Mac OS X 10.2 - Jaguar

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Mac OS X 10.2 - Jaguar. What's cool, and what isn't? The short story is Apple acquired NeXT, Steve Jobs came with it, he had a palace coup and replaced old Apple's Not-Invented-here problems and leadership with NeXT's Not-Invented-here problems and leadership. NeXT did some things better, many things worse, and had even more arrogance and inflexibility than the old Apple. But they did have more competent management, a stronger vision, and a willingness to just ship "good enough for now", fix it later. With Jaguar released, I was pretty happy. There are a lot of improvements in it, and progress is obviously being made. Then I hear the people saying that, "it is a good as a Mac", or that Apple is killing MacOS 9, and I wrote this article to list the things I like, and don't like about the new OS. Where it has caught up or surpassed the old one, or just isn't there and may never be.


8 items


MacOS X is Unix - OS X is cool because UNIX is cool. Not because UNIX is a particularly well done OS, UNIX has tons of anachronistic design choices and has plenty of legacy issues that aren't pretty or modern. But UNIX does have many strengths to counteract those issues. The Mac was not UNIX, Jaguar is UNIX.
  • ๐Ÿ‘The biggest strength of UNIX that virtually all college educated developers learn on UNIX. That gives it a huge domain base and size of market especially in App and OS development, Scientific areas and network administration. UNIX is the test-bed for most of these technologies. If Apple wants to move a new OS forward, they are going to be borrowing from UNIX anyway, so why not make their OS UNIX derived?
  • ๐Ÿ‘ There is also openness about code (open source), and API's and design that has permeated UNIX. (College Marxists meet code). Many have contributed to UNIX, and still do. When you give it away for free, others use it. This has snowballed for many decades. UNIX evolves, and you can stay closer to the cutting edge if you don't have to port everything to a different platform.
  • ๐Ÿ‘UNIX is also very stable, in almost all senses of the word. It can be a bitch to setup, and maintain but Apple is hiding much of that. However, once setup and configured properly, it will work, and can survive bad software practices (like poor QA) pretty well. You can set things up and just leave them, and know that when you come back, they'll probably still be running. Better than Windows, far better than Mac, and nearly as good as IBM mainframe type solutions. This stuff is robust. On a desktop and in many other markets, this is going to make a significant difference.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ŽHowever, when I mentioned stability I also meant it as in "not changing". While little things evolve in UNIX, and change constantly, it has been UNIX for 30+ years (arguably 40). In many ways it takes a lot less time to change from versions of UNIX than it does between versions of Windows. That stability is incredibly comforting to many programmers, network administrators, academics, researchers and just plain users. They want to know their machines; and sometimes they have had a longer relationship with them than anything or anyone else. Learning a new UNIX takes them a few hours, days or weeks, depending on level of intimacy they want, but they then know all sorts of things in incredible detail. UNIX plays to human nature and the dislike of change, and the thirst to know, and the drive to have control over one's destiny and environment. UNIX does that better than any other OS out there. OS X can ride on that. And users know that whether OS X lives or dies, most of the knowledge they gain learning about UNIX can be applied in the future. That's emotional stability for people, and they love the platform that provides that.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ŽWhich brings up the main issue: Jaguar is still a UNIX (and not a Mac). It is the best UNIX I've ever used (and I've used bunches) but I can't just upgrade blindly and expect things to work like a Mac. Many things require special versions of Apps or tools to run on Jaguar, many apps die after the upgrade, and the OS itself has issues after an upgrade. And don't move things around on OS X; I did that and confused the shit out of the OS. It seems that many Applications are not mine to control but rather the OS's. Same with naming. I have bunches of things that lost their bundles, or where they were supposed to be. There are whole hidden hierarchies and voodoo; deep paths that I don't have control over. Some UNIX types will blame this on me but they're missing the point; this is my OS, not theirs. It should behave like I own it, not that I'm beholden to the ivory tower and Apple to decide where things go, what they can be called, and what I will do. So one of the first things I notice that I've lost is trust that I can change things and it will still work, and faith in the robustness in the OS (as far as upgrading and not having things change). OS X (including Jaguar) is far more fragile towards change than the MacOS used to be.

