Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 15th Nov 2016 00:20 UTC
Windows

Here's a short little tip with some interesting background information. If you are running Windows on your Mac - like I'm doing on my 2015 retina MacBook Pro because macOS is far too unoptimised to run on it - and it's using an Intel graphics chip, be sure to replace Apple's own Boot Camp graphics drivers with Intel's own latest drivers.

The reason why you should do this is kind of fascinating. I noticed that while Windows as a whole ran quite fast and snappy - much more so than macOS with its crappy responsiveness, FPS drops, and hangs, even after reinstallations - two applications had responsiveness issues: Chrome and Microsoft Office. With Chrome, I chalked it up to #justchromethings and moved on. With Office though, I was perplexed.

The past few versions of Office, including the current one, are fast, snappy, and instant. The days where Office applications were slow and cumbersome are long gone, even on lower-end hardware like the 2015 retina MacBook Pro. However, Office applications were slow, rendering was terrible, and things like dragging and resizing Office windows was literally a slide show - and I wanted to know why.

I found out that on Windows, Microsoft Office uses its own rendering pipeline (framework? I'm not really sure what the accurate terminology is here), different from both Win32 and Metro applications. As it turns out, Office does its own check of the video card and driver to determine if hardware acceleration for Office should be disabled or not.

By default, hardware acceleration is automatically disabled in Office programs if certain video card and video card driver combinations are detected when you start an Office program. If hardware acceleration is automatically disabled by the program, nothing indicates that this change occurred.

Well, except that Office now runs like a total dog, of course.

Apparently, the Office team maintains its own list of video card/driver combinations and keeps this list a secret.

The list of video card/video driver combinations that trigger this automatic disabling of hardware graphics acceleration is not documented because the list is hard-coded in the Office programs and will be constantly changing as we discover additional video combinations that cause problems in Office programs.

When I ran the Intel Driver Update Utility on my retina MacBook Pro to determine if the Apple-provided Intel graphics driver was up-to-date, the tool found a newer driver, but warned me that my OEM (Apple) had modified the already-installed driver, and that I would lose those customisations. I proceeded to download the new driver anyway, only to be hit by a very peculiar dialog upon trying to install the driver Intel told me was newer than what I had installed: the installer warned my I was installing an older driver than what I had installed.

So, I decided to download the latest driver (the latest beta) manually, installed it, and this fixed not just Office, but also Chrome - which I find particularly baffling (maybe Chrome maintains a similar list?).

The list that the Office team maintains is not of good drivers, but of bad drivers. For Office's hardware acceleration to fail, the driver needs to be on the list. This means that the combination "Apple-modified Intel graphics driver/Iris 6100" was, at some point, added to the list, triggering the disabling of hardware acceleration for Office. The combination "Intel's own graphics driver/Iris 6100" is not on the list.

There's a number of possible explanations here, and I'm not really sure which one makes the most sense. Apple cares too little about Boot Camp users to intentionally cripple the Apple-supplied Intel drivers, so that's definitely not the cause. I also don't think the Intel driver magically improved a ton in the span of just a few weeks (there's only a few weeks of difference between the two versions, but I'm not trusting version numbers here) - but maybe it did? I honestly don't know. It's Intel's beta driver that isn't even signed by Microsoft, but somehow, the Office team tested it and removed it from their list? My first instinct was to think that because Apple had modified the driver, it wasn't on Microsoft's list - but since the list is for bad drivers, that makes no sense.

The most logical explanation I have right now - suggested by Steven Troughton-Smith - is that Apple changes a few things in the Intel driver to optimise Windows' battery life, which in turn tune down the performance, causing the Office team to add this specific driver/video card combination to the list. I've been keeping an eye on battery life since installing the driver, but haven't noticed much of a difference.

I don't think this little tip will be useful for a lot of people, but I really enjoyed trying to figure out what was going on.

Order by: Score:
You run windows on a mac?
by kwanbis on Tue 15th Nov 2016 01:42 UTC
kwanbis
Member since:
2005-07-06

As your main driver? Wow.

