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Hey! First of all, let me tell you: my Mac is going mad, it seems!
Here's the full story: I had a 17'' iMac G4, since Dec.'03, which came with Jaguar in the System Software DVD and with Panther Upgrade discs bundled, meaning that the only way to install OS X is to install Panther on top of Jaguar.

Then, in October, I bought a 20'' iMac G5 (which, unfortunately, seems defective to my somewhat over-sensitive ears; one of the fans makes an irritating buzzing, which makes it louder than my old iMac), and (duh) I decided to use the FireWire transfer utility. Everything was (almost) fine; I just had to reinstall 3 or 4 applications. Besides that, 10.3.5 kept running fine. Shortly after, I installed a 1GB RAM stick. I guess it wasn't bad RAM, because my system didn't show any weird symptoms. In fact, it only got fast as hell

A month later, 10.3.6 came along, and my Mac hasn't behaved that well since then.

First, I got this VERY weird bug, several times: my menubar system clock just crashed, it freezed, and if I moved the cursor above it I got the spinning wheel (or beach ball of death). I tried to turn off the clock in System Preferences, I even tried to find its process to kill it with Activity Monitor, but I didn't manage to do that (I'm not even sure if you can do that). And when I mean "several times", I mean 3-4 times, which is... too many times! Once, like the second time or so, I rebooted, and then I only got the desktop background... No Finder (no desktop icons), no Dock, no menu, no nothing. Reboot. Everything fine again.

One or two days later, I got one VERY nasty OLD-SCHOOL Kernel Panic. One of those classic ones, with lines of text running across the screen (maybe it was because of the fact that the screensaver was running? It produced a very beautiful effect, lines of text over a nebula ). *Ouch*... Now I know why they are called "Panic"...
Reboot. Everything fine.

And then... The second KP came along. This time, in Apple's very own GOSOD (grayed-out screen of death) user-friendly style (so nice, it even tells you that you have to force a reboot... I already knew those, I had one with my old iMac. But it was like, one KP in eight months? Preety much acceptable when compared to this havoc, IMHO).

It doesn't end here. I don't know if the other KPs happened under the same circumstances, but I don't think so. Anyway, this time, I isolated a cause for the third, fourth and fifth KPs (they happened in a row, because I provoked the last two ).

I was searching for the Apple desktop background pictures (I wanted to change Aqua Blue's hue to fit my tastes). So, I opened /System/Library and typed .tiff in the search field. When the Finder had already returned over a thousand matches, BOOM (pun intended), Kernel Panic! (GOSOD style). I tried to repeat the operation, so that I could find the damned files, and I got another KP. I though "hmmm, there's something fishy here..." (apart from what had been happening recently).

So, I did it again, aware that I could end up with another KP, and there it was! I did another reboot, and this time, the Finder wouldn't load. BUT, this time, the dock appeared. I could load apps, I could open a folder I have in the dock via right button, I could even fire up Open dialogs (which seemed odd to me, I always thought that the Open dialogs, and folders in the form of menus depended on the Finder to work).

By that time, I opened Activity Monitor (that handy folder is a "Start Menu"-like thing, full of aliases... It's preety ironic that I was working with OS X, WITHOUT the Finder, thanks to an emulation of Windows' Start Menu... ), and tried to lauch the Finder again (I had been trying for quite some time by then), and I noticed that the "Finder" process appeared for a few split seconds, and then, it just vanished... Preety weird, but maybe that's normal after a KP, dunno.

Then, of course, there's all those minor glitches, like the removable media's icons being messed up sometimes, etc etc... I'm not worried with those, though. What I'm worried about is the KP's. VERY weird. My brand new $2650 machine (add some $360 to that, that's what the RAM cost me) is behaving preety much like a cheap Wintel box, and I'm not happy!

What do you think that might be the cause of all this, and what do you think I should do?

I was, of course, considering making a clean Panther installation. But right now, I ran out of DVDs, my aging PC has only a measly 5 or 6GB free disk space, and my 20GB iPod has only some 6 or 7GB left. Would it be a good idea to make a partition for the System, and another for apps and my user folder? (since I'll probably have to erase my HD anyway... ). Oh, and since that right now, I don't have a practical way to do some backups, do you think I can partition my hard drive without erasing it? I'm just asking this because I have no idea if it's wise and/or feasible to do such thing on a Mac, and I didn't feel like fiddling with Disk Utility without asking you first...

Sorry for the loooooong post, and thank you!!

P.S. - Since searching for those desktop pictures provokes a KP in my system, could someone tell me where can I find them?
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