Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Mac Mini

There is a lot of speculation on the net these days about the pending release of a mac netbook but the truth is that mac has essentially been releasing netbooks for years. The iBooks were nothing more than netbooks before they became popular. With the right upgrades they are on par with a modern netbooks, with a few added features. I recently got my hands on a used iBook G4 with a ton of upgrades. For less than $300.

The system is an iBook G4 with a 12" display, 1.2 Gzh PPC processor and it has been upgraded to 1.25 GB of ram from the original 256 MB. Additionally the hard drive has been upgraded from the original 30 GB to a 100 GB 7200 rpm disk. Also the original owner put in an Airport Extreme wireless G card and a CD-RW/DVD-RW super drive. The system is running Leopard 10.5.8 (as Snow Leopard isn't supported on the powerpc chip).

I've also added some software tweaks to modernize it a bit. First off Apple disables the ability for the powerpc models to hibernate for whatever reason. Thanks to a little piece of software called Hibernate mine now hibernates just like the Intel models. Also I've added iScroll2 to add gestures and advanced touchpad features. I also highly recommend Secrets preference pane to unlock all those hidden OSX features and settings.

As far as applications must haves include office 2008, iWork, iLife, Roxio Toast, Transmission, and Gimp. Sorry, Parallels is not supported on the ppc architecture but I am using Virtual PC 2007 and Windows XP for when I need windows Apps. It's slow but I don't need them very often. Sadly no Picasa for ppc either I am settling for iPhoto and the Picasa uploader although I prefer Picasa. I also recommend Adium a great chat client that works with everything including Facebook. Ditch iChat today.

Now the biggest problem with Macs the bundled apps which also is the biggest problem with Windows. Starting with Safari replace it with Firefox, its faster and I love the add-ons and extensions. Plus with the addition of Google Gears I have my access to Gmail, Google Docs, and my Google Calendar offline. Next replace Quicktime with VLC, since Quicktime doesn't play any but mac formats without a bunch of plugins. VLC plays everything right-out of the box. Next get rid of iTunes it has the same problem limited support for other formats. It can convert but this takes too long. Install songbird, problem solved, but you still need iTunes to rip CD's songbird doesn't do that yet. (It's coming in a later version. Technically songbird isn't supported on ppc either but their a folks out there still doing ppc ports so it is my music player of choice on Windows, Linux, and OSX. Even though Gmail is my preferred mail app I also replaced OSX's mail app with Thunderbird as it is cross-platform (Looks that same on my Windows 7, Ubuntu, or OSX) and it has more functionality. iCal is fine with the addition of Gsync to sync it with my Google Calendar.

Other software that I add to all systems no matter what OS is Hulu Desktop, Google Earth, and Google Chrome. One last piece of cool software is the Google Search box, which is basically a spotlight search replacement. Although I didn't actually remove spotlight search. Google Search box is a far more powerful search application and it further integrates the Google apps to my desktop.

The Pros: (For netbook in the same price range)
Novelty of OSX on a small notebook
Comparable Processor Speed to other netbooks
More ram than most netbooks (usually you only get a gig)
Bigger Screen (12" as opposed 9" or 10")
Similar or larger hard drive at 100 GB
Includes a CD/DVD burner where most netbooks have no optical drive, plus the slot style drive makes the system more compact
Four plus hour battery life which is as good or better than most netbooks
Time Machine makes a pretty handy back up system
Better Speakers than most netbooks

The Cons: (For netbook in the same price range)
Only 2 USB Ports (Truly not enough)
No Built-in Bluetooth (But it can be added for $149.00)
No Built-In Webcam
Slightly heavier than modern netbooks
Software support for the ppc platform is beginning to disappear

Posted by: Joshua Nicholes
www.joshnicholes.com