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[Review] Four years later

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Four years ago, I got a Power Mac G5. It was hands down, the fastest computer being made. Top-of-the-line model, thousands upon thousands of dollars. This computer was running an operating system I had never seen before - Mac OS X 10.3.5 "Panther". Granted, I didn't even know this. This computer was a large, looming, imposing, confusing machine. It looked nothing like the computer I was used to. Except for some music recording, it stayed mostly unused and had no internet connection. For four years.


Fast forward to two months ago. I had decided that I must have an iMac G4. I learned, for the first time, Mac OS X, which had been in my house for four years. The G4 was and is slow as molasses (original 700 MHz model), but it inspired me to learn this beautiful operating system that was at once wholly new to me and strangely familiar. Within about an hour, I was hooked. I spent a few hours learning bash, reintroduced myself to the Finder, and adjusted to the left-side close-minimize-zoom buttons. I marveled over the amazing effects that it takes gigabytes of third-party apps to emulate in Windows. Then I looked at the G5. I cringed that it, still a very fast machine, a dual 2GHz, was unused, and worse, running an old, outdated operating system. And still not connected to the internet.


So I resolved to buy Leopard, and an Airport card, and make this computer my primary computer. I wondered if perhaps Leopard would not be the right choice, simply because it was designed through-and-through for Intel. I knew it would work, but, well, what if it didn't? What if Leopard's extra effects and eye candy ruined the machine? (This computer is a music studio centerpiece, not a graphics powerhouse, and as such carries a paltry nVidia GeForce 5200FX with 64MB.) Hesitantly, I bought the retail DVD and put it in. My fears were only amplified when it took 20 minutes to load. Anxiously I repartitioned the hard drive (I left Panther intact; Pro Tools for Leopard is incompatible with G5s, and only with 10.5.1, AND not even compatible with my Digidesign rack). Nervously I watched it install. It rebooted ... slowly ... and the anxiety and fear and worries ... vanished. It was fast. Like, Mac Pro fast. This computer toasts the 2.13 GHz Core 2 Duo PC my father has (well, it's got Media Center .____.), and is SO much faster than it was with Panther on it.


Occasionally, I will find something I can't use (Apple Remote for Front Row; Intel only I believe), but in all, it makes me wonder how I ever tolerated the slow, endlessly-crashing wreck that is a Windows Media Center PC. (As a side note, I was so sick of it being slow that I purged EVERY mention of Media Center and the ridiculous batch of a ) trial crapware [when you fresh install an OS, your desktop should NOT HAVE 23 SHORTCUTS, especially when they are all to WildTangent's spyware game engine {labeled cutely as "My HP Games" - no goddamnit they are not MINE. I don't want them. I want a freaking clean install...} and product placement by a bunch of people, none more than the computer's manufacturer, HP], and b ) Windows crapware (Windows Party Mode? Windows Dancer? WTF??). Getting rid of all mention of Media Center is difficult and time-consuming. But now it thinks it's XP Pro. How cute. And it boots about 30% faster. Okay. Enough side note.) It was very refreshing logging into Leopard for the first time and looking at only Apple products. It is a sweet sensation when all your life a "clean install" comes with about 10-25 shortcuts to stuff you will never use. Which is not to say that I hate Windows or Microsoft. XP SP2 is a stable, reliable operating system that is easy to use, if a bit babying (These files are hidden for my protection? I wouldn't be in /Windows/System32 if I didn't know what I was doing), but the right choice for lots of people, as I think most people who use a computer but only know enough about it to get by and make word documents and e-mails and use the internet for what they need find Windows relatively easy to use. That's the case, at least, with the people I know that way. OS X, however, will allow you easily do the things you need to do if you are unfamiliar with computers, but also proportionally allow you to wield more power if you do know what you are doing (15 years with Windows and I still can't figure out how to change system files like you can easily with sudo. Heck, I don't even know what system files to change. The organization in the system32 folder is so haphazard and the names so cryptic you could just as easily change a DLL that deals with the font of the digital clock in the taskbar as one that controls the function of the close/minimize/maximize buttons).


I have very poor concentration. Let me try to at least say something about the G5 before I go off ranting again. So it's fast, it's smooth, no problems (except for a double reboot after the 10.5.3 update, that made my heart skip a beat). One thing about it, not even a complaint really, but just something I wish I could do something about, is the fact that the menubar looks bad when it's not transparent. Since the GeForce 5200FX doesn't support the translucency for it, it doesn't look great. The dock looks fantastic though. And the other thing I will say, which is more a complaint about the G5, is the fact that it's LOUD. The fans will spin fast and loud because the processors are simply way too hot. I've heard that that was always the problem with G5s, though. However, it seems like it happens more with Leopard. Not sure if it's just an issue of the processors having to adapt to Leopard, or I've just never noticed it.


I'm not sure if there's anyone with an older Mac (i.e., PowerPC) who is still debating whether to upgrade from Tiger (or Panther!?) to Leopard. My advice: even if you think Leopard looks just hideous and uses too much memory, try it. It runs like a cauterizing blade through butter on a dual 2 GHz, 1.5 gig ram G5. And if you don't like how it looks, there's plenty of easy programs and simple terminal commands that will give it the throwback Tiger look you want. The features alone, without any of the new look (which I happen to like), are worth it. I use Quick Look, Spaces, Time Machine, Stacks, all the time. I'm not getting an Intel upgrade any time soon - this is the best computer I have ever used.


I'm reading over the stuff I wrote, and it sounds like I'm Apple-fanboying. Please don't think I am. I don't hate Microsoft or blindly adore Apple. I just have a preference, that happens to be OS X :P

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Only on Panther. I don't want to buy the new Pro Tools - plus, it does not support 10.5.3 yet, and it is Intel-only, and supports HD-based setups only, at this point. I'm still wondering whether it would be easier to hack a Panther-only (spits out some garbled code trying to open it in leopard) version or Intel-only version of PT to work.

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