Going Ten, Step 2: Installation and First Impressions

2002 – I obtained my first full copy of Mac OS X on Wednesday afternoon. I’ve got a second copy on order, since I know I’ll be migrating my TiBook and want to have a legal second copy for all my testing.


I’ve had a copy of the 10.1 update since the weekend, but despite all the hype on the Web, it seems you can’t use Disk Copy to make an image of the 10.1 update CD, remove the single file I won’t name here, and then burn a 10.1 full install CD unless you already have OS X up and running. You can’t perform the hack from OS 9.x, so I don’t see what Apple has been so concerned about.

Mac OS X 10.0 Cheetah

Installing OS X 10.0.3

That said, it was a long, slow, tedious process installing OS X on my one-year old 400 MHz TiBook (exactly one year old today). This is my production machine, so I didn’t want to install OS X on the main partition – just in case.

I loaded the 10.0.3 installer CD, double-clicked the installer, booted from the OS X CD, then chose my “emergency” partition as the place I wanted to install OS X, and then let the installer run for about 20 minutes. I found a very nice touch: When the installer was done running, it rebooted the Mac without waiting for me. Smooth move, Apple!

I booted into 10.0.3, did some basic setup and configuration, and was very, very impressed with the entire look of the new OS. Unlike the classic Mac OS, which grew from a strictly 1-bit GUI into one that had to support 2-, 4-, and 8-bit grayscale and color, and then to support 16- and 24-bit video, Aqua has no such legacy. It doesn’t need outlines around everything.

It’s a very different look from that of my old Mac Plus, Centris 610, SuperMac J700, or TiBook under various versions of the classic Mac OS, but it doesn’t feel foreign. It’s like deja vu all over again – I feel like I’ve been here before, even though I haven’t used OS X since the beta.

Kudos to Apple for creating such an inviting interface.

Installing 10.1

Then I popped in the 10.1 update, double-clicked that installer, booted from that CD, ran the installer, and had the whole TiBook ready to reboot about 20-25 minutes later.

If I’d had a full 10.1 installer (and I may create a hacked install CD for my own use), I could have trimmed 20-25 minutes from the process.

Mac OS X 10.1 Puma

From 10.1, I downloaded iCab and did some experimenting – launch Classic, visit some favorite sites, fiddle with some favorite Classic apps, send an email or two. I was stunned – it just worked. Weird. Wild. Wonderful!

I have a little experience with emulators and DOS cards, but none of that prepared me for running my “classic” software exactly as I always had. Exactly. Amazing.

Even stranger was launching WebChecker, double-clicking a URL, and having this classic application open the site in the OS X version of Internet Explorer (if it’s active – if not, WebChecker will launch the classic version of IE 5.1). Or clicking on an email link in Explorer X and having it launch Claris Emailer in Classic Mode (after I switched the default email application from Apple’s email program).

The integration between the two environments is seamless. The biggest difference is the icons in the dock – OS X apps have much nicer icons, while those for classic apps look chunkier.

Getting to 10.1.2

From here, it was several passes through the Software Update control panel and several reboots before I had all the IE updates, security updates, OS updates, etc. to have the current version of Mac OS X installed.

Installing updates is a three-step process. The update control panel first downloads the necessary file(s), then installs the updates, then goes through and optimizes the system. Downloading is pretty fast with a cable modem, and installing is fairly quick, but just when you think you’re almost done, the optimizer kicks in and makes you wait.

By this time, it was nearly 4:30 and time for the afternoon site update. Although everything seemed to be working fine in Classic, I chose to reboot into 9.2.2 and get everything done efficiently in the more familiar environment.

The Beige G3

Beige Power Mac G3The next step was to set up the 266 MHz Beige Power Mac G3 with a 15″ multiscan monitor, since I simply couldn’t imagine using OS X on a 12″ 640 x 480 grayscale display.

The first snag was easily solved – when I’d reinstalled the CD-ROM drive, I’d neglected to connect the wires. Shut down, move monitor, open case, connect cables, shut case, replace monitor, start Power Mac, get OS X 10.0.3 CD in the drive, and then boot from it. Then run the installer. Then register.

