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Mac OS X 'Panther': User at the Center 550

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the piling-it-on dept.
MatthewRothenberg writes "Over at eWEEK, we believe we've got the drop on the much-discussed interface enhancements to Mac OS X 10.3, a k a Panther: The theme of this September release will be 'User at the Center,' an umbrella term for a variety of new features aimed at leapfrogging Microsoft when it comes to pervasive, user-focused computing. Niceties include user-configurable 'piles,' a fast-user-switching-type feature, and easy transferral of home directories among devices and the Web. Oh, and it's mo' definitely 64-bit-complete, too."
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Mac OS X 'Panther': User at the Center

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  • Piles (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Squidgee (565373) <squidgeeOO1@@@hotmail...com> on Tuesday April 22, 2003 @12:51PM (#5782080)
    I have to say I like the concept of piles; it's the type of intuitive idea I like to see coming from UI design. In fact, it reminds a lot of another awesome UI idea, Clutter [sprote.com], an interface for iTunes. It shows all of the CDs you have as CD cases/covers on your desktop. Double click, and you've got your CD running in iTunes.

    This seems like an awesome UI concept, and one which will (Once again) put the Mac GUI head and shoulders above the rest.

  • Re:Leapfrogging? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by feldsteins (313201) <scott@@@scottfeldstein...net> on Tuesday April 22, 2003 @12:59PM (#5782142) Homepage
    I don't think anyone at Apple would say they're "leapfrogging" Windows with a "fast user switching" work-alike feature. I think they would say, however, that they're going to do it better. And I bet they do.

    Well maybe not better by nerd standards. Better in the sense that a lot more of the user base actually finds the feature understandable and easy enough to actually use instead of being one of those wierd "did you know?" features of windows that only nerds use.

    Actually I hope they hide the feature away in some rarely-looked at place. Your average user who doesn't know the difference between a document and a program certainly doesn't know the difference between logging out and logging out while leaving applications running. I mean just think of the people who have come to you and said "mydocument is gone!" because it no longer appeared in the "recently used" list.
  • by BDew (202321) on Tuesday April 22, 2003 @01:04PM (#5782189)
    is how much is this new cat gonna cost?

    Will we get to upgrade for free? Or is this our yearly $100 for an OS upgrade? Why not just have people who know they will want to upgrade subscribe to the OS (say, at a reduced rate maybe)?
  • Piles system (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gratefully dead (638634) on Tuesday April 22, 2003 @01:06PM (#5782197)
    I've seen the piles system on some professor's website about a year ago.

    Thought it was totally innovative, and a very cool way to classify documents, something like a crude version of the OS seen in Minority Report (why do all of the video clips in the future have to be all flickery and dark though?). I'm not sure if I would use it, but props to Apple for innovation.

    Of course if you want to use this OS you will have to shell out $100 to upgrade .1 of a version number. Sheesh!
  • by mdw162 (654188) on Tuesday April 22, 2003 @01:10PM (#5782230)
    People are constantly griping about how Mac OSX is slow (as well as with KDE and Gnome for Linux) compared to Windows. And they're right. Windows is faster for a lot of GUI applications -- but there's a reason for the difference.

    The biggest thing that helps Windows' speed is the registry. It's basically a database and so it's faster in searching for settings and library links. However, there are two big problems with the registry that in my opinion do not offset its speed advantage. First, the registry slows down a lot as it grows and software is installed and removed. After a certain size, the registry actually makes things slower. Second, anyone who's used Regclean knows that it is almost NEVER in a clean state and eventually program installations get corrupted, "cruft factor" sets in, and people concede it's time to reinstall. You don't have this problem in OSX.

  • Piles vs. Folders (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Amoeba Protozoa (15911) <jordan@husney.gmail@com> on Tuesday April 22, 2003 @01:15PM (#5782280) Homepage

    So I did a quick search for piles, and just about every article I read echoed this one [macpronews.com]. So, basically piles are folders (directories) that are non-nestable.

    About the only use I can see for this feature is that it will help certain users who are fuzzy on how folder hierarchies are supposed to work...but heck, if that makes the user's computing experience all the more rich and it keeps people like my mother from calling me asking how to find her documents, why not?

    Has anybody else reached a different conclusion than I have?

    -AP

  • by Steveftoth (78419) on Tuesday April 22, 2003 @01:25PM (#5782359) Homepage
    You are basically subscribing to it. Just they don't take your money every month.
    Why can't people just save their money instead of blowing it on every DVD that comes out?
    How about I offer a subscription and you pay me $10 a month, then 18 months later when they release the new OS for a hundred (or 129 like they did last time), I'll buy you a copy and ship it to you.

