Joining the Chorus of Disapproval

by Giles Turnbull

Russell Beattie's provocative Why I might switch back post has attracted a great deal of attention over the weekend, and it's hardly surprising.

I think it's fair to say that in the last few years, Macs running OS X have become widely used among a certain section of the weblogging and tech conference-going digerati; when one of the best known people in that group decided to suddenly stand up and say what they don't like about the Mac, it was bound to get some people all wound up.

I'm not one of the OS X zealots who instantly assumes that all criticism of the system is wrong or unfair. Several of Beattie's points hit home, fair and square (such as the sigh-inducing awfulness of the Finder, or general system slowness, or the high cost of .Mac).

That said, I can't stop myself from answering back on just a handful of Russell's comments, ones I either don't understand, or simply can't agree with.

Anyone who says that Macs are more stable than Windows are smoking dope. I have two brand new Macs and they regularly go wacky and need reboots.

This first comment is the most unexpected of all. Yes, Macs do crash sometimes and yes, sometimes they need to be rebooted. But I'd never say that any of my machines running OS X has needed regular or even frequent reboots. The last time I had a Windows machine, it needed daily reboots.

Like it or not, it’s a Windows world, and interop has to be a priority. If I take a few screen shots, paste them into a PowerPoint For Mac presentation and send them off, and no one can see them because the images have defaulted to some wacky Quicktime tiff? That’s bad.

These days, I'd say interoperability between Windows and OS X is pretty good. It's rare that I receive a file that I can't open, or convert to something more convenient. And the example problem is odd; last time I looked, system screenshots were saved as PDF or PNG. Wacky Quicktime tiffs as defaults? I've never encountered them.

The widescreen on the Powerbook is completely overrated. Web pages and documents are tall, not wide. Because the wide screen lowers the viewing center of the screen, I end up getting a crik in my neck looking “down” at the wide screen, rather than more straight ahead on PC based laptops.

This one had me scratching my head. How, exactly, are PC laptops easier to look at straight ahead? How does being "wide screen" lower the viewing center? To back up my point, I'll mention that I recently got myself a Powerbook (widescreen) to replace my old iBook (most certainly not widescreen). I haven't noticed my neck being cricked any more or less than usual.

What is the friggin’ deal with the .dmg files? The install process is so broken. Unzip .dmg.gz, mount .dmg, copy to Applications, unmount .dmg, delete .dmg, delete dmg.gz. Bleh.

Dragging one icon from one window to another is far easier than using most Windows installers, I'd say. Plus, most of those installers are no more tidy, often leaving behind the installer file itself and an icon for the newly installed app on the desktop.

Does anyone use Sherlock any more?


Wait. You *do* use Sherlock?


2005-09-25 16:05:16
Reboots? Slow? WTF?
I have an iMac G5. 512MB RAM. It is plenty fast. I've only had to reboot once in six months - NetBeans wouldn't shut down nicely, so rather than waste time, I asked OSX to restart, which it did.

Most of the comments seem to be along the lines of "gee, I was doing $TASK really fast and not really paying attention, and on Windows, I can do that..." Embedding a .tiff in a PowerPoint presentation and 'no one can see it' ? What?

I use my iMac, a Linux box, a Windows Laptop and a NetBSD file server, running on a Tangerine iBook. Guess which one I use most? Guess which one works consistently the best (does what I want it to without complaining) ? Guess whose hardware holds up the best? I was still running OSX 10.3 on my TiBook until 2 months ago - slow, but usable, and the iBook was almost 7 years old. With BSD, it screams again. Try that with a M$ machine...

2005-09-25 16:48:36
about powerpoint
One time I made a powerpoint slideshow and dragged some images from Safari into Powerpoint. Later, I had trouble getting the images to display in Windows Powerpoint. Instead there was just a Quicktime icon with a question mark. This might be what he's talking about. Of course, I'm using the old Powerpoint, so maybe it's changed. I think the problem can be avoided by dragging the pictures to the desktop and then inserting them into Powerpoint from the menu, rather than dragging them. In any event, Keynote is superior to Powerpoint.
2005-09-25 17:18:15
TIFF's, installs, etc
If you use the, and do a grab of Window, Screen, etc, the resulting saved file is a TIFF, with no choice of other file types. Yup, I regard that as fairly primitive, given the preponderance of GIF, JPEG, PNG, etc.

