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April 16, 2005

Sounds Superfine to me

Your Inner European is Swedish!

Relaxed and peaceful.
You like to kick back and enjoy life.

Who's Your Inner European?

I actually think my Inner European is Finnish, but Sweden would be fine. If I could fit my whole music collection on my stupid toy hard drive I would be listening to the Replacements, "Anywhere Is Better Than Here" right now. Writing this paper blows.

(Thanks to Denise for helping me procrastinate by linking to this poll...)

Posted 08:59 PM | Comments (2) | life generally

Stepping up to the G4

Ibookg4 Front 2004 Hi. This is a new G4 iBook speaking. Can you hear this Panther roar?

Right. Enough marketing-made-OS-naming-convention silliness. The deal is, I got a new computer and I know you just can't wait to hear all about it. ;-)

First, as I mentioned here, the old iBook started showing some strange behavior a couple of weeks ago. At first I thought it was just because the hard drive was full; I've been running on 2GB or less free disk space for some time, playing a constant game of backup and delete to make sure I keep at least that much free. (Mac OS uses free hard drive space for virtual memory so if you hard drive is too full, the whole OS can grind to a crawl or a halt b/c the system basically runs out of memory. This is especially a problem on something like the 2001 iBooks which had a max RAM capability of 640 MB—not really enough for OS X.) Still, I had been playing this game for some time when the computer started locking up for no apparent reason, and up to that point I hadn't really had any problems. The last time my computer had random lockups was when the hard drive was failing in the summer of 2003.

Do hard drives typically only last two years or less? Possibly, but I would be surprised if the problem was in the drive because the computer still seems to start up fine; it's only the monitor that doesn't seem to work any more. If I start it up and listen to the disk activity, it sounds like it's starting up normally. I can login (blind using keyboard only), and once it's all started up, I can start and use programs via keyboard commands (thanks to Quicksilver). For example, I can use the iBook as a really big iPod because I can start up iTunes and listen to music, but again, no screen. The computer also boots into firewire disk mode so I can retrieve information from it, but still the screen shows nothing, not even a faint image, just black. And then, every once in a great many restarts, the screen decides to turn on, and once it's on, it stays on and functions fine until I shut down or let the computer go to sleep, and then the screen won't come back to life again. Not good.

Is this a bad backlight? A poor connection between screen and logic board? I don't know; the extended warranty expired last December so Apple has nothing to say to me. The "genius" at the Apple Store just sort of smiled and said "could be" to all of my theories about what went wrong, although the consensus seems universal that this doesn't sound like the infamous logic board problem I mentioned before. I don't have the time right now to try to fix it (nor is it worth spending much money on), but once the craziness of the end of the semester is over I will play with the connection between screen and logic board and see if I can make it work more consistently. (Thanks for the suggestion Mr. R. I've also tried all the non-invasive tips mentioned here, but to no avail.)

So the old 2001 iBook has been replaced with a new 2004 iBook. It's the base model, which means it cost me an even $1k. I've ordered 1GB of RAM to max it out at 1.2GB, so the total comes to $1150. In 2001 I paid $1495 for the iBook, plus $125 to max the ram (at 640MB), for a total of $1620, so that's nice.

Some thoughts on the new iBook:

  • The keyboard feels a little stiff, but that's probably because it's new. The keys are also opaque and PC-esque, while those on my old iBook were transparent and cool. But the opaqueness might be better in the long run b/c it shouldn't show dirt and grime quite so much. My old keyboard was pretty disgusting. Speaking of which, the "C" key on the old keyboard is totally blank—the printed letter was long ago worn away completely by my constant use of command-c. The S, D, and L keys are also mostly gone, as is the comma.
  • As kmsqrd noted in the comments to the last post, the standard 30GB drive on the iBook is perversely small, especially considering it comes loaded with over 15 GB of stuff! That makes it, effectively, a 14GB drive. Yeah, that's perfect for a "digital hub." Not. Unfortunately, Apple's retail stores do not sell iBooks with anything but the 30GB drive; to get a 60 or 80GB drive you must order from the Apple Store online. I was a little panicked and wanted a replacement computer right away so I figured I could make do with the small drive. I've since learned that the only way to upgrade the drive w/out voiding the warranty is to have it done by an authorized Apple specialist (not an Apple store), and even then the drive won't be covered by Apple's warranty, but the rest of the computer will be. Now I'm thinking I should have just ordered from Apple online; I'd have the machine now and it would have plenty of drive space. Yes, my impatience made me dumb. I guess I'll continue to play the backup and delete game!
  • Not surprisingly, this machine is much faster than my old one. It will be even more so when the RAM arrives. Going from a 600Mhz G3 to a 1.2Mhz G4 will do that.
  • This iBook has an internal CD-burner, which may not sound like a big deal, but trust me, this is like a huge technological leap for me. My old iBook had no internal burner, so I had an external USB burner (anyone want that?) and it took 30-40 minutes to burn an average CD. Then, with some OS upgrade around last summer, my external burner became unusable b/c it didn't have a memory buffer and the OS was suddenly requiring that. So since last summer, I've had no CD-burning abilities, which was a drag, certainly. Now I can burn CDs in a matter of minutes. Is there anything I can burn for you? ;-)
  • I do not like the Lucida Grande-like font staring at me from below the screen. I preferred the old Serif font, whatever it was.
  • I have already ordered my "free" upgrade to Tiger.
  • I'm happy to now have iLife '05 and I'm thrilled to finally have a computer that can actually run those apps (esp. iMove and Garageband) without spending most of its time in beachball mode.
That's probably much more than you wanted to know already, but I did want to thank everyone for their comments on the last post, including the buying tips for a replacement computer. My decision was based on the following:
  • I wanted a replacement ASAP.
  • I wanted a portable. I found an incredible deal on a desktop— 17" 1.8Ghz G5 iMac w/superdrive, airport card installed, and Applecare extended warranty for only $1349! It was hard to pass up such a great deal, but, well, it's tough to fit an iMac into a book bag to take to school.
  • I wanted the "ruggedness" of the iBook, as well as its small size. I seriously considered the 12" G4 Powerbook, but I decided against it for a couple of reasons. First, the prices start considerably higher and I didn't think I'd really appreciate the extras you get for that cash (except for the larger hard drive and extra RAM). Second, Applecare costs $100 more for Powerbooks than for iBooks, and it's basically required for a laptop. (I still have to buy it for my new iBook, but I'm putting it off for now in hopes that I'll have the money for it later in the year.) Third, I assume that the slightly smaller size of the Powerbook means it has less internal padding and "stuff" to protect the machine from abuse (I could be wrong) and carrying a computer to and from school every day gives it plenty of that, so I figured the iBook was the best choice.
So while I seriously considered the Powerbook and the iMac, the iBook won again. You can be sure I'll have plenty to say in the future about whether this was the right decision, but for the moment, I'm just happy to be computing w/out a care again. Now if my new computer would just write my paper and prepare my presentation for me (both due Monday), I'd be set.

Posted 12:42 PM | Comments (7) | mac geek

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