13 September 2006

Joel on His MacBook

Joel Spolsky talks about his Mac at home experience:

I have a few complaints though: OS X antialiasing, especially, it seems, with the monospaced fonts, just isn't as good as Windows ClearType. Apple has some room to improve in this area; the fonts were blurry on the edges. Also, I don't understand all these people who say that Macs never crash. I probably had to reboot the MacBook Pro (hard reboot -- hold down the power button for five seconds) about every two hours. It was always the same problem: the Wifi network would go down for a second, something which happens to everyone, but on Windows, it just comes back, while on the Mac, I get a spinning colored ball and everything is frozen. Everything. Forever. If I try to wait it out the beachball will still be spinning the next morning. If anybody is aware of this problem and knows of a specific fix I'd love to hear of it. It was like a Windows 3.1 deja vu all over again thing.
I've only recently been getting the same behavior. I agree with Joel that it has something to do with the wireless, but I see this happen most often when I VPN into work. This didn't happen before 10.4.7, so I think this is a new bug introduced recently. Also, while Apple's sub-pixel text rendering has improved markedly, ClearType on Windows still is just a bit better, but some fonts seem to work much better than others. My basic understanding of how sub-pixel smoothing works leads me to think there are only so many ways to do it, so it's amazing to me that you can notice a difference.

11 comments:

GRitchie said...

Yah, I was hitting this over the weekend (hangs when trying to VPN in); mentioned it on my blog and even mentioned Joel's comments. :-)

Anonymous said...

If by better you mean "add lots of funky colors to black text on white background" then ClearType is really better. I'm glad that OSX doesn't give me those hippie LSD colors.

dirkstoop said...

I think it's a matter of preference and of what your ultimate goal with on-screen fonts is when you try to decide on 'the best' anti-aliasing method.

imho. ClearType provides for better likeness of on-screen fonts to their printed kin while the Mac OS X font rendering engine provides for better on-screen readability.

there are some really nice samples in this article.

fontti-intoilija said...

Oh, here we go again. The eternal fight between good and evil... I mean Quartz and ClearType :)

Comparing sub-pixel rendering has many variables, panel, font and the person comparing being the biggest. Therefore it's a thing that can't be settled by looking at screenshots only, the same screenshot may look perfect to you but unreadable to me if we have different kind of lcd panels.

Another fact is that ClearType offers much more possibilities to tune the output, via a Microsoft's webpage or an add on software available for free from Microsoft.

Then some subjective findings: I have found a complete opposite of what dirkstoop said, ClearType is better optimized for on screen and OS X engine tries to emulate print more. One can even see this from his link Quartz anti-aliasing has much more vertical fuzziness compared to clear type.

ClearType seems to have better hinting in the small point sizes so that straight lines don't "go between the pixels/subpixels" for example as I am writing this on my Mac and most of the I's l's and h's are positioned so that the instead of the long vertical line being one pixel black it is made of several coloured pixels. This introduces horizontal fuzziness. It would be fixed easily by making kerning a bit less correct and hitting the whole pixels more often.

In short. I agree with Joel and David, ClearType is somewhat better than Quartz. Mainly because it is more configurable and offers better hinting. In any case that is not big enough reason for me to use Windows. I actually disagree with David about the complexity of subpixel rendering, sure the basic idea is very simple but getting the optimal result on wide range of panels, eyes and fonts is _very_ hard. And finally don't judge the antialiasing by screenshots, they lie.

David Weiss said...

Fontti-intoilija, great comment. It looks like subpixel rendering is more complex than I thought. Perhaps Apple tunes for their standard fonts and LCD screens since at least for iMacs and laptops and Cinema displays, they are known quantities. It's interesting to me that you compare Quartz to ClearType. I always thought that ClearType was more specific to subpixel smoothing, rather than a whole graphics framework. Either way, thanks for the well written comment.

fontti-intoilija said...

The reason I used the word Quartz is because years ago I've learned the term "Quartz anti-aliasing". If I recall correctly that's because in the dawn of OS X it was the real thing compared to QuickDraw rendered text. In 10.2 (or so) the output was unified so that one could get properly antialiased text also via QuickDraw.

Sure Quartz is lots more than just the text antialiasing, actually Quartz means so many things nowadays that it's hard to remember all of them. :)

If one is interested in ClearType there's a few videos of Bill Hill and the Font team of Microsoft at Channel 9. This for example: http://channel9.msdn.com/Showpost.aspx?postid=146749

Anonymous said...

I must say Joel is right about the AirPort crashes... or so I think.

Last week I did a total reformat/partition clean install. First think I did was a software update, followed by the developer tools... I left the system running over night as a few ports (darwin ports) where being built. The next morning the system had crashed (missing airport & clock icon in the menu bar). After this type of crash all reboots lack a wireless connection... all other reboots have a functional wireless conictivity...

Then again since buying my i(ntel)Mac I've always had issues with AirPort working as expected (this, before not being able to wake up for sleep if the Aiport was on as I put the system to sleep, then no airport functionality after sleep).

Anonymous said...

I much prefer Cleartype myself even though I don't like XP at all and love OS X. I have never had these airprot crashes btw.

Anonymous said...

Typical Microsoft worker! :P

Anonymous said...

Frequnt hard reboots ? Take a good look at your RAM, or overheating caused by working on a surface that does not allow decent air flow.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

I also had airport connection crashes. When i connect to my wifi network at my work, after a while system totally freezes.

How to solve this ?

thanks