IBM Thinkpad Series TYou may remember that my TV co-host, Patrick, was considering the switch to Mac. He still has the Apple iBook at home, but at work he’s toting around the new IBM X30 Thinkpad based on the Centrino chipset. I can’t help eyeing it with some interest. It’s lighter than the iBook, and much faster. Patrick is claiming six hours battery life, too, which is about three times what I’m getting on the Mac. I don’t think I could handle the lack of a DVD player, though. But wait. IBM’s T40 includes the DVD-ROM for just $1664 right now. I’m sitting on the web page staring at the machine. The price is right, and I should really spend more time with Windows XP, but I just can’t bring myself to press the Checkout button. Despite all the compelling reasons to switch back to Windows — it’s cheaper and faster, I need to keep my WinChops® up, it supports the application we use for our TV scripts — I can’t buy a Windows notebook.
I don’t mind spending money on a Windows desktop. In fact, I just spent $500 to upgrade my home machine with a P4 2.5Ghz with 512MB DDR RAM and an nVidia Ti 4200 graphics card on the superb Asus P4PE motherboard. Yeah I run FreeBSD and Linux on the system, too, but it’s mostly a Windows XP machine. Windows is fine on the desktop (especially if you want to play Unreal Tournament), but there’s something intimate about a notebook. My iBook is my little plastic pal. I spend more time with it than my family (ask them – they’ll be glad to tell you). And even though I’m very aware of the price I pay to use a Mac, there’s just no other operating system I want to have such a personal relationship with.

AtariI haven’t always been a Mac zealot. My first computers were an Atari 400 and a Northstar Advantage running CP/M. I did conceive a burning lust for the first Lisa I saw, and quickly consummated that desire when the Mac shipped in 1984. I have owned a Mac of some kind or another ever since – just as I’ve always owned a DOS or Windows machine. Nevertheless, I was pretty unhappy with Apple during most of the 1990s. Under a succession of execrable CEOs from Scully to Spindler to Amelio, Apple let Microsoft catch up then surpass it. Mac OS 9 was an antiquated rattletrap that crashed for any reason and no reason at all. But then Steve came back and Apple shipped Mac OS X, the closest thing to the perfect operating system ever created, and I rejoined the choir.

Microsoft has done more and more to discourage interoperability and lock people into the Windows universe, and Linux is just not pretty enough for daily use. Only OS X gives me a great looking desktop with that robust UNIX flavor I crave. I’ve trashed nearly all my Microsoft applications. Internet Explorer has been replaced by Camino, Powerpoint by Keynote. I’ve tossed Entourage in favor of Powermail, iCal, and Address Book, and as soon as NisusWriter for OS X ships, it’s bye-bye Word. The Appleworks spreadsheet is no match for Excel, but it does enough for me, and it doesn’t cost hundreds of dollars.

Most importantly, there’s no more programmable operating system than OS X. Applescript, Perl, Python, and the tcsh shell ship with the computer. gcc and the best IDE and RAD development environment anywhere are free for the download. Even for someone with my limited skills, Mac OS X is an enticing programmers’ playground.

So instead of spending my tax refund on a new Thinkpad, I’ve got my finger poised over the checkout button at the Apple store. I really like that 12 inch Powerbook. But… I just wish it were a little bit faster. And.. what if Dvorak’s right and Apple is planning a move to x86? I sure would like to see OS X running on the Opteron or Itanium. Maybe I’ll just stick with my old 600 mhz iBook for now. It’s not all that slow, and after all, it is my little plastic pal.

61 Replies to “Switchback”

  1. Leo, I got a 12″ Powerbook 3 weeks ago and LOVE it, I would use it as a pillow if I could. It’s not the fastest thing in the world, but it works great and does all I need it to do. You’ll be very happy with the change from iBook.

