Mac OS X Beta

Beta tester daylog

I just got hold of Mac OS X Beta from Apple Computer. As it’s a Beta release, it’s not in general distribution, and most users will not be using it until its official release early in 2001. However, a great number of folks are watching OS X carefully, evaluating it either for their own use or for their organization’s use. There have been loads of reviews in the popular Macintosh press both paper and electronic, as well as glossy propaganda from Apple. However, I have yet to see a day-to-day account of what it’s like to use!

This node aims to solve that. I have installed Mac OS X Beta on my machine at work, which up until now I have used with Mac OS 9.0.4 for all my primary work-related (and play-related while there) tasks. It is my intention to go a full week using only Mac OS X and its built-in Classic environment, which is a facility that allows you to run most Mac OS 9-compatible software inside a compatibility box (kind of like vmware, for those of you that know it) on OS X.

I’ll structure this as a daylog. Each entry will have a description of what I did on the machine that day, as well as general impressions, bugs found and reported, problems encountered (such as interface gotchas) and the like. I’ll begin the node by offering a description of my machine’s configuration for your reference.

The Custodian’s Mac

Okay! Here goes Day 1!

Day 1: Installation and Aqua Drooling (9/26/00)

Got the CD, popped it in the Mac, tried to boot off it. Won’t do it. Hold down the C key at boot, still no go. Let it boot into OS9 and try to run the installer off the disk; it runs, then immediately tells me that it’s going to restart the machine to continue the install. It restarts all right – right back to the OS 9 prompt.

Got it. Apparently, I was planning on putting OS X onto the second (slave) IDE drive in the Mac; despite recommending that your existing OS 9 install be on the first partition of the first drive, the OS X installer won’t even start up and boot if the second drive is unrecognizable (it’s running Linux at the moment) and the first drive has no free space. Argh. Switched the drives and blanked the linux drive; OS X will condescend to install now.

Running! Woohoo! Boy, that’s pretty. Jobs was right, I want to lick it.

Apps Tried Today:

  • MS Outlook Express (NC=Non-Carbon): Yup. Runs fine in the Classic Environment.
  • MS Word 98 (NC): Yup. All OK.
  • Meeting Maker (NC): Yup. All OK.
  • Escape Velocity:Override(NC) Yup! Palette-cycles the screen when starting fullscreen graphics mode, and the sound is slightly delayed (maybe 1/4 second) but quite playable. No noticeable graphics slowdown.
  • Quake 3 Arena (NC): YEAH! Works fine. Slower; probably isn’t using ATI acceleration due to OS X Beta drivers? But still playable. Futzed around on some internet servers for a bit, fragged a few, lost a few.
  • Diablo II: Yes, with gotchas. Anywhere Diablo II uses transparency (a lot of places) the transparent object is just…gone. I suspect this has to do with Quartz, the new graphics API, which handles transparency differently and in the OS – in Quickdraw and RAVE, which D2 is using (found the card OK) it must conflict with the new API or the new thing ain’t finished yet (it’s a Beta. Repeat after me. It’s a Beta).
  • Internet Explorer (Carbon!Native!): Yup. Wants me to re-enter all my settings, but that’s OK, it’s a different instance.

Other notes: When the Classic environment boots up, it does so pretty quietly and in the background. You can set a pref to have it boot the Classic environment at startup, although that might slow down startup, which at present is pretty fast, faster than OS9. When my Classic finished booting, it ran the DAVE software I use to get on the NT network, and came up, asked for my password and logged me into the NT domain! All from the Classic box! However, I couldn’t browse into server volumes…hm.

The built-in mail app is cool, handling all sorts of media. I set it to IMAP to use my server. However, there doesn’t appear to be provisions for multiple mail accounts. So… I booted up classic Outlook Express. Works fine. No problems; all my old mail/settings are there, and it’s happy. Sends/receives no glitch. Rules work.

I should note that the Classic environment is set up by the installer; when you install OS X Beta it’s recommended that you have OS 9 installed already; the installer finds your current installation and configures Mac OS X to use that. Since I had OS X use Mac HFS Extended as its filesystem, I can see the OS X filesystem from the OS 9. Changes made to my OS 9 filesystem are real changes!

