Collection Spotlight

Jaguar on WallStreet: Not as Slow as You Might Think!

- 2007.07.11 - Tip Jar

I recently got a new WallStreet Series II off eBay, a 300 MHz model with a 14" LCD, 64 MB of RAM, and no hard drive. I bought it to replace my Series I, which had a dead hard drive and the troublesome 13" LCD, which had died.

You'd think that bad experience with a WallStreet would put me off these machines, but the fact that they are so modular, the great keyboard, and their cheap price on eBay (I got this one for $160, and it came with the DVD drive and card - which go for $50-100 individually - so this was a awesome deal).

I had a spare 40 GB hard drive, 128 MB of RAM (bumping the RAM up to the Apple maximum of 192 MB), and a battery from my old WallStreet (the hard drive came from a friend's dead HP Pavilion), so installing the RAM and hard drive was the first thing I did. I then installed Mac OS 9 and upgraded to version 9.2.2.

It was fine, but after two weeks it started acting up and slowed down significantly. I was also noticing how bad the Internet ran, and my initial intentions to port Firefox fell through the cracks.

So, I figured, why not throw Mac OS X 10.2 "Jaguar" on it, just to see how it runs. The worst that could happen is the machine dies, and since this isn't a production machine (that title is reserved to my faithful Blue & White G3 running Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger"), that wouldn't be a big deal.

Besides, I was sure I could make more than I paid for it if I parted out the new WallStreet if the worst case scenario came true.

The Downgrade

One thing I must point out: When the WallStreet came to me, it wouldn't boot. Over the course of two days, I determined it to be the 300 MHz processor card. This was a top-of-the-line machine in its day, as the bottom sticker indicates it came with the 8 GB hard drive. However, with the 300 MHz card it would produce a chime, but nothing on the LCD or an external display.

I quickly swapped in my old 233 MHz processor card. My old WallStreet was something of a hybrid; it had the ill-fated 13" LCD, but it's 233 MHz processor card had the 512 KB level 2 cache of the 233 MHz Series II model.

A quick transfer of RAM, and I got a flashing question mark, beckoning me to install an OS. I did just that, and as I mentioned previously, it quickly went south.

Installing Jaguar

Now that I had the excuse to install Jaguar, I needed a copy of it. By Blue & White G3 came with a Jaguar CD set (on three CDs: two for installing and one with updates to 10.2.8). However, every time I attempted an install on my old B&W, it would install fine, but after the first reboot, I would get some weird horizontal lines (almost like static) over the gray Apple logo. A quick Google search indicated that this was a sign of a bad CD set. (There was a video of this phenomenon on YouTube.) Anyway, another trip to eBay, and I had a retail CD set in my hands in days.

I hastily installed this copy on my WallStreet, taking into account the 8 GB limit. Following guidelines on Low End Mac, I partitioned the hard drive into three partitions: 7.45 GB at the beginning of the drive for OS X, 5 GB for OS 9, and the remaining 25 GB or so for everything else (documents, photos, music, movies, etc.).

Finder Preferences (from Tiger)Two hours later I had a nice new copy of OS X Jaguar. I set it up and logged in, but one thing I noticed - there was nothing on my desktop! No hard drives. Nothing. I even chose Preferences for the Finder and made sure the boxes were checked.

I had to choose New Finder Window if I wanted to navigate about my computer. I traveled to my Home folder and discovered there was no desktop item to choose. That's not right. I quickly determined that something messed up during the install. So I rebooted off the installer CD, formatted, and reinstalled.

This time I did a custom install and unchecked everything. I could always install the BSD subsystem, additional applications, and HP printer drivers later. This time it only took an hour, and after setting up again, I was presented with my three partitions on my desktop. It worked!

Then I installed everything I had left out, did a few software updates to get it all updated, and now I have a fresh, clean interface.

How Well Does It Work?

I was very surprised at how new my PowerBook felt - and how fast it really was. Apps launch quickly, and the system boots in less than 3 minutes, almost as fast as my Blue & White G3. I'm really enjoying the default background, the pinstriped Aqua, and the semitransparent inactive window title bars, something I had never experienced with OS X, since I came in at version 10.3. I must say I like this better and am looking for a haxie that will restore this functionality to Tiger.

A few things I was unfamiliar with. One was having to go to System Preferences, click the Software Update panel, then click Check Now, and then get a list of available software updates. I miss the Software Update... link in my Apple menu. Also, the toolbar at the top of Finder windows is a bit weird, and I miss having the shortcuts in the sidebar - but not the brushed metal Finder windows. I like the lighter feeling of Aqua.

One thing I am pleased to see is that network printing works. I have an old HP DeskJet 842c hooked to my B&W G3 over USB, and I just turned on printer sharing in the Sharing system preference on the B&W, and now I can print to it from the WallStreet over my network.

This never worked in OS 9, even though I followed the article in Tiger Help on setting it up as a Postscript printer in OS 9. I'm just happy it works - and very well, too.

My Office Suite of choice, AppleWorks 6, runs very well in it's OS X incarnation, something I found out in Tiger. I wish Apple would update AppleWorks, but I doubt that will happen, as it has not received an update since 2004. It still feels very light and fun in 2007. In fact, I am writing this article in AppleWorks 6.2.9 on my WallStreet using it's awesome keyboard. Take that, iWork.

Safari 1.0 just doesn't work as nicely as I am sure it did back in 2003. The Web of 2007 has changed significantly. I was surprised to see that Firefox 2.0.0.1 (the latest as of this writing) runs just fine on Jaguar. It's nice to have a browser with a modern interface, something I struggled with in OS 9. I'm having to get used to using older versions of several programs I use with Tiger on my B&W, though some of the latest versions of some programs I use work just fine.

A Few Caveats

Although I have only experienced one major crash (when I inserted a WiFi card, which I assume was not supported, I got the "please restart your computer" dialog), I have experienced a few minor oddities. One of these is that when I mount the hard drive of my B&W over the network and am browsing around, sometimes I get an invisible icons bug, almost like what I have seen in some Panther betas. Also, when trying to copy over large amounts of files, it will get through part way, then give me an error type -50.

Both of these are resolved by going in reverse and mounting the hard drive(s) of the WallStreet on my B&W G3's desktop.

Another weird bug is a -127 when putting my admin password into Onyx (version 1.3.1 works with Jaguar), the best maintenance tool there is. No big deal, as I haven't had anything bad go wrong - and if it does, I could use something else.

Conclusion

Should you load Jaguar onto your WallStreet? If you have the RAM, I would say yes. Even with only 233 MHz, the big cat really purrs.

However, first make sure all your peripherals are supported, or you may end up with a panic, as I did. Or you may not.

I inserted a Belkin WiFi card, which is 802.11g and uses a Broadcom chipset (same as AirPort Extreme), and it wouldn't work. It would show up in the PC card quay, but it showed up as an unknown network controller. It turns out that the card I have is a newer revision than what is supported. No big deal; since my batteries are shot, I mostly run this tethered to a spare ethernet cable.

If you haven't made the switch to OS X yet, I suggest you pick up a copy of Jaguar and do so. If you're afraid you won't like it, make a backup of your hard drive first. You can always go back. However, I don't think you will, as even in 2007, Jaguar is a very modern feeling OS. LEM

Further Reading

  • Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar, John Siracusa, Ars Technica, 2002.09.05. An in-depth review posted 10 days after Jaguar shipped.

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