Subject: An old G4 PowerBook laptop which locks up after several hours of use.

  • Test the memory so that, if it’s good, we can resell it instead of recycling it.
  • Wipe the hard disk so that we can recycle the computer.


  • Tech Tool Pro 4 disc
  • Tech Tool Pro 5 disc
  • Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard install disc
  • Mac OS X 10.3 install disc (came with laptop)

You’d think this would be easy… Continue reading

It’s always something.

Last month it was my computer that needed rebuilding. This month it was Katie’s. It’s an old G4 PowerMac, but it’s still plenty for iTunes, web, email, word processing, etc., and we’ve got a newer Windows box for things like games. It failed to boot after a system upgrade, and subsequent troubleshooting determined that the drive was going bad. (This time I ran some more diagnostics, confirming that the rest of the hardware was fine, and Tech Tool Pro found dozens of bad blocks before I stopped the surface scan.)

So: New drive, reinstall system, transfer the data and apps that we can. Which led to this question:

The Leopard or the Tiger?

(Sorry, I couldn’t resist phrasing it that way!)

Last fall I bought the multi-license pack of Leopard so that we could put it on both Macs. We ended up not upgrading the desktop. She was under the impression that the hardware was too old, and I only remembered that Leopard had dropped support for Classic apps. The first problem was easy: I’d checked the specs before ordering, and would only have bought the single-license box if it hadn’t been supported. The second was also easy: in the past year, she’d converted all her documents from old classic-only apps, and wasn’t playing the classic-only games anymore.

So: Installed Leopard, transferred data from old drive & backups.

Side annoyance: transferring a user with the Migration Assistant did not work. First it wouldn’t copy over her account, so I had to create another account, log in, delete her (new) account, then do the transfer. Then, every time it ran into one of the 5 or so corrupted but inconsequential files, it would freak out and remove everything it had copied. Drag and drop copy didn’t work because the alternate account didn’t have permission to read everything. (Remember: admin != root.) I finally resorted to the UNIX commandline, which worked. For reference: sudo cp -rp oldpath newpath Prob. should’ve used tar instead of cp, but I’m not sure how much Mac OS X uses symbolic links in user accounts. In any case, it’s been working, so I’m not going to worry about that.

The real problem: A week later, while doing link maintenance on this site, I stumbled across my blog post about upgrading the laptop, which mentioned the fact that Photoshop 7 won’t run on Leopard.


Cue Spamusement:

Screaming figure running from a ghost crying, $150...just to UPGRADE

So, what are the options?

  1. Shell out $200 to upgrade to Photoshop CS3. I don’t think so. Not after doing major surgery on two computers, not in this economy. (Incidentally, it took forever to find the system requirements on Adobe’s website and verify that CS3 would actually run on that machine, since everything is focused on CS4…even though it isn’t available yet.)
  2. Downgrade to Tiger. Might just be Archive & Install, might require wiping the new drive and reinstalling. (Reports are mixed.) I don’t think any of the built-in apps she uses have changed data formats, so that’s probably OK.
  3. Find something cheaper or free. Katie pointed out that it has to be able to read PSD files accurately.

We’re going with (c) for now, starting with the OSX version of GIMP.

Mac OS X LeopardThe new Mac OS X disc arrived in today’s mail. I opened it up to make sure everything was there, and was surprised to see that Apple has really cut down on packaging. Instead of the ~8×10″ box with folds to keep the disc and manual in place, they’ve gone to a small box the size of a cardboard CD case. Just enough room for the DVD and the “manual” (which is mainly a “Look what’s new!” booklet).

“So,” I said. “I have to ask myself. Do I feel lucky?”
“Well,” Katie replied. “Do you? Punk?”
“What the heck.”

I’d done some research on application compatibility earlier this week, and the PowerBook looked ready. Katie’s desktop is going to need further study. The Mac Classic environment will no longer run under Leopard, and she’s still got a couple of Classic apps she pulls out occasionally. Also, Photoshop 7 is reported not to run under Leopard, and Adobe isn’t testing or updating anything older than CS3.

But the laptop? No critical data to back up (it’s all duplicated from the desktops), and everything we actually use on it has been tested on at least a pre-release.

So I fired up Netscape 4 for old times’ sake (and discovered that this theme is completely unreadable in it; then I switched the CSS around so that Netscape 4 won’t even try). Then I popped in the disc, selected some options, and let it install during Pushing Daisies.

No problems so far. Disk space is running low, but it’s a 3-year old laptop (so the drive is small) and I did an Archive and Install, so it has a backup of the old OS. Once it’s clear that everything works, I can free up ~6GB right there. It may also be time to wipe the Yellow Dog Linux partition. I haven’t used it in over a year.

Some highlights: I really like finally having virtual desktops (what Apple calls “Spaces”). The new search highlighting, previously seen in the Safari 3 beta, appears in other apps as well. Heck, Safari 3 is a big jump itself. (Hey, Apple, where are the Windows and Tiger releases?)

After many delays, Apple has finally announced the release date for the next version of Mac OS X, a.k.a. Leopard. It’ll hit the shelves in just 10 days, on October 26—roughly 2½ years since the previous release.

Mac OS X LeopardI’d planned on pre-ordering it from Amazon, since I have no interest in standing in line at an Apple store (though that may have been unique to the iPhone), but I’ve been holding off until the requirements were finalized. We’ve got two Macs, one desktop and one laptop, both G4s, and the desktop is old enough for compatibility to be a question. And while the 5-license “family pack” is still less than twice the cost of the single-license box—$199 vs. $129—I only want to spend the additional $70 if we can use it.

Fortunately, even the desktop meets the minimum requirements, so it’s not quite obsolete yet.

At least I shouldn’t have to repeat the shipping snafu I had with Tiger. The leasing office will hold packages now, so even if UPS (or whoever) does try to deliver while no-one’s home, I should be able to just pick it up instead of spending 4 days trying to get it delivered to the right place.

It’s funny: When Microsoft releases a new OS, my inclination is to sit it out and wait for the first service pack, usually a year or so in. When Apple or Fedora releases a new OS, my inclination is to upgrade as soon as I have the time. Even though all of them have had histories of significant problems on one release or another—the broken video driver I ran into on Fedora 7, for instance, or the firewire drives fried by one version of Mac OS X.

I’m not sure why that is. Maybe it’s trust. Maybe it’s speed of the fixes: Linux vendors will have updated packages within days to weeks. (Heck, some Linux distros have updates available by the time the ISOs go live, because a bug was fixed after the contents were frozen.) And you can count on a Mac OS 10.5.1 in a month or two. Maybe it’s the scale of problems. You risk things like broken drivers or software with anyone’s major OS upgrade, but Windows always seems to have some problem that’s bigger than just a bug fix, something that needs more time and effort to redesign. In short, something that won’t get fixed until the next service pack.

Edit: It occurs to me that since Leopard will include the new release of Safari, we’ll probably also see the final release of Safari 3 for Windows next week.