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The “public” part of Mac OS X Public Beta, pt. 1

By MacEdition Staff (Feedback Form), 19 October 2000

Nothing gets the blood boiling for experienced Macintosh professionals these days like a rip-snorting game of “Mac OS X Beta Roulette”. Now that normal humans (read: non-developers) are actually allowed to see, touch, and smell the next great OS from Cupertino without fear of legal reprisal (read: NDA), there seems to be something for everyone. Good, bad, or simply thinking different, here’s what the front line has felt the need to say so far.

The Bad

Start with the worst and it can only get better from there, no? Not everyone is happy with Mac OS X Public Beta (Mac OS X PB). Sure, you can find any amount of kvetching out on the net (we’ve done it ourselves). However, it’s different when it comes from actual users, as it’s this group (and not the pundits) Apple has to sell it to.

Neema Aghamohammadi started off with, “I have been eagerly waiting for a modern Mac OS since 1995 when Copland was first discussed by Apple. Mac OS X has taken an eternity to arrive (and it’s still not here) but the beta is a welcome change”. It is indeed, but the sentiment is quickly followed by the disclaimer, “as much as I welcome the new-found industrial strength of the OS and the beauty of Aqua, the Desktop/Finder needs a lot of work”. Why? Because operations such as file renaming, moving, and other housekeeping chores are easier in Mac OS 9. Along those lines, this sounds particularly discouraging for users of an “internet OS”. Neema writes, “It is very difficult [to] perform some very basic tasks (decompressing recently downloaded files from the Internet often requires having several windows open)”.

Similarly, “Deacon” writes in, “The Finder window takes some getting used to, but does work quite well, given the three viewing modes, although the meaning of those cryptically named files and folders in the guts of the system have me stumped. I fear my days as a troubleshooting Mac Guru are over, at least for the next while”. The Finder is the face of the Macintosh. That face, it seems, shows some wrinkles these days.

Of course, to be able to comment on the Public Beta, one must be able to get it to work. And while reports do seem to cover the spectrum of “Everything works!” to the complete opposite, this report from Allen Jayme gives pause when thinking about the everyday users who may be trying the Public Beta.

Well, I paid the $29.95 and got it. I just don’t know what to do with it since I can’t use my DSL connection (earthlink using MACPOET), Apps like MS Office work marginally and no games to speak of run properly. I guess other than reviewing the GUI interface, there’s not much to do yet. Back to my 9.0.4!

The Good

Mac OS X PB has tremendous potential. It has Unix underpinnings, it has an enormously powerful imaging engine in Quartz, and it has a buzz surrounding it like few Apple OSes of the past.

Ed Fuller tells us, “OS X is the most stable OS I’ve used so far. Zero OS-level crashes. (I’ve managed to kernel-panic every other unix-like OS I’ve used at least once... :) The only time things got really weird in OS X was when I pulled out the old application menu (to make it a floating palette) from a Classic app, and tried to drag files onto it. It really didn’t like that. Try it. :)” [Ed. note: MacEdition is not responsible for system crashes, data corruption, lost time and effort, small hairless message-bearing rodents appearing in your computer, or any other nastiness that might arise from trying this.] Mr. Fuller also has plenty to say that’s less positive – but that’s for another installment of the article.

Some people really like parts of the new OS. Garry Connors, for example, also mentions the lack of crashes. Four times in a note of less than a page. Do you like the uptime, Garry? In addition, Mr. Connors points out, “OS 9 looks like a relic compared to it [Aqua]” and “The multitasking BLOWS OS 9’s out of the water (and WinNT’s for that matter). It’s fun to launch as much as I can (at the same time) all the while listening to mp3’s”.

Rebecca Gordon chimes in as a brave soul, using it as her regular OS to put it through its paces. “I’ve been using it as my regular OS for a week now on my Firewire PowerBook G3/400 with 192 megs of RAM, running classic apps (FileMaker, WordPerfect, Word, Excel) as well as the native mail client and IE. As others have remarked, it’s certainly stable. I like the column view a lot, even if it does remind me of Windows,” she says.

Thinking Different

So what about some of the more esoteric aspects of Mac OS X PB? Given the OS’s heritage, this note from Michael Crawford is not surprising:

NeXT stopped making hardware in 1993.
It has been over seven years since I’ve had modern hardware combined with a professional operating system.
Now I have it with a cube and Mac OS X.

Certainly the folks based on NeXT hardware and software have been thinking differently for a while. Hopefully we’ll hear more from them as the Public Beta is out longer.

Ms. Gordon picked out a certain menu item to get the “different” treatment, the “Go” menu.

I, too, miss the Apple menu or some equivalent. It’s a pain to have to open the favorites window just to get to a commonly used app or document. Picking a selection from the Favorites item in the “Go” menu just takes you to the folder where the item is located; it doesn’t launch the item. (I suppose I should expect that, since the menu is named “Go”, but then I don’t really see the point of the Go menu. I’m much more likely to want to work in a document or with an application than to visit the subdirectory where it’s located.)

Where do you want to Go today? Interesting...

Public Beta is as Public Beta Does

Mac OS X Public Beta is just that. A beta. For those who don’t know what that means, even in the loosest of software development shops, beta means unfinished. However, it is through the feedback of the many thousands of people who have purchased this beta that Apple will have the opportunity to change, tweak, fix, and otherwise spiff up the final release of MacOS X. You can find out more info from Apple at their MacOS X Beta site including a link to give your feedback directly to Apple.

We want your comments, but Apple needs them even more. If you have something to say, make sure you submit those comments to Apple.

Remember, neither Apple nor MacEdition condones the use of beta software in a production environment; take prudent precautions before installing (like backing up the hard drive). And be sure to keep filling our mailboxes too with your Public Beta experiences.

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