Rumor on the street said that the Apple Stores were going to have some of the Dual Core iMacs in stock on January 17th. So, yesterday, it was raining and I decided to have lunch at the mall and, incidentally, stop by the Pioneer Place Apple Store to see what’s up.

The sales guy near the door recognized me (I forget his name) and I asked him if they had any of the new tech to play with. He pointed me to the one display model they had, a 17″-er.

I walked up and checked “About This Mac” – sure enough, Intel-based. Nothing was open yet.

I recalled seeing someone post a hands-on with a Mac Book Pros where they tried to run every application on the machine to test its speed. Dan Lurie, the author, wrote that the machine bogged down for about 30 seconds, then all was right with the world and he could switch among all the running applications with no perceptible performance hit.

That sounded awesome.

So I tried it with the iMac. I figured, hey, it’s the same processor. Should give me the same result, right?

The machine chugged away, dutifully opening everything… the Dock got longer and longer, more icons appeared… icons were bouncing up and down as the programs launched… I noticed several of the Pro apps in there, like Logic or Soundtrack… whoa, they’ve loaded this machine down, haven’t they? The Adobe CS applications launched… Photoshop CS, Illustrator CS… the machine got slower and slower… the Dashboard slid in like molasses… icons stopped bouncing…

Yeah, this wasn’t working. It completely locked up after about a minute. No response. I tried bringing up the Force Quit menu and no go. I tried to Cmd-Tab to the Finder. Um, no.

Hmmm. Maybe this would have worked with just the shipping applications installed. But with all the other stuff added, no way.

BTW, I forgot to check the memory on this bad boy.

On the other hand, when I restarted it, the machine came up to the desktop in about 20 seconds. So, yeah, it boots fast.

Another sales guy came over and asked me if I was finding what I needed. With a huge grin, I told him of what I’d just tried. He told me that that was a pretty tough test. “I’m not even sure that one” pointing to the Quad G5 “would be able to do that.” I agreed but admitted it had been fun to watch it (not) happen.

He said he could do me one better. He walked over to a Dual Core G5, and explained that Adobe Illustrator CS, while a great program, was a huge memory hog. He showed me that it had 4 GB of memory installed. He proceeded to pull a photo from iPhoto, and open it in Illustrator. He explained that there’s a feature in Illustrator that will convert a bitmapped image into a vector-based image.

He opened Activity Monitor and then proceeded to make this conversion. It happened fairly quickly, and soon the image on the screen was full of literally thousands of those little Bezier curves, with their little square “handles”.

The Apple Store sales guy then explained that there are now operations one can perform on this vector-based image… but it requires a lot of memory and processor power, because the program has to load all of these curves into memory at the same time, then recalculate, and then apply those calculations to the image. I was with him and couldn’t wait to see how it handled it. What is it about blowing things up (in this case, metaphorically) that’s so fun?

He started the process, attempting to change one specific color in the image. Illustrator dutifully started making the change… slowly. Activity Monitor showed Illustrator taking 99.6% of the processor power, and over 1 GB of the actual memory (over 14 GB of virtual memory, whoa). At one point it spiked to over 100% of processor power… due to the machine having two processors (cores, same thing). The memory requirements kept creeping up…

He said it would probably stop at over 2 GB and then sit there for a while until it was done. So, to make it more interesting… he started launching more programs. Soundtrack, Logic, iDVD, Final Cut Pro… “Now, obviously, this isn’t a real-world test. No one would have this many programs open at once, seriously…” he said.

“Oh, I don’t know,” I laughed, “deadlines are deadlines!” He laughed, too.

And, again, the machine chugged and chugged… Several applications showed that they were not responding… he said that, eventually, Illustrator would come back, but it would not be able to finish the operation. The memory usage kept climbing, 2.1 GB, 2.2 GB…

Finally, sure enough, Illustrator gave up. “Unable to complete the operation requested. There is not enough memory.” But, amazingly, none of the applications actually crashed. The system was still stable, and every launched application was now usable, though a bit slowly. Illustrator even did part of the process requested, so that we could try again if we wanted to.

Amazing machines… I so want one. Someday…