Going Back in Time to Mac OS 10.5 Leopard

Before Christmas, I had had enough with Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. Despite my Late-2008 Aluminum MacBook having 8 GB of RAM and a speedy hard drive, Lion would consistently drag to a slow crawl. Generally, the RAM hog was the new Safari, but some system processes were also taking hundreds of MBs of RAM. Of course, when my Free RAM disappeared, the system would become sluggish. I thought that all of this was very odd, not just in the memory usage by the OS, but also in Safari, since I don’t run with Flash or any extensions enabled.

So, I decided to go back to basics. I made a bootable 16 GB USB drive with two partitions: one for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard and one for my MacBook’s application restore DVD. I made each partition 8 GB, and I created the first partition with a GUID partition table so that it would boot on the Mac. I then restored the Leopard and applications DVDs that came with my MacBook to each partition respectively. Finally, I booted from the USB drive, formatted my internal hard drive, and reinstalled Leopard, Apple’s apps, and other apps that I regularly use (e.g., Microsoft Office 2011).

As they say, Leopard was built for speed, Snow Leopard for security, and Lion for Apple’s increasingly firm grasp on the desktop computing experience. I might not have access to the Mac App Store, iCloud, or the latest version of Safari, but I do have a snappy computer again that does everything that I need it to do. I might not expect any future security updates, but I can be smart about my online computer use, run ClamAV in the background, keep installed apps to a minimum, and patch any holes in the software that I do run.

I suppose there is a point where Apple’s regular release cycle of faster operating system experiences for older hardware had to end. I also suppose that we have passed that point with the transition from Leopard to Snow Leopard to Lion. Apple has big plans for Lion and its increasingly iOS-like user-experience. As they layer those things that work well on touch-devices like the iPhone and iPad on the non-touch Macs, it begins to weigh down what was an otherwise agile operating system. This trend increasingly makes me wonder if convergence is such a good idea. I am growing more dubious of this trend as time goes by. Additionally, I am growing increasingly concerned about the hardware and software development cycle. Getting people to buy more things certainly drives innovation through sales, but I see a lot of good things in older technology like Leopard. Also, what is the effect on the environment by our continuing desire to own new computer technology while discarding the old?

I am investigating hardware and software of a long bygone era in old PCs. Certainly motivated by nostalgic feelings, I want to uncover in the archaeology of computing things that used to work that we have gotten away from. What works and could still work today despite being 10, 15, 20 years old? What can we learn from old software? What can we continue to enjoy from old software? I will write on this more in the near future.

Stephen Wolfram Remembering Steve Jobs in the Guardian, Me Thinking About Mathematica

Mathematica is one of my favorite tools. I first learned about it (version 2–it is now version 8) as an undergraduate at Georgia Tech. I learned how to use it in the computer labs, but I wanted to use it in my dorm room. Unfortunately, I was reminded about the necessity of a floating-point unit to using complex calculating software at a speed faster than a sliderule; my Apple Powerbook 145B was woefully underpowered, lacking the necessary FPU that would have made Mathematica fly. As it was, I plotted one curve and it took 45 minutes to complete the operation. It was shortly after that that I upgraded to a Power Macintosh 8500, which significantly sped things along.

Mathematica was originally built by an exquisitely smart fellow named Steven Wolfram. I had the pleasure of meeting him at Georgia Tech when he come for a visit and lecture–I believe talking about his work thus far on what become his book A New Kind of Science and the upcoming release of Mathematica 3. Even though I probably didn’t say anything of substance or intelligence when I met him, he was still very polite and cordial to me.

Apparently, Mathematica’s development paralleled Steve Job’s work on the NeXT computer and then his return to Apple. Wolfram has some nice things to say about Jobs and his influence on Mathematica in the Guardian here.

Apple’s Mac 101 Series: Automator

Reading about robots lately has got me thinking about building some automation into my MacBook.

I have been playing around with Automator, the workflow automation software for Mac OS X. Apple has a good place to begin with learning how to use it here. Also, MacStories compiled a list of Automator actions and resources here.

Once I have something working, I will share the results here.

Stochastic Update, Reinstall Complete, Workshops

My Late-2008, Aluminum MacBook is back up and running with Lion, Aperture, and Office. After installation, everything is updated and running nicely. It’s too bad that Apple dropped support for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. I had considered getting back to basics for this particular Mac model, but had I done so, I would not be able to receive any security update or run the most up-to-date Safari web browser.

While restoring files, I have taken some time to trim the fat so that I have a leaner, meaner installation.

Not much else to report besides dissertation writing.

Oh, I do have some new workshops designed for the spring semester digital composition workshops. I will post those soon here so that you can have a sneak peak.

That is all . . .

Cleaning out the cobwebs

Thanks to my home built Lion install flash drive (I purchased Mac OS X through the App Store and created a bootable install drive), I am performing a nuke-and-pave on my late-2008 MacBook. As you might have read before here, I haven’t qualms about performing a reinstall. While the install is progressing, I am reading David Levy’s Love+Sex with Robots. I believe that this is the missing component to my Asimov chapter. Ah, a reboot . . .