Cursor Tracking Lag Caused by system_profiler

We’ve noticed problems with mouse cursor tracking, on Thunderbolt Macs attached to displays.

In the middle of moving the cursor with mouse or trackpad, the cursor jumps or skips making it difficult to control.

We tracked down the problem to background runs of system_profiler.  Specifically, when system_profiler queries the display for information.

Running system_profiler without flags or with the SPDisplaysDataType data type triggers the problem.

To reproduce the problem at its worst, run the following in Terminal on a Thunderbolt Mac attached to a display and attempt to use the tracking device:

while [ 1 ]; do system_profiler SPDisplaysDataType; done

Apple is aware of the issue, but has stated that this is expected behavior.

Many tools that rely on system_profiler trigger the issue including JAMF Casper Suite, Puppet, and Apple Remote Desktop.  These and other tools routinely inventory the Mac using system_profiler.

There is currently no workaround for getting display information such as Display serial number.  And the only way to avoid the trigger is to run system profiler with each data type excluding SPDisplaysDataType.

If you think Apple should address the issue, please let them know.

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6 Comments on “Cursor Tracking Lag Caused by system_profiler”

  1. [...] Has anyone else seen this issue?  It has only been reproduced on Thunderbolt-equipped Macs while attached to Cinema Displays (Either Mini-DVI or Thunderbolt).  If you are able to test this on both Thunderbolt and Non-Thunderbolt Macs as well as Cinema and Third party displays, please leave the results of your testing in the comments.  I find that it is easiest to reproduce if you move the cursor in a circular motion and then run the command.  This makes it painfully obvious when the jerky-cursor behavior hits.  Check out details on this issue over on Kyle’s Blog. [...]

  2. Jaharmi says:

    I tried obtaining the display serial number through other means with ioreg, but the best I could come up with was all zeros.

  3. Mehmet says:

    Since one week i have a similar issue. On my iMac i
    connected through TB a Promise R4, from the R4 to the 3. Display.
    2. Display is connected through the second TB port. If the R4 is
    enabled and running the cursor tracking is lagging, you can’t
    control it through the mouse. Disableing R4 turns my monitor off as
    awaited and the cursor lag is gone, i can continue to work without
    any problem but also without my 3. Monitor

  4. Ken says:

    I am having the same issue on a 2012 15″ MacBook Pro Retina
    connected to a 30″ Cinema Display. At home I use a Magic Mouse but
    in work I use a Logitech mouse with it’s own receiver. It is only
    happening on the Cinema Display not on the built-in
    screen.

  5. Ken says:

    After some further testing I found that if I closed all windows in Safari that were displaying PDF documents then the problem went away. So I think the AdobePDFViewerNPAPI is causing the problem.


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