Confessions of a die-hard OS X hater.

©Copyright 2007,2008,2009 by Howard S. Modell

Before anything else, I need you to know that I have been a Mac fanatic since February 1984. That month, I got an invitation to go to one of the local computer stores which was having a "Macintosh unveiling". The Mac128 was a silly little thing, really ... less like a computer (we had IBM PCs at work in addition to our VT100s) than like a small monitor with delusions of grandeur. The only things that the demonstration guy could show us were MacWrite and MacPaint, but oh, my, compared to the text world which was all we had on the PC and the Vaxen, it was 21st Century stuff!!

I fell in love. I went home that evening, babbled something to my wife (also a computer person, and pregnant with our daughter) and convinced her that she had to let me show it to her when we met with some friends at a restaurant in that same small strip mall that evening. The Apple store was technically closed for the night but a salesman ["Hi, Dan!"] was still there (waiting for his wife to come retrieve him) and he actually let us in for a personal "show" and some hands-on time. While not as enamored of it as I was, my wife saw the potential in it (she worked at a graphics company and could see that a graphics-capable machine would be useful after the baby arrived). We went on the waiting list before we left the store. We got a call the next weekend, saying that the guy ahead of us on the list had difficulties with his financing and "would you like the machine?". I was there so fast ..

We have stayed with the Mac, despite all the teasing and all the irritations that came with less 3rd-party add-ons and software than a comparable PC, for all this time. We have upgraded hardware and OSs as we could. We still have that original Mac (at the end, a MacPlus), as well as a Performa 600CD, an 8600 (with a CPU upgraded to 500MHz G3), a Powerbook G3, and my original blueberry iBook. The latter has 288M RAM and a 30G HD, but is still only a 300MHz machine.

Until recently, the two laptops and the 8600 had come as far as having OS 9.2.x installed*, and that was to me going to be "the end of the line" for a long while. Our daughter was coming up on college-age and we didn't foresee the money to upgrade or replace any machines to something OS X could run on.

[* for a while, my iBook's 30G drive was partitioned so that I could put Yellow Dog Linux on it.]

Besides (I told myself and anyone who would put up with my ranting), OS 9.2.x ran nicely enough for us, and we were satisfied with the versions of all the applications we currently used, and nothing we'd seen or read about OS X suggested "killer app" or "gotta have it". And despite knowing full well the business logic behind it, there was also a measure of real annoyance at Apple and Steve Jobs at their betrayal of "the Rest of Us", in basically abandoning the entire older Mac community who for whatever reasons couldn't "go to X".

My nephews and various friends ["Hi, guys!"] who'd "made the switch" all tried to argue for X's superiority, and how wonderful it was. Strangely, none of them could present to me a specific, in-my-face argument or reason why I should make the switch myself. I'd get looks of "you poor sap .. can't you see the blindingly obvious?" Well, strange to say, no, I didn't see anything that was compelling.

In the strict sense of things, I suppose I still don't.

All the above notwithstanding, a couple of months ago events conspired such that I have "given in", and have installed MacOS X on one of my machines. One of the things that changed was that, after playing around with Linux (Yellow Dog on my iBook and RedHat 8 on my PC laptop) for several months, I found reasons to "down-grade" and take off both Linux installations. In addition, I had purchased a basically new copy of OS X 10.2.("Jaguar") for a less-than-retail (therefore attractive) price (complete with original CDs, what little documentation it came with, and Apple proof-of-purchase coupons).

My iBook's 30G HD is partitioned into 20G for OS 9.2.2, and the 10G partition that had contained YD Linux. Since everything I'd read claimed X only needed 1.5G for the whole installation, I saw no reason not to put it in the 10G partition, leaving my OS 9 side alone. I must say, the installation went flawlessly, both the OS install and the subsequent "Software Upgrade" cycles to bring it up to 10.2.6. It was quite content with my original issue Airport card and didn't seem at all bothered by only 1 USB port and no Firewire.

I was certainly amazed and delighted to discover that not only did OS X behave itself quite tolerably on my 300MHz machine, but Classic did as well. [I'm convinced that it's only because of the RAM (288M) and 10G HD (therefore swap) space that it performs as well as it does.] I've only found one OS 9 (i.e., "Classic") app among what I have and use that doesn't like the Classic environment [I'm sorry .. I forget now which one it is.]. Everything else behaves at least as well if not a little better under Classic than it does under OS 9 (given my hardware and configuration, I can still happily boot into 9 if I need it). A singular case in point: Virtual PC. I still only have v5 and truth be told, it behaves so nicely under Classic that I see even less reason to upgrade it to v6 than I did before trying X.

In innocence, I started out using my boot OS 9 System Folder as the SF for Classic. It didn't take long to realize that it was too loaded down with things that I didn't need for Classic and that were in fact detrimental to Classic performance. After I created a true "Classic" System Folder on my OS X partition, pruning what was in it to the "bare minimum" I needed in order to run the majority of programs, I found that "Classic" runs quite nicely. I let it start up during my log-in sequence.

I have since upgraded a number of apps or utilities that I could do "on the cheap" (I'm sincerely grateful to those software vendors whose licensing policies cover both the OS 9 and OS X versions of their software with the same license!). For the moment, I'm still avoiding "big" (i.e., expensive) upgrades. If I don't need it, I don't bother with it, especially if the older version works. It's amusing to contemplate just how much software comes under that umbrella. And, there are open-source solutions as well as the freeware and shareware solutions that supply a lot of needs.

I have now been using OS X for a couple of months and in all honesty I must say that it's "ok". I'm nowhere near "fanatic" about the way my nephews and friends are. I can do all the things I need to in it, in a lot of cases using the tools I already had. Where I've gotten OS X upgrades for things, I can't honestly claim that any of them were "must haves", even where there were improvements or additions.

I'm sorry, Steve ..

Do I have a conclusion? I suppose so. First the obvious: I started out with what I still think was a semi-rational set of reasons for not wanting to "make the switch" and had every expectation that I wouldn't be switching to X for quite a long time. [MacWorld, despite 16+ years of being a subscriber, I was "this close" to dropping you as "irrelevant" and "irritating" to my non-OS X lifestyle; the "reprieve" came just in time ... my renewal should be "in the mail" :-) ]

Second: for those who are still where I was, asking "should I upgrade?" .. heck if I know. I can say that in hindsight, OS X is better than I thought it was. Despite the unassailable fact that we're talking about Unix with a Macintosh GUI*, .. it's alright y'know? Things don't work quite the same as they did in OS 9, but they don't work badly. Just different. And not even in that many places; you can get used to it. I admit that I waited until I could get a copy cheaper-than-retail, but I will definitely be looking at going to "Panther" after it comes out.

[* think SunOS vs Solaris; DOS with Windows 1 or GEM; any Unix with X-Windows]

If you want to upgrade to X and don't have the $$ to spend on a nice new fast Mac, then I can only recommend upgrade the RAM and HD as much as you can before going to OS X; they count for at least as much as CPU speed, and in some ways, more. And as far as software is concerned, the older stuff should be fine until you have the breathing room to upgrade it. You'll probably find, as I did, that a lot of it is already "carbonized" which makes it already OS X capable to stay useful.

I will end this by just stating that I haven't found a need to boot into OS 9 for quite a few weeks. Everything I need to use works under X, one way or another. And once we get to a point where I can put a bigger HD into my wife's G3 Powerbook, I'll probably upgrade that laptop to X, too.

Oh, and Steve? If it wouldn't be too much trouble, could you folks name one of the "Panther" follow-on releases "Ocelittle"?? My daughter would really get a kick out of it.