As for installation, DMG's, whether zipped or stuffed, are so much easier to deal with than the mindnumbing Windows Installer (cleaning up is something so specialised that Windows users buy tools just to clean up monstrosities like the "Registry"). Though... DMG installs could be automated and has been for some of the tools I've used.

Pet peeves of mine on Windows are modal dialogues, which the Mac has significantly reduced. How annoying to be typing away when a window pops up, grabs focus, absorbs all keys until a space or return key is pressed and then disappears before you can see what you are agreeing to.

I've switched from Linux to Mac, because I don't have to think so much about making the machine work as I do about getting the job done. I still run one Windows XP system and even though it runs only one job, with no interactive use, it still crashes at least once per week (defined as "no longer responds to network, or keyboard or mouse, etc") - dual booted it runs Linux without hitch for at least 30 days, so it isn't the machine overheating or bad data in a piece of RAM.

So, Windows *still* sucks more than Mac, and Macs could be improved. YMMV.

2005-09-25 18:13:35
Install via dmg
Reducing the download-mount-eject-trash process is what the Internet-enabled disk image was created for. You download it, it mounts, and throws the dmg file in the trash. All that's left for you to do is drag, drop, and eject the image. For whatever reason, though, people seem to think this is a bad idea, and they don't get used much.
2005-09-26 03:01:41
Much to agree with but in the broader picture this doesn't make sense
I followed the link and read his list. Some of these supposed drawbacks I simply don't care about, but many of them are, indeed, very annoying. It's good he's made a public fuss about those.

What I don't understand is why anyone who's used OS X would not sooner put up with those annoyances than use that abortion Windows. It's a poor OS: it's years of bloat and corner-cutting piled on top of more of the same; it's unstable; theGUI is poor - ugly and clumsy and the menus aren't even application centered but come per window; it's not a true multi-user system - and that is why it is so fearfully insecure. The platform is so riddled with adware and spyware that it's impossible to trust software even from supposedly reputable sources, and one would need to be in a particularly insouciant mood even to browse with JavaScript turned on.

I'm particularly bemused by his needing constant reboots. Most PowerBook users seem rarely to do anything other than log out and most iBook users I've come across simply close the lid when they've finished what they're doing. I do shut my desktop down at night, but that's choice. Many people run OS X for weeks or even months without rebooting unless forced to do so by Software Update.

2005-09-26 09:05:35
Viruses and malware
Many of his points were simple opinions, without any call to facts. "I don't like iPhoto." Mm... ok.

To each his own. But why after enjoying an environment that doesn't require constant tinkering so as to avoid hordes of viruses and malway, would you want to go back to all that?

It's a head-scratcher to me, but then we each have our own priorities.

2005-09-26 09:20:19
Not perfect, but...
There are problems with Mac OS X. As other have pointed out, though, there are more problems with Windows.

Awfulness of the Finder? Not that the Finder couldn't be MUCH better (particularly in the multithreading department), but it is head and shoulders above Windows' pathetic Explorer. Even if Explorer were given something as useful as Finder's column view, it would still have a long way to go to catch up.

For the PowerPoint problem, guess what: PowerPoint is an application, and problems with portability of its documents lie squarely with its manufacturer. Obviously Microsoft is going to be completely concerned with making their Mac software 100% compatible with their Windows software NOT! When was the last time anybody invoked Grab directly? I've used Preview's timed capture, and even pulled in images to a Mail message from Grab's entries in the Services menu on occasion, but 99% of my screen grabs are done with Command-Control-Shift-4. With Tiger, that always gives me a PNG image. (What kind of portable image do you get when you do a screen grab in Windows? Is uncompressed BMP the standard we should be shooting for?)

I hate gzipped and stuffed disk images as much as the next guy. A properly compressed disk image takes up very little more space than a gzipped version, so it seems completely pointless to further compress them. And StuffIt is so completely passée, I don't know why .sit files show up at all these days.

