Tools of the Trade

Kevin Webb's PowerBook G4

- January 2002

As an incurable computer collector, I rarely claimed one particular machine as my main computer. That all changed earlier this year when I decided to slim down my computers to the bare necessities (see The Simplified Mac Life). After selling off my entire collection, I used the proceeds to outfit myself with one computer to serve as my main machine.

After many years of PowerBook use, I long since came to the realization that a PowerBook is one of the few portables which can serve as my main computer. To that end, I bought a Titanium PowerBook G4 in mid-October. I am a big fan of buying machines at the end of a life cycle, and after lusting over the Titanium PowerBooks all of 2001, I took the plunge this October. By waiting until the new revisions were announced, I was able to save a significant amount of money and buy a machine that suited my needs at savings of at least 35% over its initial price.

Hardware Setup

As this was going to serve as my main computer, I used the savings to increase some of the TiBook's features. The PowerBook G4first addition was to bump the memory up to 512 MB, a number which only last year seemed ludicrously large (but has since become passé). With the increase in RAM, I am able to use OS X in all of its glory.

My next major purchase was a 48 GB IBM hard drive. This wonderful drive cost a bit more than I was initially willing to pay, but the next step down was a full 18 GB smaller. As when buying a house, it is always a good idea to stretch yourself, as you will grow into the space. This is especially important when using a laptop as a primary machine. I would hate to make another change soon after realizing I had bought too small a drive.

Once these additions were made, I moved to peripherals. I purchased a Sony Espressa FireWire CD-RW, which is a bit large but does not travel with me. This is the first CD-RW drive for me, and I do enjoy the ability to mix CDs, make backups and easily transfer files via CD.

My next purchase was a Canon N-656u scanner, which I bought on the cheap (end of life again). I chose it because of its small size and the fact that it does not require a separate power supply.

I carry the machine in a Kensington Saddlebag which has served me well through a few laptops. To increase my protection, I purchased a wonderful sleeve from Waterford Designs that fits the machine like a glove and makes me feel comfortable that the exterior will not be scratched while riding in the bag.


After making sure my hardware was in order, I focused on a few additional software titles to make the machine my primary driver. The first thing I installed included a variety of word processors. I installed AppleWorks as it was the only office suite available for X at the time. I have always liked the suite, but it has given enough problems over the years to make me nervous about using it is a primary application.

Next I installed BBEdit, which is a wonderful text/html editor. I have used a variation of this product for years and use it quite often as a light word processor.

When it became available, I purchased the Office:X upgrade, as sometimes you simply must conform with the rest of the world. I have yet to decide if I prefer it over Office 2001, which was one of my favorite suites.

After the word processors were addressed, I moved to some of the other apps I use regularly. Photoshop 5 , Dreamweaver, and VPC 4 are all installed, although only VPC will be upgraded to an X version, as I simply dabble with those programs. I grabbed GraphicConverter and Limewire for X, Fire for my messaging client, and last, but not least, was the X versions of Starcraft. Combine those apps with iMovie and iTunes and I am set.

My Other Mac

Although Dan correctly pointed out that the PowerBook G4/400 is now "low-end," I cannot accept that this machine really qualifies as such. To that end, I still run a trusty Performa 475 with 32 MB of RAM and a 160 MB hard drive.

That machine runs Word 5.1, Claris Works, and Claris Emailer. It is the machine I use to write the majority of my Low End Mac articles. It just feels like the appropriate machine. I bought mine for $5 last months, which included an ethernet card - a much better price than the $1,999 I paid in 1994 when I purchased a 475 as my first Mac. LEM

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