Time to Upgrade to OS 9: Never Go with Point Oh

2001 – It has always been my tradition to run one OS behind the current version. Many people do this – and with good reasons. If you depend on your machine, you don’t want to trash a hard drive with a buggy install.

Now, I’m not saying that Mac OS X 10.0 is going to be buggy when it is released this weekend; all I know is that it will be improved by the time it becomes Mac OS X 10.1 (which is the nomenclature I understand that will be used to denote future OS revisions).

A couple weeks ago, I took the plunge and upgraded my venerable 300 MHz Beige Power Mac G3 desktop from Mac OS 8.6 to 9.0.4. I haven’t yet updated to 9.1, but I will probably do it in a week or two.

As many others have reported, OS 9.0.4 is a little unstable, and some of your applications will break under it from the update. I had to upgrade my Virex software, my MacLink Plus Deluxe document converter, and a couple of other things, but generally my normal applications survived the upgrade intact with no loss of data or functionality.

What I’ve noticed mainly is that Netscape 4.7 crashes – hard – more often than before, but these crashes bring down the OS less often. My Wacom tablet and mousepad seems to really give Netscape 4.7 fits, and every time I use the scroll wheel, I wince in anticipation of a freeze, crash, or system error.

I tried installing OS 9.0.4 at school as an experiment. It works about as well, but the district firewall essentially shuts down iDisk*, iTunes, and QuickTime TV. Until they open the firewall and switch to a different proxy system, I’ll have to enjoy these functions at home. I could really use that iDisk at school, though, especially when we get iMacs next year. iDisk will be the #1 way to avoid carrying floppy and Zip disks back and forth.

The advantages of running one OS behind are:

  1. The OS is still available in stores – at least for a while. I got the last copy of OS 9 off the shelf at Staples, where it was hidden (deliberately, I think) behind the only copy of AppleWorks 6 in the store, buried in the corner of a Windows software shelf in the middle of the software section. Windows Me, on the other hand, gets its own kiosk right next to the copy center.
  2. Updates to version x.1 are available for free download. x.1 versions tend to fix what was overlooked in x.0.
  3. Apple hasn’t stupidly yanked it off its software update site (look at what happened to the completely respectable www.mac512.com site).
  4. Software updates from vendors, which generally run behind OS releases, are all available if they’re ever going to be available.
  5. The system requirements are always less (always less) than the current OS, so if you’ve upgraded for other reasons (like I have: more hard drive space, more RAM for games, etc.), the change will not require more hardware.

If I had another G3 sitting around unused, I probably wouldn’t hesitate to upgrade to the latest OS. Until then, I need to keep my machine functional and reliable. That’s why my motto is Never go with Point-Oh.

Don’t forget to back up your documents, preferences, Internet settings, and suchlike before upgrading – if not your entire drive. So far, no disasters have befallen me, but the first time you don’t do it, you know what’ll happen.


Microrant: I can’t tell you how stupid it is for Apple to yank old System Software from sites like Mac512.com. Do they seriously think the availability of this old system software is hurting new machine sales? Get real. If Apple wanted users to replace machines every three years, why do they build them so well that they last 15 years or longer? (Well, except maybe the Power Mac 5200 and a few other Road Apples, but that was unplanned obsolescence.)

All Apple is gaining is the ill will of some of its oldest and most diehard supporters, a loss it cannot afford. If you’re an Apple employee reading this and your job is to tell Steve Jobs what there is on the Web this week, tell him that older Mac owners are bewildered and angered by these stupid removals of essentially historic system software files. Tell him every day. This cannot be affecting a significant revenue stream. It is beyond comprehension. Really. Just tell him.


 * We’re talking about the original version of iDisk that was part of iTools when Apple launched that service in early 2001. It required Mac OS 9.0 or later.

Keywords: #pointoh #macos9

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