    Don't get me wrong, the pre-X MacOS had plenty of quirks or bad versions that would screw things up too. But users could move anything (except for a little caution in the System Folder). There was a 1:1 mapping between what I saw in the Finder and what was there. I could drag-install and uninstall. I had trust that it was hard to break things and easy to fix them if I did. Jaguar isn't like that, like UNIX it is based on, it is configuration fragile. For newbies who don't muck with much, it's fine. Mac Power users will be frustrated by not being able to configure and tweak. But UNIX folks can't fathom why you would want to move something, or not spend days fixing problems if you do. And Jaguar isn't worse than Windows in that regard. So none of that is the end of the world, but I think it will be a while before we can get that stability and trust back. Or people just adapt to the new reality that Apple doesn't want to give you that much control.

Jaguar brings Unix Apps - UNIX Apps builds momentum, and momentum builds momentum.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ UNIX comes with UNIX Apps and software: mostly clustered around a few markets, development, academia (higher education), research, network administrators, and some vertical markets in the high-end arenas (high end video productions, high end animation and 3D, and so on). But these are all people and markets that Apple wants. Both entire Apps, and many API's, libraries (parts of Apps), and network solutions.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ UNIX is open. This openness makes it cheaper and easier to write for UNIX than competing solutions. While a lot of the free code is crap, a lot of commercial code is crap too (and usually far worse). At least in the open markets there is slightly less pressure to ship it yesterday; so often they will take more time and do some cleanup and restructuring now and again. And having lots of eyes on code just means that more programmers can fix things, and knowing that other are going to see your code keeps some programmers more diligent. It is hard to say what is worse or better, there are stellar examples of "how not to" in both. But if you're starting something new, having a head start, even a bad one, is often better than nothing.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ UNIX is closed (minded). UNIX is cool, not because it is particularly good, but because there are a lot of UNIX developers that only know or will only consider UNIX. They bring Apps and give away code. They are porting their Apps to OS X. Some of their Apps are quite good. This openness also means standard tools and standard apps. I'm doing WebObjects, PHP, some perl and cgi scripts. None of this was done, or done as well, on Mac OS 9. So while technically possible before, most weren't expending the effort to do so, and it was unlikely to happen without UNIX. I know if I bet on UNIX, and these UNIX technologies (especially the open ones), that it will be here tomorrow, and forever. As long as I'm willing to pay the maintenance price.
๐Ÿ—’๏ธ NOTE:
For those that Apple should have bought BeOS, and used them instead, this is something that Be wouldn't have brought to the party. BeOS had some advantages: but NeXT brought UNIX. There are serious tradeoffs with doing that, but I think it was the right move.

