Mac OS X - The Experience Documented

Reviewed by Dan Allen.
Most recent at the top, oldest at the end of the file.


Mac OS 10.11.6 - Back on the Road! (26 Aug 2016)
Mac OS 10.2.8 - The End of the Road for Me (18 May 2004)
Mac OS 10.2.2 (12 Nov 2002)
10.2 Crashes (2 Nov 2002)
Mac OS 10.2.1 (21 Oct 2002)
Perl on Mac OS X (August 27, 2002)
Mac G4 Dual CPU Tower Comparison (August 27, 2002)
Mac OSX 10.1.5 vs OSX 10.2 Benchmarks (August 26, 2002)
Mac OSX 10.2 Jaguar (August 24, 2002)
Mac OSX 10.1.5 (June 2002)
Mac OSX 10.1.2 (January 2002)
Mac OSX 10.1 (October 2001)
Mac OSX 10.0.4 (July 2001)
Mac OSX After Three Months (June 2001)
Mac OSX First Impressions (March 2001)

Mac OS 10.11.6 - Got back on the road a year later!

26 Aug 2016

I forgot about this web page until today, when I was searching for metadata found in old files on my website. Yes, I gave up on Mac OS X in 2004, but it only lasted a year. I used Windows XP for that year, but in 2005 I got a new iMac G5, in 2006 I bought the new Intel Macs, and it continued on through all of these years. I upgraded from Panther to Tiger 10.4, which was a great release because I could still run MPW & HyperCard. Then Leopard 10.5 was the last of the PowerPC systems, and 10.6 gave us Snow Leopard, one of the finest release of all of Mac OS X because it had few new features, shrank because there were no more Universal Binaries, and was just so lean and clean. Long live Snow Leopard!

It was not to be. 10.7 Lion began adding many more demons to track file versions, to handle software updates and the store, and on and on. This was not a favorite version. It was slow & bloated and buggy compared to Snow Leopard. Mountain Lion 10.8 at least fixed the various problems introduced in Lion 10.7, but it was still close enough to Snow Leopard to be somewhat of a disappointment. No worries, onward and upward to Mac OS X Mavericks 10.9, with the worst name, and more flawed features. The addition of Apple Maps & Apple iBooks were great features, but both were very poorly done. Onward to Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite, and things tightened up a bit, but Maps & iBooks were still flawed. Handoff became a useful feature though, and Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan was mostly better than Yosemite, except for screwing up Apple Mail on multiple machines.

Today we are only about a month away from the first of the new/old named macOS 10.12 Sierra, and although my testing of a few betas has shown few bugs, my how it gobbles RAM and CPU. I hope there is a lot of debug code being stripped out as I type. I think the only new feature since Snow Leopard that I really use a lot is Handoff.

Mac OS 10.2.8 - The End of the Road for Me

18 May 2004

Over the past years I continued to upgrade my Macs up through 10.2.8. I then upgraded to Panther, Mac OS X 10.3. Panther seemed like a step backwards to me: it removed the system-wide favorites which I had grown to use instead of a customizable Apple Menu in OS 9, and the new Finder was worse in many ways, with a very ugly rendition of Labels and still no decent compact icon views, etc. But all of these problems did not compare to the ways in which my Mac would hang due to threading bugs. Panther seemed actually worse than Jaguar, although it may have just been the equal. I went back to Jaguar for several months but in the end, I bought two new Dell computers with Windows XP Professional on them and I made the jump back to Windows.

Instantly I became more productive. The Mac is just too darn slow in so many ways. The wireless networking has a lot of problems, and the Finder hangs whenever it has to deal with folders containing thousands of files. Windows on the other hand opens such folders instantly and without any problems.

The new Dell Latitude D600 is every bit as slick as a titanium PowerBook G4, and it won't lose its titanium color when the paint flakes off like it has on my PowerBook G4. My Dell OptiPlex opens up just as neatly as my dual processor G4 Mac did, but for half the price. Both Dells are much faster than the Macs.

So, do I miss the Mac? Sure: I miss OS 9, MPW, and HyperCard. When I realized that Apple was completely stopping all support and development of these great tools, then there was nothing left to keep me on the Mac, and I am happier now on Windows. Windows has much better mapping software and reference software than the Mac does, but it does have more spam and virus worries. I suppose that is the only area now where the Mac excels. No, there is one other and that is having a nice Unix shell as standard. OS X's Terminal is still better than cmd.exe, but neither are as good as MPW.

Mac OS 10.2.2

Tuesday 12 Nov 2002

Mac OS X 10.2.2 arrived this morning. The upgrade on four different Macs went fine. On two I used Software Update, on one I used a downloaded version, and on one I used Software Update from a remote machine via the command line and ssh.

The Finder's Find command continues to gobble RAM. (In other words, the stdclib memory allocation bug is still present.)

My HP LaserJet 2200D still does not work via the Print menu of any program or via CUPS, except for one exception: the CUPS test page prints.

This update has not apparently hurt anything, but neither has it helped anything.

