I’m not biased, I just hate everything.
DisCONNECT will see a number of new articles before the end of the year, but I’ll be signing off soon. Not that it matters, thanks to the power of automation! If I could get some software to write the reviews for me, I’d be all set! But this isn’t a review, this is some good old Mac bashing, just to keep things neutral.
You know what I like about Macs? Form factor. There are very few desktop PCs with the form factor of a Mac Mini which aren’t running shitty components. I’m sorry, but your Atom CPU isn’t going to hold a candle to a C2D. The Mac Mini is a silver box which makes almost no noise and doesn’t slowly warm the room up more effectively than ducted heating. That said, considering all you get is the box and not much else, they’re not that cheap. Also, they run OS X, which I hate. And now I will rant and rave about why I hate it.
To be fair, generally Apple do a good job at making computers. Their prices are quite high but I’ll concede part of the argument that you’re paying for the OS, the iLife suite, and the form factor primarily. Also you get tight integration between the OS and the hardware, which isn’t hard to do with the limited hardware profiles you find in a Mac. Incidentally, toss any other hardware into the mix and OS X throws a fit, either because it’s a walled garden or because it simply can’t figure out how to handle it. Windows, for all its apparent faults, at least attempts to get along with a massive amount of hardware. Apple’s MacBooks are very well built laptops, and the Macbook Air is probably reasonably priced considering it uses flash memory for storage. Even the iMacs might have a bit of merit, given the quality of the displays they use (but they tend to run pretty hot and IMO a full desktop that you can’t upgrade isn’t worth the form factor in most cases).
But I absolutely hate OS X and I can’t understand why some people defend it to the death. It’s like this: generally I stay away from Linux because sometimes simple tasks (like updating video drivers, or installing software) dissolve into a mess of cryptic commands entered into a bash terminal without much to indicate why something hs failed. Distros like Ubuntu have made great strides towards solving this, and more power to them for it, but it’s still not as easy to use as Windows. But that’s totally cool, because Linux is an evolving platform and very little is pinned down. There’s an expectation that because it’s not mainstream in the home user market, things will change and some things will be hard to do. Linux users are a vocal bunch and most people will indulge in their arguments because their platform is pretty dynamic.
Apple’s Mac OS line has been around for ages, stretching into the dim past of computing. Although it has a smaller market share than Windows, it’s still significant. You’d think that Apple would actually abandon practices that don’t keep up with standards present even in Linux GUIs, but apparently Apple wants to go their own way, and their fanboys blindly follow. If you mention any of these (in my opinion) quite valid and reasonable points, the fanboys will shout you down claiming it’s a superior way of doing things. Are they right? If you’re not a fanboy, see if you agree with my assessments…
1. MOUSE ACCELERATION
If there’s a cardinal sin in mouse controls, it’s screwing with mouse acceleration. A MOUSE IS NOT A THUMBSTICK. Moving the mouse a short distance means I want to move it a short distance at a constant (or near constant) speed, not that I want the mouse to move very slowly. It’s annoying in games, but it’s friggin’ infuriating in OS X. I still don’t see the rationale for why the acceleration curve is so screwed up, but what’s even more disturbing is that people are defending it to the death, to the point where they won’t even allow the OPTION of turning it on or off. That’s what I really hate about Apple fanboys; they refuse to compromise at all. Okay, you like mouse acceleration, good for you. A lot of us don’t, so let us disable it. Or failing that, fix the acceleration curve! It’s absurd, the mouse absolutely crawls along the screen and then just as suddenly it can fly across it like a hummingbird out of a cannon. Christ guys, get it right!
