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System 7 Today's Dan Palka on OS X, Windows, and Linux

- 2006.10.27

Today we conclude our interview with Dan Palka of System 7 Today.

Why Mac OS 7.6 Instead of 8 or 9?

Tommy Thomas: Why should people consider using Mac OS 7.6.1 instead of Mac OS 8 or 9?

Dan Palka: Mac OS 8 and 9 have a lot of overhead, especially in the GUI, hard drive space, and memory requirements area. My site shows that System 7, for those machines that can run it, is an excellent alternative that can still perform most of the same tasks that Mac OS 8 and 9 can perform - and do it faster (my site features detailed benchmarks to prove it).

It's my opinion that if you are doing anything that System 7 can't do, you should probably be doing it on a newer computer running Mac OS X anyway.

System 7, more specifically Mac OS 7.6.1, is my preferred classic OS choice. Of all the Macs I own (over 70), every single one that I use regularly runs either Mac OS X Tiger or Mac OS 7.6.1. And, believe it or not, Tiger gets along with 7.6.1 just as well as it does Mac OS 8 or 9. I do file sharing, printer sharing, and even wireless Internet sharing from Tiger to 7.6.1 every day, and this with merely standard Apple updates that you can download (no third-party hacks or utilities).

As I mentioned before, this entire site is powered by a 7.6.1 server that runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and has been doing so since June (also using only Apple software). Through that entire period it has still maintained 99.2% uptime (according to host tracker), and most of the downtime is when my cable service goes out.

Questions About Apple & Computing

Tommy: Your first Apple or Mac, what was it?

Dan: A Macintosh IIsi with a 17" Emachines RGB display.

Tommy: What was it that grabbed your attention about Apple and made you think, "Wow"?

Dan PalkaDan: There is no one reason. I guess the biggest would be the elegance factor - and not just in regards to the appearance of the user interface, but also the elegance of operation. This has been true about Macs long before Mac OS X and even Mac OS 7. This is how a computer should work.

Tommy: Amen!

Your first ever experience with a PC, what was it and when?

Dan: The family got it's first PC in the late 80s. It was a Tandy 2000, and I was four.

Tommy: When you think of Microsoft, what's your opinion of them, past and present?

...I finally bought a Mac, because it didn't run Windows.

Dan: Well, back then, nothing, because I was four. But we had that thing for a long time, until it was replaced by a Dell 386 running Windows 3.1. I thought Microsoft was great, because that was all I knew. All the way up through Windows Me, which is when I finally bought a Mac, because it didn't run Windows.

Tommy: Although I never had a PC running Windows Me, I did use a couple of PCs with Me on them, and it was completely horrible!

What's different about Apple these days compared to back then?

Dan: In regards to innovation, Apple has always been the leader there. The difference is today Apple has a stronger regard in the public eye, and they also tend to implement their innovations more effectively. I really miss the TV tuners, though. I can't understand why they dropped them - and why we still don't have them.

Tommy: Speaking of innovations, what do you think are the greatest innovations Apple has come up with, past and present?

Dan: It would take me way too long to answer this question. Pretty much everything.

Tommy: What about the future of Apple and the Macintosh? Any thoughts on what you think will happen?

Dan: Now that the Intel transition is complete, they can start refocusing on creating new innovative products. The MacBook Pro design is still the best laptop I've ever seen, even though it's now getting close to four years old. [Editor's note: The MacBook Pro design is a continuation of the 15" aluminum PowerBook G4 design.] I can't wait to see what Apple does to top it. Same with iMac G5.

Tommy: Knowing Apple, they'll somehow manage to top what they've already done.

Did you ever have a chance to see the movie Pirates of Silicon Valley? If so, what did you think of it?

Dan: No.

Tommy: What do you think of Steve Jobs past and present as the CEO of Apple? Good or bad for Apple?

Dan: Well, very good obviously since Apple is doing better now than ever before. I think this is a moot question.

Tommy: Do you think Windows has closed in on the Mac OS from a usability and user-friendliness standpoint?

Dan: The bridge is under construction, but is heavily delayed, over budget, and not of a very inspiring design. Think concrete causeway vs. beautiful iron lattice, stone arch, or suspension.

Tommy: I'd like you to elaborate on what you just said. In what ways do you think Windows lacks vs. the Mac OS?

Dan: Elegance, refinement. Using Windows to me feels like using a VTECH toy for children, only much more powerful. I'm not entirely convinced that Microsoft even has any sort of focus on how best their products should interface with humans. Everything in Windows just feels clumsy. A lot of Windows advocates will say this is just my opinion, elegance doesn't matter, etc.