10.2 Crashes

Saturday 2 Nov 2002

Mac OS X 10.2 crashes quite often. True it does not bring the whole machine down (well, that has happened twice but generally it doesn't...) but here is a list of what has crashed on my machine over the past two months. It is arranged by how many times the app has crashed:

 # Application
 5 CronniX
 5 Dock
 5 Internet Explorer
 5 TextEdit
 2 Finder
 2 LaunchBar
 2 StuffIt Expander
 1 Adobe Photoshop 7.0
 1 iCal Helper
 1 iTunes
 1 LimeWire
 1 Mail
 1 Microsoft Word
 1 System Preferences
 1 Ticker
 1 ZipIt
Not particularly robust.

Here is an Awk script that will summarize your crashes:

#!/usr/bin/awk -f
#    greplogs - Summarize Mac OS X crashes.
#  2 Nov 2002 - Created by Dan Allen.

  OFS = "\t"
  if (ARGC < 2) {
    print "Usage: greplogs ~/Library/Logs/CrashReporter/*"

/^Date\/Time:/     { when = $2 }
/^Command:/        { cmd = $2 $3 $4 }
/^Exception:/      { except = $2 }
/^Codes:/          { code = $2 }
/^Thread.*Crashed/ { now = 1 }
/^ \#0/            { if (now) { routine = $4; now = 0 } }
/^PPC Thread/      { print when,cmd,code,routine }

Mac OS 10.2.1

Monday 21 Oct 2002

Mac OS 10.2 is good in so many ways. The new DevTools with GCC 3.1 are faster, the math libraries have been improved, Classic starts much faster, and life is quite good, except for printing. 10.2.1 was supposed to fix the printing problems, but it hasn't. Many apps in Classic (Notepad, HyperCard, WriteNow) generate strange error messages. Some printers seem to print most of the time (HP 810), but others do not work at all, and they are supported printers! My HP LaserJet 2200D happens to be completely non-functional in OS 10.2.1. One prints and nothing ever happens. Of course printing from Windows 2000 to the same printer works just fine.

Perl on Mac OS X

Tuesday 27 August 2002

For more on building Perl, see this page.

Power Mac Dual CPU Comparison

Tuesday 27 August 2002


I bought one of the older "Quicksilver" G4 towers (introduced January 2002) and one of the new "Windtunnel" G4 towers (introduced August 2002). The old one was upgraded to Jaguar and the new one came with Jaguar pre-loaded. I installed the July 2002 development tools on both and ran a series of benchmarks. The software therefore is the same; only the hardware changed, and that not by a lot.

The older Quicksilver machine (referred to as OLD below) has this hardware:

while the newer Windtunnel machine (referred to as NEW below) has this hardware: Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar with the July 2002 DevTools and gcc 3.1 were used on both towers.

Tentative Summary

The question to be determined is how having 1 MB of L3 cache instead of the former 2 MB of L3 cache compares to having the newer faster RAM and main bus. It appears that the newer machine is just a tick faster for a developer that builds software. These results are not general and are not very relevant to the way big applications are used, i.e., Photoshop, Filemaker, etc.

The first test is to build a collection of C tools in Terminal.  The build is timed using the
Unix command time.  The output is user time, system time, and then the actual clock time.  The
results show that the two machines are very similar, the new machine being just 1% faster.

time buildtools
old 49.140u 9.910s 1:01.68 95.7%    0+0k 104+80io 0pf+0w
new 49.440u 8.540s 1:00.93 95.1%    0+0k 193+190io 0pf+0w


I have a C tool that does some very intensive numeric processing

Same answers for both machines, but slightly different times with not any significant
differences in speed.

bench tool output

Compiler: gcc Apple cpp-precomp 6.14

Adding 100000000 integers...
Sum: $ 0011C379 3ADB7080 = 5000000050000000
Old Time: 0.51 seconds
New Time: 0.47 seconds

Adding 1000000 square roots...
Sum: 666667166.458841801
Old Time: 0.19 seconds
New Time: 0.20 seconds

Simulation result: 99.212549206061041218
Old Time: 0.04 seconds
New Time: 0.04 seconds

Distance: 3291.15 nm at 192 degrees to McMurdo Sound, Antarctica
Old Time: 0.06 seconds
New Time: 0.04 seconds

Distance: 2813.78 nm at 240 degrees to Hicks Bay, New Zealand
Old Time: 0.08 seconds
New Time: 0.11 seconds

Distance: 1865.51 nm at 261 degrees to Rapa Island, French Polynesia
Old Time: 0.15 seconds
New Time: 0.13 seconds

Distance: 1315.39 nm at 17 degrees to Saint Helena, UK
Old Time: 0.22 seconds
New Time: 0.16 seconds

Distance: 997.86 nm at 322 degrees to Gough Island, UK
Old Time: 0.19 seconds
New Time: 0.17 seconds


Paul Finlayson's Numeric Benchmarks
Numeric results are identical (to be fully expected).
Execution times nearly identical.  No significant differences here.


[~/PAFBench] 21:49:42 % ./build
Sat, 24 Aug 2002 21:49:45 PDT -- Start Build
Sat, 24 Aug 2002 21:49:48 PDT -- End Build

Integer Benchmark: T = 7.33 sec
Computed: 0, Expected: 0.

