Mac OS X Beta Diary: First Steps

(Editor's note: Macworld's Brett Larson has volunteered to run the Mac OS X beta and report back on his experiences. This is his first entry.)

I'm not being forced to do this. I volunteered to run the Mac OS X beta on my work computer to perform my daily routines. I can't escape and go into Mac OS 9 for this or that. Nope. If I need an OS 9 application, I've got to use Classic. So here I am.

The first day is going OK. The longest part of the installation process was backing up my data beforehand. Of course, good computer users know to backup their data before installing a beta version of any OS, especially OS X. I think I've lost enough data in my time know to do this.

The installation was the fastest I've seen for any OS, taking all of 20 minutes, including configuring the machine. And the whole process was easy; the software asks some questions, and you give it answers. I say, it was easier to install OS X than it was to install OS 9.

I'm running OS X on a PowerBook G3 (Bronze Keyboard) that has 128MB of physical RAM, though I'd like to have a little more. I hooked up an external monitor, keyboard, and IntelliMouse, and they all work just fine. I heard there are issues with using two monitors in an OS X environment, but I've noticed none so far.

As of now, I have SoundJam playing my tunes without a problem. (We'll get into the problems with the Apple MP3 player at a later date.) I'm also writing this very document in Microsoft Word 98 inside Classic.

The first problem I've run into is with the Mail application that's included with the system. I wanted to use it to decrease my need to go into Classic mode, but after I set it up to get my mail, it locked up my whole system. I've tried it twice now, and it keeps doing the same thing. The only way out is to bring down the whole machine. Eudora works fine in Classic, so for now I'll stick with it.

I like having a command line in my operating system. Finally, all those UNIX system-administration classes I took will come in handy! So far, I've used the command line to kill a few processes that were out of control. That is one sweet feature.

When Classic boots up, the whole machine slows down until it's finished. It doesn't take long, but it would be nice if a version of Classic was available with a very limited set of extensions in order to speed the process up.

The new sleep function rules. It literally woke up my PowerBook from sleep mode in about a second. So nice. My external monitor, however, took a long time to power back up. The Battery monitor in OS X is also sweet -- it looks like an actual battery that changes color as it drains.

With only 128MB of RAM, this PowerBook sure keeps up. I currently have ten applications open, one of which is Microsoft Word, and there's not a slowdown to be found. This is nice. The only problem I'm noticing, though, is when I move a window in Classic, the window outline moves right away, but it doesn't redraw for a second or so. It's not so bad, but a few times the slowdown has lead to wrongly directed mouse clicks that bring up other applications or close other windows.

The boot time seems to be shorter now. When I come in and turn on my machine, it's up and running before I'm back with my cup of coffee. Before, in OS 9, my machine would still be loading extensions even after I returned with my coffee. And this is a beta, so I can only imagine booting up will be faster in the final version.

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