IE(eeeeeee)

by Rob Flickenger

To paraphrase Robert Anton Wilson, "There are no coincidences, only synchronicities."


I've just had an extraordinarily telling synchronicity.


The buzz around the office today was that Microsoft has finally released the "long-awaited" (their words) Internet Explorer 5.2 for OS X. "Inspire me", the website says. So, like much of the rest of the planet, I went off to be inspired (or, at least, not to be left behind) and invested in the 7.1 MB download.


As I was downloading the new IE, I had the sudden urge to check for updates to my current favorite browser, OmniWeb.
As it happens, The Omni Group has just released OmniWeb 4.1 (weighing in at 6.6 MB), the latest in their series of great OS X apps. What a treat, I thought to myself: I'll have two new toys to play with at work tomorrow. Let's get these installed...


Going with what I know, I started with OmniWeb. Installation of apps in OS X is almost pathologically easy with .dmg's: double click to open, then drag it to where you want to put it, and you're done. In about 20 seconds I had OmniWeb 4.1 up and running happily, with bookmarks imported and preferences kept, without answering a single dialog box.


Now on to IE 5.2. It appeared as though Microsoft is finally "getting it": they too have a .dmg package. But lo and behold, once opened it reveals not the browser, but an installer for the browser. Hmm, the last program I installed that needed its own installer was DigiTunnel, and that's really because it's system software (it adds a new control panel to your system preferences, after all...) Okay, proceeding with a cautious (and probably unwarranted, but nevertheless generous) benefit of the doubt, I ran the installer.


Next, I was prompted for my administrator password, not in the traditional system dialog box, but in a custom prompt with the friendly title "Authenticate". Why does IE need my administrative password? OmniWeb sure didn't. This is just an App. A web browser. Not a new device driver, not an encrypted tunnelling package, but a simple network application. Why does it need the equivalent of root access to my box just to install itself?


Fine. I'll give you my password, just this once. I was then presented with the standard EULA (click accept) and an OS 9 style installation dialog (click install).


What is this? I was now presented with the following incredible dialog box:





(click cancel, click quit. Quickly.)


I'm sorry, Microsoft, but you'll have to do better than that. In fact, never mind. I know that you won't comprehend this, but listen: This is now a universe where laptops can stay up for weeks on end, always return from sleep, update their network parameters without rebooting, install software without "quitting all other applications", never, never die with a blue screen of death, and only ever reboot after installing software for really good reasons. Which is probably what you'd have me do after installing IE 5.2.


I wouldn't know, because I never got that far. Yes, Microsoft, your "free" software has finally asked too much of me. The Installer is gone, evaporated from my trash can, bits recycled for more worthwhile pursuits. I think you've gotten enough of my time, disk space, and most of all, my attention, and I'm officially bringing the relationship to a close.


Consider this the EULA for all future interactions with me and my machines: Be nice, play fair, have fun. Any violation of these three key rules is a violation of the agreement, and will be met with immediate reallocation of the offending bits.


Fortunately, Microsoft doesn't (yet) own everything, and there are alternatives. Try OmniWeb. Try Mozilla. Better yet, do something more interesting with the Net than look at web pages.


But don't put up with guerrilla ideological war for mindshare masquerading as a monopolist profit model with no real value masquerading as junk software with fascist licensing. Demand more! It's alot of fun, honestly...


What are your experiences with Microsoft's offerings for OS X?


18 Comments

amelia1
2002-06-25 05:16:26
Installers spark popular uprising
To my great disappointment, it seems the majority of apps are still using OS9 style 'mystery' installers. Unfortunately, the 'Omni-style' dmg installers are not as ubiquitous as we were led to believe they would be.


It is not surprising that MS uses mystery installers. It is more surprising that Apple does. Shouldn't Apple be leading development here, instead of the OmniGroup?


I too have begun vetting apps based on their installers. Beyond the principle of it, it also seems that the apps with Omni-style installers are the best apps. Watson is a case in point.


