Monday, July 30, 2007

Safe sleep is stupid -- and at last someone else is saying so

When I got my otherwise excellent iBook I noticed sleep on shutdown was broken, even when Spotlight doesn't mess it up more. Surprisingly few people crab about this, but now Joe Kissell has spoken up for all of us:

TidBITS: Stewing Over Safe Sleep

... The situation is different on more recent Apple laptops - every portable model starting with the 15-inch and 17-inch Double-Layer SuperDrive models introduced in October 2005. These models do have an ordinary sleep mode, just as before. But Apple's documentation warns you that when you put such a laptop to sleep (by closing the lid, for example), you must not move it until the power light has begun pulsating. During the first moments after you close the lid, when the light is on steadily, Mac OS X is busily copying the contents of your RAM to your hard disk in preparation for the possibility that your battery might later drain completely - forcing the computer into Safe Sleep mode. And during that time, when the disk is spinning, any untoward movement could cause damage to the hard drive mechanism. (You can also employ a command-line hack to force it to bypass the ordinary sleep mode and go directly into hibernation after saving the RAM, if you so desire; I discuss this a bit later.)

So far so good, but here's where the problems start. It takes more than a "moment" for your computer to write this hibernation file to disk and go to sleep. The length of time it takes is proportional to the amount of RAM you have installed. On my new MacBook Pro with 4 GB of RAM, it takes 49 seconds for the computer to sleep when Safe Sleep is active; with Safe Sleep turned off, it takes only 4 seconds. That's an enormous, and enormously annoying, difference.

Moreover, for each gigabyte of RAM you have, you effectively lose a gigabyte of storage space on your hard disk, because of the space required for this special RAM cache file. Given the higher cost and lower capacities of laptop hard drives, this space usage is a nontrivial issue. In essence, there's now both a performance penalty and a storage space penalty for buying the latest hardware and maxing out your RAM!

Even so, the inconveniences of Safe Sleep would be slight if Apple offered an easy way to turn it off. But as things stand now, you have to do this in Terminal...

... I remember being in the audience for a Steve Jobs keynote several years ago in which he was demonstrating wireless streaming video. A PowerBook was playing a video clip that was being streamed over an AirPort connection from another Mac. To show how robust this capability was, Steve closed the PowerBook's lid while the video was playing, putting the computer to sleep, and then, a few seconds later, opened it again to demonstrate how the video immediately picked up where it had left off. We all applauded: that's how seamlessly things were supposed to work.

You can't do that anymore - at least not without using an unsupported hack. You have to wait almost a minute before your laptop will sleep, during which time you should not be moving it around. Look, it's 2007 and I'm a Mac user; if I can't put my brand new computer to sleep and into its bag in less than 10 seconds, something is seriously wrong.

To add injury to injury, Apple dramatically shrank the sleep/power LED on the iBook, so it's darned hard to spot the pulsating power light now. I thought the loss of quick-sleep was related to the MacTel transition (XP laptops take forever to sleep) but Kissell tells us it's an Apple thing.

Thanks Joe, I thought I was alone ...

No comments: