planned ibook purchase -> disappointment? (long)

Discussion in 'Buying Tips, Advice and Discussion (archive)' started by rinseout, Jan 20, 2004.

  1. rinseout macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2004
    #1
    Hi,

    I've been considering for a long time purchasing a new Mac. I don't want to deplete my cash reserves too seriously because I plan to move in about 18 months or so, and on my salary as a grad student it takes a long time to save up. So I can't spend too much.

    My current computer is a Toshiba Satellite Pro from 97-98 with a 1 GB hard disk and a broken keyboard (I use an external keyboard, and a heavily hacked up keymap for when I want/have to use the built-in one), 32MB of RAM, and a fried battery. I run a really trimmed down Linux install on it; I'm able to run the essentials like bash, X (with only a very basic wm), emacs, g++, GnuPG, make, and whatever. Really, I could get done what needs doing on this beast, but it isn't pleasant. And I've not started writing the dissertation yet. Also, (La)TeX is not possible because of disk space considerations. (I do most work on the office machine, this thing is just what I have at home).

    I have decided that I could probably afford, for less than (CAN)$2400, a tricked out 12" iBook (max the memory, HD, AE, bluetooth & wireless mouse), and get a really nice 3rd party bag to put it in. I could probably sell the surplus 128 MB memory stick, too.

    What I want to know is:

    1. While I'm sure this computer will outdo my current setup many times over, I would want at least 3 years or so of useful life out of it so that I didn't feel I was wasting my money. Is this reasonable? Will I be able to enjoy the computing mainstream (in terms of software) for about 3-4 years?

    2. I am not a professional designer, artist, or musician. I would nevertheless like to play with modern web design, and put my iBook through some amateur recording, musicianship and DJing tasks, especially once the PhD is done. Is this something I should reasonably be able to do on this set up without aggravation? Since I can run GIMP on a much older linux machine, I'm guessing that graphics utilities such as Photoshop are not beyond this set up.

    3. I am not above a firmware hack to get screen spanning. Is the screen spanning hack as good as people make it out? i.e., will my iBook crash in the middle of my defense presentation or something if I do this?

    4. I will be doing a lot of code development on this machine. The really computationally hard stuff I have access to much better resources for, but I would like to be able to run my codes on toy computational grids without thrashing the swap for an hour. Reasonable? Compiling without having time to walk to the coffee shop. Reasonable?

    5. Comments on making the switch Linux -> Mac are welcome.

    6. Maybe serving as a DVD player with the S-Video patch cord. Reasonable?

    7. Sometimes I like console mode. Is there such a thing as switching between the window manager and console mode, as in Linux?

    8. Is it possible to get european keycaps, even though I would be ordering on a student discount from Canada? (I have this thing for ISO specifications)

    9. Hobby level video editing. Feasible?

    10. Games (like Ghost Recon or whatever). Feasible? I'm not seriously into these, but I'd like to know I can play without the computer making it a pointless exercise.

    11. How's the keyboard on these things? Will it (and my hands) take the typing of a dissertation?

    12. How's the display on these things. I currently run at 800x600 on 12" at home, but comparisons with modern displays are welcome.

    13. Any weirdness with the current 12" iBooks that has been noticed?

    I guess, in short, am I really asking for a powerbook (in the sense that these are the things I'm expecting to be able to do) ? I plan to do more work than just websurfing and email on this thing, and it will be my computer for a year or two when I'm starting a real career.

    I plan to probably wait, anyway, until the next speed bump or redesign, which I expect will be roughly coincident with the next Powerbook improvement. I'm hesitating over an 800 MHz processor, which sounds slow to me. (But then, not 1 year ago the 12" PB was at 867MHz or so).

    Thanks.
     
  2. SilentPanda Moderator emeritus

    SilentPanda

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2002
    Location:
    The Bamboo Forest
    #2
    Man that's a lot of questions... I'll answer as many as best I can though since I have "your" iBook... :)

    1. I think you'll be okay. You'll be itching near the end of your 3 years but the good thing is that it'll maintain good value most likely... so you can upgrade then to a new machine...

    2. I use GraphicConverter on my iBook and it works fine. Can't speak for Photoshop. You should be able to do pretty "normal" stuff but if you're thinking of producing music or mass photo filtering you'll probably have to do it slowly.

