Is OS X really going to work?
October 10, 2001 8:48 AM   Subscribe

Is OS X really going to work? I've been a Mac tech for almost 6 years now and I feel that OSX is a very risky endeavor for Apple. It's weird and users don't like it - I'm talking about companies who rely on Mac, not developers or the "power users" who always adopt early. Not one single client of mine is interested in learning a new OS or buying all new software (and hardware) for the privilege of learning that new OS. It seems to me that production departments and agencies have too many deadlines to meet to futz with learning curves, slow apps in OS9, and myriad other issues. Does anyone else get this feedback from clients? Wouldn't it be just as easy to give in and switch to PeeCee, like many of the departments I support are being pushed to anyway? What do you guys think about OSX and Apple's future?
posted by misangela (61 comments total)
Well, it's a bit early to start pulling the shroud over OS X.

Right now, corporate entities and power users are reluctant to make the switch. If they are willing, there installing it on a partition, ensuring that their OS 9 systems remain intact (I'm actually planning to install it on a spare hard drive this afternoon).

The problem is that there aren't any must have applications for it yet. When a more powerful version of Photoshop is released, and when Maya is made available (a product which anyone involved in 3D work is salivating for), I believe you'll see more widespread adoption.

Remember, those creative offices who switched to the Mac in the first place did so because the platform offered far better support for high end graphics applications. If the same is true of OS X, creative professionals, schools, and folks like myself will be happy to adjust to the new environment.
posted by aladfar at 8:58 AM on October 10, 2001

I have yet to see OSX in action, so I can't really comment - but as a mac user for my whole computer literate life I look forward to trying it.

What other option did Apple have, they couldn't keep working on the old OS as surely it's getting a bit out of date. Should they have bought Be when they had the chance?
posted by twistedonion at 9:03 AM on October 10, 2001

From what I've read, the Apple retail stores have been a big success so far. Apple has (mostly) been profitable for quite a few years now. OS X has generally received great reviews and is certainly a much stronger bedrock for them to build on than "Classic" was. It's taking a little longer to get the core applications ported over than expected, but it still seems to be moving at a good clip. People didn't want to learn to use mice once, either.

My company is pretty much settled on OS 9 for the moment; we're all-Mac and have around 20 machines. Our next upgrade will certainly be to OS X, and not Windows; we want to establish a nice robust web and database server and X will allow us to do that.

misångela, for every hand-wringing article like the one you posted, there's another extolling Apple for the bold choices it has made with X. I don't think the company is in any way in the toilet the way it was in, say, 1996.
posted by bcwinters at 9:05 AM on October 10, 2001

Oh, and twistedonion: Now they can just buy Palm and get Be for free! Watch the rumors sites get their underpants in a wad over THAT possibility...
posted by bcwinters at 9:07 AM on October 10, 2001

You make a lot of false implications and assertions in this post. I work at a daily newspaper (circ. 40,000) that is practically ALL Mac-based (except for circulation and a few accounting machines). My boss is head of the MIS department and he predicts that EVERY Mac in the building will be running OS X within a year. We've already moved a handful (including mine and our web server) to OS X. The new 10.1 release greatly improved performance and included a lot of nice interface tweaks.

There's no "new OS" to learn; it's basically a Mac with some new features. Most users here (99% of them) will never look "under the hood" at the Unix stuff. Those of us that need or want to can do so.

We don't need new hardware (with a few exceptions, but they need new hardware NOW) to run OS X. It runs about 95% as fast as OS 9.1 on my 300MHz G3, and we have a LOT of faster machines here. Classic performance is much faster and more stable in 10.1. We would need ALL new machines to switch to Windows.

Sure, we're waiting for some software, but all of our major vendors (Quark, Adobe, BaseView) have all announced or released OS X versions of the software we use. We upgrade software continually, anyway, so that's not such a big deal; that expense has been budgeted. Much of the software we use (including all of our editorial, classifieds, production management software) doesn't run under Windows, so we would have to basically rebuild the entire process from scratch. For that plus the hardware costs, you're easily over the million-dollar mark for us.

The primary advantages: MUCH more stable (esp. the protected memory), and native apps are MUCH faster and MUCH more powerful. That's what any production environment wants: maximum stability and maximum performance. OS X has that all over MacOS Classic or Windows. Efficiency of use will come with experience, just as with any software package upgrade or major OS upgrade.

Plus, I predict we'll see OS X adopted in a lot of enterprise applications. The use of OS X servers will increase as soon as Apple gets its head out of its ass on true server hardware (rackmountable, hot-swappable parts, redundant power supplies, etc., etc.).
posted by sjarvis at 9:08 AM on October 10, 2001

I tried to switch to MacOS X and downgraded to OS 9 less than two weeks later. I had no particular problem with the OS itself, but one particular app my job depends on worked very poorly. I've heard it's been upgraded now, but I don't care all that much - 9.1 works pretty well.

I think OS X sucked. OS X.1 looks a lot better. X.2, or whatever they end up calling it, will likely be the version that finally makes Mac users feel at home.

It is a risky endeavour, but they haven't much choice. I think Apple surprised everyone with the length of time they were able to keep the old MacOS alive.

