Apple Rhapsody Blue Box

January 4, 1998

To: Distribution

From: Larry Peng

Subject: First impressions on Apple Rhapsody Blue Box, Beta Version One

This is a summary of my initial impressions and tests with the first beta of the Macintosh OS compatibility environment for Apple Rhapsody--code named Blue Box. I received my copy December 19. For brevity, from now on I will use the term "Blue Box" to refer to Mac OS hosted on Rhapsody, and the term "Mac OS" to refer to the current standalone Mac OS systems. Please pass along as you see appropriate.

GENERAL DISCUSSION

The Blue Box is intended to be a complete process image of the current Mac OS, starting with Mac OS 8. It will operate in concert with the rest of the Rhapsody system, and provides a nearly seamless upgrade path for current Mac OS users. At present, Blue Box is part of Rhapsody for PowerPC, and not for Rhapsody for PC Compatibles. Current Mac OS has explicit dependencies on PowerPC/680X0 architectures. This is the same as DOS, Windows 3.1 and Windows 95/98, and (to a lesser extent) Windows NT being explicitly dependent on Intel 80X86 architectures.

Even with running the Blue Box beta on Rhapsody DR1, you still have the option of booting back into standalone Mac OS if desired. There is NO NEED to uninstall the Blue Box beta in order to run standalone Mac OS.

There are some differences between standalone Mac OS and the Blue box beta:


* Blue box uses Mach virtual memory, rather than Mac OS virtual memory. Mach virtual memory is more stable and efficient.


* Currently Blue Box utilizes Open Transport for the network rather than sockets.


* The protected kernel architecture of Rhapsody does not allow applications to deal directly with hardware, or try to modify the Mac OS at a very low level.


* Blue Box does support some Mac OS 8.1 features such as the new file system HFS+, which sharply reduces wasted disk space, especially on larger drives.


* Blue Box beta does not officially support installing System 8.1 betas.

There are some limitations of the Blue box beta at this stage:


* only runs in a single window which takes over your entire monitor. You can keyboard toggle between Rhapsody and Mac OS using Cmd-Return.


* communication with the Yellow Box (probably via AppleEvents) is incomplete. AppleEvent communication within the Blue Box is fine.


* No sound support yet


* maximum of 64 MB total application space. This will increase dramatically in the immediate future.


* AppleTalk support is incomplete, and may crash the Blue Box. Thus using the printer and modem ports with AppleTalk is not reliable right now. Communication through built-in ethernet works using MacIP.


* Cut-and-paste between Blue box and Yellow box applications is not complete. Limited transfer of text, but style and font information do not carry over.


* Only certified for use with Mac OS 8 running on Rhapsody DR1. Use with Mac OS 8.1 still being worked out.

Obviously, the above limits may be critical to some, less so to others.

INSTALLATION

The Blue Box beta is installed on the same two machines that Rhapsody DR1 for PowerPC is currently installed on. The two Power Mac machines being used are:

8500/180 (Home) with 96 MB RAM, 1GB disk partition

8500/120 (Office) with 48 MB RAM, 800 MB disk partition.

The 8500/180 now has a 250 MHz (512K L2 cache at 125 MHz) PowerPC G3 accelerator board installed. This had no effect on Rhapsody DR1 stability--still no system crashes.

Installation is fairly straightforward. Launch the Terminal application, insert the CD-ROM, and launch the installer script. This is one of the rare times I have been required to install using the UNIX shell. For a developer this is acceptable, although I believe Apple will try and make this more transparent for public releases.

Once the install script is finished, you exit the UNIX shell back into the Workspace manager (i.e. "Rhapsody Finder"), double-click the MacOS application icon, and Mac OS launches. If this is the first time the Mac OS application is launched, the system first creates an image file of a basic install of Mac OS 8. This image file can be edited (like a Mac OS system folder), and is used in subsequent startups of the Mac OS application. For test purposes, I duplicated the image file and modified it as needed to test applications--adding extensions, control panels, libraries, support files, etc.

When Blue Box launches, all existing HFS partitions (except my Pinnacle optical drives for some reason) were recognized and mounted. This was great because it means that all I largely had to do is copy over appropriate extensions and preference files to the new system folder, reboot, and get started. Unlike Wintel systems, I did not have to do major system or application reinstalls to get things working!!!

Once Blue Box is up and running, it is basically impossible to tell the difference between running Blue box and standalone Mac OS--and that is the whole point!. From a user standpoint, you are working on a Macintosh.

