Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

OS X Experiences

Jerry Stratton, March 28, 2001

I am writing this in TextEdit under OS X on my G4/400 with 640 MB RAM. These are my experiences installing OS X. OS X, in my opinion, is still definitely in beta stage. There are some things that are nicer than OS 9.1, and some things that are worse than OS 9.1, but there are a lot of things that are just plain missing.

And I am never going to tell anyone that it doesn't matter that there aren't a lot of OS X-savvy applications. Classic environment just does not cut it. It is nothing like the “emulated 68k” environment that we got when Apple switched to the PowerPC line of processors. That was invisible to the user. Classic either more than doubles the startup time of your computer, or it adds an incredible startup time to the first classic application you run. And I am fairly certain that classic applications can bring down the entire Macintosh. I got a lot of kernel panics when running classic.

I only get a few when I don't.

What is a “kernel panic”? It's a type ‘x’ error. It brings down the entire system--something that isn’t supposed to happen in OS X.

This is not a finished operating system.

Let’s start with TextEdit, since that’s where I am right now. It will someday grow up to be a nice, simple editor. It has a ruler, it can change typefaces and styles and sizes on a character-by-character basis. It does not do smart quotes yet; I am assuming that to be just an oversight. (I am instead of I’m because I don't want to do the three-finger smart quote unless I have to.) This is basic. Even BBEdit does it, and BBEdit is not even a word processor.

Over on the side, there is a scroll bar, and the scroll bar in OS X has reverted to the archaic method of putting the scroll arrows far away from each other. I should have realized this would happen when I downloaded iTunes and complained that Apple was ignoring my settings for the scroll arrow location. Having scroll arrows next to each other is the biggest thing I miss when in a Windows application. Putting the scroll arrows far away means that Apple will eventually have to require more and more complex mice, as has happened in Windows. I am also using only a little hyperbolae when I say that the arrows next to each other is one reason I am one of the few people in our office who does not have carpal tunnel. I switch mouse hand day and evening--in the office, I use my left hand, at home my right, and one of the reasons I can do this is because of nice features like the scroll arrows not requiring lots of hand movement.

Looking in the title bar for the filename, I see “Experiences.rtf”. All I called the file was “Experiences”. The OS added “.rtf”. If I rename the file from .rtf to something else, is it no longer a .rtf file? If so, that is really, really bad. Classic had that right: you embed the owner and the type of the file in the file itself. The OS knows from something intrinsic to the file which application created it, and which other applications can work with it.

In the File menu, when I Save a file, Save does not get greyed out. This is one of the worst features of Windows: complete lack of feedback on whether or not a document has been saved.

Step 1: Installation

The day before, I upgraded from OS 9 to OS 9.1, and I erased an extra partition in preparation for putting OS X on it. The OS 9.1 upgrade went perfect, and worked great afterwards.

In the morning, I installed OS X. The installation went fine. I noticed a pause button on the installer. That’s something I’ve been hoping for, for quite a while. Installing the OS it is not useful, but for installing applications that do not require quitting all other applications--theoretically all non-OS installations in OS X--it can be useful to pause the install if you are about to do something else particularly CPU or disk intensive. Kudos for the OS X installer.

On restart, up came the Setup Assistant that always comes up the first time you install a Mac OS. First problem: I forgot to write down the fixed IP address of my computer. No problem, right? I will just put that information in later. Put down DHCP. I know DHCP is running somewhere on our network. Things go okay until it comes time to register. Apparently my DHCP parameters were incorrect--it is stuck on “connecting to the Internet”. So I wait until it figures out that there is not going to be any connection. And I wait. And I wait. I go out for a walk around the building. About fifteen minutes later it is clear that it is never going to figure out that it cannot make the connection, so I hit cancel.

Now it is stuck on canceling the connection. Wait another fifteen minutes, and then I notice that the menus are no longer accessible.

Is it time to see what Command-Option-Escape does under OS X?

