27″ iMac – slow performance when using Flash? B.S.

There appears to be a ton of hubbub on the internet regarding the 27″ iMac, Snow Leopard, and terrible performance when using Flash.   As with most reports, this has begun to spin out of control and it seems like the blogs of the world like gizmodo and macrumors are jumping on the story.

Well…  one thing the “informed” reader would notice is that NOT everyone is having this problem.  Being a software developer, the computer geek that I am, and also the skeptic that i am, I don’t believe in one-off issues.  Usually, there is a repeatable pattern that leads to widespread issues – if everyone isn’t having the problem, it’s more unlikely that it’s the hardware causing the issue (barring manufacturing defects).

So… I decided to test this issue.  Guess what – at first I thought I had a problem…  In fact, I noticed that typing in any application could be downright slow, and sometimes would lag many characters behind what I had typed.  Looking at my handy dandy iStat monitor – I saw that the finder was spiking up and down in processor usage… as low as 0.2%, as high as 104%

So then I think to myself… what the hell could be causing this?  Being the pragmatic fellow that I sometimes am – I decided to start disabling some of the handy dandy utilities that I had running in my menu bar, and anything else that I have installed that might be running in the background.

One by one I shut off utilities – smcFanControl, my DropBox menu bar icon, etc.. etc… But performance still suffered.  So then i did it – I shut off and uninstalled iStat.  Guess what, shortly after shutting off iStat – my computer seemed to speed up.  I popped up a terminal window, ran “top” and sure enough – finder usage returned to normal (less than 1%).

The moral of the story… if you’re having problems with your new 27″ iMac – look at the software you have installed and running.  Chances are you’re using something that might have worked fine in Leopard, but is not ideal for Snow Leopard.  Now… I was using the latest version (2.0) of iStat – which says it works for Snow Leopard – but…. something tells me this is not the case.

I am assuming that for many, this is the same case.  Many people are saying “Well, my 20″ iMac works Great” – but chances are their 20″ iMac ran Leopard, and they installed all of their leopard tools on their new Snow Leopard based iMac….  which is not a 1:1 so far as compatibility is concerned. 

Until they can prove to me otherwise, my beloved iStat is not installed on my iMac – and everything is running wonderfully.

The moral of the story here – If you are suffering from performance issues on new hardware, test again on a bare environment before you go blaming the hardware.  I’m not saying that there definately are no problems with the new iMac – but I do believe there is enough “different” about it’s config and it’s O/S that perhaps something you are doing is causing the issue….   Unless everything is constant, “It always worked on my old machine” is not a valid statement.


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Using your 27″ iMac as a display – a Follow up.

So I’ve added a couple more scenarios to my testing from my previous blog post on this topic and wanted to take a second to post the results.


  •  iMac running and booted into Snow Leopard, MacBook Pro connected via display port and powered off.  Turning the MacBook Pro on seemed promising, as the boot screen breifly flashed the iMac into display mode.  Once the MacBook pro began booting, however, the iMac switched back to internal video and the MacBook pro was unaware of it’s presence.
  • iMac shut down, MacBook Pro connected, running, and booted into Leopard.  Turning the iMac on at first seemed to be uneventful.  Once Snow Leopard began running, however, the iMac quickly switched to display mode and the MacBook pro recognized it.  DING DING DING – we have a winner.
The moral of the story:  If you are going to leave your iMac connected to be used as a display to another machine – make sure you boot the primary machine completely into it’s operating system first.  Once boot is complete, flip on the iMac – it will boot into Snow Leopard, but then will instantly switch into display mode.
Another item – as I’ve discussed in my previous post – and contrary to what the geeks at the Apple store told me – the iMac does *NOT* go to sleep when it’s operating as a display.  A couple of you have asked me if it is possible to remote desktop into the iMac while it’s operating as a display.  The short answer is …. YES.  I have verified that you can remote into it and use it as a display simultaneously.
Another question that came down the pipe was whether there was a way, in software, to switch to display mode.  As far as I know, this is not (yet) possible.  The only way I have found other than what I mentioned above is to unplug/replug the cable to get it to switch.
UPDATE! Apparently there is an undocumented feature that allows you to hot-switch the iMac between internal and external display mode by pressing COMMAND-F2 on the iMac’s keyboard.  Thanks, Apple – could have saved me tons of wasted time by simply including that in the frickin’ user manual!
Happy 27″ iMac-ing 🙂


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