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What Sucks About Mac OS X

June 15th, 2006

A guy named Thom Holwerda on OS News did a piece on what he feels sucks about Mac OS X. While he has a few good points, most of his rant is either highly subjective and personal, or is relative to what this guy has gotten used to in Windows after using that OS since he got a PC. This is not to say that Mac OS X doesn’t have its sucky points; I feel it does, like pretty much all users (of any OS). And since I have so often harped on what I feel is wrong with Windows, maybe I should put in some equal time for the Mac.

I’ll get to what I think is wrong with it, but first what Holwerda wrote:

The MacOS does not exactly feel fast.

This is one of his better points. There are more delays than there should be, probably because of all the eye candy. Conversely, a Windows PC with maximum eye candy installed can slow down, too. But with the Mac it can be harder to turn it off. This is covered more in my own point #1 below.

MacOS X is an inconsistent mess. Yes, it really is. Graphically, that is. OSX now has, what, 7 or 8 different themes…

It does? There are a few variations of the original OS X eye candy, and a few variations of the brushed-metal theme, but 7 or 8? And does it really jar the eye that much? Frankly, I’ve gotten so used to them that I don’t even notice. But then, I think they’re all classier than the standard Windows theme anyway. But this is my point–it’s highly subjective.

One of my biggest pet peeves: that annoying Google search field in Safari.

Are you kidding me? I hadn’t even noticed it up there, I just never use it. So what if it’s there? Besides, freeware exists to modify it. This guy is just too lazy…

Tiger has some serious issues with… Screen remnants.

I’ve seen these, but only rarely. Again, either he’s oversensitive or something is wrong with his OS. And I’ve noticed just as many redraw issues on my Windows XP machine. Live with it.

Macs need an indicator LED for HDD activity. It is really annoying when your Mac becomes slow or unresponsive and you have to lay your ear on the keyboard to see hear whether it is still doing something or not.

Again, something must be wrong with his Mac for that to happen often enough to matter. Besides, when my Mac becomes unresponsive, I can usually tell by seeing when it becomes unresponsive. Then I do a command-option-escape to see the Force-quit window, which tells me if the app is unresponsive. Then I force-quit and restart the app if I need to. What’s the big deal? Same as Windows, in fact.

Mail.app is a pointless email client, and I am flabbergasted I still use it every day.

Then don’t use it, you idiot. Get Eudora. I wouldn’t use Outlook Express on Windows myself, I’d use Eudora again. I wouldn’t say XP sucks because some of Microsoft’s apps suck. Same goes for this guy’s Safari beefs above.

…MacOS X has an evil dock. Yes, it looks cool and all, but it’s a UI nightmare. Instead of having a separate section for taskbar entries and application launchers, the dock has one section which aims to be both, but obviously sucks at doing so. It’s confusing.

No, the dock is fine. This guy is just too used to Windows. I think that the dock works a hell of a lot better than Windows’ methods, and Exposé beats the living crap out of dealing with Window’s stupid task bar. The dock is perfectly simple, if you’re used to it and know how it works.

OSX needs a decent uninstaller, supplied with the OS… . You see, Mac people will tell you how easy it is to uninstall applications: just drag to the trash and done. That’s wrong. When you drag an application to the trash, it leaves behind a trail of configuration files and the like all over the OS. Obsessive-compulsive as I am… , I want an application to really be gone when I uninstall it.

This guy is blaming OS X because he’s got OCD? What a lamo. Just leave the prefs where they are. They won’t hurt a thing, and will have zero effect on anything. Jeez. In fact, if you decide you want to re-install the same app in the future, your prefs are already there! Besides, this guy seems to be stupid enough to believe that Windows’ uninstall leaves his OS clean! If you’re lucky, uninstalling Windows apps will not break the other apps–if you’re lucky. And he’s got his panties in a bunch because the Mac OS has some harmless leftover scraps he’ll probably never even see? What a loser.

Apple needs to put more effort into backwards compatibility.

