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The Alfred E Neuman of File Managers

One thing is clear.


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One thing is clear from this point and forward: Apple have neither the intention nor the capability of positioning their operating system as a professional tool for the enterprise.

Why be so unequivocal? Because Apple are.

Although Apple acquired one of the 'ultimate players' in NeXTSTEP/OpenStep in 1997 they have done everything in their power to stop their platform playing. Today system management by an administrator is not just ridiculous with their default file manager - it's impossible.

Apple's commitment to the enterprise has always been suspect. An enterprise division was created for the Lisa; another created for the 'NeXT' side of the business after January 1997; both foundered and ultimately became nought.

Not all the blame is placed at Apple's door: most of NeXT's clients ran for the hills as soon as they'd heard of the 'merger', the name 'Apple' already being notorious in the computing sector as a whole.

But Apple did engender the lie they'd be supportive of continued cross platform deployment (most importantly to NT where the real money was) and of marketing for the enterprise in an effort to string along their 3rd party vendors as long as possible.

[You'll find pictures of NeXTSTEP/OpenStep running under Windows NT in this article below. Ed.]

Much has already been written about Apple's clumsy marketing attempts to enter the enterprise and the government sector; but the implications of what their current OS 'Leopard' doesn't have to offer make it mathematically impossible to sell to these lucrative markets ever again. At least in a non-trivial format.

As one system consultant put it:

'They show you their shiny server boxes and you're impressed. Then you ask to see their system management tools and they show you Finder. You laugh at them and walk away.'

The ramifications of this fact are of no import to either the end user Mac fanatics or the computer science professionals: the former never come in contact with these issues (and wouldn't know what they were even if they were staring them in the face) and the latter are mostly aware of all of this already. Most of academia and the scientific community have long since wakened from their Kool-Aid™ induced stupor and seen they've been systematically hyped. Apple today have abandoned all attempts to play in the big leagues, concentrating instead increasingly on the 'iPod market'.

And yet on some level someone somewhere still has to do system work where professional tools are needed - tools the Apple system simply doesn't have. Someone has to work with all the system directories and attribute bits and all the rest the system file manager simply can't get close to.

And so here we have Apple - the company that announced a commercial graphical user interface, that said goodbye to the command line - reverting to the command line they used to laugh at to do their most important system work. Simply because they lack the wherewithal to make these tools in the graphical user interface they promote.

That's irony so thick you can cut it with a butter knife.

Let's go through the 'comic book' of the review of Finder 10.5.6 'frame by frame'.

Picture 1. First look.
Nothing wrong with this picture at all. This is a 'big icon' view which is common even on professional systems as said systems normally have an 'advanced' button for the pros so the same program can serve all. The cute sidebar is cute but not in any way detrimental. It helps ordinary users find and organise things. And that's only for the good.

Picture 2. Drilling down.
Nothing here either. Just spelunking around, gradually zeroing in on the real issues.

Picture 3. 'File info'.
Ouch. What's shown in this first picture might be cute and cozy for the end user but there's little here to help the professional. Several 'disclosure triangles' will have to be opened to see what else is in store.

Picture 4. More 'file info'.
Oh how painful. 'You have custom access' is risible - what is 'custom access'? This is a joke at best, a disaster at worst. Claiming any set of permissions is 'custom' implies irrevocably there's another set that's not. Good grief. But you ain't seen nothing yet: the permissions are listed as 'Read & Write' - but they're not: Apple's Leopard Finder doesn't see executable bits at all.

And you still ain't seen nuthin': for set UID bits, set GID bits, and sticky bits are completely unapproachable. Not to speak of system and user file flags such as Append, Archived, Hidden, Immutable, 'No Dump', 'No Unlink', Opaque, and Snapshot. And no - having 'Locked' doesn't even come close: it's pathetically paraplegic; distant.

Picture 5. The only user/group permissions options available.
Further evidence something is really really wrong here.

Picture 6. The only permissions options available for 'other' users.
Figuring out what went on in the minds of Apple's so called 'user experience engineers' is left as an exercise to the reader.

Picture 7. HUD previews.
This is great if you work with graphics. Otherwise it's just overly (and almost clumsily) pretentious.

Picture 8. Cover Flow!!1!
The famous 'technology' Apple purchased from Steel Skies (Coulter Enright, del Strother) in 2006 originally for use in their iTunes. Added to Finder for Leopard. The original idea was to view 'album covers' in a way reminiscent of the 'days of vinyl'.

