PermaLink Mac OSX 10.6, or "what to do with the iBook then?"06/05/2008 10:16 PM
If you've been paying attention, it's likely that next week at WWDC, Apple will unveil an early version of Mac OSX 10.6, and the odds are very good that it'll be Intel only.  So, what do I do with my G4 iMac and my G4 iBook?

I spent a good portion of last week updating all the Apples in the house to 10.5.3. Painless update, albeit large (around half a gig). But this week, the strong rumor has it that Apple will introduce an early developer edition of 10.6, a release they say is going to be focused on "stability and security," under the hood stuff rather than big new features, as 10.5 offered. 10.5 is already incredibly stable and I've never even suspected a problem with security, but my guess is, Apple has decided to go after the corporate desktop market hot on the heels of the miserable failure that is Vista, and by at least paying lip service to security, they'll calm down IT execs who assume the entire world is like Windows.

I do remember, from the sidelines, the tumult when Apple moved from the Motorola 68000-based processors to PowerPC in 1994-1996. And I understood why they moved to Intel a few years ago, when it became clear that the G5 was the end of the line for the PowerPC lineage (G4 in the case of the laptops). The Intel chips have made an enormous difference in Apple's fortunes and in the experience of living on an Apple.

Still, the great curse of the PowerPC machines, like the 68K machines before them, is that coupled with a good version of Mac OS, they have an enormously long life. My 2003 G4 "white dome" iMac 1Ghz runs 10.5.3 quite well, far better than any Windows machine purchased new in 2003 might run a current version of Vista. At that time, I had a Pentium 4/1Ghz on my desk at work, and running Vista Ultimate on that would run like ass. 10.5.3 runs fine.

The iBook is a particularly sore example. Its battery life (as much as eight hours) and weight are just about perfect if you spend a lot of time carting a laptop around. USB 2.0, FireWire 400, Bluetooth and 802.11g all inside, a capable DVD burner, and enough memory to do anything I need to do. True, Nora's MacBook is smaller, the screen is sharper and it has a dual-layer DVD burner, and the hard drive is considered a user-upgradeable item, but it doesn't have the battery life that iBook has and just doesn't feel as tough as that 1.42Ghz G4 iBook.

Apple has promised updates for 10.5, so you have to figure that if 10.6 launches in January, 2009 (I'll bet it'll be more like March), you figure that there's going to be at least four more updates to 10.5. So the clock is counting down, and I have to figure that the last version of OSX that'll get installed on the old iBook will be 10.5.7 or 10.5.8, sometime in the summer of 2009. The iBook will have had a good, long life, and the iMac will have had an aburdly long and delightfully stylish life, but by mid-2010, I won't be able to get any more Universal Binary updates of the apps I use.

Sure, I could always put up Yellow Dog Linux on the things. Tried it on the iMac some time ago. YDL will always have a life, since among other things, it runs great on the PS3. That's right, just when Apple moved from PPC to Intel, Sony moved to PowerPC. But my Apples were built for Mac OSX, and not getting updates, even if it's years down the road, still would leave me... down the road.

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2. Ed Maloney06/06/2008 05:40:10 AM

Yeah, I was shocked to learn that my 3 year old G4 Mini is effectively obsolete come January. I've been wanting to upgrade to the Intel Mini anyway and now I have an excuse! The G4 Mini is the best computer I've ever owned and has had no problems (hardware or OS) in 3+ years. I suspect that Apple will continue to issue software updates for the G4 for a few more years, making the mandatory switch to Intel less painful.

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