And then update to 10.1, which took a whole lot longer than it did in my 400 MHz TiBook. Whether that was due to the slower processor, the slower hard drive (a 1987 vintage 4 GB drive), or the fact that this time I was installing OS X on a drive that already contained Mac OS 9.2.2, I’d guess it took twice as long for this and most of the other updates.

It took some time, which really didn’t concern me, since I was letting the G3 handle the install while I watched Smallville (perhaps my favorite new TV series) and Star Trek: Enterprise (a different kind of Star Trek). I’d run down during ads to see if it was time to reboot or run the next software update.

Reboot, Reboot, Reboot

There was one thing that really surprised me about OS X: Almost every updater (almost, but not all) requires rebooting the system. This is just the opposite of what you hear from most Unix admins and Linux lovers. They can upgrade almost anything without rebooting the OS. Why can’t OS X work that way?

Also, it was frustrating the way I had to run one software update after another after another. Each depended on the previous one. Why couldn’t Apple set things up so the security update, printer support, 10.1.2, etc. could all be installed in a single pass?

On the other hand, it’s all installed on my TiBook and on the old Beige G3 now. Most of all, OS X works. That’s my first impression: It really, truly, honestly works, finally giving Mac users the stability of Unix, a visual appearance that puts Windows XP and even the classic Mac OS with Kaleidoscope to shame, and seamless integration with old Mac software.

It’s a stunning achievement. I can’t communicate just how impressed I am by it, and by little details like the screen saver modules that zoom right into the picture on my G4 and make me want to be on the beach – or intelligently give up on doing that on the less powerful Beige G3, which just displays the pretty pictures.

As Steve Watkins is fond of noting (see 10 Forward! and 10 Forward, Part 2), all the old commands and functionality seem to be there in OS X, only in different places. And new functions, while sometimes hard to find, are excellent. Don’t like huge desktop icons or a monstrous dock? OS X let’s you make them as small as you want.

That said, I’m glad the old Apple 15″ Multiscan on the Beige G3 supports 832 x 624 – anything smaller than 800 x 600 would feel hopelessly constricted under Aqua. Of course, I feel constricted with anything smaller than the 1152 x 768 “megawide” display on my TiBook. Maybe the scalable icons would make OS X usable on a smaller monitor, but I can’t even set the Beige G3 to run at 640×480 under OS X.


I did a couple quick benchmarks in Classic with no OS X apps running and made some interesting discoveries. CPU scores were 8-15% lower and math scores were about 8% lower. That’s to be expected, since OS X will always be running some processes.

Surprisingly, both benchmarks I ran on disk performance came out much better under OS X running Classic than under native Mac OS 9. Speedometer 4 gave a 24% higher disk score after four iterations, and MacBench 5 had an 85% improvement on the disk benchmark. Mac OS X may sacrifice a little CPU performance to allow background tasks to run uninterrupted, but it rocks in the drive department.

Of course, these only measure the performance of old benchmarks in Classic mode. Time to find some good X-native benchmarks to really see what the OS is capable of.

Going Forward

At this point I want to leave OS X as stock as possible for a few days. I’m not too impressed with the font rendering in comparison to SmoothType (classic Mac OS only), but at this point I remain mostly amazed that it works at all, let alone that OS X works so well.

It does such a good job creating the Classic environment that I actually have access to my ramBunctious RAM disks in Classic Mode. That said, booting Classic is a slow process.

One thing I’d like to see is a bit more intelligence there, such as letting me create a setup in Extensions Manager that OS X would use when booting into Classic. For instance, it seems silly to have SETI@home running both under OS X and inside Classic, although it also seems to work just fine.

Allowing users to create a special set of extensions for Classic mode would not only let us disable add-ons that are unwanted, unnecessary, or incompatible, but also speed the boot time of the Classic environment.

More next week, after I’ve been able to spend a few days getting comfortable with OS X and start updating the few classic apps I own that are also available for OS X.

Keywords: #macosx

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