The Mac OS 9.0.4 updater is here — but will it suit everyone? Vic Lennard does a bit of pre‑trouble shooting...
When Mac OS 9.0 appeared late last year, most of us expected it to be just a small step up from Mac OS 8.6. but nothing could have been further from the truth. From a simple viewpoint, it precluded pre‑PowerPC Macs and added a multiple users option and a new search facility, Sherlock 2. But underneath the hood there were substantial changes to many fundamental system items including the Finder, File Manager, Open Transport and font management through FontSync. It was little short of a major overhaul.
Now you know what convential wisdom says about a piece of software ending in '0': avoid until another digit has been stuck on the end and other users have been used as guinea pigs to highlight the various bugs. However, that old adage was somewhat ignored for Mac OS 9.0 and the resulting software carnage was painful for many. Essential utilities like Adobe Type Manager crashed on startup, and many commercial programs needed updates quickly. Apple, to its credit, released a stream of updaters for OpenGL, Open Transport, FireWire and the USB and audio sides, while simultaneously bringing out Mac OS 9.0.2 and 9.0.3. All in all, a less than satisfactory situation.
The Good Bit
The International English 9.0.4 updater (all 12.5Mb of it) can be downloaded from asu.info.apple.com/ swupdates.nsf/ artnum/n11617 or obtained via Mac OS 9's Software Update control panel — though the latter seems to be less than reliable. Once downloaded, the self‑mounting image leads to the installer and less than five minutes later the process is complete. Checking the 'About This Computer' box confirms that Mac OS 9.0.4 is indeed installed.
On reboot, nothing seems different but if you have a look around you'll find numerous changes. In effect, Mac OS 9.0.2 and 9.0.3 should be viewed as pre‑release versions of 9.0.4 which has all of the previous updates incorporated within it. For instance, it includes FireWire 2.3.3 which fixes pre‑existing problems with certain DV camcorders and FireWire hard disks. The new Mac OS USB 1.4.2 is built into the Mac OS ROM file, Power Manager 2.0.1 fixes a sound problem after 'sleep' mode, and Open Transport 2.6.1 fixes a loophole that could be used by certain denial of services attacks. There's a new audio extension, Sound Manager and CD/DVD driver and the Y2K problem with the Date & Time Control Panel has been fixed. There are no new features though.
If you have a G4 (AGP graphics), iMac DV or FireWire‑based Powerbook you'll also need to download Apple DVD Player 2.2 (asu.info.apple.com/ swupdates.nsf/artnum/n11624) and install it after the update. This solves a DVD problem with audio‑video sync.
The Not So Good Bit
So everything's rosy and everyone with Mac OS 9.0 should update to Mac OS 9.0.4, right? Not quite. There's a rather innocuous line in Apple's Technote 1194 which states: "In Mac OS 9, the native SCSI Manager was not being installed at system startup. As a result, whatever version of the SCSI Manager that was stored in ROM was being used instead. This problem has been corrected." As the SCSI Manager is the part of the operating system responsible for communications with connected SCSI devices, it is crucial to the recognition of attached hard disks and data transfer within the system. Upgrading my G3 Powerbook was fine — but my G4 refused to boot! Mac OS 9.0.4 renders certain third‑party SCSI cards almost unusable, in particular the Adaptec 2906. This 'cheapie' can't mount hard disks at start‑up, requiring SCSIProbe to handle that task. Upgrade to Mac OS 9.0.4 and your Mac will freeze on booting; disable SCSIProbe and your SCSI hard disks won't mount. In short, anyone with a PCI SCSI card should probably avoid upgrading to Mac OS 9.0.4.
What if you haven't got a PCI SCSI card? Upgrading to Mac OS 9.0.4 should give you a more stable machine but also be aware that certain USB devices have exhibited problems, including USB to SCSI converters from SCUSBee, Microtech and Xircom — although there have been no reports of problems with USB MIDI boxes.
A Good Update?
Generally, Apple appears to have got Mac OS 9.0.4 about right — one or two minor annoyances on my Powerbook have certainly disappeared but it's always difficult to get a system update 'spot on' for everyone. The major issue is inevitably the interaction between various extensions and drivers, the mix of which is down to individual machines.
Expect to see the last Classic Mac OS update (version 9.1) in the summer with Mac OS X Consumer being released at about the same time — possibly at Macworld New York in July.
- A client called me in to sort out the mysterious case of the disappearing hard disk space. The Mac running his Vicomsoft Internet Gateway had only 20Mb capacity left, even though almost all files had been deleted. Why? The binary log (a single file listing all Internet connections) had been left to grow for 16 months to the obscene size of 392Mb! "I'd like to see what's in that file," he said. "I'd like to find a program that could open it!" was my reply...
