The Low End Mac Mailbag

HDTV vs. Computer Monitors, Windows XP vs. Mac OS X, and More

Dan Knight - 2008.04.15 - Tip Jar

SynergyKM vs. Teleport

From John Muir:

Hi Dan,

One word on the virtual KVM front: Teleport.

It works quite nicely and is definitely worth a look, from what you've said about SynergyKM. I use it to control my media centre/desktop mini from my PowerBook at the other end of the room. Clipboard synching on the fly is also a plus.

As for the broader issue you face, good luck finding the right solution. It's certainly a complex field now, though one at least hardly short of options. I'd be tempted to run the old Power Mac via Leopard's Screen Sharing over a good AirPort network from a laptop myself, setting aside a screen in Spaces for it. But I know you're a desktop man.



I'm a desktop man today, but I've been a laptop man. The big issue was cost: a much faster eMac cost a whole lot less than a faster PowerBook G4, and then a guy from church had a dual 1 GHz G4 for sale. As nice as notebooks are, a 15" MacBook Pro is going to cost a lot more than a 20" Core 2 iMac.

Screen sharing might be a good solution, but I'd want an outboard display for that, as I don't want to lose sight of everything else I'm working on when using Home Page. The best bet would be to replace Home Page, and none of the freeware or shareware solutions I've tried come close. I have downloaded the Dreamweaver trial version and hope to check it out next week.


Outlook Express and the Classic Mac OS

From Johan Nilsson in response to Damaged Address Book in Outlook Express 5:

Hi! Just a quick note regarding Outlook Express 5.0.x for OS 9: I found that as the mailbox database grows, one has to allocate more and more memory to the application. It is a long time ago I used OE (now using Entourage) but I recall the memory allocation (using Get Info in Finder as usual) needed to be substantially higher than the original recommendations. My OE database file was 500 MB+ at the time.

Johan Nilsson


Thanks for writing. I recall having to do that a lot in the days of the Classic Mac OS. I know I've got Claris Home Page set far, far higher than its default so I can go for days on end without having to restart the application.

This is one area where OS X really shines - no more need to allocate memory to programs.


HDTV vs. Computer Monitors

From John Muir:

Hi again,

Just a thought: when it comes to monitors, HDTV has really caught up.

A 1080p set is 1920 x 1080 = 2.07 million pixels, which is high compared to even an old high-end monitor at 1600 x 1200 = 1.92 million pixels. A friend of mine bought a 40" Samsung set for his PlayStation 3 and quickly discovered his gaming PC was perfectly usable on it from back on the sofa, especially with a wireless keyboard and mouse, of course.

HDMI-to-DVI adapters are easily found.

Forty inches is probably a bit over the top for most needs - and the pixel per inch number for large sets is still quite far from high quality monitors - but it is more viable now than ever before. If you use a screen from anything but very close range, an HDTV can be a compelling alternative on price vs. picture size and pixels.

I may well hook one up to my mini sometime - I'd certainly not consider buying one of Apple's displays to it given their price - but for the moment I'm still getting use out of my circa 2000 high-end CRT display, now on its umpteenth system!



I'm researching digital television and HDTV, and it's a real learning experience. One of the many things I've learned is that every HDTV has to work with both the 1080i and 720p standards as each is used by some TV networks, and some of the 1080 displays can't natively display it at full resolution. It's a very confusing area, and I'm planning to cover it on my Low End Living website once I understand it better.

If you're planning on going HDTV and considering using the display with your computer, the 1920 x 1080 resolution of a true 1080 screen wins hands down over the 1280 x 720 resolution of a native 720p screen. For watching television, viewing DVDs, and playing games, 720p is probably good enough, but even the basic MacBook has more pixels on its screen (1280 x 800).



Indeed. My friend was quite particular about getting just the right screen, and his 40" Samsung does indeed show up as the full 1920 x 1080 on his PlayStation 3, PC and indeed the old PowerBook I hooked up to it. Using it as an oversized desktop monitor is the one time when the difference between 720p and 1080p really is like night and day. In the purely high-def video stakes they are indeed closer than most seem to think!


Windows XP vs. Mac OS X

From Jason Packer in response to Windows XP Is Faster, but Mac OS X Is Superior in Many Ways:

I, too, read Scott Hansen's article about Windows XP versus OS X Leopard, but have to admit that I wondered at his conclusion. He called it as a tie between the two operating systems, when the only thing that seemed to be better about XP was the overall speed. I discounted that argument immediately - you know what else runs faster than OS X? MS-DOS 3.3. I bet that really screams on a Core 2 Duo-based computer.

Apples and oranges, you say? You can't even run Photoshop under DOS, you say? Well, I would argue that maybe the comparison between XP and OS X, while not quite so egregious as OS X and DOS, isn't exactly an even playing field, either. OS X versus Vista is a much more apt comparison, with all of the attempts by Microsoft to emulate the OS X experience.

