Good News and Bad News About the Jaguar Update and Other Thoughts on OS X

2003 – The good news: The Mac OS X v10.2 Jaguar upgrade CD can be turned into a full install CD using nothing more than Disk Copy, the Terminal, and a CD burner. Terminal seems to be the crucial piece; without it I wasted two CD-Rs trying to make an installer.


I won’t provide instructions on locating and removing the CheckForOSX resource that has to be removed. That would lead to a letter from Apple’s lawyers, and I’m just not in the mood.

It’s not that it’s illegal to make a backup copy of the OS X install or update CDs, nor that it’s illegal to modify such CDs. If you own the CD, you have the right to make a backup copy and modify it for personal use. The legal question is whether I have the right to tell you how to do that.

But rest assured that it can be done. I now have a clean install of Jaguar running on my Beige G3 and on the external FireWire drive connected to my TiBook. And it seems faster than what I’d been using, which had been 10.0 updated to 10.1 updated to 10.2 updated to 10.2.4 with some steps in between.

The bad news: If you want to be up to date, even after installing Jaguar, you’ll need to run Software Update three separate times to get all of the updates released since Jaguar came out.

Mac OS 9

It takes a long time to install Jaguar. CDs aren’t fast – especially on the PowerBook – and Jaguar comes on two CDs. Add to that the series of updates, and I was without my TiBook for 2-3 hours yesterday. (Add to that the hour or so it took to finally get a working installer from the upgrade CD, and you’ll see that Monday wasn’t a productive day.)

blueberry iMacWhile that was going on, I installed the latest versions of iCab on the 333 MHz iMac and my old SuperMac S900, which coincidentally has a 333 MHz G3 upgrade. Both have plenty of memory, and I hope to try OS X on the iMac at some point, but for now they’re both running OS 9.x.

The little old iMac is a competent machine. I hate the original keyboard, but I don’t have the money to replace it. My wife has purchased a Macally iOptiJr Mouse for it, which is very nice, albeit a bit noisy in the click department. So I logged on to Yahoo Games, played some euchre, and watched my TiBook do the update thing from across the room.

Umax SuperMac S900It was while installing Jaguar on the Beige G3 (yet another 333 MHz machine) that I decided to head on down to the cyberlair (a.k.a. basement family room) and use the SuperMac. Even though my son who uses it has added Kaleidoscope and made it look like OS X, it doesn’t act like OS X. It’s fast. Although the CPU beats at the same speed as those in our iMac and Beige G3, this one has a SCSI hard drive, an accelerated video card, and a larger display. It felt fast and responsive, unlike the iMac, which has a terribly slow hard drive.

Maybe an hour playing euchre reminded me how fast my TiBook had been and how productive I’d been before I had switched to OS X. Of course, now I’m locked in with some X-apps, so I won’t be going back.

It’s the Apps, Stupid

That’s Apple’s key to getting us to migrate from the classic Mac OS, which has served us well for nearly 20 years. Whether it’s the organization of iTunes 3, the spam-identifying capabilities of Mail, the efficiency of Safari or Camino, the usefulness of NetNewsWire Lite, the convenience of iCal, or anything else that requires Mac OS X, once you’ve come to reply on an OS X-only program, you really can’t go back.

I knew that going in, which was part of the reason I was in no hurry to migrate. I was happy with my classic applications. Fortunately every single one of them runs perfectly well in Classic Mode, although Claris Home Page is much slower about uploads than it used to be.


It wasn’t until I was convinced that I could live within OS X that I started using Mail. I’m hooked on its ability to learn what spam looks like, although after two months of use it still has a long ways to go. I’m even feeding it from some of my greatest spam magnet accounts.

That’s the good thing. The bad thing is that Mail could never compete on its own merits (much like early versions of Internet Explorer – if they hadn’t come free with Windows, people would have kept using Netscape). Mail is s-l-o-w. Very slow. It’s slow to display the list of messages in each box. It’s slow to open and display single messages. It’s slow to delete them, too.

In addition to speeding it up, Apple should make a few more improvements. For instance, why can I label an email as Junk in the main pane – but not when I have the individual message open? How can I add words to the dictionary or color code important messages? How do I search a mailbox or the entire collection of messages for a word or phrase?

Mail works nicely with .mac, displays email nicely (and lets me keep graphics off for HTML email – hooray!), and has great anti-spam potential, but PowerMail and Claris Emailer (used in the classic environment) absolutely blow it away in terms of speed and useful features.

There also seems to be a bug with corrupt attachments sent out using Mail. I don’t know; I’ve never sent out an attachment using the program.


The biggest complaint about iCal has been speed. It must be from people with a lot more on their calendars than me. I mostly use iCal to remind me when it’s time to step away from the computer and get ready for my other job. I like it.

iTunes 3

iTunes was nice; iTunes 3 is wonderful. The organizational abilities are wonderful. I don’t use iTunes very often, but I do love the way it works. It I didn’t share my office space, I’d probably use it more. For heavy iTunes users, the features of version 3 are definitely an incentive to migrate from OS 9 to OS X.

