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Talkin' Smack: Microsoft-Free by '03

My only rhyming New Year's resolution By Dave Nagel
When I upgraded my primary system to OS X back in the early days, I got to see what life was like with virtually no professional-level native applications. It gave me some time to experiment--unconsciously at first--with my own core needs. Which applications were worth booting into Classic for? Which were worth leaving OS X altogether when Classic couldn't cut it?

In those early days, I quickly realized I couldn't stay with OS X 10.0 because of the lack of drivers for some of my important hardware. Once those issues were resolved--early in the summer of 2001--I headed back to OS X, full-time this time around. By then, several of my important applications were either in full OS X release or in beta. I found myself switching into Classic very seldom and relaunching into OS 9 almost never.

Then Microsoft released its Word for Mac OS X public beta, and something dawned on me: In all the time I'd been using OS X, I never once needed Word. I never even once thought about using the Classic version I own. The text editors available for free for OS X took care of all my needs, including spell checking on the fly. Hell, everything has a spell checker in OS X. In fact, a programmer would have to go out of his way not to include spell checking in an application.

I downloaded the beta anyway. After all, it was free, and what could it hurt? Well, it turns out it could hurt a lot. It was the first application that ever crashed OS X for me. Following that, I immediately trashed Word and never looked back. There is simply no reason to use Word whatsoever--and I do far more writing than you by far.

I also found that I don't need Excel. Again, there are plenty of applications out there (shareware or open source) that can read Excel spreadsheets. So why pay for that? Same with Outlook and PowerPoint. Who needs them?

And that leaves Internet Explorer. Here is an application that, for the moment, I actually do need. I say "for the moment" because the only reason I need it is for its Java support. All the other Web browsers for OS X just lack what I need. Don't get me wrong. For some of the more hardcore Java apps I have to deal with, I turn to Netscape 6.2 in Classic. IE for OS X (and for OS 9, for that matter) simply doesn't have correct Java implementation. But it does take care of most of my needs.

Now, I have been experimenting with the pre-release versions of Mozilla's Java plugin for OS X. It's so close I can smell it. And yet it's just not quite there. Neither are Opera, iCab or Omni Web. Any of them, if they would simply focus on proper Java implementation--especially on some Java security issues and the ability to pass data between JavaScripts and Java applets--would make a sparkling alternative to the garbage that is IE 5 for OS X. The first one that does it right will be my browser for life. I'm hopeful it will happen this year.

It is my first resolution for the new year: to be free of Microsoft by 2003. I drink. I smoke. I overeat. There are all kinds of unsavory activities I could be giving up for the New Year. But there's simply no better gift I can give myself than to give up on Microsoft.

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. You can reach him at dnagel@digitalmedianet.com.

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