Edited 2016-11-15 01:43 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE: You run windows on a mac?
by Beerfloat on Tue 15th Nov 2016 04:53 UTC in reply to "You run windows on a mac?"
Beerfloat Member since:
2011-06-05

"because macOS is far too unoptimised to run on it"

Because a casual unqualified sweeping statement makes for a great start to any article.

Edited 2016-11-15 04:54 UTC

Reply Score: 8

Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Because a casual unqualified sweeping statement makes for a great start to any article.


Call me when Apple finally fixes macOS so that it doesn't have constant animation issues, lag, and that response input delay macOS has had since its inception.

Not that you'll believe me. I've come to accept a long time ago that OS X/macOS users don't understand UI responsiveness, and therefore, don't notice the glaring input delay in macOS.

Reply Score: 0

winter skies Member since:
2009-08-21

OMG Thom you might have a point here, but I am not totally convinced.
When I go back to my Vaio Z with Windows 8 I just feel something snappier, don't know why, even though actual work is slower. I think it's basically just the animations in Windows 8 combined with different acceleration settings for external mice (better on Windows than on macOS).

What do you mean by glaring input delay? Keyboard, mouse, trackpad, all the three of them? I don't think I have keyboard input delay on my Mac at all...

Sorry for my double posting.

Reply Score: 2

Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

What do you mean by glaring input delay? Keyboard, mouse, trackpad, all the three of them? I don't think I have keyboard input delay on my Mac at all...


MacOS has a slight delay with every user input (mouse and keyboard). It's minute - I'm not being sarcastic when I say most people won't notice it - but once you do, you can't unnotice it. There's a very slight delay between the input and the actual action happening on the screen.

It's always been there, but during the Windows XP and Vista days, Windows was a million times worse. Starting with Windows 7 though, the tables have turned significantly, and even on lower-specced Windows machines, Windows just responds faster to user input. Things like dragging, resizing, clicking buttons, opening menus - the basics - are more responsive on Windows than they are on macOS, but it's incredibly difficult to notice.

I actually blame BeOS for me noticing it. I came from BeOS, but when the platform died, I switched to XP, which was just terrible (I've always hated XP). OS X, however, was far better at this time, but with BeOS being so responsive, OS X's delay was quite noticeable in comparison. Things on the Windows side only improved with windows 7, and has been improving ever since, while OS X hasn't improved at all in this department.

It's not a hardware issues - I see the same input delay on every Mac, no matter how powerful - it's a software issue. It's just part of how OS X works. Actually, and this is speculation, but I think this is one of the reasons why Apple won't release a touchscreen Mac: touch on OS X would be horrible due to this input delay (which doesn't exist on iOS). Windows' current touch, however, is excellent.

Edited 2016-11-15 12:44 UTC

Reply Score: 1

puenktchen Member since:
2007-07-27

MacOS has a slight delay with every user input (mouse and keyboard).


I've read that there was a slight delay of 16ms for the mouse introduced back in 10.4 which was finally fixed in 10.11. I don't think I've ever heard about a input delay on the keyboard. If it is as short I guess I'm really to slow to notice it. 16ms is just what the best human eyes can barely catch.

Actually, and this is speculation, but I think this is one of the reasons why Apple won't release a touchscreen Mac: touch on OS X would be horrible due to this input delay (which doesn't exist on iOS).


IOS and macOS being sharing the same foundation I think this speculation is quite far fetched.

Reply Score: 2

puenktchen Member since:
2007-07-27

PS: I tried typing in Word 2008 and Word 2016 in OSX and yes, it lags quite horribly. But thats a problem of Word, other programs don't show that kind of lag. Actually the lag (mostly ?) disappears when "check spelling and grammar as you type" is disabled.

Reply Score: 2

No it isnt Member since:
2005-11-14

I believe I've read something about triple-buffering causing a slight input lag. You either get lag, or you get tearing, or you use FreeSync/G-Sync.

Reply Score: 2

winter skies Member since:
2009-08-21

That's interesting. Thank you for your reply ;)
I am wondering if there is any way to measure such lag. I guess it's impossible without an external tool. Maybe a very high FPS camera? Or is there anything more intelligent than that?

Reply Score: 2

puenktchen Member since:
2007-07-27

I've come to accept a long time ago that OS X/macOS users don't understand UI responsiveness, and therefore, don't notice the glaring input delay in macOS.