Float1 Benchmark: T = 0.37 sec
Computed: 1885618790.063066, Expected: 1885618790.063066.

Float2 Benchmark: T = 5.87 sec
Computed: 0.01181410377111, Expected: 0.01181410377111.

Float3 Benchmark: T = 22.94 sec
y[1] = -4.49527e-13 y[2] = -2.70189e-12 y[3] = -3.74104e-11, Expected 0,0,0.


[~/PAFBench] 11:23:04 % ./build
Tue, 27 Aug 2002 11:23:06 PDT -- Start Build
Tue, 27 Aug 2002 11:23:09 PDT -- End Build

Integer Benchmark: T = 7.34 sec
Computed: 0, Expected: 0.

Float1 Benchmark: T = 0.37 sec
Computed: 1885618790.063066, Expected: 1885618790.063066.

Float2 Benchmark: T = 5.89 sec
Computed: 0.01181410377111, Expected: 0.01181410377111.

Float3 Benchmark: T = 22.77 sec
y[1] = -4.49527e-13 y[2] = -2.70189e-12 y[3] = -3.74104e-11, Expected 0,0,0.


Running a simple text filter on a 178 MB text file shows a 16% shorter time with new faster bus.
This is because this large text file gets cached in RAM being accessed at 167 MHz rather than 133 MHz.
167 MHz is 20% faster than 133 MHz, so the 4% slowdown between the actual 16% versus the theoretical
20% is the penalty for the 1 MB L3 cache vs 2 MB L3 cache, I would suppose.  Nevertheless, for working
with large documents the new machine is significantly faster.

time tr '\r' '\n' < /Sources/Text/WorldNIMA.txt > foo
Old: 4.920u 2.930s 0:16.62 47.2%     0+0k 2+13io 0pf+0w
New: 4.880u 2.570s 0:13.93 53.4%     0+0k 275+14io 0pf+0w


These times were after doing the run a couple of times to use the disk cache to
see how the cache memory performance is.  New faster machine is about 10% faster.
This is not quite the win that the last text filter was.  Not sure why.

time grep 'Tristan da Cunha' foo
Old: 0.210u 0.450s 0:00.67 98.5%     0+0k 0+0io 0pf+0w
New: 0.240u 0.360s 0:00.60 100.0%    0+0k 0+0io 0pf+0w


Building a collection of many tools using MRC in MPW under Classic is just over 3% faster
on the new machine.  Not really significant.

MPW running in Classic
Old: Built Tool Suite in 154 seconds, or 0:02:34
New: Built Tool Suite in 149 seconds, or 0:02:29


Launch Excel X - to blank document and floating palattes showing:
The newer machine's faster RAM access wins when the caches are hot.

Cold cache:
Old: 4 seconds
New: 4 seconds

Hot cache:
Old: 1.5 seconds
New: 1 second

Mac OS 10.1.5 vs 10.2 Benchmarks

Monday 26 August 2002


These benchmarks were done on the same Quicksilver Dual 1 GHz tower. I ran the benchmarks with 10.1.5 and then installed Jaguar 10.2 and reran the benchmarks. The hardware used in all cases was:

Tentative Summary

Tight loops and the numeric benchmarks show no real change.
Applications launch faster, and Classic appears much faster.
Some disk caching appears more effective.

The 10.1.5 vs 10.2 Numbers

The Old times are for 10.1.5, the New times are for 10.2.

Mac OS X 10.1.5 - Dual CPU w/April 2002 DevTools and gcc 3.1.

time buildtools
Old: 51.430u 6.380s 0:59.46 97.2%    0+0k 80+73io 0pf+0w
New: 49.140u 9.910s 1:01.68 95.7%    0+0k 104+80io 0pf+0w


bench tool output:

Compiler: gcc Apple cpp-precomp 6.12

Adding 100000000 integers...
Sum: $ 0011C379 3ADB7080 = 5000000050000000
Old: Time: 0.51 seconds
New: Time: 0.51 seconds

Adding 1000000 square roots...
Sum: 666667166.458841801
Old: Time: 0.18 seconds
New: Time: 0.19 seconds

Simulation result: 99.212549206061041218
Old: Time: 0.05 seconds
New: Time: 0.04 seconds

Distance: 3291.15 nm at 192 degrees to McMurdo Sound, Antarctica
Old: Time: 0.06 seconds
New: Time: 0.06 seconds

Distance: 2813.78 nm at 240 degrees to Hicks Bay, New Zealand
Old: Time: 0.10 seconds
New: Time: 0.08 seconds

Distance: 1865.51 nm at 261 degrees to Rapa Island, French Polynesia
Old: Time: 0.14 seconds
New: Time: 0.15 seconds

Distance: 1315.39 nm at 17 degrees to Saint Helena, UK
Old: Time: 0.15 seconds
New: Time: 0.22 seconds

Distance: 997.86 nm at 322 degrees to Gough Island, UK
Old: Time: 0.18 seconds
New: Time: 0.19 seconds


[~/PAFBench] 11:15:19 % ./build
Sat, 24 Aug 2002 11:15:21 PDT -- Start Build
Sat, 24 Aug 2002 11:15:26 PDT -- End Build

Integer Benchmark: T = 7.38 sec
Computed: 0, Expected: 0.

