Be careful what you wish for (OS X)
by Alan Zisman
(c) 2001. First
published in Vancouver Computes,
For a year or more, many Mac fans have been on a sort
of a holy pilgrimage.
Whenever we've had some problem or disappointment with Mac hardware or
software, we’ve been able to keep up the faith by chanting "Wait for OS
It has been the fervent hope that this long-awaited
system revision will cure all ills: restore Apple's market share,
the Windows demons and more.
OS X will be released soon. A Public Beta has been
available on Apple's
web site and from Mac dealers for about CDN$50, and thousands of the
have installed it to get a taste of the Future according to Steve Jobs.
OS X requires a G3 processor (or better) and 128 MB of
RAM (or more).
It installs quickly and easily, moving the previous operating system,
and data into a new Mac OS 9 folder.
Boot-up looks different. No more loading extensions
and control panels.
There's a compulsory log-on; like Windows NT or 2000, or any of the
variants, OS X is designed for multiple users. In fact, this total
of the Macintosh experience is built on a core of open source BSD Unix.
When you've booted up (much faster than in OS 9, by
the way) it's to
a very different place. No more Finder on the desktop, with familiar
for the hard drive, no more Trash in the corner. All the icons for your
documents and programs that you're used are gone. No more Apple Menu at
the top left. (There is a blue Apple icon in the center of the menu
but it's just eye candy.).
In their place is the Dock, a row of large, full
colour icons along
the bottom of the screen, including a new-age Trash at the end. Like
Windows Taskbar, it shows currently running programs and documents.
the classic Apple Menu, you can add icons for programs or documents for
quick and easy access.
Icons jump up when you pass the mouse over them,
displaying their name.
While fun, it gets distracting. Luckily, the animation, along with icon
size can be easily modified from the Preferences menu. The first icon
for the new-style Finder, now a separate application like Windows' My
It opens up to a view of the Computer, with large icons representing
Macintosh HD, the Network, and any other available disks.
Disk contents can be viewed in large icons, or as a
familiar list, but
also in a new Column View, which keeps expanding to the left as
get opened. Very handy, especially since OS X creates a new and complex
arrangement of folders.
OS X does everything we might like a modern operating
system to do—users
can run applications, open and save files, create folders, connect to
Internet, and more. It does it with grace and power, efficiently using
the resources of modern Macintoshes. It offers modern memory
along with far more stability and robustness than previous Mac
But a Mac with OS X is no longer a Mac. It looks and
from what Mac users are used to. And it works differently, often it
that simply seem unnecessary.
For example, some standard menu items are moved about,
Users will look in vain for Quit in the File menu, instead finding it
the application menu to the left. Why? Luckily, the Command + Q
still works, for Mac Users unwilling to Think Different.
While Apple lists a few hundred Mac apps that have
been rewritten to
take advantage of OS X's new features, the vast majority are not—even
releases such as Microsoft Office 2001 (though a beta of an OS X MS
Explorer is included with the OS X Preview). That means they run in
Mode'. Before running a classic application, the computer sort of loads
OS 9. Classic applications don't benefit from OS X stability and
but it one crashes, it just takes down the Classic Mode session, not
That's if it works at all. Some don't. On my system,
that included Virtual
PC (Connectix claims they'll have a new version out soon after the
OS X release), Dave, for networking to my PCs, and Real Player 8. And
system could no longer find my USB floppy disk drive.
OS X is visually attractive, and seems rock solid as
promised. But for
now, at least, too few Mac applications and hardware use it to best
And many Mac users may find it requires more new learning than they had
Classic American fantasy author James Branch Cabell
(who had his brief
moment of fame when his 1922 novel Jurgen was banned in Boston)
that the only thing worse than not getting what you dream of is to
get it. Mac fans may find that this is the case.
(postscript: The March release of OSX showed that
that version included many changes that I and many other Preview users
had called for, and resulted in a product that, while still glitzy and
powerful, was much more friendly to long-time Mac-users).