10 Things I Hate About Macs

Things I hate about Macs? Well, this should be easy… really, it’ll be like shooting fish in a barrel. The hardest part of writing this article is choosing which of the many hated “features” actually make the top ten. For example, honourable mention has to go to the actual Mac users themselves. I thought Linux fan-boys were crazy, but the Mac fan-boys are a different class of psychotic. At least Linux fan-boys are fanatical about free software – a concept of libre, perhaps. Mac fan-boys pay stupid amounts of money to Apple for their products and THEN defend the company to the hilt, free gratis. Really, these guys are out of pocket AND dignity.

Anyway, I used to use a Mac Mini for streaming movies to my TV. Now, I’ve tried to use it for more than this, but time and time again, I hit an Apple induced road hazard. Eventually, I just thought to myself, “why bother?”. I already have my Ubuntu laptop and workstation for the stuff I need an actual computer for, so I find it’s best to leave the Mac where it (just barely) belongs – as a DVD player.

[EDIT: The Mac lasted barely a year as a DVD player – I use an Acer Revo running XBMCbuntu now]

Okay, here’s the Top Ten.

1. Cut

You want to cut a file from one location then paste it elsewhere? Nope. You can’t. You just… can’t. You can copy, then paste a file, then go back and delete the original. Of course, if it’s a big file then you have to wait for the copy to happen, wasting disk space and thrashing your harddrive in the process.

So, in reality, you’re reduced to opening two windows and dragging between them. Or maybe relying those “spring loaded menus” and the accuracy of your mouse to hit the right folder, and keep the mouse button pressed down until you’re sure that’s where you want to drop your files.

2. Home and End Keys

All I want is for the keys to do what they do on every other computer I’ve ever used. Want to go to the end of a line? Press “End”. Ah, you want the start of a line? No problemo. Press “Home”. Using a Mac? Forget it.

Actually, I think there’s a key combination on the Mac that does this, but who’s going to learn it? The keys are right there on the Mac keyboard and they DO NOTHING! Why is that? WHY? What possible reason did Apple have for putting these keys on their keyboards AND THEN DISABLING THEM!?!

3. No Folder view

There’s that three-pane view that tries to emulate it, I suppose, but I’m actually talking about the left-pane in any given Finder window. It lists your basic drives and network shares and it has a space down below for favourites, pre-populated with things like “Music” and “Home”. But there’s no folder view. Too much like Windows Explorer, maybe? It can’t be usability related, since they’ve gone and created that three-pane monster by way of making up for it. But it’s odd. I want to see the structure of my home folder. Where’s the harm in that?

4. F2 Doesn’t rename

Unbelievable. Clearly not content in throwing away the other absolute certainty in computing (see item 2), Apple decided that F2 for renaming isn’t intuitive enough. Of course it’s actually not intuitive – I’d never argue that it was. However, it is de facto standard in every other operating system. A bit like the de facto standard for launching a file is the return/enter key. So what brilliant replacement did Apple come up with for renaming a file? Like you have to ask. The return/enter key of course. What could be more obvious? Except – wait a minute, this is, in fact, so COUNTER-intuitive that I owned my Mac Mini for nearly 8 months before I googled my way to the answer.

Give Apple their due, they’re consistent. F1 doesn’t launch help either. Makes you wonder why they choose F11 for “Show Desktop” or F9 for “Expose”, or even F12 for “Dashboard/Widgets”. Strange. Arbitrary even – where’s the consistency?

5. Renaming INCLUDES the file extension

To be fair, Windows does this too (update: I notice that Vista has fixed this now). Worse, if you mis-type the extension, the Mac asks if you REALLY wanted to change the extension (Yes/No). Fair enough – of course you didn’t… how often do you rename an extension after all??? But if you hit “No”, it simply cancels your file rename and restores the original filename. Shame. Maybe Apple could take a few tips from the open source community (again…) and look at the way Nautilus handles file renaming.

6. Network connections vanish during “sleep”

Strange, but true. Connect to a share, sleep your Mac, wake it up, and behold – tis gone. The shortcut to the network connection is still there, which is something, but the connection itself is closed until you click on that shortcut. And if you’re trying to use it as a headless video player, “clicking” is not an option.

7. Delete key doesn’t delete files

But then, as item 4 shows, you can’t launch files with the return key either, so we’re not all that surprised by this omission, really, are we? Again, to be fair, the Mac forces you to OPTION+DEL to delete files, so despite once again throwing away the de facto standard, at least this time they seem have to made things better. But if the key combination is more obscure, why the hell is it asking me if I’m sure? Course I’m bloody sure – it’s not like I can hit the delete key(s) by accident any more, is it?

8. Alt-Tab to a “Hidden” app doesn’t show its window

And why is that? If I hide a window, it’s because I don’t want it cluttering up my screen while I work on something else. But tell me, are there ANY use cases where you might want to ALT-TAB to an application, but NOT show its window. If there are, I don’t use them and this can just be my pet-peeve while everyone else carries on loving Macs. But I’ll bet you’ll be struggling to come up with any really, truly common examples of this. In the windows world, this would be like ALT-TABing to a minimised app and having the app stay minimised.

9. Closing an app’s window doesn’t close the app

I suppose you just have to get used to this style of cluttered working which is so very quintessentially “Mac”. I hate it. I minimise windows I don’t want cluttering up my desktop and when I close a window, I expect that to be the end of the matter. Then, hours later, I ALT-TAB and realise that I still have every app I’ve ever opened that day still hogging all my memory and making my Mac experience just that little bit worse, if this were even possible.

10. Front Row doesn’t offer ANY configuration options

Such as basic things like scaling, or font size. In fact, unless you delve into the system configuration and find yourself skimming through the keyboard shortcuts, you wouldn’t even know Front Row existed at all. There’s no shortcut for it in Applications, none on your desktop.

But it’s once you get it started that you realise how deprived an MC (Multimedia Centre) it really is. It will only show you (roughly) about 15 characters from any filename – so if you rip your DVD TV series by episode, then you’d better make sure that you name the files meaningfully within those first 15 characters.

And if you’ve ripped it in wide-screen format, then you damn well will be watching it in widescreen, cos there’s no rescaling here, no sir. And that’s assuming that you’ve googled your way to adding in the library files which make Quicktime usable, because out of the box, it can play slightly fewer formats than Ubuntu can and you have to really try hard to beat Ubuntu out of the box for its lack of codecs.

So there’s the top ten. But really, the list could continue to be honest. In fact, this is my article… let’s add a couple more :

11. Front Row opens Quicktime, but doesn’t exit Quicktime when Front Row exits

Minor, but annoying. When I’m finished with Front Row, I’m finished with it. Why is it still running Quicktime?

12. Front Row doesn’t support “goto” seeking

Probably because the remote only has six (SIX!?!) buttons. Not to mention that my remote chews through batteries at a rate of about one every two months (it must be faulty). But still – SIX BUTTONS? Do Apple really think that their customers can’t handle a remote control? Are remote controls such a new and scary concept that they felt it necessary to insultingly reduce our experience to left/right/up/down select and menu?

But that’s what Apple does. It sanitises the computing experience by distilling the feature set down and down and down. Sometimes they get it right, because that’s what people want, in the case of the Ipod, for example. Sometimes they get it right because that’s what people need – such as my list, but applied to a non-technical graduate or granny. But as far as Mac OSX for techies is concerned, or at least THIS techie, it’s wrong in lots of very small, but quite fundamental ways.

In fact, there’s precious little about the Mac that I DO like. And that’s telling for a piece of kit that cost me £450.