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Apple's most recent update to Snow Leopard, 10.6.3, has produced a bunch of display problems in MacBooks with Intel graphics [here][here][here][here]. And I'm pretty excited — not because I get any joy in the trouble these problems are causing people, but rather, that these problems will require Apple to overhaul the Macbook's internal display driver and, perhaps, in the process, fix the display rotation that never has worked properly in MacBooks and Modbooks with Intel graphics.
Though notoriously slow, the Intel integrated graphics (at least in the X3100 version) are reasonably capable, and support many of the calculations required for pro app 3D rendering and resolution independent graphics. Nonetheless, since Apple intended the MacBook for causal computer users, they did not see any reason to support these advanced features when they wrote the driver for the MacBook's internal display. Consequently, we have the odd situation in which Intel graphics based MacBooks can support things, like display rotation, on external displays that they can not support on their own display.
When the Modbooks first came out, Axiotron complained to Apple about the lack of screen rotation. .Apple responded:
We specifically disallow this. The assumption was that an external display may in fact be physically rotated and the attached computer will in no way be compromised. A laptop (if rotated) becomes nearly un-useable. We are concerned about users rotating the display but being unable to "de-rotate" it.
This is a typical Apple half-truth. While this is certainly a legitimate concern, it conveniently overlooks Apple's past and on-going support for rotating the internal display in PowerBooks and MacBook's Pros. In fact, Apple simply did not consider it worthwhile to expend a lot of engineering time building a full-featured driver for the display on a lower priced notebook.
Recently, this decision has come back to bite Apple in the butt. Compare these screenshots illustrating some of the recent MacBook display problems that began appearing in Snow Leopard updates 10.6.2 and 10.6.3
with this photo showing my Modbook's distorted portrait orientation.
The problems are all related.
I think there are two things going on here. First, Apple is updating the display drivers to 64-bit and introducing bugs in the process. Additionally and more importantly, as Apple is moving Snow Leopard towards resolution independent graphics, in ordinary operation, the MacBook is being asked to do the sort of vector and 3D calculations that once were only required in professional graphics apps and the limitations of the display driver are becoming more and more obvious. This Apple support discussion seems to suggest that display corruption is getting progressively worse with each successive update to Snow Leopard. In order to address these issues, Apple will likely have to support some of the vector and 3D calculations that the Intel graphics chips offer, but were previously unused. My hope is that while they are going through the significant effort of rewriting these drivers for 64-bit and supporting the functionality they need for resolution independent graphics, they will go the extra half-inch and support display rotation as well.