Some of the more technical aspects
of computer ops.
OS, CPU, port types and more, all subject to change periodically as the
is a short list of recommended reference books, including eBooks, from
a select few authors, along with some trusted online sources for Mac
titles of all sorts.
Williams - She may have the misfortune of sharing her name with
famous actor, but _this_ Robin Williams has no peer when it comes to
writing computer-related manuals. Her "Non-Designer's Design Book"
series is excellent for mastering web design and graphics, as is her
"Little Mac Book" series for getting around the MacOS. Beautifully
illustrated, clearly written, some of her early books might be getting
on in computer years, but they are still relavent to the design process.
Engst and Tonya
Possibly the most complete, up-to-date and useful resource for getting
a grip on specific Macintosh topics is the "Take Control" series of
ebooks. Browse their complete list of subjects, and for a few bucks you
can download more than you'll need to know about most any specific
Adam, Glenn Fleishman and a talented staff of techno-writers are also
responsible for publishing the TidBits newsletter that has been
a source of current, reliable information about the Macintosh for over 20 years.
For the more nerdly among us, check out these publishers and their
lists of outstanding MacOS, iOS, networking, training and program
Stay put or upgrade
OS to latest greatest?
There's a distinct difference between upgrades and updates;
upgrading means a whole new OS, but updates are improvements to the OS
you're currently using. Both are available via
the App Store (in Apple menu).
Was a time when there was no
question about it, any updates or upgrades that
came along were always desirable and applied without hesitation - but
things have changed. Now a little caution and research is called for
regarding software and System compatibility. Most updates are a good
thing and should be installed as they become available, but an OS upgrade can
result in needing newer versions of application programs, especially if
jumping over two or more OS versions. Upgrades may require new device
drivers, too (printer, scanner, etc.). In any
case, we highly recommend a complete backup prior to making any significant
change - including an OS upgrade - in case something goes wrong or you
don't like the
A couple of general rules:
- Stay within three
System versions of the latest release.
- If you're within two OS versions of
the latest - and it
works - don't fix it.
there's a compelling reason to upgrade,
keep using the OS version you're currently running as long as it isn't
a problem. Staying one version behind the latest/greatest OS is a good
idea these days.
This chart shows versions of OSX up to 10.13; each of these was an
the previous OS, and each had a group of updates added. For example,
the end of OS 10.10 was 10.10.5 (third number denotes updates).
Processors (CPUs) are listed across the top. The PowerPC (PPC) and
old G3s, G4s, and G5s are ancient history, obsolete and stuck in the
CD = CoreDuo; OS 10.6.8 is the end of the road for that CPU.
C2D = Core2Duo; most of these machines can run
versions up to 10.11 if equipped with appropriate graphics card and sufficient RAM.
MacOS 10.6.8 is required prior to upgrading to 10.7 thru 10.11.
10.7.5 is required for upgrade to 10.12 and beyond.
Direct links to MacOS purchase and/or downloads are posted on our Apple
Links page (left).
Mac Operating Systems
are download-only, available thru the AppStore (under Apple menu) and
about 5-8GB in size which requires true broadband.
10.8 Mountain Lion may still be available for $20 as a
from the AppStore, but latest MacOS version is free. Regrettably,
OS versions are no longer available from Apple, although they are still
supported with periodic updates for those running 10.10, 10.11, 10.12.
Click here to find out what OS version shipped on
your Mac and which build is recommended. (Build info may be found under
Apple menu > About this Mac, then click on "version 10.x.x" to
toggle between version, build and machine's serial number.) Read on for
a complete Operating System history starting with first Mac and going
thru OS versions to present day.
PRAM batteries: The first-ever Mac
(1984 128K) used a fat-diameter AA-length battery in an external
battery box with a door; a modern, full-size AA 3.6v lithium battery
works quite well in 128K Macs with room to spare.
Apple ][s and other early Macs used the familiar 3.6v 1/2AA lithium
battery - except that they were usually
soldered to the logic board. Best solution for these is to install a
battery box inside these machines where battery was located. A common
3.6v lithium battery can also be used to replace those weird, square
4.5v batteries found in old Performas, and - by the way - a full-size
3.6v AA lithium battery is half the cost and twice the size of 1/2AA -
Connectors: First 128K and the 512K
"FatMac" (that came with "more memory than you'll ever need")
used an RJ-11 plug to connect keyboard, commonly known as a phone jack.
