Adventures with Stuffit

As an exercise, I have been working on getting my classic PowerBook 3400c/200 online. I started with a fresh install of MacOS 8.1 (i.e. nuking the hard drive, and starting from a barebones machine). The intent is to turn this into a Classic Mac development, gaming, means to transfer files to my Mac Plus, and writing machine.

With the system freshly formatted and installed, I found that I had to get some more software onto the box. Because the 3400 has built in Ethernet, I had connectivity right out of the box (i.e. no need to play with drivers, PCMCIA cards, or SCSI-to-Ethernet adapters). The MacOS 8.1 CD Installer installs a number of tools which were standard at the time:

  • Netscape 3.x
  • Internet Explorer
  • Claris Emailer
  • Stuffit Expander
  • ..and some others..


  • A more modern FTP browser (The standards I am used to on Classic are Anarchie and Fetch)
  • Email app (looking to fill this gap)
  • Developer studio (Codewarrior)
  • A selection of games

I had purchased Codewarrior Professional 5 last year, so that was easy enough to install from the regular CDs. The problems started coming up when I tried to get Fetch, that I would have a more robust FTP app.

I had downloaded Fetch 4 from the archive Info-mac website on my Mavericks box, and then booted up Netscape 3 on the 3400 to move the file over. Easy enough. But, when I went to de-binhex and subsequently unstuff the archive, something strange happened.

It didn’t work.

Wait, what?

Stuffit Expander would de-binhex the file, and leave me with a .SIT file to work with. However, if I tried to subsequently unstuff the .SIT file, it would fail, giving me various file errors. It seems that I am not the only person with this problem, as discussed in this Fetch Softworks forum posting. The root cause is that Fetch 4 is stuffed with a newer version of Stuffit, which cannot be unstuffed with the version of Stuffit Expander from the MacOS 8.1 CD.

Now, the solution to this seems easy enough: download a newer version of Stuffit Expander. Info-mac has a copy of Stuffit Lite 6.5, which should do the trick. However, similar to fetch, Stuffit Lite 6.5 is stuffed with a newer version of Stuffit!!! So I am back to square one. You would think that companies would have enough foresight to use the lowest common denominator when stuffing their software, or at least, to use a Self Extracting Archive (.SEA file extension) which does not require an unstuffer to begin with. Alas, this was not the case.

But wait!! I can unstuff the files on my Mavericks box, and then transfer them over, right? Not quite. The built in software for handling archives on OS X Mavericks is the Archiver Utility. However, at some point Apple dropped support for .SIT files in Archiver. So if you use the Archiver Utility, on a .SIT.HQX (i.e. a Stuffit archive that has been binhexed), it will un-binhex, and leave you with a .CPTZ file, which it cannot process.

Okay, that won’t work. But wait (some more)! There is also a copy of Stuffit Lite 6.5 for OS X! Sweet, so I proceed to download it, de-HQX it, and then realize that…it is so old it is for OS X on PowerPC!! "Sadly" my Mac Mini is an Intel machine. To add even more salt to injury, according to the Smith Micro website, their current version of Stuffit Expander works with Stuffit X archives, but does not mention older "plain" Stuffit archives; I didn’t even bother downloading their trial – no need for more bloat on my Mavericks box.

At this point you have:

  • A copy of Fetch 4.0.3 in .SIT.HQX format.
    • Which you cannot unstuff on MacOS 8.1, because the Stuffit Expander included with MacOS 8.1 is too old
    • Which you cannot unstuff in Mavericks, because Archiver Utility does not support .SIT files
  • A copy of Stuffit Lite 6.5, which you cannot unstuff on MacOS 8.1.
    • Which you cannot unstuff on MacOS 8.1, because the Stuffit Expander included with MacOS 8.1 is too old
    • Which you cannot unstuff in Mavericks, because Archiver Utility does not support .SIT files
  • A copy of Stuffit Lite 6.5 for OS X which won’t run on Intel.
  • No means of unstuffing files on OS X.

So…how do I get around this? The answer, not easily. After some exploring, and some experimentation…

  1. Download The Unarchiver for Mavericks, which supports SIT files.
  2. Use The Unarchvier on Fetch 4.0.3 to extract the files.
  3. Use binhex from the terminal to binhex all files in the Fetch folder.
  4. Use Netscape FTP from the 3400 to transfer the Fetch 4.0.3 .HQX file from the Mavericks box to the 3400 box. This assumes you have set up the FTP service on my Mavericks machine.
  5. On the 3400, use Stuffit Expander to de-hqx Fetch 4.0.3. We now have a working copy of Fetch!
  6. Use Fetch 4.0.3 on the 3400 to transfer the remainder of the binhexed files from step 3 above.

Following all of the above, I recreated the Fetch 4.0.3.sit.hqx file using DropStuff on the 3400; because I’m using a much older version, there is a higher probability that anybody who needs this file will be able to unstuff it on older hardware. I’ll be putting it online shortly. I’ll also perform the exercise on Stuffit Lite 6.5.

Happy hacking!

Adventures with Stuffit

Behind the Beautiful Forevers

aside: to become better one must do; to improve my writing I must write..

3/4 view of book cover

I’ve just closed the book on Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo. By way of background.. I was fortunate enough to attend the Rotman India Study Tour back in 2012, at the end of which each of the participants were given a gift from the organizer, that being a copy of the book. Sadly, it has taken me a little under 3 years to even pull the book off of my shelf, but that is another story.

Having just finished the book, it is a sobering reminder of the trip, and of how fortunate we all are here in North America, rather the modern world. By no stretch of the imagination am I a book reviewer, but recognizing that there is still a discomforting level of corruption of all levels of government, that there are people who literally make a living off of other people’s trash, and that there is a distinct level of entrepreneurism that can only manifest itself when the dynamics of supply and demand are driven by the supply of livelihood to the demand of living, is humbling. I would strongly recommend that anyone who wants to delve into a true account of how far people can push themselves — to provide for their family, to spite their neighbour, or to dream to escape — they pick up this book.


Behind the Beautiful Forevers


wget is one of my favourite tools for downloading websites. Unfortunately, it is not part of OS X standard, so when I upgraded to a new Mac w/ 10.9 Mavericks I had to install it from scratch.

Caveat being that, upon configure, you may get the following error message:

configure: error: --with-ssl=gnutls was given, but GNUTLS is not available.

Fix? Configure to use openssl instead:

./configure --prefix=/usr/local --with-ssl=openssl

Thanks to the folks at Coolest Guides on the Planet for the tip.