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Performance tuning for G3 Macs System
Performance Tuning Mac OS X for G3 Macs
by Romeo B. Mariano, M.D.

The following are performance tuning techniques to speed up Mac OS X so it is useable on a G3 Mac. Of course, they will also speed up G4 Macs.

• REDUCE NUMBER OF COLORS ON THE DISPLAY. Set the display to thousands of colors via the Displays System Preference. This is O.K. so long as you don't do Photoshop work. This reduces the work OS X has to do to present graphics on the screen.

• REDUCE RESOLUTION OF DISPLAY. Set this via the Displays System Preference. This again reduces the work OS X has to do to render graphics on the screen. I set my resolution to 1024 x 768, which is fine for most purposes, as well as being easier on the eyes to read. Game players use framerates to gauge their machine's performance. At fewer colors, and lower resolution, the framerates usually increase tremendously.

Read the rest of the article for a bunch of other speed-enhancing tips from Romeo (and thanks to him for contributing this great write-up!)

• DISABLE TRANSPARENCY. Transparency is beautiful. But it is a performance hog, particularly on a G3 processor. It also clutters up the interface. Selecting a menu item is more difficult when the menu is over text. Unfortunately, transparency cannot be toggled off system-wide in the Aqua interface. To accomplish this, I installed a theme other than Aqua to remove transparency.

[Editor's aside: Please do not use the above comments to start a thread here on form vs. function! If you wish to debate the use of transparency in OS X, please head on over to the forum site and start a discussion in the OS X Tweaks thread -- Thanks!]

I use the theme "Grey Aqua" from Diamond Meadows, which I installed using a program called Duality3.

Duality3 does a function similar to the Appearance manager of Mac OS 9 or a Mac OS 9 application called Kaleidoscope. By removing transparency, menus have more "pop" when selected. The user interface is much cleaner without background distractions. The developer of "Grey Aqua" has other themes for Mac OS X to try out.

• DISABLE FONT SMOOTHING. Font smoothing is a performance hog. Font smoothing takes out the "snap" from Mac OS 9. It does this greatly to Mac OS X too. Disable font smoothing via a free program called Tinkertool.

You may find that scrolling in Mac OS X becomes close to as fast as Mac OS 9 when font smoothing is disabled. With Tinkertool, you can even keep font smoothing, but set it only for fonts larger than 36 points, thus preventing smoothing on the more commonly used smaller font sizes.

When I first tried to disable font smoothing, I found that text did not render well. Letters ran into each other on the screen and when I tried to print text. I thought it was a bug in font rendering so I placed this technique on the shelf. Recently however it was discovered that Internet Explorer had installed corrupted versions of the Arial and Times New Roman fonts during the default Mac OS X installation. Thus you have to first REPLACE the Arial and Times New Roman fonts in Mac OS X with the updated versions from Microsoft.

Use a program called XRay to make sure the permission settings of these fonts are corretly set when you replace them. The owner should be "Root". I'm surprised Apple hasn't update these corrupted fonts that OS X installs.

• ENABLE WINDOW COMPRESSION. Mac OS X saves each application's window as a separate layer in memory the size of your screen. When redrawing the screen, OS X has to retrieve the data for each window. Unfortunatelly, the data for each window can take up a lot of memory. For a 1024 x 768 display with millions of colors, each window open can take up to 2.2 megabytes of memory. This is a lot of data to retrieve each time windows are redrawn, such as by simply bringing a window to the front. This of course slows down OS X. The window data can be compressed however, speeding up screen redraws because the compressed window data can be retrieved much faster than the uncompressed data. Unfortunately, window compression is turned off by default, when you install Mac OS X. To correct this, I use a free program called WinCompressX to turn it on. This has greatly improved window redrawing speed in Mac OS X. I believe a future update to OS X will have window compression enabled by default. It makes dragging windows fun again.

