Mac Musings

Big Apple Changes Acomin'

Daniel Knight - August 10, 2000 -

Change can be good. Change can be bad. Change is something we can anticipate or fear - and sometimes do both at the same time.

The Mac has changed, evolving from a small beige box with a black-and-white screen to today's iMacs, PowerBooks, iBooks, Power Macs, and Cube. The Mac OS has transformed from a floppy-based one application at a time OS to one that requires a large hard drive and a lot of memory while letting you switch effortlessly between applications.

Those changes have been mostly good, but every change breaks something. The original Dark Castle wouldn't run on the SE. Some programs that ran fine under System 6 were problematic with the multiple application support of System 7. Some NuBus hardware for the IIci wouldn't work in the IIfx or Quadras or first generation Power Macs. Some utilities needed to be significantly updated to work under OS 9.

We've left our share of legacy ports and software behind. The 9-pin mouse and serial ports gave way to ADB in 1987. SCSI started disappearing with the iMac in 1998, as did the internal floppy drive. One style of SIMMs gave way to another, then to DIMMs. Apple's 15-pin monitor connector was eventually abandoned for the standard VGA connector. Add-ons like SuperClock and MenuChoice became part of the OS.

You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet

All this pales in the face of Mac OS X. If you want the stability, threading, and multiple processor support, you're going to have to use OS X applications.

Sure, my old Claris Emailer, Claris Home Page, ClarisWorks (version 4), Microsoft Word 5.1a, Photoshop, GraphicConverter, Mizer, and Internet Explorer will work in the compatibility box, but they'll have exactly the same limitations they do today. Foremost among those, and the best argument for OS X, is that when one of today's applications locks up, blows up, or just quits, it can take down the entire operation.

Nobody but a vintage Mac lover happily running a single program at a time under System 6 would deny the appeal of OS X. We want a bulletproof OS. The current Mac OS is cobbled together on top of an core OS that never anticipated multiple processors or multiple programs.

The good news is that Unix was, and the BSD version of Unix sits at the heart of Mac OS X.

There Is a Downside

Change can be frightening.

After years of use, Claris Emailer is second nature to me. I have some very powerful AppleScripts for dealing with spam, extracting messages for archiving, and pulling single postings out of list digests. I probably have hundreds of email addresses. I know and love Emailer. I don't want to change to Eudora or Outlook Express or anything else I've ever heard of.

After years of use, Claris Home Page is second nature to me. I've looked at demo versions of GoLive and DreamWeaver. They may be powerful, but they lack the simple elegance of Home Page. Home Page isn't perfect, but it fits like a glove. I don't want to switch to another design program.

After years of use, ClarisWorks is second nature to me. I've seen Word 98 and Excel 98, but I have no use for that much power or bloat. I've seen AppleWorks 6 and feel the same way about it. But at least AppleWorks 6 is "carbonized" and will run under OS X. It will also work with my current ClarisWorks files.

I suspect GraphicConverter will be compiled for OS X. I hope it won't cost anything to registered owners.

Count on Photoshop running under OS X, but I'll be forced to buy a new version.

In fact, the only application I run daily that I know will be available with OS X without cost to me is Internet Explorer.

The Cost of Change

I'm as excited about OS X as the next power user. I crave stability. I despise the way Home Page takes over the whole computer when uploading files. I disdain the way Internet Explorer wants to finish whatever it's doing before letting me switch to another program. I hate the bombs and lockups.

Count on me running OS X Beta on one partition of my SuperMac S900, just as I'm playing with OS 9 on my SuperMac J700. (I haven't switched to OS 9 on my main computer for one reason: QuicKeys. I don't want to pay for the upgrade, but I depend on it too heavily to do without it.)

But the cost of going OS X isn't just $99 for system software. The true cost is a new version of Photoshop, a new design program for my site, and a new version of AppleWorks.

On top of that there's the time learning the new OS and new software. Things that are second nature to me now may not be possible in the new email client, may not be as easy to do in the new Web design program, may not be as easy to master and grow comfortable with as the programs I've been using for three, five, or even eight years.

Change, whether good or bad, whether anticipated or feared, moves us out of our comfort zone. With Apple driving the change, we can only hope it also brings us into a new comfort zone that fits as well as the current one.

BTW, we're changing the look and structure of Low End Mac. This page reflects the new look, which included a vertical banner up the left side of the page, an obvious button for getting back to the home page, an a graphical section banner (Mac Musings) across the top of the page.

Gone are the several lines of links across the top of the page. We're out to reduce clutter, which has been the leading complaint about the design of Low End Mac.

To that end, we will be making extensive and, we hope, intuitive changes to the navigation bar on the right over the coming week. The key is greatly reducing the number of links and using more index pages to help you navigate the site. We believe this will make finding content easier, although it may take one more click to get where you want to go.

We'll share more information on that when the new structure is ready to complement the updated design. Dan Knight, publisher

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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