2. THE FINDER
I could write a 6000 word essay on how shit the Finder, but it’d all boil down to “THIS THING IS SHIT.” Windows Explorer isn’t perfect, but it does one thing better than the Finder; IT SORTS FOLDERS FIRST. Most other GUIs (and even text interfaces) for browsing directory structures do this, so why the Finder refuses to do so is a mystery to me. And people still rant and rave as if it’s the best feature of the Finder. It looks incredibly messy and downright stupid. Few others do it that way, so why does OS X have to hold out? Also on the topic of a shitty Finder, choosing default applications to open files with! If I want VLC media player to open all AVI files or something, you’d think that right clicking and selecting Open With and then clicking the box to “always open with this program”, it’d do that for all of the files. Not so, it actually only sets it for that single file. Instead I have to open up the “more info” window (which is akin to “Properties” but less well organised) and then do the same thing. Except sometimes for reasons I’m unsure of, it doesn’t keep the setting and I have to do it again. Finally, why are the views so friggin’ useless? Is it that hard to have something similar to Explorer with folders on the left and the contents of the current folder on the right? Instead there’s like 4 boxes that show a breadcrumb trail back 4 levels, which is maddening. Who would want that?
3. THE DOCK
The Dock is shit. I’ll use a really good example for why it’s shit. MSN Messenger/Live Messenger/Microsoft’s Essential Messaging Shitfest, whatever they’re calling it these days, has a pretty decent default behaviour with Windows. The main app sits in the system tray and conversation windows show up in the taskbar. Under OS X, the entire application takes up one icon. The entire thing, conversation windows and contact list and all, all on the one application. Some of you probably think that’s awesome, but it’s a pain in the ass when you want to know exactly what’s going on and who is messaging you. Since it doesn’t work as well as the window previews in Win7’s taskbar, it’s pretty frustrating to work with. The same goes for Firefox and its download window, which frequently hides away. Instead of notifying you of there being more than 1 window for Firefox, all you get is just the icon and a blue dot underneath to show that the app is running. And that’s it! If you want to select another window you have to firstly know it’s there, and then right click the icon and then select the other window. The distinction between running apps and those that aren’t is a small blue dot. Mixing apps that you can launch and apps that are running is pretty dicey in the first place, but Win7 gets around it nicely by making it very clear what’s running and what isn’t. The Dock fails at this. Also I absolutely hate the way that the top menu bar is used for each and every application. What’s the point of having windows? Oh wait, OS X’s next incarnation, Lion, intends to change that so apps become modal. That’s the Apple “magic” at work.
4. NO MAXIMISE WINDOW BUTTON
On Windows you can make a window take up the entire screen by hitting the maximise button. On a Mac, there’s a green button with a “+” sign which looks like it’d do the same thing. But it doesn’t. All it does is just slightly expand (or sometimes shrink) the window. Supposedly it expands the window so that “enough” content is displayed, or at least that’s what the fanboys keep telling me. In my experience (particularly with the Finder) it just makes the window absolutely useless. If you want a bigger window you have to drag it out manually from the bottom right corner (and no other corner). Really, Apple? Since when were you qualified to decide how much of a window I needed to see? Oh that’s right, you’re not. So what the hell are you doing with a button like that?!
5. LACK OF SYSTEM CONFIG
Some people argue that you’ll never need to dig into the system config aspects of OS X and Macs, but I disagree. Giving people more power to modify settings is a good thing just as much as adding simple interfaces for those who don’t. Here’s a good example – under Windows I can create customised power plans which allow me to configure CPU throttling and power states for various bits of hardware and so on. I can’t on OS X, though to be fair OS X does manage low-power devices very well (better than WIndows in fact). But most of the other system preferences panels are pretty light on utility as well; you can change a few basic things and that’s pretty much it. There’s no big Device Manager or similar, there’s no easy way to expose GPU settings, there’s no useful services manager that’s easy to access… basically a lot of tasks that Windows has a GUI for, OS X completely lacks. Even something like the mouse settings window is overly simplistic. Cater for everyone else if you must, but let power users take control.
Before you bitch and whinge and carry on, allow me to explain. Performance is difficult to judge between the two platforms because they’re two different operating systems without a great deal of overlap. iTunes on OS X is quicker than on Windows, but it’s more likely to be due to it being a sloppy port than an actual problem with Windows. Likewise, the obscene performance difference between Source games on OSX and in Windows running natively tells a similar story; Source games run way better in Windows than on OSX, even on the same hardware. So all I can say about performance is what I observe, and my observations show that Windows 7 is a lot snappier. This Mac Mini only has 2GB of RAM and a slow HDD, and it would crawl at times in OSX, particularly with Firefox. No such problems in Windows 7. Some people think that OSX runs a lot quicker. Well, whatever makes you happy, but so far OSX has either been the same as Win7 or worse.