Claiming that UI responsiveness in macOS sucks is a far less sweeping statement than your original statement. Not that I could say anything about it, using it for two decades have of course lowered my expectations quite a bit and I actually enjoy enjoying a cup of coffee while watching the spinning wheel of death.

Reply Score: 2

winter skies Member since:
2009-08-21

Reading something about the new filesystem on Ars I had had the impression that the spinning beach ball of death was usually related to slow I/O rather than being a UI design issue. But that's beyond my understanding of computing. ;)

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: You run windows on a mac?
by winter skies on Tue 15th Nov 2016 12:02 UTC in reply to "RE: You run windows on a mac?"
winter skies Member since:
2009-08-21

Yeah, I'm quite pissed off about the state of macOS on my 2015 15 inch rMBP with dGPU, but saying "macOS is far too unoptimised to run on it" is clearly overstating things.

Care about elaborating on that, Thom?

I have some problems with USB devices and network shares, display colour profiles resetting themselves every now and then, and less frequently macOS getting stuck with the spinning wheel at shutdown. Oh, and Preview.app being an unstable clusterfsck.

I am using the "More space" resolution setting for the internal display, so the GPUs are constantly pushing 4K resolution, but I have no significant performance issues despite being a heavy user (C4D, AutoCAD, Capture One, Windows 7 VM running 3/4 of the time and using 8 GB of RAM).

I would like to know what your issues are. Maybe I should be asking more out of my Mac... What I hate most is that freaking display – dimmer and brighter patches here and there from and low maximum brightness.

EDIT: So Thom replied when I was writing as well.

Edited 2016-11-15 12:15 UTC

Reply Score: 2

a little tinfoilhat-tastic, but....
by mistersoft on Tue 15th Nov 2016 01:52 UTC
mistersoft
Member since:
2011-01-05

You don't think it's within the realm of possibilities that MS identify the modified driver as identifying the computer as an Apple machine (running windows via boot camp, but an AAPL machine nonetheless) - and thereby do a little something (ie blacklist the driver forcing off the acceleration) to ultimately push a worse experience onto the end user than one running Windows on a "non-Apple" computer with the same/very similar card? (ie a computer not first and foremost designed to run a different non MS o/s in macOS. ???

Reply Score: 0

WorknMan Member since:
2005-11-13

I don't get the impression that Microsoft cares if you're running Windows as much as they used to.

Reply Score: 3

Drumhellar Member since:
2005-07-12

I don't. How does it help Microsoft? All that would accomplish is give Apple owners reason to not buy a Windows license.

It also makes their product look bad - "Look how fast Office runs on Mac, compared to under Windows on the same computer. Windows is terrible."

Reply Score: 6

mistersoft Member since:
2011-01-05

You're very probably right.

That said, in my experience with the current MS Office' suite of programs, they certainly start-up FAR more slowly on macOS machines than on Windows.

Reply Score: 3

LaceySnr
Member since:
2009-09-28

I can't even get Windows 10 to run for more than 60 seconds if I install the Bootcamp Drivers on my 2013 MBP Retina. As soon as they're installed I get BSODs all over the place.

It's pretty annoying because it runs perfectly well without them, but installing individual drivers from the Bootcamp package for keyboard & trackpad etc. doesn't seem to do anything unless I install the lot, it's like Apple have some generic shell/interface they all work through ;)

Reply Score: 1

It's a beta
by hardcode57 on Tue 15th Nov 2016 06:53 UTC
hardcode57
Member since:
2014-06-02

You installed a beta version, so MS probably haven't had the opportunity to add it to their list yet. Give it a couple of weeks. But at least you'll understand why Ofice becomes as responsive as roadkill after your next office update.

Reply Score: 2

RE: It's a beta
by shotsman on Tue 15th Nov 2016 07:27 UTC in reply to "It's a beta"
shotsman Member since:
2005-07-22

Which is why many people call it Orifice.
IMHO, MS has ruined the product suite since they introduced the ribbon but that is just the opinion of a boring old fart and as such can be ignored.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: It's a beta
by hardcode57 on Wed 16th Nov 2016 08:51 UTC in reply to "RE: It's a beta"
hardcode57 Member since:
2014-06-02

just the opinion of a boring old fart and as such can be ignored.