Switching to a PC-based OS? Not going to happen - there's no way I'm giving up my PowerBook! And anyway, why bother? MacOS X has its frustrating rough edges, but it's still less annoying than Windows.

posted by Mars Saxman at 9:09 AM on October 10, 2001

Oh, and twistedonion: Now they can just buy Palm and get Be for free! Watch the rumors sites get their underpants in a wad over THAT possibility...

Gotta love rumours sites - I really can't see Apple buy Palm, although I love my old Newton - wish they had stuck with that one
posted by twistedonion at 9:11 AM on October 10, 2001

OS X's big problem is IT departments who insist on single-config solutions for their users. That means that users can't pick the machine that works for them - to invest in OS X means investing in it for everyone.

In such environments it doesn't matter how great OS X is - and it is a great OS already, even missing some apps - it will never catch on. Note that I believe this is an indictment of the IT departments that insist on such solutions, not Apple.
posted by mikel at 9:15 AM on October 10, 2001

I think that OS X won't be a necessity until the next major release. At that point, the apps will be ported and the hardware will have been upgraded for almost everyone to be on a G3 or equivalent. The key is stability. Our mac teams at my office are still production on OS 9.2.1, but they're dabbling with X with the team members who are quick to pick up. The IS team is actually HAPPY about os X compared to OS 9 because they know what they can do with a BSD core. They like the terminal. They like that they can run nmap and photoshop with very little work.

With RAM being so cheap, the company is upgrading machines that need a bit more umph behind them.

What will be interesting to see is how major companies (e.g. Adobe and Microsoft) allow for upgrade paths from OS 9 to OS X concurrent versions. If it's reasonable (read: free) then people will probably migrate. if not, they'll wait for major upgrade cycles.

Apple needs to get sales people going out one on one with design studios and other major clients and saying "here is how you can SAVE money in production gained (not redoing crashed files) and administration"
posted by eljuanbobo at 9:17 AM on October 10, 2001

I bought my computer a little less than a year ago (10/13/00), and it's a mac9, and all that I have to say about the difference in it and the 7.0 mac lap top is: the internal modem, and the thing runs faster. Other than that, I like my lap top better. This thing isn't compatable with my printer, scanner, or digital camera that is compatable with the lap top and my boyfriend's 410 performa, which is so old, CD ROM drives weren't invented yet. I kinda don't wanna see X if it's not as good as 9 or worse. 9 is bad enough.
posted by Katy Action at 9:22 AM on October 10, 2001

<bitter former Mac user>
Well, everyone upgraded from System 6 to System 7 when it came out, even though 7 was unreliable bloatware that broke half their software. And they kept on upgrading (if you can call it that--the version numbers got bigger, but the system didn't improve) even when Apple decided to go back on their earlier promises and start charging for the OS. And they've already accepted one complete platform change--68k to PowerPC--that required running all older software in emulation. So looking at history, it seems to me that Mac users will buy anything Apple can shit out.
</bitter former Mac user>

(And yet, despite everything, I'm still kind of intruiged by OSX. I love the idea of a BSD-based system with a good GUI, and Apple certainly does know GUIs.)
posted by moss at 9:23 AM on October 10, 2001

from an admitted cheerleader:

"If Cocoa is even half as good as NeXTStep (and initial indications are that it is better), we could see an explosion of high-quality applications written by individuals or extremely small companies. This means that OS X has the power to revolutionize the software industry."
posted by kliuless at 9:34 AM on October 10, 2001

It's intriguing to see the demographics shifting. As people who've spent a few years playing with Linux start looking at more robust and versatile operating systems, a lot of people are going to be drawn to the BSDish underbelly of OS X. At the same time, though, the apps that keep Apple in the workplace -- Quark, Photoshop, MS Office et al -- aren't really ready yet. So you may get interest at the server/developer level, but I can't see it affecting the stranglehold of Windows on the corporate desktop. Not with the kind of lock-in that Dell/Intel/MS has on bulk purchasers.

I'd happily buy an Apple machine now as a development platform, which hasn't been the case for years.
posted by holgate at 9:35 AM on October 10, 2001

OS X has caught my interest, and I haven't used an Apple since the IIgs. I'm contemplating a platform switch, having had enough of the Redmond folks' ways. There will be a learning curve for me no matter which OS is on the thing, and frankly, for me, X.1 is much more appealing than 9.2.

From the article:
Have you ever been to Apple’s Discussion Boards? That’s a scary place and a great source to find people ready to switch to a PC.

The Mac boards are full of people threatening to bolt to Dell if Apple doesn't get its act together. The Palm boards are full of people ready to switch to Pocket PC if Palm/Handspring/Sony doesn't get its act together. Particle of NaCl.
posted by mcwetboy at 9:38 AM on October 10, 2001

I've been using OS X regularly since the Public Beta, so you should know how I feel — I love being able to have the ease and feel of a Mac and the history of Classic apps while still being able to develop on things like Tomcat, Cocoon, Zope, et. al. locally. I mean, the uptime alone is worth it.
posted by teradome at 10:05 AM on October 10, 2001

(note: i am a PC user that is trying to attain a state of holistic bi-OS-ness.)

the problem i have with OSX is the need for what i suppose is a "classic mode" when it launches apps written for OS9. i know that WinNT and Win2K have their virtual machines to handle 16- or 32-bit apps, but that process is mostly invisible. in our hybrid office of Macs and PCs, email is Exchange based and all of the Macs run Microsoft Office. we cannot roll OSX as a standard platform because the MS apps are all considered "classic" apps, and "classic mode" is simply not stable.

i must be rambling. i'll shut up now.
posted by grabbingsand at 10:19 AM on October 10, 2001

I'm an arty guy, but with OSX I've jumped into writing C, PHP, creating SQL darabases, using powerful web apps (roxen) and learned a lot more about Unix.

