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Trying to buy a Mac

I installed Windows 2000 over Linux last night, a process that I expect is going to cost me my snack privileges in Hell. But I simply couldn’t get my Linksys wireless card to work. One of the advantages of being a monopolistic software overlord is that companies make sure that their products install reaaaal easy-like.

Meanwhile, following the advice from y’all about getting a Mac for my father-in-law for the single purpose of browsing the Web, I called Small Dog and spoke with a helpful salesperson. I thought I wanted a used G4, sans monitor, plus a fresh copy of Panther. Small Dog has a G4 for $520 + $119 for Panther. But the salesperson warned me off of the hw because it’s 2-3 years old and thus is likely to break. “It’s like buying a used car. It’s just got so many miles in it.”

The salesperson at MacResQ tried to down-sell me, not up-sell me, which I appreciated. He recommended a blue-and-white G3 (400mH, 256Mb RAM, 20GB hd, 8.51 OS) for $500. He also recommended a 400mH G4 (128mb RAM, 20GB hd, DVD player) for $530; another 128MB of RAM, installed, is $40.

I’m leaning towards the MacResQ G4, installing PythonPanther, but I feel like a blind man in a room full of deaf computers. Any and all advice would be appreciated. And this time, shouting “Get a Mac!” is entirely uncalled for.


Thanks for everyone’s advice in the comments. As a result, I just bought a 400mH G4 (20GB drive, DVD player, keyboard and mouse) from MacResQ, an extremely pleasant experience. I had them boost the RAM to 384; they charge $40 for 128 but gave me the 256 upgrade for the same price. Real pleasant folks to deal with, and were quite frank and helpful all the way through. I also bought Jaguar/Panther 10.2 for $40 off of eBay (original disks, unregistered).

So, in a few days, my little Mac installation adventure can begin. I’m looking forward to it.

12 Responses to “Trying to buy a Mac”

  1. Unlike with Windows releases, every new release of MacOS X is making Macs faster and not slower. A B&W G3 would have been incredibly slow with the early releases of MacOS X but it’s quite usable with Panther, if all you need is browsing.

    Anyway, I suggest going for the G4, it will live longer and who knows… once your father-in-law has a Mac, he might even want to use iChat AV and which needs at least a G4 to run.

    As far as Ram is concerned, as usual the more the better. 256Mb is usable, 512Mb is comfortable. Anyway, with 4 slots you can always add it later.

  2. “It’s like buying a used car”, my ass.

    I can imagine that the hard drive or the CD-ROM in an old computer might need replacing before everything else, but I’m serving my blog from a computer that I bought four and a half years ago, and my email server is a 486 that’s at least twice as old.

    Is Mac hardware that much less reliable than generic PC hardware? (I hope not, because I’m planning to install Linux on two G4s that my wife’s office just threw out….)

  3. Until a couple of years ago I made my living supporting higly mixed computing environments (read: lots and lots of Macs). I still do side-jobs making house calls to troubled Mac users, in fact. And I also happen to own not one but two blue & white G3s running OS X. They are certainly capable of browsing and email and even light Office-like tasks. The advice about getting a lot of RAM is well warranted, though. I have 512 in one box and 768 in the other. Given the price of RAM and the nature of OS X I wouldn’t want to run in less than 512, especialy on a slow box, although it is certianly possible.

    The blue & white boxes are also a nice option as opposed to even older boxes because they support PC100 RAM, and standard IDE drives. Be careful of getting the “rev a” blue&whites, thoguh, as the hard drive controller on the motherboard was notoriously bad. One side-effect of this was that you couldn’t reliably hook up a second drive to that bus if you were so inclined. I ended up purchasing a seperate (and faster) PCI-based IDE controller for one of mine. YMMV.

    Getting the G4 may make the machine slightly faster, may get you into slightly newer (and more available) upgrade parts like PC133 RAM, and gain you something in terms of longevity. Hard to say if it’s going to be worth it to you.

    If you want to email me specific questions I would be glad to take a crack at them.

  4. Don’t worry about the age, a G4 Powermac has plenty of reliable service left in it, years and years of it.

    I’d stick with the G4, it’s a significantly better processor than the G3 and the rather small price differential is worth every penny, and as someone else noted, you get a more modern system architecture as well. I’ve done business with both MacResQ and Smalldog, and I’ve had excellent service from both of them. I’m very disappointed with your experience with the Small Dog sales rep, I’d say that’s out of character for them.