- When is a dog not a dog? When it's a fish. A Fish PC to be precise. Browse to www.fishpc.com.au and you'll find the most blatant of iMac lookalikes, down to the five available colours, (purple, blue, red, navy and orange), keyboard and mouse. At least they left out lime! Be quick though — I'd be surprised if Apple's legal department let this one slip through the net.
- So Charles Babbage's 1827 printer has finally been built at a cost of £250,000. And guess what they found at the rear bottom‑right corner? An 8‑pin mini‑DIN Mac serial port! Only joking...
Six Steps To Pain‑Free Upgrading
- Back up anything important (especially data files) before starting.
- Run any repair programs (Norton Utilities, DiskWarrior) to make sure that there are no pre‑existing maintenance problems.
- Move a copy of the entire system folder to a second drive.
- Restart with extensions off (hold down Shift key).
- Run the updater.
Some individual software problems may be sorted by deleting the relevant preferences files thereby forcing your computer to create fresh ones.
Apple Profits Up
Apple's second quarter (ending 1/4/00) results continue its upward trend with a $233 million net profit, up by almost 73 percent on the same quarter last year. Revenues (at $1.94 billion) are up 27 percent and gross margins (at 28.2 percent) also show improvement. Interestingly, international sales accounted for just over half of the quarter's revenue. The company's position is so good at present that it also announced a two‑for‑one split of its common stock — always a positive sign.
Don't Get Toasted!
It's rare to advise users not to touch an update with the proverbial barge pole but that appears to be the case with Adaptec Toast Deluxe 4.0.2. Unless you re‑install version 4.0, the updater won't work. Even then, the disk image facility still isn't functional — the very reason many users are updating!
Adaptec technical support's reply to this? "Sorry, you must be trying to burn from disk images. Sorry, it's busted. Will be fixed in next rev." Sounds like a good reason to wait. Michael Amorose, originally Tech Lead on the Toast 4.0.2 project, has been quoted as saying: "It is a miracle that Adaptec can ship any Mac software that works right." Ouch.
Coda Music Technology (www.codamusic.com) are the driving force behind Finale, the professional notation package. Now they've released Allegro 2000, designed for performing musicians. The demo contains the entire program with two exceptions: you can't save a document and every time you print the allowed one page, the words 'Allegro Demo' share the printed page with your music.
Tried SoundJam MP? Casady & Greene's commercial MP3 program is now at version 2.0 (www.soundjam.com) and has an interesting twist. You get to try the full program for 14 days, including new features such as using your Mac's sound input jack to convert records and tapes into MP3 format, reducing vocals for karaoke singalongs (oh goodie) and connection to portable MP3 players, before it reverts to a limited edition, SoundJam MP Free.
Digidesign's DirectConnect TDM v1.0 (www.digidesign.com) allows up to 32 separate audio channel outputs from compatible applications, such as software‑based synths or samplers, to be independently routed, recorded, processed and mixed within the Pro Tools TDM environment.
Some nice shareware items this month. Amadeus II (the sound processor, generator and analyser) is up to v2.3 (www.unige.ch/math/folks/hairer/m...) and has an animated spectrum window, enhanced frequency/amplitude scales and printing capability among a host of new facilities.
Audiocorder, the sound recording program mentioned last month, is now at v1.8.0 (www.blackcatsystems.com/software...). This update now has a selectable sound input device and the ability to change recording settings while the program is running plus some bug fixes.
Fancy an easy‑to‑use music authoring program? Then check out Easy Beat 1.1 (www.unisoftwareplus.com/products...). Using QuickTime 3 or 4, no additional hardware or software is required. Features include up to 16 song tracks; score, keyboard, tablature, drum, chord and controller views; MIDI import/export; export to QuickTime movies and AIFF files; full GM/GS compatibility; WYSIWYG editing; and high‑quality score printing with on‑screen preview. Certainly worth a good look.
FretPet 2.1.4, the guitar tutor, (www.fretpet.com) has better visual playback and some new features; ZVocoder (zerius.com/vocoder) takes two sound files and combines them into a new sound file through a vocoding algorithm; and QT JukeBox v1.5 (www.geocities.com/ kekoajs), great for live MIDI file playback) has some major playlist changes.
As per usual, there are numerous updates this month:
- Cubase VST 4.1r2 — includes G4 optimisation and a simpler authorisation procedure.
- DAE/DSI 5.0cs4 — interim release with bug fixes.
- Digigram VX 2.5.3.
- DigiTranslator 1.0cs1.
- Emagic Logic Platinum 4.2 (from 4.1.6).
- Emagic SoundDiver 2.1.2.
- GeeThree.com Stealth Serial Port 1.0.3 — essential for Mac OS 9.0.4.
- Newer MAXpowr 2.0.3 — for all G3/G4 upgrade cards.
- Pluggo 2.0.8.
- Retro AS‑1 2.0.1.
- SmartScore 1.3.