I Switched (from OS 9 to OS X)

2003 – Today marks 10 days since I installed Mac OS X 10.2.3 Jaguar on my 400 MHz PowerBook G4.

10 Forward

Since upgrading from 10.1.5 to Jaguar, I’ve only booted into Mac OS 9.2.2 twice. The first time was right after the nearly three hour process of installing 10.2, updating it to 10.2.3, and updating several applications. I had to get the afternoon site update done in a hurry, so I went with what was fast and familiar. Then I booted back into OS X.

The second time was on Tuesday. I ran some of the preventive maintenance programs suggested on How to Deal with Common Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar Problems and decided it would be a good time to run Norton Speed Disk and defragment my hard drive. Then back into OS X, where it’s been ever since.

Going Back

This was the first time I’d gone more than a weekend in OS X, and going back into OS 9 on Tuesday was a bit of an alien experience, sort of like going back to System 7.x after getting used to the improved appearance and new features of Mac OS 8.1.

Everyone seems to agree that Mac OS 9 is faster than OS X regardless of your hardware. That said, the benefit of Jaguar isn’t ultimate speed; it’s rock solid stability. And performance under Jaguar is an improvement over earlier versions of OS X, even on my two-year-old 400 MHz PowerBook that emphatically does not support Quartz Extreme.

With enough system memory (512 MB) and a fast (5400 rpm with 8 MB buffer), spacious (20 GB, twice as big as as the original 10 GB and still 40% empty) hard drive, this old PowerBook G4 works very comfortably in 10.2.3. I don’t anticipate going back to booting the Classic Mac OS.

Classic Mode

My primary tools are email, the Web, Claris Home Page, AppleWorks, and Photoshop 5.5. My most useful utilities are Default Folder, Mizer, BBEdit Lite 4.6, WebChecker, TextSoap, and X-Launch. I’m also finding that File Synchronization works nicely as an alternative to Copy Agent in OS 9.

There are a lot of email clients and Web browsers to choose from. I’ll probably use Mail as my primary email program in OS X. Safari looks like the leader to replace IE as my primary browser. AppleWorks is already OS X-native, and I don’t use Photoshop enough to even consider investing in a newer version.

There is a version of Default Folder for OS X, but right now I’m using it primarily with classic apps, and the classic version works just fine in Classic Mode. Mizer is a discontinued HTML compression program; I’ve downloaded four possible replacements over the weekend, but it’s a small, fast classic application that I really don’t see any need to replace.

The same goes for BBEdit Lite. I’ve stuck with version 4.6 because of one feature no longer included in the free version, and I haven’t seen a reason to justify the expense of the full commercial version.

I’ve already commented on WebChecker, but this is another case where there’s really no penalty for using a classic application. TextSoap is available in an OS X version, but I haven’t even tried it yet. The Dock would make X-Launch unnecessary, since it’s a file launcher for the Classic Mac OS, but it’s also a nice way to keep classic apps off the Dock until they’re launched.

More on Safari

Apple updated the Safari beta from v48 to v51 late last week. The two glitches I mentioned last Thursday are still present and there seems to be a new problem with Yahoo Games as well (I’m hooked on their euchre).

Yahoo uses a lot of Java applets, and each browser handles them differently. IE and iCab work well, although each is likely to freeze up now and then. Some of the other browsers quit completely when you leave a game room or won’t let you enter text while in a lounge or at a table.

I never noticed any problems with Safari v48, but since upgrading to v51 I sometimes lose the ability to enter text in a lounge after leaving a table. I never ran into this problem with v48. And I’ve also had Safari hang two or three times and require a forced quit, something else I don’t recall running into with the earlier beta.

I have, of course, sent bug reports to Apple, and I hope everyone else testing Safari is doing the same. Safari already offers most of the capabilities of IE and iCab, has a very efficient design, and only seems to lack one big feature power users crave – the tabbed browsing found in Chimera, Mozilla, and Netscape 7.

OS X Annoyances

Although I’m now comfortable enough in OS X to call it my primary operating system, there are some things it does that I don’t really care for. At the top of the list is the way OS X opens all Finder windows near the center of the screen – and all the same size. Under the Classic Mac OS, it remembered where I had positioned a window and what size and shape it had. I could have short/wide windows or tall/skinny ones.

Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar

By defaulting to overlapping windows near the center of the screen, Apple makes it that much more work for users to drag files from one location to another. Shoot, OS X even makes it impossible to open two folders located in the same folder at the same time without opening two new Finder windows.