• INCREASE THE PRIORITY OF IMPORTANT PROCESSES. Mac OS X will give more attention to certain programs/processes - if you tell it to. This may speed up performance of that process. For example, you may want to increase the priority of the Window Server (a system process) or the priority of the Finder or the priority of the Print Manager. I use a free application (which installs its own menubar icon) called Process Wizard 1.0 to do this. It lists all the applications and background processes on your machine and allows you to select individual ones to prioritize. Otherwise, you have to manually do this in the Terminal window with a command called "renice".

• SPEED UP YOUR MOUSE AND KEYBOARD. The problem of "preemptive multitasking" operating systems such as Mac OS X or Windows XP is that "preemptive multitasking" reduces the computers attention to your actions. Mac OS 9 devotes most of its attention to your actions - mouse clicks, key presses, etc. If you hold a menu down, the machine grinds to a halt waiting for your decision. But Mac OS X may have a delay when it is paying attention to other programs or processes which are running in the background. Thus there is a delay when you press the mouse button or key before something happens. To increase the attention Mac OS X devotes to your actions, in the system preferences, increase your mouse tracking speed, increase your key repeat rate and shorten the delay until repeat for your keyboard. This makes the machine much more reponsive to your input because it has to pay more attention to you.

• TURN OFF UNNECESSARY EXTENSIONS IN CLASSIC. This includes graphics driver extensions, network extensions, and CD/DVD drivers which are redundant and not used in MAC OS X. To do this, select the Extensions Manager Control Panel in the Mac OS 9 System Folder. Select "Mac OS 9.2.2 base" to get a basic set of extensions. Then further reduce this by deselecting the ATI or NVIDIA drivers and other extensions that are redundant with the Mac OS X ones. This technique greatly speeds up loading of Classic - to less than a minute on a 500 MHz G3. And this also greatly speeds up Classic since these extensions are no longer running in the background taking up CPU time.

• CHANGE DOCK MINIMIZER EFFECT TO "SCALE" RATHER THAN "GENIE". Set this in the Dock Preferences. The Genie effect takes more horsepower to render than the Scale effect, thus slowing down your machine.

• GET MORE RAM. Mac OS X is more memory intensive than Mac OS 9. This is illustrated by its relatively inefficient storage of window information in RAM. More RAM equals more speed. Mac OS X also is less likely to use virtual memory (saving RAM data on the hard drive) when you have a lot of RAM. Virtual memory is slow compared RAM memory - even in as efficient a memory management system as in Mac OS X. RAM is cheap.

• GET A FASTER HARD DRIVE. When I replaced the original 12 GB hard drive on my Pismo, with a 48 GB 5400 RPM IBM Travelstar, the speed increase was remarkable. Mac OS 9, Mac OS X, and many programs such as Photoshop use the hard drive frequently. A faster hard drive greatly improves performance. Photoshop redrawing is much faster with a faster hard drive. Hard drives are much so much less expensive than a couple of years ago, it behooves you to purchase an upgrade if you have an older system. If you have a desktop, a RAID Hard drive system is even faster.

• RUN A SECOND MONITOR. A quirk I found on my Pismo G3 laptop is that screen redraws seem to speed up when I attach a second monitor running at 1024 x 768, and run a dual monitor desktop configuration. It feels snappier than by using the laptop's LCD screen alone. Go figure.... Perhaps this is a quirk in the ATI graphics chip of the laptop. Perhaps this may also work for you. The speed up doesn't occur at higher monitor resolutions for me.

My main computer is a Powerbook 2000 (Pismo) with a G3 processor. It is the workhorse I use on the job, despite having 12 other computers including Athlon equipped PCs and a Titanium G4 Powerbook. It's main advantage over the Titanium is the expansion bay for a second hard drive or a second battery for extended use. I attach it to a Mitsubishi 2040u 21-inch monitor and a customized external Microsoft Internet Pro split-key keyboard (modified to definitely prevent carpal tunnel syndrome despite writing 2000 pages a month) with Microsoft Explorer Optical Trackball.

