Mac OS X White Paper by Roger Kasten Jr.

There has been a lot of discussion and interest in Mac OS X, and through it all I have been amazed by one thing: many people appear to be making major decisions based on a complete lack of information. People appear to be distraught over the purported inability of Mac OS X to run on their computers. Yet when I ask them why they need to run Mac OS X, they are unable to provide an explanation. Clearly there is something going on here. I think it’s time to take a calm, rational look at Mac OS X. Let’s examine the new OS along with the existing installed base of Macs; and the people who own those Macs; and the applications they want to run. I urge you to take a few moments to look through this missive. It should prove interesting.



Who can run Mac OS X, according to Apple:

Anyone who owns a Macintosh that originally shipped with a G3 or G4 processor. That includes:



1. PowerBook G3 (with white Apple logo)


2. iMac (all models and speeds)


3. Beige PowerMac G3 (all models and speeds)


4. Blue & White PowerMac G3 (all speeds)


5. Graphite PowerMac G4 (all ZIF-based Yikes)


6. Graphite PowerMac G4 (all Sawtooth)


Who can’t run Mac OS X, according to Apple:

Anyone who owns a PowerPC Macintosh that originally shipped with a 601, 603, 603e, 604, 604e or Mach V processor. That includes:



1. PowerBook 1400


2. PowerBook 2400


3. PowerBook 3400


4. 4400 Series


5. 5200 Series


6. 5400 Series


7. 5500 Series


8. 6100 Series


9. 6200 Series


10. 6300 Series


11. 6400 Series


12. 6500 Series


13. 7100 Series


14. 7200 Series


15. 7300 Series


16. 7500 Series


17. 7600 Series


18. 8100 Series


19. 8200 Series


20. 8500 Series


21. 8600 Series


22. 9500 Series


23. 9600 Series



Some of you are probably already moaning and groaning because your computer is part of the group that is listed immediately above. Hang on for a few more minutes. It’s always darkest before the dawn.



Apple has stated that the group of machines shown above will not be supported under Mac OS X. That statement does not necessarily mean that Mac OS X won’t install and bootup. It simply means that Apple will not support Mac OS X running on that group of computers. It also implies that Apple will not spend any time testing and debugging any OS-related issues relating to those computers.



One of the proclaimed hallmarks of Mac OS X is tremendous stability. With that in mind, you really need to ask yourself, “Does it make sense to try and run an all-new OS on a group of computers that are not going to be supported by Apple?” If we answer that question calmly, we invariably reach the conclusion that it doesn’t make sense to run it on those computers.



Many of you are already saying, “but, but, but.” Despite the fact that you know you will not be supported, you are still thinking that it might be different if it is running on your computer. Let’s see if we can figure out what it is about OS X that causes normally rational people to throw out reason and rush towards impending doom. “The software made me do it!” may be the next excuse of the new millenium!


4 out of 5 people, with the wrong hardware, want to run Mac OS X because…

It is so cool looking.

It’s just the interface. It’s not the real guts of the Operating System. It has nothing to do with how well the new OS works. However, we love a good GUI and you can get much of the same look from a well designed Appearance Mananger file.


It supports Multi-Processing (MP).

That sounds great, but I’m willing to bet you don’t own an MP card for your unsupported computer. To really take advantage of MP you’re also going to be required to purchase all-new MP-aware apps.



It supports pre-emptive multi-tasking.

Wow, that really sounds great. But tell the truth now… do you really know what that means? Out in the real world, what does pre-emptive multi-tasking give you? How will it improve your performance? It is a buzz word. Don’t use it until you’re sure what it means. I will say it is a real feature, but to take advantage of it you will need to purchase all-new software, or upgrades.


It doesn’t crash

Now this is genuinely a good reason to want to run Mac OS X. However, it should be pointed out that the only way to obtain a reasonably crash-proof system will be to run Mac OS X on a supported computer and purchase all new Mac OS X apps or upgrades. Are you prepared to take this step?


They want to be “first on their block.”

