inessential by Brent Simmons


You know I like Mac OS X. The more I use it, the more I learn about it, the more I like it.

That said, today I'm going to talk about the problems, in hopes that they will get fixed.

The biggest problem is user interface performance.

I had expected that OS X -- being entirely PowerPC native -- would run rings around OS 9. I expected the UI's performance to blow away everything I'd seen before on a Mac (or even on Windows). But it's not so.

I suspect there are two things:

1. Functionality comes first, then optimization. Apple hasn't gotten to the optimization part yet.

2. OS X is written for computers that don't exist yet. This wouldn't be the first time. Remember how Netscape 2.0 seemed like a huge piece of bloatware? These days it seems thin and fast and light. Moore's law dictates OS X will get faster even without optimization.

But who wants to wait a year or two and shell out the bucks for a new computer?

***Performance problems that bug me

1. Live window re-sizing.

This is totally slow. It's not just the Finder, but any app that uses this feature. One of the reasons Frontier for OS X doesn't do live window re-sizing is that it's so slow. Why do the extra work for a negative benefit?

Live scrolling is often similarly slow. However, I've seen some apps do it better than other apps, so this isn't necessarily a system problem, just something that's difficult to do well. (More difficult than it should be.)

2. Application launch times.

There are those who say it's not that OS X is slow, it's that users need to change their habits. The advice is to launch all your apps at startup and leave them running.


I don't know what I'm going to use in advance. And, furthermore, apps launch quite quickly on OS 9 and Windows.

I suspect the problem is that when apps launch they link to a bunch of shared libraries, and this is what takes so much time. So this is a system problem.

(I note with pride that Frontier launches more quickly than most other apps I use on OS X.)

3. Switching windows, switching apps.

I hate switching windows or apps. It seems like an Aqua thing -- I have plenty of memory, I don't hear the disk being hit -- it's just that redrawing the windows to be enabled/disabled appears to take time. I say it seems like a drawing thing, but I don't know for sure.

4. Menus.

You click -- you wait -- ah, there's the menu. It's not usually a long wait, but just long enough to be noticeable. Again, it feels like a drawing thing, but I don't know for sure.

It's just so annoying -- heartbreaking, almost -- that when I switch to OS 9 or Windows (heaven forfend) after working in OS X I get a little shiver of joy as the UI is just so damn responsive in comparison.

***Other issues that bug me

1. Fuzziness.

On my Trinitron, Aqua is sharp and beautiful. Pleasant without being distracting.

On my iBook it's a bit fuzzy.

On my Samsung 770 LCD it's atrocious, unusable for more than a minute or two. (So the server gets that monitor.)

I fear that Apple's new 17" LCD monitor will have about the same quality as the iBook. Which is just not good enough. Aqua demands high-quality glass monitors -- just as, ironically, Apple is shifting to LCD monitors.

2. Screen real estate.

OS X takes up more space than OS 9. Fonts are larger. Everything is larger. Very little is customizable.

My 17" Trinitron is great for development on OS 9 -- but it's just too damn small on OS X. I use it, but I don't like it, it feels claustrophobic. But do I want to buy a new monitor? No way.

3. Missing pieces of developer documentation.

I was trying to find out how to write global OSA components for OS X. Couldn't find docs or sample code.

Other examples: how does one manipulate the icon in the dock? Or add to its menu? Or add a global menu? Or...

They're filling the holes, yes, and there are tons of docs, yes, but it seems that too often I still can't find what I'm looking for. That makes development a bit of a challenge, to say the least.

4. MSIE is the default browser.

Of the four browsers I've used on OS X, MSIE is probably the weakest, the slowest, most buggy -- but it's what ships with OS X. Nuts. (At the same time, MSIE on OS 9 is a damn nice browser.)


All this kvetching is because I like OS X. (And yes I'll send my feedback to Apple, no need to send me email.)

I want to use it more than I do.

For my own edification, I bought Learning Cocoa the other day -- and I'm pleasantly surprised. Cocoa and Objective C seem (so far) much cooler than I expected. So when I see the mountain of things that are so damn right with OS X -- and Cocoa is just one of many things -- the few things that are not right just bug me all the more.


Of course, OS X users sometimes bug me. There's a perception that Carbon is somehow inferior, "less native," than Cocoa.

More bullshit.

Listen: Carbon and Cocoa are peers. Each have their strengths and weaknesses. Yes, Cocoa is cool -- but please, get over your fetish. To demand that developers rewrite their existing apps as Cocoa apps is stupid. What, do you not want Photoshop? I didn't think so.

I'm pleased that Frontier users are such a smart bunch. I've haven't heard this demanded of UserLand. Thanks!

I checked out Opera for OS X the other day. Fast. Nice. I recommend it. I actually prefer it to the OS 9 or Windows versions.


This is what happens when you're bad.

Via 9potsofcoffeeandapackofsmokes.