    3. I've hear good results on the spanning hack but have no need to do it on mine so I haven't.

    4. Compiling is good. Especially with XCode. It compiles while you code which of course cuts down on time.

    5. No idea. Can never maintain enough interest in Linux to struggle with it.

    6. Works like a charm.

    7. Again don't know a ton about Linux. But you can run multiple terminal windows inside of the window manager. The window manager is pretty much always running (unless you're super snazzy and don't run it for some reason).

    8. Couldn't tell ya.

    9. Definitely. You might have to let it sit over night to encode but... that's no biggie. You're sleeping. :)

    10. I can play Warcraft III on mine decently and also Dungeon Siege.

    11. I try not to type much more than this reply so... I'd suggest a USB keyboard for something like that. Just get a cheapie. If you feel like you could type your paper on your current laptop keyboard you could probably do it on the iBook keyboard. I haven't slowed in typing when using the iBook keyboard.

    12. It's a 12" that can go up to 1024x768. Does the trick for me.

    13. Not that I've experienced since I got mine around Thanksgiving.

    I think it'll work for you overall. Of course a PowerBook has more and if you can afford that PowerBook go for it but... I think you'll be happy with the iBook.
     
  3. noel4r macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    #3
    Just a thought, wouldn't you be done with your studies in 3 years and will be making the big bucks by then? You should be able to afford a new G6 powerbook....
     
  4. niter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2003
    #4
    I am in graduate school as well and I find my iBook 12" G4 to be extremely well fit to my lifestyle. I recently went through the written portion of my prelims, and the iBook went through it with me and without any troubles at all. I highly recommend this computer.

    The one thing I would mention though, as I was thinking about it today, by the time I upgraded my computer, the price difference was not as huge between it and the 12" Combo drive PowerBook.

    That is, I added bluetooth and a 60 GB HD initially to the computer. Later, I upgraded the RAM to 640 MB. Recently, I added an airport card (which if your library offers wireless, this card is a MUST, esp. for a graduate student). Adding the HD, bluetooth, and airport added $201 to the cost of the iBook. That means that really the extra cost of the PB is only for the increase in processor speed (and a few other performance things, but this is the biggie to me), as those items are already included (except the HD is 40 GB in the PB w/o upgrade).

    I still would chose the iBook. Even though, in the end I spent only $100 less than a 12"PB, I ended up with a computer that has more RAM and 20 more GB. Of course, you can up the RAM on the PB, but that adds more to the total price. For me, $100 is $100, and I also did not upgrade my computer all at one time. Besides, I love the look of the iBook more.

    Even at 800 MHz, I use Dreamweaver and Photoshop lightly. The way I see it, my computer is damn zippy for me, and if it truly is slower than the PB, I do not think 3 seconds more to open a word file will kill me.
     
  5. Horrortaxi macrumors 68020

    Horrortaxi

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2003
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    #5
    1.) Absolutely. No question.

    2.) Of course, it's a Mac and that's what they do.

    3.) No clue, but if you're doing a presentation or something what's wrong with mirroring?

    4.) Pass.

    5.) Switching Linux to Mac is probably about the same as switching Windows to Mac. The way you do things in the GUI is roughly the same in all 3. Ease of use is best on the Mac. Just use it and get used to it.

    6.) I think so. Never seen it but it ought to work.

    7.) I'm not sure on the terminology. In OS X you can use the terminal. Not sure if that's the same thing.

    8.) I don't think so.

    9.) Hell yes!

    10.) Yes.

    11.) It will take it but I don't know about you. The iBook keyboard took some getting used to. I have an older iBook though. The G4 ones are supposed to have better keyboards. I haven't spent much time on one but they do feel a little better.

    12.) I run mine 1024x768 with millions of colors. No problem.

    13.) None that I've heard of.

    Basically what you're looking to do is right up the alley of the G4 iBook. It'll easily be usable for 3-4 years--in terms of power that is. You'll probably kill a couple batteries in that time. I've got 5 and 6 year old Macs that are still keeping up just fine.
     
  6. birdMan macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2003
    #6
    In my opinion, I would go with the 12" powerbook. I just think it would fit what you want to do a little better. I know a few people who have one and they absolutely love it. I have a 15" and its really cool so I assume the 12" is very similar.
     
  7. tsk macrumors 6502a

    tsk

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2004
    Location:
    Wisconsin
    #7
    As far as 7 goes, I'd like to see the answer but I'm fairly certain it's no.

