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View Full Version : The Mac OS That Can't Be Tweaked


vniow
Oct 1, 2002, 02:00 PM
2:00 a.m. Oct. 1, 2002 PDT
For years, one of the big attractions of the Mac was the ability to customize the operating system. Users could completely overhaul the machine's interface, sometimes to the point where it was entirely idiosyncratic.

But all that has changed with OS X. Apple is trying to close the operating system to tweakers, a policy some critics think will ultimately do more harm than good.


I haven't used OSX a whole helluva lot, but one thing I like about PCs is that you can customize the interface. Can you still do that with OSX, or is this article totally bullmilk?

Don't get me wrong, I love the Aqua interface, but I like to be able to tweak it every once in awhile.:)

click (http://www.wired.com/news/mac/0,2125,55395,00.html)

mc68k
Oct 1, 2002, 02:19 PM
little things here and there

people were making some good progress, then 10.2 came out and changed everything again

i think that once they get some kind of standard interface going, and they stick to it, then real progress can be made

there are some kaleidoscope-like programs that can tweak some basic aqua-interface items with themes, such as duality, etc

most of the hacks that you will see to the aqua interface are going to be resource and setting hacks-- simple things done with terminal commands to plists or by replacing/modifying pictures

as for the openGL 3d moving bars, dock modifications, etc that stuff is buried. there's not a lot of developers that know cocoa well enough yet to REALLY hack the mac OS. Mac OS 9 and previous all date back to the original single-tasking System on the 128k. needless to say, people had a lot of time to refine their hacking skills on a OS that didn't change much

until that happens again, you won't be able to modify a great deal from default X. you can still hack a great deal, but UNIX is a must now for anything serious.

hope some of that made sense :)

vniow
Oct 1, 2002, 02:27 PM
Originally posted by mc68k


hope some of that made sense :)


Don't worry. I got it.;)

What I don't get is why they 'lock' the GUI so it's not easily modified.
I know that Quartz Extreme is not something you wanna ***** with, but maybe I'd like a spherical Dock or something.
Is it for the OS's protection or something else.?

strider42
Oct 1, 2002, 02:41 PM
Originally posted by edvniow



Don't worry. I got it.;)

What I don't get is why they 'lock' the GUI so it's not easily modified.
I know that Quartz Extreme is not something you wanna ***** with, but maybe I'd like a spherical Dock or something.
Is it for the OS's protection or something else.?

I'd assume its for the same reasons they removed themes from OS 8.5-9 (though the capability was still there), they want a consistent user interface for all mac users. I think they worry that people will customize the interface, and then people who see or use that interface will be faced with something quite different on another machine. personally I think its overzealous, but to a certain degree it makes sense. If apple doesn't want themes, thats fine with me, but others should have the option of doing as they please with it.

Nipsy
Oct 1, 2002, 02:44 PM
I love it when someone writes a piece saying "I was gonna investigate something, but someone else seems to have investigated it, so I'll write about their article about their investigation."

OSX is VERY tweakable. You just need to be UNIX savvy to do it. OSX is also very young, so things will change quickly for a few years while it is optimized. This is why doors close (and new ones open) in a 10.* release.

The reason Apple wants it to be difficult to tweak certain parts of the UI is that they have spent millions of dollars and thousands of hours researching how to do things in the most elegant way, with the best consisitency between apps.

Changing something as omnipresent as the dock or the menu bar changes the computer completely. If you remove the dock and the menu bar, and replace them with third party solutions, you are no longer using OSX, per se.

If you are smart enough and talented enough to do it better than Apple, they'll give you a job, but if you are creating an amateurish hack, they're going to make it hard.

This helps maintain everything from stability to ease of use to ease of support to customer satisfaction. Imagine the countless hours IT professionals spend each year recovering users' systems from the myriad of poorly implemented user interface tweaks available in Windows.

If you have soemthing in Aqua's UI you find unbearable, you should do a coupla things. Suggest a fix to Apple. Look for a better way to do it with the tools you have (many many things can be done in many ways). Learn .plist tweaks. You can modify much of the interface to better suit your needs by tweaking .plist files. Macosxhints.com is a great resource for this.

