Single Status Update
Yes, it's not a joke. I've been given a long-unused Power Mac G4 (last time it was powered on was in 2001, and only has 1400 hours logged on its main hard disk).
It was in, well, pretty much 2001 condition: still had Mac OS 9 on it, and an ancient installation of X (10.0.1). It was a shock to see "Internet Explorer for Mac 5.5" after all those years, which BTW crashed every so often so it was utterly useless for browsing anything but the most basic websites.
- PowerPC G4 @ 733 MHz
- 128 MB SDRAM (took it to 640 MB)
- 40 GB HD (added a second 20 GB one)
- Digidesign Audiomedia III audio interface (it belonged to a musician)
- Geforce 2 Graphics
- ZIP 250 drive
- USB floppy
Anyway, seeing how OSX 10.0.4 was practically useless, and Mac OS 9 even more so, I installed Tiger on it (10.4).
Some quick likes and dislikes:
- The interface is indeed clean and intuitive, and you always have a UNIX-like command line for some of the most complex tasks
- The application dock and unified menu bar are actually awesome.
- The case design is awesome. I wish all those PCs I've worked with had such a clever system to mount the mobo and other components. It's not that hard to do, and simplifies maintenance a lot. Then again, why should it be made to open to the right?
- System tools are actually useful and well integrated.
- The DMG disk image system is pretty solid as a distribution way. Installing programs is tons easier than on Linux, and even easier and cleaner than Windows.
- Networking and interoperability with Windows and Linux proved rock-solid. I was even able to slogin/scp stuff and access shares with little effort.
- Making whole-disk backups is easy, thanks to DMGs. I installed Tiger on the 20 GB disk, backed up the original OS 9 volume to a small dmg, then cloned Tiger to the OS 9 Volume. Booted just fine, and all with system tools (well...ok, I used SuperDuper too). All that with the OS running, not with a Ghost-like boot tool.
- It's very stable, and starts up very rapidly compared to a similarly-rigged PC using either Windows or Linux.
- The lack of forward compatibility really shows. It's frustrating as hell to find a cool app that you need/like and discover it only works on Intel or in Leopard (OSX 10.5) and higher. Being spoiled from Windows' extreme backwards compatibility and even Linux's LSB applications, that's a major bummer. Even if you want to keep using it, you'll have to jump through hoops and be much more of a tech geek than the average Mac user probably is. Pretty weak long-term investment protection, if you ask me.
- No native NTFS support. WTF. OK, I found a third party utility that enabled it seamlessly but still, for an OS that came out in 2005....
- Single button mouse with no mousewheel. OK, the rig is a bit old and wheels weren't as standard back then. OK, I know that "right click" is command + click and that "middle click" is alt+ click and that you can plug in any USB mouse (which I did), but the OSX GUI itself works MUCH better with a standard mouse, unless you're seldom going to use the context menus (which I need frequently). I expected much better adaptation to single-button mouse use, at least from the basic OS itself.
- USB ports. For an expensive computer with a big case that has no PS/2 ports, having just TWO USB 1.1 ports is really too little, even by 2000/2001 standards. Good thing that you can at least daisychain the keyboard and mouse, but then you will have little current for the second USB port on the keyboard: most USB flash drives won't work if attached there due to lack of current.
- Drivers. Some stuff is really poorly supported: there are no OSX drivers for the Audiomedia PCI III audio interface (or at least not public ones), while some stuff like e.g. the drivers and suite for an Asus USB Wi-Fi card were quite inferior to the Windows counterpart, let alone that I had to do just as much driver hunting.
- Performance and quality of available software is extremely uneven. Theoretically, it should be pretty much on par with a contemporary Pentium III, and most of the time it is. Some things seem to work smoother, while some are implemented pretty poorly. E.g. the GUI is indeed much smoother than Windows or Linux on similar PC hardware, but it's impossible to watch Youtube videos with the thing. Flash ANIMATIONS work smoothly though, but mpeg4 streams...nope. VLC players works wonders though.
- Audio output is of surprisingly low quality, and it's headphone-level only. There may be a line-out bypass, didn't really check, but as it is it sounds incredibly muffled. The single case speaker is a nice touch, though.
- Memory management seems to be far weaker than on Linux and Windows. Available RAM plummets pretty quickly just with 1-2 Safari or Firefox tabs, but that might just be a problem with those apps.
- Limited choice of hardware when it comes to video cards/bootable disk controllers: I'd like to put more powerful video cards and SATA controllers in it, but I have to search for specific ones and/or flash them with special firmware. I guess that Intel based Macs will be less of a problem.
- PSU. That 25V power line is pure bullshit, and that ATX-like connector fuels false hopes :-p Then again I read it's possible to rig a standard ATX PSU to work with it, if you can live without the Mac Display port...
- PowerPC G4 @ 733 MHz