I am a bitter old man. I hate change. Mac OS -- not Mac OS X, which is a different OS -- in its various iterations has been my OS of choice for over 15 years, and I have not looked fondly on the day that streak ends. But that day may very well be at hand. I like Mac OS X v10.2 enough that it may soon become my primary OS.From the day Apple acquired NeXT, and Rhapsody was announced, I was excited about the prospect of a "modern operating system" (read: Unix) that would look and act like my beloved Mac OS. But as Mac OS X started to become a reality, it became clear that this was not going to be Mac OS. It was going to be MacNeXT.
Oh, it wasn't entirely un-Mac-like. But it was different enough that I wasn't comfortable in it. I love Mac OS because of its ease of use and applications and interface and all of the little things. I sit in front of this darned computer for most of my waking hours, and if I am not comfortable with it, then it's no good. Life is too short.
Mac OS X v10.0 was a disappointment to me, and many loyalists to Mac OS. Many things in the interface just didn't work at all, or as well as, they did in Mac OS. Many still don't work right, including cmd+arrow keys to open and close arrows in Finder windows (half works: cmd+opt+arrow should open or close all hierarchical folders) and in dialogs with progress bars, such as file copying (doesn't work). The file dialogs, stuck in a column view, are, in my opinion, a glaring design flaw. In many places in the OS, you can't merely hit "return" in an active dialog to select the default button (if there is a default button at all), or "escape" to cancel.
But these problems were just the beginning. In 10.0, performance was bad, even on G4s. This improved significantly in 10.1, but Mac OS v9.2 still seemed faster. The entire Mac OS X UI -- while eminently "lickable," like no OS before it -- was tiring to look at. Anti-aliasing made things harder to read, especially on LCDs, even with the unnaturally large fonts in the Finder; many of the UI elements, including the aqua ones, often distracted the eye.
But in 10.2 (Jaguar), much has changed. The aqua elements are sharper, crisper ... perhaps shinier. Many of the UI elements, such as the Dock, are more subdued. The Finder has more options for changing the appearance of elements such as font size. Gosh, complaining about font size sounds petty, but darnit, it is so much nicer to look at.
The cursors are improved: the busy cursor has gone from an ugly rainbow pinwheel to a cute rainbow pinwheel (and how long before Steve makes it monochrome?). The arrow cursor has a better outline around it. The I-bar cursor still needs work; I lose it on dark backgrounds. In Mac OS, that cursor would change from dark to light when it passed over something dark.
Similarly, I also now lose my selection box in the Finder; in previous versions of Mac OS X, a selection box in a white space would appear grey. Now it is white, and invisible. Oops.
But while in the Finder, one of my old favorites is finally back: multiple Get Info windows. If you select multiple items at once, you still get the single window with all the items, but you can at least now open many Get Info items for individual items, one at a time. And you can get the old behavior of a single floating window ("Inspector") by holding down Option.
I still can't copy the content of a text clipping in the Finder. That's just insane. Open the clipping. Read it. Cmd-c to copy the contents to the Clipboard. This is a no-brainer.
It's all of these little touches that make a significant difference in whether I can comfortably use the OS on a daily basis. And for the first time ever, despite the problems that still exist, I am mostly comfortable.
And man, is Jaguar fast. Everything is just more responsive. Previously, clicking on UI elements would begin a delay that isn't there anymore. It's noticeably quicker. Even Classic seems quicker, despite the fact that Mac OS is no longer included with Mac OS X.
But I still can't do everything in Mac OS X, even with Classic. My UMAX (*spit*) scanner won't work, and likely never will; I use it seldom enough that it's probably a better use of my time and money to boot into Mac OS to use it, for now. I am having trouble getting reliable fax software to work, so I booted into Mac OS to use FaxSTF last weekend (I was going to install the 10.0 installer I have and then the Jaguar update when it comes out, but 10.0 won't install at all on Jaguar, so I am probably out of luck with that, though I am keeping my eye on Cocoa eFax, too).
But most important to my comfort is that all of the apps I know and love from Mac OS -- BBEdit, Interarchy, DragThing, Mozilla, Eudora -- work natively in Mac OS X. The operating system exists to host applications. They are the reason I use the computer. I want the same apps, and, thankfully, I have them. Further, much of Mac OS is still there, like QuickTime, AirPort, Keychains, AppleScript, and Internet Config (although this works somewhat oddly in some cases, and there's not much of a UI for it).
But the big question is: why should I use Mac OS X? If I am just trying to recreate Mac OS, why not just stick with Mac OS?
