Second chance

» In which the Mac makes a glorious comeback. Well, sort of.

In the summer of 2002, I bought an iMac. Although the machine was new, fresh from the Apple store, it was already dated. Being a G3/600 with 128 Mb of memory, it just didn't run Mac OS X very well. There were other problems as well. The whole story, well known to old-time readers of my blog, can be found here. I got so fed up with the thing that I sold it for shipping cost only.

Anyway. A few months ago, I decided to give Macs another try (in spite of, or maybe because of, the fact that all the cool kids are moving to Ubuntu these days ;-)). But this time I wanted to do it differently. First of all, I wasn't going to pay big bucks for it. Also, I didn't want to run into the same problems as before (slowness, weird keyboard bindings, software compatibility issues, etc).

I had always liked the original, colorful line of G3 iMacs, released in 1999-2000. By the time I got the aforementioned iMac, the only color available was "snow" (white), which was a bit of a... bummer. So I started looking on eBay for those older iMacs.

I found that it is very possible to find an old iMac with decent specs, although it takes a bit of searching. The original G3s came with 32 and 64 Mb of memory, which doesn't cut it anymore in the age of the Tiger. However, if you look long and hard, you'll find refurbished and upgraded machines. Eventually, I settled on an indigo G3/400 with 384 Mb. Price: $80. Harddisk is only 13 Gb, but I could easily attach an external hard drive if I need to.

(I wrote a separate post with some tips for people who might be interested in purchasing an old G3.)

My experiences with this machine are largely positive. It's faster than you would expect. I run Tiger with hardly any problems at all. The only program that has demonstrated considerable slowness so far, is TextMate (when switching between apps). Granted, I don't use it for anything "heavy", and I rarely have tons of programs open at the same time. Most of the time I'm in Terminal; I use TextWrangler for editing and Firefox for browsing.

The problem of the keyboard bindings (Macs use Home/End, etc, for different purposes than the rest of the world) has largely been solved. (I will write a post about that too.) I found an editor I like (TextWrangler, as mentioned above). And Python works much better than back in the day (kudos to the developers). All in all, I can now use the Mac for what I originally intended it... a cool, pretty hacking box. :-)