Short Take: And We Used To Laugh At Windows 95 Users

I used to defend the Mac with a fervor bordering on zealotry. With the transition to OS X, I find that those things that set the Mac apart and made it superior are disappearing. We now have to deal with the command line in order to be power users and perform system maintenance. We have all the hassles of administering a multi-user system (even if we are the sole users). Our positional Finder is broken. Our customizable Apple menu, folder drilldown, tabbed folders, and labels, windowshade, and draggable window borders are no more. Our beloved file metadata are being depreciated in favor of the file extensions which we rightly ridiculed for years.

Brett Sher, in an e-mail

He that fights monsters should see to it that he does not become a monster.

Friedrich Nietzche

Before I write anything, let me hasten to preface all of the following with the fact that I love OS X. I canit remember the last time I booted into OS 9 (I still run Classic to use Dreamweaver). I remember once booting into OS 9 to do something, but rushed back to OS X soon thereafter. In other words, the OS X experience is worth the minor shortcomings that I suffer.

Now, that said...

A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, I bought a new printer, an Epson C80. I bought it mainly for the print speed and for the wireless ethernet option (that still isnit shipping yet, dammit). I also bought it because my LaserWriter 320 wouldnit print in OS X without my purchasing a slew of additions. The additions cost about the same as the new printer.

So, I get the printer and the OS X drivers are released days later. I install the drivers, and begin prnting like a fool. Itis all good for a couple of weeks. Then the printer goes on the fritz.

My print jobs begin to crash. Printing in OS X devolved to printing, waiting for the Print Center to crash, and then stopping the print queue, restarting the print queue and hoping that my document prints. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didnit. Over time, the latter was more the rule than the exception.

After a while, my Print Center wouldnit even launch. That was around Xmas time. But with work and the Xmas rush, I didnit get around to addressing the problem until two weeks ago. As a result, "me and my house" went without a printer. When I got a chance to troubleshoot the situation, hereis what I found:

Iid installed the OS X drivers incorrectly. Hereis how I did it: I downloaded the installer from Epsonis web site. I ran the installer. I tried it every way imaginable. I deleted everything on my drive that had Epson in its name. I even uninstalled the Print Center and reinstalled it using Pacifist, an application that allows you to selectively install parts of OS X. Then I installed the Epson driver again.

I was able to print for about 10 minutes, and the crashing started again.

Then it dawned upon me. I uninstalled everything again and reinstalled the Print Center. But instead of installing the Epson driver manually, I fired up Software Update and allowed it to install the Epson driver.

Now, it all works perfectly. MacFixit, eat your heart out.

This is one of a few Mac OS X problems Iive had to deal with. I miss USB Printer Sharing. Ditto for pop-up folders. My ATI USB TV tuner doesnit work yet. No OS X drivers. Ditto for my Macally MediaKey wireless keyboard. Promises have been made by both manufacturers.

Now, this isnit meant to be page-long rail against Mac OS X. Like I said at the outset, I love it and prefer it to OS 9. But, today is one of those days where I am sharing in the OS X growing pains.

My situation reminded me how much the Mac cult made fun of Windows 95 users when Microsoftis then-latest imitation of Mac System 7 hit the streets. Remember Appleis ad that said something like "C:\Congratulati.ons" -- making fun of the DOS naming convention still part and parcel of Win95? It was a bit of delicious irony when one Mac site published a fake, similar ad, commending Appleis OS X launch with the Unix-y statement, "%nice -le."

If you stop and think about it, itis almost surreal: Apple, the self-proclaimed champion of ease-of-use and human-centered design, is releasing an OS with a geeky command-line, while Microsoft, the oft-criticized, purveyor of "good enough" bloatware, is arguably and successfully making Windows more palatable, even hiding the command-line in Windows Me.

Forgive me, folks. Iim just venting. I know that OS X is probably the best consumer OS out there, but it is still at least a year before the kinks are worked out fully -- didnit even Steve Jobs himself say that OS X is a work in progress; in hindsight, I can only now agree that so was Windows 95. Meanwhile, my iBookis 600 MHz G3 appears to run OS X slower than my Cubeis 450 MHz G4. Some features still appear herky-jerky. But I like it. I like it -- really.

Sure, I want Apple to succeed. Sure, the Unix world is overjoyed that Apple has virtually overnight done what the Linux movement has attempted for the last few years. Sure, I agree with the throngs of reporters and enthusiasts who sing OS Xis praises. Sure, Apple calls OS X the "worldis most advanced operating system."

I make my contribution to the cause by submitting my comments and complaints to Appleis OS X feedback page, but that doesnit solve my problems, which I wonit spend time detailing here. I resign myself to scouring Appleis Knowledge Base. Ditto for MacFixitis OS X pages. But, I still have my problems. I know that I shouldnit complain about not having the rhetorical shoes (my printer problem), knowing that there are those of you who are going without the rhetorical feet (OS X problems worse than mine).

Is this what Windows 95 users went through?

I donit want to have to wait for the equivalent of the time elapsed between Windows 95 and Windows XP before OS X is the operating system it was meant to be. I understand the enormity of the herculean task that created the current incarnation of Mac OS X, but I also want the future today. What can I say? I am one of those ingrates known as Apple customers (and Apple shareholders).

I want the worldis most advanced operating system, but I want it today. Weive supported Apple through the thin, and we are enjoying this time of "thick," but I still think it isnit thick enough. Then again, it never is for some of us.

Today is Rodney O. Lainis birthday. When he isnit busy pointing out the fact that he was born on the same day as Ronald Reagan, Babe Ruth and Bob Marley, he writes his iBrotha column for The Mac Observer, as well as the occasional editorial. Rodney lives in Minnesota, where he is an IT supervisor for The Man at a Fortune 50 company.