Series: Moving to Mac OS X
Strategy and tips for making the jump to Mac OS X
Article 1 of 2 in series
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)Show full article
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).
Set Expectations -- 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 less.
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.
Survey Hardware -- 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 Mac.
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.
Survey Software -- 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.
Gather Software -- 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 installers again.
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.
Article 2 of 2 in series
Mac OS X may be the future of the Macintosh, but for many people, it still isn't part of the present. Unless you purchase a new computer with Mac OS X pre-installed, moving up from Mac OS 9 isn't as simple as installing the software and getting back to workShow full article
Mac OS X may be the future of the Macintosh, but for many people, it still isn't part of the present. Unless you purchase a new computer with Mac OS X pre-installed, moving up from Mac OS 9 isn't as simple as installing the software and getting back to work. In last week's issue, I offered a number of considerations for determining whether or not you should upgrade to Mac OS X and how to get ready for the move. In this installment, I want to cover some steps for making the move as painless as possible.
Prepare Your Hard Disk -- Before you start installing Mac OS X, you need to spend a moment thinking about your hard disk. Many people recommend partitioning your hard disk into two volumes, one for Mac OS 9 and another for Mac OS X to simplify the process of reinstalling Mac OS X should something go horribly wrong. Some people prefer even more partitions. It's a personal choice, but my take on the subject is that for most people, partitioning is unnecessary and will cause more annoyance in the end.
Until I got my Power Mac G4 with its 10 GB hard disk, formatted with HFS+, I always partitioned my hard disk into three volumes: one for the operating system, one for applications, and one for documents. I'd kept that partitioning scheme since my first 30 MB hard disk because it worked around the block size inefficiencies of HFS and reduced backup needs somewhat. But it also increased the complexity of navigating the Finder and Open dialogs, cluttered the Desktop, and complicated my backup strategy. I didn't mind it too much until I switched to a single partition, which turned out to be far less stressful to use.
Plus, when Apple ships a new Mac with Mac OS X, it comes as a single partition. That says to me that Apple considers a single partition the default setup and has thus devoted more testing resources to that approach. In short, if you want to partition your hard disk for separate Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X volumes, feel free, but I consider it optional. If you choose to do so, be very careful about your backup strategy to make sure you're backing the necessary data on all partitions. Also, it's easier to set up multiple partitions if you have a large external hard disk around to hold your data while you're reformatting and repartitioning the disk (plus, it provides a secondary backup for added peace of mind).
Although the Mac OS X installer does check your disk before installing, I still recommend running Disk First Aid (or Alsoft's DiskWarrior, if you have it) manually before installing to make sure you're clearing up any disk corruption. Another potentially useful thing to do would be to defragment the hard disk first so all of Mac OS X's tens of thousands of files are laid down contiguously - you can use a tool such as PlusOptimizer or Tech Tool Pro, or you can back up your data, reformat the drive, and restore everything from the backup. No matter what, make at least one full backup of your entire hard disk, just in case. I know we say that frequently, but it's truly important with such a major operating system upgrade.
If, like me, you've decided to pop a new hard disk in your Mac before upgrading to Mac OS X, you'll get the advantage of a nice clean hard disk with no fragmentation, since restoring from backup or duplicating one hard disk to another also eliminates fragmentation. Even better, this approach gives you an automatic backup, since you could always put the old drive back in if necessary.
Install in Order -- It's finally time to install. If you're lucky, you have a Mac OS X 10.1 CD-ROM. I wasn't so lucky - although I had a 10.1 upgrade CD-ROM, that would only update an existing 10.0 installation. I spent hours installing 10.0, letting Software Update bring that copy up to snuff, installing the 10.1 upgrade, and letting Software Update do its thing again. I might have been able to skip some of the intermediate 10.0 steps, but frankly, because I don't know exactly how everything works inside Mac OS X, I didn't dare, and I don't recommend you do either. Let's give Apple the benefit of the doubt here and assume they know what they're doing when they say that updates to Mac OS X must be applied in a certain order. Be sure to read the following two articles from Apple's Knowledge Base before starting the installation process.
If you have only a slow modem connection to the Internet, relying on Software Update to download all these updates could extend the upgrade time over several days. As I noted in the first part of this article last week, a better approach would be to download the various updates manually when convenient, and then apply them yourself. The only trick here is making sure you get the order right - I don't know if the installers for each update are smart enough to prevent you from making a mistake. The Knowledge Base article below provides links to all the necessary installers and tells you the order in which they should be installed.
The main Mac OS X installers and Software Update offer to let you install a number of optional components, most notably the BSD subsystem and developer tools, but also additional printer drivers and updates for Apple devices like AirPort hardware and the iPod. Assuming that you're not trying to cram Mac OS X into a too-small hard disk, I recommend you install most of these optional bits (it's safe to skip language kits for languages you don't understand) because it's not entirely clear that you can install some of this stuff after the fact. Disk space is cheap, and Mac OS X is still too much of a black box to second guess Apple's installers.
In the end, you should have a stock Mac OS X installation. Go ahead and explore a bit and try things out, but remember that things will feel different once you finish your configuration.
Install Applications & Utilities -- The next step is to install the Mac OS X-specific applications and utilities that you've downloaded. I don't recommend dragging programs from your Applications (Mac OS 9) folder over to your Applications folder unless the application in question is already carbonized, such iView MediaPro. It's better to build up your Mac OS X collection of applications more slowly and consciously to avoid confusion about what's new and what's old. Plus, if you do need to switch back to Mac OS 9, all your Mac OS 9 applications will be ready and waiting where you expect them to be.
