Bought a PowerBook

I bought a PowerBook G4 12” on Monday. I’ve been meaning to buy a mac for a while. My old PC is a PIII (600MHz, overclocked to 800MHz) that dates back to the year 2000. It’s served me well, but I suspect that it will now turn into a test development server or a box where I throw in the Linux/BSD distribution du jour.

I like my notebooks portable – but no integrated graphics please. The 12” PowerBook is the smallest laptop that Apple makes that I can buy right now. I thought about waiting for one of the small MacBooks or small MacBook Pros when they become available, but I really need a new computer now. It could be anything from a few months to up to a year before Apple ships a small intel based notebook. I considered the 12” iBook, but the slow hard disk deterred me. I also anticipated that I would be plugging in a monitor both at work and at home to extend the desktop space. iBooks can mirror the notebook display, but not extend the workspace to both displays. Not without a hack anyway. The 12” iBook is also bigger.

I looked at the VAIOs for a while. The 13.3” S58GPB has better specs, a better screen, is lighter than the 12” PowerBook and does not compare too unfavorably in the looks department. However, the VAIO is also AU$1000 more expensive. Despite being more expensive, it does not feel as nice. The plastic used does not do justice to the notebook. Looking at the pictures I thought what a gorgeous machine. But actually using the VAIO was a hugely underwhelming experience. The PowerBook feels much more expensive despite being significantly cheaper. The PowerBook actually looks better in real life than in the pictures. The VAIO looks better in the Sony marketing material than in real life.

The Apple logo, like the VAIO logo, is upside down when you sit in front of the notebook with the lid closed. However, both logos stand upright when you open the lid, showing to the world that yes, damn right, this notebook is worthy of attention. Except that the Apple logo glows white when the machine is in use. This actually illustrates quite well the similarity and difference in philosophy. While Sony, like Apple, puts in a lot of design effort in its notebooks, the PowerBooks still go the extra yard in the direction of the wow factor.

There are small details everwhere. When the PowerBook is in sleep mode, a small white light glows on the lid release button. The light slowly glows stronger and weaker, almost as if the laptop is indeed asleep, breathing slowly. It is at this point that one stops comparing specs. Apple products tend to produce an emotional reaction in the user. Wonder why iPods outsell the competition by such a big margin? It’s certainly not because they have the best specs, nor because they offer the best value. Apple will go to the length of having a speaker in the iPod, just to generate the click sound when the user navigates the menus. iPod owners love their iPods because of the way the devices feel and behave.

However, any specs, or otherwise comparison was pretty much moot point in the end. The main reason for getting the PowerBook was of course OS X. I’m finding it faster to work on UNIX-like systems, but Linux and BSD systems tend to involve too much maintenance when used as workstations. OS X fits the bill perfectly. More on that, plus pictures, later.

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