Charles Moore's Mailbag

More "Curmudgeon" Feedback

Charles Moore - 2001.06.05 - Tip Jar

The following letters were received in response to The OS X curmudgeon grumbles again (5:22) and The OS X curmudgeon grumbles again, part 2, (5:29).

From Bruce Horn

Subject: OS 9/OS X and CLI's


Thanks for your interesting set of articles on OS X on Low End Mac. I'd like to correct some of your detractors who claim that Open Firmware or MacsBug on OS 9 implies that the Mac OS has a command-line interface.

Nothing could be further from the truth. A command-line interface allows at the minimum access to the file system: file copying, deletion, renaming, directory creation, etc. That's why DOS is a "disk" operating system. As far as I know, you can't do any such thing in either OF or Macsbug (believe me, I've spent a lot of time in Macsbug!)

One person who wrote in said, "There is no way to develop an OS that is entirely graphical." Having been there I can safely say that the Mac OS was entirely graphical. In 1984 there was no way to copy a file without using the Finder. You Are Right and the folks who wrote in saying that there is/was a "shell" underneath are wrong. Since AppleScript came on the scene there was a way to do file manipulation via a script, but the Mac has never had a GUI on top of an underlying command-line interface. In fact, file manipulation in AppleScript simply sends events to the Finder, which does the heavy lifting.

Of course, from my perspective I hope that Apple gets serious about understanding what the best aspects of the Mac OS (pre-X) were. I think about being able to drag a System Folder to a new drive and having a bootable System; dragging an application file to a new drive to install it (at least in the old days); having almost complete freedom in where you want to put files; having no need for filename extensions; having relatively few "gibberish" files that are important but whose function can't be gleaned from the filename or icon; and the basic feel that you, the user, are in control. In my experience with OS X I find that I feel that OS X is in control, not me; that my mouse clicks and keystrokes are just another task to schedule. The delays and disk thrashing (with quite a bit of RAM still) indicate that to me.

Of course, I have my own opinions due to my early involvement with the Mac. I do hope that OS X becomes as user-friendly as the Mac OS is. OS X is an improvement in some significant ways; now Apple has to get back to basics and work on making it a user-oriented system.

Bruce Horn

Hi Bruce,

I'm delighted to hear your erudite perspective on this issue. I guess my initial surmise and Marc Zeedar's considerably more educated assertions about the Mac OS were not so far off the mark after all.

You evaluation rings true to me and squares with my impressions from my limited experimentation with OS X. It's doubtless a very good OS, but it's not the Mac OS, at least yet.


From Gary Shelton

Subject: Re: The OS X Curmudgeon Grumbles Again, Part 2


You've written an interesting set of articles. I'm a relative newbie to Macs (only about a year experience with them), but I've been doing Unix administration for about 7 years now. I jumped on OS X as soon as it was released. I run OS X on a PowerBook G4 and use this computer exclusively for everything.

There are quite a few things I miss about Mac OS 9. Speed is definitely the main thing; OS 9 really blazes on my PowerBook, and applications are lightning quick as well. I miss the (relative to OS X) abundance of product support (device drivers, etc.) and applications.

But there are good things about OS X. I do a lot of remote administration and other work, and I have to tell you that OS X blows 9 away in the area of network performance. I average much better throughput on the same network hardware (AirPort, built-in ethernet) using OS X than I did with OS 9. Not to mention the ability to run Samba, Sharity-lite, or NFS to mount non-AppleTalk network file systems without having to purchase (IMO) the ridiculously expensive DAVE or similar product.

Another area where OS X is superior is in preemptive multitasking support. I used to cringe at the thought of running several tasks at once under OS 9 - file transfers would grind to a halt when sent to the background, and MP3 encoding or even listening in the background was atrocious as well. It was terrible to watch file transfers drop from 50 KB/sec to 2 or 3 KB/sec while in the background, with only quite simple Telnet or SSH client connections to remote machines in the fore. Or watching my MP3 encoding speed drop from 6x to 1x in the same situation.

