Bahamut's Lair

Finally, ‘A Mac OS that works’ — but is Steve the Grinch?

By Bahamut (bahamut@dog.com), 2 January 2001

Imagine Baha’s surprise when Santa not only slipped an OS 9.1 CD into his nylon stocking, but did so weeks early. Baha’s had a chance to play around with the golden master of 9.1 and what he found makes this fictional creature woozy with glee, as if he’d had his belly filled with eggnog!

First, 9.1 breaks the OS X Public Beta’s ability to boot Classic. Although Bahamut can only hope that this separation will last into the new year, he also fears that this unhealthy attachment will resume the moment that OS X returns in GM form.

Second, it introduces a new concept: no new features.

Well, nearly no new features. A couple of revamped control panels, a Window menu in the Finder, USB printer sharing (already available) and instant access to the whopping 20 MB of storage on your Apple iDisk. (As Buffy’s cute lesbian sidekick Willow might say: “Whahoo.”) There is also one intense hassle: once again Apple has seen fit to reorganize our directories for its directory structure of the month. Apple Extras, Internet, and Utilities folders get sucked into “Applications (Mac OS 9)” while Web Pages get sucked into Documents. No doubt this is for better compatibility with a future OS X release, but it is a little disconcerting. But really, there is nothing new to OS 9.1.

What is new is a third feature, one that’s entirely novel for our favorite fruit-flavored company: stability! Although this fictional creature can only account for his Lombard and a couple of G3s and G4s around the office, the verdict is that this OS finally squashes some serious bugs and introduces no readily visible new ones.

Stability on the Lombard is the biggest miracle. Ever since its release, the Apple support discussion boards have been littered with complaints about wake-on-sleep crashes with Lombards. Apple has acknowledged the problem, but in its technote on the topic it recommended checking for naughty SCSI drivers and reinstalling the system software. Now, this kind of advice is about as useful to a Lombard having trouble waking from sleep as an alarm clock might be to Baha after a three day non-stop crystal meth binge. In other words, not very.

A while ago, Baha deduced that under Mac OS 9.0.4, it was possible to eliminate crashes on wake by forbidding Apple Audio Extension and ATI Driver Update from darkening the Lombard’s System Folder. Still, this seemed like an awfully vicious way to keep the Lombard up and running.

But apparently some clever under-the-hood programming by Apple’s elves has led OS 9.1 to long-sought stability. This is quite remarkable as this fictional creature’s experiences with many of the Final Candidate releases proved them to be as buggy as a baby elephant’s bottom.

So where’s 9.1? Why no Xmas present for the rest of you? Well, there are a couple of explanations, and both point to a delay until MWSF because of 9.1’s weird big brother, Mac OS X. Rumors on X seem to conflict – some say it is nearly complete, others say it is far from ready. It doesn’t look like we can win either way. If the release date for X is close, L’il Steven won’t want to release a flavor of 9 that would break OS X Public Beta until he can announce a way out of that conundrum without giving away the release date for X. After all, you don’t really want to use 9.1 as your prime OS, right? Like a good little droogie, you only want to use it for Classic. On the other hand, if OS X is not ready for prime time, Steve will need to save 9.1 to have something to talk about at MWSF besides the Mercury PowerBook. If a whiz-bang demo of OS X is out, perhaps Steve will demo 9.1? Although how he would do so is a mystery to this fictional creature. Maybe Steve will be reduced to flipping a Lombard open and closed ... “Look, it sleeps, look it wakes! Look it sleeps, look it wakes! Still no crash!” for an hour. This fictional creature would be delighted by such a demonstration, but somehow suspects that others might not find it so endearing.

Bahamut also wonders how Li’l Steven intends to distribute this baby. As nothing more than a set of bug fixes, OS 9.1 could only be distributed commercially with the slogan, “OS 9.1. It’s like getting a whole new Mac for $99: one that won’t crash and actually works! Wow.”

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