Computer Retirement

I finally let my old PowerBook take a break.

I bought a MacBook Pro at least eight months ago, when I was working on my Leopard book for Peachpit Press. I needed a computer with an Intel processor — none of my computers had one at the time — so I could write about Boot Camp and other Intel-specific topics. I went with a “Pro” instead of a regular MacBook because it offered some feature I needed that the MacBook did not. (Right now, I can’t remember what that was.) But I admit that I also prefer the metal case. (I think Apple’s plastic casing looks cheesy.)

How I Used My Laptops

The MacBook Pro was purchased as a “test mule” — a computer used specifically to test and write about software. As such, I kept it very clean, installing only the software I needed to write about. There was virtually no personalization. Heck, even the desktop picture was a plain white screen so I could get clean screenshots of windows and menus.

For computing on the road, I used my 12″ PowerBook G4. I loved its small package, which made it easy to throw in a backpack or piece of luggage. I took it everywhere. I even had a DC adapter for it that enabled me to get power from a car’s cigarette lighter/power port or the DC port in my camper. That was a good thing because the computer’s battery was the first to go. Even the replacement didn’t last long.

Over time, the PowerBook started getting really beat up. Dents and dings, scratches and dirt. One of its rubber feet fell off. Twice. Alex the Bird pulled off the F5 key and I could only get it partially reattached — it was like that for over a year, until a friendly Genius fixed it for me. My CD-ROM drive went on a trip to Alaska after burning one last disc of photos. Oddly enough, it still reads DVDs but wants nothing to do with CDs. Just spins them and spits them out.

But I continued to use it. It did the job — well, most of it — and I was willing to work around the little problems it had.

My PowerBook’s Fall from Grace

When Leopard came out, I was thrilled with the idea of Back to My Mac. The PowerBook met the minimum requirements for Leopard — barely. So I installed it.

Mistake. The poor old computer simply wasn’t up to the challenge of running Apple’s latest operating system. After a month of watching spinning beach balls and being able to type faster than the computer could take the characters, I finally downgraded it back to Tiger.

But I think its experience with Leopard has scarred it. It doesn’t seem quite as fast as it used to be.

Or perhaps that’s just because I’ve been using a brand new iMac at my desk for the past two months and the old G4 is simply no match for any of my equipment these days.

My MacBook Pro Steps into a New Role

Today, I decided to step into the MacBook Pro for mobile computing. The battery is still healthy and it reads and writes both CDs and DVDs. It can also run Leopard without any problems. So this morning, I installed most of the software I need to use while on the road. I’ll add a few more items later today. And I’m composing this blog post in ecto on the MacBook Pro, just to feel it out. (The PowerBook will return to duty as the kitchen table blogging/surfing machine tomorrow.)

I can still use the MacBook Pro for a test mule. I’ll simply set up a new account and use that to run software for screenshots or screencasting. Fast user switching makes it easy. And the computer has plenty of power to run the software I need to create the screenshots and movies.

Computers on the Auction Block

Will I sell the G4? Probably not. It really is beat up. And it’ll probably make its permanent home in our camping shed up at Howard Mesa someday. After all, it still works and it’s still able to connect to the Internet via my Treo when I’m off the grid. It’s not like I’m crunching video up there. Just blogging, e-mail, and doing some surfing, mostly for weather or phone numbers. And writing the occasional article for Informit.

I did recently sell my old dual G5 on eBay. It fetched about three times what I thought it would. I’m a very happy camper. And I assume the buyer is, too. After all, he hasn’t complained.

I do have one more computer I’d like to sell: a Strawberry iMac. I’m going to try to prep it for eBay this weekend. Once that’s gone, I’ll be down to just four computers: a 24″ iMac (my most recent purchase, used entirely for production work), the 15″ MacBook Pro, the 12″ PowerBook, and a Dell laptop (I can never remember the model). With the iMac running Parallels, I don’t even start up the Dell these days, although I’m likely to use it for my annual Quicken revision when the time comes.

Don’t get me wrong — it isn’t as if I want four computers. I don’t. But I do need certain computers to get my work done efficiently and effectively. The PowerBook has always been the equivalent of a “home” computer for me. Now the MacBook Pro will be doing double-duty.

New Apple Products in My Future?

I do see occasional glimpses of a new computer in my future: the rumored Apple sub-notebook. If it’s a viable replacement for the 12″ PowerBook — with a decent-sized monitor, full-size keyboard, wireless (including Bluetooth) built in, and CD/DVD drive — it’ll be exactly what I want.

But will it be? Apple hasn’t been creating products that meet my particular needs lately:

  • The iPhone is beautiful and cool but its close ties to AT&T and limited capabilities make my Treo a better solution for me.
  • The iPod Touch is similarly cool, but doesn’t offer enough “wow” factor to make me want to replace my original 30GB iPod Video (now known as the “classic”).
  • I still don’t understand the purpose of AppleTV, although I suspect Apple intended it to do what the iPod does for the iTunes store — get people to buy content. But with video content providers like television networks pulling out of the Apple store, it’s becoming less attractive as time goes by. Of course, I don’t watch much television, so I’m probably not the right person to be evaluating a device like this.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m still a big fan of Apple. You wouldn’t see me looking at a Zune or buying another Dell. But I’m not so much of a fan that I’m blinded by the Apple logo. I still think before I buy — now more than ever. A product has to completely meet my needs — whether they’re real or imagined — before I buy it. Otherwise I’d rather wait until a better product comes along.

Right now, I’m anxious to see the next Apple computer. I’m hoping it’ll put my G4 into full retirement mode.

One thought on “Computer Retirement

What do you think?