A "Classic" Holdout Makes the Move to OS X
Why and How I Migrated to Jaguar on my Beige G3
I have been accused of being a Luddite more than once. It's true that I have a great appreciation of older technologies but the only reason I use old Macs and software is that I'm constantly under-funded. Hey, I'm broke! I won't bore you with the reason why but being terminally tapped-out has taught me to be very resourceful. "Making do" if it's done well, can be something to take pride in.
My primary Mac for the past few years, has been a beige 300 MHz G3 Desktop, running OS 9.2.2. It sports an ATI Rage 128 video card and I use two monitors. The ATI card drives a 20" Apple Multiple Scan and the system video handles a secondary 16" Multiple Scan, used for menus. It's an "antique" set-up but it has been nicely handling all of my audio and video editing needs, well, maybe not so nicely.
It's getting harder to find new software for OS 9. Most application updates are now only written for OS X. The few updates that you can find for OS 9, are often ported from the OS X versions. These can be buggy or feature-reduced. You quickly learn how many times you can use some badly ported applications, before you must quit and relaunch them or restart the system, so you can use them again without freezing.
If you have some experience with computers, you know that, just because you can use a more recent operating system, doesn't mean that you should. A recent example of this was when a new local church pastor and his wife asked me for help with a problem Mac. The only real problem was that they had taken their 15 MHz LC II, to a PC repair shop. The FT (fine technician) had sold them an OS 7.6 CD and an expensive external 24x CD ROM. to install it. They were only using the old Mac for writing and printing sermons to a StyleWriter. System 7.1 would have accommodated them nicely and been lightning fast compared to OS 7.6, which, incidentally had gobbled up nearly all of their 40 MB disk space.
The maximum supported OS you can run on a beige G3 is OS 10.2.8. The Beige's architecture requires that OS X be installed on a measly 8 gigabyte or less, drive or partition. Further, it is reported to boot and run slowly and that's not hard to believe. To make matters worse, the floppy drive will be disabled and there may be no support for some third party PCI cards that work fine with the Classic OS. So why would anyone bother installing OS X on a beige G3?
For me, it was a combination of three factors. First, I wanted the updated features in the programs I'm using that are only available in OS X. Second, I'm broke, remember? I'm not going to buy a G4 until they start to go for $125 or less. Lastly, Jaguar has become quite inexpensive (as it should be). You can buy it new, on-line for less than $20. Do a search.
I did the actual installing in stages because I wanted to be able to easily reverse things if I was unhappy with the results.
The first step was to get the G3 running as fast as I could without pouring any money into it. I had already replaced the very full stock 6 gigabyte drive with a brand new fast 128 gig drive, a few weeks prior. If you have perused the rest of this site, you know I love to overclock (and love having overclocked). I reset the jumpers on the Beige's mother board for a 70 MHz bus and 315 MHz processor (pins jumped at 1, 5, 6, 8, & 9). Setting it any faster resulted in a non-booting Mac. I mounted a small processor fan on the heatsink, blowing across from the hard drive side. I verified stability by playing realMYST for half an hour with no problems. The game also ran a little more smoothly, so I knew the effort had paid off. MacBench data means nothing if you can't see a difference.
Next, I installed an old 4 gigabyte drive in the space above the Zip bay. I pulled the cables from the Zip drive and plugged them into the 4 gig drive which was set as master. I temporarily set the CD ROM as slave. I reassembled and installed Jaguar on the 4 gig drive.
Welcome to OS X:
Having had some experience with UNIX, the underpinnings of Jaguar seemed familiar to me. It didn't take long to become accustomed to the graphic interface either. It's a little like a better, stable version of, dare I say it? Windows. I do miss some of the features of what I am now obliged to call "Classic". The Dock, a place to put aliases, is not a replacement for the hierarchical Apple Menu and I can't move a file from an auxiliary disk or partition to the Desktop without copying it there. Navigation through the system is slow and tedious. You no longer need to "rebuild the desktop" but you do need to periodically "repair permissions" which can take even longer. What Jaguar has going for it is UNIX stability and security. The OS X updates to my old programs have yet to crash, saving any time lost in navigation and then some.
Now I had a problem. Instead of just verifying that it would work acceptably, then reinstalling it on my main drive, I had foolishly spent a lot of time customizing and installing updates to the OS X system on the small drive. You can't just drag and drop OS X like you can its predecessors. Fortunately the freeware app, Carbon Copy Cloner came to the rescue. I completely backed up my main drive then re-partitioned it with the mandatory 8 gig partition at the top. I copied my old OS 9.2.2 system and all of my old data over to the second partition then used Carbon Copy Cloner to clone the 4 gig drive to the first partition. On a Beige G3 you have to take an extra step to make your cloned drive bootable. In the Carbon Copy Cloner File menu, you must select "Bless Old World Target Disk". This will temporarily unmount the drive. When it comes back it will be bootable. I could now remove the 4 gig drive, reattach the Zip Drive and set the CD ROM back to master. With OS X on the first partition of a fast new drive, it seemed to work a little faster.
Am I Happy?
I rarely boot back into OS 9 these days, although I do miss its interface. When I need to run an OS 9 application I usually just start Classic and run OS 9 within OS X. I have only a few applications that don't work that way. There is even a freeware app called Mr 9 Menu that provides the old Apple Menu. If you have an alias of your hard drive(s) in the Apple Menu Items folder in your OS 9 System Folder you can still instantly navigate to any file on the disk, provided Classic is running. Jaguar's speed really is acceptable on my overclocked Beige. My programs are updated and stable, so yes, I'm happy with the change. Now if the people who write software for OS 10.3 and 10.4 would just port it to 10.2... Well, it never ends does it?
The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.
Read a follow-up to this article on Low End Mac.
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