Coiled cable to keyboard was identical to those on telephone handsets
of the day. Mouse, however, used a strictly proprietary connector. When
hard drives came along, Macs used SCSI drives, including external drive
port, with serial ports for printer and modem.
Drive mechanisms may need cleaning and a little grease as they tend to
get sticky over time (critical for first Macs lacking hard drives).
Assuming hardware is intact and new PRAM battery is in place, your next
challenge is to obtain and install/upgrade the best OS appropriate to
Systems (on 400K, 800K diskette)
Back in the
day of the first 128K Mac, the 512K "Fat Mac," FX and others, we had no
need of System version numbers and names; the Mac's OS was simply known
as, well, the MacOS. Back then, both the Operating System and
application program fit nicely on a single 400K "floppy" (actually the
first 3.5" hard-shell Sony diskette that would become industry
standard), with enough space left over for a document or two.
6.0.5 and 6.0.8 (MultiFinder): MacPlus to SE
MacPlus and early SEs with 800K drives can't go past System 6.0.8
without extensive modification to drives and logic board to meet
minimum System 7 specs. An SE equipped with 1.4MB diskette drive(s) and
other modifications could be made to run System 7.
7.5.5: Good choice for 68030 and 68040 Macs, including the SE/30
requires a 1.4MB diskette drive and 8 to 16MB RAM. (System 7.5.5 can
gobble up 4-5 times as much RAM as System 7.0 did on 68K machines.)
Communications via bulletin boards (BBS) was the norm at that time.
7.6.1: Minimum Internet, from SE/30 to Performas and PowerPCs
32 MB of
RAM and System 7.6.1 _might_ get you online today, but you won't get
very far without using Cyberdog or hacking Netscape for use on certain
machines like the SE/30. This configuration, System 7.6.1, represents
the bare-bones minimum required to allow email and internet on early
Macs and PowerBooks. System 7.6.1 also supported the multiple SCSI bus
of 603e/604e PowerPC Macs.
8.0: Skip it
license of this System release to terminate Mac clones. (There were at
least six at the time, including Motorola, UMAX and Power Computing.)
OS 8 was actually the last of System 7 (unofficially 7.7). The other
big change was this: OS 8 was the first MacOS to have a price tag.
8.1: HFS Plus, runs on all PowerPC 601, 603 and 604 Macs
Introduced HFS+ extended format, along with more than a few other
significant changes including enhanced software capabilities and
communications. 8.1 was the _real_ beginning of the MacOS version 8.
Runs on almost all PowerPC Macs up to the G3 Risc series processors
(also known as the 750 chip).
8.5 and OS 8.6: All PowerPC Macs
interface and control over view functions with global preference
settings. 8.5 introduced Sherlock; 8.6 expands on search capability,
indexing. Top end for 603e CPUs. If you can't use OS9 (which will not
install on ancient PPCs), 8.5 or 8.6 is your best bet.
OS 9.1: Top end OS
for 604ev Macs
OS 9.1 will
run on 604s, G3s, and a few G4 Macs. Newer G4s and G5s will not startup
with OS9, but can run OS9.2.2 and apps using OSX Classic Mode (provided
OS9 drivers were included with hard drive format under OSX).
OS 9.2.1 and Update
9.2.2: G3 and G4 Macs
improved security, data encryption, and many communications
enhancements, OS 9.2.1 was the last commercial release of System 9,
followed by one final update to OS 9.2.2. Update 9.2.2 contains
improved OSX "Classic Mode" compatibility and additional hardware
drivers for G4 CD and DVD burners. Last, best browser under OS 9 was
Netscape 7.02. OS 9.2.2 is absolutely necessary if you're still
dragging "Classic" OS9 apps. Tiger 10.4 was the last version of Mac OSX
to recognize OS9 "Classic mode" and legacy software (see below);
Leopard 10.5 will not recognize legacy software, nor can Intel machines
run legacy software.
versions 10.0 Cheetah, 10.1 Puma and 10.2 Jaguar: G3s, G4s, G5s
incomplete, not a pleasant experience. OS 10.0 thru 10.2.x are best
avoided; any machine capable of running 10.0-10.2 Jaguar should be
running Tiger (10.4) or later, if possible.