STABILITY, PERFORMANCE AND APPLICATIONS TRIED

Since the Blue Box is a direct process image of current Mac OS 8, Blue Box stability is basically like that of the current Mac OS 8. However, if it does crash the rest of the Rhapsody environment just keeps going. The goal for the final public release of the Blue Box is to perform at 90-115% of current Mac OS, depending on what you need to do. All performance tests for this report were done using Blue Box with Mac OS 8. As Apple improves Mac OS, the Blue box will simultaneously improve as well. Right now we are looking at Mac OS 8.1 (minor update) around January, and a major update (code-named Allegro) at the end of summer 1998--tentatively called Mac OS 9.

Though not officially supported, I got Mac OS 8.1, beta 7 to run on the Blue Box. So far there was only one application glitch--Adobe Illustrator 6.0 crashed upon startup using Mac OS 8.1 beta. This did not happen using Mac OS 8.0.

In the following sub-sections I list applications tried, along with estimates in seconds (via wristwatch) for launch times and a few performance benchmarks. All tests were conducted on the 8500/180 with 250 MHz (512K L2 cache at 125 MHz) PowerPC G3 accelerator board installed. Two monitors were attached--one to the built-in video port, the other to a 4 MB Xclaim VR video card. System bus speed is 45-50 MHz.

There is one caveat regarding performance numbers. The G3 processors are not officially supported on Blue Box beta one--it is written assuming you used a supported developer PowerPC 604E model. Thus when I run software to check the state of the accelerator, I get the return error that the software is incompatible, so that the G3 512K L2 backside cache is not being used by the Blue Box Beta. I tried replacing the G3 board with a 180 Mhz 604E board from Apple (which means keeping the same system bus, but changing processors) with no L2 cache. I then installing a 1 MB L2 cache on the Mac motherboard (this is where the built-in L2 cache normally is with the 8500 series machines) and the cache is running at the system bus speed of 45-50 MHz.

Absolute performance numbers are configuration dependent. More relevant are the relative differences between using the Blue Box beta versus Mac OS alone. The results are not strictly scientific, but give an idea of what might be expected. By the public release, I expect the initial test results to improve significantly. As of now, compatibility is already looking very good overall. As long as developers followed Apple's guidelines (and most have) things should just work as usual.

I did not try every feature in the listed programs, just basic ones. Some programs first launch into an advertisement, and in these cases I tried to close the advertisements with a mouse click as fast as I could--thus listed launch times could be long by a second or two. Hopefully everyone can find a few programs below that they are interested in. Following the results, I have included a few screen shots. Screen dumps using Command-Shift-3 does work now!!! Please note that at present, I do not have things like lab data acquisition cards installed, or specialized cards for audio-visual capture and recording. Donations???

I. Simple "benchmark" tests:

"Benchmark test"--Start up and Shut down

Run-time environment

Startup

Shutdown

Mac OS

85 sec

1 sec

Blue Box Beta 1.0 (all configurations tried)

45 sec

1 sec

"Benchmark test"--Adobe Photoshop (10 MB, 24-bit color image)

Run-time environment

10 pt Gaussian Blur

1 pt Gaussian Blur

RGB to CMYK conversion

90 degree rotation

Mac OS

5 sec

2 sec

4 sec

40 sec

Blue Box Beta 1.0

(all configurations tried)

55 sec

40 sec

45 sec

55 sec

"Benchmark test"--MathWorks MATLAB

Run-time environment

Loops

(strings/ "malloc")

LU

(Floating point)

Sparse

(integer/

floating point mix)

3D

(3D polygon fills

2D

(2D line drawing)

Mac OS (G3 with 512K L2 cache at 125 MHz)

0.84 sec

0.53 sec

0.86 sec

1.18 sec

2.05 sec

Blue Box Beta

(G3 with 1 MB L2 cache at 45-50 MHz)

1.91 sec

1.39 sec

0.95 sec

1.33 sec

2.88 sec

Blue Box beta 1.0

(G3 with no L2 cache)

3.28 sec

2.39 sec

1.08 sec

2.06 sec

4.42 sec

Matlab results using 180 Mhz 604E on both Mac OS and Blue Box beta were pretty much the same, and close to the results for Blue Box beta using G3 with NO L2 cache.

System startup of Blue Box beta was substantially faster than for standalone Mac OS. However, application performance was typically 2 to10X better on Mac OS depending of the Blue Box configuration tested. This is not surprising given the amount of disk swapping going on with the Blue Box beta, and the unoptimized code of Rhapsody DR1 for PowerPC. If the reports of Rhapsody DR1 optimization yielding speed increases of 2-4X are accurate, then the performances differences will be greatly reduced. In any event, working applications did NOT exhibit any new instabilities which could be attributed to the Blue Box beta.