Float1 Benchmark: T = 0.38 sec
Computed: 1885618790.063066, Expected: 1885618790.063066.

Float2 Benchmark: T = 5.63 sec
Computed: 0.01181410377111, Expected: 0.01181410377111.

Float3 Benchmark: T = 22.87 sec
y[1] = -4.49527e-13 y[2] = -2.70189e-12 y[3] = -3.74104e-11, Expected 0,0,0.

[~/PAFBench] 21:49:42 % ./build
Sat, 24 Aug 2002 21:49:45 PDT -- Start Build
Sat, 24 Aug 2002 21:49:48 PDT -- End Build

Integer Benchmark: T = 7.33 sec
Computed: 0, Expected: 0.

Float1 Benchmark: T = 0.37 sec
Computed: 1885618790.063066, Expected: 1885618790.063066.

Float2 Benchmark: T = 5.87 sec
Computed: 0.01181410377111, Expected: 0.01181410377111.

Float3 Benchmark: T = 22.94 sec
y[1] = -4.49527e-13 y[2] = -2.70189e-12 y[3] = -3.74104e-11, Expected 0,0,0.


[~] 11:26:13 % time tr '\r' '\n' < /Sources/Text/WorldNIMA.txt > foo
Old: 4.080u 3.550s 0:15.13 50.4%     0+0k 2+8io 0pf+0w
New: 4.920u 2.930s 0:16.62 47.2%     0+0k 2+13io 0pf+0w


(with hot cache)

[~] 11:58:14 % time grep 'Tristan da Cunha' foo
Old: 0.210u 0.710s 0:00.92 100.0%    0+0k 0+0io 0pf+0w
New: 0.210u 0.450s 0:00.67 98.5%     0+0k 0+0io 0pf+0w


MPW running in Classic
Old: Built Tool Suite in 212 seconds, or 0:03:32
New: Built Tool Suite in 154 seconds, or 0:02:34


Launch Excel X - to floating palattes:
Old: 6 seconds
New: 4 seconds

Old: 2 seconds
New: 1.5 seconds

Mac OS 10.2 - Jaguar

Saturday 24 August 2002

I bought OS X 10.2 for $129 at CompUSA. I have installed it on my G4 Cube and on my new twin CPU G4 Tower. The installs went fine.

One must upgrade wClock to 2.0 (just released) and there are several minor gotchas but they all related to ways in which I had tweaked my system that nobody else does. For example, I build and use my own version of Perl, which got broken with 10.2 installing over it its older Perl 5.6.0 (I use 5.6.1 -- 5.8.0 is very slow.) The aliases for tcsh that used to be pre-installed (l, ll, word, etc.) are in a file on the disk, but not installed.

Buying 10.2 at CompUSA includes a new DevTools CD with the product, which is great. The July 2002 DevTools that come with it only work with 10.2. I did upgrade installs on the core OS (2 CDs) and the DevTools (1 CD). You can do a custom install so that all of the languages are not installed which save many MBs.

Graphics and drawing are definitely faster. I have run numeric intensive benchmarks and they are enclosed for your comparison. Bottom line? MPW is much faster running in Classic (hurray!), the cut and paste hangs seem to be gone (hurray!), and compute-intensive things seem to be little changed.

Twice now I have lost all of my Folder icons in the Finder. I have had to delete various cache files in /System/Library/Caches/ and ~/Library/Caches to have my folders return. This is quite a bad bug as it makes using the system pretty difficult. Rebooting does not return the folders. It requires finding the icon cache files and removing them.

All in all, I like it a lot. More later.

Mac OS 10.1.5

June 2002

10.1.5 is the final update for 10.1. 10.1.5 still has most of the bugs that have bothered me with OS X, but life goes on.

Hiding Applications

Two essential applications for me are LaunchBar and wClock. They run all of the time and I want to keep them hidden. Here are the steps to do so:

You can kill wClock by sending it a kill command in Terminal if you need to. Go into the Login control panel pane to add wClock as a startup item.

Mac OS 10.1.2

Tuesday 15 January 2002

Mac OS 10.1.1 fixed a few things and seemed very stable, but 10.1.2 has been a mixed bag. Clicking on a file in the Finder to rename it often hangs the machine for minutes with a spinning beachball cursor. For a time the machine would not recognize my digital camera which had worked fine from 10.0 through 10.1.1. I ended up reinstalling 10.1 fresh and added the updates. The digital camera has been fine since, but I still get the Finder hangs.

iPhoto is great, but slow with my 4,000+ images.

I have discovered problems with several web sites using Internet Explorer on Mac OS X. The Java applet word games from do not work. The web site causes IE 5.1.3 to vanish, instantaneously quitting (crashing).

I wanted to buy my wife a new iMac and put her on OS X, but it will not do what she needs it to do. She remains on Windows 2000 on a Dell.

