Acoustic Mac

A Diehard OS 9 User Makes the Big Leap

Beverly Woods - 2005.02.23 - Tip Jar

Hello everyone! It's been a long time since I've written a column here at Low End Mac, but I've heard from a few people who have asked me to write more, so I'm back. I'll write columns as I have time and inclination, and I hope to hear more from you loyal Acoustic Mac fans out there.

I've been spending a lot of time at the border of OS 9 and OS X. My first Mac was an iMac 350. Now I've upgraded to an iMac DV 400 so I can have FireWire.

For the last few years I have been running a Western Digital 30 GB hard drive in my iMac with separate partitions for OS 9 and OS X. For whatever reason, that hard drive didn't sleep properly: often when I booted in OS 9, if the machine went to sleep by itself, the drive would "catch" - it would spin up, catch, spin down, spin up, catch, spin down, not stopping unless I succeeded in waking the iMac or turning it off.

I was able to get around this by choosing "Spin Down Hard Drive" from the control strip and then putting it to sleep. But in OS X, it would get stuck in this "catching" most of the times I tried to put it to sleep, forcing me to shut the machine off when I was finished with it - if I didn't want it up and running 24/7.

That dampened my enthusiasm for booting in OS X considerably. Result: Until the last month, I was booting in OS 9 almost all the time.

I knew Apple had pronounced OS 9 dead. My answer to that was: "Not until you make something that works better for me, it's not!"

I believe we may have finally reached that point.

It's been a long slow road for some aspects of OS X to really get smoothed out and worth using. Near the top of my list of things that still don't seem to be really up to spec is the support for Apple's own dialup modems and Internet Connect over dialup in general.

Apple, if you're listening, there are lots of us out here in rural dialup land who are still trying to use this technology. It is simply not acceptable for a basic function like Internet Connect to fail to work fairly often, and then in too many cases, require a restart to get rid of the endless "Disconnecting . . . Disconnecting . . ." status.

As anyone who is still using OS 9 has noticed, lots of things still work very well, including Remote Access for dialup users. Subscribing to the "if it ain't broke" school, as I do, I've been pretty happy with most of the functionality of OS 9 for most of the things I do.

The one all too significant exception is the continuing deterioration in usability of the Internet from OS 9 browsers.

I don't know what the heck they're doing out there in JavaScript land, but there are more and more sites that either load like molasses in January (and let me assure you that here in New Hampshire this January's molasses was extra slow) or just won't work at all.

Here I have to insert a note of chastisement to PayPal, which last year discontinued support for most OS 9 browsers and (according to their tech support) all versions of Internet Explorer. Maybe this move on their part made sense, except that they didn't bother to post any notices of this change on their site, leaving thousands of users to muddle through - "What's going on? It worked last week!"

I had been using iCab with success for 99% of my OS 9 browsing, but PayPal changed something so that although iCab could log in just fine, any attempt to pay by credit card dumped me instead into the "Add a Bank Account" screen. I finally switched to Mozilla for OS 9, which works - except that it takes about 20 minutes to pay for something that way: each page takes several minutes to load. Kind of removes the "convenience" idea.

Recently I finally got around to buying and installing a new hard drive, and I am now running OS X 10.3.4. I have the updates to go to 10.3.7, but I had such serious problems with Internet Connect in 10.3.5 and 10.3.6 that I decided to stick with 10.3.4 for now.

The new hard drive sleeps beautifully, and I have plenty of space (120 GB set me back 20% of the price of my first external 1 GB drive back in 1997). I booted in 10.3 and have hardly been out of it since.

The last few weeks I've been very busy figuring out my new work routines and what software to use. I've been very happy with the OS X browsers I'm using: currently my browsing is split between iCab and Firefox.

iCab was ahead to start, as I'd been using it in OS 9, but as new extensions are added to Firefox it may be edging ahead. In extensions, I am especially fond of FlashBlock, which stops auto-loading of Flash-based advertising on web pages (ugh!), and Nuke Anything, which instantly removes any offending item from any page - a wonderful feature that should be available in every browser.

Most of the other applications I depend on will run fine in Classic mode.

Here's another little pet peeve: the Epson printer drivers are better in OS 9/Classic than they are in OS X. For instance, the OS X drivers will only allow printing in color for many Epson printers - you can't choose to print in black even for a plain text document. This is ridiculous and needs to be fixed. So much for staying in OS X and not launching Classic - I find myself copying documents I wrote in OS X into Classic apps so I can print them without using up my color ink.

Because I'm running Classic all the time, I haven't had to switch my email program yet, although the day is coming. I am still using (gasp!) Outlook Express 4.5.

I've downloaded a number of email programs, and I'm still not certain which one I'll go with, although Thunderbird may be a good possibility.

Why not use Apple's Mail, you ask? There are several features I want in an email program, and Mail does not have them all. And I ruled out one other email program because I want to be able to remove an attachment while keeping the rest of an email, and it wouldn't let me to do that. LEM

Next time: OS X Freeware I Wouldn't Want to Be Without

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