Update on my week with a Mac

A few updates on my Mac experience since I posted the original review:

  • A two-button mouse makes a huge difference. OS X has fantastic support for the right-button. To say that Mac is based on a one-button mouse is no longer true. They just still sell a mouse with one button.
  • When browsing network drives on machines with a file system other than Apple’s HFS, OS X leaves hidden files all over the place (apparently to save folder-specific Finder settings). This is a deal-breaker. Any way to disable it?
  • My criticism of the tactile transparency of the Internet Explorer icon (you can’t click on holes in the e) is apparently limited to that one icon and doesn’t apply to the rest of the OS. Good. Update to my update: while no other icons (that I know of) are as bad as the IE icon (with a hole in the middle), most icons do have none-clickable areas in the box, but around the shape (around the edges of a folder, for example).

The scale of the reaction has been surprising. It has mostly been quite positive (thanks for all of the wonderful compliments).

A lot of people brought up the fact that I didn’t have the most recent hardware. I don’t want to debate the details, but I don’t think the hardware hindered my experience on the OS significantly. I’ve worked on a wide range of systems and have a good feel for when more horsepower would solve a problem. That said, the overall experience would no-doubt have been more pleasant with better hardware.

I’m not a journalist with a hardware budget and Apple doesn’t send me free hardware to review. I’m just a schmo who happened to have an old iMac sitting around.

A lot of people said a lot of kind and interesting things. A lot of people said the same thing over and over (which is somewhat understandable – I don’t expect people to read though over 100 replies). A few people said nasty things, but my new Mac posse stepped in to defend me.

Also, the article may be getting translated into Chinese for a web-magazine in Taiwan. Cool.


5 thoughts on “Update on my week with a Mac

  1. Sorry so late to the party. I read this entire exchange with huge interest, from the inverse POV. A Mac user since 1984, I spend half of every work day in Win 2000 Pro running on a worn but plucky Dell Precision 610. Clients for whom I do Macintosh technical support are annoyed to hear that I enjoy using it. Its one weakness that actually tries my patience: the sudden stumbling (with groaning from the boot drive) as it caches to virtual memory and steadies itself in preparation for (drumroll here): renaming a folder??!

    Lots of “Why can’t I?” criticisms of an unfamiliar platform only betray unfamiliarity with How Things Are Done Here. Others have made this point, but it can’t really be overstated. I’m trying to be mindful of that myself, while replying on topics I just can’t seem to leave alone…

    Currently, I don’t believe you can prevent Mac OS X from leaving its droppings behind in network folders to which it has write access. It’s hell-bent on recording the directory window’s latest presentation. It would be nice to find or be given a curb for this behavior; currently I just delete all files named < .DS_Store> with a script. An Apple server can be instructed not to let Windows clients glimpse any of the Mac OS laundry, and this at least works well.

    About the tactile transparency of Mac icons: if Internet Explorer is mis-implementing its icon mask, it’s not alone. Clicking right through a hole in a large Mac icon has not been exactly uncommon. QuickTime Player’s icon avoids this, but it simply must (the image is over 50 percent air). If you check the icon for iTunes, you’ll find that there, a hole is really a hole. The carefree clicking in Windows may lack finesse, but it’s just easier. If I can land one anywhere inside the square that the icon owns, that’s it — I’ve done my job.

    So who decided that, viewing by large icons, Windows would reveal only one long filename at a time in a given directory? That’s horrible — merely searching on the desktop among many folders with similar names can turn into a complete truffle hunt.

    In general, I’d claim a Macintosh manipulates a complicated folder hierarchy much more competently than a PC. This was true even before the NeXT-style column view option was introduced. The Mac doesn’t need to invoke a separate Explorer to interact with a directory tree, and it doesn’t have to complicate life by splitting its windows into discrete panes. It can drill speedily downward without referring all the way up to the root directory to get a start. Best of all, it lets me work with a folder tree and the contents of many folders in a single window all at once — Explorer plays peekaboo with the files as I click from folder to folder.

    Mac users often organize by nesting folders inside of folders inside of folders without end — a convenience for them, and extra toil for Windows counterparts who have to share these Byzantine folder structures. PC disks usually have a much flatter organization, because it’s easier for their users to deal with a few directories containing hundreds of files than the converse.