OS X 10.3.0 thru
10.3.9 Panther: G3s, G4s, G5s
all G3s - except the very first (beige) models and the first G3
PowerBook - will run OS X versions thru 10.3.9; in reality, RAM
requirements and hard drive space are determining factors. All G4s will
run Panther nicely; a few later G4s and all G5 models startup in OS X
only, but all machines up to Intel Macs (and Leopard 10.5, below) will
run OS9 apps in Classic Mode on HDDs with OS9 drivers installed.
Unofficially, almost any Mac with PCI architecture allowing addition of
a USB card can run OSX with a little tinkering.
OSX 10.4.0 thru
10.4.11 Tiger: G4s, G5s, some early Intel Macs
accommodate the 64-bit G5 processor and newer Intel Macs, Tiger is
virtually identical to Panther with a few added bells and whistles,
many of which require a broadband connection to the internet (as does
the Software Update function built into both Panther and Tiger). All G5
Macs should be running Tiger 10.4.11 or Leopard 10.5.8 (with sufficient
Early Intel Macs may have shipped with Tiger 10.4 onboard, but
upgrading to Leopard 10.5 or Snow Leopard 10.6 will allow the CPUs in
these machines to operate at full potential. Later Intel-powered Macs
will not run 10.4.
OSX 10.5 Leopard:
Runs on G4s, G5s, and first Intel Macs
release was on Friday, October 26th, 2007. Apple finally dropped legacy
support for OS9 and Classic Mode with Leopard 10.5, regardless of
machine's processor (G5 or Intel). Apple claimed "300 new features"
when 10.5 was released, but 10.5's real claim to fame is that it is the
last OS that will run on G5s and some G4s.
OSX 10.6 Snow
Leopard: Intel Macs only, 10.6.3 was DVD from Apple
polished version of Leopard, Snow Leopard (OS 10.6) was released a
month ahead of schedule. Snow Leopard may have originally been intended
to be an upgrade for licensed Leopard 10.5 users, but the 10.6.3 DVD
will happily do a full install to an empty drive. 10.6.3 DVD is still
supported and available from Apple for only $20 here: < 10.6.3
Snow Leopard > It will need to be updated (free, online) to
current version 10.6.8. Slick, smooth and stable, Snow Leopard had the
longest useful life of any OS since OS9.
NOTE: Some later machines will not boot from the 10.6.3 DVD as they
require 10.6.5 and later.
OSX 10.7 Lion: First OS available as
download, now extinct
Broadband, OS 10.6.6+, 2GB RAM, Core 2 Duo or later processor. Support
for legacy apps and "Classic Mode" was dropped here, so many 10.4/10.5
apps will need upgrades or replacement. More than a few changes,
including infestation of social networks wherever possible and the
advent of "cloud" services.
NOTE: Lion 10.7 was also briefly available from Apple on an 8GB flash
drive for $60-70, tho these are long gone (Apple# A1384). Device was
also marked 607-9072.
OSX 10.8 Mountain Lion: Last o'the Big Cats is $20, download only
Broadband connection, OS 10.6.8 or later installed, 2GB RAM, 8GB drive
space, and a current Mac CPU.
OSX 10.9 Mavericks: Most Core2Duo machines
In areas lacking true "broadband" speeds of 3Mbps or higher,
downloading a 8 gigabyte OS will take 6 hours or more. Also be sure to
download and install all available updates after upgrading to OS. 10.8.
Mountain Lion was still available from Apple when last we checked.
was something of a flash-in-the-pan. Shortly after its release, Apple
popped-out Yosemite and Mavericks just kinda disappeared. Unavailable.
It's still being supported with updates - if you already have Mavericks
10.9 - but this OS is no longer available from Apple.
OSX 10.10 Yosemite: Late Core2Duo and later CPUs
Yosemite was removed from Apple's App Store on release of El Capitan
and requirements were about the same: High-speed broadband plus more of
everything, mostly money. Upgrades/updates to
most 3rd-party software may be necessary (if available) and any
software over a few years old will probably be kaput.