I think we'd know which OS would come out on top then. In fact, if I can get my hands on a copy of Vista to install on my MacBook, I'll gladly make that comparison for everyone's general edification.


Hansen is sharing his own experiences in using Mac OS X after many years with Windows XP. He isn't a Vista user - he calls it "a complete and utter disaster" - so he can't make a fair user comparison between it and OS X. But if XP is on an even footing with the Mac (which most of us dispute), then Vista, which is worse than XP, must also be worse than OS X.

And in the end, the stability, friendliness, and ease of use won Hansen over: Speed with instability just isn't worth the hassles.


Windows Can Be Faster than OS X

From Adam:

Hi Dan,

I agree with Scott Hansen that Windows XP is faster than OS X on certain systems. On my B&W G3, even System 9.2 blows Tiger out of the water when to comes to speed. That's because it is an old OS which uses far fewer overheads than Tiger and Leopard. XP was released back in 2001, the same year as OS X v10.0, which makes it an antique in computer terms, and it did not have all the graphical effects and background tasks running that a modern day OS does. What Scott is experiencing is the speed benefits of running an ancient OS on a very modern, powerful machine - there are plenty of clock cycles to go around. When you start using a more modern OS, of course there is going to be a performance hit.

It would be a far fairer comparison to run Vista against Leopard on the same hardware. Vista uses an obscene amount of processing horsepower and memory, even when it isn't doing much and Leopard would probably outpace it in most tasks, and I don't really buy into the argument that Leopard vs. XP is a fair competition just because most users can't stand Vista. OS shootouts should be between the most up to date version of the current system, anything else is simply misleading.

Keep up the great site Dan.



Vista and Leopard both use an obscene amount of computing power - CPU, graphics processor, memory, and drive space - to provide all of their eye candy. Windows XP and Tiger will generally outperform them.

It's not Hansen's fault that Vista sucks (his word) and that he won't use it, so he really can't compare it to Mac OS X. He's sharing his own experience as someone who has used XP for years, knows it inside and out, understands its failings (like Photoshop crashing regularly), and is comparing OS X to that.

I don't think its fair to compare any operating system to Vista, as every home user I know who has bought a new PC and had to deal with Vista hates it. Whatever the reason, Microsoft took a huge step backward from Windows XP, and Apple has a real opportunity to take market share from Dell, HP, Microsoft, etc.


Too true, but I've seen Vista idling and using around 30% of the system overhead on a P4. Leopard uses around 7% of my G4. Yeah, Vista does suck (clock cycles too), and I don't blame PC users with sticking to XP - although I know a couple of people who swear by it, most swear at it. Latest news on Windows 7 is that it could be a modular release, so at least if you buy the entry level OS you may not loose all your computer's power.

I also agree that this is Apples best chance in a long time to steal back market share. Linux is too technical to be accepted by the average home user and MS are on a downwards spiral. Come on Steve, with OS X.6 you could really clean up.

Mac OS 9 vs. OS X Speed

From Rick Mansfield:


I enjoyed your newest article on the speed of Photoshop in XP vs. OS X.

While I certainly enjoy the benefits of OS X over OS 9, we made a huge performance trade-off when making the move to OS X.

It's not just Photoshop that is slower. Word 2008 in OS X takes seemingly forever to launch compared to Word 2007, even when running in emulation like Parallels.

Compare the current versions of a program like Photoshop or Word in OS X to their equivalents in OS 9 at it's peak on a G4. That's Word 2001 and was it Photoshop 5 or 6? Those programs run so much faster. OS 9 itself on a G4 runs so quickly, and even pages load faster in IE5 than in Safari.

Again, I would never desire to go back to OS 9 because the advantages of a newer OS and software outweigh the speed, but we definitely gave up the latter.



I have to agree with you - we took a huge performance hit going from the Classic Mac OS to Mac OS X - that said, Mac OS X kept getting faster as we moved from version 10.0 through 10.3.x. Tiger was generally faster, but Spotlight and the Dashboard could slow it down. Leopard is the first time OS X has taken a hit on speed, and that's why it's not recommended on older, slower Macs.

Mac OS 9 was great, and I sometimes boot into it, but it feels alien after so many years with OS X. Better yet, Classic Mode in OS X in many cases provides better performance with Classic apps than running them natively, thanks to OS X handling a lot of the overhead. This is especially true on dual-processor Macs.


Windows Is Not Faster than OS X

From Harvey:

Hi Dan,

Just wanted to briefly comment on your article about how "Windows XP Is Faster".

In the recent past there have been articles on the Web complaining about how Adobe has dropped the ball (purposely?) in optimizing the Windows version of Photoshop for that operating system, while the Mac version runs slower on the same processors. In earlier times, Adobe applications ran noticeably faster on the Mac OS (on slower Motorola processors) that they did on Windows PCs. Remember Apple's snail & bunny-man ads in the nineties? It was only when Apple started becoming a competitor to Adobe by coming out with applications like Aperture and Final Cut, that Adobe began to devote more resources to optimizing Photoshop for Windows than for the Mac.