To me, that's the power of the Mac. Every time I tried the same steps in Linux or Windows, I hit too many problems to want to keep trying.
posted by jragon at 10:24 AM on October 10, 2001

Office will be X-native Real Soon Now. In fact, Microsoft will let you download a trial version of Word for X; the only thing the trial version doesn't do is print.
posted by kindall at 10:25 AM on October 10, 2001

Since when is a prediction of doom for Apple newsworthy? I am not worried. Why would anyone choose to switch to Windows instead of OS X? The learning curve would be just as steep and for sure you would have to replace all your hardware and software. For that reward, you would get an undoubtedly (in my opinion) inferior OS.

If you are using Macs in the first place, you likely have a great reason to be doing so. Otherwise, the average Joe with no idea of what he wants or needs will buy a cheap PC because that is what everyone else does. One of the reasons to buy Mac since the iMac came out was to be stylish, and that will not go away either. So I don't see Apple's market share shrinking much at all because of OS X.

On top of that, I do see it growing because people will eventually notice that OS X is great and unique as a unixish OS with a Mac UI.

It will take a long period of time for the transition. I can't use it because I want Dreamweaver and Photoshop to come out. And one of my internal hard drives is no longer recognized by 10.1 after updating. And my zip drive isn't being recognized either. Eventually these problems will clear up and I am looking forward to being able to use it as my main OS.
posted by daser at 10:35 AM on October 10, 2001

That's what any production environment wants: maximum stability and maximum performance. OS X has that all over MacOS Classic or Windows.

I'm not really a partisan either way, but, using current versions of Office, Photoshop, and all those other productivity staples, my WinXP machine hasn't been rebooted in 35 days. Thirty-five days ago is when I installed it.

The one guinea pig in our office running OS X.I hasn't had two days without a reboot yet, mostly due to Classic's instability. Yeah, it could be the configuration of the machine or whatever, but I wouldn't have recommended Windows NT 3.1 to clients trying to run 16-bit apps, either.
posted by anildash at 10:37 AM on October 10, 2001

Aren't most of the people going to the Apple Stores just the "Mac Faithful"? I mean, are the stores actually converting anyone - any actual evidence of that?
posted by owillis at 10:42 AM on October 10, 2001

Not to turn this into a Linux/Win/Mac debate, but one of my linux boxes has been going for 90 days now and, over the past year, our two linux boxes average 30-60 days without reboots (the last time mine was down was due to an overnight power outage). Neither box gets a lot of load, but my Win98 laptop couldn't sit still for a week w/o crashing.

I used to be Mac user, then I switched to Linux and now I use all three, depending on the task. I'm looking forward to trying OSX on one of our Mac boxes and it may be the best solution for those who want the stability of Unix but with a more familiar interface (though, for that matter, I like KDE better than the Win or Mac GUIs).

The best solution, for me, would be VMware running Win2000 on top of Linux. Now if they'd work out a licensing agreement with Apple so I could run OSX, too, it would be the best of worlds.
posted by wheat at 10:51 AM on October 10, 2001

I've been using OS X since shortly after it was released (I've got an older G4 with 896 MB of RAM). Dreamweaver 4, Flash 4, Illustrator 9, Photoshop 6, and all of the Microsoft Office apps all run great in 10.1's Classic mode (some of them had window-drawing problems under 10.0.4 but were otherwise stable). Adding RAM is the key to OS X, but RAM is cheap.

I think adoption of OS X is going to take off when the OS X versions of the Adobe and Microsoft apps are released, but you can use the existing versions now. And it would be nice if Adobe and Macromedia had a stronger commitment to supporing OS X, since both companies' initial success was built on the Mac.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:15 AM on October 10, 2001

as a side note, if you do plan on buying ram for apples, don't buy them from apple. if you've been to their web store, it should go without saying; their ram is ludicrously priced. MacSlash links to Ramjet, a reseller of apple ram, which sells their modules for far more reasonable prices. (compare with the G4 tower; if you want 256M instead of 128M, you must add $100 to the computer's price at the apple store; ramjet could hook you up with an extra 128M module for $29.)
posted by moz at 11:21 AM on October 10, 2001

There's no "new OS" to learn; it's basically a Mac with some new features.

I don't agree with this at all. Considerable changes have been made to the UI which many of us have grown to love over the years -- no dragging a window from any edge, no application menu, no more all windows from the same application coming forward by clicking on just one of the windows. The list goes on and on of small things that used to make the Mac OS so much more of a joy to use. Then there's the innovations: the horrible task bar, the default hierchical folder system, etc. Whatever this is, it isn't a Mac OS. I'm coming to the conclusion that the closest Mac OS still available to us is maybe Win2k. I've yet to get my hands on XP but I'll seriously give it consideration come upgrade time.