When Mac OS X 10.1 came out, it clearly overwhelmed the capabilities of the G3 processor equipped Pismo. I installed it and loved it. But it was too slow for daily use. I continued to use Mac OS 9.2.2. As the new year approached, with the growing excitement of more software being available for OS X, the release of the Mac OS X 10.1.2 upgrade, and with the frustration of crashes taking down Mac OS 9.2 - which risked mission-critical data loss, I decided to see what can be done to improve OS X so that I could use it daily at work.

These speed tweeks have greatly improved the "snappiness" of Mac OS X without removing much of the flavor or feel of the operating system in my G3 processor Mac.

These performance tuning techniques have sped up Mac OS X so much for me that I can wait until Apple comes out with a dual G5 processor or 1.5 to 2 GHz dual G4 before I purchase a new Mac.

For database application use, which does not use Altivec, the most important factor in performance is the clockspeed of the processor - thus a 1 GHz G4 is only twice as fast as a 500 MHz G3. This is not a large enough performance increase to warrant purchasing a new machine. A four-fold performance increase is more noticeable and preferable.

The following additions to Mac OS X will further add features in Mac OS 9 to improve its efficiency and appease those of us with ingrained habits in Mac OS 9:

? ASM - adds the Application Selection Menu to the upper right of the Menu Bar

? FruitMenu - adds your own customizable Apple Menu

? WindowShade X- adds the windowshade minimizer effect

? DropDrawers X - adds pop-up tabbed windows to organize your files and launch applications
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Reducing number of colors
Authored by: sjonke on Feb 21, '02 11:55:19AM

At least on my year 2000 iBook, reducing the number of colors to thousands will also make photos looks particularly horrible in iPhoto which does a terrible job of dithering down to thousands of colors. However, iPhoto does a pretty lousy job of displaying photos at any color resolution anyway on my iBook. GraphicConverter displays photos beautifully at thousands of colors, incidentally.

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Let classic sleep
Authored by: kjackson on Feb 21, '02 08:09:02PM

The idle classic environment on my iMac 233 eats up about 5-10% of the cpu. Certain older classic applications I need to run can completely hog the cpu, even when apparantly idle.

While preemtive multitasking does keep the system responsive under such abuse, various windowing and aqua tasks are visibley choppier.

The solution to Classic biting your cpu usage is to set the "Put Classic To Sleep" option in the Classic control panel to a low value... say 2 minutes. For classic to sleep, you must quit any classic programs you are running. With classic asleep, its processor usage drops to 0.

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Dual Monitor issues
Authored by: superberg on Feb 21, '02 08:19:16PM

Maybe I'm the only one who had this issue, but on my Beige G3, (G4 upgraded), I have a Xclaim VR 128 run my main monitor, and the on-baord Rage IIc runs a secondary monitor. I got frequent freezes in this configuration, especially during installs. Using on ly the VR 128 solved this problem.

If anyone can tell me how to get it running, I'd be greatful. Otherwise, that second monitor tip will increase instability.

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tip-TOP-tailor your system usage
Authored by: kjackson on Feb 21, '02 08:26:57PM

Use top frequently.

Not all OSX programs idle equally. I have found some interesting and unusal idling behaviour in several of my often used programs... even some "big name ones".

For example... when the ICQ client's history window is open, ICQ gobbles up processor cyles even though the program is apparantly doing nothing. Explorer does the same thing when the download manager is active... even if your download is only coming in at a measely 255 bytes/second IE still devours your cpu.

I have also noticed that many programs consume some cpu cycles when idle with their windows showing, but use none when the application is hidden.

And for shareware and freeware goodies... I always run top to see what their cpu usage is like. Some are excellent... some are pretty pathetic!

Top is also useful to check for severe memory leaks. I have discovered one in ICQ... sending messages results in a small amount of ram being eaten up and not returned to the system. Using top, I once found the ICQ client had declared itself 183MB of private memory!!

Use top often to see what is going on behind the seens! If you notice your system is more sluggish than usual or you hear the disk drive grinding... top will tell you who the culprit is.

