This cat is … slightly camouflaged. Photo (CC) Tambako The Jaguar (but yes, this is a snow leopard).

Mac OS X 10.6.3 looks like it may be a significant update for graphics performance, but good luck trying to figure out what’s changed from the vague update log. There is mention of “compatibility issues with OpenGL-based applications.”

Our inside sources tell us that previous seeds did mention specifically Quartz Composer fixes related to performance, an issue about which some QC devs had complained.

10.6, for its part, included major updates to Quartz Composer, with some really spectacular work ranging from OSC support to OpenCL, workflow improvements, and performance gains. Those changes are fairly well-documented in a document on the Mac Dev Center:
Quartz Composer Release Notes for Mac OS X v10.6

But with that came a few performance glitches – not the good kind. It appears 10.6.3 may resolve those issues; we’ll know following additional testing.

The update also promises improved “reliability and compatibility of QuickTime X.”

More evidence that Mac-based visualists should update to 10.6.3 comes from Macworld. Rob Griffiths is able to uncover updates to ATI video cards, and VMware – of all people – say that 3D performance is improved in the update.

Inside Apple’s OS X 10.6.3 update:
What Apple’s release notes don’t tell you about the latest Snow Leopard update

It is a little embarrassing when a staffer for Macworld has to guess what’s in an OS update. I would love to see more detailed update documentation from Apple. I think it really is best for everyone when those who want more detailed answers can get them. In fairness, when I have asked Apple for support in finding out details, the folks I’ve worked with in PR have been really helpful. But Apple does great work on their OS, by and large – so why not talk about it in more detail?’

While the 3D info is hard to find, there are lots of performance and reliability fixes, as well as some security changes. Official Apple-documented changes here:
About the Mac OS X v10.6.3 Update [Apple Support KB]

Of course, real-world testing is what matters most to us – regardless of how well changelogs are written. So let us know how 10.6.3 works for you in the field, or insight you have on any OS.

  • David Prouty

    Can we start getting back to the software topics please. Hardware's great we all need and use it …. operating systems check we use those also … But I want to know and hear more about the unusual software not so0 much the new over hyped tablet thing of the month.

  • Pietro

    I hope that the fullscreen bug in jitter is gone… I've stayed away from snow leopard because of that particular bug and all the user's bad experience I've heard. I hope that now the ipad is out they will focus on making snow leopard a better and working OS (at least for me ;) Seriously the ipad stuff seems pretty cool but nobody critics apple for snow leopard being sold as a nothing new os (just full of new bug) and it's out for 7 months now !

  • vade

    New video decoding framework:


    No headers, but its public, and has these exported functions (thanks astrange in macdev).

    VTDecompressionSessionCreate, VTDecompressionSessionDecodeFrame, VTDecompressionSessionInvalidate, VTDecompressionSessionRelease, VTDecompressionSessionWaitForAsynchronousFrames

    and these symbols:

    kVDADecoderConfiguration_Height, kVDADecoderConfiguration_SourceFormat, kVDADecoderConfiguration_Width, kVDADecoderConfiguration_avcCData, kVDADecoderConfiguration_forceSW

    Looks very much like a system level framework for h.264 avc decoding for on supported HW that is open to the public. Looks like Adobe has no more excuses.

    I'm not sure if I'd expect to see docs any time soon (look at IOSurface…) but you will get headers at some point I bet.


  • eeean

    Cheers for diggin around Vade.  I sure hope you are right, it'll bring some much needed action on behalf of Apple to quash the wild attitudes flying around re Adobe vs Apple.

  • smithers

    After getting a new Mac Pro less than a year ago, and noticing that the OpenCL examples don't work on the graphics card I purchased with it (ATI Radeon HD 4870), I've been waiting for an update that will fix these (seemingly) ATI issues. I filed bugs for these issues at least six months ago.

    Sadly, still no luck with 10.6.3.

    I was a sucker to have purchased the "high end" card that Apple decided to offer, perhaps solely to keep their options open in case they ever need to tell NVIDIA to go to hell.

    OpenCL: The "cross platform" computing framework initially developed by Apple, where "cross platform" means NVIDIA.

  • M_ntek

    A little off topic comment:

    Anyone else experiences a noteable heating up of her/his macbook pro when processing music? I always do when playing music on my macbook pro  and was kind of happy to read that Apple fixed Mac Pro machines with a recent update concerning the exact same problem. Any news on a similar problem-solve for MacBooks anyone?

  • vade

    Oh, 95% of Open GL 3.0 extensions have been added in 10.6.3 – this is pretty rad. Looks like GLSL 1.30 is the only missing link to a full GL 3.0 implementation.



  • Steve Elbows

    On the QC front its taking some work to determine exactly whats fixed and what is still broken.

    OpenCL is better than it was, much more stable & working on more of the hardware that it should. Mesh filters are working again, although there was some confusions about this because 2 of the filter examples that Apple bundle at the OS level are broken – its a problem with the code  in the OpenCL Kernel patches of Mesh Noise and Mesh Bend, this can be fixed by users as that coe is editable within the compositions in question.

    Some of Apples OpenCL QC examples arent functioning properly but they may just need to be updated, or it could be a sign of some bugs remaining, cant tell yet.

    At least one major performance issues has been fixed, that was possibly nvidia-GPU specific, although iterator performance is still not what it was in Leopard.

    The DAE loader has been improved but this seems to have changed the orientation & scale of some models imported into QC with that patch, which may mess up some existing compositions and require them to be reworked slightly.

    OpenCL fallback to CPU on machines with no suitable GPU seems to be working ok, this was mostly fixed in an earlier release but other OpenCL problems rather hid the fact. I cant tell how well OpenCL is performing on the few ATI cards that should support it beause I dont have suitable hardware to test with.