There are two answers. The first is a single word: Unix. I don't need to describe in detail why Unix is a Good Thing to Slashdot readers, but I will say that XDarwin and fink are two of the most important features of Mac OS X, and having a stable operating system is a joy. The stability of Mac OS certainly was pretty good -- ignore the hypocrites who used to praise Mac OS but now decry it -- but it can't match Mac OS X. That I can put my laptop to sleep, and wake immediately, and still have many TCP/IP connections open, is incredible to me.
The second answer is that new features are added to Mac OS X to make it too compelling to ignore.
The i* software suite -- iChat, iTunes, iMovie, iPhoto, iDVD, iCal, iSync, iProbablyForgotSomething -- are in many cases some of the best products to hit personal computing in many years. iMovie and iDVD are leaders in their niches. iTunes was a bit flat in its earlier versions, but gets more compelling in its feature set every year. iChat is actually a nice chat client: unobtrusive, mostly well-integrated into the system and Address Book, and easy on the eyes (it's also a little buggy; expect a few crashes). iPhoto is a nice beginning, but really needs better features for more flexible exporting of image metadata to be well-used. iCal and iSync aren't yet released, but by all accounts look very promising: how long before I ditch my PDA, or at least Palm Desktop's contacts and calendar apps?
Then there's Rendezvous -- the "zero configuration" networking -- which is only beginning to get significant use, but is sure to be a staple of many applications for years to come. Despite having some problems with printer sharing (making a comeback, finally) via Rendezvous -- I mistakenly had some computers on my network with a 255.0.0.0 subnet mask while others were 255.255.255.0, and this was enough to throw it off -- it requires zero configuration once you're configured properly.
Sherlock is now finally its own separate beast, with Find integrated into the Finder (imagine that!) and no longer is it scraping web pages, but it is enabled with web services goodness.
All of these features and more are only available in Mac OS X. If you want them, you need to switch.
Still, some things simply don't work in Mac OS X v10.2. The upgrade went smoothly, but various third-party apps, and even some Apple programs, had trouble. My chosen replacements for the Dock -- DragThing and LiteSwitch X -- both needed updates (Proteron says LiteSwitchX update should be available any day now). WeatherPop needed updating. WirelessDriver -- a serious boon to PowerBook G4 users who need to work more than 20 feet from a wireless base station -- no longer works, and it's not been updated in many months.
Apple Remote Desktop 1.0.x doesn't work; you'll need to run Software Update to get version 1.1. Unfortunately, even the new version only half-worked for me; the client side seems fine, but the Admin app says it is not installed properly. I wanted to just uninstall the whole thing and start over, but there is no uninstall option, that I could find. So I deleted all the files that the Installer installs, and then tried to reinstall, and the Installer says it is already installed. So now I have nothing, and I can't change it.
I thought for awhile that Apple's ScriptMenu didn't work, too; it was still sitting in /System/Library/CoreServices/Menu Extras/ where I had left it, but it was not launching. I searched for ScriptMenu on the discs and hard drive for information or a replacement, and on Apple's site, but found nothing. I was later informed the name had been changed from "ScriptMenu" to "Script Menu": the replacement was in the /Applications/AppleScript/ directory. Oops.
fink has a few problems, as one might expect with an OS update that sees a move from gcc2.9 to gcc3.1. Most of the things I tried worked fine without recompiling, including XFree86. But xterm and bash broke because of dependencies relating to the change gcc3.1, and manconf (a wrapper for Mac OS X's man) broke, because the Jaguar man doesn't accept the -C option to specify a configuration file. The workaround is to install fink's man, or at least remove /sw/bin/man in the meantime. The fink team is working to resolve the issues, and updates are forthcoming. An update for xterm is available on the XonX page.
SSHAgentServices, which sets an ssh-agent for the entire login session, stopped working; but the author of SSHPassKey, which I use to provide the ssh password to GUI apps, said he would integrate ssh-agent services into the next version of his application. Some of TinkerTool was obsoleted by 10.2, as Apple has added some of those preferences into their UIs, things like Terminal transparency, and what to do with newly mounted CDs and DVDs, so there's a new version available.
Currently, SharePoints doesn't work. This configures NetInfo to allow you to share arbitrary folders with any users via file sharing. So now I don't have a reasonable file server, unless I want to give everyone admin access to see all the volumes on the machine. But the author says he has discovered the problem, and a new version is forthcoming. This makes me quite happy.
There's also the long-standing and unresolved problem of AvantGo not working with Mac OS X. It's amazing that this is still broken.
I'm not making any firm commitments, but I am using Mac OS X as my primary OS right now, and it's the least painful it's ever been. That's more of a compliment than it seems. But there's enough that doesn't work, enough that's raw -- especially with third-party software -- that I'd recommend people who don't like pain to wait at least a few weeks, if not a month or so, to allow all of the issues to be worked out, tech notes to be published, and workarounds to be posted.