Tip #24, Newer than 8?
OK, by now many of us have installed Mac OS 8. Isn't is wonderful to have the latest and greatest thing from Apple? But wait! Even though a new system was released there are still other teams at Apple that have been hard at work on other projects. Even though you just installed the latest thing, Apple may have something new for you.
Apple works hard to have all the software that is ready to ship included on the CD that ships with each major software release. Many times there are pieces of software that don't have enough time to make it through the whole compatibility and testing process to be included on the CD. There are others that are simply no finished when the CD is printed. There is another set of software that is released in response to problems that are found in the released software. These are usually either "fixes" for individual machines or are complete updates to the OS that raise the version number by .01. Examples of these updates are the "55/6500 L2 cache fix" or 7.5.5.
Where are they?
With the increased popularity and usage of the internet, many software companies have moved to using the internet as the only source for upgrades and updates. I spent a few hours on the phone with Apple this week trying to find out if there was a way to get a hold of these minor updates any other way besides the internet. Unfortunately no one was able to help.
For those with internet access there are a number places to keep an eye on if you are looking to keep abreast on updates from Apple. Apple's support site will often post information about the major updates on its main page. Apple also has a page dedicated to the files most recently posted to Apple's FTP site. Although this page provides useful information, it can be difficult to discern what is really new. Currently the page boasts System 7.0. Also most of the Mac news/information sites (i.e. MacCentral, MacInTouch, VersionTracker) will post information when each one becomes available.
If you don't have internet access, many of these updates aren't available in any official way from Apple. Your best bet is to either find a friend or colleague who can get a hold of them for you or to check with your local Macintosh User Group to see if there someone who can provide them for you.
What's the big NDIF?
A few months ago Apple released Disk Copy 6. Disk Copy 6 (get it!, get the manual!) is a utility for creating and using disk images (See MacTip #7 for a discussion of disk images) that now provides much of the functionality of ShrinkWrap. Disk Copy reads, mounts and creates NDIF (New Disk Image Format) files. Now all of Apple's updates and files are distributed in NDIF. Once downloaded, these files can simply be double clicked and they are mounted on the desktop just as if it were a disk was inserted into your Mac.
Just be careful.
Really there isn't usually anything too scary about installing these minor updates. Just the normal precautions can go a long way in making sure that your little update doesn't become a big headache. Three simple things can go a long way in ensuring that your update will go as well as you would like it to.
The first is to actually read the read-me file that is included with each update. Generally if there is anything you should be concerned about or would want to know will be listed in that file. There is usually information about conflicts with any particular software, or considerations for particular Macintosh models.
The second is to run Disk First Aid, Apple's disk integrity checker. This quick verification will alert you to any possible problems with your hard disk that might interfere with the update.
The third is to restart your Macintosh with extensions off. Simply holding down the shift key while restarting your Mac (hold it till you see the welcome screen saying "Extensions Off") will disable your extensions. Although not always absolutely necessary, this can disable any software that might interfere with a trouble-free install.
How do you get them?
As mentioned above all of Apple's free software updates are available from their support web site. Each of them can be downloaded through your web browser in NDIF. Once decompressed, (usually with Stuffit Expander) a double click will provide you with a mounted disk image with an installer to load your new software onto your system.
The more major updates may still be available for download but that is impractical for some of these updates that can be more than 20 megabytes. Claris Software will send you these free updates for usually less than $10 to cover shipping. You can contact them at 1-800-742-1926.
Which updates do I need?
This is the question to which there isn't any quick and easy answer. I've found that after each new release of the Mac OS I try to keep all the little updates on a zip disk so I will have them for easy access. Unfortunately of all the sources I've listed above I haven't found a one stop spot to find everything that is newer than Mac OS 8 without sorting through more information than is necessary.
In light of this need, I've already began work on MacTip #25 "Eight-Dot-One-Plus!" . This MacTip will become a part of the site that will be actively updated with every new piece of software released from Apple. Keep an eye out for it early this week!
I hope that I have helped you understand and keep on top of Apple's updates a little better. If you have any questions or comments please let me know!