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Diving Into OS X

Please be aware that this entry is over two years old. Therefore, it may contain broken links, outdated information, or views and content which are no longer completely valid.

Over the past weekend, I acquired a PowerMac G4 with OS X Tiger and iLife ’06.  Quite a goldmine of a find, I must say.  In any case, I thought it would be worth it to give the OS X platform a try again and see what I could do with it.  Now, the last time I really sat down with a mac was when OS 8 was new, and again with OS 9 for a special video project on none other than a machine I affectionately call “the boat anchor“.   Before that, I had used an Apple IIc Plus, a Color Classic II, and one of the Macintosh II models.  That is about what my history consists of with myself and macs.  Surprisingly, I’ve been around macs more than some of my fellow techs would think.

So, first things first—what could I do with this new mac?  Granted, it’s not the most powerful thing on the planet, but I can still fiddle around with it.  Here are the specs:

  • 450Mhz CPU
  • 512MB PC100 SDRAM
  • ATI Rage 128 Pro in AGP 2X slot
  • 30.7GB IBM Deskstar

So, I started out by wiping the drive and installing a fresh instance of OS 10.4.  Now, seeing as this was and outdated CD already, I had to download and install several hundred megs worth of updates.  Contrary to what sometimes happens on the Windows platform, updates for the Mac OS actually do help out and solve various issues and offer security patches.  Again, yes, there are security flaws even on OS X.  Taken at its most basic level, OS X is a UNIX Operating System with a front-end GUI known to you and me as decidedly mac-like.

Anyway, after installing the updates, I then could install iLife ’06 (it required some of the updates I had just downloaded before I could install it).  Then after installing iLife, I ran updates for that.  I effectively spend a good part of the day letting the mac update itself because the downloads were quite large.

The next day, I installed my favorite browser (Opera 8.54), which went off without a hitch.  After that, I started on putting the Mac to use by firing up iMovie HD.  There have been a number of improvements since I used the first version of iMovie.  Anyway, I imported tapes of a recent small theater show we were asked to record and put onto DVD, edited the film, created a nifty DVD menu with iDVD.  Now, there were a few bumps along the way, such as iMovie’s way of handling movie clips.  You do not edit the original imported file directly—you only reference it, and all the cutting is done within iMovie.

In any case, from what I’ve seen of the iLife package so far, it’s quite a powerful set of multimedia applications for users who just want to be able to put out something and not worry about too many details.  My only gripe is at times the interfaces are not as clear as they could be (they tend to “hide” things in plain sight) and that the Apple logo tends to find its way into the final product with a bit more prominence than I’d like.

Overall, compared to the Windows platform, OS X seems to have a fairly logical layout as to where everything is and how to access things.  At times, it seems like some of the menus and options and whatnot are a bit too simplified, thus barring some control over customization, but I can see that OS X makes great appeals towards first time computer users.  That, and it’s very difficult to crash.  I managed to crash some of the multimedia programs only once over the course of the week, which is pretty good considering that I can easily crash applications on Windows XP with daily (if not hourly) regularity.

Although my particular G4 can’t support all the bells and whistles in OS X or iLife because of its older hardware, that doesn’t mean I can’t continue to fiddle with it some more.  I doubt I’ll become a full convert, as I’m having trouble figuring out what exactly I could use the mac for (since all my applications and solutions are primarily Windows-based).  So, I’d definitely like to hear feedback from some of you mac users out there as to what I may be able to do with this machine currently running OS X.

(Originally published on a now-defunct blog)