It should be made clear that this speed difference is a problem with the Mac version of Photoshop, and not a problem with the Mac OS. It has absolutely nothing to do with "OS X has more overhead - more tasks running in the background", which is not true at all.

There are many applications that run faster on a Mac than on Windows. These include Apple's own applications like Safari and iTunes, as well as applications from third-party developers.

Your article should have made this distinction, rather than painting Windows XP as "faster" only because Photoshop runs faster than on a Mac. In fact, Mac OS X (the operating system) has been found to run faster than Windows in various tests. This becomes very clear when you try start ups and shut downs of each OS and the same hardware using Boot Camp.

And, even though Photoshop is an application that currently runs slower on the Mac, Scott Hansen points out another very important factor:

His second point is that Mac OS X is much more stable than Windows when using Photoshop. He complains that working with Photoshop "in Windows is wrought with errors, bugs, crashes, and lost work." And it's not just one particular machine - this has been his constant experience over the years with Windows XP. By comparison, he says that Photoshop on the Mac has never crashed or misbehaved.

Despite Photoshop being milliseconds slower at some functions on the Mac, it saves minutes in lost productivity compared to Photoshop running on Windows. So the reality is that running Photoshop on the Mac is much faster (and less frustrating) than on Windows.

These points should have been made in your article, rather than leaving readers with the false impression that "Windows XP Is Faster" than Mac OS X.



Thanks for writing, but the truth of the matter is that you can't fairly benchmark two different operating systems running different versions of a program even if it's on exactly the same hardware. Photoshop for Mac and Photoshop for Windows may function and appear to be very similar, and now that both Mac and PCs us x86 CPUs, they may even share some code, they are not the same program and they are running in different environments.

Then there's the whole matter of optimization. Photoshop started on the Mac, and for a long time Adobe put the bulk of its efforts into making sure it ran as well as possible on Macs. Apple has changed the playing field several times - switching from 680x0 CPUs to PowerPC and later to Intel, going from the Classic Mac OS to OS X, and adding powerful new features like Core Graphics. All of that made it more difficult for Adobe, and the Windows platform remained more consistent across the years.

Why is Photoshop faster on Windows? Probably because Adobe sees that as its largest market. And why is Safari faster on OS X? Probably because Apple developed it on the Mac and sees the Mac as the most important market for Safari.

Yet another factor is the version of the operating system. There are some measurable performance differences between Mac OS X 10.4 and 10.5, just as there are between Windows XP and Vista. Decisions are made as to what part of the OS should be optimized, and that changes over time.

The folks at Primate Labs have done their best to create a platform neutral benchmark, and their Geekbench shows a 4-core 3.0 GHz Mac Pro with Leopard and a 4-core Windows PC benchmark within about 1% of each other, but Geekbench doesn't measure disk performance or graphics performance, just the CPU and memory system.

I can't conjecture why Photoshop runs faster on Windows than on Macs these days, but I doubt it was a deliberate decision by Adobe to thumb its nose at the Mac market. After all, Macs still hold a huge portion of the graphics arts field, Apple's market share is growing, and nobody benefits if Photoshop for Mac is intentionally slowed down.

In the end, as you note, the key issue isn't raw processing power, but the fact that Mac OS X is incredibly stable, Photoshop runs on it without crashing, and it just lets you be more productive. So what if Photoshop is faster between crashes?


Show Me the Data

From Gene Steinberg, the Mac Night Owl:

I am troubled by your article interviewing someone who claims that Photoshop runs faster on Windows XP than under Mac OS X. From what I've read over the years, given the same processors and configuration performance out to be fairly similar, since core Photoshop rendering functions shouldn't depend so much on operating system overhead.

Unfortunately, the article doesn't mention the version of Photoshop used. Was it CS3 - Universal - or not? Worse, benchmarking information is lacking and also how the tests were timed. In each case, preferences would need to be set the same, and, ideally, a full restart would follow each test run.

As I said, questions and questions and few answers, which I'd like particularly when you read test results that are clearly anomalous.

Gene Steinberg


Thanks for writing. The article was written by someone who uses Photoshop regularly to manipulate large images, and his findings aren't based on artificial benchmarks but his real experience working with his own projects. He said that on the same hardware, Photoshop under Windows XP was faster than Photoshop for the Mac. As he's running very up-to-date hardware, I'm guessing he's using Leopard and the latest version of Photoshop, although he doesn't state that and didn't answer that question when I interviewed him.

The gist of the article is that while Windows computers may get the job done a little bit faster, the Mac OS is both friendlier and more stable, allowing you to get more work done because you don't have to deal with as many crashes. I can buy that without needing to know exactly which version of OS X and Photoshop he's using, let alone the exact time differences between his tests. As Hansen needs to be productive in Photoshop, I have to trust that he's making as fair an assessment as he can - it directly impacts his productivity.


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Dan Knight has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. Mailbag columns come from email responses to his Mac Musings, Mac Daniel, Online Tech Journal, and other columns on the site.

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