The Living-in-a-Bubble Report

November 28th, 2014

I have no doubt that the OS X Yosemite upgrade experience has been less than perfect for some of you. This is the way it is in the real world. No OS or app is perfect, and sometimes there will be interactions that the developers do not or cannot account for as they continue creating the software. So as it reaches more and more people, previously unsuspected problems will appear.

Sure, some of these bugs may have been known before release, but couldn’t be confirmed, or were given a low level of priority. No, I don’t know why the Wi-Fi failures reported by some of you in the initial OS X Yosemite release were left unfixed even after over a million Mac users submitted feedback during a public beta process. Apple will probably never tell us why that happened, or whether it was an artifact of the final release that wasn’t caught before it was posted.

Isolating problems in software is not easy, but it helps if more than a very few people are impacted. That gives developers more ammunition to figure out what’s wrong. But sometimes problems are so rare that it’s not possible to ever find a solution, except perhaps by accident.

It makes sense, too, that some problems may just depend on a special system configuration, but people encountering troubles sometimes assume that if it happens to them, it happens to everyone.

That takes us to a certain blogger who is complaining online about a perceived lack of “responsiveness” on OS X Yosemite on his new Mac Pro. On a workstation-class personal computer, you’d think that everything Yosemite does should be virtually instantaneous except for a hefty rendering project. Remember that a Mac Pro ships with an SSD. The only mechanical hard drives that would be used are external, and content creators would consider costly RAID assemblies of multiple drives that would deliver the maximum level of performance the technology allows.

Now before I go on, let me tell you that a lack of responsiveness or sluggishness is not a normal Yosemite system, but I gather it does happen. I do not have the OS installed on brand new Macs with SSDs. My work computer remains a late 2009 27-inch iMac with Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, and the standard 1TB hard drive. I do not find Yosemite sluggish at all. Performance for the most part appears to be as good or better than Mavericks except for an occasional stall when I switch from one virtual desktop to another.

My other work computer is a 2010 17-inch MacBook Pro, and performance seems decent overall, in line with previous OS installations.

So what is happening with that blogger’s Mac Pro? While there is one clue that ought to be investigated further. He writes: “I checked the system logs in the Console. I noticed a lot of suspicious-looking error messages in the Console, with no indication of what I could do to stop them.”

He claims that he performed a clean installation of Yosemite on a separate drive partition, and those Console logs continued to exhibit the same system errors. But what does he mean by clean?

Now in passing, I can tell you that I can find no such messages in Console on my Macs. I also did one thing that he didn’t mention, which was to launch Activity Monitor and see what system processes were active, and whether anything seemed to be taking an unusual amount of system resources. Indeed, I find that Yosemite seems use fewer resources than Mavericks, at least on my installations.

The larger question I would ask is whether the blogger actually wiped that second drive partition clean before installing OS X Yosemite, and whether he installed anything before testing performance aside from the OS. What about a third-party system enhancement or an app with a custom kernel extension? He mentions using software from Ambrosia SW, some of which is incompatible with recent OS X versions.

At no time does he explain whether he checked to see if anyone else had the problem, or whether he was all alone, meaning it was specific to his setup.

With so few details, it’s hard to know. He reports of a contact with Apple support that failed to resolve anything. At the end of the day this is, to him, Yosemite’s “default behavior.” But it’s not, not for me, not for most people who installed OS 10.10. But keeping that post so insular, focusing intently on his own situation but not on comparing or contrasting it to other installations, he reaches conclusions that aren’t supported by the facts.

There are some articles online about how to speed up your Mac if Yosemite runs too slow for you. One key suggestion is to perform a clean installation, from a hard drive wiped clean, which often clears out the remnants of earlier installations. Of course that also requires backing up your data and doing a full restore, a process that might occupy several hours. Apple’s Migration Assistant can help. But just reinstalling your apps from scratch, which may be an involved process for some, can really clear out the cruft.

My OS X Yosemite setup is a mostly clean install. A freshly formatted hard drive, followed by a full restore. I did have a slight startup glitch on the first restart that wasn’t repeated, and updating to 10.10.1 was equally uneventful. But even though my Yosemite experiences were quite successful, I wouldn’t assume that it must be perfect for everyone. And that’s a direct counterpart to claiming that one’s individual problems must, without evidence, apply to everyone else.

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