Not bad: Command-Option-Escape brings up one of the few features I envied under Windows, a list of applications and the option of forcing them to quit. I give the setup assistant a few more minutes to figure things out, it does not do so, and I force it to quit.

It quits, and the rest of the system comes up. Not bad. If the assistant is like its classic counterpart, all it was doing was setting OS preferences that can be set by hand anyway. The first thing I do is set the network preferences and fix my IP address. First use the startup disk to set my startup disk to the OS 9.1 partition, get my TCP/IP preferences, and then use OS 9.1 startup disk control panel to reset my startup disk to OS X. Change my Network preferences, go into Internet Explorer (conveniently placed in the launcher at the bottom of the screen), and yes, I do have an Internet connection.

While in the system preferences, I noticed that there was a Software Update panel. Let’s go see if Apple has any software updates for me.

Software Update claims it cannot connect to the Internet.

Going back to the Network control panel, I notice that the control panel keeps reverting to modem as its first choice. Checking the “advanced” tab (note to beginners: always look in the “advanced” tab; in computerese, “advanced” means “stuff without which you will be lost”), I see that OS X is not smart enough to realize that (a) if I choose Ethernet, I mean Ethernet, (b) there is not even a phone line connected to the modem anyway, and (c) even if there were, would I not prefer Ethernet anyway? There is a “port order”. I drag Ethernet above Modem in the port order. Otherwise, the Network settings seem okay--and Explorer continues working fine through all this. I double check that it is not just grabbing from its cache (which shouldn't contain anything anyway--where have I been so far?). Software Update still cannot connect to the Internet, so I let it go.

Step 2: Getting New Software

Part 1: Web Browser

Of course, there is the classic environment, but only X-savvy applications can make full use of X features. So I resolve not to start the classic environment on startup, but only when I need it, and hope not to need it much. The first thing I need is a real web browser, so I take Internet Explorer over to http://www.icab.de/ and download the carbon version of iCab.

Explorer downloads the .sit file and then automatically starts up Stuffit Expander to decode the file.

In classic mode. Is there no Stuffit Expander in OS X? So I wait until classic mode finishes starting up (basically, it has to boot up OS 9.1 just as if you were booting up normally), but iCab still does not expand. I drag the file on top of the Stuffit Expander that is now in the launcher. Nothing continues to happen. I go into Stuffit Expander and attempt to open the file directly. Apparently, classic apps do not have access to X-created files? I’m not sure. But it definitely does not see the file.

And the finder liê£ ?°Ìü*õ[????[\t5

Okay. From this point on, if I sound choppy, hurried, or if I leave out important details, it is not my fault. Something wrote garbage from this point on (which, at this point, is only about a quarter into the document). More about this later, except to repeat now what I have already said: if you are going to need classic applications, you do not want to upgrade to OS X.

And the finder list is odd. At first, I think that it does not support typing letters to move around in lists. Then I realize it cannot support this because it does not use double-clicks: a single click is all it takes to move into a directory, which means you cannot select that side of the window. Then I find the windows-like text box at the bottom of the screen. There are two windows, left and right. In the left window, you must select in the window and then you can type letters to move around in the list. For the right window, you have to click in the text box and type letters to move around in the list. This is supposed to be intuitive?

Wandering around in the pre-installed applications, I discover that Stuffit Expander does come with OS X. I quit classic expander and drag the file onto X expander, and presto, I now have a carbonized iCab. I add a new folder to my applications partition, naming it “Applications (OS X)”. (Later, I discover that OS X is not very good at determining which application to open if there are two versions of the application available. This is going to make carbon applications much more desirable than fully X applications, since carbon applications work in both environments: you will not need to keep two copies. I add another folder called “Applications (Carbon)”.)

I quit Explorer, throw its icon off of the dock (it disappears in a puff of smoke), and go into iCab.

