Mon 21 Mar
Mac OS X is great and all, but I’m feeling a little down on its susceptibility to the effects of accretion. My experiences with both Jaguar and Panther have been that life starts out all hunky dory when you have a new installation, but over time things gradually start to break down — utilities stop working, mysterious crashes occur, speed takes a hit. This is to be expected with complex operating systems, but it makes me pine a little bit for the old days of Mac OS 9, when you could clean out a system simply by moving files in and out of select folders and then reboot — now you need to run the Terminal and invoke all sorts of arcane UNIX-style commands and shit.
I’m thinking about this not just because the much wider-read Jon Gruber happened to write about something similar today (I had started to draft this before coming across that, I swear), but because I’ve been dealing with these problems for the past few months. First, the indispensable Default Folder X weirdly started locking up my system, causing me to very reluctantly remove it altogether. Then the Finder’s Connect to Server command decided that, each time I invoke it first after rebooting, it should command five full minutes of intense processing power before releasing the Finder back into its normal, responsive state. I also get strange system crashes at inexplicable times, a symptom perhaps related to the fact that my AirPort card will frequently decide that it can no longer see any of the eight or so wireless networks in my apartment building unless I reboot. It’s not nearly as bad as the first fifteen minutes with a new Windows box, but it’s a less than perfect experience.
Were it not for the impending release of Mac OS X Tiger, I’d probably reinstall everything as soon as I can find an afternoon to do so. I suspect that, like a lot of people, I’m anxiously awaiting Mac OS X 10.4 in part because it affords me a good excuse to start all over. Reinstalling a system from scratch — operating system, applications, utilities, enhancements and documents — is a nontrivial task. It’s slightly crazy to hope for a new major release of the system software to take on such a chore, but it makes some sense, too. Once you’ve installed a system, that should be the end of the story… you shouldn’t need to perform major maintenance on it at all, and in fact you shouldn’t need to think about installing another system until its successor is ready, beckoning you with a whole new slate of bells and whistles — with bugs and quirks all their own.