Miscellaneous Ramblings

Moore Orders a SuperMac

31 May 2000 - Charles Moore - Tip Jar

Dan Knight tells me that my column last week about cheap Power Macs for G3 and G4 upgrading was the most popular Miscellaneous Ramblings article Low End Mac has published, beating out my previous champ - a piece on the economics of processor upgrades. Apparently upgrades are a popular topic. Thanks for reading.

Umax S900LSince posting the column, I have taken the plunge and ordered one of Other World Computing's brand new leftover build to order UMAX SuperMac S900 six-slot towers. This brings to an end my original plan to turn the now legendary Frankenstein PowerMac 9500 into a cheap backup machine for my PowerBook.

I depend on my computer to make my living, and I would be in very bad shape if this thus-far completely dependable WallStreet PowerBook I'm typing on broke down. My daughter will be taking the PowerBook 5300 away to school with her in the Fall, so that would leave me with the ancient 25 MHz '030 LC 520 and its 160 MB hard drive as a backup if the PowerBook had to go in for service or suffered some sort of unexpected component failure. Since I live deep in the boonies and 150 miles from the nearest Apple dealer, it is only prudent to have something a bit more capable and powerful than the old LC all-in-one in reserve.

The S900 is overkill, but my reasoning is that the stuff I have from the deceased Power Mac 9500 - processor card, video card, and RAM - will all work in the S900. Since the whole S900 case, chassis, motherboard, and floppy drive is available from OWC for the same price as the cheapest 9500 motherboard, that decision seemed a no-brainer.

What I ordered from OWC is:

  • The UMAX S900 basic $299
  • A 2.15 GB Barracuda 7200 rpm/1024k 8 ms hard drive $59.00
  • A 4x Speed Apple CD-ROM Drive $30.00
    Total $388.00
    Shipping from Illinois to Nova Scotia via FedEx $65.00
    Grand Total $453.00

That's all in U.S. dollars, so obviously my original target of spending less than Can$300 (plus whatever I could get a used monitor for) on my backup Mac is already out the window. Sigh. I would likely have been able to stay within my arbitrary budget, including a monitor, had the 9500's motherboard not been destroyed by a bad RAM module.

As it stands, US$453 translates to about Can$675, on top of which Revenue Canada will rake off another Can$101.25 in Harmonized Sales Tax, so I'm up to $776.25, plus what I already spent for the 604e processor card and video card, (the equivalent of US$120) and I still have no monitor. Looks like I'm going to be spending at least three times what I had hoped, but at least I will have a very capable machine with an open upgrade path, and I can console myself that S900/180s were selling new here in Canada less than three years ago for Can$4,295.

Incidentally, that US$65 for FedEx is especially annoying, since OWC will ship orders totaling over $250 via FedEx for free, and below $250 for $5.00, anywhere in the lower 48 states. It's a shorter distance from Illinois to Nova Scotia than to a lot of places in the lower 48, so I'm convinced that Canadians are getting hosed. I hasten to add that this is not unique to either Other World Computing or to FedEx. Courier and parcel rates from the U.S. to Canada, and vice-versa, are typically outrageous compared with charges for similar services and distances in within the U.S. Pardon the digression.

If you're wondering why I didn't go with a larger hard drive and a peppier CD-ROM drive in my BTO selections, my decisions were made in trying to keep my backup computer budget from disappearing entirely over the horizon. This will not be my front line computer, and I will be running a 180 MHz 604e processor in it for the immediate future. The 2.15 GB hard drive is actually more capacious than the one I have in this PowerBook, and a 4x CD ROM drive will be adequate for my purposes.

I was tempted (those BTO selection menus are seductive) to go with a built-in Panasonic CD-R drive for $169 and a Sonnet Technologies Crescendo G3/300 MHz processor for $160, but I resisted.

If I like the S900, I intend on eventually adding a G3 or G4 upgrade, but I think I would like to go faster than 300 MHz when I do.

Dan Knight is betting that I will like the S900. He comments:

I love my S900; my son loves his. He started with a 604e/200 and now runs a G3/400 that tops out a 373 MHz due to bus issues - still wicked fast. Mine was a stripped box from Small Dog, that got the G3/250, video card, CD-ROM, and hard drive from my J700. I then put my original 604e/180 and TwinTurbo in the J700, along with a Sony 4x Mac-bootable CD and an Apple/Quantum 1.2 GB hard drive. It's just so "mix and match" that it's almost fun.

So it's going to be an adventure. I'll keep you posted.

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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