I import my old iCab hotlist into my new iCab hotlist. I still do not have my preferences, though: my ignored and acceptable cookie list, my javascript filters, my general preferences. There is no option for importing these that I can see, so I decide to see if the old file format is acceptable to carbon iCab. I locate iCab’s preferences, and drag the old preference files into the new folder. Start up iCab again--and nothing works. Fine, that was wishful thinking. I quit iCab, drag all of the preferences to the trash, and start it up again, re-import my hotlist, and go about setting my preferences manually. During this process, iCab generates an OS error. I figure on taking a snapshot of the error window for future reference. The standard snapshot keys do not work. Go into Mac OS Help--snapshot has been replaced with Grab. Grab is just another application, not a system feature. You have to start Grab up to use it. And then set a timed grab, set everything up before the grab goes off, and then you have a TIFF file. A bit of a pain, but understandable: part of the X philosophy is not letting anyone patch the system. Everything is handled by applications. I do not like it, but if making snapshots more difficult means less system crashes, I can live with it.

The trash icon is one step better now. You still drag disks to the trash to eject them, but at least it changes from a trash can to an arrow when you are dragging a volume. The icon is still labeled “trash”, however. I wonder what is inside the trash? Clicking on the trash icon brings up a standard folder window. I might just be missing it, but the Put Away option seems to be gone. (OS 9.1 remembers where trashed items used to be, and can put them right back where they used to be if you ask it to.) Also, drag an item out of the trash and onto a volume other than the item’s original volume, and the item still disappears from the trash.

Part II: E-Mail

I still use Eudora 4.3 for e-mail. I have heard wonderful things about the built-in Mail software in OS X, so I go into that and import my mail folders.

Problem 1: It does not import folders hierarchically. It imports them flat. And it renames them with the word “imported” at the beginning. I have hundreds of folders; this will not do. (In fact, first time around, I imported them and Mail started acting funny, as if it could not handle all those folders.) And while Mail supports hierarchical folders, you have to type them to get them! Instead of choosing to make a new folder inside of an existing folder, you need to type, for example, “Personal/Girlfriend” when you make the new folder Girlfriend if you want it in the Personal folder. That is nuts.

Problem 2: What if I use Mail and change my mind? Does Mail use the standard Unix format for mail like Eudora does? Sort of. Each file is a Unix file, but they are all called “mbox”--each mailbox is a folder that contains an mbox for read mail, and an Incoming for unread mail.

Problem 3: Possibly related to my importing hundreds of folders and thousands of messages, OS X dies with a kernel panic. It gives me the option of ‘c’ for continue or ‘r’ for restart. Continue does not work, so I choose restart. This was very, very ugly. The options were not presented in a nice, refreshing aqua window. They were typed as text across the screen, as if my Mac had suddenly become a VT100 terminal with a nice background.

On restart, I take a break from e-mail and attempt to make it easier to access my classic documents. Apparently Drag & Hold no longer works: I can not drag an item over a volume or folder and have that volume/folder pop open. This was one of their most touted features in OS 8.x. What happened?

I attempt to make an alias of my Launcher items folder. It will not let me, until I rename the folder something else. No idea what that is all about. Maybe it doesn’t want to let me move the folder, and that part of the code doesn’t realize that all I’m doing is making an alias of it? (Copy and Alias work the same in X as they do in classic: Option-drag and Command-Option-drag.)

Perhaps I will have the Classic environment start up automatically after all. I start up Eudora 4.3 in classic mode and see how well that works. It does not work at all. It crashes. And another kernel panic follows.

Step 3: Re-Install System

This time, on restart, all of my folders look like unknown documents. And all of my OS X applications look like folders. Carbon and Classic applications look correct, but will not start because they are not recognized as applications. This is shades of the Windows registry. I try to use Mac Help, but it will not start, probably because it is an application also. In the Utilities folder, all applications look like folders, even the Disk First Aid replacement. I boot up from the CD and run the Disk Utility. It reports no problems. Interestingly, when running the Disk First Aid portion of Disk Utility, if you choose Verify, it runs the verify but at the end reports that “Verify or Repair completed.” It doesn’t even know which one I chose? Disk First Aid on Classic did. I sound like a reverse old fart. “Back in my day, the computer did this for you. We didn’t have to walk forty miles to school in the snow, uphill, both ways. The computer did that for you.”