Jaguar User Interface - This area is the most mixed of all; with some huge wins and still pretty annoying losses/omissions.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ New PDF based imaging engine (Quartz): Fantastic quality. PDF is more open standard for imaging. I think that we got it as much because of NeXTs NIH (and it was closer to what they were used to), than anything else. But certainly it is more open than QuickDraw or QuickDraw GX was (Apple's old imaging). I do think GX had some better typography features, some UI improvements and print features, and the more object based imaging was รฌinterestingรฎ (even if implementation had some issues). But overall, Quartz is way cool, and enables some great features. Some are misused (translucent menu's are not good), but most are wins.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ One win that is just awesome is shadows. I know it is a little thing, but I think casting real shadows on cursors and windows fits the spirit of the interface much better than the little two pixel black thing did; but it just wasn't performant until Moore's law made things fast enough. While Quartz Extreme is a memory pig (orders of magnitude beyond QDGX), qualitatively and performance wise it is a step in the right direction. I would like to see more 2D rendering acceleration through the video cards: but it really improves the smoothness of the interface, and offloads the processor nicely.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ OpenGL follows that same theme. I'd have liked it if Apple tried to borrow more from QuickDraw-3D and put it into OpenGL (and feedback into the community); and not doing so felt like NeXT's NIH rearing its tyrannical and ugly head. But overall, OpenGL is the right trend, "Plays well with others", and the implementation has been very good.
  • ๐Ÿค” The controls vary. I keep thinking about that stupid little combobox, and thinking "nooooo!! Don't you guys understand Interface at all?" That's a huge step backwards. But most of the other controls are good. Some additions like the little pimple (blackhead) in the close box, to tell you it is ripe and you need to save before it pops, is an excellent subtle user feedback. I always thought it should be a little more informative or look like something that fits a metaphor, (a pen, a disk, something like that and near the close), but it works well either way; people get it, and use it.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ Aqua: general look of is very nice. It is clean, bright, and usable. I like anti-aliased, even if I war with it (rarely), it really is a better use of a display overall. While Apple had some "resolution independence" built into QD (and more in GX), it had issues and was never fully utilized. Quartz also has far better 1:1 mapping between the on-screen and printer imaging: which fully fits everything that is good interface and the goal of the Mac (WYSIWYG).
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Aqua: is wasteful of screen real estate. I don't need big icons everywhere and panels/tiles that I can't make go away. Some will be mitigated as pixel densities and resolutions go up, the room for complaints about that goes down. Sort of Moore's law applied to imaging and interface I believe that Aqua and Quartz gives them far more possibilities. And I'd love to see 150 - 200 DPI displays, with some dynamic reduction capabilities.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Shell : Apple used to have a good command line shell in MPW, with things like integrated help or extensibility (I could add menus, customizability and so on). Terminal is a step backwards from that. We went back to UNIX's lousy, "you figure it out" methods like man pages.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Shell : Apple used to have the same functionality implement in both the command lines and the Graphical User Interface. Now it's in one or the other. Sometimes. Now many functions are separate: with some things in each, and not everything cross wired.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Extension Manager : I used to have the extension manager that I could use to control what was running, what could be running, what I could turn off, and so on. I want similar functionality. There is sort of a "startup items" now, and there are ways that I can add things as psuedo-chron jobs and so on but Apple should make them standard, document them, and put an interface on their management. I don't think making users edit plists is the ultimate in management.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Dock - the dock sucks (for some types of work/people). There's been a ton of complaints by Mac users how the dock is inferior to what they had. It wastes space, moves things around on you, and is bad UI. If Apple isn't going to fix it, at least make it open and expandable (replaceable). In fact, even if you are going to fix it, make it an open, expandable, and replaceable thing. Right now it feels like a testament to Steve's stubbornness and hubris: "My way or the highway". Not a way to build customer loyalty. ๐Ÿ’ฉ
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Device Drivers : there are more now, and things are getting better. In another few years we'll have the same variety that we used to. This isn't to bash; these things take time and I think that OS X will eventually grow to be better than Mac OS 9 was in this area. But we still haven't caught up yet, and don't try to tell me we have.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Print center : I used to think chooser was bad; now I have print center. It's slow, confusing, quirky. And shouldn't it (also drive setup, etc.) be in control panels or the Apple menu? What about scanners, cameras, and so on? I think all of this control panel stuff needs to be reworked to be more open and consistent. I want to go there to set up devices, not wander the hard drive looking for places Apple or others may have hidden things.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž No auto-mount : Another thing is that I used to set up lots of auto-mount network drives. While I can manually mount network drives in OS X I've never figured out how to auto-mount them. There's probably a way (and I haven't tried hard to find it) but it should be more obvious or be part of the settings for that drive..
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Internet Settings : Another nice to have is Internet controls that work across the system and are more consistent. Some of this is the fault of Apps that do their own thing (Explorer comes to mind) but fix them or convince them to see the light. The Internet controls worked better in OS 9; where are my helper apps settings?
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Not Open : it is complex. New Apple uses Open Standards as the foundation of what they do: so they're open. But then they make proprietary solutions on top, without much extensibility or hooks to let others control/override things: so they're more closed. So you get Openness like Apple's Rendevous technology. Then they don't have things like a replaceable dock, themes, control strips and stuff MacOS used to have. I'm not saying they're all great ideas, but I do think there's a selective attitude about what constitutes "open", and they don't always allow extensibility in the ways I want it.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Radio and Checkboxes : I like to click on the label and not just the tiny control itself. Sometimes this works, sometimes not.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Draggable edges : I liked being able to grab the edge of windows to drag them. Not to mention having some contrast where one window ended and another started. I lost that with the Aqua theme.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Command-period : I remember when command-. would stop things.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Control Panels menu : I used to be able to quickly go to the control panel item I wanted (through a hierarchy). Apple reverted us back to System 6's control panel where everything is a two stage process: select controls, then find the one you want. While I like the logical grouping better, a menu is an easy thing to implement and much faster to navigate.