In the case of Photoshop, Blue Box results regardless of L2 cache were bascially the same to within 5-10 percent --implying that the limitation comes more from disk swapping in Blue Box--Adobe does have their own virtual memory scheme for Photoshop. However Matlab was a different story. With the benchmarks tests provided by MathWorks, Inc., Matlab with G3 comes in 2nd place on standalone Mac OS, versus 10th place on Blue Box beta with no L2 cache. With the 180 MHz 604E (and no L2 cache), Matlab on Mac OS drops back to 9th place, versus 10-11th place on Blue Box beta. When using the 1 MB L2 cache (disabled under Mac OS, but auto-enabled under Blue Box) Matlab results were much better, jumping to 6th place. Interestingly, this 6th place result is a bit better to what I have seen for this machine with it was running on a 200 MHz 604E with 1 MB L2 cache on the motherboard. In the case of the 200 Mhz 604E, Matlab benchmarks were often at 6-7th place.

The old rule is that for a given megahertz 604E is 33% faster than 603E. G3 is derived from the 603E, and optimized for Mac OS. PowerPC 601, 603E, and 604E originally used commands implemented for IBM AIX. MacBench system tests (from Ziff-Davis publishing) place a 266 MHz Power Mac G3 (512 K backside cache at 125 MHz) as somewhat better than a Power Mac 8600/300 604E (512K in-line cache at 100 Mhz). The upcoming G4--anticipated late next year--will likely be based off of 604E.

In any case, these first benchmarks results are quite encouraging, and right now (at least for programs that are not disk intensive) it certainly looks like Blue Box may meet its design goal of 90-115% Mac OS performance.

Working Applications

Vendor

Program/ Extension/ Control Panels

Version

Launch Time

in seconds

(Mac OS)

Launch Time

in seconds

(Blue Box Beta version 1.0)

Notes

Microsoft

Word

6.0.1

6

6

Microsoft

Excel

4

4

6

Microsoft

PowerPoint

4

15

15

Adobe

Photoshop

3

8

5

Adobe

PageMaker

6

5

6

Adobe

Premiere

4.2

9

15

Adobe

Illustrator

6

7

9

MacroMedia

FreeHand

7

11

15

MacroMedia

Extreme 3D

2

6

15

MacroMedia

Director

4

3

5

Claris

MacDraw Pro

1.5

4

4

Corel

WordPerfect

3.5

2

3

Apple

Chinese Language Kit--Traditional Characters

1.1.1

1

1

Symantec

Norton Utilities

3.5.1

3

(Disk Doctor)

4

(Disk Doctor)

Synergy

KaleidaGraph

3.0.4

4

5

FWB

Hard Disk Toolkit

2.0.6

7

4

not see SCSI drives in Blue box--known limitation

MicroMat

TechTool

1.5.1

1-2

2

Connectix

Speed Doubler

8

NA

NA

Deneba

Canvas

3.5.4

7

10

Mathworks

MATLAB

5

7

10

National Instruments

LabVIEW

4

4

4

not test with I/O plug-in boards

MetroWorks

CodeWarrior Professional

2

2

3

Bungie

Marathon Infinity

1.0

5

5

No sound

Bungie

Myth

1

6

6

No sound

About Box, after the Blue Box beta install, and double-clicking various applications.

Microsoft PowerPoint showing a slide containing a screen dump of Interface Builder (Rhapsody programming tool) running on an Wintel Machine.

Adobe Photoshop with one of the sample desktop pictures provided by Mac OS 8.

LabVIEW showing one of my projects for the Laser Ultrasonic Lab (941/1164)

Corel WordPerfect with English and traditional Chinese

MetroWorks CodeWarrior Professional 2

Doing some simple application "benchmark" tests with startup/shutdown, Adobe Photoshop and MathWorks MATLAB yields the following

"Benchmark test"--Start up and Shut down

Run-time environment

Startup

Shutdown

Mac OS

85 sec

1 sec

Blue Box Beta 1.0

45 sec

1 sec

"Benchmark test"--Adobe Photoshop (10 MB, 24-bit color image)

Run-time environment

10 pt Gaussian Blur

1 pt Gaussian Blur

RGB to CMYK conversion

45 degree rotation

Mac OS

5 sec

2 sec

4 sec

40 sec

Blue Box Beta 1.0

55 sec

40 sec

45 sec

120 sec

"Benchmark test"--MathWorks MATLAB

Run-time environment

Loops

(strings/ "malloc")

LU

(Floating point)

Sparse

(integer/

floating point mix)

3D

(3D polygon fills

2D

(2D line drawing)

Mac OS

0.84 sec

0.53 sec

0.86 sec

1.18 sec

2.05 sec

Blue Box beta 1.0

3.28 sec

2.39 sec

1.08 sec

2.06 sec

4.42 sec

There are differences between using standalone Mac OS and the Blue Box beta 1.0. System startup of Blue Box beta was substantially faster than for standalone Mac OS. On the other hand, application performance was typically 2 to10X better on Mac OS. This is not surprising given the amount of disk swapping going on with the Blue Box beta, and the unoptimized code of Rhapsody DR1 for PowerPC. If the initial reports of Rhapsody DR1 optimization yielding speed increases of 2-4X are accurate, then the performances differences will be greatly reduced. In any event, working applications did NOT exhibit any new instabilities which could be attributed to the Blue Box beta.