I erase my OS X partition and re-install. Installation is, fortunately, very easy. This time, on restart, I know my IP and my iTools username/password.

It is very fortunate that I have been installing my OS X applications on a separate partition. They are still there when I restart from the newly installed OS X.

Step 4: Continue installation of Carbon software

I bite the bullet and download the beta version of Eudora for OS X.

I cannot use the old preferences file. But I can use the old mail folders and nicknames as normal.

When I try to start Eudora from the preferences file that Eudora for OS X created (Eudora Settings), OS X thinks I want to start classic Eudora, and starts up the classic environment. I quickly quit Eudora 4.3 as soon as it starts up.

Eudora is carbon, so I throw my old Eudora in the trash, and double-click Eudora Settings.

It starts up Eudora 4.3 from the trash. Is that a feature or a bug? OS 9.1 knows enough not to run programs from the trash. It does not always know enough to look for a replacement, but it knows enough not to run trashed applications.

Quit Eudora 4.3 and empty the trash. There are about 90 images that I do not have the “privileges” to erase. It takes me a while to determine that by “privileges”, it simply means that the files are locked. It has nothing to do with Unix privileges. I find nothing in Mac Help about how to delete locked files without unlocking them. In fact, nothing in the Mac Help that I can find mentions locked files at all. It does mention that if I hold down the Option key, I will not get warnings. Since I do not care about the images (all I really want is to delete Eudora 4.3), I hold down the Option key and empty the trash.

It still warns me, on every single file, that I do not have the privileges to erase them. I wonder if OS X has made it possible to edit multiple settings at the same time on multiple files? Select all 90 files, choose Get Info. (Show Info under OS X.) Sure enough, a single Info box comes up, that says 90 files are selected. But the Lock checkbox is gone.

I practice pressing the mouse button ninety times. Eudora 4.3 is gone, and I have 90 images permanently in my trash. Now, finally, Eudora Settings starts up Eudora for OS X.

I find the newly created Eudora Folder, and replace it with an alias to my Eudora Folder on a separate partition, in case I need to erase this partition again.

Part Whatever: Installing Other Applications

I definitely do not want to be running Classic. What do I need?

  • iCab: No problem. Carbon.
  • Stuffit Expander: X. Comes with the system.
  • Persistence of Vision Ray-Tracer: Carbon.
  • BBEdit: Not available in Carbon yet.
  • MT Newswatcher: Not available in Carbon yet, but apparently a beta test is starting soon. I volunteer.
  • Eudora: Carbon beta available.
  • FileMaker: Not available, and appears to have major problems in Classic mode.
  • GraphicConverter: Carbon.
  • MacSQL Monitor: Carbon
  • Secure Telnet (niftyTelnet): Not available, but it works in Classic.
  • Palm Desktop: Not available, but it works in Classic.
  • Appleworks: Not available. ClarisWorks 4.1 works in Classic
  • KeyServer Admin/Client: Not available.
  • iTunes: Oh, baby!

Sitting in my iTools folder is a new carbon iTunes. I download it and install it and... okay, it is very easy to add all of my old mp3 files, and fortunately the mp3 files contain the information about them inside of them. But preferences are once again gone, including my playlists. Do I dare try to copy my old iTunes preferences over? I am going to wait. But at least I have all of my Alice Cooper tracks available again.

Step 5: Afterthoughts

Where is the memory control panel? In other versions of Unix, it is usually recommended that the swap space be on its own partition. I have an empty partition sitting here waiting to be used as the swap space. How do I tell OS X to go ahead and use it? No idea.

Preferences: It needs to be easier to convert preferences over from OS 9.1 to OS X. Software such as Eudora and Newswatcher contain everything in their preferences. I know that OS X is not supposed to be using resources any more, but if Apple has not already provided system calls that make it easy to go back and forth, they need to.