Mac OS 10.1 - First Big Upgrade

Thursday 4 October 2001

Mac OS 10.1 (sometimes written X.i) is out. It includes new Developer Tools, and it works best with Mac OS 9.2.1, an 82 MB download itself. 10.1 is too large to download, so one must get the CDs from Apple via a free upgrade kit from dealers, or an upgrade mailed from Apple for $20. The $20 kit includes the new Dev Tools.

Things That Are Better

  1. The Finder has Copy and Paste for copying files. This feature has been a part of Windows Explorer since 1995 and is a great feature. However, Cut has not yet been implemented for moving files.
  2. A DVD Player is now included, and has a much nicer UI for its controller.
  3. iTunes and iMovie are now part of the main OS distribution! These are great apps.
  4. The menus are faster. They no longer frustrate.
  5. Applications launch faster, especially Internet Explorer 5.1.2.
  6. File selection dialogs are much faster and can handle hundreds or even thousands of items now without hanging up the entire machine.
  7. List views are much faster, and like file dialogs, can handle thousands of files now.
  8. One can now control menus and dialog navigation through keyboard shortcuts.
  9. Rather than too many little upgrades, I like the fact that 10.1 is a complete OS. This means that everything has been tested together.
  10. The smallest icon size finally allows icons to be shown more compactly.
  11. Typing the first letter of a file in a list of files in either icon or list view now scrolls that file into view, whereas in 10.0.4 and earlier it would select the file but not let you see that it was selected.

Things That Have Changed

  1. The docklets that showed battery strength and Airport strength have been moved to the menubar. They now take up less screen real estate, but if you liked seeing this information large, you can't any more. It is a hard decision as to which is better.
  2. Mail now has an Outbox.
  3. The dock can move. In practice this is not a big deal. I've tried it in each place and I have kept it at the bottom.
  4. The desk control panel shows previews of desktop pictures.
  5. wget is gone, but there is now curl in its place for scriptable website downloading.
  6. Adobe Acrobat 5.0 is included, as well as Preview. Acrobat does a better job with PDF files, but it is a shame to have to have 2 programs that both do PDFs. Acrobat is also huge.

Things That Have Not Changed But Should Have

  1. There is still no Carbon version of the MPW Shell. This is the single most important Macintosh application for me and many others and it is still not on Mac OS X!!
  2. Where is HyperCard for OS X?
  3. Where is an OS X native disk defragmenter? a way to make bootable OS X CDs?
  4. The clock still cannot be setup to show the date with the time. There should be a lot more flexibility in what the clock shows. Fortunately there is wClock, which is a free download that allows different information and has a great pop-down month at a glance calendar. Highly recommended!
  5. The terrible memory bug that I found in 10.0 has not been fixed.
  6. Perl 5.6.1 is not part of 10.1 when it should have been. It has been out for quite a while now. X.i still includes Perl 5.6.0, which has a lot of bugs in it that were fixed in 5.6.1.
  7. Awk is also old -- a 1998 version is still shipped in X.i when a 2000 version has been available since before 10.0 was out.
  8. There is still no menu or list of running applications like the old MultiFinder menu. Seeing a dock full of icons doesn't cut it.
  9. Classic does not launch much faster. It is still very slow to start up, and is still needed as long as there is no MPW or HyperCard out for OS X.
  10. Internet Explorer still has a bug in displaying correct times. The bug is in JavaScript, and has been around since Mac IE 5.0. A time zone correction is actually applied twice and thus document last modified times are wrong. The bug has been reported to Microsoft.
  11. The Finder needs a button in its toolbar to move up a level in the directory hierarchy.

Things That Are Worse

  1. Changing desktop patterns is now done in a control panel, not in Finder preferences. I applaud putting it into a system preference area, but it now takes several more mouse clicks to change a desktop pattern. Why isn't there a context sensitive menu for this when clicking the desktop?
  2. Perl builds are harder due to a linker change. Read here for more details.
  3. Internet Explorer has quit on me several times without any explanation. It does not destabilize the system, but it appears that IE still needs some work for robustness. The Beta of IE that came with 10.0 did not do this as often as the latest one in 10.1.
  4. Resizing Finder windows with the magic size green icon work worse now than before. For windows that are 4 or more columns of icons wide the magic size code is just plain messed up -- it never does what you want it to do.

My Favorite X Apps

  1. wClock - this shows the date and/or time in the menubar, and it can show a pull down month-at-a-glance calendar that is really slick too. I am using version 1.9.
  2. LaunchBar - this allows you to type short abbreviations to launch or open applications and documents. It searches through folders that you designate and comes up as a thin strip near the menubar. It is very handy and replaces a lot of what I would do with Sherlock. I am using version 3.1.
  3. X48 - this is an HP-48GX emulator which works great. I am using version 1.2.
  4. CronniX - this allows one to schedule periodic events. I use it to get the wget tool to download stock prices each day to a log, grab satellite images 3 times a day, and to download a text weather log. Very handy. I'm using version 1.4.1.
  5. Son of Weather Grok - this downloads weather information for cities around the world but especially in the US and updates each city in its own window. I'm using version 4.1.2.
  6. GNUPlot - this plots scientific functions and data and is almost as powerful as Mathematica but is free and sources are available. I am using version 3.7.1c.