Personal note: I've been a Mac enthusiast since Multifinder.
posted by leo at 11:23 AM on October 10, 2001

I just wanted to second kirkaracha. I'm dismayed that Adobe especially has been slow with OS X versions of their software, but MacroMedia and Quark need to hurry up as well.

What's the alternative? When misångela talks about "futzing with learning curves", what would they have to do with WinXP or a Linux? I see it as an opposite reaction, that Windows users will take a look at OS X, but again not until the software is there.

As it's always been, applications are the key, no matter what OS.
posted by jbunch at 11:28 AM on October 10, 2001

I don't always understand people's stability concerns involving Macs. At least two of our Macs (which are both used for ad production, running Photoshop, Quark, and Distiller basically continuously) haven't been rebooted in ages, and haven't crashed in at least 7 or 8 months. And they are in constant use, with many 3rd party extensions (the last reboot was done after an install of the utterly wonderful Action Files). The mail server at a company I do some tech work for, an old Performa running 7.6.something with EIMS, hasn't been rebooted in close to 2 years. I get so tired of Linux users trying to taunt me with tales of how stable their machines are; there are plenty of mac users getting rock solid performance, whether under X or Classic. (Then again, running Classic Compatibility Mode via OS X is DEFINITELY not something I'd want to stake my business on. Blech!)
posted by bcwinters at 11:34 AM on October 10, 2001

I'm dismayed that Adobe especially has been slow with OS X versions of their software

Adobe has stated that they're doing the X port in their next product upgrade cycle, rather than doing a separate cycle just to port the existing applications to X. Illustrator 10 and Indesign 2 have already been announced (the former by the end of this year, the latter in Q1 2002) and, as promised, they're Mac OS X native.

This may well qualify as "slow," but I think it's a reasonable strategy. It's not as if you can't run the older versions in the Classic mode.
posted by kindall at 11:46 AM on October 10, 2001

I have been using OS X.1 for a little while now and it is pretty nice. I tihnk that I can finally get some work done on it. I have had it installed since the public beta and have been kinda bouncing back and forth between it and OS 9, but it is finally to the point where I can switch to it as my full-time OS. It is so nice to be able to execute all my perl scripts locally on Apache. Strangely, I installed it on my main G4 and my Adaptec 2906 SCSI card worked automatically, and it recognised the SCSI Zip drive i had hooked up to it automatically. My Canon scanner and S110 camera both work fine through photoshop in Classic mode too. And the whole thing actually runs at a decent speed. The main downside for me is that it is so bright that it hurts my eyes. Why did all the window borders have to be white and not grey, with no borders? I can't tell the damn things apart when I have 20 or so open and it bugs me to death. Most of the rest of my problems I attribute to learning/adjustment, but this one gets me.
posted by donkeymon at 11:47 AM on October 10, 2001

Funny that this thread should come up .. I was just looking at some web pages describing how to setup PostgreSQL and PHP on Mac OS X.

I've been a Mac user since the original 128k Mac and have never considered it for any server tasks (it makes a wonderful client.)

Most of the development work I do these days is based on ASP or JSP. The whole .NET thing looks like another 10 years of lock-in. And the licensing costs for Microsoft products is getting way out of control.

In contrast, Mac OS X lets me run my server apps (SQL, Apache, JSP/PHP) and the traditional client apps (Office, Photoshop, Email.) No ridiculous licensing fees for the server stuff, either.

The people who are complaining are the ones who don't have the client apps (yet) .. in a year they'll be as happy as those of us running the server apps.
posted by Chief Typist at 12:45 PM on October 10, 2001

I've used PCs since I put the IIgs in the attic.

When the new TiBooks come out, I'm ordering one, and I'll run OS X as my main OS.

My mother (the least technical person on earth) and two of my friends (one a professional programmer, one looking at grad programs in computer science) also just bought their first macs.

I think that OS X, combined with the attractiveness of the hardware, stands to pull in a lot of people that have never owned a Mac.
posted by jeb at 12:51 PM on October 10, 2001

As for the learning curve, I don't see why anyone who has been using a Mac can't go right to OSX without a hitch.

So, you'll have to eventually upgrade your apps when they are native if you want the speed. Big deal, that happens anyway.
posted by abosio at 1:06 PM on October 10, 2001

Apple should fire the creative geniuses who named OSX after
OS/2. They could have at least pronounced it "Oh-Sex".
posted by username at 1:26 PM on October 10, 2001

They could have at least pronounced it "Oh-Sex".

A long time ago, when SCSI was a new peripheral standard on Macs, an Apple Evangelist told me SCSI should be pronounced 'sexy' not 'scuzzy'.
posted by boaz at 1:37 PM on October 10, 2001

You're right about the hesitance to switch to a new OS. That's a function of trying to reduce change in an IT environment. This is the same whether it's Win or Mac. I can tell you, though, having used the Mac since 1987, and Win/WinNT/Win2000 since 1995, it's a heck of a lot easier to transition to OS X from Mac than to transition to Win.
posted by mmarcos at 1:40 PM on October 10, 2001

I think that everyone who is interested enough to have an opinion on OSX should give 10.1 a spin and see what they think.