Still, I have to use products from Macromedia, Adobe, Apple, and MS, so the majors will always survive and maintain control of installation.
(Are they just slow? Or will this never change?)


While we're discussing installers: it would also be nice if developers - including Apple - gave us our "Documents" folder back. Can't Apple, MS, iSpQ, and the rest find somewhere better to put their user data - like the library? - instead of polluting the Documents folder beyond all use?


Am

dsteinberg
2002-06-25 07:45:31
And if you had completed the installation...
Then IE would have reset your home page to www.msn.com. This falls somewhere between merely annoying and none of their business.


Daniel

pmccann
2002-06-25 08:51:19
And if you had completed the installation...
...you'd also discover that the fixes you might have hoped they'd make to the abominable problems with "invisible pages" are nowhere to be found. The browser still wipes itself clean every once in a while, requiring a command-a sequence to actually display the text that is invisibly rendered. Sigh...
googolplex
2002-06-25 14:03:24
And if you hadn't been so ignorant
You would have seen the point.
jdb8167
2002-06-26 10:11:52
Installers and Admin Authentication
As a sophisticated user, I fully understand the desire to have a .dmg containing only the standalone application. But, as someone who also has to help administer my mother's iMac, I strongly suggest that developers create installers.


Here is why. I would prefer my mother's iMac to have an auto login to her primary, unprivileged account. With the Admin account available for installations etc. That way it is difficult for her to make a fatal mistake.


Unfortunately, the lack of installers makes this very difficult. My mother has to download the software from her account, copy it to her public folder, login as administrator, find the downloaded file, open it, and then finally drag the application to the applications folder. This is a nightmare of complexity. I have to walk her through the process on the phone every time--she lives 1500 miles from me so long distance support is the only option.


Contrast that with the installer approach. Double click, enter the admin user and password, click ok. Done. There is no comparison in terms of complexity.


I've had to enable her primary login with admin privileges because the problem was insurmountable. An admin account is more power than she really needs and probably more than she wants too. She is justifiably afraid of messing up her machine.


A simple installer is the best solution. It is hardly a hardship for someone who knows what they are doing and significantly easier for people who don't necessarily know what they are doing.


Having said all that. There is no justification for Microsoft to require quitting all other applications. This is particularly amusing since there are dozens of processes running even after quitting the visible ones. So ultimately, quitting applications is useless since many other "applications" continue to run anyway.

hotsauce
2002-06-26 11:55:22
Admin Account
If she can use an admin password, she can just log in to the admin account to install software.
hotsauce
2002-06-26 12:01:40
Installers spark popular uprising
Can't Apple, MS, iSpQ, and the rest find somewhere better to put their user data - like the library? - instead of polluting the Documents folder beyond all use?


Hear, hear! iTunes takes this a step further and defaults to the Documents folder. Why have user Library and Music folders when you're just going to dump everything in Documents?

bgbg
2002-06-26 15:38:21
Installers and Admin Authentication
Can't you just change the permissions on /Applications/ to allow drag & drop installation by a normal user? That way your mother never has to log in as an administrator, and can't mess up anything other than the Applications folder.


Also, does anyone know if there's a link between whether an application is Carbon vs. Cocoa and whether or not it has to use an installer? IE, Office, Adobe apps, etc. are all carbon and use installers. OmniWeb and Watson are cocoa and don't use installers. The only counterexample I can think of is iPhoto, which I believe is cocoa and uses an installer.

malte
2002-06-26 16:44:47
Installers spark popular uprising
The fun part of iTunes doing this mistake is that the Human Interface Guideline clearly states that the Documents folder is sacred... and continues with the iTunes music database as an example of what shouldn't go there. Here's a quote:


``They are not intended to contain files whose primary access is through the application. For example, AppleWorks templates and iTunes music databases should go in the Library directory."


