory pressure, the system should wait a while in case you’re going to switch right back to the same application.

4 Comments

Thats the beauty of Mac OS X: the most advanced OS that believes it is running on a Mac SE.

Stuart Rogers

I'm with Matt on this one. I expect to see my running apps in the Cmd-Tab task switcher, so Lion should at least maintain the pretence that it's running, even if under the hood it's gone. And I'll be doubly annoyed if the disappeared' app is one that's slow to launch.

Although I appreciate the technology that's gone into this as a means to reduce memory pressure, I think Apple has it wrong on two counts: (1) As of Snow Lion, as far as I can tell, the system caches data aggressively, and (2) Possibly as a side effect of (1), Safari is a massive memory hog. With so much caching going on, you only need one intensive memory user to out-run the garbage collector and hey presto you have another swap file. So if, rather than flushing apps, Lion flushed some caches, I'm sure things would be so much sweeter.

"Although I appreciate the technology that's gone into this as a means to reduce memory pressure, I think Apple has it wrong on two counts: (1) As of Snow Lion, as far as I can tell, the system caches data aggressively, and (2) Possibly as a side effect of (1), Safari is a massive memory hog. With so much caching going on, you only need one intensive memory user to out-run the garbage collector and hey presto you have another swap file. So if, rather than flushing apps, Lion flushed some caches, I'm sure things would be so much sweeter."

Meh. Depends on your hardware. If you're running an SSD as your boot drive, swap files become a sort of 'level 4' cache, with a very limited speed hit. So I actually think the Snowy system of aggressively caching makes sense.

WebKit is its own kettle of fish.

(I quit all my apps that use WebKit once a day, since WebKit is such a resources mess, reportedly more so in Lion than the Snowy I happily use. And I also use OmniWeb without JavaScript enabled for 98% of sites as my main browser, with an AppleScript mapped to a keycommand to instantly launch any page I want to see in Safari in its full "Web 2.0" glory. So I can have a hundred web pages open in tabs, and still only be using a few hundred MB of RAM for in my browser, and thus don't generally deal with swap files at all unless I fire up VMWare. And as an added bonus, such a system keeps the fans from ever kicking in on my laptop. But I think my larger point stands regardless of your default browser: if you've got an SSD, aggressive caching makes the best sense for the user, since the 'cost' of swap becomes so low. If you've got a platter drive, things may be different, though even there, the problem is WebKit specifically, not aggressive caching in general.)

Remember, it may not seem intuitive, but Inactive Memory is better than Free Memory in the abstract...

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"Thats the beauty of Mac OS X: the most advanced OS that believes it is running on a Mac SE."

Of course, it's actually trying to believe it is running on an iPhone.

Automatic Termination for non-background apps is really a bit of an conceptual abomination within a full-fledged multi-purpose computer OS like OS X still is claiming to be.

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