I've been using Macs since 6.0.8 ('90) and had recently become a unix freak ('97). I love linux's stability and the gnu-tools philosophy (use a bunch of little, well-wrought widgets to do sophisticated stuff). I found myself trashing my beloved Macs but still using them for music production (Logic Audio, MOTU 828 and Native Instruments software). Then I bought a Tibook and installed 10.1. Now I grieve when I have to reboot into OS9 to use my audio....

I love OSX. I can run XFree on it and have my unix blackbox windows right on my screen with Quartz windows. I can run MySQL and apache and ruby and vim and emacs (I *can* run emacs, but as I am sane I choose not to). I can program in Cocoa (which is *nice*). When my audio softs get ported (which I figure might take a while) I will be happier with my system than I have ever been with a computer.

OSX is fast enough. The GUI looks bad in screenshots but is a breeze to use and the flex that is afforded by having UNIX under the hook and X makes linux a less attractive option. I have taken the monitor off my linux box at home and only use it for file services, httpd and as a firewall. OSX did what linux has been unable to do -- develop a very satisfying and well engineered GUI/desktop system that works (mostly) with UNIX.

Hopefully Apple will release it's hold on the particulars of the GUI (I *need* multiple workspaces ala blackbox and other unix windowmanagers) and we will have the holy grail.

And 10.1 runs great on my 400Mhz G4 with 256MB ram which is pretty modest with respect to "new" machines.

And the TiBook is just the best piece of hardware I've used ever. I'm toally in love with it. Light, the display has a more sane aspect ratio, etc. I use it live with my MOTU firewire audio interface to do some pretty sophisticated stuff. I can play my sax *through* my computer like an effects pedal and have mutiple delays, pro-level reverbs and crazy abstract sounds. I can play a virtual B3 organ and Rhodes electric piano, I can use Reason and have as many synths and drum machines as I want, etc, etc, all for $3K and all weighing less than 10lbs. A year ago I wouldn't even dream of this.

But back to OSX, if it doesn't work out it is only because the world is not ready. Apple has suffered for the same reason before.
posted by n9 at 2:03 PM on October 10, 2001

also -- please note that OSX is maybe the most easily admin'd desktop OS ever. You wanna install Eudora on everyone's machines? Set up ssh correctly when you roll them out and a simple, simple perl script can do the job in no time at all. That could save IT tons of dosh and allow for better, more bug free systems for all. Think about it.
posted by n9 at 2:08 PM on October 10, 2001

Let me preface this by saying that I am a long-time supporter of Apple and the Mac platform. I am also very happy to see UNIX reach a wider audience. That said, I am thus far very disappointed by OSX, primarily because it lacks the user interface consistency, simplicity, and polish of its predecessors. Many of these issues have been discussed before in various Mac forums and on Ask Tog, so I won't present them here.

Why Apple saw fit to base the UI of its latest OS on the design of computers they no longer make (recent designs are moving away from colored gumdrop plastic) is something I'll never understand. They had an opportunity to push the envelope on UI design -- to extend the brilliant work they'd already done with System 6, 7, etc. Instead, they went for form over function. Honestly, I can't see upgrading until they offer an alternative UI that gets out of my way and lets me get my work done.

It's make or break time for Apple and OSX can either lead them into the future or confine them to the dustbin of history. I certainly hope they stick around, but I'm not so convinced as of OSX 10.1.
posted by jacobris at 2:32 PM on October 10, 2001

A long time ago, when SCSI was a new peripheral standard on Macs, an Apple Evangelist told me SCSI should be pronounced 'sexy' not 'scuzzy'.

Actually, when I got my first hard drive for my Apple //e it was a SASI (Shugart Associates Standard Interface) or 'sassy' drive. When the standard was altered slightly to become SCSI we did pronounce it 'sexy' for a while until we were taught better by our teachers...
posted by RevGreg at 3:10 PM on October 10, 2001

I have been running OS 10.1 on a Powerbook Pismo (G3 firewire) with 640 megs RAM. (A 512 meg DIMM is only $88 for this guy!)

I love OSX, although I must admit I boot up in 9.2.1 every so often. My ongoing frustration with 9.x is, after waking the computer up 3-4 times without restart, it freezes. 9.2.1 still freezes occasionally while running in Classic mode under OSX, but I love that I can reboot it in the backgroud while continuing to surf the web.

Once you get use to X, 9.x looks so shabby.

One other thing: I've been using Windows XP on my PC. If you switch all of appearance settings to Windows classic, you wind up with, essentially Windows 98. OSX is a total overhaul. While it is intuitive to previous Mac users, there is no doubt that everything is different.
posted by eperker at 3:15 PM on October 10, 2001

jacobris, about the UI looking like obsolete gumdrop-plastic:

If you set the appearance to Graphite, all of the colors look very titanium and totaly consistant with the new PowerBook and G4 towers.
posted by eperker at 3:25 PM on October 10, 2001

To beat an already overused analogy to death: Upgrading your Windows 98 Car to an XP Car will make things change colors and look rounder. You can push a button and make it look like the old car, but at least the dashboard's still where it was. The XP car will run better and still go everywhere it used to go.

