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Operating Systems

The Slippery Road to Being Microsoft

Any fan of computer history will delight in the cycle of dominance & decay that each 800lb gorilla experiences as their niche becomes mainstream and then gets overtaken by newer, cheaper and better stuff. Burroughs begat IBM who begat Microsoft, father of … ?

Well who’s next is a topic of much discussion. Judging by the state of my MacBook I’m beginning to think it might Apple. Here’s why. But before we begin, a disclaimer: I’m a fully paid up member of the “Steve Club”. If you haven’t heard of this before, it’s an exclusive organization where you tithe Apple $395 every month and they ship you one of everything. As my friends would phrase it, I’m one of the biggest Apple fanboys out there.

Going back a bit, I well remember turning off my IIcx in the mid 90s and delighting in how crisp and useful Windows 95 was. I was lucky to fall in love again, returning to my old friend Apple in 2002. OSX was so fresh, so young, so pure… sigh…

OSX has gone through 5 major updates since then and with a sixth on its way, and each one has got faster, bigger, fatter… and more flaky.

While it’s not inevitable that more complex == more buggy (think 747 here, it’s way more reliable and complex than 30 years ago) it’s certainly understandable. And, to a degree, pretty depressing. Which brings us back to why Apple may be turning into Microsoft.

Below is an excerpt from the console log of a freshly installed MacBook Pro that’s less than a year old running 10.5.1.

12/27/08 12:58:46 PM com.apple.launchctl.System[2] BootCacheControl: could not open /var/db/BootCache.playlist:
12/27/08 12:58:46 PM com.apple.launchctl.System[2] No such file or directory
12/27/08 12:58:46 PM com.apple.launchctl.System[2] BootCacheControl: could not unlink playlist /var/db/BootCache.playlist: Unknown error: -1
...
12/27/08 12:59:40 PM Dock[121] _DESCRegisterDockExtraClient failed 268435459
12/27/08 1:00:50 PM com.apple.launchd[104] (com.apple.CSConfigDotMacCert-mat.ellis-SharedServices[108]) Exited with exit code: 1
12/27/08 1:01:38 PM Software Update[213] arguments=(null)

That’s 19 lines of useless error messages on boot. Even after applying the 10.5.6 upgrades, you get another 23 lines:

12/27/08 1:05:39 PM SyncServer[135] Handling SIGTERM in kqueue callback from runloop
12/27/08 1:05:39 PM com.apple.launchd[104] (0x108410.rcd[240]) Exited: Terminated
12/27/08 1:05:39 PM com.apple.launchd[104] (com.apple.pboard[116]) Exited: Terminated
...
12/27/08 1:09:15 PM System Preferences[121] unregisterClient: Status 0
12/27/08 1:09:32 PM com.apple.launchd[76] (com.apple.Safari) Path monitoring failed on "/Users/mellis/Library/Safari": No such file or directory
12/27/08 1:13:34 PM AddressBookManager[149] Could not get Me for ABInfo 0x16c570. Object may have been deleted in another process.

Windows trained me to keep e-mail & files on the network and wipe the local computer every time it started to thrash and slow down. Cutting over to OSX meant a lot less of this initially, but over the past 6 years or so I feel once more that my machine is regularly gumming up for no apparent reason, requiring seasonal rebuilds to un-gum it.

Which brings me, finally, to my point: deploying an OS that on stock, modern, unmodified hardware throws a dozen error messages on boot is a sin, but having it throw two dozen more after you apply a year’s worth of patches totaling 700MB in size is near unforgivable.

To be fair to Apple there is some PR about Snow Leopard being a bit of a tidy up. I certainly hope so, it’s about time that error messages returned to representing a problem you had to address rather than some annoying spam that fills your error logs.

Harumph.

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24 Carat MacBook Pro
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Bling MacBook Pro

The Reg reports you can now get your precious MacBook Pro plated in 24 carat gold! Only $5,000 extra too. Wow. Just thinking about all the fingerprints gives me a headache. And how heavy is it?

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