Mac Musings

Mac OS X: Developers and Users

Daniel Knight - 2001.11.19

Mike Vannordsel really has it in for those who don't wholeheartedly embrace Mac OS X, as is evident from his latest tirade on Applelust, Flies in the OS X ointment. Vannordsel's article attempts to undermine Jim Champlin, the author of An Everyday User Looks at Mac OS X (published right here on Low End Mac).

As a programmer, Vannordsel seems to share the common low view of users shared by many geeks and technical types. Instead of seeing Champlin as representing a fairly common view among Mac users, Vannordsel rails against him for his "anti-X sentiment." An odd view, considering Champlin concludes, "OS X is the future. Is it a positive, bright future? I think so."

Let's examine Vannordsel's arguments (extended quotes will appear as indented paragraphs).

For starters, Mr. Champlin complains about UI speeds. Well, "Aqua" is not something turned on or off and is not responsible for UI slowdowns. Aqua is just a theme. The root of the UI slowness comes from no Quartz acceleration on current video cards. Remember how long it took to get QuickDraw acceleration from ATI? Not sure if anyone remembers using OS 7.5-9 on a machine without QD acceleration. Not blazing by any means. Actually, you can disable your ATI or Nvidia 2D Acceleration extension, and then see how fast windows and menus are in OS 9. Quartz is quite efficient in comparison to QD, even with its more advanced visuals.

Champlin notes that the UI is slow, that most users see the UI as the OS, and will therefore perceive of OS X as slow. Rather than counter this argument,l Vannordsel admits that the UI slowness exists, that Apple hasn't done their homework in accelerating it with standard Mac hardware (Apple has been working with ATI for years and years!), and tries to make Champlin look the fool for not clearly distinguishing between the Aqua appearance and the Quartz components between Aqua and the core OS.

Mr. Champlin also starts to speculate that Classic is an emulation, and then runs with that speculation to declare an inferiority of this against Windows running 16-bit applications (which is not a big feat). The truth is that Classic is by no means emulation, as there's nothing to be emulated. Mac OS 9 is just booted into its own memory space; you're running two OSes at once.

Vannordsel doesn't define what he means by emulation, nor does Champlin. I'll define it here: Emulation is running one operating system inside another. This has nothing to do with the hardware. Mac OS 9 is an operating system, as is OS X, but when an OS X user accesses OS 9 in classic mode, OS X stands between OS 9 and the hardware, intercepting some calls and making some classic applications and hardware fail.

No matter how well or how poorly classic mode fares, because it runs on top of or perhaps inside OS X, it has to be considered emulation because it doesn't have direct and full access to all hardware resources. Mac OS 9 doesn't simply run in its own memory space; it runs in its own memory space and that space is controlled by OS X.

The article did not, and was just a big OS X migrator scarecrow.

Maybe Vannordsel lives in another universe, but almost every Mac OS X user in the real world knows that the OS, even at the 10.1.1 level, isn't quite done yet. Champlin notes that it is stable, has a slow UI, has poor third-party support, has a slow UI, has some permissions problems, has a slow UI, and holds great promise once all the third party software and UI accelerators fall into place.

The article was not "just a big OS X migrator scarecrow;" it was the real world view of a real world Mac user attempting to get comfortable and productive with Mac OS X. Shoot, if OS X were really ready for prime time, do you think Apple would still make OS 9.x the default on every Mac we buy?

I don't mean to sound cynical about this article. As a developer I hear this kind of stuff all day as others are trying to make the move to the new platform. I also harp on Apple regularly about short-comings in OS X. It's the lack of care, thoroughness, and just fresh unique information that gets old in these articles.

Sorry if we're not all developers, but Mac users want to know the pros and cons of Mac OS X. Vannordsel admits there are drawbacks, then dumps on Champlin for sharing his own views, not something fresh and thoroughly researched.

Give it a rest, Vannordsel.

Instead, he goes on a 12-step attack on Mac OS 9, the flawed old kludge of an OS that so many of us are product with every day. Sure, it's far from perfect, but all my hardware and software works with it, and I don't have to switch between two different operating systems to get my work done.

What I'm trying to get at is that writers scaring everyone away from Mac OS X is not going to achieve anything constructive. People need to look at all the points such as: what's different about this between OS X and OS 9, does this causes a problem, is it a legitimate problem, are there solutions, is this just another case where people want OS X to mimic OS 9, and would this be realistically possible to implement, ect [sic]?

I don't know of any writers trying to scare people away from OS X. I do know a lot of writers telling people to take their time in adopting the new OS. From my perspective, it's stupid to adopt OS X simply because you can - if you don't have an application that works better under Mac OS X, why change?

We want people to think about OS X, to prepare for the eventuality that most of us and even a fair bit of low-end hardware may make the migration, but we don't want to present OS X without pointing to its drawbacks. From my reading (since I have no need to use OS X at present), it seems 10.1 finally had support for MO drives and USB floppies, but internal floppies (as in the beige G3) are not supported. SCSI seems to have the same problem.

Vannordsel himself writes:

Don't misunderstand. Nowhere have I said it's time for everyone to make the move to OS X and that OS 9 is no longer valid. I have discouraged the majority of my friends from making the move yet as I know they'll run into problems with the lack of software that they need.

We all have the same concerns, but Vannordsel feels compelled to attack those who don't write as rigorously and provide benchmark data to support their claims. Ah, the mind of the engineer.

I'm not an engineer, nor are most of the writers published on Low End Mac or the rest of the Web. We don't program. Instead, we are computer users. What counts for us is not technical specifications, exacting use of terminology, or benchmarks. What matters is a fast enough computer running a reliable enough operating system with good enough applications to let us work productively.

When Mac OS X provides that, we'll be ready to switch. Until then, we'll share our impressions of OS X and explain why we're still sticking with the tried and true.

It's not resistance to change, Mr. Vannordsel - we'd love a more stable OS. It's our need to be productive which prevents us from dedicating countless hours to learning a new OS. We try it, see if it seems ready, and decide to switch or stick with the old.

We're not developers. We're writers, number crunchers, designers, editors, receptionists, accountants, artists, gamers, news junkies, and who knows what else. We're users, and until OS X and X-native apps provide a better user solution, all the discussion of multitasking, memory protection, and Unix means nothing to us.

We're more interested in Microsoft Office, Photoshop, FileMaker, and the rest running well than which OS they run on - as long as it's the Mac OS.