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September 22nd, 1999

[Editorial] Hello, Kettle? Pot calling… we're both black.
by Dave Hamilton

Recently I've had a close friend (and fellow Mac-user) start using BeOS. It's been a very humbling experience. Why? Let me tell you.

About every week or so I get an e-mail from him explaining how such and such works better on the BeOS than it does with the Mac or Windows. The underlying message is that the BeOS is the next big thing, and everyone should use it or be damned. Sound familiar?

For example, the most recent e-mail I received was all about how he had installed an IDE Zip drive in his Intel-based BeOS machine. He installed it and it worked fine with no additional software drivers necessary (which is how it is on current versions of the MacOS and Windows, more or less). Instead of just leaving it there, he went and found the ONE thing that it did above and beyond Windows or the Mac. He found that, once installed, he could use the built-in BeOS disk formatting utility to format Zip disks in several formats (BeOS BFS, HFS, FAT16, FAT32, ISO9660 and the older Classic BeOS format). On the Mac, of course, you can only reformat a Zip disk in its current format with the Finder. You need Iomega Tools to change between different formats. On Windows, well, you get Microsoft's formats and nothing else.

The point is that he took his tests and geared them towards the results he wanted in the first place. And then there was the last phrase of his e-mail: Rock on BeOS! Now, of course nothing was mentioned about whether or not he could copy his system to that Zip disk and boot from it (something you can't do with that BeOS machine, but you can with most Macs). Likewise, he didn't mention the fact that this software was on his machine before he ever needed it, which could lead one to ask the question, "What the heck else did they bloat my system with that I don't need?" No, he spun the test to return the desired results. And you know what? It bugged me.

Then I thought about it. How many times have I done the same thing with the Mac? I'm lucky enough to be quite fluent in most modern operating systems, and there's ALWAYS ways to skew any given results to be in the favor of any platform. There have been countless times when I've defended the Mac's memory architecture, saying how nice it is to be able to control the amount of memory partitioned for an application. Yeah, right! Most often I'd give my right arm to be able to have the same protected memory that Linux (and BeOS for that matter) have on my Mac, but it's very easy to come up with a set of test criteria that supports my argument: Rock on MacOS!

I went and checked out some BeOS-related web sites, and sure enough, they're just like our community is -- perhaps a little younger and less polished, but similar in their crusade. Perhaps, though, they've got a company behind their OS that will actually DEAL with the online press… but that’s another story for another time.

So will the BeOS take over? No, I don't think so. It's pretty cool… and VERY efficient with the processor, but I think it's too little, too late. It doesn't really do anything different yet, and it's another contender entering a war that's already over. But, give the Be folks a chance before you take their evangelical ranting and shove it back in their faces. We were like that once… and will probably stay like that for a long time!


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