Mac Musings

Preparing for OS X

Daniel Knight - 2002.01.10 -

In anticipation of OS X becoming the default Mac OS during 2002, and in response to complaints from those who perceived Low End Mac as treating X unfairly, we began the 10 Forward column on November 30. The goal was to share the real world stories of those who had tried to live with 10.1 as opposed to the opinions of those who had dabbled with X or not even tried it yet.

I will be moving forward soon - in a particularly Low End Mac fashion. I've just ordered a WallStreet 233 (the one with a cache), beige Power Mac 266, and pair of blueberry iMac 333s from MacResQ. Along with some RAM and a fast 20 GB Seagate Barracuda IV 7200 rpm hard drive, this clears up their account balance for ads run last year.

I'm selling the PowerBook to my third oldest son, some RAM to my oldest, and one iMac to my wife's business to provide Cobweb Publishing with some desperately needed cash. The rest will be used for testing and probably sold later this year. With my 400 MHz TiBook and my wife's 366 MHz iBook, we'll have five different Macs to try OS X on.

All of the machines ordered this morning have the old ATI Rage video that will no longer be developed under OS X. By comparing this with the iBook and TiBook, we'll get a good feel for how graphics performance compares. By putting the Barracuda in the iMac and G3/266, we'll be able to see how much faster these models are, both under 9 and X, when used with a fast modern hard drive.

I'm also hoping to look into more product testing. I'd love to get my hands on Sonnet's Harmoni 500 MHz G3/FireWire upgrade for the Rev. A-D iMacs. This $300 upgrade was our product of the show at the July Macworld Expo.

UPDATE: The Sonnet HARMONi card was incompatible with early versions of Mac OS X 10.4. The FireWire port would tie up 100% of CPU resources. This problem was fixed in version 10.4.7 (if not earlier). If you have a HARMONi card that's had this issue, be aware that updating to 10.4.7 or newer should fix it.

I'd also like to try one or two of the UltraATA cards in the beige G3 to see how much better they are then the onboard EIDE controller, especially with the fast Barracuda. Likewise, I'd love to get my hands on a $129 ATI Radeon 7000 Mac Edition inside the G3/266 to see what a fully supported graphics card can do in a 1997 Power Mac.

The beige G3 will have to remain a dual-boot system for access to the Zip drive and floppy drive. I'm not planning to put in a USB/FireWire card at this point, although that would let me set it up as a print server for my Epson Stylus Photo 870.


The new (to me) computers should be here next week. I know we'll be putting Virtual PC 3.0 on one of the iMacs. That'll be a home schooling work station, since Switched On Schoolhouse is a Windows-only curriculum. That also means a dual-boot setup, at least until we can get VPC 5, since VPC 3 only runs under the classic Mac OS.

We'll probably set up an in-house Web server on the beige G3 so the kids and I can do site development locally. We're all learning PHP (and they're miles ahead of me) and working on different site ideas. I'm hoping to automate some parts of LEM when I get in a bit deeper.

From my perspective, one of the joys will be seeing Steve get his own PowerBook, since he practically lives on mine when I'm at work or otherwise out of the house. I hope he won't find the WallStreet too sluggish, but he's grown used to my TiBook/400 and my old SuperMac S900 with a G3/333 upgrade.

Tim, our youngest, will be thrilled with the new hardware. He's using an old 200 MHz 603e-based SuperMac C600 with a 15 GB hard drive. That will become the network file server, and the iBook with VPC will become the family computer. (Read: The one Tim can use.) I might also move network backup to the C600.

When it's all done, I'll have a SuperMac J700 (desktop with G3/250) and S900 (tower with G3/333) to clean up and sell, providing a bit more of the money we need to meet payroll and other expenses.

Now I'll have to shop around for a good deal on X.