I Want to Believe... but...

Again, I'm looking for someone to give me a good reason to buy a Mac. Last night at the blog-geek meetup, people were showing off their toys, and an ibook started looking nice. The main feature that looked nice was that it was unix. I would love to be able to have Apache, MySql, PHP, etc... all running on my lap-top so I can do development work locally and only have to connect to upload everything to a server when it is done. This is a big deal since I will probably be trading in my broad-band connection for 128k.

The ibook was looking nice, people had the new Jaguar (or whatever it's called) OS, it wasn't too heavy, and the prices they were quoting were under 100,000 yen.

I went to an electronics shop today to check it out, convinced that I'd try a Mac this time. They were not under 100,000 yen. The cheapest was 160,000 (no new OS), and it was Slooooow. I don't know if that is a feature on all macs, I hope not, but it took several seconds to open applications. I'll chalk it up to the fact that it only had 128k of memory, and the CPU was only in the megahertz range (so why is it so dang expensive?). Right now, even with my four-year old pc it only takes that long to open a huge application like Photoshop.

To make matters worse, there was a nice little pc for 110,000 with more storage space, double the memory, double the CPU, and half the weight. Now I don't know what to do again. The price difference alone negates the benefits of having a development environment on my local computer. With the money I save from buying the cheaper, higher spec, lighter pc, I could afford to keep my broadband connection at home, and STILL get the 128k Air-H for mobility.

I would really like to try the mac, seeing as how so many people swear by it, but I need a reason... help me. Tell me you know where I can get a decent spec ibook for 110,000 or less.

UPDATE: After writing this I checked out the Apple web page, and find that there is basically not much variation between models, and the highest CPU is 900MHz. If some of the things I say up there sound stupid, just realize I could care less about hardware, so long as it gets the job done, but the least I want is for the computer to react when I click on an icon. It seemed slow, but I guess it was just my imagination, since it must be the same for everyone.

Another thing I noticed on the Mac site is that the cheapest one, which is indeed $999, doesn't have CD R/W. What's up with that?

I also found that the Jaguar is the old OS, and Panther is the new one. Why don't they just call it something like "Version 1"? I'm not going to be fooled by a snazy name anyway... it just makes their marketing department look silly to me, or extremely insulting.

Comments about I Want to Believe... but...

Shit, i was going to write about how macs are mercedes and you could drive a fiat if you wanted to but you surely wouldn't be as cool as me, but then i got caught up trying to figure out your 'SPAM-bot" thing.

Posted by: james at October 17, 2003 09:53 AM

Ah. I see.

Posted by: james at October 17, 2003 09:55 AM

Saying it's a mercedes makes me think I shouldn't get it. A mercedes is worthless to me. It's a high-brand car, and the purpose of car is to get from A to B. My bike does that, and so do the trains.

That's the same way I feel about computers. It's just a tool. I don't care about the name. Apple, Mac, Linux, Kleenex... whatever. I just need something that does what I need it to do, and is priced reasonably.

If I see that something about the Mac justifies a higher pricetag, I'll get it, but it's got to be more than just a name.

That's what I want to know. Why should I pay more for a mac?

Posted by: kevin at October 17, 2003 10:10 AM

One thing you will definitely have to get used to, unless Panther (which by the way is also called Mac OS 10.3 as opposed to Jaguar's 10.2) really speeds up the OS is that the mac feels a little bit sluggish compared to windows machines at first. This no longer applies as of the new G5 machines, which are nice and responsive but not available in laptops yet. When I bought by iMac G4 machine I was disappointed by the comparative sluggishness of startup and the finder (like Window's explorer) though the finder issue should be fixed with the Panther upgrade. Now on my new G5 machine, everything is really nice, with crisp response from every application.

The thing that really makes people love the Mac I think, and this was what won me over, is that Mac's are designed to be used. Every aspect of owning the machine from opening the package to browsing the Internet, to writing code is not only easy, it is pretty and rewarding. The designers who create the mac experience really keep the user in mind in all aspects of the creation process.

The other thing, and this is how I justified switching over from a business point of view is the incredibly stability and flexibility of Mac Os X. Being built on a Unix base is, as you mentioned great because you can easily have any number of unix applications running on it, but not only that you won't have to reinstall every 6 months to a year because the operating system is inherently unstable.

One thing to point out for when you are comparing systems, Mhz ratings don't compare between Mac and Windows machines. My 800Mhz Windows machine with 384Mb of Ram is noticeably faster than my (soon to be ex) iMac G4 with a 1Ghz processor and 1Gb of RAM. My dual 2Ghz processor G5 however, blows them both away no contest :D.

Really, I think the issue is whether having an incredibly aesthetically pleasing work environment with no stability worries, that “just works” with just about everything is enough to make up for a system that may be a bit less responsive. For me it was, but that was always a point of irritation. I have to say though, having rsync, scp, ssh, and all of the other wonderful unix commands available without any extra work is very nice.

