Falling at the Last Hurdle

I’ve had the Mac for a month or so now, and on the whole I’m very happy with it. It’s certainly much easier to use than my Linux box was, and it’s much quicker to get work done on it. (Except for OpenOffice, which actually seems worse than the Linux version. Hope that improves soon!)

One thing I’ve noticed with Apple’s software though, is that on the whole it’s wonderful and does everything you need, but it often “falls at the last hurdle” by missing some killer feature, or doing it very badly. I suspect a lot of this is to “encourage” you to subscribe to .mac (which frankly after spending $3K on a new computer I’m loath to do) or buy some other add-on. Sometimes it’s downright annoying, and often means you have to fork out for some 3rd party shareware app to get the job done properly.

Exhibit A: iPhoto. Wonderful app. I love the ease of browsing and in-place editing, and can process and manage my photos so much faster than I could with just The GIMP and a file system. However, the “Export to Web Page” feature falls into the “why did they even bother?” category. It’s terrible. It produces a plain HTML page with a table of thumbnails in it. That’s it. No selectable colours or templates. It doesn’t even have CSS classes on the table elements, so you can’t even style it yourself.

I’m thinking of writing a Perl script to parse the HTML files and insert CSS classes, then at least it can be styled. In the meantime I found this excellent (and luckily, free) third-party app which does a proper job – lets you select some photos then produce a web album with some decent templates and customisation options. In other words, what I expected iPhoto to do in the first place. Naturally, Apple want you to subscribe to .mac, at which point I’m sure you can magically produce all sorts of pretty web albums…

Exhibit B: iSync and the Palm. Now I know Apple and Palm hate each other and Palm went off in a hissy fit and refused to update Palm Desktop on the Mac. But if Apple are going to advertise that the Mac will sync with the Palm Tungsten (which I have) then frankly I expect it to do a proper job. By which I mean, actually syncing the Palm categories with iCal’s as opposed to ignoring them and dumping all To Do items in “Unfiled”. Oh, and actually syncing the Palm memos at all would be nice. Even if it was just to text files.

As with many things on the Mac, the answer is to buy a 3rd-party shareware app. It does a decent enough job, and even has its own memo pad application to sync with Palm memos. But again, there’s no getting away from the fact that this kind of thing should be built into the Mac.

Exhibit C: Front Row. This is a lifesaver app that we use all the time. Power down the iMac, move it into the living room (sans mouse and keyboard), plug it in, turn it on. Click the “Menu” button to bring up Front Row, slam in a DVD and watch it. The Mac as a media centre. Lovely! After the movie we’ll often listen to some music in the iTunes library too, and maybe have an iPhoto slideshow, all from within Front Row, and all just using the remote. Wonderful!

Then it’s time for bed, so we need to turn off the Mac and move it back to the office. Err… so how do we turn it off with the remote? That’s right, you can’t! You can sleep it, but that’s not much good it you’re unplugging the Mac and moving it around. So I have to go back to the office, grab the mouse, bring it into the living room and plug it in, just so I can select “Shut Down” from the apple menu. Lame!

Most of the time, Mac OS X feels complete and very well integrated, but there are quite a few “glaring omissions” like the above. Maybe they’ll get sorted out in future software updates?

Is there anything that bugs you about Apple’s software like this? Where the app is basically great, but “falls at the last hurdle” by missing out a really obvious feature?

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5 Responses to “Falling at the Last Hurdle”

  1. Gideon Says:

    you should be quite ok to just hold down the power button on your mac to force it to shut down. i’ve never had a problem with it in the last 10 years. well maybe on mac os 9.. but not mac os X.. it’s solid as a rock – unlike other operating systems where you need to make sure the CPU is ready to be turned off. windows *cough*. Though I’m sure apple wouldn’t suggest you do this.

  2. mattdoyle Says:

    Thanks for the suggestion Gideon. I did try this a couple of times a while back and had no problems. It’s a journaled FS so at least it won’t corrupt the drive. However I’d only do it if there were no other apps or background processes running that might be writing to the disk. (Generally only Front Row will be running of course, so probably OK.) Still seems a bit scary though!

    On a side note, I did once try sleeping the iMac, then unplugging it and seeing how long the light stayed on. Quite a while in fact – I think it was about 30 seconds. I wonder if that would give me enough time to unplug it, carry it back to the office, plug it in and wake it up?

    It’d never work…! 😉

  3. Gideon Says:

    ha! never tried that one.

    it’ll be because the Logic Board still retains a trickle power from the PSU (which is massive).

    who knows, i’m sure it’d be fun to try – just don’t trip over anything whilst running for your desk, iMac aloft. iMac + airborne = BAD!

  4. mattdoyle Says:

    Yeah, best to move all obstacles out of the way first 🙂

  5. mattdoyle Says:

    And another thing: what’s with the FTP via the finder being read-only?! You can see your website’s files, but oh no, you can’t publish anything. What’s the use of that?! Grr!