Washington Apple Pi

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I Made The Leap

By Bill Diffley

Washington Apple Pi Journal, reprint information

Recently I upgraded to OS X. I thought a review of the process might be encouraging to those that haven't. I'll start with my reasoning, continue with the preparation, onward to the process, results, and a few thoughts. The point of this story is not so much instructional as it is meant to be encouraging for those of you still sitting on the fence. If your time is limited feel free to scan the middle part. Most of those steps, while interesting and relevant to the final thoughts, were applicable to me.

My delay in switching to OS X, like many others, was due to the lack of OS X applications. Without applications there was no reason to switch. I waited, they came, and I switched. My needs are fairly simple and straightforward. I need Internet capability, web access and email. Having two teenage children made AOL access a necessity. I track the family finances. I write letters, use spreadsheets and database for a variety of tasks. I listen to music. And I am learning the ropes of movie editing. The two teenagers are in high school and must exchange a variety of documents with classmates for school projects. Guess what program that would mean. Along came Office X, Internet Explorer, AppleWorks, Quicken, AOL, iTunes, and iMovie. All were native to OS X. I need Windows for a couple of programs for work. Virtual PC was imminent for OS X. The time had come. And the preparation began.

The computer in question is an iMacDV, 400mhz, 128k ram, 13 GB hard drive. I could not make the processor faster without much effort. I could and should increase the memory. It was/is cheap. I bought 512 MB more and I now have 640 MB of RAM. I could not increase the size of the hard drive without much effort. It was fine until the movie editing began. I could, however, buy a big external drive. Some time before, as the iMac has a DVD-ROM internal drive, I had purchased a LaCie FireWire CD-RW drive. So I matched with it an 80 GB LaCie FireWire hard drive. I got a mac.com [iTools] account. I transferred data to Zip disks and to the new external drive. I purchased the aforementioned programs I had wanted/needed, including Mac OS X, of course.

It was an expensive process without a doubt. To a large extent the items I purchased are all items that would be of assistance with any future computers so I justified the cost to some extent. Certainly such purchases would not be necessary to all. I then put aside a day to make the change. One more note. I wanted to make the leap to Mac OS X without looking back to OS 9. Here we go.

I insured my data backups one more time. I made notes of my Internet setting (RoadRunner cable). I put in the Mac OS X CD and opened the installer. I read the latest Read Me file and, naturally, accepted the agreement involved. A couple of steps later I was given the choice of reformatting the hard drive as part of the installation process. My finger lingered over the mouse button for some amount of time. Click! And the installation began and finished. I forget the time exactly. Seems like 15 to 30 min for the whole process. Restart and I was up and running with Mac OS X.

The Internet set up guide came up and I answered the questions. Internet Explorer was part of the installation. I launched it and was online. This was good. I had, though, forgotten to copy my favorites. However a lot of bad was left behind with the good so it was not a complete loss. So I continued. I launched the Mail program. I have Earthlink for when I travel (constantly). I insured the Earthlink account was activated in the Mail program. I entered my mac.com account. I cannot remember the exact details but I do remember it was not too tough. The help menu was sufficient. I do remember there is an extra setting in the set up for the mac.com account to send mail. That took a second trip to the help menu. I was thereafter able to check and send mail. This, too, was good. So I continued.

Next came the applications. AppleWorks came first. It is near and dear to my heart and held the place of honor. It installed easily and worked. So next I tried Office X. It installed easily and worked. On a side note: I have tested its compatibility with Windows Office files from friends, including PowerPoint. The files open flawlessly. My compliments of Microsoft. Up to this time I had been using Palm Desktop (and before that Claris Organizer). I had saved that database. I imported it into Entourage. It was all there. Again, my compliments to Microsoft. I set up my email accounts in Entourage. It was easier after my recent experience with the Mail program. Entourage worked as advertised. I installed Quicken 2002 and imported my 2001 data. It was all there. I put in a Zip disk and it showed up on the desktop. I turned on the hard drive and it showed up on the desktop. In effect everything was working in a grand manner. This was very good.

I then downloaded AOL for Mac OS X, installed it, and launched it. It worked. I downloaded a beta version of Palm Desktop. The beta aspect made me a little leery. It worked pretty well. And so it essentially lived up to the beta name. I think there will be a finished version available now so that will be a near term project. In summary, so far so good. Everything works: applications, Internet, peripherals. Excellent!

So I tried a couple more items. My daughter and I both had AirPort cards installed earlier. That's another story. I bought the new AirPort base station. I plugged it in and installed the software. I answered the questions in the setup and bingo I'm on the wireless Internet. I then made a couple of minor adjustments on my daughter's iBook and bingo she's on the wireless Internet. I will now cancel our second phone line and pay for the base station in less than a year. I bought a new cable modem (after receiving instructions from RoadRunner on preferred modems). With a very simple call to RoadRunner I was up and running with the new modem. I will turn in the rented modem and pay for the new one in ten month's time. Excellent!

The next step was the first falter. I ordered Virtual PC with Windows XP. Running Windows XP on top of Mac OS X was just too much for my 400 MHz G3. XP ran like molasses or quit or froze. I returned that version and bought Virtual PC with Windows 98. It is stable but quite, almost painfully, slow. But it works and will do the trick. As a comparison I run Virtual PC with Windows 95 on my trusty 266mhz PowerBook with 68 MB of RAM and get better results.

Finally, my thoughts. My 400mhz G3 must be near the low end of processors capable of running Mac OS X. I think Mac OS X is optimized for the G4 and future processors. I would hate to even think of running it with less than 256 MB of RAM. A graphics oriented application like Photoshop would likely be, again, painfully slow. But the good news is that the native programs I run work just fine. They seem to run at just about the same speed that they did under Mac OS 9. I am sure the extra memory helps. All the peripherals worked. The Internet connection worked even with the extra complications of a cable modem hooked up to an AirPort base station. Everything worked. I am up and running Mac OS X. I do not even have Mac OS 9 installed. I am ready for the now and the future. My compliments to Apple.