Join 3,564 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Hot, hot, XP on Mac action!
March 16, 2006 8:37 AM   Subscribe

Windows XP booting on Apple hardware: confirmed. The $14000 contest to get Windows XP to boot on the new Intel hardware from Apple is over as of today. While considerable work in the realm of device drivers needs to be done, (and the rumored method may violate the Windows EULA) much of the hardware is straight Wintel. Considering that the MacBook Pro and Intel-based iMac (not currently working) both pack ATI Radeon X1600s, serious PC gaming on Apple hardware via dual-booting may finally be in the realm of possibility. [Via: slashdot, engadget]
posted by Ryvar (87 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Some related headlines:
--Dogs, Cats, Mice, and Squirrels Begin Living Together, Enjoying Close Friendships
--Circumcision Debate Ends Amicably
--Dave Winer Responsible For Random Act of Kindness
posted by fandango_matt at 8:48 AM on March 16, 2006


Windows games actually up and running on Macs is still (very tantalizing) speculation at this point, but it bears mentioning because it's easily one of the biggest factors blocking home user adoption of Macs. This is likely the biggest news as regards breaking Microsoft's stranglehold on the home desktop since the shift to Intel hardware was announced.

forums.osx86project.org is swamped right now, so you may have to hit reload a couple times to get the image - it's a picture of the Windows XP device manager as seen running on a Mac, with all the non-functioning devices listed.

As a consummate PC gamer, I have never until today considered buying an Apple computer.
posted by Ryvar at 8:49 AM on March 16, 2006


All this time, I was thinking, "Why the fuck would you want to run Windows on a Mac." It never occured to me that people might want to play more than World of Warcraft on their macs.
posted by chunking express at 8:53 AM on March 16, 2006


It's like the worst of both worlds. Next up, how to put a Dodge engine in your Prius.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:55 AM on March 16, 2006


On the plus side if Apple users get to play Windows games maybe they will post less links...

It's like the worst of both worlds. Next up, how to put a Dodge engine in your Prius.


Fast and the Furious 5. I've seen some sneak peaks and this film rocks.
posted by srboisvert at 9:01 AM on March 16, 2006


I admit ignorance....Why is this a bad thing?
posted by sourwookie at 9:02 AM on March 16, 2006


Ryvar: How does running XP on an Apple herald the "breaking Microsoft's stranglehold"? Seems more like lowering an Apple to the level of Wintel.

Crash: Thanks.
posted by Goofyy at 9:05 AM on March 16, 2006


Because Apple and PC users both have an incomprehensible brand loyalty to large, emotionless corporations?
posted by Tikirific at 9:06 AM on March 16, 2006


Are the video cards that ship inside the IntelMacs Direct-X capable? That's never been the case before. Apple has always shipped Mac-specific variations of PC cards.
Without Direct-X, PC gaming on a Mac will still be a pipe dream.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:07 AM on March 16, 2006


I should mention that Apple execs are on record as saying that they won't provide support, but they won't go out of their way to block it. After all - you're still buying their hardware. Since you need to purchase a copy of Windows XP to do this legally, I'm not sure Microsoft would have a problem either.

Glancing through the EULA for XP Pro and XP Home nothing immediately strikes me as prohibiting this since you don't need to reverse engineer or disassemble anything to make it work. Any actual lawyers (dios, monjou) care to comment?

Goofyy: the two answers you're most likely to get when asking people why they use Wintel of Apple is 'compatible with work machine' or 'games.' Dual-booting stands a fair chance of eliminating those. The third most common answer, 'price', isn't changed at all, though.
posted by Ryvar at 9:08 AM on March 16, 2006


Intel-based mac hardware is restrictive because it comes from Apple. Wouldn't it be more interesting to get MacOS running on non-Mac hardware? Has that already been done? Or is MacOS too dependent on the consistency of hardware?
posted by gurple at 9:10 AM on March 16, 2006


Thorzdad: right - that's why I said this is all speculative at this point. Still, the prevailing wisdom seems to be that Apple went with stock Intel hardware with the exception of the BIOS. Presumably we'll find out pretty soon.
posted by Ryvar at 9:11 AM on March 16, 2006


gurple: Apple's been pretty clear about having a zero-tolerance policy for OSX on stock PC hardware (they lose out on hardware sales, which is where they make their money). That said, it was already done a while back. The reason why it took so long for this is that Windows XP has no EFI support, and a lot of hacking was necessary to work around that.
posted by Ryvar at 9:15 AM on March 16, 2006


How can you play games without a second mouse button?
posted by cosmicbandito at 9:16 AM on March 16, 2006


Good on them for doing it, but that just seems wrong to me on a visceral level.
posted by empath at 9:18 AM on March 16, 2006


How can you play games without a second mouse button?

Buy a mouse with two buttons? Shocking, I know.
posted by chunking express at 9:22 AM on March 16, 2006


Due to the ungodly variety in PC hardware 99% of all games for it let you remap the controls.
posted by Ryvar at 9:23 AM on March 16, 2006


In somewhat related news, graphics gems Studio Artist and ArtMatic Pro still run exclusively on Macintosh hardware. But I'm still darned happy I have a plain 'ole Windows box sitting around to watch Kung Fu for free. Good reasons to own both boxes, and with the cheap crap boxes that Dell makes, no reason not to be bicomputational.
posted by dbiedny at 9:24 AM on March 16, 2006


Wouldn't it be better to use virtualisation and just run VirtualPC on the box?

Either way this is cool. My goal now is to run Windows on the Apple hardware. Then I will run the Mac II emulator Basilisk on Windows. Then I will run an Apple II emulator within Basilisk and use it to play Loderunner and my life will be complete.
posted by meehawl at 9:28 AM on March 16, 2006


If this makes Apple sell more machines, thus keeping me using my Mac for what I want to use it for (not gaming), the more power to 'em. Except...

There's a weird downside to this. I can see it in the future (because I've seen it in the past): "Macintosh Hardware Compatible" will translate into "When the Macintosh is booting into Windows XP." This presents a bit of a worry spot in that regard, that developers will continue to put Mac development as not only secondary but basically off the table at all since they can say "It works fine on Macintosh computers booting into Windows."

