XBook II: Mac OS X on a PowerBook

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Date: Monday, February 1st, 1999, 00:00
Category: Archive

This is the second installment of XBook, my look at Mac OS X and running it on a PowerBook G4. If you haven’t already, you may want to read the first installment of XBook for reference.


After using Mac OS X intermittently since the early Developer Preview (DP) releases I decided to adopt OS X full time and do whatever it took to be as productive in it as I was in OS 9 within one week. After pulling my hair out on the first few days from not being able to quickly do things that were second nature in OS 9, I found myself able to get around quite well after the first few days. My previous first day observation was that it “felt like I was using my PowerBook with both hands tied behind my back and using my nose for data entry.” Old habits die hard, I guess.

After several weeks of learning the ins and outs of the Finder I am happy to report that I would prefer to never go back to OS 9 and its instability, but that is still not yet possible. After finally mastering multiple window management (when OS X wants me to do everything in one window) and the dynamic dock (hey, where did my shortcut go?) I find that OS X is a powerful and productivity-oriented OS. The problem is that it is a work in progress at best.

After swearing that I would never boot into OS 9 again, I found one deal-breaker in OS X that is sure to affect almost all PowerBook users: the lack of PC card support. I didn’t even think about it until I went to download my vacation pictures from my digital camera’s Smart Media card via the PC card adapter. Whoops! No go. It just sat there looking at me, like “yeah, what am I supposed to do with this?”


The other killer was the long-anticipated arrival of my Novatel Merlin for Ricochet PC card modem. Same deal, no PC card support means no Ricochet in Mac OS X – a real tragedy. So I had two options: a) 128 Kbps wireless and Mac OS 9 or, b) cruddy 56 Kbps (sort of) dial up and Mac OS X. Ouch! That is a tough one. After several weeks of Mac OS X exclusivity I have to admit to becoming a Mac OS X snob. I just don’t like using 9 any more, I have completely swapped. Now Mac OS 9 seems foreign to me with its funny little icons and weird and random crashes. I am (reluctantly) writing this article in Mac OS 9 with Ricochet for Internet access.

Another issue that has surfaced in Mac OS X is excessive battery drainage during sleep, which is significantly higher than in Mac OS 9. Some readers have even reported fully charged PowerBooks being completely drained after one night of sleep under Mac OS X, with iBooks being the worst offenders. It would seem that the instant wake feature in OS X is not without its penalties.

Another observation is that on my Titanium 500 MHz the trackpad is ridiculously sensitive with only the slightest graze of the finger causing erratic cursor placement, wreaking havoc on typing. Granted, the new trackpad is more sensitive than previous PowerBooks, but it appears to be even more sensitive under OS X than under OS 9. Also, the fan comes on more often in X than it does in 9.

A couple of cool software issues that I noticed on OS X: the second button and scroll wheel on my Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer (and my Elecom USB mouse) was immediately recognized in OS X and did not require the installation of additional drivers, as was my Lexmark Optra e310 USB printer. Schwing!

One weird thing about OS X that sticks in my craw is the inaccuracy of the file sizes in Get Info dialogs and the finder. File sizes are important for anyone preparing graphics for the Web and OS X seems to give grossly inaccurate numbers. Maybe I am missing something here, but after I optimize a graphic using Graphic Converter of OS X, the file size looks exactly the same as it did with the original file.

As you probably already know, Apple last week released the 10.0.1 update (a.k.a. 4L13) via Software Update system preference and it generally tightens things up and makes performance a little better. The problem is that the update did not address the phantom monitor bug that I addressed in XBook I. The issue creeps up when you are working in OS X with a second monitor attached to your PowerBook, put it to sleep, disconnect the second monitor and wake it back up. The problem is that OS X still thinks that the second monitor is attached stranding windows and palettes.

Mail.app (build 387) is still no excuse for an email client and I have abandoned it in favor of using MS Entourage via Classic. As I have complained here before Mail.app has negligible filtering options and rules can only have one criterion, which is not enough. To make matters worse there is no SPAM filtering except to make rules to delete any mail which is not sent TO: (or CC:) your email address. Impossible to manage if you have dozens of email addresses. Apple needs to make Mail.app more of a priority or kill it and cede to the third parties. With no filtering it would appear that this is what they are doing.

Attached images are not displayed in-line in Mail.app requiring launching another application, nor is there an option to turn this on. Also, when replying to an email with attachments (i.e. images) the entire email (including the attachments) is sent back to the person – potentially expensive for people that pay by the byte. There is no easy way to send a message again (like Entourage’s Re-send feature) which makes it difficult to send the same email to another person.

While Omniweb cf3 is a gorgeous browser it does not support passworded pages that uses Microsoft’s NTLM authentication. This is the only feature keeping me, and I am sure millions of others, from using Omniweb full time. When I asked Omnigroup about the issue, they replied:

Actually, OmniWeb does support several types of authentication. We don’t support NTLM, because it’s proprietary Microsoft.

CF4 should be out fairly soon, but I don’t know when. We put semi-private “sneaky peek” builds up – the latest is sp16, which does include the authentication fallback fix. Note that the sneaky peek is totally unsupported (although do report bugs to sneakypeek@omnigroup.com) and the release notes are updated sporadically at best.

Well, that’s it for another installment of XBook, please contribute your XBook experiences by using the feedback link below and stay tuned for another installment some time next week.

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