Monday, November 23, 2009
I am sorry to report that a bug in Mac OS X 10.6.2 is causing a dramatic performance decline in the 3D mode of Bee Docs Timeline.
If you have not updated to Mac OS X 10.6.2, please do not upgrade yet!
We measure the performance of the 3D mode in frames per second (FPS). The more frames per second that can be generated, the smoother the animation in the full-screen presentation mode will be and the quicker a movie can be exported.
The exact frames per second depends mostly on your graphics card and the size of your timeline as well as the way that we have implemented our software code. For example, I have a test timeline of about 30 events that runs on my MacPro at 60 fps. As a rule of thumb, frame rates above 30-40 fps will look smooth and frame rates slower than that will appear to be choppy or jumpy.
Apple released an update to Mac OS X earlier this month (10.6.2) that introduced a bug to their graphics technology that affects this performance. That timeline that I mentioned in the previous paragraph now renders at about 1 fps, which is unacceptable for most real world uses.
This is a bug that is affecting any software products that rely on this specific graphics technology. I have contacted several of the other developers who are having issues to compare notes. I have also been working with Gary C Martin from Scotland, who developed the 3D mode with me. Finally, I have been trading e-mails with my contacts at Apple to make sure they know about the problem and to seek their advice.
The first rule of solving any bug is to narrow the problem down to a simple, consistent example that always demonstrates the bug. I have been able to develop such a test case that I have sent to Apple and to a couple other developers to help them understand the problem in detail.
There are a few options for solving this. One is to provide Apple with all of the information that they need to reproduce and fix the bug. They have that information now, so hopefully they will fix it in the next update, but Apple does not share their plans publicly so we'll have to wait and see. They tent to release Mac OS X updates every few months so it might be a while even if they fix it in the next update.
We are also trying to develop an Bee Docs Timeline update ourselves so that we can get you a working 3D mode without waiting for Apple to fix their bug. I have an idea that I have tried with my test code that makes me hopeful that we can come up with a solution in the near future. It is a major change of the way our 3D technology works so I will want to put it through a good amount of testing before we release it. However, I am hopeful that we can get it out in the next week or so.
Thank you to everyone who has sent us detailed descriptions of the problems they are experiencing, especially those of you who have been polite about it despite the frustrating bug. I am sorry for each one of you that has been impacted by this. We are doing all that we can to fix it quickly and I trust that the developers at Apple are doing likewise.
I will post another blog entry when we have a release ready to ship. I may also create a technical post for developers that describes the work-around we are implementing. You can also follow my twitter feed for more incremental status updates.