I apologies for this post – it’s a geek-out-fest and up tight ramble that is probably far too long for any sane person to read fully, but I just needed to get it off my chest. not that really know what it is.
Those of you who know my computing habits and preferences will know that these days I generally favour using Apple computers. I own a 2ghz 20” G5 imac and a 500mhz G4‘hotrodded’ Pismo laptop with as many bells and whistles as could possibly be squeezed in. I also have a beige box under the desk running windows and Ubuntu. All of my current computers are either hand me downs (the beige box) or second hand (pismo and imac). I’m just not in the financial position to afford brand new computers when I eventually need to upgrade, especially because my tastes happen to be on the pricey side of the computer market. To me, my G5 imac is one of the fastest computers I’ve had the pleasure to use on a daily basis, and my daily basis consists of a mixed bag – web and print design, a bit of flash, identity design, illustration and occasionally some motion graphics and video editing. The pismo has served me well and as a mobile computer it has felt perfectly usable for basic web work, photoshop, VJing and I recently had to complete a motion graphics project on it using After Effects 7 – it was painful, but it did the job. My old Windows desktop(RIP) that I used until the pismo turned up was pushing 5 and would still be in use if the celeron hadn’t burnt itself out. I’m sure however, if you regularly use a computer made within the past 2.0 years would be amazed at how I can survive on such ‘ancient’ technology, especially with the inclusion of speedy dual core intel processors in all apple computers since early 2006.
Recently I’ve been getting the odd bit of work from a small design studio that requires me to take a computer with me to work. Due to the nature of the work – mostly motion or video, I’ve been taking my imac, but it’s just so unwieldily and impractical, and even been putting up with the pismo on occasion. If I was to keep getting such work and be able to do the job without getting laughed out of town, it was clear I needed to get a modern laptop. The Pismo will go to a good home in the form of my lovely girlfriend who will mostly use it for word processing and web surfing. It’ll be a huge speed boost , as she’s been used to using a hand-me down G3 Lombard (from her sister) and it means I can keep an eye on the geriatric workhorse (the laptop, not Debbie) and keep it ticking along (that’s one machine I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of – it’s a masterpiece).
So I needed a cheap laptop. I don’t have any savings, I currently live out of my overdraft, and I didn’t want to have to get finance (although it was tempting). My first temptation was of course a new macbook pro, but at £1,500 just wasn’t an option. There’s phone bills, rent and the cat’s vet bills to be paid, So I hit ebay. A ‘new’ ‘book costs about a grand second hand, and the earlier pro models are anything between the 600 mark and £900. I’m a struggling freelancer without a bean to my name, and the plan was to buy this laptop on a credit card and py it off in two installments. I was going to have to take a more drastic cut. I considered a Windows laptop (unfortunately Ubuntu just still isn’t an option for my professional work) as I could probably get a dual core, with about 2 gigs of RAM for about the £400 price point. The studio I do some work for are all on Windows (so I’m the black sheep when I turn up) so that would work fine, but to be honest I don’t think I could bring myself to do it. I’m happy to use windows if I have to, and I don’t have anything against it, but I just prefer using OS X especially if it’s my own personal machine we’re talking about.
A friend of mine was selling a G4 Aluminium powerbook. about a 1.3 speed I think and 1.5 gig’o’RAM. However, it’s a bit battered – has been around the world a number of times and I don’t think has ever had it’s permissions repaired. I thought I’d probably be able to get it for about £200, so it would make sense. When I enquired, he had already sold it to a colleague for £500. Blimey – the second hand apple market is more bouyant than I thought. Scouring ebay it seemd the colleague must have thought it to be a macbook pro. At a push, a dubious 1st revision model macbook pro will be about £550 and a mid range G4 powerbook, about £300-400. I put a bid on a final revision G4 – 1.67ghz, 2 gigs RAM and 80 gig HD. It also came pre installed with Leopard (I foolishly thought it would include the Leopard install disks, durr) . I won it and it arrived last week. It hasn’t got a scratch on it (it now does have a large scratch from god knows where). It’s as good as new and the battery lasts about 2 hours. I unpacked it from it’s original box, complete with every bit of original packaging. So, despite it’s age, at £350 I felt I’d snapped up a bargain. However, when I do this sort of thing I usually get racked with doubt – I’ll spend days trying to justify a move to myself. The internal debate rages –
“I wanted a cheap laptop to replace my aging pismo and I got one”
“Ahhh, but G4 powerbooks are such old technology, it’ll be unusable in a years time”
“but it’s a final revision – this is 3 year old computing at it’s best, and I’m sure some good stuff must have been done on computers as long ago as 2005 – it’ll see me good for another couple of years at least”
“Yes, but how’s it going to cope with CS3 and all modern software from here on in?”
“But my G5 handles most things”
“But it’s a G5”
And so on AdNauseum. So I was going to sell it on for the price I bought it for and rinse my credit card another 3-4 hundered to get a second hand macbook pro, but what if it’s not in as good condition – this powerbook is a rare find. I don’t like doing lots of work on laptops, and I still really enjoy using my 20” screen imac. If I was using a dual core intel I’d leave my imac to rust, but then again I could always get a really big screen to run off my super fast laptop and maybe the next version of photoshop and osx won’t run on powerpc chips. I looked on forums and the opinion seemed to be universal – ‘You’d be silly to get a PowerPC computer these days, intel blows them away. G4 is old reduntant technology, why get outdated machines to do todays work?…..I’ve been driving myself insane for days with thoughts like these. Hours spent looking at online reviews and forums when I should’ve been working are taking it’s toll and I just need some conclusion. Then I saw a quote saying “I’ve got a rule of buying a new computer – it must be at least twice as fast as my current model”.
This G4 is at least 4 times as fast as the 8 year old Pismo I’ve been using as my on the go / on the sofa computer and as a live performance machine. It will be a perfect companion to my G5 – they feel to actually seem run at about the same pace (imac on Tiger, powerbook on Leopard).
I’m a luddit with new technology and I’ve never regulary used one of these new fangled mactel things so I don’t know what I’m missing.
This laptop is absolutely beautiful and is so light and just runs amazingly compared to the pismo, and I’m becoming rather attached to it.
I can now turn up to meetings and jobs without looking like I’ve just stepped out of 1999.
I’m getting asked to do more live video performance, I used to use my pismo with ease – this is going to blow me away.
So! Finally I have come to a happy conclusion. I really do enjoy using this laptop and after using it for my steady workflow the last few days, it handles everything I’ve thrown at it with style and panache. If I can use an 8 year old computer up untill two weeks ago, this metallic beast will surely see me good for at least a couple more years, by which time I’ll really be aching for a new desktop – and the cycle will be complete. I’m still computing it old skool and rocking PowerPC with pride. The pace at which technology seems to outdo itself is staggering, and I almost wish there would be a cut off point where we say “Right! that’s it. there’ll be no technological advancements for a while, so that everyone can get an optimal computing experience”. I don’t need or even want to be living in the uber fast lane.
A computer is just a tool after all, and the current system seems to doom everything to obsolescence as soon as it’s on the market. I wonder if it’ll ever reach a tipping point.