OS X’s Weak Spot – The Finder

Today I’m not going to mention how my G5 has crashed about 10 times in the last week, or how frustrating that it is that Mac’s are so picky about their RAM that if it doesn’t come from the mothership it’s almost guaranteed to cause kernel panics and everything else to go wrong.

I’m not going to mention how I have to reinstall OS X because I can’t boot into the operating system (after trying every tip, trick and hack possible) and how AppleCare couldn’t do anything but tell me to plugin my other Mac (what other Mac?) to back everything up in Firewire drive mode then start from a clean slate.

Today I’m going to talk about the Finder, and where I feel it could be improved.

  1. Copying Folders over Folders – There should be a way to drop a folder on another folder with the same name and have it add new files and give you the option to replace old files with newer versions. Currently the Finder simply blows the first folder away and replaces it with the folder you are moving.
  2. Copying large numbers of files – When copying large numbers of files, if the Finder encounters a file it can’t copy it usually just stops copying altogether. This has happened several times after several hours of copying to make backups of fried OS X install today. It wouldn’t be so bad if you could just drag the folder over and pick up where you left off, but you can’t. See number 1.
  3. Downloading Files – If you don’t have OS X auto-arrange the icons on your desktop, when files complete downloading they move. It doesn’t matter where you put the partially downloaded file icon, it jumps to somewhere else when it’s done.
  4. Resource Forks – If you’re on an all Mac network you may never notice these, if you use your Mac with Windows or Linux you’ll notice how every folder your Mac touches gets a couple worthless files dropped in it. There has to be a better way to accomplish what resource forks do.
  • anon

    datamem.com – good Mac-friendly RAM cheap. Those in the know go there…

  • Brandon Williams

    Hey Marcus,

    For recovery, I’ve found a good thing to have is a spare firewire drive – just boot off the drive with cmd+opt+shift+del and back up your hard drive. Another indespensible tool is Alsoft’s DiskWarrior. I maintain about 400 Macs, and I use both on a regular basis for troubleshooting and maintenance.

    For large copying actions, I’ve found just about the only thing you can do with a broken OS X install is copy things in very small batches. An OS X install that’s in good working shape should be able to copy a large amount of data without a hitch – I regularly back up users’ entire hard disks to my firewire drive prior to re-imaging their computers. Typical backup size is ~70k+ files and 30-50GB of data, and I very rarely see any hiccups while copying.

    As far as downloading files goes, I keep a folder on my desktop as my system-wide target download directory – that way, I don’t have junk constantly littering my work space. I’ve also titled the folder ‘To Be Sorted,’ so seeing it prompts me to take care of the files that are accumulating in it.

    In your case, I’d say DiskWarrior probably would have saved you some grief – it sounds like a damaged volume wrapper or other filesystem error.

    RAM – Spot on, especially since Macs switched to DDR. It wasn’t as big an issue when they still used SDRAM; now, I really see a marked increase in crash rates with non-Apple RAM installed in newer machines.

    In any case, while I agree the Finder does occasionally leave something to be desired, a well-tuned OS X system shouldn’t crash nearly as often as it has for you – I’ve seen perhaps two kernel panics in the past year, and both were caused by faulty hardware. You might want to run the Hardware Test disc that came with your Mac and make sure everything is peachy.

    Best,

    Brandon