Friday, December 02, 2005

Life before OS X

Do you remember what life was like with OS 9? I had forgotten but got a rude reminder on Wednesday.

This week, I decided to bite the bullet do something I'd been putting off for months: wipe my iBook's hard drive and do a clean install of Tiger. Reinstalling an OS is not something we Mac users are used to doing, but this poor system had taken so much abuse over the last year I decided a clean slate would be the best thing. With my relatively recent acquisitions of a Mini and an iPod, I had no use for the many gigabytes of mp3s and photos taking up space on that machine, not to mention all the duplicates of my old work files. The 30Gb drive was getting close to full, which was slowing down the machine.

Another thing I wanted to do was get OS 9 back up and running on the iBook because my wife has been bugging me to install a program that only runs on the old system (don't get me started about "Mac compatible--OS 8.1-9.2 only--applications"). All in all, given this was my first wipe and reinstall ever, it went pretty smoothly. I managed to back everything up, get Tiger and OS 9 installed, and pretty much everything restored over the course of an evening.

The real fun started the next morning when it came time to install the typing software S. wanted to use. The thing would install but when I tried to launch it, it would crash immediately. After much cursing and flailing about, I finally realized the problem was that this software was so ancient it used an older version of Quicktime. I had naively upgraded to 6.03 when OS 9 informed me that things would run much more smoothly if I did. So it was a question of trying to figure out how to uninstall the newer version (turns out you have to choose custom install from the INSTALLER then choose uninstall... very intuitive Apple! Bravo) and then install Quicktime 5, which was included on the typing program CD. Thing is, this version of Quicktime 5 was in French. Shouldn't make a difference, you say? I agree. One little problem though: the French Quicktime installer installed the extension "Gestionnaire Audio," the French equivalent of Sound Manager. I can't tell you how many times I had to restart OS 9 with various combinations of extensions disabled before I finally figured out that the French and English sound managers were yelling at each other. Once the referendum ballots were counted and all parties agreed that the French sound manager should go its separate way* (read: disabled), OS 9 booted fine and the program worked perfectly. (Incidentally, I'm pretty sure I could have just as easily disabled the English version and had similar results.)

How did we ever work like this? Granted, extension conflicts weren't an everyday occurence in the last millennium, but still, troubleshooting could be a real PITA in pre-X versions of Apple OS. Save extension set, reboot holding shift, rinse, repeat. Ugh! OS X has its problems too, as do all OS's, but at least its pretty. OS 9's grey screen and pixellated icons make me want to puke. I hope I don't have to go there again for a good long time.

*Canadian joke.

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