Washington Apple Pi

A Community of Apple iPad, iPhone and Mac Users

Have You Tried Mac OS X?

© Pat Fauquet

Washington Apple Pi Journal, reprint information

What a question, and what a wide variety of answers I have read on the Web, around Washington Apple Pi, at computer dealers, and even at the December Computer Show and Sale.

Some Mac users remind me of Apple II users in 1984. There was no way they wanted to try something new. They were comfortable with their computers and could see no reason why anyone would ever want to try that newfangled Macintosh that Apple was trying to foist off on them. While some users could not wait to try this new technology and lined up to gaze appreciatively at the new computers they kept buying the last of the old machines and assuring each other that someone would be able to convince Apple to sell rights to a new company who would make the "old" better, but still "old." The new machines made their way to people's wish lists and by the time the Apple II line disappeared, these same people were eying System 7 warily and avoiding its adoption. When the PowerPC Macs arrived they clung to their old slow machines. When the iMacs arrived, they hung back once again and eyed the new technologies with great suspicion. They bought USB floppy drives, gadgets to hook up new "old" printers and scanners that they were finding cheap on close-out tables since surely USB would never be supported by anyone but Apple. They grabbed up Newtons before they disappeared. They clung to SCSI even though are no great solutions to use it on iMacs. Now they are certain that someone at Apple will see the light and kill off this new fangled operating system and restore the old one with all its problems. These people never change, but the computer world marches around them to move forward.

So now, which camp of computer users are you in. Do you dread new technologies and hold on to the old, comfortable way until it disappears or are you an early adopter, someone who enjoys being on the bleeding edge, even if it means questions without answers in every book, and perhaps having to wait for that next piece of software, driver or bug update to solve some annoyances. Or perhaps you follow a middle road.

If you are one to wait a while, at what point do you begin the transition to the new OS? As for myself, as soon as a new technology is announced, I begin a deliberate transition to it. Remember when Apple announced the end of the serial cables and SCSI? I had plans to buy several items, but a new computer was several years in the future. Instead of running out to snap up the old equipment at bargain basement prices, I put my money away and waited until the first PCI USB cards hit the shelf. By that time I was ready for a new modem, so I bought both the card and the modem rather than spend money on the old technology. I needed a larger hard drive. Rather than buy an external SCSI drive, I bought a PCI card that would allow me to add an internal IDE drive inside my beige G3 tower. When I wanted to try iMovie, I replaced the USB card with one which had both USB and FireWire ports.

When Apple released Mac OS X, I began looking for programs which would run both in the classic OS 9 and on Mac OS X. I even delayed upgrading software that I suspected would have Mac OS X version fairly quickly after their last upgrade. I checked places like versiontracker.com, macintouch.com, and Apple's Mac OS X web site for information on shareware products and demos of commercial products and downloaded and tried out things that looked interesting. Although I am not much of a game player, I looked for a few good games that would encourage me to boot up Mac OS X and spend time using it. I recommend JewelToy and FarmersMahJongg as two great games that are beautiful on the screen and easy to learn. I also downloaded GraphicConverter for Mac OS X as I find myself using it very often. Note the lack of spaces between words in the program names if you want to search for them. I also began using AppleWorks and browsing the web using OmniWeb or Internet Explorer for Mac OS X.

The transition to Mac OS X will take place for all Mac users who want to continue using Macintosh computers and buying new ones. Apple will ensure that. When Mac OS X was first released, the CD for it was in the box . If you buy a new computer today it comes with both OS 9 and X installed and it will boot up in OS 9. I suspect that the new machines released after the January MacWorld will start up the first time in Mac OS X. Probably the next step will be a CD for OS 9 that you must install. Finally, there will be no way to boot directly into OS 9 at all. This evolution will be slow and steady, but since most Mac owners keep their computers for more than a year or two, you may miss these transitional steps. Therefore it is important for everyone begin the learning process soon.

Reading magazine articles and web pages about reasons not to use Mac OS X and listening to the woes of people who hate anything new is not learning Mac OS X, but avoiding the inevitable. Mac OS X is here to stay. It keeps getting better and better and more and more people are trying it and loving it.

It is easier to learn something new by slowly becoming comfortable with it. Begin by installing Mac OS X on to your computer. Make a commitment to begin using it on a regular basis and increase your time in Mac OS X gradually. Find a task that can be done in Mac OS X and use it each time you do that task. Play with it, and when you are lost or frustrated, restart in OS 9, finish the task and then go learn more about Mac OS X and try the task again soon.

In learning Mac OS X, there are two ways to go about the process. The first is to say "In 9 I do this, now where in the h--- did they shove that d---- thing into Mac OS X. The second is to say let me take a look around, and when you discover how to something or where to find it, write a note about it, and at the same time think about the reason it might be at that location. Just like OS 9 is very logical, Mac OS X makes a lot of sense, in fact it is really a natural evolution to the next step of making Macs even easier to use.

Some programmers are busy making "things" to make Mac OS X look and work just like OS 9. Some Mac OS X users seem to spend all their time looking for that "thing" to install into Mac OS X. Why? New does not mean bad, it means improvement. Turning off features such as the dock, shoving all the old things under the Apple Menu, and re-instituting the control strip does not allow you to learn and explore Mac OS X with the complete vision of a group of very competent programmers. Be open to the new features of the OS, give things a try, and you will probably come to love Mac OS X.

It is important to make sure you are using the most up-to-date version of Mac OS X. At this point it is 10.1.1, but that could change momentarily. Updates are made to fix bugs and add new features. A good example of this is the dock that was present in 10 and 10.01. Although it could appear and disappear, if it was in your way, you could not move it to a more convenient place. Now it can be at the bottom or on either side of the screen. Although I will cover updating in a separate article in this issue, don't forget about the "Help" menu. The directions are available there also.

Give Mac OS X a try. It is beautiful, very stable, and the layout and features are very logical. Commit to finding things to do in X, Read articles about X with an open mind and look for information about how to use it. Soon you will find yourself looking for ways not to have to boot back into OS 9 and you'll wonder why you ever feared this great new operating system.

Pat Fauquet is a frequent contributor to the Journal. She teaches many classes for Washington Apple Pi and will begin teaching classes on Mac OS X in February 2002.