I tried gaming a few times... wow, it's like work you don't get paid for. Hell, it's work you have to PAY for and in some cases pay a monthly subscription fee for. Weird stuff.
posted by smallerdemon at 9:32 AM on March 16, 2006


Ha ha, yes, the evil has spread to Macs, why would you ever want to do this, anyone who installs Windows on a Mac is an idiot, etc., etc. For the rest of the planet who's actually learned to live with Windows and (gasp!) actually likes it from time to time, this is a great development.

Wouldn't it be better to use virtualisation and just run VirtualPC on the box?
Emulation will almost certainly be slower than the real thing, given the same hardware. If by "better" you mean "less work," however, you're absolutely right.

I can see it in the future (because I've seen it in the past): "Macintosh Hardware Compatible" will translate into "When the Macintosh is booting into Windows XP."
I highly doubt this will happen for a couple of reasons. One, this is officially unsupported by Apple, and I can't imagine any reputable company attempting to provide support for something Apple won't touch themselves. Second, this is still difficult to do and fairly geeky to boot, so I don't expect a lot of people will do this on their own. It'd have to be helpful relatives or friends saying "hey, you can dual boot into Windows!" and I don't think a lot of tech-savvy friends and family will want to go down that road ("Oh, hey, listen son, ever since we put Windows back on the computer the sound hasn't worked, and suddenly these pop-ups for poker companies keep coming up..."). Third, a lot of people really do want to leave Windows in the dust forever and will see little reason to want the likes of IE and Outlook on their computer ever again.

Yes, I realize some of those reasons are also reasons why Windows sucks. I stand by my comment that some of us need, nay, even want to continue running Windows on our systems. (And don't get me started on things I hate about OS X.)
posted by chrominance at 9:48 AM on March 16, 2006


Microsoft really just needs to buy Apple outright, and turn them into their hardware division.
posted by stenseng at 9:49 AM on March 16, 2006


Thorzdad: Are the video cards that ship inside the IntelMacs Direct-X capable? That's never been the case before. Apple has always shipped Mac-specific variations of PC cards.

The only difference between Mac and PC video cards is the BIOS that lets the computer boot up with the card. The chip itself is the same. Given that DirectX is a an API given by software and drivers, it should work just fine. I doubt that there is Direct3D-specific silicon on the chips that is purposefully disabled on those that go in Macs.
posted by zsazsa at 9:52 AM on March 16, 2006


This will help me feel better when I buy a macbook this summer and realize that none of the native apps have been optimized yet, and I'm still stuck with a sluggish mac laptop. With a great interface!
posted by craniac at 9:57 AM on March 16, 2006


It is a good thing for switchers. I'm about to be one of them at the end of the month - when Apple annouces the new Mac Books (iBook replacements).

I will be able to run OS:X and get the wonderful Mac experience, without having to not be able to run Windows XP apps (from games to Autodesk products like Map 3D) when I absolutely need to.

Some people have said that it is bad because it'll make companies think twice about porting their apps to Mac because Apple hardware can boot XP. However I think its a load of crap since no company worth its salt would buy a Mac, hack it to dual boot and then demand that their hacked configuration be supported by Apple, MS, or the software vendor.

And since I havent seen instructions on how to do it, I'll venture to guess that it is infact some hacked LILO or GRUB bootloader that supports EFI (linux on MacIntel was done a few weeks ago) and they managed to figure out how to get it loaded onto the computer and used to install XP off the CD and boot.

And FWIW, the video cards that go into the mac are the exact same chips you get in a PC, nothing is changed except for the driver. This goes for all the parts except for the BIOS.
posted by SirOmega at 10:03 AM on March 16, 2006


Because Apple and PC users both have an incomprehensible brand loyalty to large, emotionless corporations?

Yes. I'm a total PC fanboy. All PC corporation products are vastly superior to Apple products.
posted by insomnus at 10:11 AM on March 16, 2006


How can you play games without a second mouse button?

I wonder how many sales Apple has lost because it never occured to people to just plug in a $9.95 mouse?
posted by sourwookie at 10:15 AM on March 16, 2006


My goal now is to run Windows on the Apple hardware. Then I will run the Mac II emulator Basilisk on Windows. Then I will run an Apple II emulator within Basilisk and use it to play Loderunner and my life will be complete.

Loderunner! My youth! My life! Ahhh.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:17 AM on March 16, 2006


I like this. I prefer the feel of Macs and I like the hardware better from an aesthetic POV. I'm relegated to Windows stuff because all of my company's stuff runs on it, so having the option to dual-boot for certain tasks becomes attractive to me.

Question: will this eliminate Virtual PC on the Mac? I've never used it, but considered it.
posted by TeamBilly at 10:23 AM on March 16, 2006


I wonder how many sales Apple has lost because it never occured to people to just plug in a $9.95 mouse?

iMacd, Power Macs and [optionally] Mac Minis now ship with two button mice, unless you get the wireless version.
posted by cillit bang at 10:28 AM on March 16, 2006


sourwookie: I wonder how many sales Apple has lost because it never occured to people to just plug in a $9.95 mouse?

I suspect most people tend to think that it either wouldn't work at all (macs not being as hardware-free as PCs) or that it wouldn't be supported well in software (everything having been designed to work with one mouse button.) This may not be true, but it is what you'd tend to expect. It also makes the entire platform seem condescending; what, people aren't smart enough to handle a whole 2 mouse buttons?
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:34 AM on March 16, 2006


Come and get it!!!
posted by sourwookie at 10:44 AM on March 16, 2006


nakfull propaganda has more news, which I'll sum: Ethernet, audio, wifi drivers are now out, the authors say they'll open source the solution. Stock ATI video drivers are not working, which is a potential major stumbling block for gaming.

If you take a look at the .zip containing the solution, the howto.txt details the process which is straightforward but lengthy, the obvious streamline would be a single .exe that asks you to insert the XP CD, spits out the ISO automatically, and you burn that.
posted by Ryvar at 10:48 AM on March 16, 2006


The reverse has happened as well, hacking OS X onto a PC laptop, in this case, a Dell.

"what, people aren't smart enough to handle a whole 2 mouse buttons?"

I was told by a Mac fanatic that more than one button is indeed very confusing for most and having only one button avoids the "finger gymnastics" you have to use when using say IRIX or Windows.

