Lloyd's Macintosh stuff

Kaleidoscope schemes | screensavers

Most people would have well-organised pages about biking and going out in the sunlight and how their body clocks are regular and they're fit and healthy and normal, well-balanced people with interesting hobbies.

Nonsense, and we know it. The very fact that they have well-organised pages indicates that they spend far too much time in front of a computer than is good for them. They're nerds, and the rest is just a façade to get you to send them email. The tan in the picture? Amazing what you can do with computers these days, isn't it?

So, I admit to being a nerd who spends too much time in front of a computer. I don't have a tan. I sleep very irregular hours. Don't be surprised.

In my case, the computer in question used to be a Mac. I only got into using Macs after Steve Jobs got kicked out of Apple; that was back before windowed environments were commonplace on everything. Now he's back things have gone downhill rapidly; the hardware may be cheaper and the interfaces for peripherals more standard, but research has been abandoned, and the software and the user interface are going to hell in a handbasket.

I first bought a very old Macintosh IIsi (I still can't believe how much I had to pay Apple for it), filled it chock-a-block to the gills with disk space, memory and a video card, and it was still too slow, even though I clock-chipped the damn thing so I didn't have to watch it stop and think about redrawing the rest of the screen once it was already halfway down. And the sound would cut out every so often thanks to a speaker on a daughterboard with oxidised fretted contacts I'd have to clean.

I moved on from the IIsi to a PowerMac 6100/66 DOS Compatible (as described in the DOS card mailing list archive). I occasionally used to turn it on to play with screensavers and Kaleidoscope colour schemes, which I learned more about than any sane man should. Oh, and Doom. The DOS card was good for something. Well, until it crashed, anyway.

Screensavers have been made redundant. We now have Energy Star, and screensavers are obsolete, despite what anyone else will tell you. We don't need them, and I'm going to tidy up my hard disk and trash a couple of hundred megs of the things any day now. Honest. The Kaleidoscope schemes? A complete waste of time, I assure you.

Every so often I think about playing chess against the Mac. Then I remember that I spend ten hours a day in front of Xservers (with gnuchess and xboard), and that losing to a computer isn't the best way to spend my free time. Besides, what's my handy battery-powered chess computer for?

If I used it enough, I'd want to upgrade the 6100. There are now easier ways to run Linux than struggling with a weird add-on card that never really supported 32-bit protected mode, and although I picked Apple's DR3 release of MkLinux up on a magazine coverdisc for a fiver I feel guilty for never installing it. OS 9? System 7.5.5 works just as well - especially when the machine is turned off and gathering dust. (Okay, so as of May 2000 PC Setup 2.0 claims to fix problems with the DOS card and would, in theory, allow me to upgrade to OS 9.2. And Born Again will let me take the IIsi to 8.1. At this point, five years on, should I still care?)

The IIsi and its 24-bit video card have been up for sale seemingly forever. I used to think about a cheap PowerBook for travelling, since I couldn't write my dissertation on my Newton, and the 4Mb SE I picked up cheaply a few years back is even slower than the IIsi. Maybe I should sell them to Japan.

I've been writing about Macs for years, as this stuff dating from 1992 shows:

I also have a sense of humour about these things. No, really. But I still think that the original iMac is a cheap and nasty piece of crap.

Besides, I have now acquired the habit of using real computers, where the windowing environment is really the icing on the cake, rather than a façade hiding barely-functional technology built on brittle binaries. As has Neal Stephenson, who has given reasons for abandoning the Macintosh and has said it far better than I can.

I've just never acquired the habit of deleting obsolete webpages.

Oh, and Mac OS X? Not friendly or full-featured enough to be a Mac. Not stable or solid enough to be unix. Not open enough to be useful or trustworthy. The Arstechnica review and explanation of accelerated desktop drawing using the graphics card made me long, briefly, for a Mac, but other platforms will soon have that acceleration. Zeldman's account of his experiences soon brought me to my senses.

Mac OS X? Abandon Mac OS X.

November 2007: okay, I gave in and bought a BlackBook. This seemed like a good idea at the time. Mac OS X Leopard certainly has its oddities.

Lloyd Wood
this page last updated January 2008