Mac Metamorphosis

Tradeoffs for OS X Beta

- 2000.10.13

I seem be experiencing a bit of déjà vu lately in regards to Mac OS X Beta and everything that surrounds it. It reminds me of when Windows NT came out - everyone was trying to figure out what to make of it. While technically superior to Windows 95, there were many tradeoffs involved in wanting to run it as your primary operating system.

As a desktop operating system, I avoided NT altogether, because the minuses outweighed the pluses. Just to name a few" playing games were out of the question because Direct X (Microsoft's gaming API) didn't run on it, hot swapping PCMCIA devices made it impossible for me to use NT on the road, driver support wasn't quite there, and if you crashed really bad, recovery on any level was out of the question.

These were tradeoff's that I found unacceptable just to run a fully 32-bit operating system that could bring my Windows computing to the next level. It took Microsoft four years to implement the features I wanted with Windows 2000, and by then I had already switched to the Macintosh.

When I look at Mac OS X, I seem to be doing the same thing as when I was exploring the possibilities of running Windows NT. With OS X I get my beloved command line back, and I get to play by Unix rules. Preemptive multitasking is another thing I am looking forward to, because it would be nice to hold down the mouse button for an extended period of time and not have Mac OS halt all operations until I let go. In a nutshell everything that Steve Job's is selling in Mac OS X, I want to buy.

There are always tradeoffs when moving to a new operating system, especially one in beta. Old reliable hardware might not work, and drivers may never be written for them. Your favorite software, despite compatibility claims, may have unforeseen issues which keep it from working. I have gotten used to these things over the years. When I consider using a new OS, I create a list of tradeoffs that will incur.

Right now, it all comes down to drivers, which is at the top of my tradeoff list. Mac OS X Beta does not work with my Voodoo 3 AGP, keyboard, or AirPort. While I may gripe about that now, I am confident that they will work when the final version ships - but I am anxious to use OS X right now.

The Voodoo 3 I can live without for a while, because I am not really playing any games at present, and I know that 3dfx will release drivers. I did see that a version of Quake 3 was released by the Omni Group, and I was tempted to play it on a Mac OS X system. Then I remembered how bad the ATI Rage 128 is at playing 3D accelerated games; I changed my mind.

My keyboard, a Microsoft Intellitype Pro USB, does not work with Mac OS X at all. I have traced this problem back to Darwin and it's lack of driver support. Searching high and low, I have yet to find anyone even discussing the issue of using third party keyboards and mice. The only thing I did find was an Apple TIL in the Mac OS X Server section on Apple's website stating that third party USB keyboards and mice may not work under Mac OS X Server. I am not certain that Microsoft will release drivers for this keyboard, even though they did ship drivers for Mac OS 9 a short while ago.

In the meantime I did try to use the keyboard that Apple bundled with my G4. I used it for about two hours until my wrists and fingers screamed in pain. Unfortunately, I have carpal tunnel - even when I use a screwdriver for long periods of time I experience quite a bit of pain. If you have gotten Mac OS X to run with third party USB keyboards, I would like to know what keyboard you are using.

There have been reports of hacks existing to get AirPort working with Mac OS X Beta. I have tried these hacks and have never gotten it to work. The first report I read was from Mac OS Rumors, who I never take seriously, but I thought for once that they actually posted something factual. Even after doing their hack, doing an "ifconfig &endash;a" (shows all network device information) in the command line revealed that no other network devices existed on my G4 or PowerBook other than a loopback interface and my ethernet interface. If anyone has gotten their AirPort to work with OS X beta I would appreciate you going to terminal, and doing an ifconfig &endash;a and sending me the information that comes from it.

In order for me to use Mac OS X Beta on my G4, I would have to stop using all the devices mentioned above. Once again, I find myself asking the same question I did with NT, is it worth it right now?

In the end it's a matter of patience, which I don't really have much of. I want to use Mac OS X now, but the price I would have to pay does not make it seem worth it.

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