Saturday, September 5, 2009

Snow Leopard (and OS upgrades in general)


As a software developer, I'm pretty much required to upgrade my OS's whenever the latest/greatest OS comes out. However, as a bit of an old fart, it has definitely become less a less of a thrilling experience!

The worst software upgrade experience was easily Vista. No doubt, as an early adopter, I encountered many of it's teething problems earlier than others. But these were pretty major, including: terrible support for non-MS networks; incredibly slow file management; generally dodgy network behaviour (LOTS of network timeouts); and an incredibly 'random' (if more attractive) GUI.

Some of these issues were resolved via various registry hacks, and no doubt service packs improved things, but I only lasted a few months on Vista before reverting to XP as my 'main' OS. And that is the first time I have *ever* gone backwards OS wise. I suspect Windows 7 will be better - but for the love of god, if it doesn't have a 'make all windows look like this' button I'm gonna go Joe 90 on someone!

But before all this makes me sound like too much of a Microsoft hater (I only hate them a *little* bit, honest!) I would like to stress that my favourite OS of all time is easily Windows 2000.

Perhaps it was the timing, perhaps I'd spent too long on the Win95 line, but I really, really liked Win2K: It was small, it was fast, it was stable and it was no-nonsense: All the 'options' dialogs were presented as nice tidy consistent 'key/property' dialog thingys. It rocked, and at the time I was looking forward to more of the same.

Unfortunately, I think Microsoft failed to realize they were onto a good thing, and decided instead to 'ape' the Mac: The next release was XP, with big ugly buttons and unnecessarily dumbed down dialogs, and then Vista with the window renderer. I guess they had too though...

I like the Mac, but I don't use it as my primary development machine - there are too many little annoying things about it: No 'up a folder' browse button; no full path name in browser window title bar; no ability to mess with 'hidden' files (ie: files starting with '.' - you can hack the OS to show them, but you can't modify them) - and more. Of course, at this point you're supposed to use the command shell (and the Mac shell is unix-grunty...) but stuff that - I'm a child of the GUI generation! I don't like the shell!

Which brings us to Snow Leopard, the latest MacOS update. It is apparently faster; you can apparently do 'Microsoft exchangey' things with it; and it only cost 60NZD, BUT: For what I use a computer for, there is absolutely no difference whatsoever!

And frankly, I'm disappointed - hell, if they'd forced a new desktop wallpaper on me I might even feel a bit better! From Apple, I'm a little surprised: 10.4 had the spotlight feature added (which would have required serious hacking of the file system) and 10.5 had the clever time machine feature (ditto), but 10.6...?

But perhaps I'm being a bit harsh - OS development and maintenance costs, and perhaps it's more honest of Apple to release a cheap 'tweak' update than try to pretend it's something new.

All in all though, it definitely feels like OS development (not counting sexy windows) is moving sideways much more than it's moving fowards. Perhaps we've exhausted the UNIX paradigm? Perhaps (gulp) there's nothing better?

Whatever - it's been a LONG time since I've been excited about OS technology. Which is a bit of a bummmer.

I am, howver, very much looking forward to whatever google do with Chrome...

Peace Out!


  1. After using Vista for about eight months, I switched back to XP. Sygate Firewall now works again, so I actually know what is coming in and going out of my computer. I guess Vista has some kind of firewall built in, but since it never asked me once if I wanted to allow a connection, I have no idea what it does.

    Oh yeah, and all my 3D apps are 15% faster on XP.

    I have no plans to try Windows 7.

  2. > After using Vista for about eight months, I switched back to XP.

    Yeah, I gave it a good few months which I thought was a fair enough trial period.

    In the end, I gave up when I started getting scary 'user profile not found' type errors at start up.

    I could still get at everything via safe mode, and a reboot often fixed it, but it was enough to scare me back to XP for 'day to day' work.

    > I have no plans to try Windows 7.

    Well, we don't have much choice do we?!?

    Like it our not, lots of people will soon be using our stuff on it...

  3. I only needed Vista briefly when there was a problem with DLL unloading that was not revealed under XP. I tested a lot on both at first with four different cards, but it turned out the drivers for XP and Vista were surprisingly identical, at least by the time my engine got going. Maybe I can get away with not using Win 7 at all.

  4. No 'up a folder' browse button;
    - you can do this by holding Command and clicking on the title bar path

    no full path name in browser window title bar;
    - you can do this like so:

    no ability to mess with 'hidden' files
    - if you load them into a well behaved editor it will prompt for your password and let you save them if you have permission to do so

    It took me a while to get comfortable on the Mac, but I've not looked back.

  5. Also, just remembered that I do Command+CursorUp to go up a directory.


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