Bringing Out the Inner MacHead in Me

I used to use the office eMac back when I was working the corporate grind. While my main computers were a Linux box and a Windows-based ThinkPad (several, actually), I would often prefer to work on the eMac–which is shared among designers–either by transferring to its location or accessing my OS X desktop remotely via VNC. I just love the clean OS X interface which I found really intuitive.

To sum it up, it just works. I’ve been working with PCs all my life and I pretty much know the ins and outs of Windows (having explored even the obscurest of versions, including NT 3.51 and also NT 4 Server), and it was always quite a cluttered and complicated affair. I can say that simplicity is one virtue of the Mac OS X, and even my three-year old daughter can navigate her way around the Mac’s UI.

So when I quit the corporate world and turned to freelancing and problogging, I had to be content with the equipment that I could buy with my own money. No more office-provided computers and broadband (along with free-flowing coffee and unlimited access to programming and design books). Most of all, no more Mac. These days, my work equipment usually consist of my laptop and the home PC desktop, which I have since relegated to gaming, and which my wife uses as her main computer.

Enter the Resurrected PowerBook

This was the case until recently, that is, when I got my hands on an old but working PowerBook G3 “Pismo.” If you ask me how much I got it for, you’d be surprised–it was practically free. It was actually just gathering dust in some laptop storage room corner when its original owner offered me a great deal (no money changed hands). To make the long story short, my Compaq V2000 just got itself a big brother to play (and work) with.

The specs are not really impressive. The Pismo has a 500 MHz PowerPC G3 processor, a 20 GB hard drive, a 14-inch 1024×768 display and 256MB of RAM, which I bumped up to 512 with a spare 100MHz SDRAM stick I had lying around at home. Battery life was originally 5 hours, but being old, this powerbook could only give me about 1.5 hours before dying (or sleeping, actually).

What’s so Great About It?

The Pismo is the last G3-based portable that Apple has official OS X Tiger support for. It also seems to be a favorite among the folks at LowEndMac (serious MacHeads, if you ask me), because of its expandability (two expansion bays!), style (black is the cool!), and durability (sturdier than ding- and dent-prone iBooks). You could even upgrade the Pismo to a 550 MHz PowerPC G4! And battery life could be extended to 10 hours if you load up both bays with battery packs.

Also, the Pismo was among the first PowerBooks that offered wireless Internet thru an optional internal AirPort card. But let’s face it, the AirPort was–and still is–expensive and it’s slow, being limited to WiFi B (as opposed to the AirPort Extreme, which is essentially WiFi G). Luckily, these days you can get all sorts of PC Card or even USB WLAN adaptors from third-party providers, as long as there is an available OS X driver for their chipset. For instance, I used an MSI CardBus adaptor (~$30) running on a RALink RT2500 chipset, and it works perfectly with Tiger along with the driver I downloaded. Heck, even the cheapo ZyDAS-based USB WLAN adaptor I got as spare for my desktop a while back (bought for less than 20 bucks) works. I read Broadcom-based chips work outright, as they’re compatible with the Mac’s AirPort drivers. Macs are not as isolated as I used to think.

Hey, the Pismo even got much exposure on TV, being the laptop that Carrie Bradshaw, Sarah Jessica Parker’s character on HBO’s Sex and the City often used. (Okay, I’m a guy but I kind of liked the show, especially because my wife was fond of it.)

The Pismo is a classic and can still be a workhorse, particularly for people like me who are more into documents, writing, Web surfing and some image manipulation, rather than gaming, design and other things that require higher-end processing. Right now, I have OS X 10.4.7 installed (the latest version of Tiger) and it’s still pretty zippy. It’s not as fast as my 1.5 GHz Celeron-M V2000, but come to think of it, I’m somehow more productive when I work on the Mac.

Changes in the Workflow

I can say it’s all about the workflow and computing preferences. With my Windows laptop, there’s the temptation to install and use each and every popular application made available online, hence the tendency to clutter my desktop. There are also the MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games, to the uninitiated), which, even if great for reviewing and writing about, do take time to play.

And of course, with the V2000’s wide screen, I tend to keep too many windows open and in clear view, and these tend to distract me. I’ve grown fond of those widget-type gadgets that give me all sorts of information at a press of a button. Not that OS X doesn’t have Dashboard, but Google Gadgets’ presentation is really such that I get to see all the information in one single display, particularly with the widescreen.

So as I would say again and again, productivity may not always be directly proportional to how fast your machine is. It’s more about how you use your equipment, and how organized you can get. I could list hundreds of reasons why people who love the Mac tend to be loyal. There are a lot of advantages, and they might be simple and subtle, ranging from better security, to a more robust operating system under the hood (it’s UNIX!).

I just turned into a MacHead!

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