Apple has been backwards compatible, right up until this year with the switch to Intel. On my Powerbook G4, I still have a little game app from 1986 I still play. I’d say two decades of backwards compatibility is not bad. True, it sucks that my next Mac won’t be able to play the original Civilization, which I much prefer to later versions, but I can keep using my old G3 tower for that, if need be. My father depends on a Classic app for business which has not been upgraded, and so can’t use a Mactel for that. So if you have that kind of dependency, then Holwerda has a point here. However, there are benefits to Apple’s philosophy on this; Windows suffers from all the woes connected with native backwards compatibility, which makes Windows more buggy and inflexible, less secure, and bloated.

So what do I feel is sucky about OS X? Well, mostly smaller stuff, I’ll admit, but there are some really annoying things. The one that most Apple people agree of is:

1. FTFF, or “Fix the F***ing Finder.” Holwerda touched on one aspect of this, that being the relative unresponsive nature of the Finder (notable mostly on older machines). But there’s a bit more to it. For example, when you go to the View Options, there’s an option to have your preferences apply only to the current window, or to all windows. But this option seems to have no default, and could be set either way any given time you go into View Options. Another problem is how the OS slows down if there is a problem with a network shared volume–though that particular problem has been greatly alleviated in Tiger. Another FTFF issue is icon spacing. You can’t change it, which can be annoying as well. There’s other stuff, mostly more small annoyances. Rumors have it that this will be a big focus in OS X 10.5, Leopard.

2. Language Stickiness. This may be something that only applies to people who type using more than one keyboard layout, and may even be tied to the FTFF issue, but I find it annoying enough to go high on my list. I often switch to Japanese language input. Then I switch back. The problem: Japanese will often pop right back into play when I switch to a different app or window, or even a different text box. And since I hunt-and-peck and must look at my keyboard, I often won’t notice I’m in the wrong language until after I’ve typed a whole sentence. Annoying as hell, and it usually takes a while to go away.

3. Safari. OK, I’ll include the browser too, but in one shot. And I won’t blame Apple for the fact that some web content providers don’t support it (what’s up with that, Google?). Safari has its own problems. One is general responsiveness. Sometimes it seems like half the time I’m using Safari is spent looking at the damned beachball, waiting for things to load. And if a web page anywhere in Safari auto-reloads, it puts Safari on hold for way too long a time, essentially the whole time needed for that one page to reload. I usually have Google News open in a tab somewhere, and every five minutes, Safari goes beachball when GNews does its auto-refresh. And am I the only one to notice, or doesn’t anyone else get fed up with certain web pages being unresponsive in Safari? Every time I go to MSNBC, as a common example, and I double-click on a word, Safari will do the beachball thing for like ten seconds. If I’m stupid enough to click four or five times, I might as well go and take a bathroom break. This is more a problem for me, as scrolling in Safari is often too fast, and so I select a line or a paragraph to mark my place so I don’t lose it when I scroll.

All that said, let’s not forget that Window’s Internet Explorer is still the suckiest browser on the planet. Version 7 is supposed to be better, but if you give Safari the same amount of time to improve as IE has taken (ten years?), it’ll probably be a hell of a lot better by then as well.

4. Full, Native AVI Support. Not too big a deal, since VLC will handle practically any video file. But it’d be nice if Apple finally got off it’s butt and added full support for what’s probably the #1 video format on the Internet, for crying out loud.

5. Search. Granted, Windows sucks way more than Apple on this, and Spotlight is fast and very cool. But not without issues. First of all, there is a lack of ways to sort things once you’ve found them. Spotlight won’t let you sort by size, for example, which is stupid. Hopefully it’ll get fixed soon–it used to be possible, and Spotlight is new. As it is, though, you have to open the “information” button on any given item just to see the size in search mode. Also, you’re supposed to be able to search by filename only and exclude content by adding quote marks to the keyword. That doesn’t work like it should. One more gripe: while it’s nice to be able to hide certain folders from searching (lest content from dictionaries, web page caches, and email archives overwhelm any search), you should be able to override this by doing a direct search within the folder hidden from search. You can’t. You instead must go to the preferences, delete the folder from the hide list, search, and then add the folder to the hide list again.

6. Options and Features. Another app problem, but this is common in almost all of Apple’s home-grown apps. There are way too few features and options. Strangely, the OS itself has no lack in this department, but the apps are quite a different story. Some say that Steve Jobs wants to keep things simple and streamlined. I, for one, don’t like that. Add more options! More features!