FileSharing preferences are lost and must be rebuilt, but attempting to turn my old drop box into a drop box again (Write only) results in unexpected error 54. Guest users are automatic. I do not see any means of turning them off. It is possible that files and folders may not be shared unless they are in a user’s public folder or unless you log in as the privileged user. This appears to be the case, which means that if you want to share items that are larger than that partition, you are out of luck. Aliases to other partitions placed in your public folder also do not work. Apple System Profiler indicates that volumes can be shared, but I do not see how yet. (Beyond logging in as privileged user, which lets you see any volumes in any case.)

Sherlock does not appear to use the Classic indices for volumes, even though those indices are stored on the volume itself.

The new Windows-like three buttons at the top of each document are going to take getting used to. The problem is that since they look like Windows, I expect them to act like Windows, but they do not: when you X out the last document in an application, it does not quit the application like it does in Windows, it leaves it open, like it does in OS 9.1.

When I click on the background, it brings the finder up to the top, but it does not bring the finder windows up to the top. I have to choose Bring All to Front. This should either be the default, or be an option that I can choose, to always happen when I switch to the Finder. This does not appear to be the case with all applications. Bringing the application forward for Eudora and iTunes does bring the documents in that application forward--unless they have been minimized, which is probably the correct way of doing things.

Button view appears to be gone. It was very useful for setting up a computer for beginning users. I also found it invaluable, especially in concert with pop-up finder windows, for making a more advanced, easier-to-use, less intrusive launcher.

Command-Tab moves through open applications, but not through open documents. This would not be a problem, except that I cannot install ProgramSwitcher. The other must have extension that I used was FinderPop, which caused contextual menus to pop up automatically if you held the mouse button down over an icon. If Apple wants us to stop using extensions, it needs to provide this functionality in some other way.

Files are now sorted correctly, without the need for the Natural Order extensions. That is, numbers are sorted numerically instead of alphabetically.

Clicking on an icon name in a finder window no longer lets you change the text. You have to click once on the icon or its text to select it, and then click again on the text to open that text.

While View preferences can be set to be the Global preferences, this is not a default. By default, preferences appear to be not global. And you will want to change your view preferences for every one of your folders that pre-existed OS X, because OS X will maintain the last used view mode, which will, because icon sizes or text sizes have changed, be jumbled on top of each other. There is no global way that I can find to change the way these folders appear. And it is even worse on servers: they do not remember your preferences, resulting in jumbled files every time you log in.

The Adobe folder includes two items: a readme, which opens up SimpleText in Classic mode, and the Acrobat 4.05 installer, which is also classic. In fact, the OS X Install CD does not show everything it has. This is a bootable CD, but none of the files it must have to boot from are visible.

The dock takes some getting used to. Applications appear in it automatically, on the left. Documents appear on the right, but only if they have been minimized. Holding the mouse button over an application brings up a list of the documents under that app. I think I would prefer an option not to show minimized documents!

Apple System Profiler looks interesting. But it does not see which disk is chosen as startup disk.

The back and forward arrows always seem to be in different places.

The Internet control panel does not contain nearly as much information as the Classic one did, which indicates that such information can no longer be centralized.

“You cannot connect to servers using Appletalk.” This means that you can only connect to servers--including other user workstations--if they are using a version of Mac OS that supports TCP/IP, which means only OS 9 as I recall. It also means that you do not get that nice, easy to use list of people in your LAN sharing files. If you are not technically proficient, you do not access other shared computers. And they do not access you: you are not sharing via Appletalk either. We always knew that Appletalk would be disappearing sooner or later. But I always hoped that it would be replaced with something as easy to use. You have to know the name or number of the computer you are connecting to. Shades of Windows.

The screen looks smaller. I actually rebooted into OS 9 just to verify that my screen size had not changed. And there is no longer the option of tightening the spacing of finder icons, making icon view less preferable to list view. And the screen size really looks smaller when using hierarchical menus, for example in Eudora when traversing mailboxes. What would go left to right in OS 9.1 goes left to right to left in OS X.

Aliases are no longer obviously aliases. Finder labels are also gone, which is going to really screw with my web site: I use labels to tell my applescript not to upload certain files. Comments are gone, which were also very useful (if you ever downloaded a file using Anarchie and looked in the Comment, you saw that the original location of the file was there).