Jaguar Font Support -
  • ๐Ÿ‘ŽI miss fonts just working. I used to have them organized in one place. I could drag them in or out and they worked (at least for the next app I ran). Now I need to reboot and they are disorganized and in 5 different places. How is this easier? Why don't font previews work? What aren't MultiMaster Fonts working? Again, just some centralized font management would help. I do like the support for OpenType fonts (and many other things) but get the management working, make it dynamic, and then you'll have something.

Jaguar Finder - Jaguar Finder isn't bad... if you're a NeXT user or a new user and you don't know better. In fact, in those cases, many things might be better. But if you're a Mac user, and especially a power user, it was different in ways that were mostly for the worse. It feels like the Finder got a promotion; it used to work for me, now I work for it. NeXTies didn't fully get the Mac, and were highly resistant to listening/learning -- and that made things harder for them and the customers than it needed to be.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ Column-View: is far better at navigating deep hierarchies and exploring some areas than the old Mac ways.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ Back button: Good stuff, that people use. Microsoft was right in making the interface feel more like a browser. People are familiar with the browser metaphor, and Apple borrowing from that makes sense as well.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ Window Controls: Apple made the window controls look/work more like Microsoft Windows. It's worse than the Mac way, for accidental behaviors, but users are more familiar with it -- so probably a win.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ Open/Save has plenty of issues. But I do think that mimicking column view is a move in the right direction. If we can make it consistent, then it will be fine
  • ๐Ÿ‘ Long file names with Unicode characters: both wins of Apple's old 32/24 character limit.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ File Name Extensions: using file name extensions is lame over Apple's superior Type/Creator, but if you're going to use that cheesy shit, at least they implemented it better than Windows/UNIX. (With warnings on changing names).
  • ๐Ÿ‘ Command Line: I like having a command line for some things. UNIX gives me many shells, that are fast and standard. If Apple could give me a better interface than terminal, and more interfaces so I could avoid it even more, I'd be ecstatic.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ Dev Tools: Apple's first implementation of their dev tools are a big step backwards over the 3rd Party ones. But it's nice to have it integrated with the OS and always there (or optionally always there). And they'll get better over time.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ Large icons: these are a win visually. I would have probably gone for a vector based solution, and stuck with 'illustration/cartoon' style rather than "real life" photos, as the former are better at conveying abstract ideas. And we lost a nice rule-set on how to use icons. But the new icons look good, and they do convey more feedback and information -- that's a win.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ Dock: even the dreaded Dock has a few upsides: it is more visual feedback, and can manage some things better (like hiding/showing app windows). New users understand it, because it behaves more like Microsoft.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Spring loaded folders - I know some will say that Jaguar has them but in Jaguar they only have half of the functionality. There were two behaviors: drag, and double-click tunneling. Jaguar got the first behavior mostly working but is missing the second. I used to tunnel by double-clicking on the first item, and then it would behave like I was dragging something for rapid navigation. This was intuitive, easy, fast, and cool.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Tabbed Windows - (Popup Folders) - it was always nice being able to decide how I was working and just dock a window at the bottom of the screen or set up and arrange my own topical dock (that frankly worked much better for me). Apple never implemented them as well as they should have (that whole moving around and resizing stuff on a portable, and I wondered why the top and sides weren't also part of the metaphor) so it could certainly be implemented better. But don't take away what I had and tell me I shouldn't miss it. I miss it.