Note, the Dock is pretty damn cool. You can resize it, move it around, hide it. You can turn off the cool-but-maybe-annoying ‘genie’ effects. That’s it for now, quitting time, more later…

Day 2: Interface the music: It's a paradigm shift (9/27/00)

Hmmmmmbaby. Well, it becomes more clear every hour how different OS X really is, despite its interface which is, as a professor of mine calls me, 'Severely Mac-imcised.' It's pretty. The interface elements (Aqua) are nice. The problem is that I wasn't a NeXT user, and the guts of the interface are a tad confusing. For example, it's got the apache webserver built in. Great. There's a nice GUI control panel that can turn it on and off, name the server, and set the root level of the server's documents. Nice. However, I know from experience what Apache is capable of! What if I want to limit connections? Child processes? Run a name-based virtual host? Where then do I go? It'd be understandable if I had to edit a text file for the more arcane bits o' magic, but at least point me to where it goes...also, goes this apache have JServ in it? CGI? mod-perl? I can't tell. Then again, I just started playing.

The Dock. I like the Dock. But is there a way to make it hierarchical? What if I want all of MS Office available there but don't want to waste four whole icon slots on it? Is this a famous Apple 'Third Party Opportunity?'

The Finder/Browser - this thing's just cool as hell. The multi-level 'paned' interface looked weird in pictures and descriptions, but using it is natural; so natural I stopped noticing after about five minutes, and then when in Windows on my computer at home, kept trying to expand the list views. Oops. Best part? It will preview whatever object (file, app, what-have-you) in the rightmost pane. If you select a Quicktime movie, it'll pop up the first frame and a standard set of QT controls in the Finder pane...and you can watch the thing right there if you like.

Multitasking. Kicks ass. Real deal, here. Drag a playing QT movie around the desktop. Not only does it keep playing, with synchronized sound, but it's smart enough to slide over the desktop pics and open folders, and under the transparent window, movie still playing.

Bugs found/reported:
All interface stuff; mostly in the Finder/Desktop. Stuff like the shadow frame around windows messing up the transparency of the Dock by darkening it when the window edge is dragged too close to or over the Dock, and then not redrawing. Also one instance of garbled text in a Finder window while the Music Player was trying to search an entire HD for MP3 files 'cuz I clicked in the wrong place. Hee.

Apps tried:

  • Meeting Maker: I know, tried yesterday; gave it a full workout, though. Seems fine.
  • Diablo II: Same deal, tried yesterday. Performance actually worse than I thought; persistent graphics weirdness, almost unplayable.
  • Apple AIrport Configuration Utility: Apple says OS X can't use airport...but can I config my airports using the Classic Environment? Yup, sure looks like long as the Airport is visible on Ethernet; OS X can't use the Airport, so the Classic Environment doesn't see it and doesn't load the Airport drivers.
  • Filemaker Pro 5: Runs OK; seems to be having trouble connecting via native IP networking to servers on the LAN. Will investigate tomorrow.
  • MacStardate: Heehee. Works. This is a teeny app that just puts up the stardate in a window; looks like it was more a programming exercise than anything else.
  • PalmConnect USB: No! Aiiiiieeee! This may be a killer. It don't work, likely because it depends on diddling with USB/Serial at a fairly low level. Sigh. I'll keep playing with it.

No crashes yesterday or today. Machine still running off the first boot. Haven't actually crashed the Classic environment either. Maybe I'll try running Navigator 4.7 in it tomorrow. That'll kill it fer sure. :-)

Day 3: Oh, say USB/By the blank disk drive light... (9/28/00)

Yesterday caused suspicion, and today proved it...the USB support ain't great yet. I can't get PalmConnect USB or my Canon Powershot S100 software to work over USB, although hotswapping mice and keyboards works fine. I'll lay this at a driver issue, since I can't install the Palm or Canon drivers into OS X. I hear Palm has demoed PalmConnect running on USB under OS X, so that may not be a big issue in the long run. It's making my week a bit more onerous at the moment.

I gave up and booted into OS 9 for an hour or so today to sync my Palm V, upload images from my camera so I could erase 'em off the flash, and play Diablo II. I'm a wretch.

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