MacRelevant – Is Aqua Great?

Is Aqua Great?

There have been quite a few articles written about Aqua, the graphical interface for Mac OS X. For the most part, Macintosh fanatics, those who refuse to see anything bad when it comes to Apple, write these articles. There have been a few very honest articles, those that point out the shortcomings of the interface, such as Andrew Orlowski’s “The Register” column, as well as a good follow up by Charles Moore at AppleLinks.

Most such articles bemoan the loss of many of the functions from Mac OS 9, and the speed (or lack thereof) of Aqua, even on a fast processor. They cry for spring-loaded folders. (They are coming back.) They piss and moan about the loss of the Application Switcher. Or no window shading. Or that the OS is too “Steve’d”, meaning you can’t change a thing about the look or functionality of the OS, forced to use it as Steve Job has decreed.

I won’t sit here and tell you those complaints are wrong. But I will sit here and tell you that I am getting sick and tired of people who think that Mac OS X should be as easy to use as the Classic Mac OS. It is not as easy, nor will it be for quite a while.

Mac OS X is a brand new operating system. Brand new. Started practically from the ground up. Created by arguably the greatest operating system engineering team of all time. A feat equal to the creation of the original Finder. (I know that statement will draw a lot of heat, but I don’t care. I truly believe that Mac OS X is not only an engineering marvel, but also one of the technological marvels of the twenty-first century.) The big difference from the classic OS and OS X, then, is that OS X did not have the benefit of years and years of legacy development to build upon. Mac OS X started from scratch. They started from point A, moved to point B, and pretty much released Mac OS X at point E. For the sake of actually shipping the product, some things took precedence over others, mostly all the new “Gee Whiz” items in the new OS (The “hook” to get people to buy it), as well as getting it to actually work. (And lets not even get into the fact that no one has been really successful at getting Unix to be accepted as a home OS in twenty years until Apple did it.)

So no, not all the great things that made the Mac OS what it was for the past fifteen years is in OS X. It’s not as fast as the classic OS. It lacks some of the functionality of the original. But like any great product, it has to start somewhere. At right out of the gate, no new OS will have every feature we wish it had.

My contention about these articles on what is wrong with Mac OS X is simple: they make it sound as if Apple is doing something wrong or is intentionally leaving out features to spite them as users. Neither, in my opinion, is true. Mac OS X is new, and as time goes on, Apple is adding both new features to the OS, as well as bringing some of functionality of the classic OS into the new product.

Don’t bitch for the sake of bitching is all I am saying. Take Mac OS X for what it is: the most technically advanced computer operating system for home users. But keep in mind that it is a work in progress, as Apple has shown with the constant updates to the system. Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems to me that Apple has released some new update to the system every month or so since the release of version 10.0. In less than a year, the system (as I write this) is already at version 10.1.2, with more and more updates being delivered all the time. (This past week, for instance, there 111.4 MB of downloadable items available via the software update control panel, all of which added new functionality in the way of print drivers to the OS.)

I have even heard people whining about the need to download updates on such a regular basis. Things to the effect of “why does Apple keep releasing these large updates all the time!” as if that is a bad thing. In other words, Apple should be lambasted for updating the OS, for making it BETTER!

As an old friend of mine was want to say, “Man, shut the fuck up!”


No, OS X is not where OS 9 was a year ago in speed. But compared to where OS X was a year ago, it is light years ahead. And a year from now? Who can say, though my money is on it being at least three times as fast, with five times the functionality?

So for those who decide to go back to using OS 9, more power to you. Me? Well, I like the stability. I don’t mind an Application taking a few seconds longer to launch. Small price for all the benefits. I also don’t mind the (temporary) loss of some of the functionality of OS 9. I know Apple is working on bring back those features, or even better ones, in the near future. I appreciate all the effort the engineers at Apple spent on bringing this marvel to my desktop. Rather than bitching about things ALL THE DAMN TIME, I would rather THANK for people for their efforts and accomplishments.

I won’t sit here and bitch and moan about all the little things I miss, like a spoiled brat who did not get everything he wanted for Christmas. No OS is perfect, not even OS X. But it is getting better, almost on a daily basis. And me? I am along for the ride! And what a fun ride it is!


Tim Robertson

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