Fun reading.

captainnemo
2002-06-26 18:40:37
And if you had completed the installation...
To play devil's advocate for a moment: You're using a complex application that required a significant investment in time and effort, and hard cash, to create. And you're using it for free. Obnoxious though it is in some respects, I don't think it's unreasonable for Microsoft to try to recoup some of their investment through advertising in this way.
ssobek
2002-06-26 21:55:10
Leaving IE in the rear mirror...
I agree with your points. And it's even more ludicrous considering Office still installs with drag and drop! Why is IE different?


I went through with the IE update and certain bugs still bother me, as another reader has pointed out: text still disappears sometimes and scroll bars still gray out when I hide a window while a page is still loading. This is the update! And it required me to quite several programs that were doing important things to install!


I'm typing this from the comfortable security of OmniWeb 4.1, which still isn't perfect, but now my main browser. It can't handle some of the stuff I still have to do in IE (like paying a bill I needed to pay today, I found out), but it is much improved over earlier versions and usable for 95 percent of the Web.


And even though both browsers have font-smoothing now, OW, with its Cocoa interface, is so much cleaner and elegant. And I had forgotten how ugly IE's proprietary buttons and form features were until I returned to OW and for the first time realized how much fun it was to hit an actual Aqua button to submit a form.


There's one right at the bottom of this box, and I'm about to click on it. Beautiful. Here goes...

chaoswerks
2002-06-27 03:49:32
Installers and Admin Authentication
For someone who is the sole user of a machine and who doesn't need an admin account, instead of relying on installers which authenticate to install apps in /Applications have her create an Applications folder in her home folder and install apps there. You gain the same benefits of installing in /Applications wrt services, etc... w/o the need to authenticate to install.


Dave

senjaz
2002-06-28 05:23:42
Leaving IE in the rear mirror...
...and you even got to spell check your post in the web page form before submitting too :)
gracion
2002-07-01 15:15:51
Thanks for mentioning DigiTunnel
I hope you liked DigiTunnel (our PPTP VPN client for Mac OS X). Yes an installer was essential - we install in four places to integrate with system.


We used InstallAnywhere which has great OS X support and is pretty easy to use.


I too like drag-install for applications. Installer or not, my pet peeve is applications that install to the Applications folder as a folder, instead of as a double-clickable bundle. Omniweb does it right.


(And how did they get that cool skin to show up in the mounted disk image? It doesn't appear to be a tiled set of icons, as was done in the past.)


--Paul Collins
Gracion Software

antman
2002-07-02 13:58:43
Sorry, sticking with IE
Sorry, guys. I'm sticking with IE, for now anyways. I don't have time to continually run two browsers because OW can't handle a page. Often it isn't clear that there is a problem, so you waste time trying to figure out why a website makes no sense. Open it in IE and it works.


Also, OW is less intuitive. When you try and save a page it doesn't automatically bundle all of the page elements together.


Also, waste my time by making me click multiple times in the URL field to highlight the whole field. With IE it's one click and I'm typing.


OW has a lot of pluses but it is not ready for real use.

themas
2002-07-09 00:28:45
no damage here
Fully agreeing with the blogger's wrath....
But in this case it is nice to know that MS has not done what they do with installing and uninstalling MS-Office vX : leaving loads of junk on my harddisk.
I catalogued the entire directory tree ("ls -Ra /* >catfile.1") before and after the install of IE, looked at the differences between "before" and "after" and - voila - no difference except the IE-App (okay, being a bundle as apps are here).
So REALLY an easy uninstall without any junk left deeply in the intestines of my OS. No borg behaviour this time.
anonymous2
2002-09-27 10:44:18
Monopolist profit model?
> But don't put up with guerrilla ideological war for mindshare
> masquerading as a monopolist profit model [snip]


That's precisely the reason I don't use Apple machines -or- OS X... If you demand so rabidly that software should have a fair and open license, why don't you choose hardware that follows that ideology as well?


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