Upgrading your OS9 car to an OSX car will remove your car's interior controls and put each one somewhere else. Some things will stay where they were, but they will do different things (you will put your turn signal on and your winshield will be cleaned for you). Under the hood, well, let's just say you'll need a totally different mechanic. And when you try to drive where you have been driving all along for years with no problems, you'll suddenly find you can only do it at half the speed and random obstacles will spontaneously appear. (This is because the car has to simulate what it would be like if you were still driving on the old roads. The car won't naturally do it.) While you're turning the steering wheel on the celing and manipulating the joystick on the floorboards, your radio will come on (under the back seat) and assure you that new obstacle-free roads will soon be released, for a "small fee." You just have to stay alive long enough. Be sure to wear your translucent plastic seatbelt!

This has been Cliche Metaphor Theater. We now return you to posts from people who actually know what they're talking about.
posted by kevspace at 3:36 PM on October 10, 2001

If you switch all of appearance settings to Windows classic, you wind up with, essentially Windows 98

If you switch it all back it looks like Windows 98; it's still based on the vastly superior (to DOS) WinNT kernel.

My TiBook has not been restarted since I upgraded to 10.1, but 1) I never use classic, 2) It's only been a week.
posted by boaz at 3:38 PM on October 10, 2001

n9, have you checked out space.dock:
posted by mmarcos at 3:51 PM on October 10, 2001

I've been using Macs since 1985; my first Mac was a 128, and the system software was so old it didn't have a unified release number. I've been using UNIX® since 1987, and have worked for the company that invented UNIX for that whole time. That said....

I hate OS X.

When it was first announced, I thought "Oh goody! If anyone can make a user-friendly version of UNIX, it's Apple."

I've since concluded that it's impossible to make UNIX user-friendly.

It really doesn't help that His Steveness axed the entire usability department, the group that made the difference between a sucky computer like everything out there and a somewhat less sucky computer like the Mac. No, usability testing now has a test bed of one, and he likes to lick his screen, hence Aqua.

All the things that make UNIX elegant for programmers are there, and for the times when I want to do programmerish stuff, that's great. But the rest of the time, I don't want to use a computer. I want to write, or I want to retouch photos of my family, or I want to control my shortwave radio, or I want to read Metafilter, or whatever. Whatever I want to do, I don't want my computer to get in the way.

OS X gets in the way.

The dock literally gets in the way.

My litmus test is whether or not I want to install a new system on my father's computer. The answer, as long as fixing certain things forces users to use the terminal, or as long as the Dock remains the unfriendly pain in the ass that it is, or as long as switching to all of an application's windows is impossible, is never. I will never install this OS on my dad's computer, because I want to see my fiancee occasionally.

I think Apple is toast. I just don't think they know it yet. And OS X will be what kills it. This kills me, because there's no viable usable alternative out there. And with Microsoft sitting astride the world, there never will be. So computers will continue to suck forever. The last best hope has gone over to the dark side, making an OS that only a geek could love. Maybe I can do all my work on my Palm IIIx....
posted by geneablogy at 4:28 PM on October 10, 2001

Geneablogy, my thoughts exactly. At this rate, will computers ever be as friendly and reliable as your stereo components? Not likely. Instead of pushing forward, both MS and Apple are covering old ground and slapping a new face on concepts originally invented at XEROX PARC years ago.
posted by jacobris at 5:14 PM on October 10, 2001

For those that have mentioned not being able to bring all apps to the screen at the same time, hold option and click an app. It's that easy.

(if it doesn't sound easy, think about this : to hide all apps in OS9, you hold option/apple and click an app. [I think] Keyboard shortcuts are a way of life on the mac)

Owillis, yes -- the stores are designed specifically for grabbing new Windows users. The stated mission statement of the stores is to go from 5% market share to 10%.

When Apple was doing market research for the stores, they found that people weren't deterred from the Mac because of price, ease of use, colors, or anything like that. It's just that they didn't even consider an alternative to Windows.

Personally, every time I've shown a computer-nuetral person what a Mac can do above and beyond Windows, they've gone for the Mac. This is what the stores are betting on.
posted by jragon at 6:23 PM on October 10, 2001

Personally, every time I've shown a computer-nuetral person what a Mac can do above and beyond Windows, they've gone for the Mac. This is what the stores are betting on.

That's a statement that perplexes me. As I sit here running PHP and MySQL and Apache alongside IIS and the desktop version of MS SQL, I think I've got a great development platform for any common web stuff. Plus Office, of course, and the latest versions of any graphics or design app like Photoshop and Illustrator and Dreamweaver or whatever.

What can you do that I can't? I know jut as many Windows shortcut keys as Mac users know with their systems, plus I have the added advantage of the second mouse button actually being on my mouse, instead of on the keyboard.

