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Macs Multi-Tasking
Who says it doesn't work well enough?

By:David K. Every
©Copyright 1999

Many anti-Mac people complain that the Mac doesn't multitask. This is just plain stupid. I am constantly using my Macs to do more things at once than I do on my PCs.

Here is an example of how I work (this time I was doing some web stuff):

I have Photoshop and an old program called Studio32 open to do graphics stuff. (I also use Graphics Converter as well). Occasionally I was taking screen snapshots (and using Simple Text to open them).

I have a few utilities open, Stickies, Calculator, and Dictionary.

Login is required by my cable modem (to keep it connected), and I was transferring files with Transit (the best UI I've seen on an FTP program).

I was translating files between Word and XPress to HTML (Claris Home Page).

Of course I was doing a little searching (on my drives and on the Web) using Sherlock.

I would download things in the background using Navigator and Transit, and I was using Navigator to preview my changes.

I happened to be using Resorcerer, because that was the Application I was writing an HTML document about at the time.

I still had memory and performance to spare. This is only one example. I have a similar sets for programming, and for doing a different type of technical writing, and so on.

Of course I generally work with Multiple Monitors (3 at home, 2 at work), and have since 1987, and the Macs superior interface allows me to work on multiple things on each monitor at the same time far easier than Windows does. So if I was on Windows my productivity would actually do down when trying to work with multiple things at once (1).

(1) In Windows everything is a "mode", and you usually fill the screen with one Application. So one monitor can only easily show one Application at a time, and you have to keep switching using the taskbar at the bottom (more mouse movement), and so on.

So what are they whining about?

What PC people are complaining about is that the Mac doesn't use preemptive multitasking it uses a hybrid preemptive/cooperative tasking model. (So does Win95 and Win98, but they ignore this -- they think that because Win95's is just a smidgen better, in theory only, that this is all that matters). This is like car owners arguing that their car is better because it has fuel injection or a DOHC (Dual Over-Head Cam) -- silly, because the users should only care about the results, not the implementation. This is only one very small variable, in a very complex equasion.

While I wouldn't mind preemptive multitasking, all it means is that if I am doing this many things at once (with a few more things in the background), I'll get slightly better performance, and maybe better responsiveness. But even that isn't clear, because there are other issues in the mix like when Windows goes into disk-thrashing mode and won't respond for very long periods of time, or when an App on Windows is just burning cycles doing nothing. So there is a lot of room for debate as to which is really better (in implementation). Good preemption is better -- windows preemption is debatable.

The fact is that most people that argue against the Mac because of "lack of Preemptive Multitasking", have never actually used the Mac. They are also usually hypocrites. They are using Windows95, despite the fact that WinNT has a far better scheduler (tasking model). If they really cared about tasking that much, they'd all throw Win95 and Win98 away -- but Application compatibility and games are more important to them. Of course NT people are no better, if tasking was that important to them, they'd throw away their WindowsNT and buy a superior tasking implementation like Unix or BeOS -- but of course, they care more about Applications than tasking. But when Mac people won't throw away their superior user interface and superior computer overall, for the sake of a few percent better tasking, why the Mac people are considered idiots and all wrong! Or so say the herd.


Don't get me wrong, it will be nice to improve the Macs way of scheduling tasks, and I look forward to Mac OS X (and having Unix underneath). Yet despite the fact that Mac OS X will have a better scheduler (Unix) than WindowsNT, do you think all the Windows hypocrites are going to throw away their machines, and migrate to the computer with the better scheduler? Don't bet on it! The PC users know that Windows UI is radically inferior to the Mac, but claim it is "good enough" yet they can't seem to understand that the Macs tasking model is "good enough"? But they will "get it" when the Macs tasking model is better, they'll just find some other excuse for not learning about Macs, while claiming it is infeior.

I'm a Developer and a Beta Tester of Rhapsody for over a year -- I could be using that on a day to day basis if I wanted (and have for short periods of time). Mac OS X server will be out any day now, and it is very nice as well -- but I don't really use them day to day. They are nice, and serve many functions -- but for a while, I prefer having my good ol' Mac. I'm very productive on what I have. I have no doubt that OS X will be able to improve that -- but for now, OS X server does not. (I am actually likely to use it FOR serving, just not for my day to day productivity machine).

Most importantly, I'm far more productive on my Mac than I am on Windows -- and I know both. Arguing that I should throw away my machine, or that my superior machine is somehow inferior, just because THEORETICALLY preemptive multitasking is supposed to be better at utilizing resources, is the height of ignorance. I will use the machine that is better for increasing my productivity -- and that has been a Mac. If more PC people used Macs on a regular basis, I think they would come to the same conclusions as well. That is why there are many Mac converts (usually called Zealots), and so few PC converts.

Created: 11/22/98
Updated: 11/09/02

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