Of course, the longer you wait before buying a new Mac laptop, the more computer you'll be able to get for your money.

Posted by: UltraBob at October 17, 2003 10:23 AM

2 words... Virtual PC
use a PC on your mac... the best MAC app ever.

Posted by: Paul at October 17, 2003 11:08 AM

The one that doesn't have a cd-rw is the low end emac, because it's for classroom computer lab buyers with their eye on the bottom line. Tomorrow morning I expect to take delivery of my new emac, 17 inch screen, 1Ghz, 1GB RAM and DVD-R/CD-RW (Superdrive in Macspeak), a little under 200,000 with tax. The design is dated, but I don't like the design of the current iMacs.

Posted by: nils at October 17, 2003 05:57 PM

It sounds to me like what would serve you best is a moderate range designed for windows laptop (Thinkpads are nice in size, and don't have the annoying touchpad) with a free linux or bsd version os installed on it. This will give you The everyday tools (e-mail, web-browsing, word processing as well as the unix functionality.) You don't pay for the extra nice GUI overhead (in dollars or performance), and you get what it sounds like you are looking for. A big part of the Mac experience is the beauty and easo of use, two things that aren't on your list. You can replace the photoshop that you are currently using with Gimp (equivalent to around Photoshop 4 I think, but still with everything most people need.)

Macs are great machines, and are a great pleasure to use, but they are by no means for everybody. I have to say though that I don't feel a comparison to Windows is even worth doing, it took me about 2 weeks of using the Mac (even though it felt a little sluggish) to decide that I was ready to switch over, although Windows 2000 deciding to have yet another breakdown during that period (and I think Windows 2000 is the most stable one) helped me in that decision. I keep the windows box around just for testing Internet Explorer 6.

My current arsenal consists of: A Red Hat Linux 8 web server (300 Mhz), (until tomorrow when I ship it to its new home) an iMac, the old windows box for testing, a Windows XP laptop that I would convert to linux if my girlfriend didn't also use it, and a dual 2Ghz processor G5.

It is a testament to the server that I nearly never mess with it, it says bad things about the windows test box that I almost never use it, and it says great things about the Mac that a lot of the time when I am using my laptop I am connected via VNC to the G5 and am using the laptop for mobility reasons.

All that being said, it sounds like a linux laptop is the way to go for you, and am curious why that doesn't seem to be one of the choices vying for your hard-earned yen.

Posted by: UltraBob at October 17, 2003 06:10 PM

I'd have to agree with UltraBob on this one. If you want *NIX and don't mind fiddling with things a little bit, then Linux is a good choice. That being said, I stopped using Linux as a desktop about 2 years ago in favour of OS X. It has all the great *NIX apps you want, plus all the excellent Apple software such as iTunes and iPhoto. I'll tell you one thing for sure though: with OS X, you want LOTS of memory. That iBook you tested with 128 MB of RAM must have been slow as a dog. I'd say that 512 MB is a minimum. (i have 1 GB of memory) But for me, a computer is not just a tool. It's my partner, and I want it to be beautifully designed inside and out. Apple is my only choice.

Posted by: Shaun at October 17, 2003 08:32 PM

Hey Kevin... IMHO:

I'm working on a contract testing hardware/software on the newest G4 and G5 Macs... most of my paid work is on a Mac - editing, animation, software testing. I just married a Mac tech. But my favorite computer of all: Toshiba 3020CT, 96mb of RAM, 6 gig HD, 266 mhz processor. Granted, its old and slow, not appropriate for what you're doing, but my good Linux friend used it's big brother the 7020 for a good long time before finally upgrading to the new *wow* IBM Thinkpad.

Not that I don't ever get tempted to buy those SUPER-CUTE pearly white iBooks. They weigh 4.9 lbs for the 12". But keep this in mind: they have G3 processors and OS X runs pretty sluggish on a G3 - even with a ton of RAM (I think the max is 640?)... they're quite a bit more money than you might be willing to spend for that cute white case and the yummy GUI. Hell, today Apple announced the new iTunes for windows!

Lastly, if you become overwhelmed by your desire for the most edible-looking of laptops - let me know... here in San Francisco, some characters are selling these 800mhz with the built-in DVD/CDRW and an airport card for $850 - don't know how that compares to yen, but I bet it's better than what you're seeing.


Posted by: super8girl at October 17, 2003 09:47 PM

Kevin, Why are you considering downgrading from broadband to ISDN? In Tokyo, it's rather cheap to have ADSL at home (not much more than 2,700/mth, depending on your provider), whereas you have to pay time usage charges to NTT if you have ISDN. Before I switched, my average phone bill with ISDN was about 9,000-14,000/mth for about 3-4 hours online a day. Ouch! Stay with broadband and you'll save heaps of money :-)

Posted by: lil at October 18, 2003 02:34 AM

Oops! Ignore my last comment, I misread your post, Kevin...feel free to delete it!