Seriously, though, what can a Mac do that my WinXP system can't?
posted by anildash at 7:13 PM on October 10, 2001

Seriously, though, what can a Mac do that my WinXP system can't?
  • Out-of-the-box
    • Application Programming (it's +$500 for MS Visual C++)
    • Movie Editing (some DVD drives on Windows come with that crappy movie editor, but iMovie is actually fairly usable)
    • Print to PDF's. I suspect Adobe's a little pissed about this one (It's +$300 for Acrobat)
  • Add-for-free
    • X-Windows: opens up a whole world of mostly-shoddy but free programs
    • Postgresql (might work with Cygwin, I don't know)
    • legally run a server with more than 10 concurrent client connections
  • Commercial Software
    • Not a thing I can think of
    The thing I really love about Mac OS X (and Linux too) is that I never feel compelled to pirate anything; For anything I want to do, there's some free little knick-knack that'll get me 90% of the way there. So when I plunk down money, I don't feel like I'm being coerced; I feel like I've made a choice to invest in something better than the tools I have available for free. If I'm just going to noodle around drawing, I can use the GIMP; I don't have to spend $700 for Photoshop until I'm serious about it (which with my drawing talent will probably be never).

    I'm with you on the mouse, though; I use an Intellimouse on mine.
    posted by boaz at 7:56 PM on October 10, 2001

Anildash - provide an easy method for consumers to shoot and edit digital video? Seriously, I'm well aware of the new Windows Movie Maker,'s got nothing on iMovie. iMovie is absolutely stunning in its ease of use and its array of "cool stuff to do." Movie Maker is like most everything else Windows - it's "good enough," but still poor enough that it invariably leads to some sort of frustration on the part of the user, which they dismiss as "that's just how computers are," since everybody uses Windows, it must be the best there is, right? Same deal with Windows Media Player vs. iTunes - for the average consumer, I don't believe there is any way somebody could honestly say with a straight face that WMP makes a better digital music solution for consumers than iTunes. This is all one part of one of my major problems with Microsoft - they have lead the public to believe that computers are often difficult to use, and don't operate according to normal logic - they're "magic" that only Microsoft can prevent the user from falling into. They've led consumers to believe that it's perfectly normal for a computer to crash or lockup or not work correctly on a regular basis because "that's just how computers are." I want no part of a platform and company that has held computers back for so long.
posted by Spirit_VW at 8:11 PM on October 10, 2001

Just to clarify, I have not used Windows XP; I was basing my piece on Windows 2000 SP2, the most recent version of Windows I have used. It's a fact made painfully obvious by Spirit_VW's Windows Movie Maker comment.
posted by boaz at 8:14 PM on October 10, 2001

Geneablogy, I was in your camp when I first played around with a machine with public beta installed, but after a while I made the plunge to the 10.0 and now 10.1 and my feelings have completely reversed. And not just because I've made an investment in time and energy now - I really see the clear advantages of the new system.

10.1 was a sea-change, though. Some subtle but important changes were added - the dock works much better, and apps that previously didn't seem "dock-aware" are, as if by magic (i.e., I didn't upgrade the app since the .1 upgrade) which helps a lot. As well, it's fast. Blazing. Even starting up Classic is fast enough not to be a big pain - and once it's running, I have had no problems with it nor performance issues. Word 98 works flawlessly and launches almost instantaeously, for instance, and Photoshop has been a dream to work with - arguably faster in Classic than under a booted-to-9 box.

As for things you can do with a stock Mac - consider servers. Apache is built in, PERL, lots of other stuff. I can get a fixed IP DSL for $31 bucks here in Montreal, so that's really significant for me. There's some config to do, but no installs that introduce some weird crap that doesn't play nice with others. You can do all that perfectly well on a Win box, sure, but it's more remote from the user, and certainly more difficult to set up.

One other thing - XML-RPC is built in, and plays nicely alongside Applescript and others. It's not that huge a deal right now, but I have a menu that allows me to publish any text in the clipboard to my Blogger site in less than 1 second. A trivial application, maybe, but bodes well for the future, as people start developing for OS X further.
posted by mikel at 8:46 PM on October 10, 2001

posted by moz at 9:15 PM on October 10, 2001

What can you do that I can't?
I can own a computer that doesn't run any Microsoft programs. What's so bad about alternatives? Competition keeps companies sharp.

Seriously, though, what can a Mac do that my WinXP system can't?
How 'bout "not be vulnerable to blechy Windows viruses"? Honestly, this is like asking "Seriously, though, what can your Mercedes do that my BMW can't?" It doesn't matter! They each have similar features, they each have different strengths. (I still like the Mercedes, erm, Mac, better) No one's breathing down your neck to change your platform of choice, Anil. You don't need to breathe down ours.
posted by bcwinters at 9:18 PM on October 10, 2001

Uh, thanks for the catch there moz. I'll just slink off now.
posted by boaz at 6:25 AM on October 11, 2001

Aye, viruses. Good call.

And as far as the argument that "if macs controlled 80% of the desktops, hackers would design viruses for them instead; hackers for for the largest audience" ... it's only looking at half of the issue.

Yes, Mac enjoys its niche status because they're not on the front line against every new virus. On the other hand, Linux and MacOSX are simply designed better to protect against these type of exploits.

