Apple peel

I have been thinking of getting a new computer. My two Powerbooks are struggling with the software I want to run–particularly Adobe’s Lightroom and PhotoShop CS2. The software is supposed to be run on a 1GHz CPU, and mine is only 800MHz. It does run, albeit slowly and rather frustratingly. They’re lovely applications, but Adobe sucks the life out of a computer, it really does.

I have been looking at the Macbook Pros. Yes, I have–I have been looking at the Toaster.

I’ve been following all the rumors associated with the Macbooks: the problems the whine, the airport card losing connectivity, and especially the heat. I’ve seen the photos of people with burned hands, heard about fried laps. I followed the thread at the Mac forums, where the question was asked if people were happy with their Macbooks, and many of the answers were along the lines of: I love it! The whine is only noticeable when the room is quiet! and It’s not a laptop–it’s a portable computer! Sometimes Apple fans don’t really help the company, as much as they think they do.

I had heard that many of the problems were being fixed, so I decided to visit my local Apple Store and check out the machine myself. There were three on a table; all were 2.0 GHz machines. All loaded with software like Aperature and the iLife and Microsoft Office and iWorks. I went up to one of the ‘geniuses’ and asked him, “How’s tricks? Found that heat problem in the Macbook Pro, yet?” I received the official Apple smile in return. You know the one. Think of Steve Jobs in that creepy black outfit, and he’s very, very angry. Now think of being an employee working for that. Yes, that smile.

After receiving more of the official non-word, I decided to put the three machines through their paces. I loaded up them up — Aperture, iMovie, anything that took CPU. I would then feel the case, checking for the heat. (Earning even more Apple Smiles and no few strange looks from other customers.)

I noticed that the area around the function keys wasn’t as hot as has been stated, but if I put my hand on the counter a few inches away, it felt like I was standing next to a room heater. The heat radiates from these things. Not enough to burn a hand, but enough to make me think there has to be something wrong with these beasties.

The newest conjecture is that there’s too much thermal paste smeared on the CPU chips, and that’s the cause of the problem. Supposedly cleaning this off, and putting on a thiner layer would solve the problem. Well, I’m certainly not going to buy a new computer only to have to take the machine apart and fix it on my own.

It’s frustrating because Apple just won’t address the questions or concerns. The most it did was tell the one forum that listed a thermal grease how-to message to remove a copyrighted photo or they’d sue. The company refuses to acknowledge problems directly, preferring to get by on carefully dropped rumor and subtle aside. That’s not a good foundation on which to plunk down a couple grand.

I thought then that I would look for a new Powerbook, one of the 1.67 GHz, 15-inch G4s. Though Apple doesn’t sell them, there are some still in stores. And eBay had several good condition used ones for auction, which then led to new adventures.

I actually tried two auctions, and in both cases was outbid. That’s okay: I set what I felt was a price I could afford and if I didn’t get it, no loss. However, ever since I’ve been getting these scamming “second chance” offers in the email–to the point where I won’t bid on an eBay item again. Forever.

My only other option is to buy one of the few new ones at some of the online stores, but I’ll be paying the same as I would for a Macbook Pro. True, it wouldn’t be able to heat one’s home in the winter, but it still is last year’s model–don’t you think one could get a deal?

All of this hassle and run around. I looked carefully at my 800 MHz. It has a slightly scuffed LCD, but not enough to impact on the viewing. It has 1GB in memory–enough for CS2 and Lightroom. Lightroom runs slowly, but only if I store a lot of photos in the application. If I use it to process a couple of days shootings, it works very nicely. As for CS2, you know it works; if I can’t process a dozen photos at once, maybe what I need to do is take my time with the pictures and focus on one really good photo at a time.

I don’t need a duo-core machine. Other than those folks running games, few of us need duo-core. Most of my development work can either be done on an inexpensive dual boot Linux/Windows machine, in the Unix underlying my Mac, or even my own development server.

Thanks to Apple and its relationship with the community of Mac users, I’ve learned one thing: my 800MHz is just fine for now. I have enough memory. I have enough space. I have enough power. I can’t use it to grill a cheese sandwich, but I consider this a perk.

So I saved my pennies and bought a hand-held GPS device for my walks, instead. It doesn’t grill cheese sandwiches, either.

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