posted by Scot Hacker on Mon 17th Dec 2001 17:34 UTC
IconThe story of how a BeOS refugee (and not just everyone, but the author of the 'BeOS Bible' book) lost faith in the future of computing, resigned himself to Windows but found himself bored silly, tore out half his hair at the helm of a Linux box, then rediscovered the joy of computing in MacOSX. Scot Hacker will describe his personal adventures with today's operating systems after he was set out to find an alternative to his beloved (but with no apparent future) BeOS. Update: Make sure you read the second part of the article, a rebutal, found here.

Most users of Mac OS X come to it evolutionarily -- they've been using Macs for years, enduring the slings and arrows of Win32 and *nix users who complained that Mac OS had terrible memory management, an antiquated flavor of multitasking known as "cooperative" (which was usually anything but), and a slow file system. To rub salt into wounds, Mac OS opponents have historically loved complaining that the Mac was saddled with ill-conceived evolutionary sink-holes like the single-button mouse and the coup de grace, a total absence of anything resembling a command line.

I know all the snarly, bitter epithets that have been hurled at Mac OS because I used to be a Mac-hater. I admit it. At cocktail parties and in columns for other publications, I have publicly declared my dislike for the Macintosh and all things Mac OS (though I've always been honest about how much I appreciated the velvety feel of the Mac GUI).

The Germans have a word for this sort of self-indulgent vitriol: Schadenfreude -- a handy word which translates loosely as "taking pleasure in the misery of others." For many Windows and Linux users, it's not enough to simply refrain from using Mac OS -- you have to slander it before a large audience to really drive your point home.

Okay, so I indulged in a little Schadenfreude against the holy Mac universe from time to time, pissing off thousands. I'm not proud. But neither am I a bad person. I've just always wanted the most from my computer, and it always seemed like the Mac offered very little of the best, and a whole lot of the worst. But recently I've seen the light, and am here to make amends for my blasphemy. I hereby publicly apologize for my past life as a Mac-hater. Not only that, but thanks to OS X, I'm now a bona fide Mac OS lover. Bygones.

It's worth pointing out that I never criticized the Mac as a typical Windows- or Linux-loving Mac-hater. I was a BeOS-loving Mac hater. For, although I disliked the Mac, I harbored plenty of distaste for Windows and Linux as well.

In the mid-90s, I discovered BeOS and fell in love. Here, for the first time, I found a truly fast and efficient OS, designed from a clean slate to meet the needs of the future of computing, incorporating a raft of modern technologies and design concepts, and which also had a Unix command-line. At last, I had found the grace of the Mac and the power of Unix in one place (many years before the Mac got around to delivering same). I began to write professionally about BeOS. I created the BeOS Tip Server, and wrote The BeOS Bible. BeOS really was the promised land of operating systems, as far as I was concerned, and it was only a matter of time before the rest of the world saw the light. Or so I thought.

If you're not familiar with all the technology that made BeOS great, I'm not going to re-hash all of that here. For a quick summary, read BeOS: The 10,000-Foot View. In fact, if you're not familiar with BeOS, I'll consider that piece required reading for this one.

Needless to say, not everything went as planned for Be, and by the late 90s the BeOS movement was no longer on the upswing. Be wasn't getting the market buy-in they had hoped for, and the VC well was running dry. When Be announced they were going to focus on delivering an OS for Internet Appliances, most of us saw the writing on the wall. App developers and users began to pull out of the platform, and talk changed from what it was going to be like when half the world was running BeOS to how in hell we were going to keep the platform alive.

After the "focus shift," the BeOS scene became dreary. Rather than mounting a revolution, BeOS users were reduced to begging for crumbs, resorting to work-arounds for all the unfinished bits in the OS, trading pirated copies of the never-released replacement network stack that had been in development at Be prior to the shift, and watching as more and more unsupported hardware emerged on the landscape.

I decided it was time to move on and re-join the world of the living. After a five-year hiatus, I went back to Windows (Win2K). For a while, it was fun. Windows had become much better in the years since I had last used it, and the abundance of software was almost overwhelming. I had become so accustomed to making do with limited software options that I had forgotten what it was like to be able to do basically anything I wanted with my computer.

But the fun was short-lived. Within weeks, I became bored. Sure, Windows got the job done, and the cornucopia of software was definitely worth exploring, but the user experience was monotonous. All function and no form. I felt like I was working in a clip-art factory. I missed the love affair aspect of using BeOS. And while Win2K was far better than the Win95/98 crap I had used in a previous life, the politics of using Windows had become too much for me to bear. My intimate involvement with BeOS had given me a too-close glimpse of the depths of Microsoft's business practices. I couldn't shake the feeling that I had just rolled over and capitulated to that which bothered me so deeply. Something about using Windows made me feel hypocritical and slutty. Between the boring user experience and the politics, I knew I needed to find my way back to more exciting, less noxious territory.

Table of contents
  1. "Out of the Frying Pan..."
  2. "... And Into the Fire..."
  3. "Smells Like Home Cookin"
  4. "A Lot To Like, First Impressions"
  5. "Networking Nirvana"
  6. "CD Burning, Disk Images"
  7. "Applications"
  8. "iMovie, iDVD"
  9. "Browsers and E-Mail"
  10. "Power Editors"
  11. "Community"
  12. "The Bad and The Ugly"
  13. "File System Shoot-Out"
  14. "Application-Binding Policies"
  15. "Alien Filesystems"
  16. "Miscellaneous Moans and Groans"
  17. "All Told, Life Is Good"
e p (0)    153 Comment(s)

Technology White Papers

See More