Skip to Content
Skip to Table of Contents

← Previous Article Next Article →

ATPM 10.02
February 2004




Download ATPM 10.02

Choose a format:


by Wes Meltzer,

Fairly Quiet on the Blog Front

Have you ever wondered, upon entering an empty classroom, whether you overslept and didn’t get the e-mail about no class that day? I have, and it is not fun. Take it from a current college student.

January felt that way to me. Maybe I’m wrong, but this month isn’t even going to be especially focused on about the Mac blogosphere. A better description for this month’s column might be, “It is the 20th anniversary, you know.” By the way: happy twentieth anniversary, Macintosh! If only your weblogger devotees were shouting from the hilltops, but we’ve grown complacent in the years since the Revolution.

All right, enough with the odd references. This column will be, because of what I’ve mentioned above, different from last month’s. This means we can play the schadenfreude game, in which you enjoy the fruits of Wes’ frustration. However, there is, slipped in below, a Reader Challenge for the month. Here we go, for January.

Leading up to Macworld San Francisco, there was a good deal of rumor-mongering, about which I’m not going to write because most of it was dead wrong. I imagine you’ve all seen the various rumors discredited. Unless Steve Jobs releases iWrite, the video iPod, a G5 Cube, or your other favorite rumor before February 1—in which case I’ll have to eat crow—I am going to declare that dead. This rather lowers our signal-to-noise ratio for the month.

As far as useful knowledge, discussion and articles from the Mac blogosphere, I came up with five topics which you may find interesting:

I hope you enjoyed this whirl around the Mac blogosphere, even if it wasn’t strictly the Mac blogosphere per se. By now you know how to get the latest updates to the iTunes Music Store and Apple’s Knowledge Base; know what it’s like to spend four months with no water, err, working with a PC-only lab; can wonder if Apple should use code as the basis for AppleWorks 7 or iWrite; can see what may be wrong with the Dock, from the perspective of Apple Employee No. 66; and have my permission to talk your next-door neighbor’s ears off about the HP iPod.

Hat tip from last month: an anonymous reader showed me Jeremiah Cohick’s blog. I’ve never been to Boston or to Emerson College, so I have no frame of reference for his writing, but it’s nice to know that Switchers are real people too.

Also, Phil Ulrich is still welcoming beta testers for Userspace. I bring this up because a reader commented last week that he couldn’t find a download link. Please e-mail Phil if you want to use Userspace.

Did I miss anything? Let me know.

Also in This Series

Reader Comments (3)

Ed Williams, So. Carolina · February 6, 2004 - 08:37 EST #1
I think you would have to have been in on some OS architectural decisions, and for some time at that, to appreciate Tog's views. He's in the MacTradition.

Thanks for the very useful and interesting links! And great article even tho' I don't care for blogging myself. (But WikiWiki-ing is interesting.)

Ed W.
Wes Meltzer · February 7, 2004 - 15:29 EST #2
I understand Tog's views, trust me, on most of the topics. Unfortunately, a lot of what he has to say about OS X suggests--at least to me--that what he really wants is for OS X to behave like OS 9 wherever possible.

As important as it is to behave rationally and in ways that customers expect, a lot of the new behaviors which he excoriates and a lot of the old that he encourages are really just deliberate throwbacks to OS 9. Read his column on how to make your OS X setup "a monster machine," which really means "as much like OS 9 as possible".

Moreover, he argues against things which never even existed in OS 9 because they're insufficiently advanced for OS X. I mean, if they wanted to make OS 9 a completely new OS, they would have; instead, they wanted to make something completely new out of NeXT.
Michael Tsai (ATPM Staff) · February 7, 2004 - 16:46 EST #3
If you read the substance of what he says, I think it's clear that Tog isn't just pining for OS 9. The monster machine article looks at areas where OS X is undeniably weak--minimizing windows without cluttering the Dock; getting a stable, sorted list of running apps; and quickly accessing large numbers of files without cluttering the screen. His proposed utilities--except for LaunchBar--are inspired from OS 9, but that's no so much Tog's bias as it is the tendency for Mac OS X developers to build on the good ideas that they've seen. It's not as though Tog ignored a great utility that addressed these issues in a non-OS 9 way. The chosen utilities address real needs, and they're best-of-breed.

I think the Dock article is close to the mark. Apple initially pushed the Dock as the replacement for the Apple menu, the applications menu, Finder pop-up folders, and WindowShade. Not surprisingly, it can't handle all this responsibility very well. Tog looks at some of the reasons the Dock doesn't "scale up" well, and rightly names its worst flaw: the new "poof" behavior. Yes, people really do think that a document is deleted when it poofs out of the Dock, and why wouldn't they?

Kirk McElhearn's main defense of the Dock is his opinion that it was never meant to be more than a basic application launcher/switcher, with room for a file or two. In other words, the Dock fails so horribly at replacing (for example) the Apple menu that it can't possibly have been meant to do that. I don't think this view agrees with the way Apple has marketed the Dock.

Some of McElhearn's other defenses of the Dock are almost non-sensical. In defending Word icons that look identical in the Dock, he sets up a strawman of using icon previews, rather than considering the obvious solution of showing the files' names. Rather than admit that it might be nice to see more than one text label at a time, he wants users to manually assign custom icons--something I'll bet most users don't know how to do. He then tries to defend that the Dock doesn't respect the Finder's icon colors by arguing that this wouldn't always be useful, because some items might have the same color.

Later, McElhearn says that rather than clutter the Dock with favorite folders, one should use the Finder's sidebar. But this is not an effective solution for users who want to use the Finder in "spatial" mode with many windows, rather than having one or two huge Finder browsers.

McElhearn's final section (#1) is a great summation of his point of view--and why I think he's wrong. He assumes that users know that the Dock is not a good place to put documents, and therefore concludes that they won't be disoriented when the documents poof out of the Dock. He defends the poof by saying that it's no worse than putting away volumes by dragging them to the trash, but that's faint praise given that pretty much everyone agrees that dragging volumes to the trash is terrible interface. McElhearn loves the OS X Finder, which he is certainly entitled to do, but he makes the common assumption that anyone who doesn't agree has an "old-fashioned view of using a computer interface." How insulting. His final paragraph notes that the Dock has received much criticism, but concludes that it must be well designed because people are able to use it. By this reasoning, Windows must be much better designed than Mac OS X, since most of the people who use it don't find it lacking.

Add A Comment

 E-mail me new comments on this article