Posted by: lil at October 18, 2003 02:38 AM

Hmmm... why not go with Linux? You got me there Bob. I spend 99.9% of my time using Ultraedit. My text-editor is more important that the OS to me. I was thinking that I would love to stick with UltraEdit, but if I have to I can switch to BBEdit. I have dabled with text editors on Linux, but never liked them as much as UltraEdit.

Putting my previous comments to the test though, where I said that you can get the same or equivilent tools for any OS, I started to look around at GUI text editors for Linux. Bluefish looks promising... it would take some getting used to, but so would BBedit.

Another thing, I don't like Mozilla (unlike almost everyone else who is a web-developer it seems). It just looks like crap on my screen. I just like the way IE renders the pages on Windows. I hate surfing on Linux because I am using Mozilla. I never really investigated other options though... And I suppose I would get used to it in a couple weeks, because hey, I'm an adaptable guy. Maybe I can get UltraEdit to work on Linux with WINE...

I'll confirm that Air-H works with Linux today... This could be a nice option, or at least have Windows and Linux on the same box. Forgive my ignorance, as I have never put two OS on one box before, but can I at least access the files for editing on the Linux partition while I am running under the Windows OS, and vice versa?

Lil, as for dropping BB, yeah it sounds stupid, but I want mobility.

Super8girl, I would probably take you up on that, but I am going to be in the US (New York, Michigan, Chicago) in December, so I will most likely be buying it then.

Posted by: kevin at October 18, 2003 03:54 AM

A quick look at the WINE application database page tells me that people have successfully installed UltraEdit with WINE!!! Yippee!!! That option is looking even nicer now...

Posted by: kevin at October 18, 2003 04:03 AM

You are right though, Bluefish looks pretty sweet. I was really sad to leave Edit Pad Pro behind when I moved to Mac, to the point that I contacted the developers about maybe helping them port it to the Mac (there is a linux version, but their development tool, Borland Delphi or something isn't available for the Mac) I would recommend that over running UltraEdit on wine just because in my experience Wine has been less stable even than Windows. I was using SciTE when I did text editing in Linux before, but don't discount emacs, it is hugely powerful!

I have nothing against Internet Explorer from a users standpoint, except that Microsoft has announced that it will no longer be available as a seperate download, which means it won't be updated until at least 2005 when longhorn is slated to be released.

As a web designer, this is enough to make me absolutely hate IE 6 because they are already behind the other major browsers in their support of web standards, especially CSS. I can design something and have it look beautiful on nearly everything, but I am almost guaranteed to have to tweak something to get IE 6 to look nice. On my Linux box I use Opera as my default browser. It is lightweight, fast, and lays things out nicely. It is not my favorite browser, but it was my best choice for a low spec machine.

About sharing files between linux and windows on a dual boot machine, if I recall correctly you'll want to have one partition that both Os's can read (FAT32 I think qualifies) seperate from the OS. For safety purposes I have found that it is useful to format the partitions that the OS's reside in to formats that the other OS's cannot read. NTFS for Windows - Linux Partition for Linux: this help to keep the OSs from eating each other or interfering.

I would recommend going full Linux though, it'll be more painful at first, but it will encourage you to work through your problems instead of just reverting to Windows, and having an unused Linux partition on your machine. In the end, I think that you'll find that the stability and performance increases will be worth the possible initial frustration.

I guess the next step for you is to choose a distribution. I installed SUSE on my laptop at one point and really liked it, but gave it up because I need to have Dreamweaver, Photoshop, and Illustrator on my machine.

If only high-performance Macs were much cheaper, or mainstream design applications were available for linux. Then I could abandon Microsoft products with the exception of Office since so many clients insist on believing that Microsoft Word and Excel files are the best way to send everything (even screenshots).

Posted by: UltraBob at October 18, 2003 04:40 AM

Oh yeah, some things to add to your list of things you are looking for is battery life, and a built in wireless card. The battery life is self explanatory for someone on the road. The wireless card will make itself very worthwhile whenever you find an open wireless network and can take advantage of a brief period of broadband bliss, and save some money on your air-H connection.

By the way, here is a page about connecting to Air-H from Vine Linux (a Japanized Red Hat)

Posted by: UltraBob at October 18, 2003 04:44 AM

Thanks again Bob,

I just downloaded Edit Pad and it's great (I'm writing this on it now). That's one down. Photoshop... I'm going to have to trust everyone who says Gimp is just as good. Flash? I'll still have it on my non-mobile computer, and seeing as how I have only used it about five times in the past two years...

Editing movies (the little 30 second clips my camera takes) and what not... there must be something great for doing that with Linux too I would guess.

