My Turn

Jaguar on the 800 MHz iBook

Korin Hasegawa-John - 2002.12.11

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

I waited to write this article until I got enough RAM to run Jaguar comfortably.

First Impressions

Jaguar (Mac OS X 10.2) is nice. Very nice. It came preloaded on my iBook. Press power, and the standard "Welcome" screen comes up, along with the Mac OS setup. It took about 15 minutes to configure everything exactly the way I wanted.

Jaguar represents my first real use of Mac OS X. I have tinkered with everything from the Public Beta to 10.0 and 10.1. However, most of these experiences were on other people's computers. Now I get to actually use Jag on my very own.

The interface seems reasonably well developed and looks stunning. It has some strange idiosyncrasies (notably, you can only drag items to the Dock from icon view), and the new application-specific menu is somewhat disorienting. Performance is excellent with the Radeon 7500, which can take advantage of Quartz Extreme, although still not up to OS 9 levels. In my use, I've noticed a 5-10% performance decrease in Jaguar.

This performance decrease is easily offset by true multithreading. Basically, multithreading lets the computer do many tasks (threads) at once. Everything in OS X is multithreaded, which translates into much better productivity. For instance, when I go online I usually have my browser (Chimera in X and IE in 9), my email client (Mail in X and Entourage in 9), and iChat or AIM. In 9, I have to launch IE, wait for it to load, then launch Entourage and wait for it to load, and lastly launch AIM. In Jaguar, I can click the Dock icons for Navigator, Mail, and iChat and have all three load simultaneously. Obviously it takes nearly the same amount of time, but I can also be doing other things while the apps load in the background.

Jaguar is also very stable. I've had the equivalent of a crash twice (the screen dims and a message pops up saying "Your computer needs to be restarted. Please press the Power button to restart"). The culprit is iMovie. iMovie apparently dislikes running at the same time as GraphicConverter and Microsoft Word, since both crashes occurred when all three were running.

As everyone throughout the Mac Web says, buy RAM if you plan to run Jaguar. This is especially true if you plan to run Classic. Classic was extremely slow with only 128 MB of RAM, but things got to an almost-as-fast-as-the-real-thing state when I increased memory to 384 MB. RAM is definitely a good choice and the most inexpensive way to increase speed on your Mac. I got a 256 MB low-profile PC 133 SODIMM for $25 shipped, and it increased normal Finder performance by 10% and Classic performance by about 50%.

Another planned upgrade is a hard drive. I'm looking at IBM's 5400 rpm drives, probably in a 40 GB size. However, I'm worried about heat and power consumption. Coincidentally, if anyone has experience with a fast, hot hard drive in an iBook, please email me. :-) Increased disk access and transfer rates will also boost performance, as Dan Knight found on his TiBook.

My biggest problem is that not all of my software is OS X compatible. My main productivity apps (MS Office, iChat/AIM, Toast, Navigator, Mail) are OS X native, which is good. It means I can get my schoolwork done in X.

However, most of my other apps are not OS X native. This includes Freeway LE, Dreamweaver, Flash, Adobe Photoshop, ProTools LE, BBEdit, and Final Cut Pro. I've had to replace these with other apps. For work on websites I have to go back to OS 9. I have a carbonized demo of Flash MX and Dreamweaver MX, but they expire in a few days, and I can't afford to purchase them.

The same applies for Photoshop - I've been using GraphicConverter for basic image work, but I really miss the functionality and high-end features of Photoshop.

ProTools LE has been replaced (for now) by the very capable Sound Studio for basic audio work. However, Sound Studio is a completely different beast, and I'm really only using it for quick-and-dirty recording.

Final Cut Pro has somewhat been replaced by iMovie, but when I want to do more complex audio with movies, I go back to 9 with ProTools LE and FCP.

It will be a while before I can afford software for Jaguar. I get education pricing, which is a bonus, but it will still be a while.

All in all, Jaguar is an excellent OS that is (mostly) a pleasure to use. Performance is more than acceptable on an 800 MHz G3 with a slow hard drive. The only thing precluding my using it all the time is a lack of Carbonized software. I'd recommend Jaguar to anyone with the hardware to run it, meaning 500 MHz+ with a decent video card (preferably one that supports Quartz Extreme) and 256 MB+ of memory.

However, if you do finally take the plunge to Jaguar, keep in mind that it will be a slow migration unless you have the cash to buy Carbonized versions of all your apps at once.

Next time: More about the iBook.

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