All in all I find myself using Mac OS X most of the day, but I have to reboot into Mac OS 9.2.1 in the morning and at night in order to do a full syncronization between Macs. The time problems are the cause of this. Anyway, I like Mac OS X, but MPW is essential and it is still missing. This could be one of Steve Jobs' worst deeds yet: the quiet death of MPW.

Mac OSX 10.0.4

Tuesday 3 July 2001

Mac OS 10 is now up to 10.0.4, with the 4th update being posted recently. Concurrently with this I bought a new white 2001 iBook Dual USB, the nicest laptop I've ever owned. It came preinstalled with Mac OS 10.0.3, and included a CD with 10.0.3. It worked great with 10.0.3, but when I immediately upgraded it to 10.0.4 I had some problems with the machine waking up from sleep. I ended up deleting all of OS X, reinstalling it from the CD, and then updating to 10.0.4 again, and my problems appear to have gone away.

Why I Still Boot Into 9.1

There are still two things that I reboot into Mac OS 9.1 to do. First, for watching DVDs. Apple quickly added CD-ROM burning support to OS X, but they have not been so quick with DVD playing support. Secondly, there appears to be a discrepency on file times on my machines that makes running MPW Backup impossible. MPW says that all of the files on one machine are several seconds newer than on the other machine when running under OS X, but the file times are identical under 9.1, hence the nice incremental backups are shot. I think it has something to do with leap seconds, NTP, and HFS+ trying to key file date and time stamps to timezones. This is a real nuisance.

I've Turned the Corner

Still, even with these problems, during this last week or two for some reason I have finally moved from being frustrated most of the time with Mac OS X, to liking Mac OS X. I have actually been productive with it. It seems faster and works very nicely on my new iBook. I am building more Unix software in Terminal, which is more fun than doing crossword puzzles! I am writing Perl scripts, downloading applications, and finding it very pleasant to look at. The transparency and anti-aliasing and iTunes make it beautiful, something rarely used in describing computers. I am hooked on using Mail with its photos of people showing up in your emails. I long for native OS X versions of Word and Excel.

Apps I've Recently Downloaded

I found all of these at Apple's own Mac OS X software download area at You can too.

What Still Needs to be Fixed

Well I do like Mac OS X, but it still needs quite a few things:
  1. It still needs a new Finder. Any folder with a few files in it is going to take forever to open.
  2. It needs faster menus. They still are too sluggish.
  3. It needs a redesigned set of standard file dialogs that show more file info and do it quickly.
  4. It needs a native Carbonized vesion of MPW.
  5. It needs function key support.
  6. It needs a smarter algorithm for Command Tab application switching. Windows does it right.
  7. It needs a DVD player.
  8. It needs to be more consistent with file times.
That's my top priority list for now, but the best thing I can say is that I actually used it from Saturday afternoon at 2:00 PM until Monday evening at 10:00 PM without rebooting : no crashes, no need to go to 9.1. When I did reboot it was because I needed to update files across several machines which due to the file sync time problem I have to do in 9.1. Just think how slick OS X could be in a few more months...

Mac OS X After Three Months

Wednesday 13 June 2001

I have been using Mac OS X on and off for almost three months now. Here are my latest impressions.


I actually spent almost an entire day yesterday in Mac OS X. Almost. I needed to run MPW's nifty Backup tool and I have problems mounting Appleshare file servers using the MPW choose command, so I had to reboot into Mac OS 9.1 towards the end of the day. My web browsing, email, and iTuning all worked fine, with no crashes by the core OS. I did have the Classic layer quit on me when in MPW I tried to mount a file server. MPW and Classic layer all immediately were gone, without a trace.

I have, however, never had Terminal quit, and the core FreeBSD/Darwin underpinings seems quite solid.

Cool Features

The anti-aliased fonts and automatic font ligatures are still gorgeous. Text just looks clearer and cleaner.

The Slide show screen saver is beautiful, with a subtle zooming and panning of still images that makes you think it really is a movie!


I found out that the Mail program that comes with Mac OS X allows 64 x 64 bit color icon photos for the people in your address book. I spent an hour finding good photos of the people I email most and it is really neat how each email comes with a tiny but recognizable photo of the person you email or receive email from. I remember reading about how Bell Labs had Unix software that did this, and I'm glad to see it. Mail has a goofy slide-out-of-the-side mailbox UI that needs work, but I continue to like the appearance of email messages with the slick font anti-aliasing that makes Mac OS X so pretty.

One of my surprises has been related to this quiet feature: where the heck does Mail store the people's images? I wanted to copy my addresses with photos over to another machine running OS X and the address book info copies over but no photos. I imagine there are dangling pointers to the images which have remained quite well hidden to my extensive use of Sherlock and the Unix find tool, searching on mod dates, etc.

