TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Dec 99 Viewpoint

Volume Number: 15 (1999)
Issue Number: 12
Column Tag: Viewpoint

Viewpoint

by Kas Thomas

In the Mac world, it's taken as axiomatic that the Mac user experience is better - in every way that counts - than the Windows user experience, and that the Mac, as a platform, offers performance that is all-around superior to Wintel offerings. There is some truth, of course, to the latter statement. But, the former proposition (that the Mac user experience is superior to the next-best alternative) needs critical reexamination.

It's time for us to stand back and ask ourselves how much better the Mac user experience really is. If we're honest with ourselves, we'll say: "Not much."

A visitor from Mars who landed on earth right now would take a look at a Mac computer and a Wintel machine and pronounce them pretty much the same. They both show colorful icons on a desktop. They both coax weird noises out of little speakers. And they both have bloated operating systems that serve up frighteningly arcane error messages from time to time or allow the machine to freeze up altogether.

The user experience offered by a Mac was, at one time, significantly different from - and better than - the computing experience offered by The Other Guys. But, in the past decade, dedifferentiation has caught up with the Mac OS. Apple has missed some important opportunities to maintain its lead in OS design, and it's starting to hurt.

One area where the Mac could clearly redefine the computing experience is in "instant-on" booting. The Mac now goes a step in this direction by offering an enhanced "sleep" mode for desktop machines, to give non-PowerBook users the illusion of an instant-on/no-wait boot process. All well and good. Now Apple should go a step further and try to reduce - not by seconds, but by minutes - the time required for a cold boot of a worst-case machine (i.e., one loaded with the most popular four or five dozen extensions and drivers). Has no one in Cupertino found it ironic that one of the hottest shareware System Extensions on the World Wide Web right now is Marc Moini's Startup Doubler, which cuts Mac cold-boot times roughly in half?

The fact that Startup Doubler has gone double-platinum is telling. It means Apple has work to do.

A more important question, perhaps, is why anyone should ever have to reboot a machine in the first place. An operating system that lets a process (or a user) get so out of control that the host machine crashes, freezes, or goes off into deep space is - some would say - not much of an operating system. There are computer users in the Unix world who literally can't remember the last time their machines locked up, because it's such a rare event. And yet Apple still ships boxes that (let's be honest) regularly lock up or zone out. Isn't this (once again) genuinely Windows-like behavior? Does Apple really want to be associated with this sort of thing any longer?

But, even if we grant that occasionally - however rarely - a machine is bound to encounter a deep error condition of some kind, does that really mean we should have to reboot the machine? Shouldn't there be some kind of sophisticated shadow-caching of the machine's overall state so that when a supposedly unrecoverable condition is entered, the user can back out of it by escaping to a previously known-good state? What's so impossible about that?

Snappier overall performance at the OS level is another issue that needs attention. The Mac OS has gotten sluggish over the years, a trend that began in 1990 with System 7. (Again, not coincidentally, this trend has floated a flotilla of bestselling Bandaidware utilities with "Doubler" in the name.) Much of the latency involved in launching Finder processes is, of course, due to hard disk action. Here's another area where Steve could rock people's perceptions - by getting rid of built-in hard disks.

Everything that's done now on hard disks can be done much faster on virtual (RAM) disks. For data protection, RAMdisk contents would be continuously (and automatically) written to the Internet (i.e., to personal or corporate FTP sites). This would require a constant 24/7 net hookup, of course. Those who don't yet have such amenities could, of course, buy inexpensive backup storage in the form of CD-R, DVD, or (yes) old-fashioned IDE drives.

The only legit technical objection, it seems to me, to using DRAM as default storage would be cost. But, think what a unilateral decision by Apple to use DRAM for data storage would do to DRAM prices! (Can anyone say 'USB'?)

Soon it may actually be feasible just to write one's backup data to a Cisco backbone, a "ping network," or a satellite uplink. Not to any given medium, mind you - not to the nodes at either end of the backbone, but to the backbone itself. Not to the satellite, but to the space between the earth and the satellite. Imagine that you could fire data skyward at a rate of 100 megahertz (which is certainly feasible; that's in the low FM band). Suppose there is a one-second roundtrip time to the satellite. If you were to write continuously to the sky, there would always be 100 megabits of your data in transit - 100 megabits in storage. To retrieve any part of it, just wait for the part you want, and grab it. (The reader is left to prove that the average "seek time" would be 500 msec.)

