The Mac Webb

OS X on a Beige G3

- 2002.03.25

Many of you have followed my recent attempts to simplify my computer life.

Late last year, I found myself with no less than eight computers running at my home. Each of these machines was running a small piece of my computing tasks. The large number can be attributed to my love of tinkering and my love of eBay.

After throwing a tantrum over difficulty finding some data, I decided enough was enough. I sold or gave away six of my machines, holding on to a dual USB iBook for the wife and a Dell laptop I needed for work.

With the proceeds, I bought a new TiBook 400 at close-out prices and threw in a 48 GB drive and 512 MB of RAM. The TiBook is a wonderful machine, capable of replacing my desktops and allowing me to have all of my data and applications with me at all times.

After a recent change in jobs, I no longer needed my Dell laptop. Cruising the Internet for selling options, I found a gentleman in Austin who needed a Dell laptop. Rather than buy the machine outright, we made a deal for a trade. He had a Power Mac G3/300 MT (AV version) that he no longer needed. We met in Austin, and I soon had another Mac desktop. I felt no guilt in this new acquisition, as my total number of units remained the same.

The G3 machine is strong enough to run current applications and will serve as a great way to eliminate any storage issues with my PowerBook. My thought was to reformat the 38 GB of drive space and install OS 9.2.2 with all my associated applications.

I set up my drives and completed the OS install, installing all of the applications I use, and getting the machine hooked up to my network. I was impressed with the system performance in OS 9 and was happily working.

Then it happened! I grabbed my OS X disk and decided I would give the modern OS a try on the older machine. I did not expect much by way of performance, but I am hooked both on tinkering and on OS X's stability.

Over the span of about two hours, I installed, updated, tweaked and got OS X into the configuration I like. I rebooted and sat down to give the machine a push through its OS X paces. After a few hours, I realized that performance in OS X is very good, similar to our iBook - and maybe even close to my Ti. The machine has 320 MB of RAM, which seems to be the major factor in OS X speed. After those first two hours, I knew that I would never boot into OS 9 on this machine again.

While the older ATI RAGE video is not fully supported by Apple, I found no major speed issues while using the machine. As I have written here previously, I find the ability to work in multiple application smoothly and the overall stability of the OS more than makes up for any speed loss over OS 9's GUI.

My current OS X application ran very smoothly, although I decided to keep MS Office (and all other Microsoft products) off of this machine. As my interest in computer gaming has waned over the years, I have found myself able to keep machines for longer periods of time before upgrades.

My current needs are simple: Web, email, word processing, MP3s, and the odd movie. Based on this usage, I have found OS X performance to be quite acceptable on older G3 machines. Based on my experiences with machines ranging from G4/500s to this older G3, I find the delta between performance to be very slight.

For those of you running Beige G3s who are concerned by all of the speed complaints regarding OS X, give it a try. You will find that performance is quite good, and the OS is extremely stable. LEM

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