Picture 9. Xfile in Cover Flow.
Same thing.

Picture 10. Drilling down again.
And here's where we again see some interesting things. This directory contains a great many command line executables, both binaries and shell scripts. What's ludicrous here is that the icon used to symbolise these files is picked from the file attributes - the 'executable' bit has to be set. Yet 'file info' will not reveal this bit or offer a means to control it.

Picture 11. User/group permissions available on Unix console executable.
You can no longer manage 'executable' bits. You can't turn them on; you can't turn them off.

Picture 12. 'Other' permissions available on Unix console executable.
You can no longer manage 'executable' bits. You can't turn them on; you can't turn them off.

Picture 13. 'File info' for Unix console executable.
This is how bad it gets. This is as bad as it can get. Pros won't know what this is - but they will know it's not Unix any longer. Nor is it something they can work with.

Picture 14. Attempting to do the impossible.
There are many file systems within the file system; this is one. There are a half dozen others as well. Finder can't get at any of them - it doesn't even know what they are.

Picture 15. Getting told the impossible is indeed impossible.
There are many file systems within the file system; this is one. There are a half dozen others as well. Finder can't get at any of them - it doesn't even know what they are.

Picture 16. Let's go somewhere else!
Yes it's time to drill down into those funny places under /var with all the spooky caches.

Picture 17. Cover Flow!!1! Again!!1!
Cover Flow's still available - of course it is - but there are more places on a disk where it's ridiculous than where it's not.

Picture 18. Cover Flow!!1! Again!!1! And again!!1! Where it really pays off!!1!
Another even more embarrassing example of the same - 900+ icons are identical!

Picture 19. Prompting for a password (actually a passphrase) in places it's not needed. Ace!
A puzzler if there ever was one. Why prompt for a passphrase if the system itself does not require it? Apple's so called 'user experience engineers' have to go back to school - and start with the BASICs.

Picture 20. Selecting a new user or group??!?? From an address book??!??
The boggle minds.

Picture 21. Test is over! So where did this 'file manager' drop its stool?
Amazing. The bug Arno finally admitted after ten years, the bug Apple promised to fix - and it's still there, as ugly as ever, literally littering user disks with this useless unconscionable amateurish junk.

Ponder for a moment what this means - that every time you launch that sorry excuse for a professional tool you're going to drop 'stool' everywhere you go. The idea this 'stool' only be dropped if display settings are changed from the default has never been implemented as Apple promised - as Arno indicated it was a bug his team acknowledged and for ten years somehow just never got around to fixing.

But again that's only the beginning of the story, the tip of the tip of the iceberg. Ponder what happens when an administrator attempts to use this tool in a network. Ponder the waste. And yes it is true Apple provide a flag today to turn off this 'crapping' on network shares. But ponder what networks looked like before they got around to acknowledging this issue - networks with Gentoo machines, HP-UX machines, Solaris machines, Windows machines... Ponder it.

And when you've recovered from that painful meditative exercise then ponder this: the same thing happens anytime anyone uses anyone else's computer - .DS_Store settings are impossibly individual in a multiuser environment.

The age of the Beige Box™ (which fortunately many were spared) is long gone. It's not coming back. There is no such thing as 'my computer'. There is no 'system folder'. There is no use for 'Desktop DB' and 'Desktop DF'. And it is not now nor was it ever a good thing to have but one program and one folder to put it in.

Are the Mac fanatics disappointed? Not really. Those who've been around since the Beige Box Daze™ have long since proven they will swallow any insult, any slight, any untruth in the name of the Leader™. They embody the increasingly highly profiled corporate motto 'what me worry'. They're happy!

Are the computer science professionals disappointed? Not really. They've long ago stopped caring. Apple's foray into academia, the scientific community, the enterprise, and the government sector was a joke at best, an unethical lie at worst.

People still use their 'Macs' and will continue to like them and rely on them on an individual basis. Taking Apple as seriously as Novell or IBM with their Unix solutions simply isn't going to happen. There have always been a lot of reasons to suspect things should work out this way but the evidence of this the most ludicrous file management tool on any modern platform anywhere constitutes irrefutable proof.

See Also
Software Reviews: Finder 10.5.6

Alfred E Neuman artwork © Graphic Tribe. All rights reserved.

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