New Intel Macs: Either go Universal or Get Out

If it hasn’t made itself apparent with past posts or in-person rants if you know me, I don’t like emulation or on-the-fly translation and I only do it when absolutely necessary. Despite what people say, even with these new amazingly fast computers, having to emulate anything seriously affects performance and everyday users will notice a slowdown if they started with a fast computer then add emulation (otherwise they’ll just think they have a brand new computer that’s really slow).

Recently Bronzefinger got it’s hands on a fancy new MacBook Pro and lent a hand migrating a user over from an old G4 tower.

Before beginning the migration we meticulously combed through the old computer’s:
– Applications Folder
– Applications/Utilities Folder
– System Prefs (for add-on extensions)

…and compiled a spreadsheet of all programs that we actually needed. This gave us an opportunity to get rid of some old stuff that was no longer used and keep things lean and mean.

Then we went to the web and looked to see what had been turned into a Universal Binary and downloaded it to a “to install” folder that we created.


A clipping from our migration checklist spreadsheet

Instead of using Apple’s ordinarily great “Migration Assistant” program (which could copy over PowerPC applications or extensions) we opted to start from scratch (recommended) and create a new user account on the new computer and migrate files and email and such over manually. This way we could control everything and keep it clean and keep it native.

Most common things you’ll run into:
– Mail.app has mail folder importing built in so all you have to do is point it to the mail folder on your old computer and let it do the work. We installed the httpmail extension and set up all the IMAP email accounts from scratch
– simply copy the items in /Users/youruser/Pictures over to the same folder in your new computer and that will take care of all your iPhoto stuff
– same with /Users/youruser/Music/iTunes music for your iTunes library and songs
– iCal and Address book can be exported on the old computer and imported on the new computer by choosing File/Back up database… and File/Revert to database backup…
– Safari and FF bookmarks can also be exported from old computer and imported on the new
– All non-Apple programs will need to be installed using the updates and installers you downloaded from the developer’s websites

Once we had everything migrated and started firing up programs performance was great. Not much has come close to the snappiness of fast G4’s running OS 9 (because it was such a light operating system windows would be open the millisecond that you were on the second click of your double-click) but overall performance was enough not to wish for more.

Until, that is, we ran into the unavoidable: Adobe CS.

This system could not wait for the Universal Binary version of ‘CS3 (which is reported to offer significant gains) so we had to install CS2 and we noticed a system-wide performance drag immediately afterwards. We are seeing the pinwheel much more often. Windows will lag opening and closing. Since we had a pristine system to begin with it was easy to identify CS2 as the culprit.

How do you know if your Intel Mac is secretly running old PowerPC code? Go into Applications/Utilities and open “Activity Monitor”. Even for non-techies I always put this program in the “startup items” folder of all user accounts I work on, set the dock icon to “CPU history” and tell the computer owner to glance at it if their machine is running slow and they will be able to see “how hard it’s working” and take some solace in that.

Anyway, in the Activity Monitor choose “All Processes” in the top menu and look in the “kind” column — you’ll see everything running on your machine and what is foreign and dirty.


culprits in blue

It sounds like a lot of tweaky “PC-like” work, but if you can bear it (presuming you are migrating from a G3, G4, or G5 computer) the performance gains are dramatic and well worth the extra time spent setting up your new computer the long way.

We’re looking into using Matterform Media’s yank to rip out CS2 from this machine and Quark 6.1 on a different machine and will report back on that in a future post. Yank has the potential to save a lot of time rooting around on your hard drive to find and delete all the little files that installers put all over the place. I don’t consider a program “uninstalled” until every last file related to it is gone.

2 Thoughts to “New Intel Macs: Either go Universal or Get Out”

  1. Colin

    Sigh, I should get on to this optimization quest. Adobe has been slowing down on me, and I really should fight back.

  2. Chris

    Phenomenal post; it’s both informative (for my coming MacBook purchase) and absolving (for my not having switched earlier).

    Also, great spot with Yank.

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