Apple Archive

OS X and the Beige G3

A 'Best of Apple Archive' Article

- 2001.12.21

While running OS 9, a beige G3 still feels reasonably fast - everything is useable, and you can do most things that you can do on a newer Mac.

Now try to upgrade your beige G3 to OS X. You will find that this "advanced operating system" removes some of the not so advanced features on the beige G3. The first time I tried to use a floppy disk, I thought my disk drive had died. A quick check of Apple's site reveals that to use a floppy disk in a beige G3, you must start up in OS 9. Excuse me, but when upgrading your operating system you should get additional features. The loss of features is not acceptable.

I can use a third-party USB floppy drive on my PowerBook without installing anything, so why can't I use the floppy drive that's built into the beige G3? And don't try to tell me that no drivers exist. If there aren't any, Apple can and should write them.

Then I go to print something and find that my printer, a Color StyleWriter 2400, doesn't even show up in the print center. There isn't even an option to select the old printer port. Completely ridiculous. If you have no USB card/printer and don't want/need one because you like the printer you've already got, you are left out in the cold.

Next I go to play a music video I had downloaded from a band's website. Sure, it plays in a small window, but I try to play it full screen and the machine can no longer handle it. The video can barely be displayed on the screen, never mind being played smoothly.

Video drivers really need to be written for these Macs; it is inexcusable not to provide support for a feature on a "supported" machine.

Window dragging and resizing aren't that bad (no worse than my 333 MHz PowerBook G3), and application performance isn't bad either. In fact, some programs load faster than they do in OS 9. Video drivers really need to be written for these Macs; it is inexcusable not to provide support for a feature on a "supported" machine. Telling customers to set the bit depth to 16-bit instead of 24- or 32-bit is almost as bad as telling a customer to go out and buy a new computer. There is an online petition that you can sign asking Apple to provide these drivers, and I encourage all Mac users who feel what Apple is doing is unfair (whether you own one of the affected machines or not) to sign the petition.

One thing that did seem to work better was browsing the Internet. IE 5.1 for OS X is very fast, faster than the Classic version. Copying files over a network is also significantly improved in terms of speed.

I will probably hear the "you don't have to upgrade to OS X" deal from some readers, but that doesn't help people who want to upgrade. Those people will be left with peripherals that don't work (I was amazed that my Apple printer, which I have used for a number of years with systems 7.5 through 9.1, no longer works in OS X) and a stack of floppy disks that are unusable unless you start your computer up in Mac OS 9.

Apple needs to improve its support for older machines. As far as I'm concerned, a modern Mac has a G3 processor, and it can be argued that machines with 200 MHz or faster 604e processors are also "modern" (since they run most of the software available today, except for maybe some games, and games usually require a better configuration than other programs).

Most of the Mac users I know have older G3s; some still have pre-G3 models. The majority of Mac users most likely still have a beige or early blue G3, or a Rev. C or D iMac (or an older iMac DV), which also suffers from some OS X support problems (the lack of graphics drivers). I'm sure a number do have a G4 of some sort, however, which is probably why Apple feels it can slack off when it comes to providing drivers and support for older G3s.

To get an idea of how I feel about hardware features that are unsupported features in OS X, think about it this way:

You go out and buy a new computer, spend a lot of money on it, and plan to use it for the next 4 or 5 years. You expect it to be supported for at least that long. You get it home, and it works great. Two or three years later you install the latest operating system. Suddenly nothing works. Your printer, scanner, CD burner, second monitor, trackball, and joystick are useless. You spent over $3,200 on this computer system, and now you can't even use half of it. What's worse, no one at the company will help you because, simply put, no one cares - the best thing they can offer is to take $1,000 more of your money and sell you a new computer (which will probably only be useful for two years at the most).

Even Windows isn't like this. Most devices are supported, and even on the slower PCs (266 MHz for XP and 133 MHz for Me), all parts are supported and useable (except for possibly third party add-ons, but that is to be expected with any OS upgrade). Imagine a Windows user not being able to use the A: drive! I have to tell you I couldn't live without it on my PC, and when a device comes with a computer, I tend to use it.

I hope Apple will see this article, the petition for OS X video drivers for older G3s, and some of the other articles on the Web relating to the same topic, and strongly reconsider what they are doing to loyal Mac users who would like to be able to use OS X on their older G3 without losing any of the machine's built-in, factory standard features.

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