DateFriday 27 May 2005

Tiger: a rush to market means that it’s full of interface errors

Andrew Orlowski has a nicely-paced and thought-out critique of Apple’s Tiger OS over at The Register.

He gives with the one hand:

If Microsoft had announced that the next version of Windows XP would sleep and wake up within three seconds with near 99.99 per cent reliability, would pick up a WiFi network within 10 seconds with similar consistency, and was now free of viruses, then users would flock to upgrade. But even the first, barely usable version of Mac OS X boasted this when it first appeared March 2001.

And then neatly takes away:

in areas where Mac OS X Tiger does offer impressive potential advantages over its predecessors, these are hampered by poor and often inexplicable interface design decisions. Tiger also loses points by removing features computer users have long taken for granted. Let’s deal with the latter first.

Saving an MP3 that you’ve loaded from a web page and played in Safari now requires an additional $29.99 payment for Quick Time Pro. That will be reason enough not to upgrade for many. Roxio’s Toast no longer burns songs purchased from Apple’s Music Store. Right-clicking to download a file from Safari still works, but for how long is anyone’s guess. The trend isn’t in the right direction – Apple has gradually been removing multimedia features from its software products (see Apple de-socializes iTunes).

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that Apple now views the Mac as a platform for a closed home entertainment system – based on iTunes and QuickTime – rather than an open computing platform.

He hits the mark over Spotlight:

More seriously, the user interface severely hampers what queries can be made. The dearth of boolean operators (AND is permitted) means that it isn’t possible to query for documents containing “Microsoft” and “Antitrust” but not “EU”.

(Though I feel someone is going to come up with a GUI tool that will let one do this as an app. Come on – there’s a command-line app for Spotlight, and the boolean stuff is now well-known. Get coding, people!)

(Oh, and here are clear explanations of how to do NOT and OR in Spotlight. You can already do the non-exclusive AND by including both terms. Or is it by using AND?)

And he rounds it off:

Spotlight is great technology, but it fails because the poor UI lets it down: its potential isn’t tapped. And Dashboard was only ever about bling.

It’s thoughtful, because it doesn’t take the improvements on face value, but rather asks “How good could this have been, with a little more work?”

Meanwhile I’m looking around for a different browser, as Safari is eating my RAM. Top says it’s got “101M” of my 1GB of RAM. OK, so I have a Java window sitting there, but even so, I don’t think that showing about ten windows in tabs really deserves one-tenth of my whole memory. Already tried Firefox – but it doesn’t have window navigation from the keyboard. Into the trash with you! Next: Omniweb. Next after that: paying for iCab 3. If I’m going to pay for a browser, why not a fast one which has always been on the Mac?

It should have a black background, bright green letters and a blinking green line, really

Fantastic tale of The Worst Web Application Ever! from Doug Hughes, who only wanted to prove to his bank that he was actually in charge of his company.

To do this, though, he had to navigate the thicket of a mainframe interface that had somehow found its way onto the web.

The amazing thing is that he did it. (Twice – I’m guessing he went back to do the screenshots.) The even more amazing thing is what his bank told him when he called them to ask why they hadn’t got the same information out as him.

Of course, online banking that we see is just this stuff at one remove… which makes me feel a bit anxious, actually.