Mac UK

OS X: Stability or Usability?

Dirk Pilat - 2001.10.18

Hi everybody!

After an excruciating wait, it's finally on my iBook 2001 - the all singing, dancing, and frequently frustrating Mac OS X 10.1.

After upgrading 9.1 to 9.2.1 and 10.0.4 to 10.1, I was finally ready to go. I booted 10.1, fiddled around with Mail, surfed the Net with IE, and was genuinely impressed: Everything iBook 2001seemed to work fine, no crashes, and Aqua looked so impressive that even my girlfriend (who has a rather cynical attitude to all things Apple - must be some sort of analog-digital jealousy) had to mutter a couple of impressed comments regarding this grand new GUI.

Then I thought about starting all the essential Classic applications I use - GoLive, Office, Photoshop - and clicked on the first Classic application that came along. Mac OS 9.2.1 duly booted up, but 25 minutes later it still hadn't finished booting.

I stopped the boot process, restarted the iBook, and tried again. Mac OS 9.2.1 just didn't want to boot from my new "Unix with a camp GUI," so I did the only proper thing - I did a complete backup of my classic apps, a low-level format of the hard drive, setup two partitions, did a clean reinstall of OS X and 9.2.1 (one on each partition), joined the Macintosh Guy's OS X email list, and, hey presto, it worked.

Everything worked how it should, so I started to read the 80-odd messages flooding in via this great new mailing list, and something was quickly pretty clear: OS X 10.1 might work for somebody idiotic like me, who just uses his Mac for four or five different applications and the odd game, but the power users out there are struggling with driver conflicts, non-working devices, crashing G4s, freezing Cubes - you name it. And although almost every time there was somebody who was able to help, it almost invariably included fiddling around in 10.1's BSD core, typing erratic sequences of tildes and slashes, and installing some strange Unix app.

One guy found his hard drive to be full one morning without doing anything; it turns out that OS X doesn't like to be switched off at night, because its Unix core does all the housekeeping between 3 and 5 a.m. Did anybody know that who hadn't any Unix experience? Was it mentioned anywhere in Apple's glossy documentation?

That's what pisses me off incredibly: The Macintosh was designed from day one to appeal to the majority of people who weren't able to fiddle around with DOS, type in strange Unix commands, find out what .dll extensions are, arrange interrupts, etc. It was all about sitting in front of this nice little machine, clicking on a little picture, and starting to type your letter.

Apple already left this ease of use behind with the advent of OS 8, which started to get pretty complicated, but to come back to the stone age of computing now is an affront to the Mac community! If my mother, who already struggles with 8.6, would have to start to open "Terminal" or check the tasks in "Processviewer," she would certainly start throwing her computer in the corner and use those nice Windows machines that all her friends have.

I always thought that Macintosh use was all about not checking the running processes in some window. I thought Windows users had to do that after their 30th crash of the day.

I know that this OS is supposed to be all about stability, but unfortunately usability seemed to have fallen behind. A Mac with OS X is not the computer for the rest of us: It's the Macintosh for people with a good taste in GUI's and a vast experience in Linux, Unix, or BSD.

This OS is going to cost Apple a lot of credibility in the home sector, mark my words.

Rant over.... LEM

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