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Application Menu - the Dock replaced this functionality, poorly. It was aways much faster and better than trying to play the "find the running app" shell game that is the dock. The App menu even has the texual names of things (instead of playing concentration by matching the little pictures in the dock, or me having to rollover them) and a menu gets out of my way when I'm done with it (progressive disclosure). You can use 3rd party hacks to make things work more like they used to, but Apple breaks them every OS update, and they're not built-in.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Application Menu - the Dock replaced this functionality, poorly. It was aways much faster and better than trying to play the "find the running app" shell game that is the dock. The App menu even has the texual names of things (instead of playing concentration by matching the little pictures in the dock, or me having to rollover them) and a menu gets out of my way when I'm done with it (progressive disclosure). You can use 3rd party hacks to make things work more like they used to, but Apple breaks them every OS update, and they're not built-in.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Apple Menu - it was a customizable menu that I could put things I wanted in there. Apple wastes it with none of the customizability it used to have.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Control Strip - Apple moved this stuff up into the menubar to make it noisier and more crowded. The Old Apple Way was better. (Having it out of the way, until you needed it).
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Button view' - you used to be able to turn all icons in a window into "buttons" and setup your own dock, if you wanted it. Apple replaced it with the less versatile dock. Yeah, thanks for that.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Finder Labels - I used to set colors and labels for items. I liked that the finder tried to adapt to my way of working and had generic behaviors like that which worked the same everywhere. Honestly, when I saw Copland's dynamic folders (auto-searching) labels became immediately 10 times more valuable. I could flag anything, anywhere as "hot" and have one folder which listed all the "hots". This was great and far more advanced than what I have now.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Location Manager - there used to be a way to have all your settings change depending on where you were (for laptops): home or work. Apple eliminated that.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Persistence - I used to set Window positions, size, controls, and views and they would consistently work. Now they don't. Sometimes they work but often they move, change size, or change what controls are shown. When I open a new window it sometimes inherits from the previous one and sometimes not. I'm amazed at how consistently wrong it is at guessing what I want or what I expect. It used to work better.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Put away - I used to just go to the trash or an item on the desktop and "put it away", and it would go back to where it came from last. Apple never implemented this for OS X. So if something gets moved out, you can undo (briefly), but if it wasn't the last thing you did, then you have to manually do for the computer, what the computer should know how to do.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž File Name limits - You can type a name longer than it should allows, then after you hit return it throws an error. What's up with that? Are you stupid? The old Mac used to just beep and stop you while you were typing to let you know that you went too far. This is just common sense dynamic feedback. Making it an after the fact error is just annoying.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Grids - You used to have more control over Icon grids and be able to make them tighter (more space efficient); now I'm a victim of Apple's settings.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž ESP / Precognition" : I liked being able to type the first few letters in something and have it guess the rest. That doesn't work (reliably).
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Open / Save" : Why can't I resize things in column view so I can actually read from my list? Why aren't the controls and keyboard shortcuts the same between different Finder views? Have you heard about consistency? This went backwards.