Applescript has major trouble in classic mode, mainly with access to the Finder and writing large strings. It may even cause irreparable damage to files on your hard drive. I manage our web site from a FileMaker database, which uses Applescript to write the files to my hard drive and then upload them to our Unix web server. Opening the database under FileMaker (in classic mode--there is no FileMaker for OS X yet), first it would not write at all. So I opened the Classic script editor (OS X script editor did not help me debug the classic script) and got it to write the file without an error, but it only wrote garbage. Finally, I got it to work by writing the file line by line instead of all at once. Then, I went into this document to write about my experiences, and found that most of the document had been overwritten by garbage...

I’m here at the office an hour late. I go home.

March 29, 2001

I have to use OS X. I have to be ready for user questions, and I have to be ready for when OS X is actually released in a non-beta form, and for when I am comfortable installing it in our computer labs. But I have not felt this way about a computer since I stopped using Windows. I am afraid to do anything new for fear it is going to accidentally erase files (who knows what other files have garbage in them?) or, even worse, that I am going to restart the computer one morning and see nothing but folders where my applications used to be.

Probably this is partially because I do somewhat more advanced work in Classic mode. Maybe if the only thing you use Classic mode for is reading Usenet, or Nifty Telnet, you will not run into these problems. But why risk it? Let the idiots like me work out the bugs.

I was able to restore up to the point about Aliases by rebooting back into OS 9.1 and running Norton Unerase. TextEdit’s previously-saved files (since I had been saving often) were not available immediately, but by searching for words that I knew were in the document, I was able to find just about everything. Anything I wrote about between Aliases and Applescript is lost, however.

The Open menu item does not appear to remember where I last was. In Classic, that option was under the General control panel. Now, it keeps going back to where the document is. I suspect it is remembering save and open as one item instead of as two. Sure enough, if I do not save before opening another document, it remembers that. Score one for OS 9.1

Now, the only that has been keeping me sane--iTunes--has decided to stop playing. It is not giving any error. It just is not playing the music. I press play, I press next song, it all works, it starts the song, and stops at an elapsed time of 0:00. It will not play radio stations either. It connects, gets to an elapsed time of 0:00 and stops. I blame classic. I just started classic to check a FileMaker database. I bet if I restart, it will be fine.

Yep. Hey, I bet if I look under the covers I will see a copyright for Microsoft.

Oh, and now TextEdit no longer remembers where I was on Open even if I do not save between opens. So who knows what was going on there.

Here is a good one: ESC no longer works as Cancel. Neither does C or Command-C. Or at least, this is not a system-wide thing. ESC works in TextEdit, but not in the telnet app (shell, actually, I cannot figure out how to add Unix apps to my Favorites; if I want to use one I have to go into the shell).

Invisible files. Any file that begins with a period is partially invisible in Unix. We have been warned about this for a while, however, Mac OS X goes even further, and will not show you period files at all unless you go into the shell mode. This is extremely annoying for those of us who manage Unix systems--our backups have files with periods in them that we cannot see in Mac OS X. I edit all of my web files off-line, and, when they are ready for upload, I upload them. This includes my .htaccess files. I cannot see my .htaccess files to edit them in Mac OS X. They are on the drive, Mac OS X has no option, that I can find, to enable viewing them. Standard Unix, of course, has always had this option.

Contextual menus have much less information in them. Even Get Info for a file is missing from a file’s contextual menu.

According to the Get Info box, it is possible to change the application that opens certain kinds of files by default. For example, the default for .gz files in sunTar--but I only have sunTar in Classic, and Expander for X handles .gz files fine. Can I change it? There is a tantalizing but grey button that indicates I can, and I have not figured out how to ungrey that button.

It can take a long, long time for new files to show up in the finder. I am talking on the order of a minute or more for downloaded files to appear.

Cool stuff: the dock is probably overworked, but if you have really good eyesight you can recognize your OS X document from the icon. This will probably change as more OS X applications become available and you actually have more software to run.