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tip-TOP-tailor your system usage
Authored by: Margit on Jul 12, '02 05:47:39PM

Does the Process Listing in Utilities possibly give the same sort of information for those of us not into the Teminal type of thing? After reading your hint, and others, on speeding up the Mac (in my case, G4 DP 500 with 1.5 GB Ram, running OSX 10.15, VERY sluggish!), I launched Process Listing and noticed that something called TruBlueEnvironment was listed twice and using lots of both memory and CPU. I found only one reference to TruBlueEnvironment searching in OSX Hints, so went to Google and discovered that this is code for Classic. I also discovered postings there where folks had discovered that they had Classic launched twice over. Talk about memory hogs!

The dual launch of Classic in my case seems to be related to spontaneous crashes triggered by the cursor moving over a certain part of the screen or window. I haven't quite narrowed it down, but it has happened when using RealPlayer, TitleTrackJukebox, and Reunion, the only applications that I launch Classic for anymore. Each time I have had the classic application in the background and been using a Carbon or Cocoa application. When the cursor casually crosses part of the Classic window (but not necessarily in 100% of the instances), that application closes instantly and Classic appears to have shut down, or at least becomes unavailable. Relaunching Classic produces the dual TruBlueEnvironment, and SERIOUS slowdowns.

I may be the only person in the universe experiencing this particular set of circumstances, but it would seem to be another avenue to explore to improve speed in OSX.

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works nicely on G4 also
Authored by: chardinej on Feb 22, '02 04:32:54PM

This is the best set of tips for improving the speed of OS X I have seen.

I tried most of them today on my BW with Sonnet G4/500 Encore upgrade and I can say that they made quite a difference. My hunch is that the Window Compression utility had the most effect followed by using an alternate theme that is opaque (opAqua). I now notice that resizing windows is quite a bit faster when the window is large and even resizing a browser window in IE is reasonable compared to a "pig" before I made the changes.

One thing I did not try is installing the new fonts rom the MS web page. I did turn off font smoothing in Tinkertool and found that is took so much away from the user experience that I put it right back.

One thing I wondered is why no mention was made of the utility that eliminates the shadows in Aqua. I would have thought that this would have made an improvement in speed also.

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WindowShadeX controls shadows
Authored by: noivad on Jun 15, '02 12:06:49PM

He did cover shadows, but instead of recommending the hack available, he mentions the theme, which I think could be more trouble than it's worth. Alrady I found that I can't use the recommend theme, because duality is refusing to recognize it as a valid theme. So, I looked online for a less intrusive one, but most are flashier, so they more than likely take up more processing power.

Besides, you can easily work around the this sugestion by just using WindowShade X, because it also controls transparent shadows for both the active and inactive windows. I set my inactive windows to have virtually no shadow, figuring the less area to compute shadows for the better, without completely destroying the nice look of them.And I turned down the active windows a bit.

I've done almost all the other upgrades so far but some require my to restart my system, which I haven't done yet. I'm leaving Text smoothing as well, since such a beautiful thing about X is never having to see jaggy fonts again. With it off I can feel the snappiness, of newly launched apps.So I think I'll use tinker tool and compromise and set it to not smooth anything under 9 pts.

Also, I can't replace the fonts until nothing is using them as well.

Also the poster whole mention the top command (open a terminal window and type "top") was dead on. I use it all the time to evaluate products. The better programmers are considerate and let their processes sleep when they aren't doing anything, while the lazier ones use more processing time than they really need to.

I notice that MS IE is a major hog (around 20% idle), just as it is in OS 9.x and before. (Also, IE downloads slow to a crawl if you decide to work on another task, which show the inefficiency of the program). I'm using OmniWeb 4.1b for everything but the few sites that don't yet work with it for those and other reasons.