I asked him if he every used a keyboard which has way more buttons than one.

Of course the same bloke told me that the G5 was faster than any P4, even if a P4 was 6 to 10GHz in clock speed and all very silent to boot.

They shipped loud systems with multiple fans, and now they've gone Intel and ship with multi-button mice. I hope that poor bastard is ok.
posted by juiceCake at 10:56 AM on March 16, 2006


"mieces"
posted by zoinks at 11:08 AM on March 16, 2006


My goal now is to run Windows on the Apple hardware. Then I will run the Mac II emulator Basilisk on Windows. Then I will run an Apple II emulator within Basilisk and use it to play Loderunner and my life will be complete.

Meh. Call me when you can do this in DOS.
posted by Smart Dalek at 11:15 AM on March 16, 2006


"Finger gymnastics".... pfft. The mouse on my main computer has no fewer than 7 buttons (8 if you count the wheel) and only one requires anything vaguely uncomfortable to reach. Hell, 4 of the buttons are at the places on which you rest your fingers, with no reaching required at all.

I really am curious what Apple was thinking with the one button mouse. Made the whole platform hard to take seriously for a long time.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:37 AM on March 16, 2006


Aside from PC gaming, I really see no point to this... people really love their video games, huh?
posted by Doorstop at 11:40 AM on March 16, 2006


This has to be the biggest example of OS based dick wagging that I've ever seen. It makes the Linux vs FreeBSD debate look like a poorly organized water balloon fight.
posted by drstein at 11:55 AM on March 16, 2006


mr_crash_davis writes "Next up, how to put a Dodge engine in your Prius"

Hey, let's be fair, Dodge has always made good engines. A more apt analogy would be "Next up, how to put a Dodge interior in you Prius."

juiceCake writes "I was told by a Mac fanatic that more than one button is indeed very confusing for most "

Working tech support for Windows I can confirm this. It wouldn't surprise me if half the windows users out there never right click anything.
posted by Mitheral at 12:07 PM on March 16, 2006


i just want apple to stop releasing new stuff five minutes after i buy something.
posted by obeygiant at 12:22 PM on March 16, 2006


Apple deskstops are a lot more expensive than the crap PC machines at BestBuy, so I don't quite get why someone would buy a Mac to play PC games instead of just buying a cheap PC desktop with Windows already pre-installed.
posted by disgruntled at 12:31 PM on March 16, 2006


I suspect most people tend to think that it either wouldn't work at all (macs not being as hardware-free as PCs) or that it wouldn't be supported well in software (everything having been designed to work with one mouse button.) This may not be true, but it is what you'd tend to expect. It also makes the entire platform seem condescending; what, people aren't smart enough to handle a whole 2 mouse buttons?

Of course, second mouse button support has been built in to Mac OS X since the beta release (I've still got my copy of that on CD if you want to check). :) What with it being NeXT Step and all.

Overall, at least since Apple abandon their beige machines, Macs have pretty much been industry standard hardware. The most proprietary hardware thing they've done lately is that weird round monitor connector, but even that was a while back.

"Working tech support for Windows I can confirm this. It wouldn't surprise me if half the windows users out there never right click anything."

I'll second that. 9 years of tech support and anytime "right click" comes up I have to explain, in laborious detail that their mouse has TWO buttons on it. Usually followed on the other end of the line by "Really? I never knew that. I never use it."
posted by smallerdemon at 12:34 PM on March 16, 2006


Working tech support for Windows I can confirm this. It wouldn't surprise me if half the windows users out there never right click anything.
posted by Mitheral at 3:07 PM EST on March 16 [!]


I don't think that confirms that multi-button mice are confusing at all. It just confirms that the user is ignorant about the feature. If a user is unfamiliar with context-clicking a quick lesson solves it, at least in my experience, regardless of whether they're using a PC or a Mac and regardless if they're using a one-button mouse and a keyboard to context-click or a multi-button mouse.

I've never met anyone who has found a mouse more complex than a keyboard yet millions of people seem to be able to use keyboards, even if they don't know about shortcuts. I really don't see how pressing CTRL + C to copy is any more difficult a concept than pressing SHIFT + C to produce a capital C.

But of course, experiences differ.
posted by juiceCake at 12:46 PM on March 16, 2006


Buying a mac to play games is like buying the Mona Lisa so you can masturbate to it.

OK, I'm just trolling. Nevermind.
posted by fungible at 12:55 PM on March 16, 2006


I really am curious what Apple was thinking with the one button mouse. Made the whole platform hard to take seriously for a long time.

It's funny because you're actually serious.
posted by Sparx at 12:58 PM on March 16, 2006


Sparx: It's funny because you're actually serious.

Well, the Mac as a platform is sold based on design and usability. When I see something that is such a huge and obvious flaw in that design and usability, it makes the rest of the platform seem questionable. Sure, I can slap a real mouse on the computer, or probably even the 8 button monstrosity I use, but the mentality that create it will no doubt permeate the entire machine, and I don't want to deal with a design that is so willing to sacrifice usability for simplicity.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:10 PM on March 16, 2006


Word, obeygiant. I bought a PowerPC Mac mini at the beginning of February. Now I'm sad.
posted by S.C. at 1:14 PM on March 16, 2006


I've been using a Mac with the two button mouse that came with my Wacom tablet for over five years now.
posted by disgruntled at 1:31 PM on March 16, 2006


Its got that handy middle button scroller too.
posted by disgruntled at 1:33 PM on March 16, 2006


Windows games actually up and running on Macs is... easily one of the biggest factors blocking home user adoption of Macs. This is likely the biggest news as regards breaking Microsoft's stranglehold on the home desktop since the shift to Intel hardware was announced.

Isn't the real news here that it will let people run the latest viruses on their Macs? Even if they can't control your Mac OS applications, they'll still have access to the full file system. What joy! Now I don't have to feel left behind as all my neighbors have their home computers turned into porn-serving bots.
posted by alms at 1:46 PM on March 16, 2006


It's not for games that I'm interested in using Windows on a Mac laptop--as many others have said, it's that I have work stuff that only runs on Windows for whatever reason. So, being able to dual-boot the Mac that I already own would save the ~$1K I'd have to spend on a Windows laptop, and net a good savings even after buying a copy of Windows. This may well have be buying an Intel Mac sooner than I'd intended.
posted by statolith at 1:54 PM on March 16, 2006


juiceCake: I don't think that confirms that multi-button mice are confusing at all. It just confirms that the user is ignorant about the feature.

