Part one of two
No activity in the Macintosh world has
ever inspired as much fear, loathing, and terror as contemplating
the upgrade from Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X. People are worried they'll
be forced to use the command-line (you won't) or that they must
reformat and repartition their hard disks (it's not necessary).
Others worry that they'll have to spend hundreds of dollars upgrading
software (upgrades can be helpful, but aren't always essential)
or that Mac OS X's well-publicized shortcomings will prove to
be huge obstacles (only if you're entirely inflexible). Then
there are the immovable obstacles - old hardware or mission-critical
software or peripherals that aren't compatible with Mac OS X.
So the first step is to determine if
you can upgrade to Mac OS X. If you lack a relatively recent
PowerPC G3- or G4-based Mac, or you're reliant on software or
hardware that simply won't work with Mac OS X, you can't upgrade.
Similarly, if you don't have some spare time to install the new
operating system and become comfortable with the new environment,
you shouldn't upgrade - the task isn't hard, but if you don't
spend the time up front to do it properly, you'll waste even
more time later. No matter what, I strongly recommend that you
not stress about the fact that you can't upgrade. Apple hasn't
set the technical requirements of Mac OS X to annoy you personally,
and the reasons why any given program or peripheral aren't compatible
with Mac OS X are many and varied. In short, if you have a Macintosh
setup that does what you need, be happy with that and don't worry
about Mac OS X until it becomes unavoidable (as it will the next
time you buy a Mac).
-- If you are ready to make the leap to Mac OS X, the most important
thing you can do is to set your expectations appropriately. Apple's
marketing materials would have you believe that Mac OS X will
somehow change your life. It won't. It's a computer operating
system with a graphical user environment - nothing more, nothing
For the vast majority of Macintosh users
at this point in time, Mac OS X will not enable you to do anything
you can't already do in Mac OS 9. Browsing the Web, reading your
email, using a word processor or spreadsheet - the primary uses
of computers are equally as possible in both operating systems.
Until fairly recently, in fact, upgrading to Mac OS X meant losing
capabilities for most Mac users. That's less true every week,
luckily, and more important, we're seeing new software appear
for Mac OS X that has no equivalent in Mac OS 9.
You will have to put some real time and
effort into thinking about how you want Mac OS X to work, configuring
it appropriately and installing the necessary utilities for interface
extras without which you simply cannot use your Mac. Realistically,
it took me roughly a day to do the basic installation of Mac
OS X and parts of several more days before I'd done enough configuration
that I could remain booted into it. Fortunately, it's easy to
boot back into Mac OS 9 while you're finishing off Mac OS X's
configuration, so you don't have to commit a huge amount of time
all at once to the upgrade.
Another expectation you may need to adjust
is the amount of control you'll have over the system and how
much you'll know about it. Long-time Mac users have often built
up idiosyncratic filing systems and ways of working that simply
aren't going to mesh with Mac OS X's rigid directory structure
and multi-user mindset. All I can say here is, get over it, or
you'll just spend all your time being angry about a few nested
folders - life's too short for that. Apple has been pushing us
in this direction for a long time, first with the System Folder,
then the special folders inside the System Folder, then the Applications
and Documents folders, and so on. You may not like it, just as
you may not like the way Mac OS X can make you feel like a visitor
on your own Mac, but these are deep-seated design decisions stemming
from Mac OS X's Unix underpinnings, and you'll simply have to
accept at least some of them. Consider it a Zen thing.
It's also hard to accept that you're
not going to understand what makes Mac OS X tick, particularly
if you've built up a store of Macintosh knowledge across many
years. My advice here is to think back to when you were first
learning the Mac and remember how much fun that was (well, it
was for me). I've quite enjoyed learning Mac OS X's quirks and
developing new ways of working, and my years of experience have
made the process a lot easier than it was way back when.
-- Assuming that your Mac has sufficient CPU power to run Mac
OS X, the next step is to evaluate your hardware setup to make
sure your system will work with Mac OS X and, if necessary, determine
what steps are necessary to make it work.
RAM is essential, and although it's not
quite the steal it was recently, it's still sufficiently cheap
that you should make sure you have lots. 128 MB may be the amount
Apple recommends as a minimum for Mac OS X, but since memory
is dealt with completely differently than in Mac OS 9, the more
RAM you have, the better (up to about 512 MB for normal use).
Check TidBITS sponsor dealram for recent pricing on RAM for your
<http://dealram.com/ src= tb>
As far as hard disk space goes, Mac OS
X needs a bit more than a gigabyte for itself. Most Macs that
can run it have hard disks of at least several gigabytes in size,
but I'd say that if you don't have at least 2 GB free, you should
either free up some space or consider upgrading to a new hard
drive. That's what I did: I originally bought my Power Mac G4/450
with a 10 GB drive - the smallest available at the time - and
when the time came to install Mac OS X, I replaced the almost-full
10 GB drive with a 60 GB Maxtor hard drive that cost about $125.
(This isn't the place to talk about the specifics of that installation
process; suffice to say that I found Accelerate Your Mac's information
invaluable, if a bit rambling.)