Virtual memory is on by default; but in Unix, you generally put virtual memory (the swap file) on its own partition if you can help it. I can see no way in the OS X preferences to set this up. I have a nice, empty partition waiting to be used for virtual memory, and OS X is using its own partition; in fact, I cannot see any way of using multiple partitions. Using multiple partitions is an integral part of data management in Unix. If the system partition (which is often overworked) or the swap partition (which is always overworked) goes bad, the data partition remains intact. User home directories are often kept on separate partitions to both keep their data intact and to keep their data from harming the system. As far as I can tell, OS X is placing everything on the same partition: system, swap, user space, server space, everything.

The Finder appears to not save state very often. I just had a kernel panic, and on reboot the Finder windows open were from about three hours ago.

Preferences appear to be a lot less stable in OS X than they were in OS 9.1. Trying to start iTunes after the aforementioned kernel panic, I get “The iTunes Music Library could not be read because an unknown error occured (40)”. I have never had this occur in iTunes on OS 9.1. So I throw out the music library file and re-import 600 MP3 files. It does not look as though any other preferences have been lost, and fortunately I had not yet created any play lists.

I think what bugs me most about OS X is the inconsistency of the interface. In OS 9, even with changes as drastic as Navigation Services vs. pre-Navigation Services, knowing how to do things in one place meant you knew how to do things in other places, as long as you were not afraid to use your computer. One of the things I see most in our Windows users is that they are afraid to use their computer. They are afraid that if they look around for something familiar, the mere action of looking around will cause problems on their system. And they believe, with some justification, that just because something works in one area of the OS or in one application, that there is no reason to expect it to work in other parts of the OS or in other applications.

This is the feeling I get as I wander about OS X. Some windows have multiple lists, and in one list you choose from inside the list, in another you choose from outside the list. (See the standard file picker, for example.) In some places, you double-click to choose, and in others you single-click. It used to be that the standard was simple. If you saw a button--anything with beveled edges--it was a single click. Anything else required double-clicking to get it to change or do anything drastic. Now, you can click on an item and it will bring you to a place that looks very similar but that will not do anything unless you double-click. Maybe there is an underlying rule that I have not yet discovered. I am afraid to say that OS X is absolutely wrong, because I remember going from a command-line based system to the Mac 512k, and not knowing how to do anything except put stuff into the trash, because I just did not get the idea. I was able to get the idea, however, from reading the manual. There is no manual explaining why I am wrong to feel that OS X is inconsistent.

In summary, I think that OS X will someday be a very useful operating system. But it currently has quite a few very odd interface choices. Some of them look more like choices that were not made because the software is not yet finished. Unless you have a specific need for OS X today, you should wait until you do not need classic mode. This is still beta software! It may not be called beta, but that is what it is, and classic mode is even more beta. (I am not even going to use it anymore. I will save up my Classic work and twice a day reboot into Classic.) Unless you normally install beta versions of your operating system, you should not install OS X. You certainly should not pay $130 for it.

March 30, 2001

I still do not understand the file picker. Sometimes the text box lets me scroll directly to filenames beginning with a string of characters, sometimes it does not. I have no idea whether this is a bug or if I am simply missing something in the interface.

Found a nice OS X freeware program called “Cronnix” that gives you access to the crontab file. Unfortunately, it highlights another problem that only a Unix geek like me would know: OS X uses the braindead version of cron that “ors” the day of month and day of week fields. In the smarter version of cron, which I had thought was the BSD version, all fields are “anded”. This means that you can specify only the first day of January, for example, or only on Fridays in February, or, and here’s the cool part, every third Saturday of every month. In the braindead version, however, all fields are “anded” except for the day of month/day of week fields. Which means that if you try to specify the third Saturday of the month, what you end up getting is every Saturday and every day from the 21st to the 27th. There is no way to duplicate the “second Monday” or whatever in the version of cron included in OS X.

