Mac OS X 10.4: 23 days of uptime, and counting

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
June 27th, 2007 • 10:05 am

I last wrote about Mac OS X’s stability a long time ago, back in 2003. At the time, I noted that I had been enjoying 30 days of continuous uptime on my G4 MDD running Mac OS X—I think it was still Mac OS X 10.2 back then—when things started going wrong and I ended up having to restart my machine.

Well, I am not trying to break the record right now, and I am not quite there yet anyway, but I still thought it was rather interesting to note that, three years later, after several hardware changes (from a G4 MDD to a G5 Quad, and then to an Intel-based Mac Pro) and software changes (Mac OS X 10.3, then 10.4, multiple incremental system updates, and all kinds of changes in the third-party software), things are still pretty good.

Right now, I am on 23 days on continuous uptime with my Mac Pro 2.66 GHz running Mac OS X 10.4.9. And the most vital bit of information is that the machine’s performance is still as good as it was on the first day of this 23-day period. There has been no degradation of performance over time, nothing that would encourage me to give the machine a good old restart. In fact, I really have no incentive to install the Mac OS X 10.4.10 update that has come out during that period. Software Update tells me that it’s available (along with the 2007-006 security update) and that I should install it, but I really think I am going to wait until I actually do need to restart this machine.

What’s particularly remarkable to me is that the past three weeks have been pretty busy for me work-wise. This means that I have actually been running a number of important applications, including Adobe InDesign CS3 and Photoshop CS3, pretty constantly. I am happy to report that, unlike previous versions of Adobe’s software for Mac OS X, these two applications seem to be quite stable, and are happy to be running constantly either in the foreground or in the backgroud without locking up or crashing. (I have yet to put Illustrator CS3 to the test. The previous versions of this application were particularly bad in terms of stability and reliability.) It does sometimes take a while for them to become fully responsive again when I switch back to them after having left them in the background for a while, but that’s normal as Mac OS X needs a bit of time to switch back from hard-disk-based virtual memory to real RAM.

I also have a number of other applications running more or less constantly, including Microsoft Word and Excel 2004, Pages, GarageBand, iTunes, NetNewsWire, NeoOffice, BBEdit, etc. Even Word 2004 has been reasonably stable, the last application crash dating back to early June, according to Crash Reporter.

In fact, when I look at the global Crash Reporter log (in the Console, under “/var/log/”), I see that things really have been remarkably quiet on the application crashing front. I have had a couple of Mail crashes, which, for me, always happen right when I am launching the application in the morning. (I routinely quit the application before going to bed and launch it again in the morning.) I click on the application icon in the Dock, it starts launching, but then crashes immediately, even before the main Mail Viewer window appears. Then I try again and everything works fine. I have never been able to figure out what causes those crashes. I have had them for years. They happen very infrequently, but they do happen.

I also see in my Crash Reporter log that I had a number of MacLinkPlus Deluxe crashes in quick succession a while back, but that was when I was trying to convert a file with the application that would systematically cause it to crash. (MacLinkPlus Deluxe has become a really crappy application in recent years, and fortunately I don’t have to use it very often anymore.) I also had an isolated StuffIt Expander crash. Here again, we have an application that has not really improved in recent years, and also tends to crash on certain files instead of giving a useful and meaningful error message. Here again, fortunately, I don’t have to use the application very often.

And that’s about it! The total number of application crashes during the 23-day period is under 10—although Crash Reporter does seem to fail to log some crashes. It certainly did not log the Safari crash that occurred yesterday. I remember it, because, again, I was surprised that Safari had been running without crashing for so long. I actually had some web pages loaded in Safari windows that had been waiting for me to read them for the past three weeks. (I use the SafariStand hack, which keeps track of open windows and allows me to reload them after a crash. I hope that Safari 3 will be good enough that I no longer need this hack.) So Safari did eventually crash after three weeks, but it did last that long, with a multiplicity of pages loaded and browsed day after day.

If I am not mistaken, I even ran Windows XP under Parallels a couple of times during this period, which is arguably the most risky thing to do in terms of overall system stability. (Parallels can cause pretty serious system-wide responsiveness problems at times, which are not all that reassuring.)

Right now, according to MenuMeters, my Mac Pro has been up and running continuously for 23 days. There are currently 113 tasks running, involving 636 threads. The load averages on my CPU units are pretty stable (around 2,00, whatever that means).

I have received approximately 15 GB of data and transmitted approximately 1.5 GB since my network connection was last established, which was probably not too long ago (certainly not 23 days ago), as my high-speed satellite Internet access is not 100% reliable and can occasionally drop altogether.

I have 5 GB of RAM in total, of which 3.5 GB is currently being used and 1.5 GB is free. The pagein/pageout stats for the virtual memory are in the millions. I have 10 swap files, whatever that means.

I have multiple FireWire and USB peripherals plugged in. File sharing is on. SuperDuper! does nightly backups of all my important stuff without any input from me.

I mean, what else can a professional Mac user ask for?

OK, a better UI for Spotlight, for one thing. And then all the other things that I have been complaining about for the past four years on this blog. But still… one has to admit that, compared to Mac computing in the 1990s, this is a remarkably stable and reliable working environment. We have come a long way!

11 Responses to “Mac OS X 10.4: 23 days of uptime, and counting”

  1. ssp says:

    Sounds great.

    If it weren’t for the terrible Spotlight problems I have, my situation might be the same.

