The Computer Blog

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Smoke Has Cleared

My wife and I traveled up to the Apple Store last Thursday night; and, once again, we did significant damage to my credit card. We went so I could make a final decision about whether to get a MacBook Pro or a Mac Book and to ensure my wife was still comfortable with her choice of a black MacBook. As we approached, I told her all options were on the table; I wanted to pick the best solution I could.

I had two objectives to accomplish with whatever we did. The first and primary objective was to get myself into an Intel-based notebook so I could give my G4 PowerBook to my sister. My secondary objective was to get myself set up to run Windows so I could free up my 20 inch Apple Cinema Display to send to my son, Tim. As it turned out, the decision I made probably didn’t have much to do with the latter, though I’m still working on that.

Once in the store, we took a look at the black MacBook first. I showed my wife how a ceiling light could refract off the MacBook’s glossy screen, but she still liked the glossy’s brighter contrast. The MacBook was okay by her, but the few minutes with the MacBook convinced me I didn’t want a glossy screen. I also became convinced I didn’t care for the MacBook’s plastic look. They just didn’t look as classy as the previous generation G3 iBooks and couldn’t compete at all with the 12 inch PowerBooks we had been using. I didn’t like the idea of hauling around the 15 inch MacBook Pro’s larger form, but I was feeling like its bigger screen would be appreciated. So, within the first few minutes, I knew the truth for me was that I was going to get a MacBook Pro, despite the greater expense.

I spent a few moments looking at a couple of 2.33 GHz Core 2 Duo models. Playing with Office 2004 revealed they were fast, as fast as my dual processor 2.0 GHz G5 PowerMac, no small feat since they were running Office under Rosetta. The store didn’t have any 2.16 Core 2 Duo models on the floor, only 2.16 GHz Core Duo models. They were visibly slower than the 2.33’s. That left me with some silent doubts about the speed of the 2.16 Core 2 Duo models, which I suspected were halfway in between the two sets. We went down to eat dinner in the Galleria’s Food Court where I chewed on what I had seen. I really liked the 2.33 models, but they were $500 more than I had planned on spending. Were they really worth the extra money?

With my wife’s educational discount, the 2.16 models were pricing at $1799. However, those models only included 1 GB of RAM, so my real cost would be $165 more. That put the whole thing at $1964. The 2.33 models came with a full 2 GB of RAM, and I had no intention of loading more than 2 GB of memory in any MacBook or MacBook Pro because of the cost. 2GB PC2-5300 DDR SO-DIMM modules are running about $630, almost 5 times the cost of a single 1 GB stick! The 2.33 model was running $2299 or so (again with the educational discount), making the price difference between the two a $322. For that money, you got a CPU that was .17GHz faster and 128MB of extra video ram. Kind of overpriced if you ask me.

After eating, we went back up to the Apple Store and talked to a staff member about there not being any 2.16 Core 2 Duo Mac Book Pro’s on the floor. One salesperson said they simply hadn’t been directed to put those models out on the floor and he didn’t know why, though I could guess it was to try to move the 2.16 Core Duo models already there. That’s a poor strategy, if you ask me. The 2.16 Core 2 Duo’s are slightly faster and the performance delta between the 2.16 CD and the 2.33 C2D can be seen, leading to flat sales of the 2.16 CD and no sales of the 2.16 C2D. But I digress. The bottom line for me was that I was happy about what I was seeing on the 2.33’s and not sure about the 2.16’s. It made less sense to me to spend almost $2000 on something I might not be happy with than $2500 on something I knew I would be. I opted for the 2.33 GHz Core 2 Duo model.

I spent a couple of hours last night using Firewire 400 and OS X’s Migration Assistant to transfer my data and applications from my G4 PowerBook. After that, I ran the Software Update utility which only chose to upgrade copies of Pages and Keynote. I ran through Adobe Photoshop’s and Illustrator CS2 activation transfer schemes, authorized iTunes for the new machine (after deauthorizing my old one), and removed traces of Classic (OS 9) no longer needed on the Intel MacBook Pro. I updated the Logitech mouse driver and Flip4 Mac to Universal versions but otherwise made no other changes. I had no problems at all with the new machine.

For the moment, my plan is to run the MacBook Pro in parallel with the dual G5 PowerMac and my Windows PC. But I may have come up with an idea that will allow me to completely replace the PC with the MacBook Pro. If it works. For more on that, stay tuned.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The PowerMax Experiment - Part 2

Once I committed to a deal with PowerMax, I got a few more e-mails. One was a simple invoice while the other was the obligatory “here’s all the rules”, some of which I don’t remember seeing until that point. According to the note, the systems being traded in had to arrive at their dock in 14 days; otherwise, the value of the systems would be requoted. If you had a “special order” where data needed to be transferred from your old system to your new one, then you had 30 days to get the system there.

Hmmm, we never used the words “special order” while talking about this deal; so, I’m not sure where I stand on that one. I am awaiting the new MacBook so I can transfer my wife’s data from her old PowerBook to it; I have no choice, fourteen days or no. I’d have some idea of whether I was going to meet that target if they had sent me a tracking number, but they haven’t done that, yet, and didn’t state they would. If they don’t send me one by Monday, I intend to ask for one.

In any case, I’m going to try to ship the iMac out to them today (Monday, 11/6).

The “regulatory” e-mail also contained a form they expect you to sign and include with the system. Essentially, it’s a declaration of the machine’s condition. You can almost miss the fact it’s a form because it’s buried at the bottom of the e-mail and the formatting does not break before you hit it. Anyway, I’ll make sure that it or something like it is included, even though for the iMac it means I’ll have to open it and reseal it.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The PowerMax Experiment

I did get the quotes from PowerMax, and I was pretty happy with them. So, I’ve bought a black MacBook for my wife from them and will be shipping the systems out as soon as I receive all their instructions. I’ve reviewed the policies on their website in the past, so I feel like I already know what they’re going to say.

I’m trading in two systems on the MacBook. The first is my wife’s 17 inch 1.8GHz G5 iMac with 512MB of RAM, an 80GB hard drive, an Airport Card, and the standard USB 2.0, FW 400, and Ethernet ports as well as the 56K internal modem Apple chopped out of their products prematurely. They offered me $625 for it; and from what I could see, that’s the average money being given for one on eBay. The second is my wife’s 12 inch 1 GHz G4 PowerBook, with 512 MB RAM, a 40GB hard drive, a combo drive, two USB 2.0 ports, a Firewire 400 port, a 56 k internal modem, and a DVI out port. They offered me $550 for it. That also seemed like a good price. Of course, those values are written in jello; the real values will be sent to me once they receive the machines. They’re in good shape and we have all the accessories (unless my wife lost some, which is possible if not likely), so I’m expecting the value to come in within $100 of the quotes, or it will be the last time I try this approach. Obviously, I’ll blog about how it goes.

There is no tax ordering from them, so the difference between the quoted values and the system price is only $225 plus shipping costs. Not bad for a day’s work if it holds up.

I’m going to order her a 1GB stick of RAM from Other World Computing tonight. That’ll put 1.25GB of RAM in the machine. I’d get her more but I’ve got my own Mac Book Pro to worry about.