On the other hand, iTunes would really benefit from a few more labels. The interface looks nice, but there’s nothing intuitive about some of the buttons.

NetNewsWire Lite

If you’re a bit of a new junkie – especially Mac-related news – and you have Mac OS X on your computer, you really should give NetNewsWire Lite a try. It’s a free program that checks the RSS feeds from your favorite sites. I don’t depend on it, but I sure do like it.

For those interested in creating their own blogs with RSS feeds, the full version of NetNewsWire adds that power. Try it, you’ll like it.


Safari is fast, attractive (okay, not everyone likes the brushed metal appearance), and has incredible bookmark and history management. The next version will include tabbed browsing and some fixes in font handling (visit Surfin’ Safari regularly to keep up to date on developments). It would be my primary browser if it could only work with WebChecker, a program I’ve depended on years for tracking updates on the sites I frequent regularly.

Other room for improvement: When I copy and paste text from Safari, it has a bad tendency to sometimes miss the first letter and almost always puts an extra space behind the text I’ve grabbed. Also, since the Java 1.4.1 release, it takes an awfully long time to open a Euchre table in Yahoo Games.


I haven’t used the browser formerly known as Chimera yet, but I was impressed with Chimera 0.6. It’s a free download. Try it. Compare it with iCab, Safari, Internet Explorer, and OmniWeb. Whether it’s faster than Safari is a matter of great debate, but both are fast and standards compliant. Neither crashes nearly as often as IE 5.2. [Update: It’s March 2016, Camino development ended years ago at version 2.1.2, and it runs on every version of OS X since 10.4 Tiger. I use it almost daily as one tool for updating old content and migrating it to WordPress – this article, for example.]


I tried it. I didn’t like it. Cartoon bubbles for chat text? What is Apple thinking?

Address Book

If this is an application, I sure can’t figure it out. I really like the idea of having a single address book used across various programs, but this feels like a beta.

Sherlock 3

Yawn. I have Google to search the Web – and it’s very easy to access in Safari. I just don’t see the point.

The Ported Software

Then there are the programs that are available for both the classic Mac OS and OS X. They aren’t a reason to switch, but they do mean that once you do migrate, you are less dependent on Classic Mode.


In perpetual beta for years, iCab is a very nice little browser that’s still being developed for the classic Mac OS – and even classic Mac hardware. It is the only modern browser that runs on Mac IIs, Quadras, early PowerBooks, and other pre-PowerPC machines. [Update: iCab 2.9.9 (2008) supports Mac OS 7.5.5 through 9.2.2, iCab 3.05 (also 2008) can run on OS X 10.1 through 10.5 Leopard, iCab 5.1.1 (2013) works with OS X 10.5 through 10.7 Lion, version 5.2 (2014) is for OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard through 10.9 Mavericks, and iCab 5.6.2 (current) runs on OS X 10.7 through 10.11 El Capitan.]

iCab is not the prettiest browser on the planet; it may be the ugliest. It has an unpolished look and feel, but it mostly just works. It’s one of three browsers that works well with Yahoo Games. And it’s free to try. Every Mac user should try it.


I discovered TextSoap several years ago and use it daily to clean up incoming email for both the Low End Mac Mailbag and columns sent in by several of our writers. With standard settings, it can strip out unneeded spaces, put paragraphs back together that are broken by hard line wraps in email programs, and (mostly) straighten smart quotes.

It’s also programmable, and as I discover new types of smart quotes (mostly from the wonderful world of Microsoft), I can add them to a filter I created. The OS X version is very nice, albeit not as lightning fast as the classic version.

There are other programs like this available, but I’m happy enough with the way it works that I don’t even look at alternatives. I even paid the upgrade fee for this very useful shareware program. [Still using TextSoap in 2016!]


This one’s not really a ported application; it works the same way in both Mac operating systems. And that’s as it should be. It’s all the word processing and spreadsheet power I need. Apple really should bundle this with their “pro” models – and give PowerBook and Power Mac buyers one less reason to invest in Microsoft Office.

The OS Itself

I was blown away at how gorgeous a clean install of OS X is when I booted my TiBook and Beige G3 yesterday. That nice background image. Those beautiful huge icons in the dock. All the talk of eye candy aside, Aqua is stunningly attractive.

Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar

vertical Dock in OS X 10.2 Jaguar

The Dock

Of course, then you have to use it. Those beautiful icons waste a lot of screen space, so the first thing you do is make them smaller. And as you launch applications, the Dock gets wider and wider. Pretty soon it grows as wide as allowed, and then it starts making those pretty icons smaller and smaller.

And the Dock gets in the way, particularly with classic applications that hide the resize box behind the Dock. Hiding the Dock might be a solution for some, but I don’t like it. In the end I found that the best way to work around that problem was moving the Dock to the right side of the screen.

Of course, that makes the icons even smaller. My display is 1152 pixels wide, but only 768 pixels high. Subtract from that the width of the menubar and some extra space above and below the Dock, and the whole thing comes in at about 720 pixels (as seen on the right). Of course, this is yet another reason to want a bigger display, and my next PowerBook will undoubtedly have a 1280 x 854 display, which will help out a bit.

