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OPINION OCTOBER 8 , 2001
Talkin' Smack: Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?

How the devil made me crash OS X for the first time in seven months

by David Nagel
Executive Producer
[email protected]

Most of you know me as a good man. Some of you might even refer to me as a holy man. Perhaps you're right. However, recent evidence would tend to indicate that I may have fallen out of favor momentarily, a direct result of comments made in last week's column. Here's what happened.

Last week I referred to Mac OS X 10.1 as "the God OS." I based this primarily of the (up to then) true assertion that it was impossible to crash this OS, since, back from the first release of OS X 10.0, I had been unable to do so. Mind you, I'm not just talking about average computer use. I mean running so much stuff at once in Classic and Native simultaneously that a crash was bound to happen. But it never did. And that's just not possible without some sort of divine aid.

At least not until "the incident."

"The incident"refers to two distinct crashes experienced on the very same day just after I finished smugly responding to one person's doubts regarding the true infallibility of OS X. I'm going to relate these occasions to you presently. And, while I do, I want those of you with at least the slightest amount of learning to ponder the story of Job as you read this. (For those who aren't familiar with the story of Job, don't worry; I'll hit you over the head with it later.)

This will require a little background. Here at Digital media Net, we're switching to a new system for publishing that's Java- and JavaScript-based. Well, it was supposed to be, but actually it's that fake Microsoft junk that doesn't run on anything but Explorer for Windows. I, needless to say, am not on a Windows system at all. But I do need to publish. The solution? Go out and buy Connectix Virtual PC and then download the OS X public beta so that I don't have to keep switching between OS 9 and OS X. (No, Virtual PC does not run in Classic.)

So I installed it, no problem. And then—BAM—crash city as soon as I tried to launch it. Subsequent launch attempts worked fine (as far as a beta release goes), but I was stuck, nevertheless, with the permanent blemish of my very first crash.

And so, after six or seven months, my pure, infallible God OS has received its first tarnish.

Now, I don't know what caused this crash. But I do know that a dialog box came up during the installation that didn't tell me what to do. It just offered me a choice of two systems. It was probably asking for a system containing my Virtual PC prefs, but I chose the OS X system instead. Then my hard drive churned for a while, and the installation ended, almost, but not quite, complete. (I had chosen the wrong system file, so the installer was unable to locate my prefs, meaning I had to do a little manual installation.)

Maybe the installer messed around with the system file, which is certainly justification for a crash. An installer shouldn't do that. But I don't really know. When I restarted, everything was fine again, except for my mood. (Think about it: I've been able to tell peecee users for seven months that I haven't crashed once. Now that's gone.)

Now, seeing as I had nothing to lose at this point, I went ahead and downloaded the Microsoft Word X beta. Nice program. Except for one thing: It caused my second crash in the same day!

Holy Beejeezus! It's just a glorified text editor. What's the problem? In OS 9, if you have Word, Outlook Express and Internet Explorer all open at the same time, you're guaranteed to crash. But in OS X? I mean, I can see the program itself crapping out, but for this little clump of of code that hasn't added any new useful features in 10 years to bring down my God OS is ridiculous.

Now think about the Job angle. Job was a devout worshiper of God whom Satan petitioned God to test. So, basically, God let Satan unleash a few terrorist acts on Job, his family and his livestock to see whether he would remain faithful. Is this what's happening here? I did refer to OS X as "the God OS." And we all know that Microsoft is Satan Incorporated. So is the God OS testing my psychofanaticism by letting Satan's products (Windows, Word X and Windows faux Java) defile my computing experience?

Yes.

But why? This only Jobs knows. His ways are mysterious indeed.

Well, at any rate, Satan's plans aren't working. I still have the honor of claiming only to have crashed twice this year, which is better than any user of any platform, Unix or otherwise, can honestly claim. In my normal use, Mac OS 9 crashed at least twice per day. In my brief stint with Windows NT 4, I accomplished the same crash ratio. I know Linux and Solaris crash all the time because I've had Web servers on both systems.

But OS X is still the best thing going. If I crash twice more in the next seven months, I'm not going to cry too much about it. Hey, I'm not even crying now. I just happened to have promised several readers that I would write a column about it when I finally did crash. Oath fulfilled.

Mac OS X is nothing short of the most brilliant system ever developed. It works smoothly and operates solidly and looks good while it's doing it. My faith remains unshaken.

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Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; host of several World Wide User Groups, including Synthetik Studio Artist, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion, Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; and executive producer of the Digital Media Net family of publications.

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