Apple has done a good job over the years - maybe a bit too good - of "polishing pixels" in the ever-precious Mac operating system, even going to the trouble of adding a Pixel Polish Manager (I believe the politically correct name is Appearance Manager) to the OS. No question about it, we have the shiniest pixels.

But, it's time to recognize that meaningful progress in operating systems no longer has the slightest thing to do with widget design, dialog appearances, contextual menus, personalization, Login by Voice Recognition, or (God help us) balloon help.

What the world could use right now is a personal supercomputer that comes on like a light bulb, has zero hard-disk latency, and never locks up.

Let's hope the Other Guys don't do it first.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

1Password 6.8.1 - Powerful password mana...
1Password is a password manager that uniquely brings you both security and convenience. It is the only program that provides anti-phishing protection and goes beyond password management by adding Web... Read more
EtreCheck 3.4.4 - For troubleshooting yo...
EtreCheck is an app that displays the important details of your system configuration and allow you to copy that information to the Clipboard. It is meant to be used with Apple Support Communities to... Read more
GarageSale 7.0.8 - Create outstanding eB...
GarageSale is a slick, full-featured client application for the eBay online auction system. Create and manage your auctions with ease. With GarageSale, you can create, edit, track, and manage... Read more
Backblaze 5.0.0.116 - Online backup serv...
Backblaze is an online backup service designed from the ground-up for the Mac. With unlimited storage available for $5 per month, as well as a free 15-day trial, peace of mind is within reach with... Read more
Parallels Desktop 13.0.0 - Run Windows a...
Parallels allows you to run Windows and Mac applications side by side. Choose your view to make Windows invisible while still using its applications, or keep the familiar Windows background and... Read more
Mellel 4.0.0 - The word processor for sc...
Mellel is the leading word processor for OS X and has been widely considered the industry standard for long form documents since its inception. Mellel focuses on writers and scholars for technical... Read more
Adobe Muse CC 2017 2017.1.0 - Design and...
Muse CC 2017 is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $14.99/month (or $9.99/month if you're a previous Muse customer). Adobe Muse 2017 enables designers to create websites as... Read more
WhatsApp 0.2.5862 - Desktop client for W...
WhatsApp is the desktop client for WhatsApp Messenger, a cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS. WhatsApp Messenger is available for... Read more
WhatsApp 0.2.5862 - Desktop client for W...
WhatsApp is the desktop client for WhatsApp Messenger, a cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS. WhatsApp Messenger is available for... Read more
Things 3.1.3 - Elegant personal task man...
Things is a task management solution that helps to organize your tasks in an elegant and intuitive way. Things combines powerful features with simplicity through the use of tags and its intelligent... Read more