As a boring old fart myself, I see no reason why our opinions should be ignored. Personally, I insist on being heard, especially when I have no idea what I'm talking about :-)

Reply Score: 1

The real question
by puenktchen on Tue 15th Nov 2016 09:34 UTC
puenktchen
Member since:
2007-07-27

Why the fuck does an office program need special hardware graphics acceleration in the first place?

Reply Score: 7

RE: The real question
by Quikee on Tue 15th Nov 2016 10:04 UTC in reply to "The real question"
Quikee Member since:
2010-07-06

Why the fuck does an office program need special hardware graphics acceleration in the first place?


Why a program doing mostly graphic related tasks wants to fully use a Graphic Processing Unit? I think the answer is obvious.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: The real question
by puenktchen on Tue 15th Nov 2016 10:38 UTC in reply to "RE: The real question"
puenktchen Member since:
2007-07-27

Why a program doing mostly graphic related tasks wants to fully use a Graphic Processing Unit? I think the answer is obvious.


Thats all rather basic 2D stuff which should be handled well by basic functions of the OS without any direct access to the GPU. Even more so if your company happens to produce that OS. Its not like we are living in the 1980s and only direct manipulation of hardware will allow smooth scrolling in your word processor.

Reply Score: 5

RE[3]: The real question
by Quikee on Tue 15th Nov 2016 12:22 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: The real question"
Quikee Member since:
2010-07-06

Thats all rather basic 2D stuff which should be handled well by basic functions of the OS without any direct access to the GPU. Even more so if your company happens to produce that OS. Its not like we are living in the 1980s and only direct manipulation of hardware will allow smooth scrolling in your word processor.


What are you talking about - it is not basic 2D stuff. Things like blending, soft shadows, font and shape effects, gradients,... are pixel manipulation functions which CPU struggles with (usepecially on a HiDPI screen) but is the kind of task GPU were made for. Also if you want this (or just a simple task of re-sizing an image) to be smooth and distraction free (in a typical 16.6ms time frame it has to render) you will need to do it on the GPU - not to mention to increase battery life you get.

Also OS based 2D functions today use the GPU (well when they use Direct2D instead of Gdi+) - but if for some reason the GPU detected is blacklisted then the software rendered kicks in and you have again - a crappy experience.

But the 2D API didn't evolve over time (still more or less the same - immediate surface pixel manipulation than in the 1980's) and is not a good match for GPU. This is why lately many try to adapt a different (scenegraph like) API for 2D (Qt Quick and GTK+ 4 for example).

If you look at browsers you'll see that most of them utilize GPU in some way also - some do partial rendering with it, others are trying to use only exclusive GPU for rendering (Webrender in servo for example is using OpenGL to draw the whole page and faster than any browser), some do tiled rendering (mainly needed on the mobile - without it the experience is crappy)..

Reply Score: 3

RE[4]: The real question
by puenktchen on Tue 15th Nov 2016 12:48 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: The real question"
puenktchen Member since:
2007-07-27

I'm not arguing that GPU acceleration isn't useful for Office, but that first it should also work at a decent speed without and that second it should be handled by the OS. MS Office didn't have GPU acceleration until 2010. And the GPU or rather its driver was blacklisted by Office, not by Windows.

Reply Score: 3

RE: The real question
by mmarrero on Tue 15th Nov 2016 11:25 UTC in reply to "The real question"
mmarrero Member since:
2012-07-09

Since Vista, Windows GDI (legacy 2D graphics) has zero hardware 2D acceleration, because modern GPUs can't or won't. They render triangles, use programmable shaders (pixel and geometry).

It took several years for good GPU-based 2D acceleration APIs (Direct2D, Skia, WPF). I think web browsers were the first to use them. GPU/drivers are so inconsistent, applications had to blacklist many of them.

Reply Score: 2

No, no, no
by przemo_li on Tue 15th Nov 2016 10:55 UTC
przemo_li
Member since:
2010-06-01

For one thing we do not know WHAT was blacklisted.

We know that Your specific version is not working. But was it just this specific version blacklisted? Was it whole range of versions blacklisted? Open ended range was blacklisted? Apple drivers for Intel blacklisted?