I also have to admit being totally in love with Aqua, foibles and all. I love the ability to generate PDFs from any application that can print. I love the ability to run X-Windows side by side with Aqua, and have good performance from both. I love the fact that many of my favorite Unix utilities were included with OS X, and that those that weren't (like the bash shell) are easily compiled and used under OS X.

Even as good as a fit as OS X is for me, I realize that I'm probably in the minority. I showed it to my ex-wife, who thought it was gorgeous, but lost interest when she found out that her iSub wasn't supported, and that CD burning wasn't available yet (this was when OS X was first released). I suspect her background and computing habits are more in line with many more Macintosh users than mine. I suspect that Apple is going to have a long uphill trudge against the inertia of the Classic operating system. As many have already pointed out, it's probably going to be like the migration from the 68k architecture to the PowerPC architecture.

I suppose my point to all of this, if there is one, is that Mac users have a choice as to which type of environment they wish to use; 9.x isn't going to go away any time soon, and hopefully neither will OS X. They both have positive (and negative) aspects, and, fortunately, there will be room for both for quite some time. I am look forward to an increasing feature set, UI improvements, and better performance for OS X as it matures. I hope that Apple is able to lure users from other operating systems to OS X with its many differences over OS 9; after all, more Mac users couldn't be a bad thing :)

Gary Shelton

Hi Gary,

Thanks for the very balanced assessment. I don't disagree with you. Multitasking under classic is pathetic, and networking (a relative non-issue to me personally) is much improved under X. I just want to have my cake and eat it too. ;-)


From Matthew Ball

Subject: When is Apple's OS no longer Mac?

Thanks for your columns.

What I don't understand is why everyone acts as though this is just an update (although a big one) to the Mac OS. It isn't. It is Unix/OpenStep with a Classic environment. It is no more the Mac than BeOS with Sheepshaver, except that it has Apple's backing.

The choice for my next box isn't Mac vs. Windows 95. It is Unix/X vs. NT/XP. And it is an entirely new question.

(Yes, I've run X since the PB, on my Lombard - it won't run on my main machine.)



Matt Ball
Vegan Outreach
Vegan Outreach's email newsletter

From Jorge Zubiran

Subject: The OS X Curmudgeon ...

Hello sir,

I just finished reading your article, both parts, and I can understand what you mean. For me 9.1 is just as stable as OS X is, and a bit faster. I am drawn in by the eye-candy, but also because of the possibilities it holds. You spoke about having to deal with the command-line, but really it isn't as hard as you might think. I used to use Apple ]['s in elementary, and a command-line for the Mac just doesn't seem so alien to me, but for the average user, thankfully, there are now utilities that take care of most of the things that would otherwise require the prompt.

My main reason for writing is to point out an error. You wrote:

As I understand it, this is not the case with Mac OS X (I invite correction if I'm mistaken) and the minimum you can get away with it is a reinstall of one of four modules each containing dozens or hundreds (or thousands?) of files.

Actually Apple's Installer is very smart. If you accidentally erase something necessary or if you decide to install the printer drivers later on, the installer will only install the missing components. I needed to install the BSD subsystem and was at first disappointed in having to spend 14 minutes to install everything, but to my surprise, it only touched what it needed to cutting install time to >5 minutes.

Thank you for your time, and a well written article,


I stand corrected. Thanks, and I'm glad you enjoyed the article.


From Paul G. Ennis

Subject: Re: The OS X Curmudgeon Grumbles Again, Part 2

Do yourself a favor: Install and run OS X on a G4 with at least 256 MB RAM.

I ran the beta on a WallStreet G3/300 (192 MB RAM) and then upgraded to a PowerLogix G3/500 (256 MB RAM). OS X is not happy on the jazzed up WallStreet, and although the beta was slow on the original WallStreet G3/300, at least it was usable, whereas 9.0.4 was not.

OS X runs on my office G4 nearly 90% of the time, and comparing it to the WallStreet is like day and night.


Paul G. Ennis
Attorney at Law
Member of MacLaw: An Email Discussion Group for Macintosh™ using Legal Professionals.

Thanks for the info and insights, Paul. I may have the opportunity to do just that soon.


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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at and a columnist at If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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