Alternate Option
Thoughts from me.
Saturday, April 30, 2005 4:51 pm
In general, Tiger is OK
I have mixed feelings about Tiger. A couple of features are outstanding and new. But that’s about it. Little else about the OS is super-exciting. Is this a good thing? An OS that gets out the way could be a considered a good one. However, Tiger just seems… boring…

I won’t go into the details of Spotlight as that would only be repeating what has already been mentioned countless times prior to OS X’s release. There is no denying the impressive feat that Spotlight is. The new focus on metadata shows results—and I mean that in more ways than one. My issue with Spotlight is that it does still seem a little tacked on. Not as “tacked on” as OpenDoc was (of course). Spotlight seems to try to do what a database does… but is not actually a true database. In the back of my mind I keep thinking that my computer is valiantly trying to keep everything in sync. So far it has, and doesn’t seem to have much trouble doing so. Thankfully Spotlight isn’t really a mission-critical bit of the OS—like moving the mouse is, for example. So any faults it shows later isn’t likely to ruin any of my data. I hope not anyway.

I’m not yet ready to give accolades to Apple Mail.app. Mail itself has a few pluses and minuses. It so happens that the large part of the Mail.app new incredible-ness, comes from Spotlight.

So the second impressive thing about Tiger is Automator, which is aimed at the intermediate user. Automator is a natural progression for AppleScript however is a little more “high level” i.e. more user friendly. I find it has solved the major difficulties I had with AppleScript e.g. finding out if an Application is scriptable, accessing the “objects” I wanted, and finding out the right combinations of “actions” to apply to those objects. As a new AppleScript user, everything is experimental. As there are so many possible applications, data types, and possible commands, anything beyond “simple”, involves incredible form of trial and error. Now, Automator makes the simple things simple.

An example: I wanted to add the .jpg suffix to a group of files I selected. I could get away with using AppleScript. AppleScript or Perl aficionados would pooh pooh at such a simple task. However, the difficulty with such programming is real. Automator simply makes such automation within reach of the general user.

So far I have written 10 or so Automator scripts. Part of me thinks that I’ve chickened out of real AppleScript programming. However, the other part just enjoys the fruits of such automation. Automator: lowering the entry requirements for automation. While Spotlight has been emulated by Google and Yahoo!, Automator is truly Apple’s genius—finally they have managed to leverage AppleScript into something truly useful. I’m still glad I know some AppleScript: spend 20 seconds with Automator to reveal glaring limitations.

Spotlight and Automator just about takes up 70% of the “Wow” factor, for me. 15% of the “Wow” goes to speed. 4% “Wow” goes to the fact that swapping the Command and Option keys is now built into the operating system itself. 4% goes to the fact that most of my applications work, and that the OS itself is so stable. And 7% goes to miscellaneous, including
Dashboard
.

Dashboard has been seems to belong to another world. Simply because I don’t feel it to be much related to the operating system at all. It doesn’t seem to do anything that couldn’t have been done by a 3rd party, on any operating system. An activation key brings up a new environment, that runs little applications. OK, so like SideKick on MS-DOS. You didn’t really need a new version of MS-DOS just to run SideKick.

There several other miscellany throughout Tiger. The ones I know of have been contributed to this MacNN forum thread, and there isn’t much point in duplicating them here.

The most exciting new things that I have learnt about Tiger came from this Ars Technica article. Once again, logical and non-emotional. All that data about metadata and underlying APIs were so exciting. I somewhat wish there were more releases like this one, that improved the underpinnings of the OS, rather than introduce flashy new features. While Mac OS 9.2 looked much different from System 7.5 for example, the underlying architecture was so hopeless that Apple were really just spinning their wheels.

Panther is dead, long live the king.

[posted with ecto]

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