I do recommend that you install all Mac OS X programs into your Applications folder. Some programs simply won't work properly unless they're in the Applications folder - for instance, if you move the Retrospect Client folder out of your Applications folder, the Retrospect Client application will turn itself off (that's a bug that Dantz knows about and will be fixing). In short, for now, take it easy on custom hierarchies. With time, it shouldn't be a big issue, but unless an application claims explicitly that you can place it anywhere, stick with the Applications folder. (And that includes the default Utilities folder inside the Applications folder.)
During this installation phase, you'll probably get sick of typing your administrator password (a good reason to keep it short and easy to type unless you're seriously concerned about crackers). Sorry, but there's no way around it, and as consolation, note that you don't have to restart your Mac after every installation or worry about what extensions were loaded when you're running the installers, as would have been necessary under Mac OS 9.
Once you've installed utilities, take a moment to configure them as you expect. For me, the most important step involved configuring MouseWorks properly for my Kensington Turbo Mouse's extra buttons, setting up QuicKeys X so I could switch to applications using my function keys, and entering the text shortcuts I rely on heavily. Until you've done this, Mac OS X will feel clumsy and foreign, but bringing back familiar interfaces makes all the difference.
Also take a few moments to familiarize yourself with the options available in the Finder's Preferences window (open it from the Finder application menu). The options surrounding window usage are perhaps the most important for those switching from Mac OS 9 - you will likely want folders to open in new windows all the time. The freeware ASM utility is extremely useful for bringing back the Mac OS 9 approach of tying all of an application's windows together when you switch to that application by clicking any of its windows.
Move Documents -- Up to this point, nothing we've done is irreversible (though it's tricky, if not impossible, to remove Mac OS X from your hard disk should you decide you don't want to use it - manual deletion won't work, so reformatting and restoring from backup is probably your best bet). However, when it comes to arranging your documents, you have two options. You can move everything into your Mac OS X user folder, distributing it among the Documents folder and the other top-level folders that Apple provides by default, or you can create aliases to the appropriate folders so your files are equally as accessible in Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X. For instance, so I could read email in Mac OS 9 if I booted back into it, I moved my Eudora Folder into Mac OS X's Documents folder and made an alias to it in my Mac OS 9 Documents folder under the top level of your hard disk. I haven't had to use it under Mac OS 9 after the first few days, but it was nice not to have to worry about losing any email during that time. More generally, you could try aliasing the Documents folders to one another. (I couldn't find a simple way of using aliases to link the Mac OS 9 invisible Desktop Folder with the Mac OS X Desktop folder.) When in doubt, though, I recommend leaving the original in the place Mac OS X expects it and putting the alias where Mac OS 9 expects it - Mac OS X is pickier and more likely to squawk.
I'm sure that those of you with highly specific filing systems are already chafing at the default folders Apple provides. Ignore them if you want, but don't delete them. Apple and other companies are already assuming their presence, such as with iPhoto, which stores its iPhoto Library in the Pictures folder. Creating new top-level folders is up to you, though.
Use and Reassess -- At this point, you're basically done with your installation and configuration, and it's time to start using your Mac as normally as possible. Obviously, some things are just different, such as the Finder column views and Dock, and you'll need to decide whether you like using those things or not. Don't write them off as a matter of course - the fact that they're different doesn't mean they're bad. Since I test lots of new utilities all the time, I treated Mac OS X's new approaches as though I'd just installed a new utility - some, such as the column view, I've decided I like using, whereas others, such as using the Dock as a launcher, I find to be a waste of time.
Give yourself a few days using Mac OS X, and take notes about what bothers you, what you find mystifying, and what gets in your way. I see a lot of generalized anger at Mac OS X for changing the way things were done in Mac OS 9, but a lot of the time when I ask people for details, it turns out that the problems are easily solved or explained. For instance, when my father first upgraded, he had lots of stuff stored on his Mac OS 9 Desktop. Since he didn't realize that's accessible only via the Desktop (Mac OS 9) folder alias in Mac OS X, he was furious that his files seemed to have disappeared. Once I realized what was going on, we solved the problem by moving everything from his old Mac OS 9 Desktop either into appropriate folders or to his Mac OS X Desktop.
Realistically, this process of usage and reassessment will go on for a while as you become comfortable with Mac OS X. Don't assume just because you're using roughly the same applications that you'll be zipping around in Mac OS X as fluently as you were in Mac OS 9 for some time. Even after using Mac OS X on my iBook since launch and using it non-stop on my Power Mac G4 for the last few months, I still occasionally run up against a brick wall. Then I have to stop, poke around a bit, ask questions of friends, and try to figure out a workaround. So far, I haven't been stumped by anything that matters, though Mac OS X's windowing logic (and I use the term "logic" extremely loosely) continues to irritate me on a regular basis - there's no good reason that a window belonging to a background application should ever appear over the front-most application, for example.
The upside of this process, at least from my point of view, is that every time I figure out something that wasn't obvious, such as how to delete a user completely, why files in my Sites folder aren't accessible via Web Sharing, or how Mac OS X uses some of those default folders, I want to write an article about it. We'll be publishing some of these how-to articles in the coming months, and if you have suggestions or requests for other short how-to articles, send them along to TidBITS Talk and we'll see what we can do.