I do like the way OS X minimizes window clutter by opening the contents of one folder inside another, as well as the navigation buttons that make it very easy to migrate back a level. There are definitely some good aspects to the OS X Finder.

Then again, OS X seems to reorder the items on the desktop any time I restart the computer. You can tell it to sort these items by name, date, size, etc., but then they’ll move around when you add a new file to the desktop. The old Mac OS was more elegant in this respect – it remembered where things were and left them there until you told it to rearrange things.

I still find the Dock a mixed blessing. It’s a great application launcher and switcher, but it gets in the way when you’re trying to resize a window with a resize box behind the Dock. I don’t like the solution of hiding the Dock, and I’ve already suggested one way Apple could solve this problem that’s based in prior Mac OS design.

And I still hate the way the Trash tries to move out of the way when I’m trying to put something in it rather than on the Dock. The Classic Mac OS Trash never moved around like that, nor do waste baskets in the real world.

I also wish OS X could hide the “DS_Store” files from classic apps. Claris Home Page sees them and insists on uploading them along with other site changes.

Finally, I hate the way doing Force Quit on a Classic Mode application quits the whole classic environment. Apple, can you fix this?


A final problem has nothing to do with X per se. I had some problems with my browsers not displaying PDF files using Acrobat, so I decided to delete the old version of Acrobat Reader and install the latest version. I can’t.

I can download the installer. I can run the installer. But it always generates an error, so I can’t install Acrobat at all. So now my browsers can’t display PDF files.

I hope Adobe can fix this soon.

Summing Up

It took about a year from my first installation of OS X until I adopted it as my primary operating system. Jaguar is a big improvement over earlier versions, there are more useful utilities to give OS X the capabilities of the Classic Mac OS, and the seamless integration of Classic Mode means I don’t have to rush into abandoning old software that has served me well for years.

I am not an OS X purist. I see no reason to abandon classic applications unless there is a better solution that is OS X-native and affordable. It’s up to software makers to get me to make that switch – and they’re trying.

I plan on migrating most of my email to Apple’s Mail application, which is an OS X-only solution. I am using Safari as much as possible, and it’s also only available on OS X. iTunes 3 is much better than iTunes 2 – another reason for switching.

In ten days, I’ve made OS X my own. If you have the hardware to support it (plenty of RAM, lots of space on a fast hard drive, and nothing less than an 800 x 600 display), it’s time to think about making the switch. You’ll gain stability, Safari, iPhoto, iTunes 3, Mail, and lots more.

No, it’s not perfect yet. HP still doesn’t provide a driver that lets me choose all of the input options on my printer. Mouse response still tends to be a bit ragged, which means you sometimes need to click a button a second time before the OS recognizes the click. And there’s other room for improvement as well.

But this is the future of the Mac. Unless you’re perfectly content with your current system and setup, you’ll probably end up here eventually. There’s no need to rush into OS X, but there are less reasons for postponing the migration than ever before.

Memory and hard drives are cheap, so even if your Mac is toward the lower end of supported hardware, boosting RAM to 256 MB or beyond (the more the merrier) is not very costly, and 3.5″ 7200 rpm hard drives with 2-8 MB buffers are often available for under $100 after rebates.

Of course, the best way to upgrade to Jaguar is by buying a new Mac that includes it. That avoids the $129 cost of OS X and may give you more RAM, a larger and/or faster hard drive, better graphics, and other features your old Mac doesn’t have. Sometimes it is more economical to buy new than to upgrade; sometimes not.

Sometimes the better value is in the middle – upgrading to a newer computer, but not necessarily a new one. That’s how I started my Mac ownership, with a discontinued Mac Plus, and it’s how I moved up from a five-year-old Centris 610 to a Umax SuperMac J700 when SuperMac discontinued its clones. Only the Centris and my 400 MHz TiBook were purchased when they were current models.

Regardless, it your hardware is up to the challenge, I suggest you give OS X a try this year. I can’t promise that you’ll like it right away. I can promise that it will annoy you at first. Give it time; you have a lot of Classic Mac OS experience to help you make the switch – and to trip you up because of the differences.

In the end, though, I think you’ll find the stability, the flexibility, and the OS X-only software will win you over at the same time that Classic Mode lets you keep your old apps alive and well as long as you want to keep using them.

Unless you can’t imagine ever leaving the comfort of the Classic Mac OS and classic apps behind, it’s time to think different and start planning your switch to OS X.

Keywords: #macosx #osxjaguar

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