Down But Not Out

iBook on Last Legs, Mac mini Saves Marriage, and Macintel Meanderings

Dirk Pilat - 2006.01.23

A very good day to all of you, still reading this adopted Stepmother in Law of all Mac Sites.

I have been rather silent over the last 26 months since writing my last columns, but as I recently had my own "Elvis is in the building" moment, I thought that I'd better get back to writing for Low End Mac, as there actually seems to be an audience for it.

You see, I was on my way from New Zealand to Cancun, Mexico, to help celebrating my best friend's wedding, and because Air New Zealand's connections to LAX are so rubbish, I had to stay overnight so I could catch my flight to Cancun with Mexicana (shudder) next morning.

While I was sitting in the bar of the LAX Hilton (BTW: avoid. There is nothing remotely redeeming about this hotel) and drinking a couple of outrageously expensive beers, I chatted with two equally geeky blokes about life, the universe, and everything.

We started talking about Macs, and I mentioned that I was once writing this unimportant little UK/NZ based column on Low End Mac, when one of this chaps said: "You're Dirk Pilat! I used to love that column. You were the only reason I subscribed to Low End Mac. Let me shake your hand."

That did make me feel rather warm and fuzzy, so here I am back again. Writing for Low End Mac. See what happens.

14 inch iBookOf course a lot has happened since my last column in Nov. 2003. My coveted iBook is now falling apart at the seams after numerous falls and bumps (does anybody else have problems with an ever so slightly flickering screen?) and is begging for retirement.

There now is a neat little Mac mini sitting in the office and entertaining the whole cottage with music (via AirPort Express) and slaving away as a file server and print server. This job used to be handled by an outrageously loud PC (that's now banned into the shed), keeping my significant other from falling asleep at night, but thanks to the Mac mini matrimonial bliss has been restored (wouldn't that be a nice Apple ad: "Mac mini: Saving marriages since 2005") and the PC has found it's goal in life as a webserver for my completely irrelevant blog.

Of course more important things have happened since my hiatus began: A damn sexy new iMac was released, OS X 10.4 started to devour the competition, Quad Power Macs were released, and more and more of Apple's own software is starting to dominate the desktop again (Aperture - what an amazing program!).

And there's the dreaded move by Apple to Intel. While I congratulate Steve Jobs and his impressive engineering teams on the necessary move to accelerate the product line to something that at least resembles the speed of the competition (especially the laptops), did it really have to be the dreaded competition? When I heard the rumours and then was faced with the facts, I was apparently observed staring longingly at Asus, Toshiba, and ECS laptops that promise more features and bigger screens for a considerably lower price then an iBook or PowerBook.

With Ubuntu Linux running on that PC in the shed, I have to admit that the desktop experience is actually very pleasant (especially compared to Windows XP), so there would be an alternative to a portable Mac. On the other hand, now that every 'Book will come with a generic "Intel inside" motherboard, Apple should be able to slash prices dramatically.

At least that's what I hoped for.

The signs from the last keynote were not very encouraging: The new PowerBook MacBook Pro (with a rather humble feature set) is still priced not very competitively at US$2,000 (no FireWire 800?), and it will take quite some time until all your applications will run natively on the new Intellified OS X. It's the PowerPC/68000 switch all over again.

I am now in the market for a new iBook. What should I do, wait for the next generation of iBooks? Buy a new iBook with a soon obsolete G4 and see my software support vanish? Buy a generic laptop for a fraction of the price and wait until Apple's transitional period is over?

Write to me (dirk <at> dirkpilat <dot> com) and tell me. I'll publish the best answers in my next column, and the best mail receives a souvenir from North Otago. Promise! LEM

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