Has there ever been a computer operating system upgrade that did not in some way monkey with your settings and generally screw things up?
Apple launched the 10.6 version of its operating system three days ago, and like a true geek I immediately went out and bought it.
Now here’s the good news – it only cost about $30, the disc is multilingual and also contains a full version of the operating system, not just the new bits, and the installation was painless, requiring neither product key nor authentication.
Compared with the crap you have to put up with when dealing with Microsoft this is all very refreshing. You are trusted and not automatically assumed to be a criminal.
Now the bad: well, nothing on the scale of past Windows disasters and nightmares, but why can they not produce an upgrade which leaves your settings alone?
Most people like to personalise their machines and have them set up in ways which suit their usage, and after a couple of years that’s a pretty intricate network of customisations, the upsetting of which can be very vexing indeed.
So, Snow Leopard. What has this beast done to offend me? Two small but annoying things, and one big pain in the arse.
This cat has had its paws in the display settings. Starting up Firefox, the letters have all gone tiny, a serious problem if your eyesight is as bad as mine. Sounds like a snap to remedy, huh? No! I go into the preferences and simply increase the size of the fonts, but this just causes a weird pattern of behaviour in which the pages start out with tiny letters, then suddenly shift to the bigger ones and vice versa, for no apparent reason. Annoying as hell!
Next up, upon booting up the big cat for the first time I notice that the screen looks incredibly dull and dark. Finding the brightness control, I see that it’s reset itself to the minimum. Fine, I can just bring up the brightness level, but no setting looks right, and I can’t remember where I had it previously. Why did they have to monkey with it?
Even worse, but probably something I can get used to, is the fact that the colours look all wrong. Everything is darker. Somewhere deep down in the list of changes on the Apple website they mumble something about changing the gamma settings for the displays. Well, thanks a bundle, it was fine as it was!
Now the big weakness of the Mac, for me at least, is that it has been so stable and hassle-free over the last couple of years that I’ve never had to learn how to go into the guts of the beast to tweak things. Windows was so totally crap that you had to do this all the time so that it became second nature, but now I’m at a loss in this respect.
The big annoyance is a very Microsoft-ish one: my favourite game, Europa Universalis 3, no longer works!!! This game has been my salvation over the last few months, and is vital to my existence. OK, this might not seem like such a big deal, but see, most niche games don’t get the luxury of a Mac version, so this is a rarity indeed. Doubtless the company behind the port will eventually put out a patch, but still, a junkie needs his fix, right?
OK, so apart from these issues everything else is working fine, but the question I find myself asking is what was the point of this upgrade? The hype has it that it is more of an underlying code rewrite aimed at speed and efficiency than a feature-packed bonanza. Well, in all honesty I haven’t noticed any differences in speed at all, and the only new features in evidence are a slight change to some minor aspects of the interface and an updated version of the video player Quicktime, which appears to be just as useless as its predecessor (get the infinitely better freeware VLC player for all your video needs, folks).
So there we have it – an utterly pointless upgrade from my point of view, and one with annoying issues which make me wish I’d never installed it.
And guess what – you can’t uninstall it, once it’s on (not without freshly installing the previous OS, anyway).
So, if you’re thinking of upgrading, first check the lists of incompatible software that are around, and perhaps hold off until the problems have been ironed out, since it looks as if us early adoptors are going to be doing the beta testing for Apple.