I was pleasantly surprised to know that my HP 810 DeskJet printer was supported right out of the box. Nice touch. Unfortunately some of my PDF files do not print correctly on the printer from Mac OS X, but —surprise—they do print fine to the same printer using Windows 2000!

I was pleasantly surprised to see that my cool Kodak DC-4800 digital camera was supported right out of the box, and using the DC-4800 is slick. Plug in the camera using a USB cable, and when you turn the camera on, an application automatically launches on Mac OS X and the photos in the camera are automatically downloaded to your Pictures directory on your computer. No dialogs, no menus, no buttons, no fuss. You can turn on or off this feature, but it is very well done: it does what you want to do 98% of the time. Very nice integration, the best I have yet seen of a digital camera and a computer.

The biggest surprise has come only through extensive use of both older and the latest Mac software. It is apparent that Apple didn't design Mac OS X — NeXT did. What an amazing buy-out: Apple bought NeXT and then NeXT completely took over Apple's software. What a tragedy, because the loyal Apple developers never bought into NeXT because of NeXT's bloated, Objective-C-oriented quirky software. They preferred the "Mac" UI. Now the "Mac" UI being pushed is no other than the crummy NeXT UI. If NeXT had made great software, they would have sold more computers, but they didn't make great software, and this is going to hurt Apple a lot in the coming years.

I think I realize now that the gcc compiler that I thought was so much to blame for the slow Mac OS X widgets may not be as bad as I previously thought. I have analyzed its code more and I think the AppKit is the culprit, the main Cocoa system framework that supports all of the slow menus, buttons, dialogs, and painful scrolling list controls used by so much of OS X.


The single biggest frustration with Mac OS X lies in the pathetically slow Finder. It is slow, slow, slow. Dialogs come up in 3-5 seconds, or longer. Accessing file servers is slow, and AppleShare file servers on my Windows 2000 machines do not show up at all. I have to use their IP addresses. Menus crawl. Many mouse clicks are lost, and when you change applications it seems that all mouse clicks are lost. One must often click and reclick. The feedback given is poor, so just when you have given up that the software got your mouse click, the action happens, just as you click again! This is very frustrating when you press on a radio button or something, as you have to usually press the button 3 times: once, then once again because of the long wait, and then once again because you actually pressed it twice and thus undid the original one click desired.

The dialogs for saving and opening files (called StdFile in the old days) are atrocious. They are so wasteful of screen real estate, they are incredibly slow, and they do not give good information about the files, like Windows does.

Sherlock is much too sluggish. Its improved indexing in Mac OS X over 9.1 is still nowhere near as good as the Indexing Service found in Windows 2000. The Sherlock UI is way too complex and it again makes poor use of screen real-estate.

I miss having the ability to make the function keys launch favorite applications which I have on Mac OS 9 and on Windows.


I can finally build Perl, after I figured out that the Perl distribution expects a case-sensitive filesystem so that Makefile and makefile are two different files. A one line exit added to the config script fixed this and Perl 5.6.1 builds fine.

I have also built Bash 2.05, the famous command shell which still gets me to laugh out loud when I realize that it stands for the Bourne Again Shell. It is conceptually a derivative of the original Unix shell sh written by one Steve Bourne, and Born Again Christians like to Bible Bash... well, if you understand religion and Unix it is truly one of the great puns of our era. This build went well, working perfectly after doing the canonical gunzip ... tar xf ... cd ... make incantation. Unfortunately, I have become comfortable with the provided tcsh shell that comes with Mac OS X, so this is now an unnecessary triumph.

I also found and built Sudo 1.6.3p7, the superuser do utility that comes with OSX but which needed updating.

Gee, my accomplishments are all FreeBSD-oriented, and are not Cocoa successes. Hmmm.

Review written using TextPad on Windows 2000.

Mac OS X First Impressions

Monday 26 March 2001

I got Mac OS X on Saturday and I have installed it on two machines, my G4 Cube (450 MHz/320MB/20GB), and my iBook SE (466 MHz/190MB/10GB). The install went perfectly on both machines, without any glitches. Very simple and clean. It took about 20 minutes on each machine.

Mac OS X has great eye appeal. When you see it running you want to like it due to its simplicity and its style. There is finally a built-in screen saver. It has a slide show that is very well done. The dissolves and fades are excellent quality, and it slowly zooms and pans in and out randomly on the slides, as if you are watching a movie. It comes with some nice abstract color backgrounds, but no scenic photos. (I'd bet this is another Jobsian insistence.) The fonts are gorgeous. They use a new anti-aliasing technique that makes PDF files look typeset on the screen. Very nice. These details are apparent throughout and are what make OS X appealing.

The calculator is terrible, still a 4 function beast, albeit Aquafied. Windows wins here again with at least the basic scientific and base conversion functions. The note pad and scrapbook — both very useful desk accessories — are gone. The menu bar clock still will not display the date other than for a moment. It should give you a greater set of choices for date and time formats. The new clock application, however, is very nicely done, with both analog and digital choices. Pity it doesn't show a small calendar of the month...

The date and time control panel allows you to set up a network time server, but doesn't give you a list of time servers (not even or any hints as to what to type for a time server address. Mac OS 9.1 has a nice list of servers and by default it is set to OS X is a step backward.