A good example : Apache has twice the marketshare of IIS. Why do all the viruses hit IIS? Not because of any lead in the server market, but because MS writes poor code.
posted by jragon at 7:17 AM on October 11, 2001

bcwinters, sorry if i seemed like i was being stubborn, I was actually honestly asking that question because I haven't spent enough time with OS X to answer it fairly myself, though I'm pretty computer literate overall.

Application Programming (it's +$500 for MS Visual C++)

Well, I think there are some pretty great free IDEs for both platforms, I was asking more about intrinsic tasks that are possible on one, but exceedingly difficult on the other. I agree that iMovie is easier than Windows Movie Maker, but I'm more curious if there are tasks that I don't know I'm unable to do.

As it stands, I see the two platforms as almost completely equal in ability, with certain tradeoffs in usability or performance in each area. Is that incorrect, by anyone's estimation?
posted by anildash at 7:19 AM on October 11, 2001


That's like saying that putting lipstick on a pig makes the pig more attractive. Maybe so, but I'm still not interested in kissing it. I've got a sufficiently fast Mac (G4/733 QuickSilver) with a sufficiently large screen (17" LCD), and OS X still gets in the way when I want to do stuff.

The most absolutely brilliant insight of the original Mac interface was to make a computer that adapted to the way people work to a large extent, rather than making people adapt to the way the computer works. So you could put your documents where you wanted and arrange your applications in whatever fashion made sense to you. Mac OS X takes a huge step backward in forcing the user to understand how the computer works and adapt to it. That's what I mean when I say that it gets in the way of me doing what I want to do. After walking around for the past 15 years in shorts and a t-shirt, I resent being forced into the straitjacket that OS X wants to impose on me.

If we were talking about a server that serves dozens or hundreds of users, I could understand that to some extent; I've worked in environments like that for many years. But the Mac is essentially a personal computer. The UNIX underpinnings were not designed with that in mind; they were designed in an era when computers were big and hidden in air conditioned rooms and users would use terminals and pretend they had the whole computer to themselves, but it was an illusion. This is why I think that OS X is fatally flawed; the whole rationale behind its structure is inappropriate for the environments in which it's going to be used.

I'm enough of a geek that I can appreciate having a UNIX box on my desktop, particularly since the things I develop tend to be deployed on UNIX servers. But the rest of the time, it gets in the way. I far prefer my current division of labor, where I do geeky things on the UNIX box, and ungeeky things on the Mac. Mac OS X makes it essentially impossible to use the computer unless you think like a geek.
posted by geneablogy at 9:18 AM on October 11, 2001

geneablogy --

I would say that to my mind you've got it backwards:

UNIX has near infinite flexiblity w/r/t to user customization. That is why it still exists. My linux box is capable of running dozens of windowmanager which cover a radically large territory of work habits and concepts. Some of these offer a level of customization that is nonexistant anywhere else. You can roll your own everything in UNIX. That is the whole concept. MacOS X does *not* provide the same level of custimization yet -- let's hope that Apple didn't nail all the furniture down when it comes to Aqua, thereby locking

In contrast the MacOS offers a very well thought out way of working. It is a singular system with limited user custimization potential that was desinged to be very fluid. This singular interface system allows the user to learn to work like the system is designed to be used. Sure, you can choose to use Dragthing and to file you docs in a certain clever way, but you don't have the ability to customize your system to the point of rewriting the C++ code of your windowmanager and you don't have an OS with free software underpinnings that allows the geniuses of the word to retool it.

OSX and Aqua has advantages and disadvantes of both of these ways of thinking. Time will tell what becomes of it. Keep in mind that MacOS 1 didn't have **folders** (among other things) and this was quickly sorted out. We are in another 1.x OS release here and I think that we have a few years of UI refinements coming out way.

As for unix not being condusive to a good user experience... I think that UNIX might not be ideal, but it is way more ideal than MacOS (protected memory, true multitasking, lots of free software), Win (man. I just don't like using Win. No sshd, truly odd UI decisions, bad monitor gamma, etc, etc) or what? Palm?, Be?, Amiga? If you don't use the terminal you don't see unix. And, while I use the term and xterms in XFree constantly, I don't see any reason why my mom would ever have to open the term. But you know what? Everyone ought to spend some time learning how to get around on a unix term. _That_ interface is perhaps better than any GUI out there.

My $.02
posted by n9 at 2:02 PM on October 11, 2001

Also (sorry)

Computers should not be as simple as stereo components. If you want some kind of information appliance, that is one thing, but computers are supposed to be as sophisticated as they need to be to be fully able to articulate what we imagine. A similar question would be: "When will a piano be as easy to make Chopin Nocturnes with as my stereo?"
posted by n9 at 2:09 PM on October 11, 2001

n9, you said exactly what I was going to add... computers are meant to be blank slates. some programmers just don't need quite as blank a slate as others, which is why you have OSes.

the simpler something gets, the more focused its applications become, and the further away it moves from being a multi-purpose, completely reconfigurable thing. you end up with a fridges with recipe web browsers and rack unit cd-burners and telephones with email panels.

man, remember the days when you bought a computer and all it did is boot into BASIC?
posted by teradome at 11:50 PM on October 11, 2001

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