Peripherals like printers, digital cameras,
external floppy drives, SCSI cards, and tape drives are sticky
wickets. Many perfectly functional but older peripherals are
not compatible with Mac OS X, and may never be. I recommend determining
what is and is not compatible with Mac OS X before upgrading
- that information is usually available on the manufacturer's
Web site or by calling tech support. If a device isn't compatible
with Mac OS X, you have two choices. You can replace it with
one that is, handing down or selling the incompatible device
as appropriate. Or, if the replacement cost is prohibitive, or
if there's simply no compatible replacement available, you can
reboot back into Mac OS 9 when you need to use that device (assuming,
of course, that it doesn't work in Mac OS X's Classic environment,
which most won't). Obviously, rebooting in Mac OS 9 to use a
peripheral isn't ideal, but knowing that it will be necessary
is an important part of setting your expectations.
I recommend making a list of all your
devices, and note which ones are compatible, which ones will
require new drivers, and which will need replacing. For those
that need new drivers, record the URL to the page where you can
download those drivers.
-- Once you've evaluated your hardware situation, it's time to
do the same for your software. My experience is that most Mac
users use more programs than they realize. Here's a trick that
can help you determine which programs you really use in Mac OS
9. In the Apple Menu Options control panel, set the number of
recent applications to track to 99 (the maximum), and then use
your Mac normally for a week or two. When you think your usage
has been representative, open the Recent Applications folder
in the Apple Menu Items folder, view it by name, and copy the
listing to a word processing document (select all the files,
press Command-C, switch to the document, and press Command-V)
where you can make notes.
First, delete from the list installers
or other applications that you won't use again. Then, for the
remaining applications, visit their Web sites and try to determine
if you need an upgrade. If so, note in your list how much the
upgrade costs, the URL to where you can get it, and if you'll
be able to run the older version in Classic mode temporarily.
For instance, I haven't gotten around to upgrading to the Mac
OS X-compatible version of Timbuktu Pro, and for the few times
I've needed to use it, it has worked acceptably in Classic.
As with your peripherals, if you have
an application that you can't do without but which has no upgrade
and isn't compatible with Classic, you have two options. Either
reboot into Mac OS 9 when you need to use it, or find a replacement
program. I won't pretend that these are good options - the main
consolation I can offer is that most applications I've tried
have worked fine in Classic. A few others, such as the heavily
used QuarkXPress 4.1, are compatible with Classic but miserable
to use. (When switching from another application to Quark, I
recently discovered, you must refresh the screen with Command-Option-Period,
something that's perhaps best done with a macro; also, if you're
accustomed to switching tools using Command-Tab, you need to
use Command-Control-Tab instead or try the Shift-F8 shortcut
for switching between the two most commonly used tools.) I'm
looking seriously at Adobe InDesign 2 for the next iteration
of my iPhoto book.
Survey Interface Usage -- There's a class of software that has likely
escaped your notice in the previous step - those invisible utilities
that make life so much easier in a myriad different ways. Check
your Control Panels and Extensions folders and add any utilities
you rely on to your list of software, paying special attention
to subtle bits like the Retrospect Client software, for which
you'll need to upgrade Retrospect backup servers as well. And
don't forget to note items that don't necessarily reside in your
System Folder such as Palm synchronization conduits (located
in the Conduits folder within the Palm Desktop application folder),
which still don't exist under Mac OS X for many applications.
Also go back and read the articles I've
written about the top Mac OS X utilities for ideas on how you
can replace not just third party utilities, but also some of
the aspects of Mac OS 9 you can't imagine living without. For
instance, my father was flummoxed by Mac OS X's static Apple
menu and the Dock; once we installed ASM and FruitMenu, his comfort
level increased significantly.
<http://db.tidbits.com/ getbits.acgi? tbser= 1218>
-- Once you've completed your lists of hardware, software, and
interface modifications, I'd encourage you to go out and start
downloading everything you can, purchasing programs like Microsoft
Office X if necessary, and acquiring any necessary hardware.
Obviously, there's no reason you must do this before installing
Mac OS X, but doing it beforehand lets you do it at your leisure,
rather than all in a rush after installing Mac OS X. Make sure
to store all the things you're downloading together so you can
get to them easily once the time comes to install. If you're
not absolutely certain you will stay with Mac OS X after upgrading,
feel free to put off purchasing upgrades to applications you
can run in Classic or replacing peripherals that work fine in
Mac OS 9.
If you have a slow modem connection to
the Internet, not only will downloading these updates in advance
remove stress after you installed Mac OS X, you can also get
the various Mac OS X updates that you'll need, since otherwise
you'll be stuck waiting for Software Update to download very
large files as part of the installation process. Plus, should
you ever need to reinstall, you won't have to download these
I'll cover more on that in the second
part of this article, as we get into the nitty-gritty of preparing
your hard disk, actually installing all this software, and taking
your first steps in Mac OS X.
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to PT 2