Out with the Old, Intel with the New

Intel MacsOn the last day of 2005, I walked all the way from my apartment to the best Apple retailer in New York City, Tekserve, with a credit card burning a hole in my pocket. I was all ready to buy myself a brand new iMac G5, having settled on that model of new Macintosh as the big purchase that would help me take advantage of year-end tax write-offs.

But when I got there, I was frozen with inaction; for thirty minutes, I stood around debating whether I really needed a new computer at all. Ultimately, I decided I didn’t, that the iMac, while attractive, didn’t truly do anything all that different from my trusty 12″ PowerBook G4 — at least not enough to warrant the purchase. I realized I didn’t need the new machine, and to the amazement of my girlfriend, I left the store and returned home empty-handed.

Big Trouble in Little PowerBook

Then yesterday I began to think that quiet act of defiance must’ve angered the Apple hardware gods, because my PowerBook suddenly started making a loud whirring noise, crashed, and refused to successfully complete each reboot I tried. I panicked a bit, since my last back-up had, regrettably, been performed six days before — I would lose a nontrivial amount of work that had been done in the interim. What’s more, it was starting to look as if I made a mistake in not buying that iMac; if my PowerBook had truly just died, I’d need to buy a new Mac of some sort more or less immediately, but I wouldn’t see any tax benefit on my 2005 returns.

Biting my lip, I made another trek to Tekserve, this time queuing up in the support line. Amazingly, the computer booted up without a problem for the clerk; she ran some diagnostics on it and insisted that it was working flawlessly, at least so far as she could see. She gave me a blank CD-RW disc to let me back up, on the spot, the files I knew were missing from my six-day old back-up and sent me on my way.

Miracle Cure

Once home, the PowerBook booted up again without protest, and I immediately set to work backing up all my data with Shirt Pocket Software’s SuperDuper! utility. Cheeky name aside, the program could use a little bit of usability engineering and a prettier interface. But in all, it’s a fantastic utility for thorough backups, easily my favorite of such programs — I regard it as an essential tool for anyone who wants to minimize the trauma of failed Apple hardware.

Anyway, the PowerBook is functioning again today, seemingly without a hitch and without any apparent clue as to why it was suddenly making strange noises yesterday. I lost a few hours trying to troubleshoot it, but I’m happy to have learned — without penalty — that age old lesson once again: back up all your shit always.

You Will Be Assimilated

So this morning I was already feeling good about my decision to pass on that iMac G5. But I felt even better about it when I read about Steve Jobs’ not-so-surprising surprise early announcement of Intel-based Macintosh hardware, made during his keynote speech at Macworld Expo today. Included amongst the new offerings is an Intel-based iMac with the exact same features, form factor and price of its predecessor, but with twice the speed.

Now, I’m not naive enough to really believe that when Steve Jobs says a new Macintosh is twice as fast as its predecessor that he really means 100% faster. As much as my credit card started burning inside my back pocket again, I know that the prudent thing is to wait at least a few weeks. The first early adopter reports will reveal whether switching from PowerPC to Intel chips is as painless as Apple would like it to be. The answer could very well be “no,” (in which case I can pick up that older iMac G5 at a significant discount from its 31 Dec 2005 price) but they could as easily be “yes,” (in which case I can get much more longevity for my computing dollar). Either way, there’s another lesson in this: it’s good to wait.

  1. Waiting is good, so long as the waiting doesn’t lock you in place, and you never move for fear that as soon as you buy a new product, Jobs will, within minutes, announce an upgrade. Doing so would only defeat the purpose of waiting.

  2. A wise move Khoi. I’m planning on playing the waiting game until, oh I don’t know, a certain trip to Texas in March. – allowing plenty of ‘bedding-in’ time and taking advantage of the strong Pound in your fine country!

    Know any good Apple dealers in the Austin area?

  3. Luckily my Powerbook is only a couple years old so I don’t need to get a new one either. I can give it a little time before I go out and throw money at a clerk. The only problem I have, and I realize it’s not a PowerPC chip, is with the MacBook Pro name. It seems kinda infantile and non-descript. I haven’t come up with any good alternatives yet, iBook Pro is just as bad, but I may just post about it when I do.

    Good luck waiting for your new iMac to arrive. 🙂

  4. I would agree.

    I am quite interested in the new MacBook Pro, despite it’s crappy name. I think I will wait for a few revisions to hit the stores first and like you said, read the early adopter reports and decide whether or not it would be a feasible move for me to upgrade. Hopefully this will give me some time to start saving up as well.

  5. MacBook Pro is a very underwhelming name, I agree. But it’s only a shade more blech than is the name “PowerBook,” which I’ve never really liked either. That brand has been around for so long, we forget how really lame it is.

  6. Well, unfortunately(or fortunately), my last laptop took a dive on me just as I had to give back a 15″ Powerbook for the contract I was on. I will be one of the so called ‘early adopters’ come next month with the MacBook Pro.

    I promise a review! I can’t wait for the darn thing to arrive!

  7. Kyle, yours is an awesome responsibility: to brave crashes, spinning beach balls and kernel panics for the good of the rest of us. I salute you. Freedom is on the march.

  8. I had the same “tremors” at year end, but, if I understand my accountant correctly, you reap no tax benefit if you make your purchase with plastic. It’s not when you buy, but when you pay the bill that matters when the books are reconciled. I passed on the new machine, but I did add a few fonts to the library earlier in December and prepaid the January credit card bill to make the taxable number smaller. Weird …

  9. I, too, would wait. As much as I love Apple, and as decent a company they are, there are bound to be hardware difficulties with first generation Intel Macs. There are hardware problems on all first generation computers, and I doubt that these’ll be an exception.

  10. > my PowerBook suddenly started making a loud
    > whirring noise, crashed, and refused to
    > successfully complete each reboot I tried

    Had exactly the same problem with my iMac G5 – with the addition of occasional freezing when it did boot. Sent off to Apple service center – would b interested in any more info you have about this problem.


  11. Mmm…

    Apple always knows to make you go in total doubt when they release new products. We bought the latest powerbooks (“15), fully stuffed and they perform flawlessly. When I see the new Powerbooks I feel it itch but as you say Khoi, Apple never comes with a flawless product and transition in the first months.. Still a bit jealous at Kyle but life can’t be upgraded every month 🙂 My little baby makes money for me too 😉

  12. The prices for the PowerBooks already dropped up to $600 or so. I’m just wondering is that it, or we should expect further price drops.

    Also, if the only improvement is in speed, and as you said it’s not likely that it’s 100% as they are claiming, the value/price ratio might remain the same for both generations or even prevail in the favor of the old technology.

    But then again, it is the old technology, so it makes sense that it would be more affordable, I guess…

  13. I once lost 3 months worth of photography due to a hardware failure. Since I didn’t backup it also meant I had to buy some expensive disk-scrapping software to retrieve anything at all.

    Now I have a nice 250GB external drive I back up to anytime I produce anything significant, and a UPS to prevent the very bad power-failure/surge-shutdown.

    I’m also waiting to hear some reports on the new iMac before I get one, but oh I want one 🙂

  14. Hey, Khoi. I’m quite interested in your thoughts on improvements I can make to SuperDuper, so — when you get a minute — drop a note to me with your thoughts.

  15. Waiting can be a good thing, backing up your “shit” is always a good thing.. as long as you don’t combine the two :).
    (note to myself: make backups this week)

  16. Khoi,

    Whirring, clicking, scraping, and such are never a good thing when it comes to hard drives. Make backups everyday in preparation for hard drive failure.

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