KORG iMono/Poly (Music)
KORG iMono/Poly 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Music Price: $19.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: *** Special Sale for a limited time to celebrate the debut of KORG iMono/Poly (33% OFF) until Sep 30! *** Reviving a... | Read more »
Super Phantom Cat 2 beginner's guid...
Super Phantom Cat 2 presents a whole new world of fun platforming challenges and perplexing puzzles. It's a well-designed platformer with a bright, neon aesthetic that brings the genre up to date. [Read more] | Read more »
Shadow Fight 2 Special Edition (Games)
Shadow Fight 2 Special Edition 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: ** New story chapter! **** No Ads! **** No energy! ** The best fighting series on mobile has returned and... | Read more »
4 RPGs like Final Fantasy XV that deserv...
Square Enix announced another Final Fantasy XV spin-off today - Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition. This mobile, episodic version of the hit RPG gives the game a chibi-fied makeover. The first episode will be free, followed by 9 more premium episodes... | Read more »
Guild sieges and soul gems in latest upd...
Webzen’s MU Origin hit app stores last year, giving fans of fantasy hack-n-slash MMOs like Diablo a new fix to fixate on. This latest update introduces a competitive guild battle, a fresh dungeon challenge, a mini-game and some elemental gems to... | Read more »
Little Red Lie (Games)
Little Red Lie 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ARE YOU MORE AFRAID OF POVERTY THAN DEATH? Little Red Lie is a narrative-focused, interactive fiction experience that reduces... | Read more »
You can now apply to be Clash of Clans...
Earlier this month, word got out that the Builder, the trusty handiman who tirelessly built every single building inevery singleClash of Clansbase had called it quits. Sick of seeing his work destroyed endless, the Builder has set out for our world... | Read more »
Meshi Quest beginner's guide - how...
Meshi Quest is Square Enix's newest free-to-play release, and it's a real charmer. You start off as the head of a sushi restaurant, upgrading your food and equipment as you serve visitors heaping helpings of your delicious meals. As you progress,... | Read more »
BUST-A-MOVE JOURNEY (Games)
BUST-A-MOVE JOURNEY 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: BUST-A-MOVE Features:- Shoot bubbles and match 3 or more bubbles of the same color to make them pop!- Complete your... | Read more »
The best card combos in Clash Royale
Clash Royale is all about building a deck of units that synergise well. To help you get off to a flying start, we've put together a list of unit combinations that are incredibly effective. Looking for some choice 2v2 combos? Check out our guide. [... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Low Cost Subscription Graphics App Alternativ...
I’m not a fan of the subscription software model, I don’t use any subscription apps. Used to be that you paid your license fee and the app was yours to use indefinitely, or until one opted for a paid... Read more
Clearance 2016 13-inch MacBook Airs, Apple re...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2016 13″ MacBook Airs available starting at $809. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is free: – 13″ 1.6GHz/8GB/128GB MacBook Air: $... Read more
2017 13-inch MacBook Airs on sale for $100 of...
B&H Photo new 2017 13″ MacBook Airs on sale today for $100 off MSRP, starting at $899: – 13″ 1.8GHz/128GB MacBook Air (MQD32LL/A): $899, $100 off MSRP – 13″ 1.8GHz/256GB MacBook Air (MQD42LL/A... Read more
Sale! 13-inch 2.3GHz MacBook Pros for $100 of...
B&H Photo has 13″ 2.3GHz MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for $100 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only: – 13-inch 2.3GHz/128GB Space Gray MacBook Pro (MPXQ2LL... Read more
2016 MacBook Pros, Apple refurbished, availab...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2016 15″ and 13″ MacBook Pros available starting at $1189. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: – 15″ 2.7GHz Touch Bar Space... Read more
Apple offers Certified Refurbished iPhone 6s...
Apple has Certified Refurbished unlocked iPhone 6s’s and 6s Plus’s available starting at $449. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each phone, and shipping is free: – 16GB iPhone 6s: $449, $... Read more
Apple offers Certified Refurbished Pencils fo...
Apple has Certified Refurbished Apple Pencils available for $85 including free shipping. Their price is $14 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for a Pencil. Read more
2016 15-inch 2.6GHz Touch Bar MacBook Pro ava...
B&H Photo has clearance 2016 15″ 2.6GHz MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for $500 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY & NJ sales tax only: – 15″ 2.6GHz Touch... Read more
21-inch 2.3GHz iMac on sale for $999, save $1...
Amazon has the new 2017 21″ 2.3GHz iMac (MMQA2LL/A) in stock and on sale for $999.99 including free shipping. Their price is $100 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model. Read more
Free Instant Translator 2.0 App For iOS Relea...
Mobile application development company, Neoappz has announced the release and immediate availability of Instant Translator 2.0 for iOS devices. Instant Translator is a user-friendly application which... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Development Operations and Site Reliability E...
Development Operations and Site Reliability Engineer, Apple Payment Gateway Job Number: 57572631 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Jul. 27, 2017 Read more
Frameworks Engineering Manager, *Apple* Wat...
Frameworks Engineering Manager, Apple Watch Job Number: 41632321 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Jun. 15, 2017 Weekly Hours: 40.00 Job Summary Read more
Development Operations and Site Reliability E...
Development Operations and Site Reliability Engineer, Apple Payment Gateway Job Number: 57572631 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Jul. 27, 2017 Read more
Frameworks Engineering Manager, *Apple* Wat...
Frameworks Engineering Manager, Apple Watch Job Number: 41632321 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Jun. 15, 2017 Weekly Hours: 40.00 Job Summary Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.