< Piro >
Monday - March 17, 2003
It's been a little over a month since my new Apple Power Mac G4 arrived via Airborne Express (you know how it is when you are waiting for something to arrive, especially a big purchase.). It actually arrived on the 11th of last month, right before my trip to Katsucon. It's been an interesting month.
A little over a year ago, I remember facing the same problem I had this year - my computing facilities were not anywhere near up to snuff, and having a new machine would help speed things up and help me produce more and better work. At the time, the best solution for me (especially considering how much I moved around and portability was a big plus) I ended up getting a rock solid (and heavy as a loada bricks) Dell Inspiron 8100. Great laptop. After a while, I picked up a new monitor, an external keyboard, set up a remote fileserver (because i didn't want to store all the MT stuff on just the laptop drive) and It served me quite well. The only problems I had came when I started doing higher resolution color work with Photoshop. Laptop hard drives are slower by nature, and it tended to show (especially when you only had 256 meg of memory on board). Doing MT full time, having a good month in December, and feeling more confident about looking ahead to the possibility of a good year made me think that the investment in a new machine was a smart idea.
Back when I first started thinking about upgrading my computer, the concept of actually going the Mac route seemed silly - I could get a windows box that had more capacity for far less money. The more and more I looked, the more i started to decide that perhaps going with a G4 wasn't such a bad idea. Some of these decisions were based on what I heard from the field regarding macs - both good and bad. I did price comparisons. I did some research.
I suppose a lot of my decision came down to look and feel issues, in particular in comparing OS X and Windows XP. There was something about XP that I just didn't like. I had so many problems with windows over the year (who doesn't?) that even if OS X wasn't the crash proof gates of heaven some people claimed it was, i think it really came down to one simple thing...
I needed a change. I needed a break from the windows environment.
And i can already hear the Linux users out there readying emails to start hammering on me about that alternative and how great Gimp is... yes, Gimp is great, but I love my Photoshop and Illustrator. I have a machine sitting here that i will be turning into a linux workstation of some sort, but i couldn't use linux as my main workstation.
Now that that's out of the way, lets get down to specifics. There comes a point where you just stop looking at numbers and stats and you make a decision. I did that, and started to determine what PowerMac I was going to get (and what my credit card could handle ^^;;)
At first, i was looking at a dual 1 ghz machine, but i decided to go the extra step and go for the 1.25 ghz machine. i had read that there were a lot of noise problems with this machine, and this did worry me, but considering how loud even my laptop was, and how, well... spoiled? mac users tended to be about fit and finish on mac products, i wasn't sure how bad this really was. More on the noise issue later. I wanted to have at least 1 gig of memory, and the standard ATI card and whatnot that came with the G4 was fine by me.
Software was an issue. I was facing having to buy all new software, and having to do without or change from some of the things i was using. When i sat and thought about the stuff i really used, the only really expensive things were MS Office, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. All the other programs I liked to use there were versions or types that were not too expensive (under 100 bucks) for most of them. The G4 came with a promotion for MS Office X that was like 200 bucks. Photoshop and Illustrator cost $1000. all part of the cost of changing, i guess.
Then there was the issue of existing periferals. My speaker subwoofer thing would do fine. My new scanner would NOT work with the new mac (stupid Canon - they dont seem to be making drivers for some of their scanners for Mac) So i figured I would just leave the Canon D1250 U2F hooked up to the other machine if i ever needed to scan more slides, and i'd go back to using my N670 U with the mac. HP said they made a driver for my DeskJet 1220C. My Wacom digitizer was a serial digitizer, and i would have to replace that with a USB digitizer (another 500 bucks. ouch). Other than that, it was looking ok.
Now, the monitor. Like many others, I drooled over the idea of having a 23" Apple Cinema Display, but there was no way I could justify the $3,200 price tag, and my Samsung 900NF was perfectly fine.
So i placed my order, Power Mac G4 w/ dual 1.25 ghz processors, 1 gig ram, and mac office X promo. No prob. I also ordered Photoshop, Illustrator and a new digitizer from CDW. Whee.
Then, a few days later, Apple slashed prices. >:/
My first reaction was to be severely annoyed, but then i found out that they had automatically adjusted the prices on my order... and dropped the price on that 23" ACD to just under $2000.
You know how it is when you get money back, it feels like somehow it's new money, or free money, and its just like a bonus? heh. Ok, i'm not immune to that. After skillfully presenting my case to Seraphim about how much such a screen could improve my productivity (which she didn't buy for a second) she said we should go ahead and spring for it anyway.
Ah, true love. i tell you, it does exist.
So, last month, three boxes from Apple arrived, and I soon had the new system perched on my desk. I know there are a lot of really sweet looking PC accessories, cases, mice, etc, but the Mac sure has gadget and sweetness appeal to it. The G4 itself is a heavy mofo, which surprised me, but the fit and finish on it is really nice. You do get a little of what you pay for.
The 23" ACD is itself a thing of beauty. After using it for a month i have to say it really is very comfortable to use, and when it comes to illustrating in color - photoshop and this screen make for a VERY nice combination. Using a 19" monitor after this is like trying to look inside a box. It's not perfect - it doesn't have the serious high resolution that the CRT screens are capable of, but at 1920 x 1200, its the same height in pixels i used to use anyway, just wider. It's a slick unit all around - the feet work very well, there is a single cable that goes back to the card on the G4 itself. There is a USB port on the back you plug your keyboard in (and your mouse plugs into your keyboard). The buttons on it are kinda neat - they are touch sensitive, and when you brush your finger over the power symbol on the clear plastic, the white light below it glows and the system puts itself to sleep. Sweet, except when you accidentally graze it when rubbing up against the screen. er, or something like that. ^^;;
I'm very sensitive to mice and keyboards. I have gone thru a lot of them based on the fact that I liked the feel of one better than another. Based on the initial feel of a mac keyboard i was convinced that i'd want to change it, but after using it a little i actually found that i liked it a lot. It was nice not to have to change it.
The most common email I got after i mentioned getting this was that the first thing i should do is get rid of the single button apple pro mouse and just plug in my Microsoft wheel mouse. Well, i tried that. The sad thing is, i liked the feel of the mac mouse a heck of a lot better than the wheel mouse. Yes, i miss the wheel, but the pro mouse was... well, smoother. Besides, i fixed the gap left by the lack of a wheel in the mouse by getting a purely gadgety item known as a Griffin PowerMate - basically, a machined aluminum volume knob. You can program it to do just about anything, and it works real well for scrolling thru things. I like it, and its actually more functional than you might think (works for PC too, btw)
After a month, i've really grown quite used to the feel of this system, and other than the major difference between the location of the Apple key and the Control key for common, similar keystrokes (ctrl-S, for instance), it hasn't been as hard to get used to as you might think. Computers are our windows on the world, for the most part, and what we use effects what we do. I used to have two machines in my life - my machine at work, and my machine at home. Now, I have one that is serving both purposes. So far so good. That doesn't mean to say that I haven't had problems. In part two of this rant (because this is already getting long) i'll go into some details about my experiences getting my feet muddy putting this thing to work for me. It hasn't all been perfect, and I will tell you - I am very capable of making OS X unstable.
It's a gift, I admit it. :)