    I've asked the question a few times before and as you can see most people don't know what you're talking about.

    What the original poster (I think) is asking about is a full screen terminal login window.

    On linux you can get these by pushing ctrl-alt-f3 (or almost any other number function key). In Windows, this would be the full screen dos prompt.


    In reply to the rest of your post, I think the iBook is a pretty good choice for a budget but if you have to make it last 3-4 years I don't know that anyone can really guarantee you'll be happy that long. The CPU is already a bit slow *but* more than likely should handle all of the tasks you're going to be throwing at it. And if you're content living with something that's not cutting edge, you probably will be fine (and from your post that doesn't seem to be an issue).

    The 12" PB might be a better choice but I myself can't fathom spending the extra cash getting a machine that is only marginally better. Although I the larger cache and (I think) faster system bus should give a significant performance gain.

    I'm in a similar boat. I'm a graduate student planning on getting a 12" iBook in the next week unless something drastic happens with the PB line as is rumored. However, for me the iBook is more or less a stop gap until I can afford to get myself into a 15" PB preferably with a G5 :). I'd recommend waiting to see what comes to pass on Tuesday and also looking into the ADC discount. You can save a bunch extra which can help if this is a machine that needs to last you.

    Good luck!
     
  8. joker2 macrumors 6502a

    joker2

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2003
    Location:
    DC area
    #8
    You can set the terminal to "maximize" via the green button which will cover everything except the menu bar at the top of the page and the dock at the bottom. (Select "Keep in dock" for ease of usage.)

    You can boot into "single user mode" by holding command-s at startup, which will get you the white on black console window as root.

    You may find http://fink.sourceforge.net/index.php useful coming from Linux, it looks like that will give you the functionality you want (See the section on "rootless" operation).

    For the record, I went for the 12" 1GHz powerbook. I wanted the spanning without having to resort to a 'hack' and wanted the increased performance with the bus speed and higher RAM maximum. (Not that I'm using the full capacity-- I'm not going to shell out $450 for a 1GB chip. 512+256 built-in does fine for now.) The Airport card is an addition for whichever 12" you choose, only the higher end 15" and the 17"s come with it built-in.

    I hear the keyboards on the iBooks are much better than they used to be-- the G3 clamshell keyboards were horrible! The keyboard is said to be about the same as the current powerbook, which is nice. I use my powerbook as my main machine, hooking up to external monitor/keyboard as necessary.
     
  9. abhishekit macrumors 65816

    abhishekit

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2003
    Location:
    akron , ohio
    #9
    I have a question about the sixth question he asked. Whats this s video patch cord. Whats its input and whats the output.
    I have an ibook, and as it doesnt have a svideo out I thought using it to connect to my TV was not possible.
    Thanks and sorry for barging in .
     
  10. Datazoid macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 10, 2002
    #10
  11. joker2 macrumors 6502a

    joker2

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2003
    Location:
    DC area
    #11
    S-Video

    I'm not sure if it can be done with an iBook, but it can be done with the mini-DVI port to S-Video and composite adapter on the 12" powerbook.

    Edit: it looks like it can be done:
     
  12. solvs macrumors 603

    solvs

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2002
    Location:
    LaLaLand, CA
    #12
    Output, no input. It's an optional cable, about $20 at the Apple Store. My Mom has the older G3 iBook and it works great.

    The hack to enable multiple monitor support doesn't work on hers, but I've heard it works fine on the new ones. Check www.xlr8yourmac.com for details.
     
  13. Armsreach macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    #13
    Re: planned ibook purchase -> disappointment? (long)

    I have decided that I could probably afford, for less than (CAN)$2400, a tricked out 12" iBook (max the memory, HD, AE, bluetooth & wireless mouse), and get a really nice 3rd party bag to put it in. I could probably sell the surplus 128 MB memory stick, too.

    Actually, as far as I know, and correct me someone if I am wrong, but the ibook has two slots for RAM. One that is expandable to 512, and the built in 128 which is what you are stuck with. So no getting rid of the 128 stick.

    1. While I'm sure this computer will outdo my current setup many times over, I would want at least 3 years or so of useful life out of it so that I didn't feel I was wasting my money. Is this reasonable? Will I be able to enjoy the computing mainstream (in terms of software) for about 3-4 years?