Now, Apple did not write this software, it came from another source and is probably the more common form of cron nowadays. But you would think that they would go for the consistent version rather than the inconsistent version.

I’m seeing the preferences for “use global preferences” in Finder views disappear on occasion, reverting the folder’s view back to its own, jumbled state.

The “Change Application” button in a file’s “Get Info” does not appear to work worth beans. Most of the time, for me, it is greyed out. When it is not greyed out, it allows me to go through the motions of choosing a new default application but nothing changes. I’ve tried to change .html files to use iCab, and it won’t work.

It also appears that sometimes, the call for “Get Application” does not recognize aliases to applications as applications. Cronnix does; Change Application does not.

The screen leaves things lying around a lot. I have a puff of smoke on my screen as I write this that the system forgot to erase. Sometimes the dock remains partially visible, as if the system forgot to erase the final bit at the last minute, and sometimes the text that pops up giving an application or document’s name stays up when I move the mouse away.

Items in the dock, especially in the documents, keep changing location, probably when they get de-docked and docked again. There ought to be a consistent order. I’m always clicking the wrong document because it isn’t where I expect it to be.

Some actions inside applications start other applications where I don’t expect it, leaving them running when I close the document window but not the app. When choosing to print, there is a preview button. Pressing it brings up a separate preview application. Closing the previewed document, as in OS 9.1, leaves the Preview application open. The action feels as if it is still part of the original application, and should act that way. Closing the window should not leave apps lying around.

Speaking of printers, making print queues is a real pain. Even with Appletalk printers, the computer does not automatically setup the printer and driver for you like it does in OS 9. You have to know what driver to use. Adding printers is still confusing to me. Some old “print queues” remain in the “Add Printer” after I delete them. If I try to create another print queue with the same name, it pretends to allow me to do this, but I’m fairly certain it is using the settings from the old, deleted one. At least, it doesn’t work. Even better, if I try to delete a printer while in the “Add Printer” list, what I really end up doing is deleting the currently selected printer in the real printer list in the window behind that I cannot see.

Print queues have also, it appears, lost the ability to specify a time for printing to occur. Desktop Printers in Mac OS have long had the ability to specify a time for printing, such as early the next morning when my 400 page document won’t disrupt students printing their 3-page essays that are due in the next fifteen minutes.

Renaming a TextEdit file from “Notes.rtf” (I just called it “Notes” when I saved it, TextEdit added the “.rtf”) to “Notes” causes it to lose its association with TextEdit. Why am I not just using Windows?

Here’s a strange one: windowshades are gone. In OS 9 and earlier you could double-click title bars of windows to “pull them up” like a windowshade. This was very useful for seeing the contents of the window beneath. You could even type without “dropping the shades back down”. This feature would have been even more useful in OS X, since OS X does not require that all of an app’s documents be frontmost. You could have a web page document directly beneath your AppleWorks document.

That’s not the strange thing, though. I suspect I’m one of only very few who used that feature often. The strange thing is that the double-click is still there. You can double-click title bars in OS X, which you would only do if you were familiar with windowshades. And then the document disappears into the dock, which is almost exactly what you would not want to happen if you were expecting windowshades.

More software notes:

  • Virtual PC: not available
  • Photoshop: problems in classic
  • Appleworks now available in Carbon.

On the bright side, I never entered Classic mode once today (rebooted into OS 9.1 twice), and OS X never crashed. Even the Eudora beta never crashed all day. If the dock had pop-ups, it would be perfect.

April 2, 2001

Software Update often states that it cannot connect to the Internet, even when other apps are connecting fine. I suspect that this is a catch-all error and what it really means is that it cannot connect to the remote site. It also shows the “last checked for update” date without the modification for daylight savings time. I hate daylight savings; I consider that a feature.

April 6, 2001

Apple assumes that the computer is on all the time. There is no automatic startup or shutdown available as in OS 9.1. Also, there appear to be cron jobs that must run or you are in trouble, and they are set to run at times when it is likely the computer will be turned off.

  1. <- Electoral Nobody
  2. Price of Prohibition ->