OSX 10.11 El Capitan: Some Core2Duo, i3 and later CPUs
mid-2007 iMac, late-2008 MacBook/Pro, early-2009 MacMini or later
models; minimum 2GB RAM (recommend 4GB),
details and specifics available here: < El Capitan
OSX 10.12 Sierra: Free, while available
Requires late 2009 Mac or later, 2GB
(recommend 4GB or more), and minimum OS 10.7.5 to upgrade. This OS
occupies nearly 9GB of drive space and is a large file to download -
true broadband/fiber recommended.
OSX 10.13 High Sierra: Free online
here: < High Sierra >
10.13 appears to have the same
System requirements as 10.12 Sierra did (with a lot of polish and
improvements) and should run on any machine capable of running 10.12.
progression over the years
all used SCSI ports (pronounced "scuzzy," it stands for Small Computer
Serial Interface) to connect internal and external hard drives as well
as certain external devices (notably scanners). As time went on, SCSI-1
evolved to SCSI-2 then SCSI-3. Apple eventually dropped SCSI in favor
of the cheaper Parallel ATA (PATA or IDE) interface. SCSI is the
fastest and most expensive type of data bus, rarely seen in personal
computers these days, and PATA (IDE) drives have been replaced by
Serial ATA (SATA) drives. These are now giving way to solid-state
drives (SSD). With no
moving parts and speed approaching the speed of
light, SSDs are still very expensive, but prices are steadily coming
down as they become more common - now standard equipment in most Mac
USB (Universal Serial Bus) is used for the vast majority of external
devices, including cameras, external drives, scanners and other
gizmos. USB speed has improved thru multiple generations (USB-1, USB-2, USB-3), and has now given way to the USB-C port also known as
Thunderbolt-3. USB-C interfaces with most other port types and also
acts as the AC-adapter input for new Mac notebooks, replacing the
Analog and Digital
video output ports
These include the two-row DB-15 video port used on ancient
desktop Macs up to G3 models, the far more common 15-pin VGA
analog port still in use in the PC world, and Apple's abandoned ADC
connector which carried analog,
dual-link digital, audio and AC power all-in-one.
DVI became standard
video output port on all computers, recently replaced by HDMI from
the television world. Mini dual-link DVI ports are found on old
laptops and Macs, tho some full-size, industry standard
DVI ports appeared on some MacBooks and all MacPro towers. Most are
DVI-I dual-link output ports as the single-link version only lasted a
year or so.
DVI-I also carries
analog, DVI-D and DVI-A connections are
digital-only. Digital video cables over 10-feet in length must be
top-quality to minimize loss/noise, but analog video (typically VGA) is
not as sensitive and long cable runs should not present a problem.
Newer machines sport Thunderbolt
(mini video out), or the newest USB-C/Thunderbolt3 video out ports.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of adapters available to connect most
any device you might encounter, even Thunderbolt3 out to VGA.
is it, and why do I need more?
Adding RAM (Random Access Memory) can be a cost
effective and significant upgrade for most computers, especially older
ones. Many people confuse RAM with storage space on a drive, but
they're two very different things. RAM is where work
takes place; when you startup your Mac, its Operating System loads into
RAM. When you launch a program, it also loads into RAM. RAM is where
creation, editing and work takes place, written back to your drive on
save/quit, where it is stored.
While working, RAM is shared
between OS and apps; on shutdown, RAM is emptied. If power is
interrupted, whatever was in RAM will be lost (unless saved), but data
stored on your drive will probably not be affected.
More RAM means faster processing and
allows more applications to be open and running simultaneously. If you
use your computer for more than simple
word processing and email, you will likely benefit from adding RAM.
Memory (RAM) types
NOTE: Some new Macs cannot be upgraded after purchase. See the "Upgrade
or Replace" page, left, for details.
RAM modules, sometimes referred to as DIMMs
(Dual Inline Memory Modules), come in a variety of sizes, types and
brands, with various technical specifications and physical
configurations. RAM is extremely
machine-specific; sometimes a RAM module can be moved from Mac to Mac
within a machine "family" (i.e. same processor and bus specs), but this
is rare. Modules are also keyed to fit matching RAM slots.