These are the same type of people who do not understand why some people buy BMWs, fly first class, wear Armani suits, and drink Oberweiss milk. If people are content with Windows, I couldn't care less. But they can't try to tell me that it is just as good as, or better than Mac OS X.

Tommy: At the same time, I think the Mac gives people a chance to be different and not go along with the majority. Some people like to be different, and I can understand that fully.

Linux and the open-source movement, what do you think about it?

Dan: Linux is making great headway into the server and workstation market, because the techies who use it are the techies that contribute to it's development. However, Linux is complete trash as a user-friendly, elegant desktop OS in my opinion, and I have yet to meet anyone, even Linux users, that would argue otherwise.

Open-source is a great thing, but we can't rely too heavily on it. You see a lot of unpolished, unprofessional, and unrefined software come out of the open-source world, especially in the user experience area. The problem is that the people who are most excited about open-source seem to be the techies, programmers, etc. There seems to be very few open-source projects whose contributors actually understand good usability. A perfect example is the presentation component of OpenOffice. That is a really, really disgusting piece of software to behold.

My favorite sort of open-source project is one backed by a major corporation, which releases code to the open-source public for their contributions, takes the best contributions, and wraps it under a professional UI, and sells it.

Tommy: Will Linux ever be a major player in the home OS market?

Dan: At this pace, no. Linux has been around for 15 or so years now; in that time it still hasn't gotten to the level of usability required to break into the home OS market, and it has no established organized way to do so.

Tommy: Was the move from the classic Mac OS to OS X a smart move for Apple in your mind?

Dan: Well yeah.

Tommy: Let me elaborate on that. Do you think it was a smart move from a user interface standpoint? Some classic Mac OS users complain about the lack of the Application menu, the real Apple menu, and the Dock. What are your thoughts on this?

Dan: Complaints like that are frivolous nit-picking. The user interface of OS X is just fine in my opinion, as was the classic interface. Since there is no risk of Apple ever going back to the old way, there isn't really much point to discussing something like that.

Mac OS X still largely operates like the classic OS, for example having to quit applications instead of closing their windows, a permanent menu bar, icons on the right hand side, all drives appearing on the desktop, etc. It's still the Mac OS.

Tommy: The move to Intel, again, a smart move for Apple?

Dan: Yes. They had no other choice. PowerPC was a fun ride but lost its steam so incredibly towards the end there.

Tommy: In your opinion, you think the changes Apple has implemented over the past few years have been good?

Dan: Yes.

Tommy: Let's touch on that a little. What are some of the best changes Apple has made?

Dan: Well, combining the functions of the Apple Menu and the Application Switcher into one feature that more efficiently does both, the Dock. I also like that in Mac OS X (as opposed to classic Mac OS), the currently running application has it's own titled menu, providing one common place to identify which program is active, set preferences, and quit the program. And, of course, obviously the Finder is way easier to navigate now than it was in the classic days, with column view being my personal favorite.

I wish the close and zoom buttons were still squares though!

Fun Questions

Tommy: What's your idea of fun?

Dan: Many, many things entirely unrelated to computers. I attend a university, live on campus, and you can probably imagine the things that go on here. I don't consider myself a computer nerd and am very outgoing. I rarely talk about computers outside of online forums.

My main real-life hobbies are cars, aviation, politics. My free time is usually occupied by the average college campus activities of going out with friends, partying, hitting the bars, etc. I'm sure a lot of that will change in the next two years when I leave school. I'll be sad then.

Tommy: Have you met anyone from the forum in person?

Dan: No. It's weird to say, but I really don't get along with computer hobbyists/nerds/junkies in real life.

Tommy: Well, I don't consider myself a computer nerd, but somehow, some people can tag that on you when you're not looking.

What jobs other than your work on System 7 Today keep you busy?

Dan: Some freelance Web design, but I mostly don't have a job while I attend school.

Tommy: What's lengths have you gone to to rescue a Mac from destruction?

Dan: Accepting a U-Haul full of what had to be like 200 old Macs being dumped by a school district. Most were already beyond repair, but 70 or so survived and remain in my house.

Tommy: That's a lot of Macs! The 68kMLA would be proud!

What's your philosophy on life?

Dan: It includes vulgar language, so I won't mention it here.

Tommy: Hey Dan, it was cool to get to talk to you. I really enjoyed it. Here's to System 7 Today's continued success!

System 7 Today

There's no doubt about it, Dan's got a very impressive website - a Legend of 68K in the making. If you've ever wondered about System 7.6.x, be sure to drop by to find out what it's all about.

And if you have a website or you know of a website you feel should be included in The Legends of 68K, send me an email at thomas (at) lowendmac (dot) com and tell me about it. LEM

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