    Don't have the iBook (purchasing one right after my credit card payment goes through, hopefully tomorrow), but I do have an old sawtooth G4 tower which has only had RAM upgrades and has lasted me strongly now since it was released more years ago than I care to count. Every friend I know who has a Mac is running a computer that is at least 2 years old and zipping along fine. In my case I am a professional designer and am working fine with the Adobe CS suite and Macromedia's MX 2004 suite. The only program that gives me any trouble is Painter.

    2. I am not a professional designer, artist, or musician. I would nevertheless like to play with modern web design, and put my iBook through some amateur recording, musicianship and DJing tasks, especially once the PhD is done. Is this something I should reasonably be able to do on this set up without aggravation? Since I can run GIMP on a much older linux machine, I'm guessing that graphics utilities such as Photoshop are not beyond this set up.

    See above. Also, as far as audio is concerned, once again, as far as I know that iBook doesn't have a built in audio input, so you'll need a USB or FireWire audio input device to do much real audio work beyond playing with garage band and it's presets.

    7. Sometimes I like console mode. Is there such a thing as switching between the window manager and console mode, as in Linux?

    I think the answer to this is the Terminal. It's an app that gives you command line access to everything that's going on on your machine. you click and it opens.

    9. Hobby level video editing. Feasible?

    Comes with iMovie and you can upgrade to final cut express. FCE will probably run a TINY bit clunky, but should be fine. Works fine on my system, but is a bit slow when rendering. iMovie is fine though.

    10. Games (like Ghost Recon or whatever). Feasible? I'm not seriously into these, but I'd like to know I can play without the computer making it a pointless exercise.

    As long as you use the default frame rates you should be fine.

    11. How's the keyboard on these things? Will it (and my hands) take the typing of a dissertation?

    Having tweaked around on these at the Apple Store, I very much like the keyboards, much sturdier than the g3 ibook.

    I guess, in short, am I really asking for a powerbook (in the sense that these are the things I'm expecting to be able to do) ?

    Kind of, but you are one of the people who are sitting borderline either way. Myself, I'm getting the iBook for portability and getting a new tower next summer as my main pixel cruncher. You may want to look at the powerbook for several reasons.

    1. Supports more RAM
    2. Audio input
    3. Better graphics card
    4. slightly quicker processor
    5. superdrive
    6. more durable keyboard
      [/list=1]

      All of those are not advantages to your main use, but start to add up when you really begin to look at all the suplemental stuff you want to be able to do to wind down at the end of a long day of research or whatever it is you grad students do. :) The best thing to do is hit up an apple store and really spend some time on both machines and see what your instincts tell you.
     
  14. plasticparadox macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    May 24, 2003
    #14
    Re: Re: planned ibook purchase -> disappointment? (long)

    If you're talking 12", the iBook's Radeon 9200 blows away the PB's GeForce FX
    Go 5200. In addition, the 640MB ram limit specified by Apple is in fact incorrect.

    http://www.macworld.co.uk/news/main_news.cfm?NewsID=7260

    iBook gets a little more bang for the buck, doesn't it?
     
  15. Armsreach macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    #15
    Re: Re: Re: planned ibook purchase -> disappointment? (long)

    I stand corrected on the video card. D'oh. My wife just bought the 15" and in my video game induced mid afternoon stupor assumed it and the 12" were using the same card.

    As for the memory upgrade, looks to me as if that's a new, third party system addition that is very untested and the average Mac User probably wouldn't be looking into, although it is pretty intriguing and I'd like to see more about it since I too am getting an iBook shortly.

    Is it available out of the UK?

    EDIT: Looked deeper into the siite, and looks intriguing enough, but for the $400 you'd have to spend to take your RAM that high, you are getting it up in the same price range as the powerbook. Also, it's odd that they have a bunch of instructions on their site, but nothing for adding this new "module" or whatever language you feel like using for the addition.
     
  16. kidA macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2002
    #16
    Re: Re: planned ibook purchase -> disappointment? (long)

    to be more clear, the stock iBook comes with 128 soldered to the logic board and one 128 MB stick in the open slot. if you upgrade the RAM yourself from crucial or someone (which is highly advisable since it will save a lot of money), then you will have that extra 128 MB stick. if you get it BTO with more RAM from Apple, you won't have that extra stick though. even if you go the crucial route, i can't imagine you'll be able to sell that extra 128 MB stick for more than a few bucks, but i haven't checked eBay or anything.
     

Share This Page