Research your machine's requirements, found in your User
Manual, by checking your System Profile, or by researching machine's
serial number (usually found under iMac stand, on label in notebook
battery bay or printed on back of machine). Match these specs to memory
RAM issues can bring down the entire system, lockup machine, and
cause all sorts of nonsense (usually cured by removal). Inadequate,
mismatched or out-of-spec RAM will prevent startup and cause the
machine to issue a series of beeps only.
What if I run out of RAM?
If an application was thoughtfully written,
there might be a subroutine
that periodically checks memory management and will utilize a block of
drive space temporarily to compensate. Otherwise, programs may freeze,
hang or quit without warning, or machine might stop
responding to input. If you experience spinning beach balls for
extended periods or
apps unexpectedly quit, you might need to add more RAM.
Your Operating System
requires a fair amount of memory all by itself, increasing with each
new OS release. Modern System versions typically use 2GB RAM or more,
possibly necessitating a memory
upgrade when upgrading OS versions. RAM is probably the single most
available for hard working Macs.
a web site (if you don't have one)
Life in the "Information Age" means the phone book of yore
has been replaced by web search; people expect
to find info about you and/or your business on the internet. Web sites
are like an online business card, only better. They can include
examples of your work, answers to common questions, inventory, photos,
videos, hours, a map and all sorts of info beyond just a phone number
Registering a domain name, designing a web site and posting it with a
host can take a bit of doing, but once established a web site
can be an essential advertising and marketing tool - or just a fun
place to share things with friends and family.
You can have your own blog or
discussion group, post photos and slide shows, video, music, link it to
a YouTube page if you like and take it as far as you wish.
Editing and updating your site is pretty easy, too, once you
get the hang of it, but initial setup might best be left to a web
designer who knows all the tricks - unless you're willing to wade into
it and do it all yourself. We don't do web design here, but we might be
able to help with details and discuss the process and options with you,
possibly recommend a designer or host to get things started.
You can create a mock up site in TextEdit or
Photoshop or Keynote, to get an idea of how it should look and work -
or launch into the real
thing with a web design app. Once you have a basic layout, translating
it into a web-friendly site can be fairly easy. Cruise around the Web
ideas, look at different layouts and site designs, and work on a layout
that suits you.
Meanwhile, the first thing you'll need to do is find a unique domain
name that isn't in use. Best way to do this is by simply typing it into
a browser and see if you land on a site. If your browser comes up empty
and can't find the name you used, it's probably available. Soon as you
figure out your site name, register it (two years should be in the
$20-30 range). That will give you time to design and complete your site.
Domain names are registered according to the
suffix attached, with ".com" being the most prevalent. Many ISPs will
snag a domain
name for you, automatically, the instant it becomes available - for a
small fee. Domain names become quite valuable when you consider printed
materials, investment in site resources, email addresses, and
advertising. Read on for more about Domain Name Services.....
A capsule history of
In its short, tumultuous life thus far, the "web" has
morph'd from Dr. Jon Postel's DARPA model under the U.S. Department of
Defense - a redundant network of nodes - to a thriving, international,
global network of networks. To its credit, the Federal Government took
a hands-off approach thru the late '90s, avoiding any "internet
governance" and only addressing Domain Name Services (DNS)
as necessary to facilitate internet operation on a global scale with
respect to borders, languages and technology. The model for control of
the internet's entire addressing scheme has changed periodically, as
agreements between governments and multinational corporations expire
and are renegotiated, and new categories are created, such as .info and
In 1997, the U.S. Department of Commerce was directed to privatize
DNS, " ...in a manner that increases competition and facilitates
international participation in its management." Through a cooperative
agreement between the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Network
Solutions Incorporated (NSI), a fee structure was established for DNS
registration and management via NSI's Network Information Center (aka,
the interNIC) which was later
purchased by VeriSign. DNS is all about the
registration of names we use to identify and locate web sites
(whatsit.com) with their actual numeric designations (818.104.22.1688). IPv4
protocol uses 32-bit addresses in the familiar "dot-quad" format, while
IPv6 uses 128-bit addresses in hexadecimal code.