I think that Apple's packages are great for software which requires more than a drag & drop, but they do need some sort of "uninstall" option.

For the record, my Windows machine at work is just as stable as my Mac. It probably goes even longer without reboots, as it gets very little actual use, and I never notice the "install system updates" message over there.

My PowerBook probably averages 10-12 hours a day of heavy use, including weekends. My PC would be lucky to see that much use in a week. There's got to be some reason *why* my PC gets less use than my Mac...

2005-09-26 11:45:38
Different Experiences for Different People

It's funny how people can have different experiences. I've had no end of problems over the years with Windows, with XP having been the final straw about 2-years ago, and have had nothing but joy with my PowerBook. Oddly, Russell seems to be having the opposite experience. I'm not doubting that a Mac can go "wacky", just that it's not happened to me yet. Different people, different experiences...

In fairness, there are a reasonable number of fair points in the article and it's always worthwhile recognising shortcomings in an OS rather than blindly accepting them. I personally like the Finder but it does have a few quirks that get on my nerves, such as not being able to scroll when I've selected multiple files in List view but it works fine in Columns view. I still find Finder easier to do stuff in than Windows Explorer but I do know that could use a few tweaks.

Anyway, shame that his experience hasn't been the same as mine. I'm very happy with my decision and look forwards to next year when I hope to buy a faster PowerBook with a dual-core Intel processor.

2005-09-27 03:06:49
I found the article pretty refreshing. I don't share much with it, but as I just *like* OS X, it's nice to hear from someone who doesn't like it to get the other perspective.

Also, worth noting that a fair few of the points were about how the chap didn't have a use for Apple software. I love most of Apple's software, and would miss it if I weren't on OS X. If I didn't love it, I'd be much less bothered about OS X vs. Windows.

2005-09-27 06:41:00
Let me change the UI
My desktop has gone from DOS to MacOS 7 to SunOS to Dec's OSF/1 to Solaris to Linux to MacOSX. On Unixen I used twm, olwm, olvwm, ctwm, fvwm2, CDE, Gnome and KDE. I even did OSX server stuff a year ago. So I've used lots of different UIs. Nowadays I'm using Windows XP with cygwin and XP tweakUI to get focus follows mouse.

I really miss using Gnome or KDE. I loved being able to use workspaces and multiple monitors. XP and OSX don't work the same. Worse, I can't change it. Heck, I even installed Linux on my iBook to get the UI I liked.

When I was doing linux, I had 100 windows (xterm, browser, mail, etc...) open. OSX and XP seem designed for Office users and more then 20 windows open seems to be the limit.

One UI doesn't fit all.

2005-09-27 13:47:46
PowerBook screen vs. PC laptop screen
I can't speak for the rest of Russell Beattie's criticisms, but I do understand his statement that with PowerBook "the wide screen lowers the viewing center of the screen". This has to do with the 4:3 aspect ratio on typical PC laptops vs. the 3:2 aspect ratio of the PowerBook screen.

For example, right now I'm looking at both my 15-inch PowerBook G4 (1280 by 854 resolution) and at a Dell Latitude D600 (1400 by 1050). The perceived viewing center of the screen is about 5 inches above the desk for the PowerBook vs. about 6 inches for the Dell, or about 20% higher. Also, since the vertical resolution of the Dell is 23% greater (1050 vs. 854) you can read more of a page at once.

So IMO this particular criticism is fair; nonetheless, I still wouldn't trade my PowerBook for a Dell.

Doug Picard
2006-03-09 12:11:39
I have to reboot my dual G5 4 GB RAM machine ALL THE TIME. I use it to edit video using FCP, DVD Studio PRo and Adobe After Effects.

I regularly experience applications "unexpectedly quitting". Yes my windows machines also have their quirks but come on....Apple is no help. Ken Stone knows more about FCP than Apple does.

I also am thinking about going to AVID on a Windows platform. It seems I have nothing to lose as my workflow is so screwed up now. As I write this I am watching the little color wheel spin round and round....Force Quit coming and I hope the last 30 min capture is not lost.