Ann Arbor Area Business Monthly
Small Business and the Internet

Speedbumps On The Road To Oz

October 2011

By Mike Gould

“…If I only had the nerve” - Cowardly Lion, Wizard of Oz

Apple’s new Lion OSX operating system (10.7, for those keeping count) has plenty of nerve. Unmitigated audacity, for that matter, in that it is following in Apple’s tradition of jettisoning software, hardware and patience-ware as it moves its users into the next level of computer behaviors. All in an effort to lead the Joneses (no “keeping up with” here – Apple is, as always, out in front) onto the sprawling technical vastness of the future we are currently anticipating/enduring.

Microsoft, also as usual, is panting right behind Apple, readying its release of Windows 8. The interesting thing is that both are attempting to combine the mobile finger-intensive computing/telephoning/padding experience with the usual desktop practices of manipulating windows, icons and such with mouse-clickery.

If I Only Had A Brain
Yes, living in these times of continuous technological change is a lot like having bees living in your head, as the Firesign Theater put it. And if, like me (and Oz’s Scarecrow), your head sometimes feels more like it is stuffed with hay, how do you cope?

Apple’s answer is to make things as simple as possible. I’m focusing mostly on Apple because Lion is already released and roaming the veldt, while Win 8 won’t be released until after this article is written. But all indications are that both computing giants are barking up the same tree, interface-wise. ( This is a 10-based Tree, of course. )

The iPhone and iPad are by now familiar to all of you, and, as a large portion of my audience are actual i-carrying members of the merry band of Apple devotees, I will assume you know all about swiping, typing, and in the case of the iPad, wiping the screens of our thin little buddies.

Apple figures that since you are now comfortable with mouse-less controls for portable use, you are now ready for a completely re-vamped desktop experience that combines gestural elements with, um, mouse-tural moves. The only problem is that they’ve thrown out a lot of the old vamps in the process.

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore
What has a lot of Apple-oids (including me) up in arms is that in its move to the next level of computerage, Apple has left a lot of software dumped by the side of the road, unsupported by the new fixin’s.

I’m referring to Rosetta here: this was Apple’s way of continuing support for software written for the now-defunct Power Computing architecture. This is a remnant from the move to Intel-based Macs, which occurred, um, quick Google search, in 2005. Oh yeah, I wrote an article about this, URL below.

Anyway, in order to keep the new Intel jobbies running the old software that was written for a different CPU, Apple came up with a means of emulating the old stuff on the new stuff. This enabled such dinosaurs as Eudora, Quicken, and Canvas to continue working in subsequent OS releases. All this ends with Lion: if you wanna run Lion, you gotta let go of your favorite old stuff.

This is a major pain, but livable, I guess. It is as if Apple is saying: “Enough is enough – you guys (old software manufacturers) have had six years to get your act together and update your software into the 21st century. Evolve or die!”

And most software companies have; Adobe, Microsoft, and most of the other major players have been working away on updates, so the switch to Lion will be relatively painless to the majority of you using their software. It’s us dinosaurs who will be hurting.

Lions and Tigers and Bears
I recently gave up Eudora for Apple Mail as my main email app. Fortunately, there is a convertor that translated my decades of old emails and addresses into the Mail format, so that transition is done. I don’t use Quicken for finances, relying on a simple checkbook for that duty (I told you I was a dinosaur) so that part didn’t bother me. What is really painful is that I do all my technical drawing for my laser display devices in Canvas, and Canvas hasn’t been updated for Macs in years, as it is now a Windows-only program. I’m looking at a number of other drawing programs, but I’m staying in Snow Leopard (OS 10.6) for the moment. Oh yeah, I have to update my FileMaker Pro database software ($$$) for this as well. Wonderful.

In Apple’s defense, yeah, six years is a long time to be supporting two different architectures, and there are expenses involved with this. But jeez, how hard would it be to make Rosetta II, or farm it out to third parties? (Actually, I’ll bet this happens…)

And Your Little Dog
On the hardware front, Apple is no longer putting optical drives (CD and DVD players) in their laptops. Why deal with a device that can only hold 4.7G and is a spinning mechanical monstrosity when you can put data on a 32G or bigger flash drive? This is exactly like the decision to dump the floppy when the iMac came out. The Lion installer is not even available on CD: you have to download it (for a bargain $30) from the Apple App Store or buy it on a flash drive.

Given the success of the MacBook, there are rumors that Apple might even kill off their top-end desktop box, the Mac Pro. The theory is that you can now do anything with an iMac, almost anything with an iPad, or use an iPhone for what’s left, so who needs a big, honking cheese grater-shaped aluminum box for the desktop? Well, I do for one, as does anyone else doing high-end video or photo work that depends on multiple monitors and maximum throughput. Harrumph.

We’ll all see how this shakes out. And how Microsoft’s version of the above works. But I bet Windows 8 won’t sell for $30.

Cowardly Lion:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWiJ3JA9tao&feature=related

Mac goes to Intel:
http://mondodyne.com/b2b/smbiznet.90.shtml

Mike Gould used to whistle “If I Only Had a Brain” while working at Inacomp 25 years ago, was a mouse wrangler for the U of M for 20 years, runs the MondoDyne Web Works/Macintosh Training/Digital Photography mega-mall, builds lasers into lunchboxen, performs with the Illuminatus 2.2 Lightshow, and welcomes comments addressed to mgould@mondodyne.com.

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