    Definitely buy Panther and definitely buy more RAM. I’d recommend AT LEAST another 256MB, but you’ll be better off with 512MB. Panther likes RAM more than Jaguar and Puma seemed to.

    So go with MacResQ, the G4/400 plus more RAM from either them or another vendor, and Panther. You may be able to get a better price on Panther from Amazon ($109.00) or if you have an academic affiliation of some kind it’s $69.00 at the Apple Store (online).

    When you get the box, you may want to consider the option of removing the HD from your father’s computer and installing it in the G4. If it’s a better drive (7200RPM), you may want to consider installing the OS on that drive and using it as your boot drive. If you have files you want to preserve, then you’ll want to back them up first so you can format your father’s drive in Apple’s HFS+ format.

    Ensure the computer ships with a keyboard and mouse (I’m pretty sure they do, but it’s best to ask), unless you’re planning to use a USB keyboard and moust from your father’s machine. There is only one optical drive bay in these boxes, but you can install another 3.5″ device below the optical drive, and there’s a spot for another HD on top of the installed one.

    If you have any problems, don’t hesitate to ask.

  5. Low End Mac has lots of info on older Apple models
    http://www.lowendmac.com/ppc/g3c.shtml
    is their report on the Blue & White G3s
    the other model recommended by MacResQ is probably the “Sawtooth” G4 reported on at http://www.lowendmac.com/ppc/g4saw.shtml

  6. I’d recommend going for the G4. Compared to an equal speed G3 its generally going to be faster and gives you a further upgrade path. Also, don’t get the RAM through the Mac store. You can generally get it for quite a bit cheaper than that if you look elsewhere (Crucial?) and a faster hard drive would do wonders for the PC. Slapping in an 80Gb 7200, 8Mb Cache HD from WD (less than $60 after rebates now) would make the entire system quite a bit snappier

  7. Just bought the G4 from MacResQ. I’ll append the details to the blog entry itself.

    Thanks for everyone’s help. You folks are wonderful. Sniff sniff.

  8. David,

    One thing about installing Panther – do a clean install, wiping the drive . You can do this in the install process when you select the volume onto which you’re installing (hit the Options button). Yes, you can upgrade from an earlier OS X, but really, just wipe that puppy and start clean.

  9. Can wait to hear what you have to say after your experience. My guess is you will be blown away with the simplicity of the MAC and you won’t want to give it up.

    Note, I’m not a MAC user, I just happened to pick up an old G3 a while ago just to mess around with.

  10. Congratulations! I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

    You’re bound to get much more familiar with Apple’s big cat OS names, but Jaguar is 10.2.x, while Panther is 10.3.x.

    Jaguar is quite adequate for your father’s purposes. After you install the OS (by whatever route, I’ve installed 10.1, 10.2 and 10.3 on 4 different Macs and never wiped a drive to do it. Your mileage may vary.), you’ll be guided to set up your internet connection which is quite simple. Next, Software Update will notify you of a number of software updates that have to be installed. I believe you will be presented with one, rather large, consolidated update to bring your copy of 10.2 up to the last iteration, 10.2.8, and I believe you may see two or three security updates. Apple may have rolled them up into a consolidated update for new installs, but I haven’t done a new install since October so I’m not sure. Just make sure you install those updates.

    After you do, and every time after you install a new piece of software, launch Disk Utility (located in the Utilities folder in the Applications directory), select the boot drive and click on Repair Permissions. It’s just a precaution, but it cleans up any permissions issues created by a new software installation.

    If you enjoy sitting in a Barnes & Noble or Books-a-Million drinking a cup of coffee and browsing few a book or two, there are a couple of books you might find on switching to Mac OS X from Windows. Might give you some idea of what to expect.

  11. Solid choice. Putting memory into a G4 tower is baby easy, flip the tab, hinge down the boards, pop the memory in, and close it up. It should take about 3 minutes, tops, no need to pay someone to do it.

    The beauty is that ISX is not having unix something “over” the oS, it is the freakin’ OS. I run locally, even off the net on my G4 laptop, the same PHP, mySQL, perl, python scripts I run on my Apache servers. I can test everything I run there on my laptop. Let MS have 95% of the market be the target of every virus artist, I hbave work to do.

  12. Or cult, as some of us would say. ;-)

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