Mac OS X Revisited

I’ve been using Mac OS X for about three months straight now, long enough to have experienced the extremes of Apple’s next generation operating system. I’m running the 10.1 release on my dual USB iBook (the second generation, white-colored low-end Apple Macs) — it has a 500 mhtz G3 processor and 384 meg of RAM.

The Good

  • Aqua Interface: OS X’s crystal clear, ultra-modern looking interface is just as visually appealing as the first day I used it. Adapting to the dock and the redesigned Apple menu took a while, but they’re second nature to me now.
  • Digital Camera Interface: OS X’s image capture tool is excellent — when I hooked up the Kodak DC 280 digital camera I use for work OS X instantly recognized the camera, going so far as to use an actual snapshot of the camera for the Image Capture icon. The tool allows individuals to easily download all or some of the pictures on the camera (if you choose “some” it displays thumbnails of the pictures). Any pictures downloaded go directly into the Pictures folder. Is this revolutionary? No, other software/OS interfaces have been doing it for years, but it’s n ever been this simple.
  • Desktop/Screensaver Features: Now this is just cool — with a few click you can easily set any image in your Pictures folder (or any other folder for that item) as your desktop image. The same goes for the screensaver — simply switch to “custom” screensaver and it automatically displays photos from your pictures folder. Again, this isn’t revolutionary but it’s a nice touch … and easy to do.
  • Memory Protection: OS X hasn’t crashed often (and it still crashes far less frequently than the already stable OS 9, or the notoriously unstable Windows Me), but when it does crash it almost always takes out only the application that it was running. The only really hard crashes that I’ve encountered involve “Classic” mode, the emulation mode that runs the older OS 9-based Mac applications.
  • Unix: For years I’ve wanted to learn more about Unix, but I’ve never had a machine I could spare to install it on (or more likely, it’s Linux derivative). OS X, which is based on Unix, has finally given me that chance. Last month I bought an excellent Unix tutorial book (Unix: The Textbook published by Addison Wesley) and subsequently used it and OS X’s terminal window to learn how to create “symlinks” (also known as symbolic links). Very cool.

The Bad

  • Lack of Customization: OS 10.1 offered the Mac faithful a few more customizable options, namely the ability to move the Dock (a strip that allows you to launch applications and serves as a placeholder for apps that are already running). In addition, you’re able to set color schemes for windows and such. I want more though — a lot more. I want to be able to customize my desktop icons, my folder colors and pretty much everything else I could do under OS 9 (and, dare I say it, under Windows)
  • Classic Mode Weirdness: The two apps I use in classic mode are Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Word. Photoshop works great, but then again I have a boatload of RAM on my iBook, and Adobe’s killer app has always been a RAM whore. But Word’s been acting flaky lately, refusing to display drop down menus and quitting unexpectedly two or three times. Very strange. I also found that Diablo II is impossible to run under Classic mode — if I want to play it, I need to boot straight into OS 9.
  • Power Consumption: Under the very energy efficient OS 9, I could get four to four and a half hours out of each of my iBook’s batteries (I got two specifically so I’d have ample power on long trips). Under OS X, the exact same iBook, running with the exact same batteries, gets about three hours to a battery. I’m experimenting with my power settings to see if I can stretch out the computer’s reserves, but energy inefficiency is annoying.

The Final (For Now) Word

Right now I use Windows 98, Windows Me, Unix, Mac OS 9.2 and Mac OS 10.1 on a regular basis. I’ve experimented with Windows XP. OS X may have a few blemishes on its high-tech gleam, but it remains my favorite operating system. My next tests will involve OS X’s built in Apache web server (which comes with the PHP and Perl programming languages already installed), Apple’s own AppleScript language, and Windows-compatible networking.

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