  • by be-fan (61476) on Tuesday April 22, 2003 @01:39PM (#5782485)
    Hmm. I've never heard this before. The slowness of OS X has zippo to do with the configuration mechanism and everything to do with Mach and Quartz. Quartz is largely done in software (even in QE, where OpenGL is only used for the final compositing step) and Mach is just plain slow. In lmbench numbers (measure of the speed of basic kernel primitives like IPC, mmap(), etc) OS X 10.1 ws shown to be about half as fast as NetBSD on the same machine. It's probably improved since then, but even 10.3 is (optimistically) probably 25% slower than NetBSD on lmbench.
  • by terrified (89447) <efarris AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday April 22, 2003 @01:41PM (#5782505) Homepage

    stock freetype has a long way to go, but if you replace your libfreetype.so with the one on this page [mcgill.ca], i think you'll find that X/Linux can be even better than the Mac.

    I did a comparison of my kde desktop a while back with that hack (without [umces.edu] with [umces.edu]) versus stock xft/freetype and the difference is (ahem) clear. The "smooth" hinting he's doing now is even better than the "slight" hinting in those screenshots.

    IMO the order is:

    1. (best) Xft/Freetype with David Chester's hack
    2. Mac OS X
    3. Windows XP's cleartype
    4. Stock Xft/Freetype
    5. (worst) Windows 2000 and older
    of course, there's few things as subjective as AA and fonts.
  • by afflatus_com (121694) on Tuesday April 22, 2003 @01:54PM (#5782659) Homepage
    I am a user of OSX. For them to follow through on a promise of leapfrogging competition, this is what I recommend:

    -The yearly payware upgrades to the OS strongly fragment the market, as alot of software can only run on a most recent version. Contrast this to the Microsoft realm, where the mainstream apps in the stores run on the last 6-8 years (from 95-98 upwards). The minor version updates are good (and a simple way of keeping a targeted system), but either the price needs to drop on the payware upgrades, or the incompatible major version upgrades need to be spread to two years or more, so that developers can reach their audience.

    -Ship hardware ordered from the factory with a recent version of the OS. The one I received was over 9 months behind. I could see how this can happen with a machine that was in a store, but straight from the factory, that is an excessive interval. When I unwrap my new computer, there is a 200+MB upgrade patch from the last 9 months to upgrade (when paying by the minute for dialup in Ireland).

    -User-centered doesn't mean I am forbidden by all means of booting into OS 9 when I need to (which apparently happened as of Jan 9th). That is someone-else centered, not putting me in control of how my own computer is used. Many of the heavy CD-based applications don't run in Classic mode, rendering my software into coasters). An upgrade should either put back my own ability to start OS 9 if I want to, or else clean up Classic emulation so that it works.

    -If there isn't a task sceduler already (don't know because of point above I won't upgrade). I use the GPL CronniX, but it is a small app to whip up, and something that really belongs with an OS (in the Utilities folder) and should be supported by the OS manufacturer.

    -Fix cinema display or allow configuration for what "fullscreen" means. A large slice of the Mac games when I run fullscreen get horizontally stretched when run fullscreen. There is 100% hardware/software integration, so there is no excuse not to have a display preference to turn off the extra side pixels so that the display really is in a 3:4 height:width ratio.

    -The Apple CD authoring software (for data) is atrocious from a UI point of view. How could they buy Astarte and still have such a subpar offering. One of the perks of such an expensive computer is that one expects to have good capabilities ready to go. iTunes does this well, and is the best music player I have seen. Data CD authoring needs to be brought up to this level.

    -The bizarre removal of the capacity for me to have a heirarchal list of more rarely used applications (the Applications Apple menu in prior versions/a Windows Start menu/A KDE/Gnome start panel menu) is not user-centered. The quoted reason is "we don't want people to use menus, use the dock". This is unreasonable, as instead of organization of items into utilites, programming, in the dock there would just by over 200 minature icons in a flat bar. I had to make a poor-man's equivalent by putting a folder in the dock with folders of aliases, and then move the dock on the left side of the screen so that the menus expand to the right instead of backwards, but that is a crap workaround for an optional feature that should have been not removed from the user.

    -Support a Quartz port of OpenOffice. It can't be bundled in the OS because it isn't BSD, but certainly can be a separate download, similar to how they are working on a good X11. If want to truly move away from Redmond, need to remove dependence on them for a wildly expensive Office suite, and a slick fast OpenOffice helps in that regard.