For other You did not provided us with exact versions so we do not know weather they where from the same driver branch.

It could easily be that one driver was maintenance update for older branch and other fresh version for new branch. Such sudden change is not unheard of in gfx business.

Reply Score: 2

Bias alert
by decuser on Tue 15th Nov 2016 14:40 UTC
decuser
Member since:
2006-10-30

Thom,

While I normally enjoy your perspective on things, your anti-mac/anti-apple rants are getting tiresome. Might you consider that your biased reports are encouraging a tone that is not constructive? Have some journalistic integrity, will you?

While Macs are not the holy grail of computing, they are not the zombies you are making them out to be either.

Reply Score: 4

RE: Bias alert
by Thom_Holwerda on Tue 15th Nov 2016 14:55 UTC in reply to "Bias alert"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

OSNews' law: "As an OSNews discussion grows longer, the probability of Thom being accused of bias against [insert whatever] approaches 1".

I don't care about that anymore. Not my problem reality has biases.

Edited 2016-11-15 14:55 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Bias alert
by enryfox on Tue 15th Nov 2016 15:10 UTC in reply to "RE: Bias alert"
enryfox Member since:
2012-02-19

Everyone is free to express their opinion, but I agree that recent apple related posts have a sort of mocking tone towards both apple (which surely deserve critics) and their users.

That is not either "news" (as in "OSnews") or point of discussion, that is just ranting; and it is just so boring and predictable that skipping articles it's becoming the new sport here in OSnews.

bye

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Bias alert
by henderson101 on Tue 15th Nov 2016 16:30 UTC in reply to "RE: Bias alert"
henderson101 Member since:
2006-05-30

Oh come on guys, Thom can take criticism. Nothing we can say is going to upset him.

Edited 2016-11-15 16:32 UTC

Reply Score: 2

Flash does this too
by CaptainN- on Tue 15th Nov 2016 15:16 UTC
CaptainN-
Member since:
2005-07-07

Back in the day Flash used to ship with a list of different drivers. It did this because certain driver versions (especially on Intel GPU laptops) had various bugs that would cause hangs and even exploitable crashes. Flash's 3D API would enable as many features as it could (gating profiles) but for some driver combinations had to disable hardware acceleration completely.

It wouldn't surprise me to know that Chrome (Google), MS and Adobe share that list. Chrome is actually integrated with Flash pretty tightly, even sharing the same software shader engine for non-gpu fallback (based on SwiftShader).

Also, I doubt Apple did anything to optimize WIndows' battery life. They probably just used a buggy version, or did something else that triggers the black list.

Edited 2016-11-15 15:24 UTC

Reply Score: 1

I think I've seen that delay
by Bill Shooter of Bul on Tue 15th Nov 2016 15:37 UTC
Bill Shooter of Bul
Member since:
2006-07-14

But I generally run low end old macs. I also don't think it was worse in windows xp. And it was better in earlier versions of OSX. Not sure when it got bad.

Reply Score: 2

RE: I think I've seen that delay
by CaptainN- on Tue 15th Nov 2016 15:54 UTC in reply to "I think I've seen that delay"
CaptainN- Member since:
2005-07-07

I've seen a delay like that on machines which don't have enough RAM. Anything from 2015 should have enough RAM though.

Reply Score: 2

Libreoffice
by fithisux on Tue 15th Nov 2016 16:07 UTC
fithisux
Member since:
2006-01-22

Does it affect libreoffice?

Reply Score: 3

apple doesn care?
by gfx1 on Tue 15th Nov 2016 16:08 UTC
gfx1
Member since:
2006-01-20

In the olden days (2011) I installed bootcamp as an experiment. It ran pretty decent but after installing the Apple supplied drivers it slowed down.
But that is only with very limited testing. No idea of things improved.

Reply Score: 2

Lower-end hardware?
by M.Onty on Wed 16th Nov 2016 11:17 UTC
M.Onty
Member since:
2009-10-23

The days where Office applications were slow and cumbersome are long gone, even on lower-end hardware like the 2015 retina MacBook Pro


A 2015 retina MacBook counts as lower-end hardware? Bugger. I was labouring under the happy illusion that my Thinkpad x230 was still somehow current. You've made me check Wikipedia to found out how old it actually is; practically ancient, it would seem.

