Volume 19, Number 8
Go Wild with Jaguar
By Victoria L. Herring
I have practiced as a solo since 1983, using as many as six support staff members, but I currently operate with just a part-time paralegal and myself. I have used various Apple computers in a variety of configurations and with an assortment of software. Despite having up to six networked computers in my office, I've done my own technical work and rarely needed or used outside tech services. This was-and remains-one of the very real benefits of using the Mac platform: Mere mortals can understand and use it with ease.
After using Mac's OS X and its five upgrades for a year, I recently started using the newest upgrade, OS X.2 (Jaguar), in my small law office. Jaguar is Apple's major reworking of its OS X system. Fortunately, Jaguar represents evolution, not revolution. Of course, my familiarity with the OS X system gives me an advantage that makes Jaguar fairly easy to incorporate, but Jaguar represents major improvements on the OS X platform and substantially extends the value of OS X as an operating system.
Many lawyers already using Macs may still use earlier operating systems, such as 8.5, 8.6, 9.1, or 9.2 (now known as the "Mac Classic" OS). (In fact, some lawyers still run pre-OS 8 systems-due in part to the fact that Apple upgrades its operating system according to actual improvements, not just changes to the hardware. This close integration of software and hardware means some owners still use "ancient" computers.)
The development of faster chips, larger hard drives, and more demanding programs persuaded many Mac lawyers to upgrade to Power Macs with at least OS 8.6 and later. Because of this, moving up to Jaguar may not be for everyone just yet. If you enjoy using your older Macs and older systems, fine. However, OS X is now the standard Mac platform. In the near future, few programs will run on earlier systems, and you'll have to upgrade to use newer versions of software. But you'll want to move to OS X anyway to enjoy its expanded features and enhanced stability.
Apple built OS X on a UNIX foundation, known for its stability. With OS X, reboots (except for maintenance or software upgrades that require them) have become a thing of the past. Some users of OS X in law offices have reported going for weeks without a reboot and without any problems or degradation of system performance. There does seem to be a correlation between this stability and the amount of RAM in the computer, because OS X appears to like a lot of RAM-at least 256 MB (I run with 768 MB). Fortunately, RAM doesn't cost very much these days, and upgrading almost always makes sense. If one program freezes or quits, the rest go merrily along, and you can generally solve the problem simply by restarting the offending program.
OS X continues to support programs that require the Mac Classic OS. If you run Mac Classic OS as a window inside OS X, Classic programs will run on the Classic OS inside that window. The Classic OS remains susceptible to crashing and bringing down the operating system. Using it as a window within OS X, however, means that only the Classic OS window will crash. The computer running OS X continues without so much as a hiccup. You do have to reboot and reopen the Classic OS window, but not the entire machine or native OS X programs. In fact, I usually just switch to another program, restart the Classic OS and the crashed program, and then go back when it's up and running. All in all, the stability of OS X (and especially Jaguar) has resulted in an immense savings of time and aggravation.
OS X also shows major advances in networking. Jaguar, in particular, excels in this area. Jaguar uses improved Rendezvous technology that makes it easier to network and also allows Macs to network with Windows-based machines without additional software. This feature alone should increase the use of Macs in small offices using Windows as a base. I tried this out at home with my kids' HP computer, running Windows 98 and employing an Ethernet connection to my Macintosh network. It immediately popped up in the Network/MSHome area of my Jaguar-equipped PowerBook. With the proper password, I could have had the HP on my desktop.
Applications for Mac OS X
I've found it so simple to locate programs that meet my needs and are available for Macs with OS X that I wonder that others have problems. Attorneys who want to use Macs but also use some Windows programs can always get Virtual PC (VPC) (www.connectix.com). VPC takes some of the Mac's resources and creates an emulation of a PC running on a Windows platform. You can use VPC to run several different iterations of the Windows OS inside the Mac; available platforms include Windows 98, ME, 2000 Professional, XP Home, and XP Professional.
The virtual computer also runs as a separate window. When in that window, the computer looks like and responds as a Windows-based machine. Otherwise, it runs like the Mac that it is. VPC runs most, if not all, programs designed for the Windows OS at a decent speed-which is a pretty good trade-off for getting to use Mac OS X and OS X.2 most of the time.
During this past year, my OS X system performed wonderfully. (Early on I did have one "kernal panic," a Mac version of the Windows Blue Screen of Death, brought on by improper installation of an accessory, but since then it's run like a charm.) I've installed a lot of software and simply restarted when I encountered problems, which is rarely. I'm successfully using my Titanium PowerBook and Airport (wireless connection) with OS X (both early X and Jaguar) and continuing to explore more of Jaguar's many new features.
Solos and attorneys in small office settings need basic tools to help them work more efficiently. Mac's OS X and OS X.2 can serve as the foundation for small offices and solo practitioners to do just that.