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Scared by the big jump to Mac OS X? We were too, but we've assembled a guide to upgrading from Mac OS 9 that will eliminate many of the common problems people experience. Also, Adam reports on the first MacMania Geek Cruise - read on if you've ever wondered what it would be like to cruise to Alaska with nearly 200 other Mac geeks. In the news, Apple started selling the eMac to the general market, and we cover Mac OS X 10.1.5 and Mailsmith 1.5.3.
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Mac OS X 10.1.5 Released -- Apple has released Mac OS X 10.1.5, bringing incremental improvements to applications, networking, and third party peripherals. Adding more spokes to the digital hub concept, Mac OS X 10.1.5 adds support for new Canon digital cameras, Nikon FireWire cameras, and external disc recorders from SmartDisk, EZQuest, and LaCie, as well as magneto-optical (MO) drives. Mail and Sherlock have received stability tweaks, and Quartz anti-aliasing of text is now offered for applications that support it (such as the recently released Microsoft Office X Service Release 1). In terms of networking, iDisk access has been improved, as has file searching on local and remote volumes, and navigating Windows NT file servers via AFP (Apple Filing Protocol). Mac OS X 10.1.5 is available through Software Update, or as a stand-alone 21.4 MB download for users of Mac OS X 10.1.3 or 10.1.4; a separate 45.1 MB Mac OS X Update Combo 10.1.5 should be used to update versions 10.1 through 10.1.2. [JLC]
Mailsmith 1.5.3 Adds Improved Searches -- Bare Bones Software has updated its powerful email client Mailsmith to version 1.5.3. The signature addition to this version is the capability to search for messages based on the relevance of the search terms, rather than just locating email messages that contain keywords; results are listed with the most relevant messages at the top. Mailsmith 1.5.3 can also now create a new outgoing message with an attachment when you drag a file onto the program's application icon, as well as a host of other fixes and improvements. Mailsmith 1.5.3 is a free update for owners of version 1.5 or later, and is a 5 MB download. [JLC]
eMacs for Everyone -- In a surprising move, Apple has announced that it is now selling the all-in-one eMac to anyone who wants one, barely a month after introducing the low-cost, CRT-based system solely for the education market. (See "Apple Rolls out Education eMac and Faster PowerBooks" in TidBITS-628.) The move brings the clunky cathode-ray tube display back to Apple's mainstream product line after a much-touted shift to an all-LCD lineup with the flat-screen iMac, but there's one strong reason for the reversal: the eMac's $1,100 price tag puts a 700 MHz PowerPC G4 within reach of more consumers, some of whom are still balking at the flat-screen iMac's $1,400 minimum price tag. The default configuration of the eMac will ship with 128 MB of RAM and a 40 GB hard disk, along with a CD-RW drive and a 56K modem (which weren't standard on the education version). Of course, the eMac still features a 17-inch CRT display, built-in 10/100Base-T Ethernet, two FireWire ports, five USB ports, and an Nvidia GeForce2 MX graphics controller; an AirPort card can be added for wireless networking. [GD]
by Adam C. Engst <email@example.com>
The first MacMania Geek Cruise has now sailed into the sunset, and I've had a few days to digest what was a truly fascinating experience. We sailed from Vancouver, British Columbia, on 27-May-02, headed out into the Pacific to zip up to Alaska, and then worked our way back down through the Inside Passage, stopping at Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan before arriving back in Vancouver seven days later. The days at sea were filled with a variety of conference sessions; we had the days on land to ourselves.
The People -- The most enjoyable aspect of the trip was meeting Mac folks, both on and off the ship. The day before the cruise left, Derek Miller, a frequent contributor to TidBITS Talk and author of several TidBITS articles, organized an extremely enjoyable lunch for other TidBITS Talk members and MacMania speakers in Vancouver. A few days later, Peter Anderegg, a TidBITS reader and former tour guide, spent an afternoon showing us around the parts of Juneau that tour buses could never visit. Top on Tristan's list was the Last Chance Basin Mining Museum, thanks to their collection of decrepit mining trains (you can see pictures of our time in Vancouver and Juneau below). In the evening, we accompanied Peter to the Juneau Macintosh user group meeting, a barbecue held on the shore of the stunningly beautiful Auke Bay Recreation Area. The barbecued halibut and salmon was delicious, the conversation stimulating, and the wind bracing. David Pogue spoke animatedly about the wonders of Mac OS X, John de Lancie (an actor known for more than just playing "Q" on Star Trek) mingled and posed graciously for the Star Trek fans, and a good time was had by all.
Back on the ship, the level of conviviality and friendliness was exceeded only by the MacHack developers' conference, which has sixteen years of history and shared experience to draw upon. Nevertheless, after MacMania's first day or so, faces became familiar, names were attached (thanks to ever-present name tags), and most people had relaxed into a comfortable co-existence. The key, I think, as with MacHack, was a shared space where we could all gather with PowerBooks and iBooks and partake of the wireless network with satellite-based Internet access. The Internet access was expensive ($100 for the week), but for a technical conference it was essential, and those who had never experienced the geek-filled lobby of the Holiday Inn Fairlane in Dearborn, Michigan during MacHack were astonished to find just how enjoyable it is to hang out and chat with other Mac users while reading mail, browsing the Web, or organizing photos of the day.
