Does Your OS Loose Its Flavor on the Mousepad Over Night?

Dear Squeak and Blat,

I have a friend that owns a Wintel box and I have a Mac. We both are running older versions of the operating system and all our music applications seem to be stable. So what's so great about OS8 for the Mac and Windows95 and 98 for Wintel machines. We are reluctant to change operating systems unless there is something especially important about this new software.

Fine the way I am, thank you very much.


Well, having a stable computer is important and if you really don't wish to change anything about your computing environment, then stay the way you are. However, I think that change is really part of what computing is all about and several advantages do present themselves with these new operating systems. I will spend some time talking about OS8 and my buddy, Squeak, will address the Wintel side.

First, version 8 of the Mac operating system represents Apple's continuing support for the traditional operating system that made it famous. Apple intends to continue to make improvements in this system for the next several years, while working hard to release its new Rhapsody software late next year. The Rhapsody operating system will be very different and will offer a number of contemporary improvements that will be especially dramatic. You may want to wait until then to make any major changes.

However, there are a number of nice improvements in Mac OS8 over the 7.x versions. It's not hard to make the change and nearly all the material I read about the changeover suggests that very few people have any problems at all in making it work smoothly on their Power Macintoshes.

Cosmetics. The OS8 has a new look. The dialog boxes are easier to read and the icons have a three-dimensional feel to them. Desktop pictures as well as patterns are offered. It's also easier to change the accent and highlight colors.

Shortcuts. Two changes that save time include contextual menus and spring-loaded folders. Contextual menus are called into action when you click on an icon, a window or some text and hold down the control key. These popup menus vary but basically they allow you to edit text, move items to other locations, make aliases, duplicate, or share. Help files are also easily accessed this way. Spring-loaded folders allow you to drag a file over the top of a folder, continue to hold the mouse button down, and see the contents of the folder revealed. This is a very handy way to see what you moving your file into.

Enhanced views. It's easier to get to information now. OS8 supports live scrolling which means you can drag the scroll box and view the changes in real time without having to release the mouse button. You can also create a tab for a window. Drag a window to the bottom of the screen and it closes and creates a tab, waiting to be activated. This can be helpful when working with a number of folders.

Internet Enhancements. A setup assistant helps to configure complicated internet connections. Another nice feature is personal web sharing. This allows you to setup your own website on your computer and share it with the entire Internet or with a local Intranet. OS8 comes with both Netscape and MS Explorer as well as the America Online client software.

Java. OS8 comes with a Runtime for Java (RFJ), a stand-alone program for running Java applications right on the desktop.

Under the Hood. There are many changes that you cannot see, at least at first. The system seems more responsive because much of the code is now written for the new PowerPC chip. You can perform multiple copying tasks with OS8 and continue to do other work as well. This is because of the addition of multitasking (see earlier Squeak and Blat columns on this topic).

This is a basic list. I have not included a few other improvements. For more information on Mac's OS8, try the following sites:

PC Review: Macintosh OS8

Apple's Website

Berkeley Macintosh Support

I think you will be pleased with the operating system and find that it will be worth the switch.


Dear Way I Am:

Blat's got the advantage that Mac OS8 is off the shelf and in the consumer channels so you can actually see it, work with it, and know that it is a fairly stable OS. Windows98 (also known as Memphis) is still in beta (distributed for testing purposes only), and if you are really technically up to it, you can download Windows98 and try it out. However, this is not for the faint of heart computer user. Hard core technology only! Here's the web link to go to:

There are many feature changes small and not-so-small that you will find in Windows98. To me the biggest one is the integration of the Windows OS with web browsing and with some of the Microsoft Office suite of administrative tools. If you choose to, you can pretty much make the Internet Explorer web browser your desktop. Links can create instant connections not only to web documents on remote servers, but to documents on your very own computer. Links to MS Word or Excel files, favorite software you like to run, graphic images and applications, and much more. (Now, of course, this bundling of the MS web browser with their OS also has the attention of the Janet Reno and the Justice Department since some allege that Microsoft is monopolizing the Internet and all of computerland by doing this.)

Windows 98 also adds integrated support through the web browser for network calendaring, push technology channels (see the article above), and email, some of the components found in MS Office 97.

Windows98 is supposed to run faster, offer more intelligent support through its plug-and-play support, backup, diagnostic software, and even automated future updates to Windows 98 over the Internet. So set up and configuration--the one place where Mac has beat Windows hands down--will continue to improve.

There is support for new technologies like DVD, the new, fast serial interface for multimedia, Firewire, and IntelliMouse, the mouse with the scroll wheel between the two buttons. You can have more than one video monitor displaying at the same time, and you can even use multiple modem or network connections, it is rumored, simultaneously to increase bandwidth. The new OS also takes advantage of processors with MMX technology, adding an additional performance boost (see the previous Squeak & Blat column on MMX.)

Can't you see me here with my Dell laptop, with 8 video monitors going doing interactive multimedia and having a screaming Internet connection with six 56K modems synchronized over six phone lines! Phew! We could do some great MIDI netjams with graphics and all!

For those of you who like to customize things or automate routine tasks, there is a built-in scripting capability using either VBScript, Javascript, or ActiveX.

Like Mac 0S8, Windows98 is an upgrade to Windows95 so there should be little reason for your existing installs and applications to choke when you perform the upgrade.

Some links to keep up to date on Windows98 developments:

Inside Windows98 Web Site

Windows98 Megasite

Now, having said all this about Windows98, and before running off and thinking about upgrading your Windows95 OS, consider that Microsoft made this announcement earlier this year about Windows2000. By the year 2000 Windows98 will be replaced by a consumer version of Windows NT! How's that for confusing the masses?

Me, I like Windows 95 as it is, so I think I'll just sit tight and let the dust settle before I do any upgrading. I happen to like Netscape, don't have the urge to manage my computer workstation from a web browser, and, certainly can't pay for more than the one dedicated phone line in my house for computers (the same line I put in for my kids when they were teenagers).

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Last modified on Thursday, 19/12/2013

Peter R. Webster and David B. Williams

Peter R. Webster (a.k.a “Blat”) and David Brian Williams (a.k.a. “Squeak”) have presented workshops and other presentations together for CMS/ATMI conferences and workshops for more than 20 years.  Their collaboration has led to publications and presentations internationally on music technology as well as the co-authorship of the textbook Experiencing Music Technology (Cengage Learning/Schirmer Books, 3rd edition Update, 2009), a widely adopted and highly acclaimed music technology textbook for high school and college students. Dr. Webster is emeritus professor of music education at Northwestern University and Scholar-in-Residence at the University of Southern California; Dr. Williams is emeritus professor of music and arts technology at Illinois State University, a freelance consultant, composer and musician, and immediate past president of The College Music Society.

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