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The GPU remains a Science Fair Project

See my Mac wish list.

Update 10 Jan: Adobe contacted me (well, I sent a link to this post to Adobe!), and they are going to look into the crash I'm seeing. I have provided an actions file and script to drive it. Now if only they would also agree to do something to address the GPU scaling headache.

Three+ years ago, the 2013 Mac Pro was released by Apple with graphics drivers rife with bugs. It took 6 months to get the drivers to a usable state. Adobe actually added GPU support for sharpening, then had to take that support out. What I never understood is how Adobe could ship those code changes without proper testing, the proof of that being self evident in the undoing.

Graphics driver bugs caused by half-baked Apple code are one thing—and I do pin the lion’s share of the blame on Apple. [It is my understanding that AMD engineers actually developed the drivers for the Mac Pro, but it’s Apple’s responsibility to ensure quality control.]

GPU problems with Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop CC 2017,
macOS 10.12.2

But graphics driver bugs aside, Adobe could at least address what it can, that is, Adobe fails to fix severe usability bugs that result from enabling the GPU—for over two years now. Adobe was/is well aware of this issue, because I communicated directly, the issue was acknowledged as “hard to fix”. But even though I suggested minimally invasive user interface changes that could at least sidestep the scaling problem, this was not done either. Well, what is the point of a GPU if it results in unreliable operation of any kind?

And now GPU bugs persist to this day and now have taken a turn for the worse.

With the release of macOS 10.12 Sierra and Adobe Photoshop CC 2017, Photoshop has become more unstable than it has been in years. My 2013 Mac Pro, 2013 and 2015 and 2016 MacBook Pro and iMac 5K all have shown this GPU problem, as shown. Not always, but at launch or other times, and often enough to be disturbing.

Just today, something hard-crashed my Mac Pro (hard power off required), an extremely infrequent event (months without such a crash)—I was using Photoshop/ACR. I suspect the crash was a GPU driver crash in kernel space.

I don’t know where the fault lies (Apple or Adobe), but it is pathetic that one of my test suites (Lens Filters) cannot be completed on any Macs reliably, and never can run successfully on 2 of the 5 Macs.

Chad M writes:

I just upgraded my 2013 Mac Pro to Sierra over the holidays while I had down time.

I’m using an AJA LHI through ThunderboltBox and Final Cut X 10.3.1. I am getting kernel panics now (must be around a dozen).

I’m suspecting a driver issue of some kind – and your GPU thoughts have me leaning to look more in that direction. Maybe the next OS update will help. I should never have updated. So frustrating!!

DIGLLOYD: frustrating indeed for professionals trying to get work done. A kernel panic is of the same bug level as my 'hard freeze' I reported: something nasty happening at a level that kills the operating system.

Martin writes:

I read all your articles, and especially the more nerdy stuff about apple. Normally most of the people writing about Apple have nearly no clue about this more nerdy in deep stuff.
but I have to say something about your GPU disillusionment.

I’m into this GPU stuff since the late 90 doing 3D visualization and animation with extremely special and expensive cards, GPU acceleration before it was on the mass market.

And people like me know all these weird problems you experience.

It may sound bold and offensive but the 2013 MacPro with AMD GPUs and Adobe is the worst possible scenario. AMD drivers are known from the beginning as not suitable for professional work, besides they always had this FireGL pro line.

When you’re lucky that the drivers are stable, you will somehow experience display or rendering (calculation errors), especially working with fine graining values or extremes.
This is the reason nearly every pro in the 3D business or doing extreme compositing / video stuff is equipped with NVidia cards. The bad thing, the quality of their drivers is declining. In most of the pro software products is CUDA better integrated, integrated at all, more stable and a lot faster.

AMD looks always sweet on the spec sheet but they never deliver these speeds or stability. And the last 20 years there was never a stable and bug-free OpenGL driver from ATI/AMD, they are known for bad OpenGL.

The bad stuff, a lot of Adobes GPU implementations are also founded on OpenGL, like Lightroom's develop module - ADOBE confirmed this official that LR uses OpenGL. So every Mac now with a DGPU has an AMD GPU. Adobes Mercury Engine also relies on a lot of NVIDIA stuff - Premiere renders x times faster on a GeForce — is there is now other problem - ADOBE’s GPU implementations are really bad - MEDIAENCODER loves to show it uses CUDA but renders on your slow CPU.

But there are other software companies who have working GPU code - like Phase One. Run Capture One Pro on an 5 year old Intel i5 PC with a cheap GTX 970 — this is so much faster than Lightroom on the most badass Mac or PC money can buy. But Phase One also suffers from bad AMD drivers on Mac Mac and PC—just take a look and their user forums, a lot of people mourn that the software is so slow on their newest hardware.

At the end it relies on the software and Apple is constantly kicking us pros into our balls with their decision not to use NVIDIA.

MPG: the survey at BareFeats.com shows that 80% want NVIDIA cards, not AMD.

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