Friday, October 22, 2004

The Mac is now a mess?

Jef Raskin, a member of the original Macintosh Development Team, asserts that the new Mac OS X operating system has rendered the Macintosh a mess. Personally I love Mac OS X, but I am a guy who taught myself Linux in order to prepare for it. What Raskin says echoes what a student said to me just yesterday after I had to spend an hour on the phone with her to return her new iMac G5 to operability. She had bought the iMac to replace her old Mac and lamented that she wished she had bought a Windows computer because she thought it was easier to use.


Anonymous said...

I would have been interested to hear your students response after trying to use a Windows machine after OS8/9.

Sure OSX might not be as easy as OS8/9 but it's dragging us Windows/Linux users to it in droves.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading Raskin's comments about the Mac and Apple since the mid 90's and it seems to me that its all sour grapes. Looking at the history of the Mac there's good reason to think Raskin continues to hold a grudge against Jobs. After all, Raskin had the Mac project all to himself until Steve horned in and took it over.

Your student's last Mac ran OS 9, right? Lots of OS 9 users find OS X frightening at first. OS 9 users didn't have to choose an account name or password. And if her Mac was old enough she was above to avoid the initial network configuration that OS X wants to perform. And, of course, once one gets to the desktop it doesn't look like OS 9. In other words, the familiar is gone and the user panics.

I find it rather amusing that many of these OS 9-a-philes bleat about wishing they'd gotten a Windows computer. As if Windows XP is more like a Mac than OS X is. First, Microsoft and Apple have nearly identical initial setups. Its like Microsoft copied it from Apple (or vice versa for Microsoft fans, though of course OS X came out first.) Second, once you get past the intial differences, OS X is still Macintosh and Microsoft is still 'almost as good'

Andrew said...

Interested to hear someone finally criticising OSX. I 'switched' for home use a year ago when Panther came out, although I still work on Win 98/2k/XP and support an NT network.

And a year on, I just can't make sense of OSX, I'm sorry. In almost every area I find it less intuitive to me than XP, less convenient, less powerful for my everyday work. I never used OS9 and earlier, so I can't speak on that.

A blog comment isn't the place for detail, but after a year of nightly Mac work at home (and occasionally the office) I'm still no nearer 'getting it'.

I don't mind people preferring it. What I do object to is the sanctimonious wide-eyed conviction that it's 'better', and the Moonie-like wide-eyed enthusiasm that the reason I don't like it must be that I continue to use PCs, and that I must switch completely to realise the benefits.

Count me in amongst those considering OSX a 'mess'.

Steve Sloan said...

But is the Mac still the computer for "the rest of us"? I wonder.
I love the power and stability of Mac OS X.
But, I run the Help Desk at SJSU. I see the students and faculty members coming in with tech support issues. The interface is confusing to them, they do not understand the concept of users, permissions and locations. I know we do a lot more with computers now than we did in 1984, I know security is a serious concern now, so maybe simplicity is a concept that is just not possible. But, I am seeing a lot of confused users in both platforms. The Windows users are just able to tap into peers a lot better than Mac users are for support.

Ben Martin said...

Anyone want to tell me what people are having trouble with? I mean, I could take some guesses I suppose, but I am not really sure what it is. Other than the standard security features all modern OSes need to have, which is inescapable these days. Unfortunately (?), the situation has changed from the early days of the Mac OS. Logins and permissions are here to stay. True some of the features borrowed from BSD (probably more for technical reasons than for HCI reasons, as Raskin points out) make OS X more complicated but users don't have to use those, and for those of us who DO know what we are doing, it does make life easier. (True I am probably biased as a professional computer scientist, but hey.)

It hardly seems that the situation is as dire as some people want to make out. Mac OS _9_ was a mess, at least in a networked environment (and how else does anyone use computers these days?) in my experience (though maybe I should blame our universities tech staff, i dunno). OS X was an improvement, even at the cost of a a more complicated interface. Shoot, at least it works properly.

I agree it would be nice to have a slicker interface that can combine the power of Unix with the learnability and intuitiveness of the original Mac interface. Maybe in the future we can find a better balance, though I think OS X is a step in the right direction.

Steve Sloan said...

Specifically users seem to be having problems with system configuration. They have menulets and panes in System Preferences and do not seem to know where to look for what. With wireless access they have issues configuring locations and don't seem to know that multiple locations can be configured. Very often they are not performing system updates because they have not configured them to happen automatically. Also, they have long since forgotten their admin passwords so when ever they go to perform a task that requires password authentication, that task simply does not get done. What I see is users who bought Macs with the intention that they would be "simple" instead finding that they have to be as aware of their role as system administrators as do Windows users. And, they resent that.