The new Finder has no economy with respect to screen real estate. Spacing of icons in the new Finder are too far apart, even at the smallest icon sizes. (Actually this is a fault of the Mac OS 8-9 Finders as well: too much wasted space between icons in the horizontal direction even on the "tighter" setting.) Since the menu bar clock doesn't show the date, one must run the digital clock application to have it on-screen. Then one needs the dock, and then there is the menubar at the top of the screen as always. That's a lot of screen real estate clutter. On Windows you have just the Start bar.

There is no way to customize what appears in the Apple Menu. My "Dock" of applications on the Mac in the past has simply been to have my favorite apps available via aliases in the Apple Menu, which was automatically "hidden" when you were not in the menu. Now you must put your favorites in the dock, which can auto hide, but it feels slower and more cumbersome to do so and it is the only way for you to see what is running and easily and definitively move between running apps, so you pretty much need to have the dock showing all the time. The magnifying mode on the dock was cute for a bit but I got tired of it due to the distortion and turned it off. The dock seems easy enough to use but the Window Manager has no notion that it is there and lets windows open underneath it which you then cannot get to because the dock floats on top and if you open Word or Excel for the first time a big status bar gets placed at the bottom of the screen underneath the dock. If the dock stretches the width of the screen (which it usually does on smaller screens) then you cannot resize the window to get it out from under the dock. You have to hide the dock, move the window, and then reshow the dock. Clicking the zoom icon often seems like it does nothing on many apps. It will initially jump the window someplace and then the window from then on will not do anything. The zoom functionality seems to get worse with each Mac release... On Windows the Start bar is known to other windows and the screen rect given to apps does not include the start bar area. This is how it should be done.

The UI is inconsistent in a few places. In the new Finder one click selects and two clicks open, as in past Mac and Windows systems. But open the Control Panels and one click opens each control panel, not two. Why? Since the Control Panels look just like any other folder, I find myself as a result clicking once to launch apps all the time and then of course nothing happens. There are many s uch sources of frustration.

There is no place you can click quickly to see a list of your running applications, unless you are in Classic mode and then you still have the MultiFinder menu at the upper right. Otherwise one must look at the dock and see which icons have a small black triangle underneath them, but they are usually scattered throughout the bar so it is hard to see what is going on in a quick glance. With a list of apps like we have had in the past, you could click and quickly see exactly what is going on. Also, the About the Finder which would show a nice list of running apps? That is gone. It is the world's most boring about box now, but at least the font size is reduced: the "Mac OS 9.1" was way too big in the old dialog, again a waste of screen real estate.

Mac OS X has removed a lot of useful information. The new Mac OS X Finder is the culprit. It also has a clumsy user interface when dealing with files:

Mac OS X is stable, although Classic is not. Web browsing and downloading while launching applications and all of that seems well done, so the preemptive multitasking works great. I've had Classic (the compatibility layer) go south on me several times (running backup in MPW against an NT Server consistently hoses the machine), but I can kill the Classic layer and then restart it. This process, however, takes well over a minute.

Mac OS X is slow in places. It doesn't have the "snap" that Mac OS 9.1 does on the same machine when opening windows and such. Booting up is faster than OS 9.1 subjectively, and is definitely faster than Windows. Sleep is now instant, either going to sleep, or waking up, which is very nice. I built several benchmark applications under MPW and Mac OS 9.1 and then under gcc and Mac OS X and the MPW MRC compiler-buit benchmarks are up to FOUR TIMES FASTER! If they could just build all of OS X with the MRC compiler I bet the system would speed up immensely. (Gcc is probably the worst optimizing compiler on the planet — the Microsoft compiler is the best, and MRC is somewhere in-between.)

Mac OS X shipped with a CD of developer tools. Hurray! This is a very smart thing to do for a first release of the OS that is mainly going to be bought by hobbiests and developers, the very people that will write good software for the OS. No extra charge either, so this is great.

Unfortunately they shipped the wrong developer tools. Project Builder is so boring. CodeWarrior lovers will like it, but the Macintosh Programmer's Workshop — MPW — is the coolest development environment on the planet, and there is no mention of it anywhere. MPW needs to be Carbonized and become the dev environment for Apple. In fact, the only reason that I am running OS X is with the hope that MPW will continue on. If it doesn't, I think I'd rather be on Windows. I want OS X to succeed, I want Apple to succeed, and I have a ton of Macs, but there is a lot of work to be done to get OS X competitive. I feel more at home with Mac OS 9.1. Keep the new OS underpinings, but give me back the 9.1 Finder. It has been refined over years and is a better Finder. Millions of people are used to it, rather than the few thousand that know and love the NeXT interface of the new Finder. Mac OS X is an evolution of Unix, something already tried with A/UX in the late 80s and early 90s. It too had a Unix under the hood and the Mac UI on top. Is OS X too revolutionary? Revolutions are overthrown, but evolution just keeps plugging away. Which will happen with this?


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Created:  26 Mar 2001
Modified: 26 Aug 2016