Opinions are still all over the map on Mac OS X, as evidenced in two recent technology columns.
In his latest
New York Times
column, Mac expert David Pogue praises Mac OS X for putting a “beautiful software overlay, a face rich with translucence, gentle animation and 3D shadows” atop the power of UNIX, “the rock-solid operating system that runs our banks, universities and governments. ”
“The result is almost everything Mac fans could wish for: a gorgeous, easy-to-navigate and virtually crashproof operating system that makes previous consumer systems, like Mac OS 9 and Windows Me, look like hand-cranked antiques,” Pogue writes.
He acknowledges that Mac OS X is very different from the traditional Mac operating system. But he said that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“Some features have been replaced by a superior mechanism; for example, there’s now one control panel for Internet settings instead of four,” Pogue said. “Others were discarded because they’re unnecessary, like the Memory control panel. Thanks to the Mac OS X’s automatic memory management, Mac users never again need to adjust settings for virtual memory or application memory.”
The columnist thinks that there are only a handful of OS 9 features that you’ll miss: the Labels menu (for quickly categorizing your files) and the ability to schedule automatic Mac shutoffs. Of course, there’s the (temporarily) missing abilities to burn CDs or play DVDs — “which, considering how heavily Apple promotes these features, is a little like showing up in pajamas at your own dinner party,” Pogue said. The writer feels that the Dock is an adequate replacement for such OS 9 features as the Application menu and pop-up windows. And he praises such features as the “seamless and uncomplicated” Classic mode and fast wake-up for PowerBooks and iBooks.
Still, Pogue thinks that many Mac users will prefer to wait a bit before switching to OS X. He recommends that, average users, “wait until the programs you use often have been adapted for Mac OS X, or at least until July, when Apple is expected to release a new Mac OS X version that is likely to be even faster, smoother and more polished.” But he said it’s a good idea to start getting used to Mac OS X, even if you’re not a Mac user, because Apple’s advances usually light the way for the rest of the computer industry.
“For example, Microsoft’s coming Windows XP will offer an attractive face that like Mac OS X will be grafted onto an industrial-strength operating system: Windows 2000,” Pogue writes. “Even in early versions of the Windows XP interface, the Mac OS X influence is visible. And if you are a Mac fan, the worrying is over. There’s no longer any doubt about Mac OS X’s future as the stable, rugged, good-looking platform that will support Apple’s enhancements for the next 17 years.”
columnist, Stephan Somogyi, isn’t quite so enthused. He finds the next operating system a bit “underdone” with “reports of kernel panics, unexpectedly low performance, and other manifestations of .0 malaise are many.” He thinks that some of the problems were avoidable. For example,
that Carbon apps such as the Finder are particularly prone to holding up the entire machine while the disc fulfils its quota of blocking rotations.
“I have an AppleShare IP 6.3.3 server and its responsiveness when I connect to it from my 10.0 machine is nowhere near as good as when using 9.1-based client,” he said. “Installing .pkg files from a server volume has also proven impossible; I have to copy them to a local disk. I’m baffled why OS X thinks it necessary to invoke four (!) instances of nfsiod, the NFS I/O daemon, even though there’s no GUI for doing anything with NFS in 10.0, and its main page even says that nfsiod isn’t necessary for client operation. A trusty editor and a strategically placed ‘#’ solved that situation nicely.”
Somogyi also doesn’t like it that OS X thinks it “knows better when it comes to placement and display mode of Finder windows” than he does. Plus, there are “quite a few rough edges” in the X Finder’s interaction design as well.
“I fully expect stuff like this to get fixed over time, I just hope it’s sooner rather than later,” Somogyi wrote. “The delay of many users’ migration-stopper software is a blessing in disguise for Apple since by the time the third party software is available, Apple is likely to have fixed at least the most egregious problems, both functional and interface-related.”
Some other technical “gotchas” that he wonders about are:
Why does OS X include an older version of Libc, a standard library for C-based software, instead of the FreeBSD version “that was all-but-promised some time ago”?
Why aren’t G4s used somewhat effectively due to the lack of some compiler technology called auto-vectorization?
Somogyi also thinks that Apple should launch a program similar to Compaq’s Test Drive, making OS X boxes available on the Net and spurring developers to make their packages “build cleanly” on OS X.
“Apple’s work with OS X is only beginning. It needs to build a reputation for the new OS’s reliability, performance, and usability. And fast,” Somogyi said. “Not only that, but it needs as much software as possible. While many existing Mac developers are carbonating their software as fast as they can, getting the Unix software community involved much sooner than later is just as important for Apple’s health. With its Darwin open source effort, Apple showed that it’s well aware of the momentum of the open source Unix OSes. Since OS X costs money, and Power Mac hardware is neither as ubiquitous nor as inexpensive as x86 boxes are, providing a net-accessible OS X Test Drive farm to get open source software running under OS X could be one of the least expensive and most profitable evangelism efforts the company has launched. If, that is, Apple does it.”