    And I could do with those extra 3G of RAM ;) But I guess there’s not much to do about that in MacBook.

  2. Jean-François Roy says:

    It’s a terribly bad idea to ignore security updates. Keeping your uptime number is one of the most ridiculous excuse for not applying them. Although it is true that Mac OS X has a relatively good security track record, that doesn’t mean we should stuff our collective head in the sand, so to speak.

    So go ahead, click that install button :) It’ll only take a minute or two.

  3. Pierre Igot says:

    Jean-François: You need to realize that I work in a home office environment, with only a satellite (i.e. not very fast) connection to the Internet. My Mac is behind a router, and its firewall is most definitely on. The likelihood of encountering a security problem is pretty small.

    I am not ignoring the update. But I don’t think that waiting another week or two is going to change anything. On the contrary, I like to make sure that the latest updates don’t create any problems first, by monitor Mac news sites.

    And I am also not using the uptime record as an excuse not to install the update. My main reason for enjoying the uptime is that it is what it is, i.e. uptime. Installing the security update won’t just take “a minute or two.” First I have to download it, which will take a few minutes in itself. Then I need to restart the machine, which will take a few more minutes. Then I have to reopen all the things that I have open right now, which will take several minutes, especially considering that I’d have to reload about 20 different web pages, open a number of different applications, etc.

    OK, it’s not going to take half an hour, but still, it’s a disruption, and right now I feel that the disruption can wait a bit.

    ssp: What kind of Spotlight problems are you having (apart from the horrible UI, that is)?

  4. cug says:

    Hmmm, 23 days … okay. One of the machine in our office that is still regularly used, because it’s a testing machine for regression tests:

    5:11AM up 394 days, 14:52, 2 users, load averages: 0.33, 0.31, 0.34

    Yes, Mac OS X is a very stable system.

  5. ssp says:

    I’m seeing real bugs – like applications stalling for half a minute when they use some spotlight features (like displaying the last used date) and the mds process needing to be killed every now and again. Other side effects are of course a broken search in Mail or stalls when searching the Address Book. This is really scary because it shows how deeply ingrained Spotlight is in the system and how helpless you become when it failts. Obviously I have reindexed countless times in the past months, but Spotlight always degrades back to this state within a few hours.

  6. Pierre Igot says:

    cug: I don’t pretend that I am trying to break any records :-). My main reason for this post was to highlight the improvement since the classic Mac OS days.

    ssp: This definitely does not sound normal. Even in my 2+ years of testing early builds of Mac OS X for AppleSeed, I have never encountered such awful problems. I really wonder what could be causing them. Did you have any such problems before upgrading from your previous computer to the MacBook?

  7. danridley says:

    ssp: Look in /Library/Spotlight and ~/Library/Spotlight, and try removing all the plugins you find there (making a Spotlight.Disabled folder and moving them there is a convenient way to do this).

    Then delete the Spotlight data (the .Spotlight-V100 directory), let it re-index, and see if the problems recur. If an add-on indexer is causing the problem, this should let you narrow it down (you can add back the plugins one by one until problems start up again).

    Also, Spotlight often logs errors in the system log; you might be able to get some clues by running Console while Spotlight reindexes and keeping an eye on the logs. One of my customers had a folder full of malformed JPEG files from an old computer, and Spotlight would choke on that folder; once I knew that the problem was localized, I added that folder to the Privacy tab in Spotlight’s preference pane, and Spotlight stopped misbehaving.

  8. ssp says:

    @danridley: Trust me I did that (which is somewhat insufficient even to control the importing as importers can be pretty much everywhere) and more. The problem isn’t the indexing, it’s more that the mds process starts choking when it’s supposed to read out some data. I have yet to see log messages by Spotlight which are actually helpful in a non-trivial way, btw.

  9. Paul Ingraham says:

    I have little doubt that Mac OS X is a reasonably stable operating system, and I’m happy to hear about your uptime, Pierre — although good news isn’t why I’m a regular reader here, it’s nice to see it occasionally!

    Yet, freakishly, my recent experience of OS X computing is not so good. Although I had excellent system stability with every version fo OS X, and every Mac previously, I have had nothing but trouble with both my new 24″ iMac and my MacBook. Although impressive when running, sadly both machines have a nasty hanging problem: at least once per week, each machine hard hangs in a characteristic way. They have a proven capacity to do so with only stock software running on them … and, even stranger yet, I have continued to experience the problem on my iMac after Apple generously replaced it twice (sort of: once the entire machine, once the motherboard and RAM and hard drive).

    The persistence of the problem on what effectively amounts to four Intel Macs has been one of the most disappointing computing problems of my long history with Apple. And yet I can only acknowledge that the problem is strange, the complaint is not common, and OS X performs wonderfully for me when it’s running, and has always been extremely stable for me … except on these four machines! Very puzzling!

    SSP: I have had some similar experiences with Spotlight. It’s been a long time since I’ve noticed a problem, and I have nothing technical to add to the conversation, but I definitely recall system instability issues associated with Spotlight from the early days of 10.4. In fact, I refuse to use things like saved searches to this day, because I no I got burned so badly the last time I tried to mess around with them.

  10. Arden says:

    I have 10 swap files, whatever that means.

    Enter ls -lh /var/vm into Terminal for an idea.

  11. Pierre Igot says:

    Doesn’t tell me much at present, but maybe it’s because I only have 1 swap file since rebooting :). Thanks for the tip.

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