The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #126646   Message #2815562
Posted By: Ross Campbell
19-Jan-10 - 02:00 AM
Thread Name: BS: PC or Mac nicely, please!
Subject: RE: BS: PC or Mac nicely, please!
My brother gave me his redundant IIlc in 1996 when it was already about six years old. When it started having hard drive problems about four years after that (40 Mb hard drives - those were the days!) I bit the bullet and spent about £2000 at the end of 1999 on a beige G3 desktop (and still didn't have a scanner or CD-writer). The Apple laser-writer that came with the IIlc continued in service for a few more years. The G3 continues to live in the corner of the room, for running old software that my G4 laptop (about 2003, acquired 2005) can't do. Apart from the floppy drive (remember them?) no longer working, it still does everything it could do before. I eventually added a mono laser printer and a CD-writer which I still use if I need to copy discs/archive files. The laser printer is also connected to the laptop.

The laptop has accumulated thousands of song-files and photos in the last five years or so. The hard-drive (60GB) is by now more than half-full. It's never been De-fragmented, which may be responsible for the occasional slow-down in response when I've been working for a few hours. The only time it has caused any concern is when I've inadvertently dislodged the power-supply plug, carried on working without noticing the battery-indicator dwindling to nothing, and suddenly been faced with a black screen. Takes a few minutes re-charging to come back up. Otherwise it's left on all the time, closing the lid puts it into "sleep" mode (I usually close all applications first), opening up brings up the screen immediately and you're ready to go.

I had a problem converting my old WordPerfect files to Word files, eventually had to save them individually as Word files on the G3, transfer by ethernet or disc, and then reformat in Word on the G4 (still finding files to change now). ClarisWorks files which I produced for CD covers, posters, etc were readable by AppleWorks on the G4 but also needed "fixing", as layouts were somehow messed up in the transfer. Another reason I keep the old machine going. A similar setup, bought about the same time and owned from new, went for ten pounds recently!

I have external hard drives for back-up, but I realised some time ago that prices for second-hand Macs are by now low enough to make a duplicate computer a viable backup option (well not quite, a good-condition G4 laptop of the same vintage as mine still commands £2-300+ on eBay).

G4 versions of the Mac Mini can be found for £130 upwards, and will do everything the laptop can do. I got one a couple of years ago to use for recording music on Garageband (a bit hard to get into - as somebody above pointed out, Apple documentation is minimal, and unless you can intuit exactly how the Help programmers described your problem/query, the Help options can be very frustrating). On the other hand, I have found that the various encyclopaedic manuals that are available (eg OSX*** -the Missing Manual) provide a very thorough explanation of how to do particular things or get out of a fix.

G4 eMacs (all-in-one CRT box) can be found for £50 or less, occasionally with all their appropriate software discs, and will do the same. If you look for one that's been owned from new, it's unlikely to have suffered from child-abuse, dangerous downloads or aggressive viruses, and will still have a few years of serviceable life to it. People who spent a relatively large amount of money on something tend to look after it.

Even the iconic G3 iMacs as portrayed by McGrath above can do most of the basic word-processing, photos, email and web-searching, possibly a bit slower than the others. I have picked these up locally for less than £25, fully working with all leads and software discs, mouse and keyboard. I have a couple that cost 99p each, but they will need a bit more work to make usable (nothing major, just a software re-initialisation when I get around to it). Software discs for operating systems and word-processing etc (which you ought to have to be legal, and for possible re-installation) are also available on eBay.

Compatibility with peripherals seems to be less of a problem than it used to be, although some of the tower PowerPC G4s have connectors for specific Apple display screens. Some of these would provide the very high speeds and dual-processor capacity required by high-end graphics packages, although some models could be uncomfortably noisy.

There are things coming along in the wider world which may eventually make it essential to have an Intel processor to view web pages properly, so in the long term I will be looking out for a Mac Mini with an Intel Core2Duo board (still over £200, with newer, high-spec ones £500+)

I have Norton Anti-Virus loaded on the laptop, but can't recall it ever reporting any incursions. My usual email server ( used to pass forward spam to the junk-mail folder, where you could report it as such. The only things that appear there nowadays are legitimate, new, unrecognised emails, so I guess they have a pretty thorough spam-checker. I do get occasional reports from friends of their legitimate emails being "bounced", so perhaps that's too thorough! The only alarm I had recently was from a virus-generated email from a friend's PC. No ill-effects as far as I can see.

From my experience, Apple machines will serve you well for a very long time. Apart from the IIlc, I have not required outside technical support, manuals and internet forums have supplied any info I needed. If you bought new, Apple's phone support and repair/replace guarantees seem to work (no personal experience). The experts in Apple shops are obviously geared to all the newer ranges, so I don' expect to find any help there for the machines I have. It's only recently that I have started delving into the internal workings of my machines, and so far that's been out of interest rather than necessity (and there are also internet sites that go into great detail for rebuild or upgrade purposes if you want to get that involved). Most Apple users would never feel the need.

Good luck whatever you choose.