    They are doing alot of things right, but as regards to besting the competition, there is certainly some work that can be done.
  • live views? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by otis wildflower (4889) on Tuesday April 22, 2003 @02:22PM (#5782883) Homepage
    This article on [arstechnica.com] discusses many interesting UI possibilities, but the one I'm most interested in is the 'live search folder' concept, where you declare a 'folder' to contain the continually-updated contents of a search.

    iTunes has this (Smart Playlists), and I'm quite smitten by it, and I'd like to see something similar rolled out across the UI (and, possibly, done as a framework for other apps to hook into).

    Combined with 'piles', you could have your smart pile of apps, pile of word docs, pile of porn divx, etc.. Makes some sense to me..
  • Re:hm? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RestiffBard (110729) on Tuesday April 22, 2003 @02:47PM (#5783105) Homepage
    I believe you'll find the reason for Mac's broadband centricity (i think thats a new word) is that while the majority of Computer people are still on dial-up (me), a majority of mac people are on broadband. I saw a poll somewhere.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 22, 2003 @05:31PM (#5784557)
    The biggest speed increase in Windows is the registry?

    Dude, lay off the pipe.

    The registry still has to do reads and writes to commit state to the hard drive. The performance difference between an app doing that and doing file I/O for it's own config files is nil. Most apps will mmap the file so it's just a memory operation anyway.

    Case in point, KDE and GNOME both use file based configuration schemes and they're not as slow as OS X.

    The OS X UI is slow because for two main reaons:

    1) It's a new piece of software still adding features to it's core modules (QE, Aqua, etc are all new) and so performance isn't as optimized as X Windows or M$ Windows (NT GDI and USER has been around since the early 90s now).
    2) Hardware limitations. Sure, Intel has stretched the crap out of the Pentium pipeline to achieve Mhz numbers and yes, that means that it needs those Mhz to crank through the pipeline. But at this point, the Intel Mhz has more than made up for any pipeline extensions. The PPC might be a more efficient chip, but when the less efficient chip is so much faster it doesn't matter.

    Remember the old Apple bunny suit parody commercials? Back then the PPC used to smoke the X86 and Apple was merciless about exploiting that fact. Now that PPC is slower because MOTO doesn't give a crap about it anymore, Apple is singing a different tune.

    Don't get me wrong, I like Apple products and have since I started coding on an Apple II+ back in the late 70s. And I'm not likely to switch to X86 machine just because the Apple CPUs are lagging. But I don't blindly believe what Apple says or make up excuses for them...and hopefullly competition from IBM will spur MOTO to either get their fab processes in line or cause Apple to switch to IBM PPC chips.
  • Re:Leapfrogging? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nbvb (32836) on Tuesday April 22, 2003 @06:22PM (#5784989) Journal
    Sure.

    Would you like my 3B2?

    http://unixpc.taronga.com/
  • Re:Leapfrogging? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gig (78408) on Tuesday April 22, 2003 @07:55PM (#5785803)

    OS X - Yeah it's cool, but it's not that cool. And besides, most of the features Apple is putting in OS X are things Microsoft did with Windows many years ago. That's not to say Windows is some amazing product, but calling OS X new and original is a load of crap. It's new to the Mac hardware, but it's all old ideas.

    No, you're wrong. Mac OS X is much more than the sum of its parts. You can compare feature lists and say smart-sounding things, but if you have truly used both Mac OS X and MS Windows you don't defend MS Windows after that. It's like when you hear someone say that Hitler built good roads, it is easy to point out that good roads or not, that doesn't make up for the other stuff. It's not a question of politics or opinion, but just that people don't go "Hitler ... good roads". You have to ignore so many deal-breaker features of MS Windows (no security, no reliability) to point out "you could do feature Y on Windows two years ago". Who cares? Not Mac OS X users. Truly, we don't care. We have the best of everything with very few exceptions and it's cheap ($999 iBook, $1299 flat-panel iMac) and the stuff you can do is next-generation not because it's possible for a geek to do it but because everyone can do it. A whole range of things that you can't do with MS Windows without someone to hand-hold it and clean its viruses and update its miserable design flaws and workaround its broken features and battle installation-entropy.

    Also, the creative media tools on MS Windows are crap. Even where there are ports of Mac titles, the ports are missing professional features in many, many cases. And adding hardware or software is a misery, so the fact is that people don't use as many tools on their MS Windows systems unless they have a full-time computer geek to play roulette with DOS day by day. As I said, you can compare this stuff on paper and it looks OK, but it's not the same at all in the real world.

  • Re:Leapfrogging? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gig (78408) on Tuesday April 22, 2003 @08:21PM (#5785969)
    On Mac OS X it is common to represent some folders in the GUI as single icons. You use them that way, and if you want to "open the hood" you can go inside and there are individual files in there. It's a convenient way to have a less-complex interface and still work with lots of data.