7. POOR APP INSTALL PROCESS
Before you rage, there are some things I don’t mind about installing apps. For those who haven’t used OSX, lots of things don’t have a traditional installer. Rather, you mount a “package” (kind of like mounting an ISO in Daemon Tools) and then drag the app to the Applications folder, which is where all applications are supposed to reside. Lots of stuff also comes with an installer (or has an additional installer step), but lots of other stuff just drags and drops. Pretty easy! In theory, all you should have to do is drag the app into the Trash to delete it, as well as any other debris it keeps floating around (which tends to stick around in Windows). But some apps insist that you keep the original package and use a separate uninstaller from the package. Are you kidding me? As if I’m going to keep the package floating around just to uninstall the software. Is it that hard to include the uninstaller too?
8. QUIT BEHAVIOUR
This one gets me the most. On every other GUI OS I’ve used, clicking the “close” button on the main window terminates the app, unless it’s supposed to reside in the system tray or something like that. Otherwise the app stops running. On a Mac, unless you go up to the menu bar and specifically tell it to close (or hit Command+Q or whatever it is), the app stays running, even if there’s no windows open. And since everything merges into the top menu bar, and since the Dock is next to useless at distinguishing running apps from inactive apps, it’s easy to miss that something is still running. Some people justify it by saying “But isn’t it more convenient to have the program still running, just waiting for you to open up a window?” My answer is “Why the hell do I want it using up resources if I don’t intend to use it?” And given how many times I’ve had Mac systems beachball on me with simple tasks that Win7 on the same hardware has no trouble with, I’m guessing that anything running that doesn’t need to be will be much worse.
9. OSX’S UAC
Remember those silly “Get a Mac” advertisements? The one that went on and on about User Account Control in Windows? I’m surprised they didn’t launch the same argument against Linux, but then again general users don’t know about Linux and the ads don’t make sense to anyone except general users. What I find ironic is that there’s a form of UAC in OSX anyway. Granted by default it’s not as chatty as Win7 and Vista, but it’s still there, and it still demands a password. Why laugh at another OS when your own OS has the same thing?
At the end of the day most of my complaints can probably be summed up as “It’s different from everyone else.” But in saying that sometimes things a different for a reason. Yes, you can spend ages saying how great it is that your fantastic breakfast machine pours some cornflakes into your bowl and looks great at the same time, but that doesn’t necessarily make it better than me picking up the box and just pouring it out. I think the problem is that while some of these features may have made sense back in the early 90s, they don’t hold up today. OSX is quite different in terms of GUI and usability than both Windows and Linux, which still share similarities with GUI operation. Mac fanboys will defend any odd decision to the death, claiming it’s “better” but often they can’t say why. The sort folders first one gets me the most – it can’t kill them to have the OPTION there, but don’t ever tell that to a Mac lover, or they’ll kill you. It’s the same with mouse acceleration. Why are options bad? Also the maximise button thing… why the hell are people so content for Apple to decide how much content you should see? People claim it’s a “waste of screen space” to open up a window to its full extent, but if I want to maximise it, then I want to see as much content as possible! Why the hell shouldn’t I be allowed to do that?
It seems like Apple are thinking along the same lines. If Lion is anything to go by, they’re going to integrate their mobile OS ideas into their desktop OS, somewhat unifying the two systems. Essentially their new plan seems to be to focus on semi-modal apps, like what you’re using on the iPad; one window which is the main app, and takes up the entire screen. Which also happens to include hiding the Dock and menu bar and everything else. Come on, that’s even worse! Multitasking (well, what passes for multitasking, given that it’s a mobile device and doesn’t need to multitask anyway) is a joke as it is on the iPad, imposing the same system onto the desktop is silly.
I think that OS X’s time is limited though. Apple make great mobile products because their minimalist interfaces work very well in the mobile world. They don’t work nearly so well on the desktop world, where everybody else has moved on. Until Apple realises this, their desktop OS will always come in second place.