Reading in the newsgroups, I frequently see these terms used–beachballing, spinning pinwheel, or spinning beach ball of death. What do these terms mean?
All of these are terms for OS X displaying the dreaded spinning wait cursor. Apple systems are famous for their animated cursors that tell the user to wait on something. In school I remember the stop watch and the spinning disk. While those cursor changes told the user to be patient, the spinning pinwheel is actually telling the user that an app is no longer responding correctly.
This is not always fatal as apps will frequently recover from this. The Microsoft equivalent is when the task manager reports that an application is “not responding.”
If the app does not recover, then you can force quit it to regain control by killing the app.