FattyMembrane
Oct 1, 2002, 04:43 PM
there are plenty of osx themes available, but almost all of them are hideous, and messing with low level system resources like that has the potential to really screw things up - this is why apple does not technically allow themes in osx, they dont want the tech support calls asking "why does everything mess up with my UglyAssAqua3rdParty2003 theme?". there are lots of cool little tweaks, but when you see what most people do to customize their computers, it looks like somebody took a dump on his scanner, imported it into photoshop, added a drop shadow, and said "look at how cool my windows look now!". as soon as apple gets it's interface settled, it will be a lot easier to make reliable (and hopefully attractive) themes, but keep in mind that there are people who'se entire jobs are to find out exactly what interface elements work the best and are the prettiest.

as far as replacing the dock/finder etc, this is no big task. there are posts out there on how to get the system to load snax instead of the finder, and it sould be just as easy to do the same with a viable dock replacement. there is a hell of a lot that you can customize with osx, it will just take time for people to work out decent options for tweaking. remember, we did not even have kaleidoscope until 7.5

tjwett
Oct 1, 2002, 04:52 PM
there are certain themes and skins that you can get to change it's appearence but as far as changing the way it interacts with you it is a bit limited. then again, it is a way more intuitive than any OS out there. by making it so user-friendly they have kind of bypassed the need for alot of tweaking. personally, i hate the Aqua interface because all that white is rough on my eyes. i ran Duality for a bit but it messed up my system. oh well. i would like to see the entire Aqua interface take on the gray look of the new dock. that would be great for me.

e-coli
Oct 1, 2002, 05:11 PM
jeez...i think OS X is insanely tweakable. I have TransparentDock, MinimizeInPlace, and I have customized most of my system icons using CandyBar. I can also search Google for any highlighted text system-wide via my services panel....I can't imagine what you could do in OS 9 that you can't do in OS X. Except for skins, but really, you can do that to an extent in OS X. I made my sherlock brushed metal. It's better than the ugly hard -on-the-eyes striped version imo.

mc68k
Oct 1, 2002, 05:15 PM
Originally posted by edvniow
Don't worry. I got it.;)

What I don't get is why they 'lock' the GUI so it's not easily modified.
I know that Quartz Extreme is not something you wanna ***** with, but maybe I'd like a spherical Dock or something.
Is it for the OS's protection or something else.? Well, you don't want an OS to be as tweakable as the Windows Registry. This is just a bad idea.

Things people genearally use to tweak (to be a little more specific) X are:

preference (.plist) files
BSD tools
Darwin tools
resources within packages

There are third-party tools as well, but these usually implement the above with published/non-published methods. If a program is asking for your password, it's probably issuing a superuser command to Darwin using sudo.

There are many different levels of X, each of which is increasingly harder to tweak. Darwin is based off FreeBSD and the mach microkernel. So basically all Apple did is stick its own proprietary OS on top of a modified FreeBSD. Darwin (the kernel level) is easily tweakable to the experienced *nix head, because it is open-sourced. That makes things like XPostFacto possible. The other part of the OS, Aqua, is guarded heavily.

The place where you find Aqua resources is in System> Library> Frameworks. Other processes implement these core libraries in CoreServices, Components, etc. So to heavily modify Aqua would be rather difficult. There are the apps governing Aqua (Dock.app, Finder.app, etc.) which are mostly compiled Cocoa code. Then there are the libraries themselves, which are probably the most heavily guarded part of the OS, since this is Apple's own "style".

So to go back to your original questions, Apple wants to keep their monopoly on their OS. Everything they do (excluding early projects like the Apple I) is supposed to reflect Apple's elegance. The only way they maintain this high-level of quality is with secrecy and closed code. Technically, the OS would not be harmed if tweaked properly in the hands of a professional but Apple doesn't want people modifying the "look" and "feel" of Apple.

You have to remember that Windows, an inferior OS, is implemented through .dll spaghetti code and archaic structures like the Windows Registry. Not only that, they have a web browser controlling the OS. This is a security nightmare. Sure, it is relatively easy to modify for good purposes, but also for bad. That's why there are patches every 2 minutes.

Apple has a top-quality OS, and the only way it will stay that way is if they lock it up tight. The Unix core is the only feasible thing that can be hacked "heavily" for now. But the results of such low-level hacking aren't too readily apparent in Aqua. Maybe something missing here and a little something more there, but nothing major. It works out better for the user this way.

Something like a spherical Dock is feasible, but would require a completely new Cocoa app. Applications Apple endorses because it augments their product, hence the Dev tools.

e-coli
Oct 1, 2002, 05:25 PM
btw, i have most of these hacks/goodies in my public folder if anyone wants them.

:)

vniow
Oct 1, 2002, 06:23 PM
So looks like that article was totalhttp://us.f1.yahoofs.com/users/664b5f96/bc/My+Documents/bsflag.gif?bcaWcw9Ata5PH14. then.

