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

LibreOffice 4.4.1.2 - Free, open-source...
LibreOffice is an office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, drawing tool) compatible with other major office suites. The Document Foundation is coordinating development and... Read more
Freeway Pro 7.0.3 - Drag-and-drop Web de...
Freeway Pro lets you build websites with speed and precision... without writing a line of code! With its user-oriented drag-and-drop interface, Freeway Pro helps you piece together the website of... Read more
Cloud 3.3.0 - File sharing from your men...
Cloud is simple file sharing for the Mac. Drag a file from your Mac to the CloudApp icon in the menubar and we take care of the rest. A link to the file will automatically be copied to your clipboard... Read more
Cyberduck 4.6.5 - FTP and SFTP browser....
Cyberduck is a robust FTP/FTP-TLS/SFTP browser for the Mac whose lack of visual clutter and cleverly intuitive features make it easy to use. Support for external editors and system technologies such... Read more
Firefox 36.0 - Fast, safe Web browser. (...
Firefox for Mac offers a fast, safe Web browsing experience. Browse quickly, securely, and effortlessly. With its industry-leading features, Firefox is the choice of Web development professionals and... Read more
Thunderbird 31.5.0 - Email client from M...
As of July 2012, Thunderbird has transitioned to a new governance model, with new features being developed by the broader free software and open source community, and security fixes and improvements... Read more
VOX 2.4 - Music player that supports man...
VoxIt just sounds better! The beauty is in its simplicity, yet behind the minimal exterior lies a powerful music player with a ton of features & support for all audio formats you should ever need... Read more
A Better Finder Rename 9.46 - File, phot...
A Better Finder Rename is the most complete renaming solution available on the market today. That's why, since 1996, tens of thousands of hobbyists, professionals and businesses depend on A Better... Read more
WALTR 1.0.9 - Drag-and-drop any media fi...
WALTR is designed to make it easy to upload and convert any music or video file to an iPad or iPhone format for native playback. It supports a huge variety of media file types, including MP3, MP4,... Read more
Default Folder X 4.6.14 - Enhances Open...
Default Folder X attaches a toolbar to the right side of the Open and Save dialogs in any OS X-native application. The toolbar gives you fast access to various folders and commands. You just click on... Read more

Check Out the Trailer for the Upcoming F...
Check Out the Trailer for the Upcoming FINAL FANTASY: Record Keeper Posted by Jessica Fisher on February 26th, 2015 [ permalink ] DeNA and Square Enix have announced that | Read more »
Legacy Quest is an Upcoming Rouge-like T...
Legacy Quest is an Upcoming Rouge-like That’ll Kill the Whole Family Posted by Jessica Fisher on February 26th, 2015 [ permalink ] Nexon Co. | Read more »
Grudgeball: Enter the Chaosphere Review
Grudgeball: Enter the Chaosphere Review By Jordan Minor on February 26th, 2015 Our Rating: :: MUSCLE MENUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Regular Show gets an above average game.   | Read more »
Action RPG League of Angels – Fire Raide...
Gaia is being invaded by the Devil Prince and the demonic Devil Army at his disposal, and it’s up to you and your avatar to defeat him in League of Angels – Fire Raiders. Raise a mighty army from hundreds of recruitable angel heroes and take the... | Read more »
Burn Rubber on the Ice With a New Cars:...
Burn Rubber on the Ice With a New Cars: Fast as Lightning Update Posted by Jessica Fisher on February 26th, 2015 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
AdVenture Capitalist Review
AdVenture Capitalist Review By Jordan Minor on February 26th, 2015 Our Rating: :: DAS KAPITALUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad An inadvertent Marxist manifesto.   | Read more »
Monster vs Sheep Review
Monster vs Sheep Review By Jennifer Allen on February 25th, 2015 Our Rating: :: SAMEY FUNUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad What Monster vs Sheep lacks in variety it makes up for with stress relieving fun. At least, for a... | Read more »
Is Your Face Ready for the New Outwitter...
Is Your Face Ready for the New Outwitters 2.0 Trailer? Posted by Jessica Fisher on February 25th, 2015 [ permalink ] One Man Left Studios has announced that their turn-based strategy game, | Read more »
HowToFormat Review
HowToFormat Review By Jennifer Allen on February 25th, 2015 Our Rating: :: USEFUL TIPSiPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad Making a presentation and want to get it just right? HowToFormat teaches you how... | Read more »
Thermo Diem Review
Thermo Diem Review By Jennifer Allen on February 25th, 2015 Our Rating: :: GETS TO THE POINTUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Want to know whether it’s warmer or colder tomorrow? That’s precisely what Thermo Diem will... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple Takes 89 Percent Share of Global Smartp...
According to the latest research from Strategy Analytics, global smartphone operating profit reached US$21 billion in Q4 2014. The Android operating system captured a record-low 11 percent global... Read more
New Travel Health App “My Travel Health” iOS...
Rochester, Minnesota based Travel Health and Wellness LLC has announced that its new iOS app help safeguard the user’s health when traveling abroad — “My Travel Health” is now available on the Apple... Read more
Sale! MacBook Airs for up to $115 off MSRP
B&H Photo has MacBook Airs on sale for up to $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 11″ 128GB MacBook Air: $799 100 off MSRP - 11″ 256GB MacBook Air: $999 $100... Read more
15-inch 2.0GHz Retina MacBook Pro (refurbishe...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished previous-generation 15″ 2.0GHz Retina MacBook Pros available for $1489 including free shipping plus Apple’s standard one-year warranty. Their price is... Read more
Wither The iPad mini? End Of The Road Imminen...
AppleDailyReport’s Dennis Sellers predicts that the iPad mini is going to be left to wither on the vine, as it were, and then just allowed to fade away — a casualty of the IPhone 6 Plus and other... Read more
Android and iOS Duopoly Owns 96.3% of Smartph...
IDC reports that Android and iOS inched closer to total domination of the worldwide smartphone market in both the fourth quarter (4Q14) and the calendar year 2014 (CY14). According to data from the... Read more
13-inch 2.4GHz Retina MacBook Pro available f...
MacMall has the 2013 13″ 2.4GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro available for $999.99 for a limited time. Shipping is free. Their price is $300 off original MSRP, and it’s the only sub-$1000 new Retina... Read more
Save up to $300 on a new Mac, $30 on an iPad,...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad at The Apple Store for Education and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free,... Read more
Mac minis available for up to $75 off MSRP
MacMall has Mac minis on sale for up to $75 off MSRP including free shipping. Their prices are the lowest available for these models from any reseller: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $459.99 $40 off - 2.6GHz Mac... Read more
WaterField Unveils Versatile Padded Gear Pouc...
San Francisco manufacturer WaterField Design’s new Padded Gear Pouch is a light and handy-sized, yet protective, organizer for every kind of take-along gear: technology, travel, toiletries,... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC) you are the link between our customers and our products. Your role is to drive the Apple business in a retail Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC)- Retail S...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC) you are the link between our customers and our products. Your role is to drive the Apple business in a retail Read more
Sr. Technical Services Consultant, *Apple*...
**Job Summary** Apple Professional Services (APS) has an opening for a senior technical position that contributes to Apple 's efforts for strategic and transactional Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.