What else do I need to worry about?

Posted by: kevin at October 18, 2003 05:57 AM


Posted by: UltraBob at October 18, 2003 07:03 AM

Saying it's a mercedes makes me think I shouldn't get it. A mercedes is worthless to me. It's a high-brand car, and the purpose of car is to get from A to B. My bike does that, and so do the trains.

Mercedes vs Fiat probably wasn't the best analogy, altho there is a certain amount of status-bragging involved in using a mac.
Toyota vs Fiat is a better analogy. I ran Fiats for many years because they were dirt-cheap and i was willing to tinker with them to keep them running. Found if i had 2 in the driveway i could always get to work. Finally saved up enough to buy a Toyota. Solid reliable car that only ever needed an occasional oil change.

I just got sick of constantly tinkering with Windows to make it work. I'm willing to pay more for solid reliability.

Say, i can stretch this already over-extended analogy further and say Linux is that cool 'chopped 51 Merc with 98 Olds frame and suspension, slanted door posts, rounded door corners, rounded hood corners, smoothed rain gutters, all garnish moldings, smoothed seams, new '54 Merc taillight lenses, flared front wheel wells and '51 fender skirts. Comes with front and rear bumpers, original '54 Merc taillight assemblies, '37 Ford headlight assemblies, '50 Merc rear window, dash, gauges & moldings. Needs completion, for the serious car builder looking to build and own a rare piece of automotive history'.

Thanks for the pix of the stormdrain... er, river in flood. I meant to get out and look at that, but it was raining too damn hard.

Still unclear why you want to go back to isdn, but i've rambled enough already.

Posted by: james at October 18, 2003 09:08 AM

I see now what you mean, although I have never had to tinker with my Windows. And I have never re-installed the one at work, which I used 8+ hours a day for three years.

My home machine was re-installed once, a few months ago. That was because I am a little more reckless with this one and install crap just to see what it is. It's just a matter of being careful though.

On the other hand, the Mac users in my office are constantly having problems with their machines. I wrote about this a while back, and decided they are probably just incompetant users, but still I have seen many more problems with Macs than Windows.

Sure Windows has more security updates, but they are a snap to patch up, and I have never had any problems with security either, because I keep my patches up to date. If you choose to argue that I shouldn't have to patch anyway, or patch so much, I'd say bull crap!

In the past year I have applied many more patches to Linux applications to fix vulnerabilities than I have to Windows. Niether is a problem though, becuase I keep my stuff up to date.

About Linux being he tinkerers toy. I agree, and that is one of the apealing factors for me. I am still considering it, but the EditPad that bob talked about is missing one key feature that I use most, which is open / save files remotely via ftp, rather than having to have a local copy.

I also just saw on slashdot that Maya, some animation/computer graphics software I had never heard of before, is now free for non-commercial use. It is very tempting, and something I would love to play with so much that I would consider getting Windows (no Linux version) just to run it... of course keep a partition open for Linux too.

By the way, do you live on the Kanda-gawa too?

Posted by: kevin at October 18, 2003 01:13 PM

By the way, do you live on the Kanda-gawa too?

I'm over in Ota-ku now, but used to live in Nakano. Couple years ago i followed the Kanda upstream on my bike.

Posted by: james at October 19, 2003 05:53 AM


Just mount the ftp folder on your machine, and you can open files in it like any other file:

http://lufs.sourceforge.net/lufs/intro.html where there's a will, in unix, there's a way ;)

Also about the users in your office having trouble with their Macs, is it possible that they are still using Mac OS 9 or earlier, which are completely different and not unix based? I'm not a careful guy at all, I install things to see what they are all the time on all my machines, haven't had much of a problem on my Mac yet, but that could be luck.

Anyway, I have never met a user who switched to Mac OS X who would go back to Windows. Not to say they don't exist, I've just never met one. I know tons who have gone over to both Linux and Mac OS X. Then again, you are not the “average user”*

*The average user is kept hermetically sealed in a vault in Geneva Switzerland. All web design, software, and OS design decisions are arrived at via their views on things.

Posted by: UltraBob at October 19, 2003 09:21 AM

Hey Kevin,
Don't buy an iBook. It's a consumer computer, and you sound like you need a pro computer. Unfortunately the PowerBook range while it kicks ass has the pricetag to match. I'm using a PowerBook G3/400 w/ 512MB RAM and it's feeling slow for design, but fine for my wife's emailing/writing/surfing. I'm buying a G5/1.8 w/ 1GB RAM in a week or two.
Either save for a 15" PowerBook (at least G4 with 1GB RAM) or don't get a Mac - the underpowered/little RAM ones are what give Macs a bad name. However, a powerful Mac has a habit of competing with your significant other ;-) they're really _nice_ to use. Be careful, because if you get one, it's almost impossible to go back! hehe

peace - oli

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