Poor auld tin

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I don’t travel well anymore. Oh, I like my car trips, but I don’t care much for flying in this paranoid, bankrupt age and even the train was tiring. I think if the circumstances had been better, or I had reserved a sleeper on the train or the location wasn’t so inaccessible for these forms of mass transportation (Sandpoint is a out of the way), I would have liked traveling better. Now, though, I don’t see myself going any place significant until SxSW in March–and for that I’ll drive.

One casualty of the trip is auld tin, my TiBook. The existing magenta line has now been joined by another, which changes color and comes and goes: sometimes it’s yellow, other times a bright orange-pink. If I press on the lid just so it goes away, but it always returns. My DVD player has also bit the dust and scratches DVDs and the hard drive is just too small and the memory too low. The battery is stuck, but comes undone enough so I can’t depend on it. The viewscreen is failing.

I have a Dell laptop and it’s in surprising good condition, but weighs close to 15 pounds since it’s considered a portable desktop. It should last a good long time, but causes permanent joint damage when I lug it around in the laptop bag. I am partial to the Powerbook. I like the lightness, but more than that, I really like OS X. I don’t think that Apple is a perfect company, but I still admire the move to a new graphical interface built on open source Unix.

Now that I’m working fairly consistently, I can think of actually perhaps even maybe think about replacing things that aren’t working–starting with health insurance for yours truly. This includes taking care of overdue repairs on the car, getting some long-term dental work finished, and even–miracles!–getting replacements for old and tired computer equipment.

Both of my laptops will be five years old this December. For a computer professional who works heavily with PhotoShop, as well as various tweaky technologies, stretching one’s computer to five years is pushing the machine and the user. I think about replacing my primary laptop, but getting another Powerbook gives me pause and the reason is cost: Apple computers cost more than those that run Windows or Linux. A whole lot more.

Or do they?

The assumption I’ve had is that you pay extra, a premium, for Apple over Windows but I wonder how much of this is the fact that much of the Apple machines come pre-packaged with so many items that are bought separately from a Windows laptop. I decided to do a comparison between a Powerbook and a similarly loaded laptop at leading vendor Dell; I wanted to see how much more the Apple did cost.

The Powerbook I looked at is the 1.67 GHz 15-inch G4. I decided to load it up with 1GHz of memory, and am content with the 80GB hard drive. I also accepted the standard ATI Mobility graphics card with 128 MB DDR memory. It comes with ethernet, modem, and airport card pre-installed, in addition to a superdrive that includes a read-write DVD/CD combo. It supports both USB 2.0 and Firewire 400 and 800.

For the Dell, I picked out the Dell XPS M100. It’s also lightweight, and features a variety of processors, as well as a 15 inch monitor. I picked the 1.86MHz CPU, with 1GB of memory, and an 80GB hard drive. I picked the True Life monitor to try and match the equivalent quality of the Apple, which added 25.00.

The Dell also comes with a read-write DVD/CD combo and a wireless card, internal modem, and integrated ethernet. In fact, built-in internet capability is ubiquitous now, and it makes no sense for laptops not to be modem, ethernet, and wireless enabled.

The Dell doesn’t have firewire but does have four USB 2.0 ports. It also comes with a 2 year warranty, while Apple’s is one. Dell also provides in-home support, and I’ve used it before and know it to be good. As for Apple–hee, that’s a funny one.

The price out of the box for the Powerbook at Apple is $2,099.00 US. The price out of the box for the Dell is $1,483.00. If I up the CPU for the Dell, the cost would rise another 200.00 and 400.00 for each upgrade.

Though it’s difficult to compare the two since there are some architectural differences, you can see that the Apple Powerbook is not necessarily that much higher than a comparable one at Dell and other vendors. Laptops do cost more, and if you build the laptop to meet the needs of a photographer or coder or even to work on a web site or weblog, you need a minimum amount of memory and space (and hopefully graphics card if you can afford an upgrade).

So the price difference exists but isn’t extreme. What you then have to look at is how you value the operating system, which is what pulls all the pieces together.

Right now I have a dual boot on my Windows laptop with Ubuntu and Windows 2000. They both work great, but then so does OS 10.3 on my TiBook. I like all three operating systems and code and play and work effortlessly in all three, primarily because I use OpenOffice (or NeoOffice) for office productivity work, and am making increasing use of gimp for photography. Most of my development is PHP and MySQL on Apache, which works in all three environments–as does my browser and most of my other tools. Thanks to open source, one isn’t forced into a specific operating system because of a specific application nowadays. No more, …but it runs Office as the reason to lock into an operating system.

Ultimately, I cannot get over how great it is to have the ease and use of the sophisticated Apple interfacce built on the powerhouse that is Unix. That was the Apple decision that brought me over to the company and led me to buy in the first place; and when it comes to upgrading my laptop, it is this decision that’s keeps me coming back. How much do I value it? Enough to pay about $400.00 extra for the Powerbook over the Dell laptop.

It’s on my list. As is whatever I need to keep my Windows machine happy. In the meantime, I find that if I tap my auld tin here the stripe turns blue. Perhaps its time for a blue theme for my next web site design. Blue and magenta.

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