Tag Archives: Computer architecture

The Leopard’s Spot (On)

Just gotten back from a demo of the new version of Mac’s operating system, Mac OS X Leopard (must confess I don’t like the names. It’s slightly better than Vista, but still a bit lame in my view.) But that’s not the point. I arrived halfway through the demo and so missed a lot of the stuff, but, still. Wow. There’s something about Mac software that makes you go ‘ooo’ even when you don’t really want to.

I won’t bore you with details, but watching it unfold made me think a few things:

  • Rarely is there anything startlingly new here. It’s intuitive, obvious, like all good innovation. But it’s also “why couldn’t we already do this?” And sometimes we could, at least for a while. Like widgets that are actually just segments of a webpage — a daily cartoon, or a CNN news section. I remember we could do this in 2001 in Windows, courtesy of some company that later went bust. Wish I could remember the name.
    (It also made me think of Active Desktop, which I’ve never seen people use, probably because it was fiddly and because very few of us actually saw our desktop for all the programs we had open.) Of course, Apple made it fun, easy and the kind of thing you want to do, rather than do because you can. But it’s still something that should have been around a half decade ago.
  • Then there’s stuff that’s not new, just better. Spaces lets you have lots of desktops. We could do this on Windows years ago, and even Ubuntu has had it as a standard feature for a while, but on a Mac it just looks good, and works as you would want it to. You can drag programs, for example, between virtual desktops (one day, I hope, you will be able to drag data) and the animation is both fun and strangely helpful.
  • Then there’s stuff that looks a bit like a ripoff — data connectors, for example, that will grab addresses from emails for you. Anagram, among other programs, do this already. It’s good that Mac has recognised the usefulness of this application, but you can’t help feeling sorry for the folks who have spent so long developing a feature like this, only to see themselves being overtaken by the Leopard
  • Then there’s true innovation, based on watching how people work. Like the demo guy (who used the word “cool” about 398 times too many in the presentation) said, a lot of us use email software in a way that wasn’t intended — as a kind of word processor cum note taker cum to do list. Apple realised this, and have turned Mail into exactly that, allowing you to add to do lists with images and stuff embedded. Nothing startling, but acknowledging how we work and making it easier for us.

This is not to detract from Apple’s achievement. Leopard looks hot, and makes Vista look impoverished and, I suspect, somewhat irrelevant, like someone trying to sell aluminum siding to people who realise that while people still have it on their houses, no one really wants it anymore. Apple see what people want and give it to them.

Not once did the guy mention speed, or having lots of applications open, or ‘experience’. I find that telling. Maybe he forgot to, but I always shiver when I hear these words. I know that users don’t think like that; they want to know what they can do, not whether screen redraws are quicker or the edges of windows bend like willow. (They’re happy if they do, but that’s not why they buy an OS.) Neither do they want an “experience” — they want to do stuff. Leopard, it seems will, let them to do that.

Tags: , , , , , ,

News: Mac New OS Scrubs Data

 Microsoft must be rubbing its hands with glee. Mac users are reporting a major problem with Apple’s new operating system, Mac OS X 10.3, better known as Panther: it erases data on external drives. For many this is fatal, Wired reports, since many Mac users backed up their files to an external FireWire drive before installing the Panther upgrade. In some cases, the glitch erased files on the main machine and the external backup.
 
Apple says it is working on a fix.

Update: More Tungstens To Go

 Amazingly, Palm are releasing another batch of Tungstens. It seems only yesterday they were doing the same thing. (Actually it was two months ago.) Anyway, The Register got a scoop by scanning local stores’ websites, which mistakenly posted details of the products before their October 1 release date.
 
In short, we have two models, the Tungsten T3 and E: the E is a 32MB device containing a “fast” ARM processor. The accompanying photo reveals a Tungsten T-style metal case without that model’s familiar slide mechanism. The T3 contains a 400MHz Intel XScale CPU, 64MB of RAM, Palm OS 5.2.1, Bluetooth and the kind of software bundle you’d expect from such a PDA. It does have a slider mechanism, to cover the Graffiti area, but with this Tungsten T, the applications buttons are curved around the central, oval navigator button. Prices? About $550 for the T3 and the E for about $280, in the UK at least.

 
The site doesn’t mention the Zire 21, the third PDA Palm is expected to launch next week. It’s possible the company’s UK wing is not releasing the 21 just yet, preferring to focus instead on the enterprise/executive-oriented products. Certainly details of next week’s local product announcement suggest such a high-end focus.
 

I know this is awful of me, but I can’t get excited about all this new stuff. I’m happy with my Tungsten T, and I can’t understand the need to sell new models every couple of months. Or am I missing something? Certainly the Pocket PC seems to be overshadowed by all this publicity. Perhaps that’s the point. Push out new models all the time so anyone who is thinking of swapping out their PDA has a brand new, just off the designer’s couch unit to go for. Are we that fickle? Probably.