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ATSServer really, really, really sucks

The biggest day-to-day annoyances I’ve had since 10.0 have been, in descending order of irritation:

  • Fonts: inconsistencies between rendering paths, bad support for bitmaps (I still can’t use my favorite font in BBEdit), ATSServer hangs/crashes, silent refusal to activate, font cache corruption, worthless Font Book interface, etc.
  • Disks/filesystems: HFS+ slowness, Spotlight flakiness. AFP instability, slowness and complete inability to handle concurrent accesses. Disk Arbitration flakiness. Disk imaging instability and yet more flakiness. Flaky network browsing. Still no LVM. ZFS on OS X can’t come too soon—it’s been a joy to use on Solaris.
  • USB: crashy drivers (less so of late), poor transfer throughput, overly aggressive port deactivation and poor feedback when something appears to go wrong. Some of these problems might be hardware—this Intel mini doesn’t work with my external USB 2 enclosure, whereas my iBook worked fine.
  • Finder (need I say more?)

Today alone I spent about an hour troubleshooting font problems. First I spent about four reboots trying, and eventually failing, to get the fonts in ~/Library/Fonts to activate. No amount of font cache trashing or safe booting fixed it; I eventually just renamed the folder and told FontExplorer X to import them, at which point everything worked… until half an hour later when Camino hung then Terminal hung (as did every other app I tried, such as Dock and LaunchBar). Turned out ATSServer was using 100% CPU in some C++ destructor. I had to SSH in from another machine to kill ATSServer, at which point everything started working again. Guess I should be glad that it worked, or something.

I wonder how bad the underlying code really is, and pray it’ll get some attention in Leopard.

6 comments on “ATSServer really, really, really sucks”

  1. 8 January 2007 | 10:42 AM

    hi, I was just wondering if you have found a stable solution for this problem yet..? Because I’ve had font related crashed for a long time now and I really can’t stand it anymore. I have tried deleting caches but that doesnt help. I hvae looked in my crash.log and it seems to involve ATSServer and or Fireworks 9.

  2. 8 January 2007 | 11:28 AM

    Perhaps you could post the crash log? It could also be a corrupted font – try using a font utility to scan for corrupted fonts.

    If you haven’t already, try doing a Safe Boot (with the shift key held down) and then restart normally; it’ll clear caches at startup, which can sometimes help.

  3. 8 January 2007 | 1:06 PM

    You mean post the logs here? yeah, I guess I could do that, but they are kinda long..
    Do you know of any good software to scan for broken fonts? I really don’t wanna use Font Book since I only have bad experiences using it. I have tried saf booting, but it only solves the problem temporarly. I doesn’t take long until its back.

  4. 8 January 2007 | 1:16 PM

    Well, you could post them on your Web site and link to them if you wanted.

    For scanning fonts, you might try FontExplorer X as it’s free and much much better than Font Book.

    Ars Technica recently did a review of font utilities, which may be of interest. Note that a new version of FontExplorer X came out since it was posted.

  5. 8 January 2007 | 1:20 PM

    I’m using FontExpolorer since long time ago now. Its great.. however, it is not able to find any broken fonts in my system.. I will check out the reviews, thanks for the tip! if nothing works out I’ll come back with the logs..

  6. 20 August 2008 | 2:01 AM

    This problem still exists in Leopard 10.5.4, even with a clean install, I had copied 100mb of pdf’s to the documents folder and ATSSERVER and mdworker went nuts. Time machine also plays a big part in this problem, as every-time it updates, spotlight re indexes. with time machine running every hour, for 15 minutes, and then spotlight running for the next half hour, you get about 15 minutes of uninterrupted use of your machine out of every hour. Hard drive indexing has been tried with Windows based machines via shareware apps for the last 13 years, with the results allways being the same…. slow to no performance of the machine, because the machine is always trying to catch up with its self. Time machine may have been a good idea in theory, just too bad Apple didn’t spend some time testing it. Instead they were too busy coming up with Time capsule, to cheat users out of even more money.
    To fix the problem with ATSSERVER & MDWORKER, you need to disable the useless Time Machine and disable Spotlight. Apple has some nice stuff, but it is expensive, and they suffer from the same problem as Microsoft…. they do not test anything. That is left to the people to do, and then when we find their problems they give out a patch… too bad we don’t also get a paycheck for our end user testing.

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