Can You Make a Leopard Change its Spots?
Brave G3-based PowerBook User in a New Intel-based/v10.5 World

by Joe Leo, Columnist

FEATURE: 11.26.07-- Most Mac users like to hang on to their Apple machines well beyond the period of time they were intended to be held on to. (Shows just how tough Apple's products are... they were built to last!). But with the release of Mac OS X Leopard now on its one-month anniversary, how long will people continue to hold on to old hardware--now that a new era has begun, with minimum specs being G4 processors at 867MHz--before they finally switch?

Asking that question is like trying to get a tiger to change its stripes or a leopard to change its spots. And that's not an easy thing to do.

As with every new operating system, somewhere along the line, support for older machines drops. It happened with Mac OS 8, Mac OS 9, and then Mac OS X. While some have been able to find a back door entry into making unsupported machines run the latest and greatest system, people who've done so know that performance on that machine is sluggish.

Case in point, probably the last greatest operating system for awhile will be Tiger, version 10.4, because it runs on most G3 systems, and everything after that from G4 to G5 systems, to all the current Intel-based ones. Anyone running it on unsupported machines, well, good luck. It's been said and done.

With the advent of Leopard, or rather, prior to it, many Mac users wondered whether or not Apple would still support those same machines. Of course, by now we all know the answer to that question and officially, it supports older PowerPC G4 machines that cap at the low end of 867MHz. Even at that, performance isn't optimal.

For this columnist, what does it mean? Let's run down the list of machines that are in his possession, and what is (or what was) installed on each.

The first machine is a PowerMac G3 "All-in-One" model which could never run Mac OS X. It had OS 9.2.2 but shipped with OS 8.5, and while some way could have been made to install OS X--any version up to Tiger--on the machine (since later on it had a 550MHz G4 upgrade card from Sonnet), it just never worked so it was relegated as the native Mac OS 9 machine.

The second is an iMac G3 400MHz DV model. It came with Mac OS 9 (when purchased from PowerMax in Oregon), and currently has Tiger on it. The third, a PowerBook "Pismo" shipped with OS 8.6, OS 9.2 installed when bought used, and currently also has Tiger on it.

The fourth is a PowerMac G4 1.42GHz Dual model that came with Jaguar, was upgraded to Panther and currently has Tiger on it. The fifth is a 12-inch PowerBook G4 that came with Panther when bought open box at CompUSA, but upgraded to Tiger shortly thereafter. The sixth is a 1.5GHz Mac mini G4 (the "secret" model from Apple) which came with Tiger on it.

And, as luck would have it, if you read last Wednesday's feature piece on getting Black Friday style deals on "new" Macs (and pretty soon, some of the aforementioned Macs on the list will end up being someone's new Mac when they finally go up for sale or get donated), the seventh Mac--just bought!--is a second-gen aluminum 1.5GHz 15-inch PowerBook G4 with Tiger too.

6 out of 7 of them are all running Tiger really well, of course, the G4 models on that list, while the oldest chipped of the lot not that bad in performance either. As you can see, that's a "lot" of computers that are up-to-date and running the "latest" Mac software.

That is, until Leopard rolled around making Tiger yesterday's most advanced operating system.

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