You can’t tell from your end, but I’ve gone high-tech. My stone-age mac is all fast and aqua now.

How did it all happen, you probably won’t ask but I’ll tell you anyway - but first, why? Macs are a little annoying in that they go on working perfectly well while you’re salivating over a new firewire Powerbook, then a new grape iBook, then a new Titanium PowerBook, then a new pearly iBook, or a new Cube, then a new G4, then a really snazzy new iMac with the flat screen display on the robot arm. But your old mac keeps going and going and going, like the Energizer bunny, even though you run ten programs at once on its paltry 64MB of memory and fill up its teensy weensy hard drive with Joan’s Buffy scripts, Jim’s Voyager Reviews, mpegs of musicals and embarrassing pictures of Spike to be explained later. If you don’t do much with it besides IM your beta reader, edit your fic, and read your mail, then you don’t need new operating systems every six months. MacOS 8.6 was a very good year, you tell yourself, and you know you’re right.

Then, if you’re really lucky, your boss asks you, token Mac addict among the Windows sufferers, to deal with the Mac port that so-and-so requested. And then he says that lovely word, “reimburse”. Gotta love that word…

And that’s how I found myself at the Mac store yesterday, having enough memory (and then some) installed to run OS X on my Bronze-age Mac. I considered just buying the memory, on the off-chance that I would fry the motherboard or something trying to install it myself, thus creating the perfect excuse to buy a nice new titanium PowerBook - but I couldn’t do that to my poor mac. And it’s a good thing I didn’t try it at home, because there were problems - the specs were a little vague on the question of adding RAM, and the 256MB didn’t work. I suspect the problem was that it was designed for up to 192MB in each slot, bringing it up to its telling maximum of 384MB. (I know, I’m boring you.) If I could be bothered to read the directions, I could have told the genius dudes that.

Instead (yes, interesting part now), I came off looking like a twit, with my desktop image of Spike that I forgot about, because something is always covering it when I’m using the computer. (Ten programs take up a lot of screen space.) Just the night before, my lovely sister Veronica had admired Spike when I was burning my fic to a backup CD using her new iMac, but did I stop and think, take Spike off the desktop before somebody sees him? No, of course not.

Nevertheless, I made it out of the store with new ram in, and the old ram out. (Anybody need 64MB of SO-DIMM, at 100Mhz? It won’t work in a new iMac, but an old one, or a Powerbook, would take it.) The next, and scariest, step was formatting the hard drive. That isn’t usually necessary, but I had a Yellowdog Linux partition taking up half my teensy weensy hard drive, and OS X, being Unix itself, needed just as much space. So I ascended the ladder of operating systems from 8.6, past 9.2.1, to X.1.2.

OS X is so cool. I remember way back when the OS X Server was in development and my supervisor had somehow convinced Apple that he was a Mac developer and got a copy. It was cool. Now it’s way, way cool.

It’s also very slick, and designed to keep people who have no clue what they’re doing out of trouble. I’ve been using Unixen of various types since I’d rather not say when - though the soft spot in my heart for SunOS 4 says more than enough - and if you’d told me Unix could be user-friendly, I would have responded with the full syllogism: “UNIX is user friendly. It’s just selective about who its friends are.”

What did I think I was getting in the nice white box with the big X, then? I don’t know - I guess I didn’t believe that there was really a Unix under all that aqua. Maybe I thought it was some sort of velocity engine too deep for mere mortals to access. Then I found the command line - this puppy is running a Turbo C shell just for me. You can’t fake tcsh - I know, because I’ve installed my share of clunky poseurs on Windows.

Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.

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