Jaguar Drivers - Drivers let you run devices, and because Jaguar is still new(er), there's lots of things that still don't work quite as well. The things that do work, work well (sometimes even better). But this is gap analysis, and what can't I do that I used to be able to.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Mouse tracking - this sounds like a little issue. But the Mac always felt smooth and predictable. There's some new tracking in OS X (including Jaguar) that I've never gotten used to. The velocity curves are different, and it skips and jumps. Sometimes it stutters and before I know it, I've added things from the dock or pulled them out. Huh? It feels, well, like Windows to me. It is actually slightly better than Windows and is closer to a Mac, but it isn't yet don't right.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Cursors - The I-Beam cursor sometimes works, sometimes not (especially in the finder). Same with the silly little spinning CD-ROM cursor (the SBBOD: Spinning Beach Ball of Doom). Has anyone figured out that while this might have made sense when the NeXT cube had an optical drive, it makes no sense today (with Hard Drives)? Apple's watch was much better metaphor. I like cursor shadows and cusror look and detail. Everything else in new cursors is a step backwards.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Game controller support - Apple used to have input sprockets for gaming. There are ways to do it using USB drivers, but few have done it, or done it well. So step backwards.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Analog Audio/Video - You used to be able to just plug a VCR or camera or plug in a mic. Apple pulled out (or hasn't implemented) some support on this stuff.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Power Management - I used to get 4 real hours out of the TiBook in OS9. I'm lucky to get 2 hours on a batter with Jaguar and it runs hotter. We can discuss all the reasons why it doesn't work (UNIX VM disk thrashing and so on) but in the end they are excuses; it used to work better.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Timed events - I do not leave my machine on all the time. It turns out that OS X expects that I do and it runs maintenance tasks accordingly. I used to script things like "boot at 2:00 AM, backup and 2:15 AM, shutdown at 3:00 AM until 5:00 AM, then get up before I did so when I went downstairs it was all warm and booted for me". Minor stuff, but not yet supported.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Portrait monitor" - OK, so I'm the only geek left with an old one-page portrait (Vertical) display. But I liked it I and am annoyed that it doesn't work.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Happpy Mac on boot - now honestly, why did that have to go? It isn't a huge deal. But there's a difference between evolution and change for change's sake. They could have made it better and do more. Instead they just made it different. Not instead of being greeted with an inviting happy Mac, I get cold disk that flashes until an Apple logo.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Function Keys - I used to be able to set function keys to do things, like run Applications? This worked for 10 years, but new Apple just broke it and doesn't seem to care.

Jaguar Architecture - Basically a kernel offers low-level memory protection, scheduling and communication between tasks. That's it. People often over-stress the impact of kernels and Architecture, and ignore that a ton of mission critical software (like airplanes and satellites and so on), often do not have a preemptive kernel or full memory protection and so on. Good QA and software practices, an App validation approval processes, or even language based things (like Java's memory management) can compensate. So there are many ways to crack a nut and solve a problem. But that being said:
  • ๐Ÿ‘A good kernel and foundation can make an OS much more robust. And since Apple wasn't solving the problems any other way, and it needed to be solved, this is a great solution. Bringing it to the Mac has meant more stable apps, and the potential to do more at once. Jaguar is still slower at a single App than OS 9 for many things, showing that there is an overhead for kernels. But running many apps and services at once, and you gain any losses back. Running multiple processors and you gain even more. And the more complex things get, the better the returns. I'm willing to pay some minor performance overhead for stability.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ Modern memory management means I don't worry about Application sizes. Coding is a lot easier without all that nasty manual memory management stuff, and cooperative scheduling: that means better Apps (more features and quality in less time). So making programmers more productive, and Apps more stable, means better programs, fewer bugs, and more companies that can and will write apps. Users like that.
  • ๐Ÿค”The Mac had low-level communications; some better than kernel threads; so not a huge win there. In fact Apple's messaging and scripting mechanisms (AppleScript) were often better thought out (architecturally) -- but worse implemented. And because it was unique and less mature, it was less used and quirky.
  • ๐Ÿ’ฉ Documentation, Quality Assurance, and support. Things spiked way down when NeXT took over Apple. Slowly they've crept back, very little -- but they still have a long way to go. Much of OS X feels like "ship it first, document or fix it later" and support those we like. If you know someone at Apple, or pay for an expensive service contract, they're helpful. If you don't? Best of luck. They still aren't as bad as Microsoft, but compared to what Apple used to be like, we might be going too far towards "real artists ship" mentality. Real artists also ship when it's finished (which means QA and Documentation).