P.S. I enjoyed reading a OSNews original article.

Reply Score: 3

I agree
by lancealot on Wed 16th Nov 2016 17:57 UTC
lancealot
Member since:
2007-02-25

I have a Macbook Pro mid-2012 non-Retina. I upgraded to 16gb memory and a SSD. I have Windows 10 and Mac OS X 10.12 (and 10.11 to that prior) installed on it in dual boot setup. I have the exact same software installed (where possible) on both the machines and use them in the exact similar ways. I tried to use Mac OS X originally but it would randomly turn off and on the external 30" Dell I had connected to it. I assumed it was hardware related and tried multiple cables, apple replaced the logic board, etc etc. Nothing fixed the issue. The final test I did was put Windows 10 on the machine. Windows 10 does not have this same issue, plus I discovered that for the same tasks everything seemed faster and smoother. So I agree when people say that WIndows 10 runs faster on Macbooks. I think this partly has to due to the fact all the application software is more optimized on Windows then Mac. I also noticed the same software running on both I use tend to use more memory and cpu on Mac OS X (for example the DishTV Anywhere App). Lastly I will say that Windows 10 does seem smoother then Windows 7. I do notice that the GUI on Mac OS X does lag a little bit more then Windows 10, which just seems lighter. The issues I had with Windows 7 sometimes not allowing you to open other windows while it did a background task such as opening a drive letter or accessing files slowly don't seem to happen in Windows 10. I always appreciated Mac OS X because the OS windowing stayed responsive while background tasks ran, while sometimes Windows 7 would have hiccups. Well Windows 10 does seem to fix that overall.

That is my personal experience. The more I use WIndows 10 the more I find it a acceptable replacement for Windows 7. Of course most of the time I am in applications and many times those are sized largely, so I don't always deal with all the GUI and how blocky it seems. Of course I understand they had to make compromises in the GUI look to make it work on so many devices, and personally I like the look of a dedicated desktop OS like Mac OS X over Windows 10, but when you spend most of your time in the applications, then the OS fades away more. Lastly I do think I prefer Windows explorer over Mac Finder, though I don't care for the ribbon interface too much. So I think I have a love/hate relationship with both OS'es, but overall find Windows moving along faster then Mac OS X recently in the desktop area. I moved to Mac OS X originally to get away from Windows XP, but with WIndows 10 I can say it feels as responsive as Mac OS X now in days and I am ok using it.

Reply Score: 1

Not surprising
by deathshadow on Wed 16th Nov 2016 19:43 UTC
deathshadow
Member since:
2005-07-12

Apple's "our way or golf tango foxtrot oscar" approach to their systems means they'll often make minor changes to hardware to prevent you from using third party software or hardware to the fullest. See the Mac Pro's before the trashcan model where the video cards had the PCI bus ID strings chnaged so the cards couldn't be used in normal PC's and normal PC cards couldn't be used in the mac, for no reason other than "you buy from us or you don't buy at all" asshattery. 100% BS as things like Natit proved.

That's been their standard operating procedure for years and why things like the App store are a bit of a head scratcher -- actively encouraging third parties to write software for it? That's not Apple!

After all, we're talking the company that took a PCMCIA slot, left off two power connections and called it "airport" so you could only buy their rebranded buffalo wireless card... or wired the toilet seat ibooks so that the optical drive could only work master only when most third party drives are slave only -- to hack around that you had to short master to slave on the cable.

There's a reason they put so much effort into Thunderbolt, and it has jack to do with being better; it has to do with selling you more crap in the form of adapters so you can connect what the rest of the ****ing world is using.

I was always shocked that Apple even released bootcamp in the first place... it's just not their style.

To that end, I can't fathom why someone would buy their overpriced rinky poorly manufactured vendor lock-in crap in the first place; I'd stack my MSI Ge70 against anything they make with 50% more budget.

Really when people talk about Apple quality, I can't help but scream "WHAT ***ING QUALITY?!?" -- what the hell is in the kool-aid that makes people think that flimsy lightweight underpowered overpriced trash is worth a dime?

They're the Ikea of computers.

Reply Score: 2