Thursday, November 22, 2007

The beauty & the beast - introduction

Recently my brother decided to sell his old iBook because it was not sufficient for his work. He was planning to get a new MacBook provided he could sell the old one. So I just said sell it to me. And now I have the ownership of his iBook even if I have not yet paid for it. :-P

It is a very sweet looking portable machine. With only 12" screen it is compact enough to carry in a medium sized backpack. :-)

Following is the configuration.
PowerPC G4 processor 1.2 GHz
1.25 GB RAM (256 MB default + 1 GB additional my brother chose while buying)
ATI Radeon Mobility 9250 graphics adapter
30 GB hard disk
1 slot-loading combo drive
12" screen
1 internal modem
1 wired NIC
1 wireless NIC
2 USB 2.0 ports
1 FireWire
1 mini-VGA video out

It has Mac OS X v10.3 "Panther" installed along with many useful applications. It has M$ Office 2004. It also 'had' M$ Internet Explorer for Mac which is said to be superior to the Windows versions.

The beauty part of the machine is the portability due to compact size, elegant look & feel. The beast in the machine is the Powerpc processor, the only other processor architecture that ever threatened dominance of x86 architecture on desktop market, AFAIK. It is also said to have surpassed x86 processors in performance in 1990s. These days Powerpc processors are used in many embedded systems including the gaming consoles like Nintendo Wii, Sony PS3 and M$ Xbox 360.

Now here are my initial thoughts about the machine.

The Good:

  • 1.25 GB of RAM :-D

  • As already pointed, small screen.

  • Considering that it is 3 years old machine, combo drive, FireWire, USB 2.0 all constitute the good part.

The Bad:

  • Mac OS X v10.3. I don't plan to put any money on buying latest version and most of the Free softwares are dropping 10.3 support these days. This would have been in the section below but for the possibility of installing Ubuntu on this machine.

  • The DVD drive is having the region code 4. The default DVD player simply ejects DVD with different region code if I choose not to change region code of the drive. :-( Fortunately VLC ignores/bypasses region restrictions, is free for download and available for Mac OS X :-D

  • The keyboard. I am very confused about when to use which key out of 'Apple' key, alt/options key, ctrl key.

  • The touchpad with only one button. Combine this with the confusion mentioned above and I get a machine which is very hard to operate, IMHO.

  • User interface. While most users will praise how good the UI on their Mac looks, the problem is because I have been using Ubuntu exclusively for long time. This will also apply to Windows. So all those who think that Linux is hard to use, consider that it is also true the other way round. It is just matter of what you are used to.

The Ugly:

  • Airport Extreme wireless card which uses Broadcom 4306 chipset. It means that I have to use firmware extracted from binary only drivers to make this card work in GNU/Linux.

Now as for the 'Will you ... ' questions ...
1. No. I am not going to try Mac OS X v10.5 "Leopard". There is no incentive to spend money for it when you can get Ubuntu for free. And I also try to avoid using pirated software as far as possible. :-D
2. Yes. I will install Ubuntu on it. I may even try Debian when make some space on hard disk or when I decide to eliminate Mac OS X completely.

That is all for now. Ubuntu installation report coming soon. Stay tuned. ;-)