Here in the U.S., our root DNS registry is currently under
license from the U.S. Department of Commerce National
Telecommunications and Information Administration, the NTIA and the Internet Assigned
Numbers Authority, the IANA. The Internet
Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, ICANN, certifies specific registrars
to sell and manage domain names. These registrars are private-sector
corporations (including VeriSign and those listed below).
Level Domains (TLDs) are split into three categories
Country Codes (ccTLD).
domains are all two-letter suffixes assigned to about 250 countries
Generic Domains (gTLD).
of these, by far, is the .com domain owned by VeriSign.
.aero reserved for the air transport
industry by SITA
Infrastructure Domains (.int and .arpa) are used exclusively for internet infrastructure and
management These are operated by IANA.
all owned by VeriSign (January 2002)
.org owned by
Public Interest Registry (January 2003) began as a domain for
non-profit organizations but is no longer noncommercial.
.biz owned by
.coop sponsored by
.info owned by
.museum, the Museum
Domain Management Association
.pro operated by
.gov reserved for
the U.S. Government
.edu reserved for
educational institutions, operated by Educause
.mil reserved for
the U.S. Military, operated by the Department of Defense
by Tralliance Registry Management Co. LLC
This is but a short list of the more common domains, and gTLDs are
constantly changing, as are the corporations that own them.
Current agreements and amendments (most in pdf format) can be found on
the NTIA web site: <http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/domainname/nsi.htm>
Registrar information is available from VeriSign or the American
Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN): <http://www.arin.net/>
NOTE: Extinct alternative
networks include: name.space, AlterNIC, eDNS, WWW2, and others.
Current Trends and
Having started with bulletin boards (BBS) over dialup using terminal
programs (like the venerable Zterm), internet
access is now achieved using any of a number of web browsers like
Safari or Firefox. (Firefox is a distant relative of the very first web
browser, Netscape.) Standards and protocols are constantly changing and
updating, as is everything else these days, with security being a major
The internet had a "gold rush" of sorts in the late '90s -
the notorious "dot-com bubble" - when get-rich-quick schemes of all
sorts flooded the new internet market. Those ideas which had merit have
survived and flourished (eBay, Amazon, Google, to name a few), but the
vast majority of early "dot-coms" were so ill-conceived or poorly
executed that the period became known for spectacular and costly
failures. Many were flat-out cons.
The 'net has also survived a kind of "wild west" period with
little or no official regulation or control, thanks in large part to
the U.S. government's hands-off approach to internet regulation. One of
the most refreshing and powerful aspects of today's internet is its
wide-open, unregulated, global access to information of all sorts (at
least here in the States), but those days may be numbered as
corporations and governments begin to apply control and attempt
VeriSign has done well to stay out of the spotlight as the
internet continues to sort itself out. Registration of domain names is
strictly controlled in some ways - country codes for example - but wide
open in others. Registrars range from giant VeriSign (still in control
of .com and .net) to neighborhood ISPs acting as local agents.
schemes abound. Services offered by site designers, ISPs, and VeriSign
itself range from the rock-bottom biannual fee, to
substantial (and unjustified) monthly rates charged to the unwary.
Registration of a domain name expires at two or five year intervals, to
the exact second. If it goes neglected, someone else can buy it. Best
use a reliable registrar and web host.
Your relationship with your web host (and ISP) is important
for a variety of reasons beyond just its monthly charge for hosting; it
might best be viewed as a partnership. When shopping for a web host, be
requirements and other qualifications. Review service contracts from
potential web hosts, along with host's past history, equipment, and
additional services offered before making a long-term commitment.
Having a reliable host capable of managing a variety of domain issues
can be a big plus. Avoid those hosts who limit your ability to post
changes or insist on doing it for you (for a fee), and those that
charge exorbitant monthly fees or have additional charges for traffic,
storage, editing and
access. Most web designers will have a list of host providers they
Hosting your own web site requires a static IP (Internet
Protocol) address, high-speed broadband (minimum 3Mbps), and a fast
all of which is a possibility for those willing to tackle the
technicalities. (The bottleneck around here is true broadband
availability.) Does it make sense to host your own web site? Probably
not, unless you have bigger plans involving dedicated lines and might
provide hosting space
for others. It takes time, expensive servers, continual maintenance and
updates, a backup server, and a fair amount of technical knowhow. Not
an easy task.