Jaguar - Type/Creator and Metadata - These are nerdier concepts but important for users. Type/Creator - the #1 issue for anyone who uses a Mac and Jaguar. There have been large articles and threads, and forums dedicated to this. Is Apple listening? This is really many issues because of all the things not having a good metadata scheme means to the average user. The average user doesn't ask for metadata; they ask for the behaviors that good metadata will give them. This is universally the most glaring thing that is needed and I'll list just some of the things that it effects:
  • ๐Ÿ‘ŽFilenames : I want to be in control of filenames, not have the OS tell me what I can call things, make things disappear because I put a period in front of something, or suddenly change icon and behavior. Filenames are MINE, not yours! Stop telling me what I can do with them! Arguing that you're not as completely moronic about hiding them as Microsoft is, is no consolation. It used to work far better.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ŽFile behaviors : I want to be able to have one document of a given type open in one app, and another of the same type open in a different app, and have it work correctly. Files are mine, not yours! Stop telling me how they will work. Jaguar was a big step backwards thanks to NeXT's NIH and ignoring how Type/Creator was better than file extensions.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ŽDrag and drop : this used to work. I could drag and drop documents onto other apps and they would highlight if they could handle that type. Now it is done by what they are named; but sometimes the names and behaviors don't sync. I have documents that are misnamed all the time, or I don't have a choice -- it should still not break.
And so on. There are hundreds of issues with the lack of type/creator and metadata. To be fair, old Apple made things harder than they needed to be too. You should have been able to fix type/creator from "Get Info" box, and there should have been better global management of both. But extensions aren't better in most ways and are worse most. This is the most glaring hole in OS X. Fix it. My grandma does not need to know that if she starts her file with a period it will disappear. It isn't that hard and it used to work! Windows and UNIX are getting better about metadata, and the Mac has gotten worse. Fix it! Don't deny it sucks, don't try to sell me that your OS might suck but it doesn't suck as bad as others. Just fix it! And if you just told people you heard them and that you were working on it for a future version instead of ignoring them (or trying to market your solution to them) then they wouldn't be so damn pissed off. [end of rant]


Conclusion

UNIX just works, many, many people know it, and write software for it, and have been for decades. It has entrenched markets, and very loyal users and programmers, and a whole lot of code. It succeeded because it is cheap: but success is success. People will borrow from UNIX, and people will bet on UNIX. Many of them would not have bet on Mac, without the UNIX foundation. This is significant; Apple can break into new markets because they are a UNIX, and they can drive technologies in ways they couldnรญt before. It wasn't that what they did before wasn't as good (in some ways it was better, in other it was worse), but the biggest issue is not technical merit but marketing perception. Apple had proven unable to generate as much momentum on their own, so at least they can ride on the snowball that is UNIX. UNIX means opportunities for Macs and the Mac market that it wouldn't otherwise have. This alone makes OSX such a huge leap forward over OS 9 that it is not funny.

While there are things that drive me nuts (negatively) about OS X, even those things that make me less productive (the Dock), often helps some other people and others even like. So I can't call them complete losses, at worst they just aren't quite as good for me. And I'm the only user that counts, right?

I like many of the new features. I really like the openness and trying to play well with others and make standards. I really like that Iรญm seeing continual evolution and progress: Apple is challenging themselves to be better. I love that they are extending what an operating system does, and offering better services (like calendar and synching). Apple could be more open in some areas (they do the closed API thing too much), but they are also more open in many other ways than they used to be. Most of all, they are choosing which standards to follow wisely and following through with those decisions much quicker (can you say LDAP, ZeroConf, XML, and so on)?

There's a better atmosphere in the organization (more or less). And while their much more pragmatic (and Microsoftian attitude) of รฌship it now, fix it laterรฎ sometimes grates (and effects quality), it is probably better than the old, รฌHang on to it until it is perfect, and irrelevantรฎ attitude of the old Apple. But all the other little stuff pales in comparison to the new markets stuff; markets and market perceptions matter more than technology, more than good interface, more than anything. If you are a healthy market, they will come. Things are healthier. This is good. Add that to a few changes in attitude and you have some serious wins.

So while I do use OS X, and I do think it is the best UNIX ever, just don't tell me that it is as good as the classic MacOS at stuff that MacOS did better. It isn't. And if NeXTies hadn't been so fucking igno-arrogant and unwilling to listen to the way things used to work, they could have made the transition a lot smoother for everyone.

Written: 2002.09.13