These two statements fundamentally contradict each other. If the existence of that feature is not blatantly obvious, then it's safe to say that it is confusing to some degree.

I've never met anyone who has found a mouse more complex than a keyboard yet millions of people seem to be able to use keyboards, even if they don't know about shortcuts. I really don't see how pressing CTRL + C to copy is any more difficult a concept than pressing SHIFT + C to produce a capital C.

Oh, I think people who learned how to type at a young age underestimate the complexities of typing. But at any rate, the one-button decision was made because of early research found that it was easier to learn the functions of a program if those functions are available through the application menus, rather than through keychords or context menus. Keychords and context menus are nice for some users, but everything should be available through the main application menu.

Of course, one of the other sides to this equation is having to deal with application bloat. But very complex programs don't pretend to be easy to learn.

Mitrovarr: Well, the Mac as a platform is sold based on design and usability. When I see something that is such a huge and obvious flaw in that design and usability, it makes the rest of the platform seem questionable.

Well, that is the problem. What is "obvious" in terms of usability is frequently dead wrong when you actually perform usability studies with people sitting in front of a computer with a camera and a stopwatch.

But back on the main subject, the articles I've read suggest that 3D acceleration does not work under this install. Personally, I have higher hopes for virtualization:

chrominance: Emulation will almost certainly be slower than the real thing, given the same hardware. If by "better" you mean "less work," however, you're absolutely right.

Emulation would be slower, but I don't think that you will need full emulation.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:23 PM on March 16, 2006


I am of the opinion that the one-button mouse is superior (for my use anyway). It is less stress on my fingers (carpal tunnel syndrome). My wife and I have been quite happy to use our Macs with their one-button mice to support ourselves since 1989. I just control-click away for contextual menus (I tried a two-button mouse once and see no evidence it makes one more efficient.) YMMV. In any case, it's a moot point. One can get whatever mouse one chooses for not much money.

Re this FPP, I have the following thoughts:

- Some folks who use both systems don't like emulation and want dual boot so they can get by with just one computer.
- Games - it's all about Windows for games.
- Some folks like Mac/OS X but need Windows for work or some legacy app they use. They are salivating at the thought of one computer, dual boot.
- Geeks love to mess around with computers and make them do things they are not expressly marketed for.

Right now, this is a geek thing. It is a hack and most people will not be interested in it. If it gains popularity, then it will be a huge boost for Apple (IMO) because it will allow IT folks to more easily introduce OS X into a corporate world that previously would not consider it. I am decidedly prejudiced. I think that if you introduce the average computer user to OS X, they will prefer it over Windows. Also, there is no doubt in my mind that OS X is gaining in popularity among the geeks (no proof, just anecdotal). Geeks recommend computers to family and friends, and influence purchasing decisions at companies.

As for software developers dropping OS X versions of their software if Windows boots on a Mac, I am not worried. No Mac user I know will stand for using Windows and will probably abandon the developer altogether in favor of another. Call this attitude what you will but it is very real. Developers that take it lightly do so at their own peril.

Another interesting thing (for me) is that Mac haters are always ragging about how Mac hardware is overpriced and inferior. Well, if dual boot Macs become common, we will see just how true that is as people vote with their wallets. I bet you Apple is going to get converts to their hardware. All in all, this a win for Apple. Short term it's probably a wash for MS because no one switching just yet and they still get their licensing fee for the OS. Dell, they may lose some on this deal.
posted by a_day_late at 2:25 PM on March 16, 2006


Well, it's all the same hardware now - older PowerPC architecture WAS inferior, in my opinion... or if you mean case design aesthetic, non-Dell PC manufacturers are cranking out pretty attractive, non-white, non-silver cases. Frankly I'm getting a little sick of my Powerbook...
posted by Tikirific at 3:30 PM on March 16, 2006


Re: usability, see Usability in One Easy Step. "Something is usable if it behaves exactly as expected."
posted by scottreynen at 5:03 PM on March 16, 2006


The more I think about it, the more I hope that neither dual-boot or full emulation will be necessary at some point in the future. Instead, I think we are more likely to see something like WINE on Linux x86 and the Subsystem for Unix applications on MS Windows Server. A program compiled for X86 WinXP should be able to run native under X86 Darwin with a thin wrapper pointing to the Windows APIs. The primary question is whether Microsoft would be willing to sell such a wrapper and the APIs.

On preview:

scottreynen: Re: usability, see Usability in One Easy Step. "Something is usable if it behaves exactly as expected."

I find it interesting that Mr. Spolsky provides an example of how that one easy step is not sufficient. What people expect depends a lot on their prior experiences.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:24 PM on March 16, 2006


"Something is usable if it behaves exactly as expected."

Um, no, something is consistant if it behaves exactly as expected. If copying text required a memorized sequence of 15 keys to accomplish, but functioned the same way in every program, it would behave exactly as expected. However, it would still be an irritating pain in the ass.
posted by Mitrovarr at 6:34 PM on March 16, 2006


early research found that it was easier to learn the functions of a program if those functions are available through the application menus, rather than through keychords or context menus.

What research?
posted by meehawl at 6:34 PM on March 16, 2006


These two statements fundamentally contradict each other. If the existence of that feature is not blatantly obvious, then it's safe to say that it is confusing to some degree.

I don't buy the it has to be obvious to not be confusing argument. Press this button, this happens, press this one, that happens. However you have to find out what happens, you can rarely just know. And it's clear that it's an optional feature anyway.

People have argued that Macs are so easy to use and yet I had to teach someone how turn one on because there was no visible or obvious on switch. "It's here, on the keyboard," I said. So when it's not obvious or familiar on a Mac it's just the user not knowing, but on IRIX or Windows, or other Unix variants like Solaris, it's confusing?

Now I understand about being initially confused when you're not aware of something, but the implication is that multiple buttons were and are confusing even after you know what they are used for. I think that's nonsense.