That is probably the most honest reason for wanting to immediately jump on OS X. Sadly, it is also one of the worst reasons to perform the upgrade! Upgrading to OS X will not be like upgrading to OS 8 from OS 7, or OS 9 from OS 8. Upgrading to OS X will be a major undertaking with a reasonable amount of expense attached. If you are not prepared to purchase new applications or upgrades, then there is no reason to move up to OS X. The benefits are only obtained when running OS X-aware apps.


A guy on the Internet says it is safe.

I read on the internet that you can remove your own appendix in a simple pain-free operation. Who wants to try it with me? Please, please, please don’t depend on rumors and innuendo when it comes to something as important as OS X or your appendix. Wait until there are many sites that are all echoing a unanimous message of rock-solid stability. Then you can jump into the unsupported world of OS X.


Because it will do things they can’t do under OS 9.

There is truth to this reason, but it is still not enough of a reason. It still boils down to you running a radically different OS on your older, unsupported computer. Go ahead, run OS X. When you inevitably encounter difficulties, you may be on your own


Am I Down On OS X?

No way! I freely admit to being a techno-geek. I get goose-bumps when I encounter really cool software and hardware. I am excited by OS X! I am also very concerned about many people’s reactions to OS X!



I think OS X will be very cool once it has had a chance to get where it is headed. Right now it is still alpha code. It has yet to enter the public beta stage. Once it enters public beta, quite some time will pass before it becomes a commercial product. I want end-users to understand they should step gingerly around… not jump squarely onto… a piece of software that is not ready to ship on a commercial basis.



Many people, whose computers aren’t supported by OS X, need to get over their feelings of being left behind by Apple. This is simply reality at work. Apple can not, and should not, be expected to support every computer they have ever made under this new OS. As someone who owns a 7300-9600 class of computer, I would love to have seen Apple include this group of computers in the list of supported machines. Of course, if that happened, then the people who own 4400-6500 computers would want the same thing. Where would it end? The same place where several previous radical OS attempts went… nowhere! Apple needed to draw a line in the sand and they did. Users need to accept that line and determine what, if anything, it really means for them; their computers and the software they want to run.



What Do People Really Want From OS X, And Are They Going To Be Satisfied?



I continuously encounter people who moan and groan about the fact that their computer is seemingly worthless because it won’t be able to run OS X. What is genuinely interesting is that when pressed for a reason why they feel they need to run OS X, they rarely have an answer. They often mention something about the really cool Aqua interface. This is truly an indication of how successful Apple has been in designing the new User Interface. There are people who appear ready to dump their computers simply because the new User Interface won’t run on their existing computer. There are other people who seem to feel their computer’s usefullness is at an end when OS X starts shipping. This is an amazingly incorrect belief.



Why You’re Safe Regardless of Which PowerMac or Performa You Own!

I won’t be able to run the all-new Aqua User Interface (UI) in OS X.



With Appearance Manager in OS 9, you will be able to choose from what will surely turn out to be dozens of competing OS X look-alike UIs



I won’t have MP capability.



This is untrue. You can purchase a third-party CPU upgrade and run MP-aware applications such as Adobe Photoshop under Mac OS 9.



I won’t be crash-proof.



You’re not crash-proof right now, yet somehow you manage to still get your work done. This will not change the day Mac OS X ships. Sure, it would be nice to never crash again, but it hasn’t stopped you for years and it won’t stop you anytime soon. It is a great thing to aspire to but for now, you and your computer will continue to do great work for many years to come… even under Mac OS 9.



I won’t be able to run the latest and greatest versions of apps.



This is just plain FALSE! You will continue to have access to all the new applications. You have something working in your favor that Mac OS X does not have… namely, a very large installed base of users. There are well over 20 million Mac users whose computers can not run OS X. A very large percentage of these people are able to run OS 9. When it comes time to develop a new application, a software vendor now has three choices… 1) Develop only for OS 9 and lose the new OS X crowd. 2) Develop only for OS X and lose nearly the entire installed base of Macs. 3) Develop for OS 9 and “carbonize” for OS X. The third scenario is the route that nearly every developer will initially take. It ensures them of a healthy existing market and the ability to develop a new market. With that in mind, you can now see that for the next several years you will continue to see new versions of software even if you are not running OS X.