    As of Logic 6, there is a new "project" file format for Logic which is the same old file, but sitting in a standard folder structure with folders for audio files, plug-in settings and such always in the same place. In 10.3 these project folders could easily be represented as a single document, or as a single item with child items.

    Suitcases? It's the 21st century, man. Suitcases are early 1990's Mac platform stuff ported badly to MS Windows and repurposed as a way to sync two folders. The history of bundles is all Mac and NeXT. On the old Mac OS they were forked files with "resources" stored in the resource fork. On NeXT they were folders that appeared to be single icons most of the time, and that's how they work on Mac OS X.

    Speaking of syncronization, that's what this article is about, too. Mac OS X will sync your contacts and such across your phone, PDA, iPod, and their Web services. Now they are adding the whole home folder, basically.

    All the tech for this stuff is already in Mac OS X. They are in a phase now where they are just building on the solid foundation that they worked so hard on for the past five years. They don't have to do a bunch of hacking and trickery to make a UI feature like this happen. It makes sense along with other features, like the way you can easily manipulate disk images in Mac OS X, even encrypted ones, even your grandmother. The whole platform gets better because when they build a feature in they do it right and then it is a problem that's taken care of. We all build on top of it.

    Apple's software is the best desktop software there is. This is widely, widely accepted in the industry. People buy Macs often to run just one great app, like iPhoto or Final Cut Pro or Logic or Pro Tools, and that software is so good, so perfectly realized, so easy to use, so reliable, it's worth getting the Mac just for that. The creative tools are a generation and sometimes two ahead of what's on MS Windows.
  • by JohnsonWax (195390) on Wednesday April 23, 2003 @12:38AM (#5787104)
    Can someone explain how I'm not currently doing this with Mac OS X - and have been since 10.0 shipped?

    Each of the client machines in my office are essentially identical. Users sign on and their l/p are authenticated against our Xserve, their home directory (plus appropriate groups, etc) are mounted locally, and they go about their work. Everything runs out of their account on the server. We mount via AFP, but we could do NFS if we opted.

    Users have no idea that they aren't working locally until they need to walk up to some other machine, log in, and everything is exactly the same. Users can run multiple sessions from their account as well. Network traffic isn't too bad since it's generally only reading config files and prefs and hitting the server on demand.

    BTW, this is a pretty straightforward setup on OS X Server. If the server is on your subnet (mine isn't) then you hang the entire thing off of DHCP - plug in a brand new machine out of the box and you can hit your user account with no configuration. That's cool...
  • by be-fan (61476) on Wednesday April 23, 2003 @04:13AM (#5787710)
    Actually, the stock FreeType 2.1.4 has a lot of Chester's work already in it. Looks likes a good bit nicer than the Cleartype rendering I'm starting at now. I've always hated OS X's font rendering though, most Mac displays just aren't high-res enough to ignore hinting like that.
  • by gig (78408) on Wednesday April 23, 2003 @04:24AM (#5787752)
    I read some things from Apple coders who said that many of the benchmarks that are run on Mac OS X against other systems are misleading because the reviewers or testers don't understand that Mac OS X is tuned and optimized to run things like Logic and Final Cut Pro and iDVD and QuickTime, not tuned for pure Web serving speed, or pure database access speed.

    So a lot of these benchmark suites have built-in assumptions that show when they test Mac OS X. They may simulate hitting a database for 1000 32k chunks every second or something, but Mac OS X is optimized to work with 50 500MB DV clips instead.

    In short, the systems that benchmark better than Mac OS X in the same old tests don't run Final Cut Pro next to Apache next to Dreamweaver all on a next-generation window server with Unicode throughout like Mac OS X does.

    You also see Macs getting benchmarked against systems with only 10/100 and they ignore the 10/100/1000 that's been standard for years on pro Macs. They also ignore FireWire because the other system doesn't have it. That stuff is expected on the Mac and the system is not necessarily optimized to a 10/100 benchmark. These benchmarks always stink to a Mac user because you can see 10 things where they tried to treat it like MS Windows or a PC and did something the hard way or in a way that a Mac user would never do because it is only that way on MS Windows.
  • by terrified (89447) <efarris AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday April 23, 2003 @07:51AM (#5788334) Homepage

    As i understand it, that's the gist of Chester's hack: ignoring (most) hints. (Hints are embedded into scalable fonts (TrueType/OpenType and PS Type 1) that tell the renderer which portions of the letterform can be 'skipped' when outputting on low resolution devices like screens) The thinking is that with higher resolution displays and antialiasing, the display is high enough quality, sort of virtual dots-per-inch, that the hinting is no longer needed. Therefore, we can have real letterforms that are more like what would be output on something with high (300dpi+) resolution.

    It seems you already know all this, but i digress here for the good of the community that might not be as informed.

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