    Macintoshes do a simply amazing job of accommodating changes flexibly when a PC would snap back with a sharing violation error. Try creating a new Word document, saving it, and then renaming it and moving it to a different folder while still editing in Word. Then save your changes, close the file, and reopen it by clicking on its shortcut in your list of recent documents. If you could do that — then congratulate yourself, Mac user.

    On the other hand, I can completely stall the Macintosh Finder just by holding a mouse click. Time stands still until I let up on the button; you can practically hear the Mac screaming, “Drop it — step away from the mouse!” This trait can give hiccups to Mac multi-tasking, and bemuses PC users whose machines take mouse-down more in stride.

    Spring-loaded folders on Macs are indeed wonderful, but not as wonderful as they were in OS 9. Here’s hoping full function returns in the Panther release.

    It’s too late to pick on Apple for fruit-flavored industrial design. It was fun while it lasted. After taking it farther than anyone thought possible, they dropped the style the instant it became a mindless fad — long before their imitators and fellow-travelers. Now their trade dress is a bit self-contradictory, but some of it is almost puritannically severe.

    Apple didn’t learn enough from the aggravating round mouse. That triumph of form over function is reprised on the sleek faces of recent Mac mini-towers. Their CD/DVD drive doors have no eject buttons. You open them through the OS, or else you’re going to need burglar’s tools. Apple might defend this as a mild security enhancement, but it’s more a matter of gee-whiz aesthetics. Anyway, it has really failed to impress those users who pay to get replacement drive doors, with buttons, on the aftermarket.

    Lastly: Aqua, an over-designed interface? Give Apple a chance to calm down and make some considered choices. I think “over-designed” is a synonym for “under-refined”, in which case the term really means the opposite of what it seems to. And I find I don’t have any words left for the Luna skin that’s been slapped onto Windows XP. In full effect, its garishness is non-stop hillarious.

  2. I thought your initial report was actually fairly on the mark.

    Having said that I am a Mac user since ’85 and currently use an iBook. At work I have a Dell Gx240 (PIV 2GHz / 1Gb Ram / Quadro4 / Win2k etc etc)which in terms of raw speed blows away my iBook. Its also a pretty good ‘workhorse’ for my day to day Sysadmin/Support work. At home I do much prefer the Mac OS X look & feel (but thats all pretty subjective stuff anyway). I miss a few things that have evolved since the first Finder, Multifinder, OS 7.x, 8.x and 9.x but these did take years to evolve and OS X is a bit like Finder v. 1 (features had to be left out to meet delivery deadlines – its a hard choice but I don’t think Mac users would have waited much longer…)

    One thing that really irks me about OS X is that as a former NeXTStep NextStation user (a Motorola 68040 w/NeXTStep 3.3) and OpenStep 4.1 user (on a Pentium 133) I find OS X to be so painfully slow.

    Its not going to make me switch to Windows but what kind of code-bloat explains the performance difference ? NeXTStep 3.3 on a Turbo slab is not a speed demon but its quite usable (and lets face it no one is going to live with OS X on a Mac Quadra) and OpenStep 4.1 was actually pretty zippy on a Pentium 133MHz. The premium Apple place on hardware might just be warranted *if* OS X performance was fully optimised for the PPC. I used the very early Rhapsody Developer Release on Intel and its performance was pretty good; certainly on a par at lower clock speed to much faster new generation G4 machines.

    Still the joyful experiance of using my companies molecular visualisation/modelling software in accelrated 3D via X-windows via AirPort along with Office OS X, a native OS X Lotus Notes, Camino, Safari etc is usually enough to make my colleagues jaws drop 😉

  3. I would be interested in knowing the publications name in Taiwan that is considering translating your article into Chinese– if and when it happens. If they don’t send you a copy perhaps I could snare you one.

  4. About the hidden files OS X is leaving on other file systems: I filed that bug with Apple somewhere around Mac OS X 10.1. It may not be top pritority, but it’s on their list, and I hope they’ll eventually fix it somehow. I’ve read rumors that a future version of OS X (10.3, perhaps?) would introduce a different file system and a much-rewritten Finder. Perhaps that’ll take care of that bug, as well?

  5. We could argue for donkeys years. One fact makes up my mind for me. Macs are overpriced, and I’d rather not buy a system only to see it become obsolete in a couple of years time.

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