7. Displays. This is more a problem if you use external displays, like a TV set, in both mirrored- and non-mirrored modes. Sometimes your Mac will get confused. Sometimes wallpapers will vary unpredictably. Sometimes, only the external monitor will register and my Powerbook’s screen will remain black!

That’s about as much as I can come up with after mulling it over for a day or so. It’ll be interesting to see how much of this gets addressed–if any–in 10.5. One thing remains, however–despite all of the flaws in the Mac OS, it is still heads and shoulders above Windows, which is why more and more people are saying what this guy is.

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  1. Kathleen
    June 15th, 2006 at 12:31 | #1

    I am a graphic designer and am running OS X Tiger. My main beef is font management. I had always used Adobe Type Manager (ATM) but OS X doesn’t support it so now I am using Extensis Suitcase. If you need to shut down in a hurry — approaching storm, hung up app, etc. it takes forever. All open fonts close individually — I can have A LOT of fonts open at once. Also when re-launching Quark — every document is default helvetica and has to go through, identify and open all the fonts. ATM on OS 9 did this much quicker.

  2. Kathleen
    June 15th, 2006 at 12:54 | #2

    How could I forget the most maddening. After re-starting or starting up, my email (Entourage) and Safari display in a weird Cyrillic-type face until I have opened up a number of websites and documents in order to load whatever mystery font (I haven’t figured this one out) is needed. I have tried opening/closing any combo of Helvetica, Times, Times New Roman, Arial, etc… to no avail — it just straightens itself out.

  3. Shari
    June 15th, 2006 at 14:06 | #3

    I think it’s impossible to evaluate any computer system without being subjective. That being said, any evaluation should acknowledge that point.

    However, the sluggishness of OS X has to be a universally acknowlegded point. If you compare it to Windows XP on even a low end PC, it seems quite pokey. It’s also slow compared to Mac OS 9 (which is one of the reasons I resisted moving to OS X for as long as possible). I think part of the problem is the eye candy but it’s also the fact that the OS is not optimized for whatever processors Apple is using. It may be better (or worse) on Intel Macs. I haven’t had any experience with them.

    I would have to agree with Mr. Holwerda about backwards compatibility. It’s not a matter of wanting to play an old game in my case but using software which is necessary for business. Pagemaker 6.0J only runs under OS 9 and is integral to any work I do for my former company. What is worse, the OS 9 emulation under Tiger is so buggy that I can’t even install most applications and those I can install crash frequently.

    Even if my former company weren’t too cash-strapped to migrate to InDesign and Macs capable of running it, they’d still need to be able to run the programs necessary to open older files. Mac OS X pales in comparison to Windows XP when you look at XP’s ability to run old DOS applications. While you can say that one can keep an old machine around to run old applications, a business is going to look at that as a serious reason not to use a Mac. The OS is supposed to accomodate the user, not the user accomodate the OS.

    It is clear that Apple has made a business decision to abandon users of older Mac hardware and software and cater to only those users and businesses affluent enough to keep up with Apple’s changes in hardware and operating system software. The irony is that, with Intel-based Macs capable of running Windows, switchers are better off than Mac OS 9 users in terms of running their legacy software. Since Apple is a hardware company, this decision is probably in their best interest but it does increase the chances of older Mac users hanging on to their old hardware instead of upgrading or switching to Windows.

    Of course, Mr. Holwerda doesn’t give the Mac credits for some of its biggest strong points (multi-lingual support, hardware compatibility, ease of use, etc.) but I guess that wasn’t the point of his article.

  4. ykw
    June 16th, 2006 at 04:27 | #4

    I think it’s difficult to compare two os without ending up comparing two different computer setups. For example, there is talk of “slow”. How slow depends on hardware. Are we talking about latest pentium duo’s with both xp and osx? If not, then both setups can be slow. How slow? Depends on the hardware and what software is running on it. The setups can have different software installed as well. Different browsers run on each os. If one comments on browser, are they commenting on browser or os? I’ve found that both xp and osx can be absolutely terrific when run on recent hardware, with recent versions of software, after being set up in a nice way. At the same time, without those 3 things, in both cases, I’ve seen some crummy setups that are slow, crash alot, and have trouble being compatible w/ websites, email, files, new software and new hardware — any of which is a nightmare.

    I like Both osx and xp !!!

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