Going Ten, Step 1: Preparation

2002 – This is the first on an ongoing series as Low End Mac prepares for and jumps into the world of Mac OS X. Unlike others who submit articles for 10 Forward, I haven’t used 10.1 yet, but I’m preparing to.

10forward

I dabbled in the Public Beta, but only a bit. After ordering it, I discovered it didn’t want to work on my SuperMac S900. Darn. On the other hand, I did a little experimenting, maybe 30-60 minutes a day, using an external drive on the Power Mac G4 at work. At the time my assessment was, “Nice, but where’s the software?”

As Steve Jobs noted last week, there are 2,500 applications for OS X. A lot of programs I use aren’t OS X-native; many never will be. It’ll be interesting to see how comfortably I’ll be able to move between full fledged OS X and the Classic Mode. It’ll also be interesting to see what software I may find to replace my old apps.

Hardware

In typical low-end fashion, we’ll be trying OS X on a variety of Macs running G3 and G4 processors at 233 MHz to 400 MHz. The fastest is my 400 MHz PowerBook G4, followed by my wife’s 366 MHz indigo iBook. The third portable we’ll test it on is my son’s 233 MHz WallStreet PowerBook G3 that just arrived Monday.

That was part of a big shipment from MacResQ which both settled their account with Low End Mac and gave us the hardware we need to experience OS X on low-end Mac hardware. Before looking at the hardware, I should note that the equipment was not only very nicely packed, but also among the cleanest 3-5 year old hardware I’ve seen.

The desktop machines we’ll be trying are a blueberry iMac running at 333 MHz and a beige 233 MHz Beige Power Mac G3. I’ll have at least 192 MB of RAM in all of these, and some machines will have as much as 512 MB. At this point everything has a stock hard drive installed, but I also acquired a fast 7200 rpm Seagate Barracuda 20 GB hard drive that I’ll try in the iMac and G3/266 to see how much a better drive boosts overall performance.

Software

I don’t have a copy of Mac OS X yet, but I hope to have two copies within the week. The first is a swap for a copy of Mac OS 8.5 – a reader discovered that you can’t upgrade from Mac OS 7.6.1 to 9.anything without first installing some version of 8.x. Go figure.

The second I hope to obtain from someone willing to visit a MacAdam store in San Francisco. As noted on DealMac on Monday, the retailer is selling Mac OS X 10.0.3 bundled with the 10.1 and 9.2.1 updaters for just $50 through the end of the month. Since they have no online presence, I’m hoping to find someone willing to buy and ship me a copy.

I use a lot of software. Here’s the list and the status of OS X versions:

  • Claris Emailer, never gonna happen. I’ll be looking for an OS X-based alternative.
  • Claris Home Page, no chance. Don’t care for the existing WYSIWYG products. May end up creating my own full compliant WYSIWYG HTML editor as a way to brush up long unused programming skills.
  • Internet Explorer, comes with OS X.
  • iCab, already available for OS X.
  • Photoshop. I’m still using version 4, looking to pick up a copy of 5.5 on eBay, and in no hurry to pay for a current version – but it will be available for OS X in coming months.
  • GraphicConverter, already available in a Carbon version for OS X.
  • BBEdit Lite 4.6, never gonna happen. I have reasons for sticking with this old version, but the full-fledged version is available for OS X.
  • WebChecker, I hope so, although there are probably other URL trackers available to replace it.
  • Mizer 1.3, which weeds out all the extraneous stuff from my Web pages. I’m sure there are newer programs to do the same thing under OS X, but if I write my own HTML editor, it will include code compression.
  • FileMaker Pro 3, which I don’t use much these days. Version 5 is available for OS X, but I can’t justify the cost for my limited use.
  • QuicKeys is available for OS X. I’ve been depending on it for years. I hope the OS X version will be as powerful and friendly as I’m used to.
  • TextSoap is a great text cleaner. I use it daily. I’m using version 2, and version 3 (a $9.95 upgrade) “adds full support for Mac OS X.”
  • MYOB Account Edge has been OS X ready for months. After a year, I’m finally getting comfortable with the way accounting software works.
  • Tax software. We’ve used both TurboTax and Kiplinger TaxCut. I know one of the two was great, but the other drove us crazy. We’ll probably do that under OS 9 this year, and OS X-native tax software shouldn’t be an issue by 2003.
  • Virtual PC. No, I don’t do Windows, but Switched On Schoolhouse, the home schooling curriculum we use, is Windows only. We’re using VPC 3.0 with Win95 on the iBook and a SuperMac S900. We’re debating whether to leave one of the older Macs running 9.1 so we can avoid the cost up upgrading to VPC 5.0.
  • Default Folder, an indispensable control panel. OS X doesn’t have control panels, but St. Clair Software is working on bringing that power to OS X with Default Folder X. “Yes, it requires patching OS X, but we’ve had so many requests for it and I can’t stand working without it….”
  • CopyAgent, a control panel from Connectix that intelligently copies only changed/different files between drives. Great for those who do manual backup by dragging a whole folder to another drive and want the computer to handle all the details. No indication Connectix will be developing an OS X version.
  • MenuChoice, a control panel that manages hierarchical menus under the Apple menu, will never be updated. I don’t know how necessary it will be under OS X and whether alternatives exist, but it’s been a godsend under System 7.1 through 9.2.2.
  • PopChar Lite, long discontinued freeware, lets you choose those rarely typed characters (such as © and ™) with your mouse. Uni Software is debating whether they can create a version of PopChar Pro for OS X – and is making no promises at present.
  • SmoothType does better antialiasing of fonts than Apple’s font rendering or ATM – at least that’s my opinion of this valuable control panel. Mac OS X includes systemwide antialiasing, so this may be unnecessary under OS X. That said, SmoothType does work inside Classic Mode.
  • Retrospect Client lets us backup our Macs on our network. Retrospect 5.0 will offer full OS X support, but it’s only in beta right now. I don’t like the idea of running my TiBook without a safety net, so I may need to boot into OS 9 each day for backup until Retrospect 5 is ready.
  • SETI@home is available in both GUI and command line versions for OS X. ET, are you out there?
  • SimCity 2000. Nah, I’ll just have to run that one in Classic Mode when I want to play games. Ditto for Shanghai.
  • Oh, and let’s not forget Microsoft Word. I have it so I can open Word files. I’d never dream of writing with it. No way I’ll pay the Beast of Redmond for a copy of Word X.
  • Norton Utilities 6.0 already supports OS X partitions, although it doesn’t run under OS X. Good enough for now.
  • Freehand 8. My ancient copy of Freehand 5.5 just doesn’t like OS 9.1 and beyond, so I’m trying to find a reasonably priced copy of 8.0 on eBay. There won’t be any rush to go X unless I find myself using it a lot more than expected.

I don’t know what will become of Disk Warrior or the TechTool Deluxe software that came with AppleCare for my TiBook. On the other hand, if OS X is as stable as everyone says, there may be a lot less need for disk utilities.

We’ll know a lot more when we get our first copy of Mac OS X installed and have a chance to run it through its paces. Check back next week as we begin chronicling our hands on experience.

Keywords: #macosx

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