Icons that are clearly distinct when large begin to blur, especially the plethora of round blue ones. I had to separate NetNewsWire Lite and Safari icons to keep from clicking the wrong one. Designers, please consider the poor users with smaller displays and make better use of color to help distinguish one icon from another.

I’d much rather have the Dock at the bottom of the screen, where the icons would be 50% bigger than this, but then it gets in the way of the resize tool in Claris Home Page. I’ve tried the option of hiding the Dock, but then it pops up by accident when your mouse hits the right (or wrong) spot on the screen.

The solution, which I proposed in Of Docks and Roadblocks, would be to add a third option besides Show and Hide – tabbed. This would work like the old Control Strip that Mac users have had since the early PowerBook days. Instead of the dock always being displayed or popping up automatically when the mouse is in a certain area, the user could hide and unhide the dock by clicking on a tab.

We just need to convince Apple that this is not a “not invented here” solution, since it’s based on Apple’s own prior art. That would solve the biggest problem I have with the Dock; I love it as a program launcher and program switcher, but I hate the way it gets in the way of things.

The other improvement would be to enable the option of locking the Dock to a corner instead of putting it in the middle, something the OS can do that isn’t officially supported. (There are hacks….)


I had one kernel panic last year. I haven’t had one since moving to Jaguar. A few apps need a Force Quit (Cmd-Opt-Esc) now and then (especially Internet Explorer), but the OS keeps plugging away. I am very impressed with the stability of OS X.


I am less impressed with the diagnostic and utility programs available at this point. Although OS X has been out for over two years, until DiskWarrior 3.0 ships, there are no drive utilities that can be booted and run from an OS X CD.

The hard drive problem I had last week (see A Damaged Hard Drive Can Ruin Your Whole Day – Hooray for Backups!) was undetectable by Apple’s Disk Utility and the version of TechTool that came with AppleCare. Only good old Norton (well, usually good) was even able to detect the problem, and it couldn’t do anything about it. It just sat there spinning its wheels.

I’m looking forward to DiskWarrior 3, which will go beyond the simple directory repair of the current version and add “the ability to monitor drive hardware and warn you of impending drive failure.” That would have been nice a week ago.


There’s a lot more going on behind the scenes in Mac OS X than there ever was in the classic Mac OS. The system simply has more overhead due in part to the demands of Aqua and in part due to the demands of a more robust operating system. Although Jaguar was a real improvement over 10.1, which was better than 10.0, it’s simply not as nimble as the classic Mac OS.

Analogy time. System 6 was a 10.0 Olympic gymnast excelling at a single event. System 7 through OS 9 moved from a single event toward a more rounded model. Unix changes the whole paradigm to something like the decathlon. Speed and agility are factors, but so are strength and endurance.

The more I use OS X on my 400 MHz PowerBook G4, the more I like it – and the more I realize that my hardware is now a bottleneck. That wasn’t the case with OS 9. Pretty much any Mac with a 300 MHz G3, 128 MB of RAM, and a decently fast hard drive is very comfortable under the old Mac OS, as I rediscovered yesterday.

To get decent OS X performance, you want an even faster CPU, a lot more memory, and a faster hard drive. If possible, you also want AGP graphics and Quartz Extreme. I’d guess the 550 MHz or 667 MHz PowerBook G4 would be comfortable performers, especially with 384-512 MB of RAM and a fast hard drive (laptops tend to have 4200 rpm drives – swapping in a 5400 rpm drive makes a big difference).

My goal, finances permitting, is to sell my TiBook in early 2004 and move up to a newer 15″ PowerBook to get the kind of power I really need for OS X. I use classic a lot, and I need a lot of screen space for the kind of work I do, so one of the ‘Books with a 1280 x 854 display and a 667 MHz or faster CPU is essential. That also means Quartz Extreme support and a Combo drive, which would be perfect.

Your hardware needs depend on your software needs. If you don’t run Classic Mode, you may not need as much horsepower or memory. Mac OS X really does work on a 333 MHz Beige G3. It helps to have lots of RAM. It helps to have a faster hard drive. It would help to have a video card instead of relying on internal video. And it would help to overclock the CPU (some day). But it’s an okay performer, especially if you stick with OS X-apps.

Using OS X is an ongoing learning experience. It’s powerful, stable, and visually attractive. It trades some agility for strength – and those of us who knew and loved the classic Mac OS may always complain about the performance trade off – but it really is a great OS for those who have the hardware for it. [Update: Mac OS X gets that kind of performance back when you use an SSD. That was not an option in 2003.]

Of course, that’s not enough of a reason for most Mac users to switch. Except for geeks, most of us need a compelling reason to leave behind what is familiar and move to something different. Useful OS X-only tools like iCal, Safari, NetNewsWire, and Mail are among the reasons to consider the switch, but ultimately it’s your decision whether you might benefit from such a migration or would be better off sticking with the old familiar way of doing things and the efficiency of the classic Mac OS on your current hardware.

The good news is that Apple can never make you switch. Mock funerals aside, OS 9 is alive and well, and you can stick with it or switch on your own schedule.

Keywords: #macosx #osxjaguar

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