Oh, I think people who learned how to type at a young age underestimate the complexities of typing. But at any rate, the one-button decision was made because of early research found that it was easier to learn the functions of a program if those functions are available through the application menus, rather than through keychords or context menus. Keychords and context menus are nice for some users, but everything should be available through the main application menu.

And those who think multi-button mice are confusing are greatly overestimating their complexity. I merely stated that a person who understands that you press SHIFT + C to create a capital C, won't be very confused to learn that pressing CTRL + C or some other key, produces a particular result. Furthermore, how is that anymore complex than highlighting the text, context-clicking and selecting copy or highlighting text, moving your mouse pointer to the Edit menu and selecting copy, or highlighting the text, holding down your mouse button and then holding down another key at the same time, and then selecting copy from the context menu? Different methods, different people, no need to make one of them supreme, and all, it seems about as equally complex.

And everything available through the main application menu should be available through a keyboard shortcut. It works both ways.

Of course, one of the other sides to this equation is having to deal with application bloat. But very complex programs don't pretend to be easy to learn.

No they don't, but there are some users who pretend that using two (or more) mouse buttons is too confusing until a certain company ships two-button mice, then it's just dandy.

I think that if you introduce the average computer user to OS X, they will prefer it over Windows.

I completely disagree, but experience varies. I think the average computer user couldn't care less about what OS they're running but only what applications they can use and how easy it is to trade files and possibly take work home for sick days.

My sisters bought a Mac having never used one (they just liked the way it looked.) They had no idea the operating system was incompatible with Windows applications and don't care either way. To them, computers are just another commodity and I'd say the average consumer is heading that way. You just go out and buy a computer these days, unless you've very specific needs, like some of us.
posted by juiceCake at 6:36 PM on March 16, 2006


My 5-button mouse worked with OS X out of the box with no extra drivers*. Command-click on OS X is the same as right click on Windows/Linux. The scroll wheel works, and Terminal even has support for middle-click paste (though it's kind of weak).

*Though I didn't try the fourth and fifth buttons. Frankly, they get on my nerves and I wish I could disable them.
posted by dirigibleman at 6:46 PM on March 16, 2006


What people expect depends a lot on their prior experiences.

Exactly. There is no universal usability measure. Usability experts try to generalize to a target market. The rest of us tend to generalize from our personal experience. If you've used a Mac a lot, you'll say a Mac has good usability. If you've used a PC a lot, you'll say a PC has good usability. If you've used neither, you'll say neither have good usability.
posted by scottreynen at 7:28 PM on March 16, 2006


meehawl: What research?

A quick search through the ACM Online Library is finding plenty of references. Children under the age of five are more likely to click the wrong mouse button than adults, (Hourcade, Bederson & Druin 2004). Bewley, Roberts, Schrolt, Verplank (1983) claim a 15% rate of "wrong button" errors in their testing for the design of the Xerox Star Office workstation, but accepted that error rate as a trade-off for input speed. Early Macintosh designer Raskin claims that Xerox PARC employees were making wrong-button errors. Multiple buttons also appear to cause problems for people with cognitive and physical disabilities. Even the early studies supporting multiple buttons for multiple objects are ambivalent about their use.

juiceCake: People have argued that Macs are so easy to use and yet I had to teach someone how turn one on because there was no visible or obvious on switch. "It's here, on the keyboard," I said. So when it's not obvious or familiar on a Mac it's just the user not knowing, but on IRIX or Windows, or other Unix variants like Solaris, it's confusing?

Well, I will certainly agree that's a usability flaw. (Especially since I don't use a standard Macintosh keyboard.) But catch up here. The argument under discussion is not "are there usability flaws in the design of the Apple Macintosh." If we want to talk about that, I can roll off about a dozen.

The discussion at hand here is whether there are valid reasons to design a GUI with a one-button mouse interface. And the answer is yes, having a one-button mouse interface reduces the frequency of some forms of user mistakes, and some user populations do appear to have problems with a multi-button mouse. Both of these to me suggest that the Apple interface guidelines that specify a one-button mouse as the lowest design denominator are sound.

Furthermore, how is that anymore complex than highlighting the text, context-clicking and selecting copy or highlighting text, moving your mouse pointer to the Edit menu and selecting copy, or highlighting the text, holding down your mouse button and then holding down another key at the same time, and then selecting copy from the context menu?

Well again. This is an empirical research question, and at least some of the research suggests that keychord sequences are not nearly as much of a timesaver as advocates like to claim. The problem is that people are very poor judges of how much time they actually spend on a task.

No they don't, but there are some users who pretend that using two (or more) mouse buttons is too confusing until a certain company ships two-button mice, then it's just dandy.

Actually, I've not read anyone who has made this claim. What I have read is exactly the claim I have made: the single-button mouse as a lowest-common denominator for GUI design is an empirically justified design decision.

Of course, I'm a multi-button trackball user myself. Windows and OS X are much more forgiving than X11 when it comes to wrong-button mistakes, and for some programs the trade-off is worth it.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:00 PM on March 16, 2006


For the life of me, I can not conceive of using Windows unless absolutely forced to. I came from that hell, and I'm gonna fight like hell to avoid being dragged back into it.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:49 PM on March 16, 2006


I wrote: I think that if you introduce the average computer user to OS X, they will prefer it over Windows.

juiceCake replied: I completely disagree, but experience varies. I think the average computer user couldn't care less about what OS they're running but only what applications they can use and how easy it is to trade files and possibly take work home for sick days.

My sisters bought a Mac having never used one (they just liked the way it looked.) They had no idea the operating system was incompatible with Windows applications and don't care either way.
...


I guess it comes down to how you define average. I consider myself an average user. I don't understand what people are discussing on /. half the time, would never try to run Linux or any OS that has not been somehow made idiot proof, and rarely (if ever) would use terminal, so I certainly can't be considered any sort of expert. Your sister, I would consider a novice. I mean, the idea that OS X and Windows are two different OSes--that's a pretty basic concept. As more and more people that have grown up with computers come of age, novices will become rare and eventually extinct.