Entourage is a bit less of a hog, you can leave the windows open and it'll bounce between .7 to 3.5% (coinicidentally enough it decided to crash for no reason as I wrote this). I'm using an iceBook [sic] 500Mhz.
Other numbers from top: Palm desktop never sleeps since it's waiting for a sync, and uses between 1% and 5%. Net monitor uses about 2%-5% whether the network connection is active or idle. Windowshade X, mention above sleeps. Someone mentioned ICQ or AOL's IM clients. All the official client for IM are incredible hogs, using between 16%-30% when idle because they're always waiting for data (I haven't checked in hiding or minimizing affects these numbers). Meanwhile, Fire .31b (which handles all IM protocols) is much more efficient, using only .7% with all windows minimized or hidden, and only between .7% and 1.5 percent with them open. (On a related note, networking applications that are hogs induce noticeable latency in other, network apps, which is very noticeable (and sometime fatal in games like Clan Lord) on slower G3 systems.

Hope this helps.


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WindowShadeX controls shadows
Authored by: Billie37 on Dec 19, '02 02:38:25PM

You mention just what I have been wondering about.

I'm on an iBook with 384MB (soon to b3 maxed out). And I am, admittedly, overly conscious of RAM / CPU usage.

Is it possible to stop Palm from waiting on a HotSync?

I've tried asking them (also asking them to actually update Palm software for 10.2).

Anyway, thanks for your post, It's nice to hear that what I see in Terminal is common.

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WinCompressX with 10.1.5 conflict
Authored by: jrnyman on Jul 23, '02 03:35:49PM

I am curious about the performance from compressing windows, so I downloaded WinCompressX. However, when I run it I get an error dialog saying "This will only run in 10.1!" Funny, I'm running 10.1.5. Just wanted to let everyone know it may not work for them either.

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Authored by: peterob on Aug 26, '02 04:18:58AM

I am trying out your tips but I get a " can't find com.applewindowserver.plist " message when I try to install WinCompressX

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UPDATE 12-24-2002
Authored by: marianco on Dec 24, '02 01:55:41PM

This year has gone by so fast! Since my initial article, Mac OS X has undergone tremendous changes.

• Definitely UPGRADE TO Mac OS X 10.2.3 !!!!! Since Mac OS X 10.2 came out, I completely switched over. It is so much faster than 10.1.5, even on my Powerbook G3 Pismo, that using Mac OS 9 became intolerable.

• Disable Transparency: This is not advisable at this time. Apple has been actively changing and adding to the user interface with each new version of Mac OS X. 10.2.3. Since the Mac OS X interface is evolving over time, unlike Mac OS 9 where the features were pretty set in stone, the use of themes is dangerous because new user interface controls may be missing if old themes are used.

• Enable Window Compression: This is now set automatically in Mac OS X 10.2

Romeo B. Mariano, M.D.

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Authored by: marianco on Dec 24, '02 02:46:28PM

I just did this:

• DEFRAGMENT your hard drive. The only reason I purchased Norton Utilities is to use it's superb Speed Disk utility. Unfortunately, it doesn't run on Mac OS X. You have to either boot your Mac off a separate partition or hard drive with Mac OS 9 or boot off Norton CD which has Mac OS 9.2.1 built in. Mac OS X uses tons of files - after all, it is Unix. Virtual memory in Mac OS X utilizes many small files instead of one large file as in Mac OS 9.2.1. Thus, loading from the hard drive is faster if the files are more organized and defragmented. Speed Disk allows you to organize where the files are on the hard drive depending on the reason you will use the computer.


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Scrolling faster after applying the mouse & keyboard tip
Authored by: pochrox on Sep 07, '04 09:20:22PM
Scrolling happens much faster on a stock Powerbook G4 867Mhz/640MB RAM running 10.2.8 after applying the above mouse & keyboard settings tip. (by stock I mean there aren't any system-altering/power-toy type programs installed beyond 10.2.8 Jaguar.. not even an anti-virus program).

Nice tip.

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Performance tuning for G3 Macs
Authored by: simplestation on May 06, '09 04:14:21PM
Here is also another good review of <A href="">performance tuning tips</a> for Mac OS X. It covers 13 tips for application speed ups and another 4 tips for speeding up Mac OS X from the terminal.

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