Network: Apple Mac fans rebel

Disgruntled loyalists don't like some of the Macintosh's new operating software. So they're queuing to go back in time.
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The Independent Culture
If Steve Jobs were ever one to worry, he might be asking a question of his graphic interface designers now: why are tens of thousands of people downloading a pair of software patches that make QuickTime 4 and Sherlock 2 - two integral elements of OS9, the new version of the Macintosh operating system - look like they were designed 10 years ago? The designers may not have a ready answer for their "interim" (two years so far) chief executive. But users seem to: usability.

The patches, written by Raul Guttierez, a programmer and artist, change the main windows of those two programs from their new "brushed aluminium" appearance to one just like the old Mac windows, so with one click they can be enlarged or shrunk, or reduced to a single bar ("windowshading"). Generally, it makes them fit in with the rest of the operating system's look and feel. Longtime Apple users really haven't liked the new windows' appearance: debating in newsgroups and generating petitions ("Has Apple lost the plot?" Network, 25 October). Now they have a way to show it.

Since releasing his free patch for Sherlock 2 in November, Guttierez says that up to 40,000 people have downloaded it, in nearly 40 countries ranging from Moldovia to Ethiopia. ("Who knew they had Macs there?" he asked The Independent.) Most downloads have been from the US and Japan, then Sweden and France.

Last week he announced his free QuickTime 4 patch, that has also attracted thousands of downloads. With both patches being snapped up to be distributed on CD-Roms on the front of computer magazines, the potential number of users is vast. Apple claims millions of people have downloaded QuickTime 4. But a significant number clearly don't like it.

Guttierez has no doubt why the patches are so popular. "While some people might like the new metallic look, a significant minority has been really annoyed by it - mainly by the lack of windowshading and that the metallic window is less functional and slower redrawing than a "normal window". I have scores of rather passionate e-mails from happy downloaders documenting this."

Apple has made no comment. But there've been "several hundred" downloads from apple.com addresses - "so somebody out there's tuning in". But can the people tuning in - perhaps lower down in Apple's management food chain" - have any influence?

There is no doubt the new Apple hardware is terrific: the iMacs are virtually silent, and their tiny speakers produce a huge sound. New G4 desktops now include DVD-Rom drives, and Airport - for wireless networking - has finally gone on sale in Britain. But the software is still a problem. Mac OS9 has pleased many, but tweaked the noses of a few people due to some of its "features". I find the new Sherlock harder to use than the old one. Worse, in normal operation every window seems to open with an "alert" that can't be turned off (I searched the help file in vain) for me that's an unshakable argument against using it. I got eight beeps in a row on first opening Internet Explorer: nothing was wrong, 0S9 just felt like beeping apparently .

That, and the fact that the Trash (as the old Wastebasket is now called, even in British versions) automatically empties itself in the multi-user mode, seems to indicate that Mac OS9 is not all there. For those who dislike such changes, it's either stay with the older systems, or wage guerrilla war with the new. Clearly, Guttierez prefers the latter. "My own feeling is that Apple should give us a choice," he said.

"Historically Mr Jobs has dictated design decisions from the top down. Happily, he has often been correct, but nobody bats 100 per cent. The metallic windows (along with Apple's round mouse) are widely despised, and Apple should listen to its customers." They could also listen to the rush of downloads from Guttierez's site.

Raul Guttierez's Sherlock and QuickTime 4 patches are at http://www.teamdraw.com/raul/stuff/stuff.html

carthur@independent.co.uk

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