I still stand behind my statement that if you allowed most average people to use the two systems side-by-side, more people would pick OS X. This has nothing to do with a pretty box. I am talking about the OS. I *do not* disagree with your work/home application and file compatibility argument. I just think this will become less relevant with time (especially if a machine can dual boot easily and Macs make inroads into the corp world).
posted by a_day_late at 4:30 AM on March 17, 2006


juiceCake, I almost forgot: The fact that you wrote "couldn't care less" instead of the dreaded "could care less" makes you an OK guy in my book--even if you prefer the OS of evil (joking about the evil part). Cheers.
posted by a_day_late at 4:40 AM on March 17, 2006


Children under the age of five are more likely to click the wrong mouse button than adults

Children under the age of five are also significantly more likely to poop in their pants than adults, and also to fall over when trying to walk a straight line. They are also not very good at grammar. I am skeptical about extrapolating results from immature humans and using them to construct devices and procedures for mature humans.

If you're referencing directly Differences in pointing task performance between preschool children and adults using mice, then that study specifically addresses target pointer size, not button number. Surprise, surprise, that paper suggests that interfaces designed for preschool children should feature large, modal selectors to minimize errors resulting from a child's poorer coordination and shorter attention span. Also, implementing a "click-to" pointer drag/gravity for button targets is A Good Thing for kids.

If instead you're referencing Preschool children's use of mouse buttons, well then, let me quote directly from that paper's conclusions:
The results showed that while adults and most 5 year-olds consistently clicked on the left mouse button, 4 year-olds did not. These results suggest that 4 year-olds are better served by user interfaces that provide the same functionality to all mouse buttons.

I may not be entirely well versed in the ins and outs of UI, but this seems to say that immature, preschool children are best served with one-button devices, while "adults and most 5 year-olds" are not as restricted.

Apple's choice of one-button + lots of keyboard modifiers versus 2-button + less keyboard modifiers is not grounded in any definitive "science" of UI or cognitive operation, but instead reflects early irrational prejudices or hunches of key Apple personnel. They have been elevated to the "status" of dogma by endless repitition.
posted by meehawl at 7:11 AM on March 17, 2006


15% rate of "wrong button" errors in their testing for the design of the Xerox Star Office workstation, but accepted that error rate as a trade-off for input speed

Additionally, unless you can demonstrate that a similar sample of users performing the same tasks in the same time period using a 1-button + keyboard modifier regimen were able to "score" less then 15% error (includig incorrect keyboard selections) and maintain similar speeds then this finding does not support your 1-button-better hypothesis.
posted by meehawl at 7:14 AM on March 17, 2006


small update: current thinking now appears to be that while the videocard hardware is identical and thus compatible with existing drivers, there may be firmware differences and/or as-yet unresolved conflicts with the EFI loader itself.
posted by Ryvar at 7:23 AM on March 17, 2006


The discussion at hand here is whether there are valid reasons to design a GUI with a one-button mouse interface.

I was unaware of that. I thought the discussion was about using two buttons being too confusing. If you can use a keyboard you can use a mouse with two buttons. Sure there are valid reasons for some to use a one-button. They prefer it. There are also valid reasons to make a GUI that works with a two-button mouse, becuase different people work differently.


Well again. This is an empirical research question, and at least some of the research suggests that keychord sequences are not nearly as much of a timesaver as advocates like to claim. The problem is that people are very poor judges of how much time they actually spend on a task.


I call complete nonsense in that it's elevating the preferences of one set of people above others. I've seen people use the keyboard to call up menus far faster than dragging a mouse pointer around the screen, and I'm faster as well. However, I've seen some people who don't prefer to use the keyboard and so when they're forced to, they're slower. So of course at least some of the research suggests it's not as much a timesaver as "advocates" like to claim. But the point is the OS has all these options for all sorts of different people with different preferences and different ways of working.

Macs have always shipped with a keyboard, and many of them horrible to boot. A quick glance through many threads on Metafilter shows evidence that mistakes are often made using a keyboard. We call them typos. And why would Apple abandon their mouse approach and ship "confusing" mice with their systems these days?

And what meehawl said.
posted by juiceCake at 7:53 AM on March 17, 2006


I still stand behind my statement that if you allowed most average people to use the two systems side-by-side, more people would pick OS X. This has nothing to do with a pretty box. I am talking about the OS. I *do not* disagree with your work/home application and file compatibility argument. I just think this will become less relevant with time (especially if a machine can dual boot easily and Macs make inroads into the corp world).
posted by a_day_late at 7:30 AM EST on March 17 [!]

I just think people are far to diverse to confidently make such a statement, but we'll just have to agree to disagree. I think what people look for in a computer differs wildly and if they think of it merely as a commodity appliance, they'll barely spend the time needed to make that judgement. I find people's preference for computers are often influenced by what they're used to after a large amount of time using them. I really don't see much difference between the two OS's and can use both efficiently. I think each has their advantages and disadvantages and how important and unimportant those are to a person is very subjective.
posted by juiceCake at 7:59 AM on March 17, 2006


My wife is a naïve computer user. Not at all sophisticated, could not give a damn for learning how it should all work, not interested in finding tweaks and shite.

She has used Windows exclusively this past decade, and OS X since I purchased my laptop back in August. Which is to say she has a ton more experience on Windows.

Her view: the Mac "just works." Everything she wants to do, it does without making her hack about trying to figure out how to get it to work. On Windows, it's a morass of inconsistent UI, poor integration, and defaults that make no sense.

IMO, the Penny Arcade guys pretty much nailed it.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:21 AM on March 17, 2006


meehawl: I am skeptical about extrapolating results from immature humans and using them to construct devices and procedures for mature humans.

Of course you are aware that one of the intents of designing the Macintosh was for the broadest possible selection of users. But again, early studies also support a significant error rate among adults as well. Whether that error rate is acceptable or not depends a lot on how you design an application.

Apple's choice of one-button + lots of keyboard modifiers versus 2-button + less keyboard modifiers is not grounded in any definitive "science" of UI or cognitive operation, but instead reflects early irrational prejudices or hunches of key Apple personnel.

Well, to start with. This is changing the terms of the debate from "button + key modifiers" to "two buttons." Second, both single-button advocates and multiple-button advocates agreed that any form of a multiple-button action increases both complexity and error rate. Apple's early attempt at attacking this problem was to, as much as possible, eliminate procedures that required multiple-button actions. The multiple-button designers argued that multiple-button actions should be minimized or limited to a subset of tasks.

