My Apple decision

After the discussions I had with my friend, I realised that a iBook+Mini combination was the most effective. I figured that for the price of an 15″ Powerbook, I could get both a 12″ iBook for travelling (light and long battery life) plus a Mini for the desk at home.

So straight away on Monday I went down to Magnum Mac and got a Mac Mini/1.42GHz Combo unit and then combined it with a Viewsonic VG712s from one of my wholesale accounts. For almost a third of the money saved getting the Combo over the Superdrive I also picked up a external dual layer USD2 DVD+RW burner. However, it looks like the burner doesn’t work natively in OSX, so I’ll have to get some third-party software. It might only work out at only half as cheap. This actually is the Mini I was planning to get for my mother anyway to replace the PC that she uses. Since I’m not going to be around as much, I wanted to find something for her that doesn’t require as much admin work. Still its a good exercise for myself to learn if the Mac is really want I want.

My first impressions of the Mini are generally good. I did have some trouble on first start-up. For some reason, although I went though the initialisation process, the account set up for the first user couldn’t lock the administration features. Or in unix terms, for some reason it wasn’t picking up user “Nicholas Lee” in sudo. After a little hunting I found out I could reset passwords with the install disk, then I took me a little while to learn how to get the Mini to actually boot the disk. (Holding down Alt on my Microsoft keyboard when it was starting up.)

So after reset I was able to access the admin functions as expected. Strangely the previous password I had set and reset several times was still in the keychain and used by one of the internet applications I had installed. I’m going to have to learn some more about that no doubt. I guess I’ll add The OSX Missing Manual to my Safari bookshelf.

All in all, its been a positive experience. I’m still using my Linux desktop at the moment, as I haven’t had time to figure out some of the stuff I need to do in my work. Also particularly setting up easier mount points with NFS and SMB to my data. The Neo version of Openoffice installed quite easily and seems to run well, although I still need to test it with a couple of the spreadsheets that slow even my P4 2.53GHz Linux desktop down a little. I do like the way packages are installed in OSX. Although I’m still thinking that Debian’s central management for updating is good as well. I would be nice to be able to combine the two.

Of course getting the Mini for myself is not complete certain. I could get a larger unit. Say a 20′ iMac? 😉

Mac In Touch have a very good look at the performance of all the current Mac Models in Macintosh Performance Comparison: eMac G4, iBook G4, iMac G5, Mac Mini, PowerBook G4.

One of the most interesting comments on this page is:

What’s going on? We finally got an explanation from a former Apple engineer (who also noted under staffing issues in Apple engineering). To summarize, Apple apparently made some design errors in low-level hardware priorities for the custom controller chips, starving the I/O system for memory bandwidth to feed the fast G5 processors. As a result, the much-slower G4 systems actually perform better in disk operations.

Their conclusion was:

The iMac G5 is a wonderful system, and we’d rather pay a few hundred dollars over the cost of an eMac to get one, but all the Apple hype about the G5 falls a little short when you see the low-cost eMac, with its slower G4 processor, pushing the iMac G5 in performance. The eMac is actually faster in several real-world situations, and it looks like low-level hardware design is responsible for eMac advantages in disk performance.

Adding the Mac Mini to the mix really changes the buying equation. For far less money than an iMac or even an eMac costs, you get excellent performance, silent operation and the ability to drive a big beautiful monitor of your own choosing, a critical feature missing from all but the Power Mac and big PowerBooks. The Mini’s one weakness is disk performance, which may make the eMac a better choice for video, database and multimedia work, but it shouldn’t be an issue in too many applications. For general home or office use, the Mini is perfect.

When asked by a reader, Michael Kraft, about this recommendation, they further stated:

When you stare at a screen for 8-12 hours a day, the quality of the screen makes a big difference. The 20″ iMac screen is outstanding. The iMac G5 is also one of the fastest Macs you can buy, all things considered, and it’s not terribly expensive (e.g. vs. a PowerBook G4). Consider that its form is wonderfully friendly – taking up minimal space for all it provides – and that it’s remarkably quiet overall (in our experience), and it’s a pretty attractive proposition.

  • The eMac’s screen doesn’t compare and it’s far noisier.
  • Load up the Mini, and it costs about as much as an iMac G5, plus it has slow disk performance.
  • The PowerBook G4 is seriously overpriced.
  • You can’t get a Power Mac G5 with a nice screen for the same price.
  • iBooks have small screens.

The power supply issue is worrisome, but, apart from that, we still think the iMac G5 offers good value for the money, considering everything.


  1. Richard Parry Said,

    February 18, 2005 @ 8:55 am

    Couple of comments.

    First of all, only you could have a problem with Mac usability 🙂

    Secondly, the software you need is Roxio Toast Titanium, which we’ve trialled here for exactly the problems you describe and it Just Works. I think it’s like a hundee.

    Like the link-fu to NeoOffice, I’ll have to have a look at that 🙂

  2. Nicholas Lee Said,

    February 18, 2005 @ 9:13 am

    I thought it was just meant to work. 😛

    Roxio Toast Titanium is more like 100USD. This is one thing I dislike a like about both Macs and PCs. Basic functional software costs too much. It’s CD burner software. Front end to cdrecord! Sure, maybe 20USD, but 100USD! I don’t mind paying some cash for extra-ordinary useful applications but 100USD just seems over the top for an application that is used maybe once a month.

    Here is the link to NeoOffice. It seems slick, although I think there is only one guy on it. I’ve also seems some pictures of the 2.0 beta running via X11 on OSX. So maybe things aren’t so bad as I thought a couple weeks back.

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