There’s no doubt that Mac OS X is controversial. But are those controversies because of inherent flaws in the next generation operating system or simply because it’s such a departure from the traditional Mac operating system that folks like Yours Truly haven’t gotten soooo comfortable using over the years.
While my appreciation of Mac OS X grows the more I use it (on a spare Mac, not my daily work machine), while it’s selling like hotcakes, and while most reviews have been positive, others have been mixed or downright negative. Today we’re offering up the opinions of a long-time Mac columnist and a software company representative. Judge for yourself whether the comments are on the money or complaints from folks unwilling to change.
Actually, Charles Haddad, who writes the “Byte of the Apple” column for Business Week Online admits that some of his difficulties with Mac OS X are due to habits “grounded in nearly 20 years of [Mac] experience.” He finds Mac OS X “beautiful” and “as stable as my in-laws’ 50-year marriage.” On the other hand, it also finds it sluggish.
“It took nearly two minutes to launch and another two minutes to fire up the ‘classic shell’ necessary to run applications designed for previous Apple operating systems,” Haddad said. “Such sluggishness is simply intolerable today. I’m sure Apple will fix this quickly. In fact, the company released its first update last week and initial reports are that it speeds up both OS X and its classic shell considerably.”
Though he said the operating system solid as a rock, he did find it scary that Apple hasn’t yet come up with an automated way to uninstall Mac OS X. “That means you have to uproot every piece of it yourself, a procedure that reminded me of the time I tried to rid my yard of kudzu, a vine strangling much of the suburban South,” Haddad wrote.
The columnist expects Apple to have fixed most of the troubles with Mac OS X within six months. But long time Mac users will have to readjust and learn to compensate without some long time conveniences, he added.
“Gone, for example, is the ability to drill through spring-loaded folders to find a file,” Haddad said. “Nor can you drag and drop a file through a nest of folders. That makes copying, saving, and backing up on OS X a major pain. And it detracts greatly from the experience of using the new system. Still, the conveniences we longtime Mac users have come to take for granted weren’t developed overnight. It will take time for Apple and third-party developers to really understand OS X and devise a set of comparable short-cuts and conveniences for it. My advice: Let others be the pioneers. If you want to play with OS X, do it on somebody else’s computer.”
Another long time user of the Mac platform is even less enthused. While there are some “modern” technologies under the hood of Mac OS X, there are also some “incredibly archaic functionality that has diminished the Macintosh experience into nothing less than a Windows experience,” according to Mark Munz of unmarked software, the company behind such products as textSOAP.
“In Apple’s effort to support UFS, it has unfortunately forsaken all the benefits of HFS,” Munz told MacCentral. “Rather than adding some smarts to the file system (which Mac OS 9 was capable of) such that extended attributes (like Creator/Type) can exist on a UFS volume, Apple has decided it’s OK for users to be thrown back into the 80’s era where filename extensions determined what the file type of a document was. This is incredible unfriendly to the user because there can only be ONE handler of a type when there is no Creator/Type combo, meaning a file saved in Photoshop may be opened by another application when double-clicked. Be careful how you name your files, and remember what the extension is supposed to be or you may have difficultly opening that doc again.”
(On the other hand, Creator is a single user-centric methodology, and Mac OS X is a multi-user operating system so perhaps this doesn’t need to be kept in the filesystem, but could be databased elsewhere.)
Munz said that another loss is that you can’t just rename folders and be sure everything will continue to work. Apple’s heavy use of Pathnames over HFS directory ID’s mean flexibility is lost, he added. Now users get to conform to their machine rather than the other way around –which is what Macintoshes are supposed to be all about, Munz added.
(Actually, though you can’t rename certain system folders, you can rename your own stuff to your heart’s content.)
Munz also doesn’t like the new Finder. Specifically, the fact that there’s no one-to-one correlation between a drive or folder and a window. Every window is just a view which can be pointing to any folder, Munz said.
“This means you can have 20 windows all pointing to the same folder,” he added. “There is no real advantage to this, but lots of disadvantages. Windows can’t remember their size and position on the screen, or the position inside the view. These attributes are meaningless without a one-to-one linkage between the window and the folder on the hard drive.”
Likewise, you can’t look at a folder and determine if it’ s already open in another window, Munz complained. Double-clicking simply opens a new window to that folder. Munz added that when you mount a drive, you can’t expect the windows that you left open to be there — or worse yet, windows that were pointing to a removable drive don’t go away when the drive is unmounted.
And he has still other issues with Mac OS X, including (along with his comments):
“I do believe there is room for the NeXT-type browser interface, but it needs to be a separate component (perhaps invoked with a Browse Files command, like one would do to Find Files) in addition to (and not in replacement of) the look and feel of the Mac OS 9 Finder,” Munz said. “I want Mac OS X to be successful. But I have to admit that I can’t recommend it to most Mac people I know. It is significantly more difficult to use and appears to bring many of the problems found in Windows OS to the Mac world. I believe we’ve all taken a step back in usability with Mac OS X.”
Doubtless, reactions from long time Mac users will continue to be mixed during the inevitable learning curve that Mac OS X entails. And, equally as certain, Apple will continue to polish the next generation operating system. Feel free, of course, to post your comments below. But be polite to Haddad and Munz. They’re merely expressing their opinions. And don’t thrash Yours Truly for those opinions. I’ll give you plenty of opportunities to take me to task for my OWN opinions in upcoming Diaries.