Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

My Mac OS X Kernel Panic’ed

20091130148I opened the lid of my MacBook, it resumed from the previous suspend, and I clicked something on Safari. Then, Mac OS X told me: You need to restart your computer. It explained how I could do that, and it did it in 5 languages. Yes, it is the Mac OS X kernel panic. It’s the first kernel panic I experienced on Snow Leopard. The last time I saw a kernel panic was on Leopard. It’s the same MacBook, before upgrading to Snow Leopard 2 months ago.

No operating system is immune to these kernel panic. I suppose the question is how often the panics are, and what sort of impact it has on the applications and data. Nowadays, the impact of data loss on disk is minimal because of journalized file systems. While this can be an operating system provided feature, preserving the state of applications is a lot more complicated. At this time, application recovery (i.e. returning to the user to where he/she was before the crash) is often left to the applications themselves. That being said, applications like Microsoft Word will automatically store state data to disk and use that to recover the opened document after the computer restarts.

Considering that many applications are nowadays browser-based, the web browser itself is going to be a very important application where robustness and recovery is important. I think, today, the modern web browser can re-open web pages that were being viewed after restarting from a crash (be it application crash or system crash). Moving forward, what is becoming very important is to preserve state data such as navigation history, cookies, login credentials, form input data, etc, so that the user can continue his browsing session as if nothing had actually got interrupted.

But there is a tricky situation here. Do you want to preserve login credentials across a crash? What if you were browsing a secure website such as your internet banking portal? The fact that data is being automatically preserved should sound out some alarm bells. Then, on the other hand, if login credentials are not being preserved, obviously the resumption of state on various websites are going to be rather tricky too.

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