I want to run Linux/UNIX on my Mac. That is what OS X really is.



You still can! There is absolutley nothing stopping you from running Linux or UNIX on your Mac. There are many fine implementations of these operating systems. They are available under names such as Yellow Dog Linux, LinuxPPC, MKLinux and others. These OS packages have been available for several years.



I must run OS X before anyone else



Okay. I’ve tried to point out why this might not be a great idea for most people, but perhaps you are the unique exception to the rule. If you absolutely must be the first person in your city to run Mac OS X, then I strongly suggest you go out and immediately purchase either a new Mac or possibly a used beige or blue & white PowerMac G3 computer.



The Bottom Line on OS X

Once again let me state for the record, “I think Mac OS X is cool! I think Apple has outdone themselves on the Aqua user interface. I look forward to one day being crash-proof. I think that ultimately it will change the face of the Macintosh market. I will run it on some of my machines, but I won’t be the first on my block to do so.” As cool as the User Interface is, and as attractive as the stability will be, I have a problem I can not easily get around. I do not have the money to purchase all the new software, and most likely additional RAM, that will allow Mac OS X to really do its thing! This is an extremely important area, so let’s examine it and make sure we are all in agreement as to what I said. In order for Mac OS X to do its magic, it must first have applications that have been written purely for it, or have been “carbonized” for it. This will enable the new OS to utilize the impressive features it contains. I am referring to features such as MP, pre-emptive multi-tasking, lockable memory, etc. If you do not purchase new, or updated, software then your apps will always be running in the emulated Mac OS 9 compatibility window. You will have gained nothing. You must be prepared to purchase new, or updated, apps if you want Mac OS X to truly “deliver on the goods.” There is also a strong chance that many people will need to purchase additional RAM. Don’t scrimp.



The purchasing of new applications represents a bit of a shift in the responsibility curve when it comes to installing a new version of the OS. If you choose to install Mac OS X, you will have a responsibility to purchase new software. Up until now, it has largely been Apple’s responsibility to deliver an OS that worked with your existing apps. I know someone will point out that Mac OS X will run with all your existing applications, but as we’ve discussed there will be no real advantage to operate in that mode. The real magic of Mac OS X happens when running new or “carbonized” software.



If you own a Mac that supposedly won’t run OS X, take heart. You will have a lot of new software that will continue to be available to you under OS X. If you own a Mac that is capable of running OS X, you simply need to decide if you are prepared to purchase the new OS as well as the apps which will make it worthwhile. If you are like many Mac users this information is of no interest to you because you are still running OS 7.x or 8.x. Your computer is running great and you are in no hurry to do anything to it.



Mac OS X gives all appearances of becoming an incredible new operating system. I think it is important that we don’t rush Apple. They need the time to do it right. We need to set our expectations correctly. The new OS can do a lot of things but it won’t enable pigs to fly. It is a great step forward but it is not going to magically cure all that ails existing computer users. If we expect too much from it, we will end up being disappointed and we will only have ourselves to blame. If we try to make it run on machines it is not designed for, we will only have oursleves to blame when it behaves erratically and crashes. We must all step back and give Apple time to finish this tremendous project. We must all set realistic expectations. We should all move cautiously, and we will all end up being better, happier computer users.



An important note regarding Mac OS X and CPU upgrade cards for unsupported Macs

The question that continues to be asked of CPU-upgrade vendors is, “Are your upgrades compatible with OS X?” The correct question really should be, “Is OS X compatible with your computer?” For the computers that will run OS X correctly, you can pretty much count on the CPU-upgrade vendors to provide drivers. If the final release of OS X comes out and it turns out, through some miracle, that it runs reliably on 7300-9600 computers, then once again I believe you will find the CPU vendors ready with drivers. Just remember that the biggest question is, “Will it run reliably on my model of Mac?”


Roger Kasten Jr.

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