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  • Do You Have a Dream Macintosh?

    July 5th, 2007

    I have to tell you that I’ve purchased quite a few Macs for myself over the years. No, I didn’t own the original compact models, although I used them at various workplaces in those days. I actually waited several years before bringing one home with me, and that was a IIcx in 1989, along with the famous LaserWriter IINT and the 12-inch Apple color display.

    Indeed, I thought I was in computing heaven in those days; that is, until I encountered my first genuine Mac virus a short time later, and had to erase and reinstall everything to set things right. So anyone who believes that Macs are immune to viruses is living in an alternate universe. We’ve just been lucky with Mac OS X; that’s all.

    I might have had otherwise fond memories of that computer had I not discovered the IIci a few months later. Well, no sense lusting after something I couldn’t acquire. I made a deal with my employer to have one sent my way the next time they ordered new equipment, at the same time selling my IIcx to some lucky soul who never owned a personal computer before.

    Over the years, I did own some Macs that were notable in terms of performance or being the first of their kind. I was particularly pleased with the Quadra 800. No, not upgrading memory, which was an utterly painful process owing to some incredibly foolish design decisions. But it was fast and stable and, in that respect, had an advantage over the flaky if innovative Quadra 840AV, which incorporated technology that Apple never, ever, used again. Thank heavens!

    The next Mac I purchased was one of the first PowerPC models, the 8100/80. It used the same case as the Quadra 800, but I was otherwise disappointed. Performance actually seemed worse, partly because Apple had not completely moved its operating system to the PowerPC platform, so a great deal ran sluggishly under emulation. That, and the lack of native software, left me with an expensive box that was no faster than the IIci. It took a couple of years for things to sort themselves out.

    If you think dealing with Rosetta emulation on an Intel-based Mac seemed agonizing, let me tell you that this particular processor migration was done with a lot more finesse, not to mention months ahead of schedule, of course. And, over time, Rosetta has gotten better and better in the various Tiger updates, as the MacIntels have gotten faster. There will be a magical point of convergence before long where emulation will ultimately exceed the performance of the real thing.

    Today, my favorite Mac is probably my 17-inch MacBook Pro. I always thought Mac note-books were notoriously underpowered, compared to desktop computers. Application launches were almost always terribly slow, and the simple things that seemed to take seconds on a G4 or G5 desktop cause a PowerBook to protest, even if it was maxed out with memory.

    Not so with the MacBook Pro, and you can well understand why two-thirds of all new Macs sold are note-books and Apple garners over 14% of the U.S. retail market in this category.

    As you may realize once you spend a long amount of face time with these babies, an Intel-based Mac note-book will match and often exceed the performance of almost any G5 you can name. Why? Well, it does seem that Tiger was meant to run on the Intel processor all along. Take the oft-criticized Finder, for example. It isn’t perfect, but seems less prone to hangups on the Intel platform.

    The most important thing to me, however, is that I no longer feel I’m giving up a substantial amount of performance on a Mac note-book. No, I’m not about to give up on desktop computers, as so many of you have done. Although I’ve finally become accustomed to a note-book keyboard and trackpad, it’s still far from perfect. I much prefer that Microsoft Comfort Keyboard that graces my desktop and the accompanying wireless mouse that seems to fit my right hand like a glove.

    Sure, I can use those input devices on a note-book too, but that would present an awkward situation, having to sit in bed with added appendages. That works against the purpose of having a slim, trim computer at my beck and call, don’t you think?

    Some day, though, I imagine there will be no such thing as a desktop computer. You’ll have one that’s probably no larger than today’s iPhone, and it’ll probably respond seemlessly to voice commands. But that’s then and this is now.

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