MacOS X: The not-ready-for-prime-time operating system


March 25, 2001



The biggest news on the computer software front in recent months is the official release of Apple Computer's new operating system for the Macintosh, MacOS X.

Computer lingo being what it is, the new software's name deserved explanation.

"Mac" is, of course, shorthand for "Macintosh." "OS" is computer parlance for "operating system," and the "X" is not the letter "x", but the Roman numeral "10."

MacOS X has been in development for what seems like years; it goes back to the Gil Amelio days of Apple, before Steve Jobs returned to lead the company.

But the new operating system is actually closer to beta software than a certified "gold" release. Even Apple admits there are some bugs unresolved in MacOS X.

But Apple isn't hiding the problems. The company want to get the software in the hands of the Mac-faithful techies out there who will put the software through its paces, wringing it out and putting it to the test. Jobs has promised to respond to fix what needs to be fixed in MacOS X.

The average user probably won't be upgrading to MacOS X soon -- mainly because there's little software available now that makes use of its capabilities.

MacOS X is compatible with software that runs on older Mac operating systems, but reviewers say the compatibility mode is pretty pokey compared to using the latest Mac OS 9.1.

Mac Office for MacOS X won't be released until fall at the earliest, according to a report on CNet News. Other Mac-important applications, like Adobe Photoshop, and Illustrator have no official release date for MacOS X-specific versions yet.

But that's probably OK with Apple. In the coming months, the "early adopters" who put MacOS X through the wringer will help us all when the killer applications are released and everyone suddenly wants a stable, blisteringly fast MacOS X operating system to run them on.

In the meantime, the regular Apple faithful should probably wait until later in the year to consider upgrading to MacOS X. I'm sure in the coming months, there'll be a slew of new applications (and new versions of old applications) that will be released to use the operating system's capabilities.

For more information on MacOS X, including a tour of its new features, visit and click on the button for MacOS X.

HOAX AS A VIRUS. When is a virus that's a hoax as bad as a real virus?

When it accomplishes the same thing a virus can.

Some of the latest viruses that have plagued computer users do little more than e-mail themselves to other people in the user's e-mail address book.

While it is certainly annoying, and in some cases, can virtually shut down e-mail servers in large corporations hit with the bug, there's often little physical damage done to the hardware.

Virus hoaxes frequently achieve results similar to that of the real virus. This happens when users who receive and read warnings from friends or co-workers about hoax viruses forward the warnings to every person they can think to send the it to.

The real problem users frequently face when receiving a virus warning from someone is determining if it is real or a hoax. Passing it on -- even if it is a hoax -- is seen by most users as harmless for the most part (other than consuming resources as a bit of useless e-mail).

Fake virus warnings usually have a couple of telltale characteristics.

First, they often quote some authority or organization that issued the warning or approved it as OK.

Second, the warning frequently has enough high-tech terminology to make it sound legitimate.

Third, the alleged virus usually inflicts some extraordinarily severe damage if a user's computer is infected.

The last characteristic is usually universal -- nearly all hoaxes will request the user to forward or send the warning to everyone you can.

Before forwarding an e-mail virus warning, visit one of the Web sites created by anti-virus software companies. These frequently can help identify hoax virus messages.

Symantec ( and F-Secure's Security Information Center ( are both great anti-virus sites that also will help you smoke out a virus hoax.

Additionally, the Urban Legends Archive Web site at is an up-to-date source for virus hoaxes. The Urban Legend Reference Pages,, are also handy for spotting hoaxes e-mails.

EBAY HOAXES. It didn't take long for the Russian Mir space station to show up after its fiery descent into the Pacific Ocean.

Hours after the space station broke apart and re-entered the Earth's atmosphere, "souvenir" pieces of the space station began to show up on the ever-popular eBay auction Web site.

EBay had removed several auctions in the hours after the Mir's descent, according to published reports, but a search for "Mir" on eBay's site turned up a couple of listings for space station debris -- though the ones I saw were obviously tongue-in-cheek.

The first was a bolt a fellow said he found in his driveway in Dayton, Ohio. "It wasn't there when I parked the car yesterday, so it must've come from Mir," he posted in his auction. "I don't know how else it got here."

My later check showed eBay had deleted that auction, though several other legitimate Mir-related auctions were listed.

Samples of the insulation used aboard Mir were bringing in some bids, as were medallions that actually flew aboard Mir for a time.

Probably the Mir-related item listed for auction on eBay that has outlived its useful life is the domain name ""

What parts of Mir that didn't burn up during re-entry are at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. I would guess the value of this Web site address went down in flames when the space station did.

To check on other Mir-related auctions, visit and search for "Mir."

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to, or visit on the World Wide Web.

| HOME |