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Making the Mac OS X Upgrade Decision

The real question I’m sure many of you are asking at this point is if Mac OS X 10.1 is good enough to entice those who haven’t yet set themselves up to be Apple’s guinea pigs. Let me table the answer to that question briefly first and address the guinea pigs.

Run, don’t walk, to your local Apple dealer and get a copy of Mac OS X 10.1 via the Instant Up-To-Date program (and if that’s not possible, send in your $20 for the full Mac OS Up-To-Date upgrade, especially if you need the updated developer tools). The closest I’ve found to a reason not to upgrade instantly is that the current beta release of Retrospect Client for Mac OS X from Dantz Development can’t do a full system restore in 10.1, although Dantz’s testing indicates that restoring user-created documents should work. If you’re doing real work on Mac OS X and relying on the Retrospect Client beta, I’d recommend extra caution. Otherwise though, 10.1 is better than 10.0 in every way I can see, and if it hasn’t yet sanded down every rough edge, well, Apple developers are only human too.

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Now, for you fence-sitters: I think Apple has done their job in getting Mac OS X ready for prime time with this release, so now the question of whether to make the switch comes down to other variables.

  • Does Mac OS X actually offer you anything useful? If you’re happy with your existing setup and you don’t feel the need to start moving toward the future at the moment, there’s no shame in sticking with what you’re using now. At the same time, Mac OS X 10.1 is good enough that I’m starting to feel excitement – rather than constant irritation – when I play with it on my iBook.

  • Have the applications you need to use been carbonized, and if not, are the existing versions sufficiently functional under Classic? Here the responsibility falls at least in part to Macintosh developers (there are still problems that only Apple can resolve that may hamper developers). If the applications you need are not ready now, check again at Macworld San Francisco in January of 2002.

  • Would switching to Mac OS X mean the loss of any necessary peripherals? You can always boot back into Mac OS 9, but that shouldn’t be necessary for a device you need to use regularly. Driver support for new peripherals should continue to improve, although I wouldn’t put money on particularly elderly peripherals, especially those accessed through USB converters, being supported.

  • Are you willing to invest the time in learning and configuring an entirely new operating system, complete with a whole new set of quirks and foibles? It takes time to read the mailing lists for configuration tips and to hunt down the shareware utilities that eliminate interface irritations. But there’s an undeniable satisfaction in getting a system just right, and doing that in the classic Mac OS hasn’t been particularly challenging for some time.

Whatever you decide, rest assured that Apple is serious about improving Mac OS X and standardizing on it at some point in the future. This new version shows what Apple can do, and I have increasingly high hopes that future versions will finish playing catch-up with Mac OS 9 and start forging new ground.

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