Java 1.3.1 JRE and SDK pre-installed; Java Swing modified to mimic Cocoa user interface
Open Source tools and services (e.g., perl, gcc, ssh, apache, zsh)
Excellent performance and responsiveness
Stellar user interface and desktop flourishes
Cant’t re-map caps lock key
Mouse button feels awkward
CPU: 550MHz PowerPC G4, 256K level 2 cache
Memory: 256MB PC133 SDRAM
Disk Space: 20GB Ultra ATA/66
Display: 15.2-inch TFT
56k v.90 modem
Apple has had a reputation for building beautiful hardware that runs a quirky, proprietary, and closed operating system. Certainly, Apple’s latest desktop and laptop products continue the company’s tradition of providing some of the industry’s most innovative and slick computers. However, the new Mac OS X operating system shatters the perception of Apple as a closed-source company.
Quite a Sight
The PowerBook G4 Titanium laptop (or TiBook) is a work of art. Upon opening the 1-inch thin machine, we were struck by the size and clarity of the 15.2-inch screen. At a resolution of 1152×768, it provides ample room for a desktop.
Sliding a DVD in the slot-loading DVD-ROM drive really lets the PowerBook’s multimedia capabilities shine. The DVD player launches automatically and starts playing the movie. The picture is exceptionally smooth and clear, and the built-in speakers produce a sound much bolder than a typical notebook.
While Apple made sure the TiBook looked and sounded good, they also designed it to be well-connected. Our review model had on-board USB, FireWire, Gigabit Ethernet, PCMCIA, and a 56K modem. The only thing missing was 802.11b wireless support (available as an add-in module). We were pleasantly surprised to find that the advertised five-hour battery life was a reality even under working conditions.
The Softer Side
The hardware is only half the story. Our TiBook shipped with Mac OS X (“X” being “ten,” not “ex”) version 10.1, a radical departure from Apple’s previous operating systems. The FreeBSD-derived kernel provides excellent networking and a rock-solid foundation upon which Apple delivers a friendly and easy-to-use interface. Even though the internals of MacOS have been wholly replaced, long-time Mac users will find themselves right at home on the Mac OS X desktop.
Apple open-sourced major portions of OS X and provided many of the standard GNU and Open Source tools. Even X Window System applications run on Mac OS X (thanks to the “XonX” project, http://sourceforge.net/projects/xonx).
Although Mac OS 9.2 is installed on the TiBook too, we never found a need to use it. With native versions of Internet Explorer and Office available, as well as all the standard Open Source tools and services (bash, vim, emacs, gcc, perl, apache, ssh, mutt, etc.), why would we? After downloading just a bit of software from Apple’s Mac OS X site, the TiBook started to feel a lot like a Linux box after a face lift and a shot of steroids.
Thanks to the Fink project (http://fink.sourceforge.net), you can also install the standard Debian package management tools dpkg and apt-get with just a couple of clicks.
Having Open Source tools available on Mac OS X is a testament to Apple’s willingness to adopt tools like gcc as well as a more open development process. Long-time Mac users are jazzed about having a great new operating system to use and Open Source users are thrilled to have their favorite code running on some of the coolest hardware in town.
If you’re looking for a notebook that’s truly a cut above the rest, and don’t want to give up your favorite Open Source applications and tools, grab a TiBook loaded with Mac OS X.
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