The pleasure was perhaps even greater for Tonya and me, since we've been friends with so many of the other speakers for years, but it was also great to meet new people and get to know some of those whose work we've followed for years. A special treat was meeting Phil Russell of the Corvallis, Oregon, Macintosh user group, whose tips column in their Mouse Droppings newsletter we've enjoyed for years. John de Lancie, after he realized a Macintosh conference would be less stressful than a Star Trek convention, loosened up and proved to be both an interesting conversationalist and good with kids (one night when we met him at the elevators, he picked Tristan up and "flew" him all the way through the ship's casino to the dining room).
The Conference -- The conference itself was basically what you'd expect, a bunch of sessions on a variety of topics and presented by many of the people with whose names you've become familiar over the years. My impression is that the quality of the sessions was on par with those at other conferences. What set the conference apart from the pack, though, was the chance to interact with the speakers (or, from my perspective, the audience) outside the actual session time.
The talks I deliver at Macworld Expo, for instance, are essentially the same as those I gave at MacMania, but at Macworld, after the Q&A session ends, I generally have to dash off to another appointment or presentation. So although attendees generally get their questions answered, there's simply no time for more in-depth conversation, which proved both easy and commonplace for most of the speakers during MacMania.
The Cruise -- Of course, the fact that distinguished MacMania from all other Macintosh conferences was the venue aboard the ms Volendam, a Holland America cruise ship carrying about 1,400 passengers. The concept was great - who wouldn't like to go on a cruise? - but the reality was less appealing. Our cruise was free in exchange for my speaking on six different occasions, but Tonya and I decided we would be unlikely to seek out a similar cruise for our own vacation plans.
The main problem, as we learned, is that different cruise lines cater to different demographic groups. Holland America, it seems, targets folks over 50, and the assumption that the average guest is nearing retirement age means that those of us in our mid-30s with a small child found ourselves constantly at odds with the way things were done. The kids program wouldn't accommodate children under five, there was no place other than room service to get food from 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM (when it seemed we always needed a bite to prevent either a mother or child breakdown while waiting for dinner at 8:00 PM), the room service menu had no options for children, and so on. That's not to say that Tristan wasn't welcome - both staff and other folks on the boat were extremely nice to him - but the ship simply isn't set up for young families.
Personally, my biggest problem was that smoking was allowed in many areas of the ship, and the combination of smoke and the lingering odor of room freshener was a constant irritation. I was also restricted to running on treadmills thanks to a no running policy on the perfectly nice outside loop around a lower deck. Rough seas the first full day laid Tonya low, made me feel woozy, and turned an otherwise boring treadmill run dangerous. The food, although a solid effort considering the vast numbers of people being served, was nothing special (but you could order as much as you wanted).
On the plus side, the service was exemplary, thanks to the ship's primarily Indonesian crew. Our room steward must have been part elf, to judge from the way our toy-strewn room was magically cleaned and organized twice a day, and Tristan was utterly taken with the concept of finding a chocolate on his pillow each night before bed. The ever-smiling wait staff was equally as good, whisking unnecessary bits of silverware away after you ordered and being constantly available without hovering.
The ports of call were mixed. We had a fabulous time in Juneau with Peter Anderegg, and in Skagway we took a three-hour train ride on the White Pass & Yukon Railroad that offered amazing scenery for us and the chance to be in a railroad passenger car for Tristan, who's currently in a train phase. But the towns of Skagway and Ketchikan in particular seemed to be little more than tourist traps (the population of Skagway is nowhere near as large as the number of passengers disembarking from the two or three cruise ships that appear regularly), with an odd combination of cheap schlock and high-end jewelry store chains (seeing a Diamonds International and a Little Switzerland store in each town bordered on the surreal). I'm sure the stores do a good business, and I presume they've figured out exactly what the kind of people who take cruises want to buy, but we were still bothered by the overwhelming emphasis on shopping, especially for goods unrelated to the location.
The scenic highlight of the cruise was our slow sweep through Glacier Bay, where a trip down a mountain-bordered fjord ends at a pair of glaciers inching down to the water. Alaska's mountains, though craggy and appropriately covered with snow, weren't all that different from the Cascade mountain range we'd become accustomed to while living in Seattle, but nothing prepared us for the sheer size and grandeur of the glaciers. We spent several hours within a few hundred meters of Margerie Glacier (scale is hard to estimate near glaciers, since they're so large), punctuating our amazed staring with exclamations of delight every time a large mass of ice calved off into the slushy water below.
Future Events -- If you missed this first MacMania Geek Cruise, you can sign up for MacMania II, scheduled for 01-Jun-03 through 08-Jun-03 in Hawaii. It will be a bit different from the first MacMania - aside from the change in venue from Alaska to Hawaii, it's being held aboard a ship run by Norwegian Cruise Lines, which may cater to a somewhat different demographic than Holland America. Plus, the conference will apparently focus more on "visual arts" and Perl on the Mac. I wasn't asked to speak at MacMania II (and flying to Hawaii is an incredibly long trip from upstate New York) but many of the other speakers will be the same.
What MacMania proves, at least to my mind, is that there's room for more of what I'd call "destination conferences," where everyone stays in the same place and the talks are only part of the attraction. The general location might be part of the draw, along with activities that would allow an entire family to come. Most essential, though, would be a low-key public area in which attendees can congregate for Internet access when not in session. I'll bet there are a variety of resorts that would fit the bill, and I wouldn't be surprised to see additional conferences popping up to cater to groups like the Macintosh community, which tends to be both social and technical.
by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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.
Non-profit, non-commercial publications and Web sites may reprint or link to articles if full credit is given. Others please contact us. We do not guarantee accuracy of articles. Caveat lector. Publication, product, and company names may be registered trademarks of their companies. TidBITS ISSN 1090-7017.
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