I really wasn't talking about a spherical Dock (although it would be kinda cool;)), mostly minor stuff, like all that white in Aqua will get really annoying to me in a very short time, so I might want to try out that brushed metal theme or whetever I can find. (BTW whoever suggested Macosxhints.com, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. Lots of cool info here.:))
I don't want near the tweakage that Windows has cuz I don't want to ***** up something as vital (and poorly designed) as the registry. I just like my computer to look the way I like it, not what Apple or M$ wants me to see.:)

BTW, where is your public folder e-coli?

Nipsy
Oct 1, 2002, 06:50 PM
Your welcome, your welcome, your welcome, your welcome, your welcome, your welcome, your welcome, your welcome.

Here is one of the MOST useful hacks possible, as it saves TIME and mouse clicks everyday:

http://www.macosxhints.com/article.php?story=20020917012934817

FattyMembrane
Oct 1, 2002, 11:06 PM
if i ever combat my persistant lazyness, i may actually learn how to program in cocoa, and if this ever happens, i don't think a circular dock would be very hard to make at all (not very usefull or practical mind you, but when have we ever let practicality stand in the way of cool mods?). make a circular window with the brushed metal appearance, as icons are added, the circle grows, and as you move your cursor over an icon it magnifies. i'm sure quartz allows for all of this and you could add all of those usefull features that the dock still does not have. modify a few system plists and you could have it launch instead of the regular dock application. wow, now you have me all excited...

mc68k
Oct 2, 2002, 12:20 AM
That would be quite an undertaking, considering that the dock reacts independent of the Finder in real-time on the OS. All the GUI magnification and icon resizing would be a bitch too.

But it certainly could be done, since the Dock is just an app.

madamimadam
Oct 2, 2002, 12:34 AM
Originally posted by e-coli
btw, i have most of these hacks/goodies in my public folder if anyone wants them.

:)

If it was not for Mozilla I would say "pass that mod my way"
:)

Stike
Oct 3, 2002, 12:45 AM
Look here! I have installed duality 4.0 beta and loaded some themes! It works great if the themes are declared for OS X.2
Here you can see a brushed theme how it affects the Finder, Sherlock and Chimera.
I think its great!:D :cool:

mc68k
Oct 3, 2002, 12:51 AM
Originally posted by Stike
I think its great!:D :cool: It does look very nice. Much better than pinstripes.

Where can I obtain this theme?

vniow
Oct 3, 2002, 01:10 AM
Originally posted by Stike
Look here! I have installed duality 4.0 beta and loaded some themes! It works great if the themes are declared for OS X.2
Here you can see a brushed theme how it affects the Finder, Sherlock and Chimera.
I think its great!:D :cool:


Oh God, look what I started.:eek: :p

That does look reeeaaaly nice though.
It's exaclty the kinds of mods I was worried didn't exist which people here so kindly proved me wrong.;)

Oh and FattyMembrane, keep us updated on that dock mod.:)

Stike
Oct 3, 2002, 01:55 AM
Originally posted by mc68k
It does look very nice. Much better than pinstripes.

Where can I obtain this theme?

Look here:
http://www.resexcellence.com/themes/
On the first page there are themes that will work with X.2.1. Duality took them (all? didnt test all) I use the latest 4.0beta. Works.

Stike
Oct 3, 2002, 02:00 AM
Originally posted by edvniow


Oh God, look what I started.:eek: :p

That does look reeeaaaly nice though.
It's exaclty the kinds of mods I was worried didn't exist which people here so kindly proved me wrong.;)


Hey, if you liked it, eat this!
Sadly, it does not work on OS X.2 ...yet...

Lz0
Oct 3, 2002, 06:27 AM
Originally posted by edvniow



I haven't used OSX a whole helluva lot, but one thing I like about PCs is that you can customize the interface. Can you still do that with OSX, or is this article totally bullmilk?

Don't get me wrong, I love the Aqua interface, but I like to be able to tweak it every once in awhile.:)

click (http://www.wired.com/news/mac/0,2125,55395,00.html)


Now that would be like dying a blond red???

vniow
Oct 3, 2002, 11:13 AM
Originally posted by Stike


Look here:
http://www.resexcellence.com/themes/
On the first page there are themes that will work with X.2.1. Duality took them (all? didnt test all) I use the latest 4.0beta. Works.



Eeeeewwwwww!

They have an XP theme there. Yuk!


http://forums.macrumors.com/attachment.php?s=&postid=159994

But the other ones are cool.:)

barkmonster
Oct 3, 2002, 04:03 PM
I think tweaking in the extension manager and RAM allocation sense is something I'll never miss, creating very streamlined extension sets is the best way to get the most performance and stability out of mac for music, hopefully under OS X it will manage the resources so well that we'll get the same performance with no tweaking and Quartz Extreme will stop the graphically complex interface from bogging things back down again.