Brain Dead Cheerleading

3 minute read

Don’t you just hate it when supposed “authorities” on computing can’t get their facts straight?

Why yes, yes I do Dan Knight of Low End Mac. That’s why I’m taking you to task for ‘Creaky Operating Systems’ Good Enough for Millions. There were some mistakes in the original Washington Post article, but “correcting” them with more mistakes is plain irresponsible and loses you all credibility. Then again, Dan also wrote Apple does us a favor by not shipping a better mouse, so perhaps credibility isn’t on his agenda.

At any rate, the Washington Post article quite accurately says:

Mac OS 8 and 8.5: […] Not a single modern, compatible browser is available for these systems.

The fact is, no matter how much one wants to fight this fact, it’s still true. Dan retorts (and he thinks cleverly):

I guess he’s never heard of iCab, which remains in development for Mac OS 7.1 and later on 680×0-based Macs, 7.6 and later for PowerPC Macs, and Mac OS X. It may not be a perfect browser, but it’s definitely modern.

Wrong. iCab is not modern. I’m not saying that because I don’t like iCab. Some time ago when pretty much all OS X web browsers were fairly slow, iCab had some decent speed. Development was fairly active too. I shelled out $30 to help out with the effort. The development has since stagnated.

The reason that one can not call iCab modern is simple. It doesn’t even support CSS1 fully. The W3C recommendation for this standard was set forth on December 17th 1996 and last revised January 11 1999. Just to put this into perspective, we are now several months into 2005. That’s six years. How can a modern browser not support this? For those of you not up to date on web standards (which Dan seems to be a part of), CSS is now at version 3. Incomplete CSS support earns iCab the technical title of “Broke Ass”.

Dan meanders on to more the more recent versions of the Mac OS. Here is the original quote:

Mac OS 8.6-9.2: These releases are slightly better in terms of software support — there still aren’t any good browsers

To which Dan brilliantly responds:

As for Mac OS 8.6-9.2.2, Pegorara claims “there still aren’t any good browsers.” What about Internet Explorer 5.1? Okay, maybe not the best or most modern browser, but very functional.

There’s WaMCom 1.3.1, a build of Mozilla available for Mac OS 8.6-9.2.2. No matter how you look at it, Mozilla has to be classified as a modern browser, even if WaMCom is based on an 18-month-old release of Mozilla source code.

First, the author didn’t say there weren’t any modern browsers for OS 9. He said no good ones. Given, Internet Explorer 5.1 for Mac is still a decent browser (but it has no pop-up blocker) and set a gold standard for browsers that followed. However, it’s starting to show its age and due to lack of development, doesn’t support many of the new cool technologies coming out. The same goes for Mozilla 1.3.1.

While neither are nearly as broke ass as iCab, they simply do not support new technologies currently out there and can not support them in the future due to discontinued development. That means that things will only get worse. Dan has entirely missed the point of Rob Pegoraro’s article. Rob has pointed out some deficiencies in these older OSs. While he was wrong about USB support for older versions of OS 8, what he said is largely true.

Dan seems to take the whole article very personally. This is most visible in the title of his rebuttle article: “‘Creaky Operating Systems’ Good Enough for Millions”. This is not something that Pegoraro disputes. Let’s read one of the first paragraphs in the article.

Those operating systems still fire up in the morning as they always did. But they show their age in other ways — newer programs and gadgets can’t or won’t coexist with them.

Pegoraro is saying that these computers will still work as they always have. For most, this is sufficient. Let’s examine what he’s really asserting. First, newer programs won’t coexist with these older OSs. The classic Mac OS still has no support for Safari or Firefox (we might as well restrict the scope, but this is true of all fields). Second, newer gadgets won’t work with older OSs. The classic Mac OS doesn’t support any of the newer iPods. Thus, what he has said is true.

Dan needs to recognize that this is the reality of running older hardware or software. Over time, it limits you. Then again, getting lectured by someone who writes for a website that doesn’t even validate about what makes a modern browser is absurd to begin with.