  2. My PC friend is going to buy my iBook soon, and I’m upgrading to a 12″ PBook….or maybe the 15″ if the new one is out by then.
    Ok, well the RAM is an obvious place to start – 128MB is too low to realistically run OS X. At the very least double it, preferably quadruple it. My iBook500 runs X and my apps very sweet indeed on 640MB.
    …But before you do that, check the reliability of your existing RAM with various utils you can run. You can find them on VersionTracker, or by swapping out the RAM.
    …And see if you can borrow someone else’s known good RAM and use that to test the RAM theory – quite a few people will probably have a stick gathering dust, otherwise RAM is dirt cheap anyway.
    …And test the HDD too.
    …Still no luck? Take it to the vendor or an Apple Store and have them check it out. Is the machine under an extended warranty? Even if not, Apple won’t screw you over. That’s another advantage of Apple making the whole widget – the hardware is very well known and understood and easy to trouble shoot.
    They are the steps I’d follow, regardless of platform.
    Stuart Duel
    Brisbane Australia
    About Me:
    I have been an “IBM PC” user since the days of DOS on an 8086, and used exclusively every version of Windows since 3.1.
    After 12 years of using Windows and other Microsoft products, I’d had enough. I’d grown sick of the crashing, the file, system and disc corruption, generally erratic behaviour, innumerable bugs, chronic insecurity, protection faults, BSOD, illegal operations, cascading application failures, very user unfriendly/grossly unintuitive GUI and OS, absurd or incomprehensible error messages and help screens…it goes on and on.
    I’d been keeping up to date on what Apple was up to all those years, even though I’d never owned one and practically never touched one. Then OS X came out, the glistening white iBook with a 500MHz G3 came out, and then my tax refund. It was time to buy. That was August 2001.
    I am mightily impressed with this machine. Sure it’s no speed demon today, it was the first generation afterall. But it goes plenty fast for me, does everything I throw at it – most net stuff, writing, graphics, DTP, photo and video editing, using it as my DVD player and Jukebox for my stereo system, burn CDs and VCDs. I play some games too, Tony Hawke (I’m hopeless), various space adventures, arcade games through MacMAME.
    I have nothing but praise for the software from Apple (and most other vendors for that matter) and OS X Jaguar. A slick, efficient, elegant, logical, smooth, clean system which was has a 3D look and feel to it, which seems to really register for my brain. It’s a pleasure and joy to use. It never crashes, nor on the G3 400 iMac I bought my mother. Well, I’ve had only 1 kernel panic since I started running Jaguar – so we’re talking many months here. When an application crashes, which is rare, it doesn’t bring anything else or the OS. I can do things with consistent reliability and quality on this which my housemate’s XP P4 with the same amount of RAM chokes on.
    Would I ever go back to a Windows machine? The long answer is, I find it inconceivable that Windows could become something I’d want to touch let alone risk again. I know Microsoft will continue to be unethical, greedy, deceptive, duplicitous, ruthless, monopolistic, and most disturbingly contemptuous of the law and criminal justice system and their users and the general public.

  3. Leo, if you find yourself desiring a faster ‘book…
    I bet if you were to autograph your “plastic pal” and put him on ebay he’d fetch a heck of a price. Possibly enough for a nice 1ghz TiBook. Or atleast REALLY subsidize the difference in price. Heck, get the 17″ Powerbook and leave Patrick with a really dreadful drooling problem… I bet that would look just dandy under the studio lights (both the 17″ powerbook and Patrick’s drooling…hehe)

  4. You were lamenting the fact that the Appleworks Spreadsheet couldn’t match Excel. I have been using Mariner Write and found it to be an excellent word processor in every respect. That being siad, I don’t know anything about Mariner Calc but, if it is anything like “Write”, it should work just fine for your spreadsheet needs. BTW, I always enjoy whatever TechTV show you are on. Your sincerity is much appreciated.

  5. Windows can be tempting… but I am sure that was Bill’s plan all along. I’ve been using a 867 15″ Powerbook since the beginning of this year and would never go back to my P3 Latitude.
    I love Apple as a company – unbelievably innovative – and would much rather support them than any of these heartless PC manufacturers…

  6. The company I found (PC Manufacturer) is a small one, really friendly and has helped a lot.
    I am going the wierd way and getting either a uber nice PC and cheapo iBook, a moderately nice Powerbook and a weak PC, or go crazy and get the 17″ Powerbook and 10GB iPod. If I am going to a Mac, I might as well get the whole Mac experience 😀

  7. Isn’t that your m.o? You buying this one now, the price dropping and something new coming out? Listen to your mentor and wait!!!

  8. My grandiose tax-return plans of making the switch (iMac, iPod, new DV cam, digicam, and photo printer) has been put off indefinitely. I still pout about it everyday. I still want to get all those things. I’ll just have to get them one at a time. Any further word on a sumertime announcement of a 40 GB iPod?

  9. After just reading the 3/25/03 PC Mag article, and I quote, “If your life is all play or if your work involves things that others only play at, the 12-inch Apple Powerbook G4 is as good as it gets in less than 5 pounds.” You know what? They may have just as well said ‘comma’ Leo, lol!!! Forget what I said before–life is short—click on that check out button!!!!!

  10. I’ve never had anything against Macs and do occasionaly bash on people who say Macs stink. But, even though I know OS X is a great operating system, it is just so hard to get used to it after having using Windows. I have no clue why…even when I get Mac replacements that are as good or better than that of Windows, I just can’t get used to the Mac. I need more motivation! 😀

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