There have been a few applications which have caused problems, or state they are not yet compatible with the beta version of the Blue Box. They are given in the following table (all these applications run OK under standalone Mac OS).

Applications Which Had Problems

Vendor

Program/ Extension/ Control Panels

Version Number

Software Category

Observed problem (Blue Box Beta v1.0)

Connectix

Virtual PC

1.0.1

PC hardware emulator

states that not run in this version of the blue box. Allows for graceful exit.

Connectix

Ram Doubler

2.0.2

Dynamic memory management

crashes Blue box on startup

Insignia

SoftWindows

3 or 4

Windows 3.1/95 emulator

application crash upon startup

Insignia

Real PC

1

DOS emulator

Launches, but fails to recognize CD-ROM drive. ASPI drivers fail to load

Syncronys

Softcorp

RAM Charger

3.0.1

Dynamic memory management

Launch OK, but fails to read RAM levels properly

NOW

NOW Utilities

3,4,5

System Utilities

sporadically crashes the Blue box

NewSoft

PageInit

2

Scanner extension

Blue box hangs upon startup

Adobe

Dimensions

2

make PostScript fonts 3D

application crash upon startup

Apple

Chinese Language Kit--Simplified Characters

1.1.1

Simplified Chinese word processing with WordPerfect

Causes Finder and WordPerfect crashes

Apple

Game Sprockets

1.2

extensions used by some games

Blue box launch OK, but application using the sprockets crash

ATI

Sound Catalyst

1.0.1

extension

Blue box hangs upon startup

MacSoft

Quake

1.0.8

Game

application crash upon startup

Id Software

Final Doom

1.0

Game

application crash upon startup

Most of the applications which gave the Blue Box trouble are not surprising. Many are games or utilities which (by design or developer bugs) either try and directly access hardware, or patch various parts of Mac OS at a low level.

NETWORKING

I have not been able to test the system on the company ethernet/TCP-IP network yet. AppleTalk is not supported yet for DR1. Full AppleTalk support will be in a later developer releases and presumably no later than the Premiere release.

IMAGING/DISPLAY

The imaging model for the Rhapsody system is Display PostScript, versus Mac OS QuickDraw used in the Blue Box beta. Interestingly, for this Blue Box beta I have only been able to use a monitor connected to the built-in video port. The Rhapsody system itself still sees the second monitor connected to the 4 MB ATI Xclaim VR graphics card. Presumably this will change by the Premiere release of Rhapsody early this year.

FUTURE RELEASES

Rhapsody Premiere--looking at February/March 1998--to include partial traditional Mac OS compatibility (support for office productivity applications, perhaps more).

Rhapsody Unified--looking at September/October 1998--to include full traditional Mac OS compatibility

OVERALL ASSESSMENT

Rumors had Apple well ahead of schedule in implementing the Blue Box, and possibly so far ahead that full compatibility could be done by the Premiere release. The plan called for Blue Box to support basic productivity applications by the Premiere release, and support full compatibility by the Unified release. The first look at the Blue Box strongly suggests that Apple is well beyond basic productivity applications. While it remains to be seen if full compatibility with all current Mac OS software/hardware is achieved by the Premiere release, it is clear that tremendous progress has already been made.

Even in its current state, the Blue Box beta has proven sufficiently complete for me to do much of my required office work for reports and presentations, while staying in the Rhapsody environment. I pretty much only have to boot back into Mac OS for printing, some Internet issues, and full capability of playing of Mac/PC games (at home). I would like to think that compatibility with plug-in boards for laboratory instrumentation will be in place by the Premiere release, but that will have to await further testing.

It is gratifying to see that current Mac OS users are not being left out, and Apple is delivering on its promise of a fairly seamless upgrade path. If Apple can complete making basic internet access (via PPP), AppleTalk (for printing), and basic cut-and-paste fully compatible by the Premiere release, I will be in a position to switch over to the Blue box nearly full time for most purposes.

Sincerely,

Larry Peng

Org 8713

510-294-2402

lwpeng@sandia.gov

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