by Kyle D'Addario
& Wincent Colaiuta
One Month With OS X
April 20th, 2001
We are taking a break from our steady stream of tips to talk about the current state of Mac OS X.
Not that most of you need to be reminded, but here's a little history about Mac OS X for those that do. Apple's first real effort at producing a "modern" feature rich operating system was the Copland project. There were beginnings of other projects before then, but Copland really thrust the idea into Mac user's minds that there was something better than what they currently had. Copland, which was more or less abandoned, had some of its features find their way into Mac OS 8. However, protected memory, a Unix core, and preemptive multitasking were nowhere to be found.
Apple was in dire straights and needed to do something to accelerate their OS development. Searching out of house, Apple looked at the upstart company Be and their buzzword laden BeOS, but passed on that and brought Steve Jobs back into the fold with the acquisition of NeXT.
Many years, and even more delays later, Apple shipped Mac OS X. That was almost one month ago. Even more importantly, perhaps, is that Apple has already shipped an update to the new OS, offering version 10.0.1 via their Software Update utility last Friday afternoon. 10.0.1 fixes many of the performance problems that were associated with the initial release, and has made the OS far more usable than the retail version. 10.0.1 shows significantly increased menu performance, window resizing is less slow, applications launch faster, and more support has been added for third-party hardware. All in all, this is the release that many users were expecting March 24th. But what does that mean?
First things first, OS X is truly amazing. OS 9 had been crashing on me at least three times per week, and OS X so far crashed on me a total of two times. (This actually isn't totally true, as I had a wide range of stability problems when I first installed the retail version, but those were traced to bad RAM, and since removing the suspect memory, I have been crash-free.) Second, the Aqua interface is as functional as it is gorgeous. I've come to realize that many of the complaints about Aqua were from those that did not want to "learn" a new way of doing things. Fair enough, change is always difficult. However, the change is far less shocking than many have led the public to believe. The Dock, actually, is heaven sent for new users. When setting up OS X for my father, he found it far easier to have all of his applications, folders, and frequently used files accessible from the controversial Dock. Not only that, but he finds it "Cool" and loves the magnification effect. Combine a rock solid OS (he too has yet to crash on his slot-loading iMac/350 with 320MB RAM) with a fun to use and easy interface, he is far happier using the computer than he has been in months.
New or novice users' reaction to OS X is unspeakably important to Apple. From what I've seen with my father and some other friends, new users are actually able to adapt to the new OS quicker than they were to OS 9. Make sure you understand the significance of that. While OS X native applications are still few and far between, that will change. Office will be Carbonized, as will Photoshop and Dreamweaver and FileMaker, and users will have access to their full range of applications without ever having to launch Classic. The important idea, however, is that the OS in general is easier to grasp than previous versions have been. It rarely crashes, and with each update will crash even less. Soon users will be able to burn CD's and watch DVDs through OS X, and life will be peachy for all those involved.
One thing that gets me is all of the authors that I read that say, "Do NOT use OS X as your main OS yet. It is not ready. You will suffer." This line of thinking I do not understand. Many users want access to e-mail and the Web, they want to be able to print things, keep in touch with loved ones via instant messenger, and generally just enjoy their computing experience. OS X, right now, allows users to do that. Of course if you must burn CD's, or use your scanner, or your printer is not supported, then you might have some problems. But, for day-to-day use, most people will be pleased as punch with OS X. Today.
Yes, despite my unabashed love for OS X, I am aware that it still has some pimples. However, the promise of OS X is impossible to ignore, and what you can do with it today is fairly remarkable as well. If you have not taken the OS X plunge yet, do not be afraid. It will feel weird for a little bit, but once the initial unfamiliarity wears off you will wonder how you ever lived without it.
You are encouraged to send Richard your comments, or to post them below.
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Kyle D'Addario is the assistant editor of The Mac Observer and has logged about as much time on Mac OS X as is humanly possible. Kyle studies Computer-Mediated Communication, whatever that is, at the graduate level, and was a founding member of the original Webintosh team.
Wincent Colaiuta runs Macintosh news and criticism site, wincent.org, and joined The Mac Observer team as a contributor in March 2001. He has worked with computers since 1984, and his interests in that area include Macs, PHP programming and security.