The support for multiple mouse-buttons is not grounded in any hard science either, but appears to be a traditional prejudice based on the historic precedent of the first mouse created (which only had three buttons because the designer couldn't attach more.) In addition the first mouse design was for expert users matched to a chorded keyboard that required six months to learn.

Additionally, unless you can demonstrate that a similar sample of users performing the same tasks in the same time period using a 1-button + keyboard modifier regimen were able to "score" less then 15% error (includig incorrect keyboard selections) and maintain similar speeds then this finding does not support your 1-button-better hypothesis.

Well, actually they did argue for a single-button selection scheme for many of the tasks embedded in their software, and judged the error rate as acceptable for a subset of tasks. If your argument is also that the increase in complexity and error is sometimes justified. Well, I would agree with you, but I'd still argue that the need for context menus should be eliminated when possible.

And in the future, please actually read my post before making a false claim about my hypothesis. I specifically did not say that a 1-button mouse was always better.

juiceCake: I call complete nonsense in that it's elevating the preferences of one set of people above others.

My, when we start talking about HCI research, suddenly the knee-jerk anti-intellectual defensive babble about preferences comes out of the closet.

No sir, not all preferences are equal or equivalent. When when you look beyond the individual preferences of geeks, and set a wide scope of people in front of workstations and time them with stopwatches, some interface models shine, and others stink. Learning keychords is more complex than most other interface models. Now certainly, I'm a keychord user myself, having started out on systems that demanded them once upon a time. And I'll make a passionate argument that all functions should be accessed from a keyboard for other reasons. But my love of keychords beyond Command-C/X/V is rapidly fading, and I cannot in any stretch of honesty claim that keychords are simple to learn and use.

And why would Apple abandon their mouse approach and ship "confusing" mice with their systems these days?

Well, as I've said (how many times?) before, in some cases the increase in complexity is a reasonable trade-off. And I think that it's a market-driven decision to a large degree. Many OS X users these days will want to use software ported from other operating systems that makes use of multi-button mouse interfaces. On the other hand, the design of the new Macintosh mice is nice because you have one big primary button, and a couple of tiny secondary buttons. And somehow it manages to do this and be ambidextrous.

I'm going to express a bit of frustration at your attempts to frame this discussion in such polar terms. It's not a matter of either this or that. It's a matter of finding the sweet-spot among multiple trade-offs. A much more honest and productive discussion would admit that these trade-offs exist and talk about when these trade-offs are justified.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:36 AM on March 17, 2006


I think the "1-button" philosophy was mainly a reaction to Sun's early 3-button mice, where each button did a different thing depending on which application you were using. There was no consistency among applications. Apple's choice was to have only one button, eliminating the possibility that developers would use the other buttons for stupid and inconsistent things. Anyone who used Windows 3.1 will recall how inconsistent mouse behavior was in many apps, and how annoying that was.

Then in 1995, MS finally figured out what to do with the right mouse button: make it pop up a context menu. It was a great step forward: instead of just selecting an object and then hunting the menus to see what you could do with it, you could click an object and say, "show me what I can do with you." This could be applied consistently across all applications, so there would be no confusion or inconsistency. It was received as a great idea: even Apple liked it so much that they built context menus into their later systems, but since the mouse only had one button you needed to press the control key while clicking.

Shortly thereafter, MS figured out what to do with the middle button: make it control scrolling. They even turned it into a little wheel so that its function would be obvious. Again, no confusion, always consistent. And such a good and obvious idea, in hindsight, that OS X has support for scroll wheels as well, on 3rd-party mice.

So it's not that Apple's decision was wrong; it's just that computer mice have undergone a long process of evolution and natural selection, and we have only recently discovered what to do with the extra buttons. Maybe someday someone will figure out what to do with a fourth button, and we'll wonder how we ever lived without one. Actually, I hope touch-screen interfaces are mature by then, so we can chuck this whole silly debate.
posted by purple_frogs at 10:52 AM on March 17, 2006


Two buttons ('select' and 'command') and a scroller seems plenty to me, what with four keyboard modifiers. Ugh. I hardly want yet more obscure combinations.

Select object, select command, scroll its variation — that seems like it'd pretty much cover everything.

But, then, 640K was enough for everyone!
posted by five fresh fish at 11:54 AM on March 17, 2006


And let's not forget the variations that include mouse gestures...
posted by five fresh fish at 11:55 AM on March 17, 2006


Her view: the Mac "just works." Everything she wants to do, it does without making her hack about trying to figure out how to get it to work. On Windows, it's a morass of inconsistent UI, poor integration, and defaults that make no sense.

IMO, the Penny Arcade guys pretty much nailed it.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:21 PM EST on March 17 [!]


That's fine. And I know people who have the opposite experience. I never denied it. Diversity was my point.

I've had to "figure out" how to do a number of things in both OS's. I really don't see one winning over the other. But hey, we're different, and we have different needs and preferences.
posted by juiceCake at 1:28 PM on March 17, 2006


juiceCake: I call complete nonsense in that it's elevating the preferences of one set of people above others.

My, when we start talking about HCI research, suddenly the knee-jerk anti-intellectual defensive babble about preferences comes out of the closet.


Nothing knee-jerk about it. I think it's nonsense and always have. My personal experience differs, I apologize for being honest.

No sir, not all preferences are equal or equivalent.


Yes, I know that. That's what I said. That's the key point I've been presenting. Hence, one preference does not fit the wide demographic of computer users.

When when you look beyond the individual preferences of geeks, and set a wide scope of people in front of workstations and time them with stopwatches, some interface models shine, and others stink. Learning keychords is more complex than most other interface models.

You don't say. I'm not interested in looking beyond individual preferences. That's my problem with this research. I appreciate an OS that has the ability to tailor to a diverse group. Learning keychords may well be complex, but it's not confusing. Unfortunately, platformism has made a mountain of a mole-hill over this sort of thing.

Now certainly, I'm a keychord user myself, having started out on systems that demanded them once upon a time. And I'll make a passionate argument that all functions should be accessed from a keyboard for other reasons. But my love of keychords beyond Command-C/X/V is rapidly fading, and I cannot in any stretch of honesty claim that keychords are simple to learn and use.

