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On The Flip Side
by Michael Munger

So What's Wrong With Mac OS X And Aqua?
February 15th, 2000

There comes a time in everyone's life when you will fight for something. You will fight with an ideal in mind. You will want to accomplish something or at least help someone else to do so. Whatever it is, you want something to happen or to change.

Having a modern operating system for Macintosh is just such a something. The Macintosh community has called for that new operating system for years. Apple introduced Copland in the mid-1990's and made us expect a lot from it, only to scrap it later. Same thing with Rhapsody, which promised to be an amazing operating system for us. This was replaced by Mac OS X and it looks like it is here to stay as we are only a few months away from its release (if we believe Apple's word about next summer).

If you surf Mac sites on a daily basis, you realize that not everybody is happy about Mac OS X, especially with Aqua. This new user interface doesn't get unanimous approval because the Mac OS will be dressed up in a whole new wardrobe and not everybody likes it. Actually, users and several columnists think that Aqua is eye candy, and that it won't rock after all. This is where I disagree. While I wrote a column about Mac OS X's performance on a G3, I really like the new interface elements.

Aqua is just fine, and you know what? You love it. You really do. If you believe that you don't, you're wrong. Time will prove you wrong.

When we fight to get something changed, we're not always pleased with the results. We start with an ideal and most of the time, we get most of what we want but in a different way. People didn't expect Mac OS X to be good enough to allow old applications to run while optimized software could take advantage of all the new technologies. On the other side, you have Aqua, the Dock, and several changes that can make you squeak at first.

Complaining about it is overreacting. When you get your hands on Mac OS X and use it for a while, Aqua will become your daily companion. You will use it and grow to love it. It will grow on you like the taste of a new type of food, or good music. It's an acquired taste.

Let me give you an example. Ok, you might disagree about the kind of music that I consider to be good, but that's not the point. In 1995, one of my favorite bands, Iron Maiden, released a new album named The X Factor. Their previous LP had been released in 1992 and without having heard a word from them for a while, I was wondering if they had split up or something. Imagine my surprise and joy when they announced a new album. I had been waiting for this for almost three years, but this album came with... a new singer. While Iron Maiden still played good heavy metal, it wasn't the Iron Maiden that I knew in the 1980's.

Needless to say, I listened to it once and let it rot in my CD case for six months. After such a delay, I decided to give it a second shot. I listened to it again, and I thought "not bad after all." I listened to it a few more times and started to like it. After a while, I got hooked. It was definitely great music; I was just wrong the first time. The same thing has happened with several of what turned out to be my favorite CDs. That's also the way I learned to love coffee, tea, and several other things.

Do you get the analogy? You saw Aqua in a few screen shots and QuickTime movies and you immediately started to complain about it. Before you say that it is not worthy and that you have spoken, why don't you wait until this summer? Then, get your hands on a copy of Mac OS X, install it and use it with its Aqua interface for a couple of months. With time, it will grow on you. You will learn to appreciate it as it is because your eyes will be more familiar with it and Aqua will become a key part of your Mac.

When you fight for something with an ideal in mind (modern operating system), you usually get most of what you asked for (Mac OS X), but a few elements of the final result (Aqua) will generate mixed feelings. When you want something really bad, what you get is rarely the vision you had. At first, you just want to throw it to the garbage, but with time, you realize that the new situation is not so bad after all.

Remember that Mac OS X is an entirely new operating system - a first for us - and upgrading from Mac OS 9 to X will be more than an upgrade, it will be a transition. We asked for this modern operating system, now let's just deal with it.

Give Aqua a fair chance and you'll wonder how you could have lived without it for all these years.

Your comments are welcomed.

Michael Munger is a French Canadian living in Montreal. He discovered the Mac in 1994 while studying journalism, the profession he loves and practices. He also studied history and communications. In addition to his work at The Mac Observer, he authors the iBasics tutorial column at Low End Mac, and cofounded MacSoldiers in 1998.

You can find more about him at his personal Web site.

You are welcome to send me your comments or you can post them below.

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