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High noon for OS X

By Eliot Hochberg (eliot@high-mountain.com), June 24, 2002

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I’m waiting for 12 o’clock. At 12, all things will be possible, the earth will open up and angels will come out. They had better. ’Cause right now I want to kill. Kill kill kill kill kill.

Why? And why should you care? What does this have to do with Macs. Oh, I’ll tell you. You bet I will.

Rush job

Okay, so I’ve been using Mac OS X. For a living I make DVDs (you may have seen some of my articles on this topic). But right now, for my bread and butter, I design and build Web sites. Usually, I make sure that I have plenty of time to complete projects, but, from time to time, a project needs to be rushed. Although I charge for the privilege, I hate rushing, since it leaves very little room for error.

As you might guess, I was on a rush project this weekend. I didn’t want to be, but I was. I had to make a large number of HTML pages out of content from different source programs like Word, Excel, some Photoshop graphics, etc. Around 100 pages total. A lot of rote work, enough to be annoying but not quite enough to justify creating a whole automation system, so a lot was done by hand. And all this work was due by noon on Saturday.

But that’s not when I finished it. Oh no.

I’m using Mac OS X. The big daddy of all Mac OSes, the OS to save Apple and open up the gates of market share heaven. Well, someone better go back to their market share Bible before this July, or else Apple may end up in that other market share place – you know what I’m talking about – Pic ’n’ Save.

Real world usage, real serious frustration

One of the things I had to do a lot of was rename files. For the ones I could, I used A Better Finder Rename. But for the rest, I had to rename by hand. You know what bugs me? When you have to hand rename a bunch of files, there’s this weird delay after one file is complete before you can move on to the next. There’s no indicator that tells you something is happening. You just have to wait. It’s been there since at least System 7. It’s still there now, in the completely new OS X. It needs to die.

Speaking of renaming files, should that cause the Finder to freeze? I’m not sure, but it does on my system right now. Over and over. But then it gets better for a reason I can’t fathom.

Explorer has its problems. When will Microsoft make their Mac browsers render the same way as their PC browsers? How frustrating is that? And Entourage is a piece, too, isn’t it? Is causes your entire system to just slow down every time new mail comes in. So, if you need it open for e-mail while on a deadline, but also get a lot of crappy spam (and I don’t care what any law says, unsolicited e-mail is spam, whether you can “opt out” or not), you end up getting slowed down all the time. So you quit out and hope you don’t miss anything important. Not my idea of fun.

Word and Excel are surprisingly stable, by the way. I have no complaints so far on them, although I did have to restart Excel once, but then I had to restart my whole system.

Dead again

Oh yeah, I had to restart my whole system. Twice. That’s Unix for ya! Stable as a goat. Huh?

About restarting – did you know that using an OS X system to access an OS 9 system can cause the OS 9 system to crash? How cool is that? So, if you’re transferring a bunch of files from one to the other, you get to do it all over again. Oh, and OS X has this great feature where you have to keep logging in to a system every time you need to use it. So even thought the icon is on your desktop, it doesn’t mean anything. Neat!

Oh, and here’s a good one. How about the one where you restart your system, and it always defaults to OS 9, even after you double check your settings? That’s a knee slapper. I love having to reboot twice in a row, from two different systems.

Another great thing about OS X is that there aren’t those stray files that OS 9 can add to folders – you know, those hidden files? Oh, wait, OS 9 is pretty smart about that, although some Windows folks do end up seeing them. Oh, and wait again, because actually, if you .zip a folder in OS X with StuffIt Deluxe, it includes a “.DS_store” file (a file that holds folder viewing preferences), which cause users of other systems to curse you and say “why do I have to deal with these files?” Oh, and you can’t see them on the Mac to keep them from showing up (at least not without a third-party app). Way to go!

Oh, and hello Dock. You’re so cool, with your magnification thingy. But I will turn off your magnification thingy. Because you toy with me. You tease me. Watch me try and drag 100 files onto an icon in you, say BBEdit. Icon grows. Icon highlights. Icon slips left. Icon slips right. I got, I got it. Oh no. 100 files are now in the Dock. Watch me remove them one at a time. What fun!

And, by the way, what happened to Labels? I used those. I needed them, they helped me to keep track of which files were which without having to put them in separate folders. Dammit!

Where’s the business case?

Bottom line: what should have taken three hours took eight. I would say three of those hours were a direct result of system problems, failures or inanities. Did it cost me the job? No. Did it cost me my client? I hope not. But it did cost me my Saturday, and I can’t get that back. I also learned that I cannot do rush work on OS X, because, at least for now, it’s not dependable enough, and it doesn’t play well with others. Hopefully, when the final version of OS X comes out, these problems will go away.

Oh, and for those of you with witty responses like “look, all you have to do is this obscure but seemingly obvious step,” you’ve missed the point completely. OS X is supposed to be stable and easy to use out of the box. I am an experienced user, who has debugged, fixed, cajoled and otherwise managed to make an efficient business out of using Macintosh systems. When I go into rush mode, things need to work, and work well. I understand that OS X has differences and that there is a learning curve. But that’s not what Apple’s marketing says. It says that things will just work. Imagine if I were a non-expert trying all of these things – I shudder to think. I have patience. I like Macs. What about someone who is using one begrudgingly? I hope you see my point.

I am waiting for 12 o’clock. At 12 o’clock, all my questions will be answered, all my work will be done, easily and quickly. At 12 o’clock, OS X will be complete. Steve Jobs will say “Here is your OS, and it’s really perfect now.” It had better be. Otherwise, there’s a $3000 silvery grey box that’s going five stories down. Look out below.

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