That's fine. I've had the opposite effect. All mouse on Macs and Amigas. Now, increasingly, keychords. I much faster and productive as a result, despite the study. I'm not trying to say my preference overules yours or anyone else's, I'm saying they can coexist, and yet we have an argument that there is a better way. An argument I don't buy, which apparently makes me anti-intellectual. Utter nonsense.

I'm going to express a bit of frustration at your attempts to frame this discussion in such polar terms. It's not a matter of either this or that. It's a matter of finding the sweet-spot among multiple trade-offs. A much more honest and productive discussion would admit that these trade-offs exist and talk about when these trade-offs are justified.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:36 PM EST on March 17 [!]


And I'm going to express a bit of frustration at your attempts to present my argument as if it is in polar terms. I've done nothing of the sort. I've said, again and again, that the level of confusion is tiny in regard to understanding how a two-button mouse works I've drawn analogies to other multiple button input devices, like say, a keyboard, that is also an integral part of the computing experience, at least currently. I've have also pointed out how different people are and how such studies don't truly address or quantify these differences. That's polar? Diversity is polar?

I felt the conversation was going very well and different viewpoints were being presented. I wasn't aware that one has to win over the other or vice-versa. Not my intention. I see I've been given the wrong impression.
posted by juiceCake at 1:42 PM on March 17, 2006


But, then, 640K was enough for everyone!
posted by five fresh fish at 2:54 PM EST on March 17 [!]


And an integrated Intel graphics processor wasn't good until recently...

Taking statements out of context. That's always funny isn't it.
posted by juiceCake at 1:45 PM on March 17, 2006


You seem to be the one that's engaged in trying to win, juicecake. My comment was entirely apropos of yours. I hadn't even seen your post when I wrote mine. Geesh.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:27 PM on March 17, 2006


And for fucks' sake, the 640k comment was self-mockery.

I didn't piss in your cornflakes this morning. Quit taking your shit out on me.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:28 PM on March 17, 2006


And for fucks' sake, the 640k comment was self-mockery.

I didn't piss in your cornflakes this morning. Quit taking your shit out on me.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:28 PM EST on March 17 [!]


I realized that fff. And was commenting on how that is usually used. You missed that obviously. You didn't piss in my cornflakes, who pissed in yours?
posted by juiceCake at 3:23 PM on March 17, 2006


juiceCake: Ahh, to heck with it.

The reason why I think you are being polar is that, at least to me, it seems that you are somehow frightened that I'm going to agitate for taking away your precious keychords. I don't know how many times I've said that an OS should support multiple preferences for input methods. (Although my reasons for supporting keychords have more to do with accessibility rather than illusions of usability.)

However, my support of diversity embedded in human-computer interfaces is grounded in the kinds of HCI research that you reject. And it's not your statement of a preference that strikes me as anti-intellectual. It's this entire notion that we can't judge some interface ideas as being better than others in regards to usability that's anti-intellectual.

And you know something, people have been studying HCI issues in a wide variety of populations and domains. Young people, old people, novices, experts, people using an interface in their mother tongue, and people using an interface in a language they learned as adults, gender, ethnicity. You name it, it's been studied. This idea that HCI people are not concerned with human diversity is pure bullshit.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:30 PM on March 17, 2006


Screw it, juicecake. Either you've been a jackass or I'm so wholly misreading you that I'm the jackass. I'm opting out of proving it one way or the other. Enjoy your mice.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:08 PM on March 17, 2006


Screw it, juicecake. Either you've been a jackass or I'm so wholly misreading you that I'm the jackass. I'm opting out of proving it one way or the other. Enjoy your mice.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:08 PM EST on March 17 [!]


I haven't the slightest idea what you're talking about. As far as I can tell, know one is being a jackass and there is nothing to prove. Just an exchange of opinons that I thought was rather pleasant but you and Kirk did not.

I only have one mouse. I don't really enjoy it. I use my keyboard mainly.
posted by juiceCake at 11:16 PM on March 18, 2006


juiceCake: Ahh, to heck with it.

The reason why I think you are being polar is that, at least to me, it seems that you are somehow frightened that I'm going to agitate for taking away your precious keychords. I don't know how many times I've said that an OS should support multiple preferences for input methods. (Although my reasons for supporting keychords have more to do with accessibility rather than illusions of usability.)


First off, I'm not at all frightened. Why would I be?

Second, they're not precious, I've been arguing against preciousness in these matters the entire time.

I obviously disagree with you and the study about the "illusions" of usability and I give more credit to people and individuals than the study does, which seems to cast people as complete simpletons. In short, I believe the study is flawed.

However, my support of diversity embedded in human-computer interfaces is grounded in the kinds of HCI research that you reject.


I don't reject them outright, I reject the generalized conclusions based on my own experience and that of my colleagues.

And it's not your statement of a preference that strikes me as anti-intellectual. It's this entire notion that we can't judge some interface ideas as being better than others in regards to usability that's anti-intellectual.

Actually, it's the idea that people are too stupid to understand how to use two mouse buttons but aren't too stupid to use their fingers to press multiple buttons on a keyboard that is anti-intellectual. But obviously we disagree. No big deal to me. I've enjoyed the exhange of opinions and I'm sorry you haven't.

And you know something, people have been studying HCI issues in a wide variety of populations and domains. Young people, old people, novices, experts, people using an interface in their mother tongue, and people using an interface in a language they learned as adults, gender, ethnicity. You name it, it's been studied. This idea that HCI people are not concerned with human diversity is pure bullshit.

And some of their conclusions and assumptions are pure bullshit too. Not all, but some, and lauding one conclusion over all others is the epitomy of bullshit. I'm sorry, but neither me nor many of my colleagues find using a second mouse button anything like hand gymnastics (unless the mouse is an old Xerox or Sun one, which were poorly designed.) Nor have I met or worked with anyone who finds them confusing. I apologize for making my own judgements based on my own experience and not pretending that they are the correct ones for everyone.
posted by juiceCake at 11:24 PM on March 18, 2006


That's "no one" not "know one." Cleary human error and not the fault of my ergo keyboard.
posted by juiceCake at 11:26 PM on March 18, 2006


« Older The current (and very amusing) Keith Olberman v Bi...  |  The happiness poll results are... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments