Apple Archive

Looking at OS X Through Windows

- 2000.11.17

When you turn on your Mac with OS X, you see a larger than normal happy Mac with a little picture up in the left hand corner which looks like a spinning CD-ROM. Next you see a dialog box saying, "Welcome to Macintosh," and telling you that it is loading network settings, preferences, etc. Gone are the extensions that pop up along the bottom at startup. After that box, there is a log on screen where you enter your user name and password.

Win2K and OS X

One thing I noticed when I first tried out Mac OS X public beta is how similar it is to Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional.

In Windows 2000 Pro, you see a dialog box telling you pretty much the same thing as OS X does on startup. Then the "press control-alt-delete to logon" screen comes up. When you press that key combination, you get a log on screen similar to the one in OS X.

When the desktop comes up in Mac OS X, you are faced with a Finder window similar to the "My computer" window in Windows. When you double click the icon for your hard disk, the hard disk window opens in the same window as the one you were previously using, just like Windows. Want to move the window? You will find solid window dragging in both OSes, only in OS X you cannot turn it off.

When you take a look at the desktop in Windows 2000 Pro, you notice they have switched to a Mac OS-like blue colour. Don't like blue? No problem, Windows 2000 Pro will let you change it to whatever colour you please. OS X beta will not. So far you can only use pictures on the desktop. Both systems let you connect to a network or printer fairly easily. OS X lets you set up a printer faster if you know how to use the new "Print Centre."

Windows 2000 Pro gives you the same Windows 95, 98, and NT 4 interface with a few added enhancements. I personally don't care for the Windows taskbar (I didn't mind Windows 3.1, where the programs were icons on the desktop), but if you are used to using Windows 9X, you won't have to change the way you work.

Power Sapping Features

Another similarity between Windows 2000 Pro and OS X is fading menus. Both OSes have that "feature." On Windows 2000 you can turn it off in the "Desktop" control panel. In Mac OS X you cannot turn it off.

The little features in OS X - fading menus, translucent menus, and solid window dragging - really slow down older G3s like my G3 desktop. It even slows down newer G3s like the PowerBook G3 Lombard. Apple needs to let users turn off some features. Those pretty little traffic light close boxes, the animated minimization of windows, and the fading menus are all very pretty, but there are some people who get easily annoyed by these extras. Apple needs to make some themes that are plain looking for people who don't like these effects or whose computers can't handle them well.

Both systems are very stable. Windows 2K Pro doesn't use DOS - it is the operating system, so you don't have to worry about DOS commands, etc. In Windows 2000, many older Windows programs will still run. Some won't, however (mainly games, so you have to have Windows 98 installed as well), and some PCs come with two operating systems to fix that (perhaps in some way like the Classic environment?).


OS X has to launch the Classic environment to run older Mac applications. I found this a great annoyance, especially if I just want to open Outlook Express to check my email. Since OE is not carbonized, I have to wait for OS 9 to load.

If Apple wants to compete in all markets, they have to find a way to either eliminate the Classic environment and make everything run right in OS X or somehow make Classic load at the same time OS X loads. (See OS X Dooms Apple.)

It Don't Come Easy

While Windows may be in the lead for features and convenience, it is still not the easiest to use. The Mac OS still starts up with a smiling face after 16 years, whereas the PC manufacturers are trying everything to hide the startup memory count and make it more friendly - more like a Mac.

In Mac OS X, you can still throw out programs, folders, and files - even go into the System Folder and move things around. Windows still has the Add/Remove Programs control panel (and if you remember, in Windows 3.1 you could never get rid of a program fully because of the lack of that control panel).

When Windows 3.1 came out, it said on the box "makes your PC easy to use." It will be a long time before a PC is easy to use. Even with all the wizards and guides and little animated paperclips in the world, a PC won't be as easy to use as a Macintosh.

Windows hates it when you install hardware. For example, I was trying to move a sound card from an older PC into a newer one. I moved the sound card to the newer PC. I started up the PC, and Windows took its time looking for the new card. It did find it eventually, but it took 10 minutes to do so. Then it said it couldn't find drivers. I assumed that it would take me only 20 minutes to fix that. That was 04.00. At around 06.00 I finally heard some sound from that sound card. Two hours to install a feature that all Macs since 1984 have built in - and that the Mac OS has always supported.

Then there was the other PC to deal with. It needed a modem, so I put the modem in, started up the computer, and what do I get but "Could not load driver: sb16Ö" (something for the sound card). I clicked OK, the machine froze, and after about ten times hitting "control-alt-delete," I got the thing to restart.

Pretty soon I was in the "config.sys" and "autoexec.bat" files trying to remove the sound card drivers (this is Windows 3.1) just so it would let me install the modem drivers.

I started doing that around 07.00 that night, and at around 11.00 I still couldn't get it to recognize the modem. At that point I gave up. It isn't much easier in Windows 95 or later - the drivers still have to be installed.

Easy Is as Easy Does

Just think how quickly you can set up a modem on a Mac - whether new or old. Plug it into the modem port (or USB port), turn on the computer, open the modem control panel, and select the modem (or, on older systems, open the PPP control panel).

You can see that the Mac is a superior computer - maybe not in MHz speed, but certainly in ease of setup and use, not to mention very little maintenance.

Apple needs to make Mac OS X a superior OS. OS X is still in its developmental stages. I hope it will be released at Macworld Expo in January. Apple has a lot of work to do to get it ready, and I certainly hope they are taking user feedback seriously.

< discussion of this article underway at MacSlash>

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