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Mac Users and the Macs They Use

by Giles Turnbull
Running Mac OS X on Windows

When you read the articles and weblog posts by prominent Mac users and Mac pundits, do you ever find yourself wondering what kind of computer setup they're using?

I do.

So I recently contacted a bunch of Mac professionals--journalists and developers--to ask them straight out: what Mac do you use? And what do you like about it?

Here's what happened.

Leander Kahney

The Cult of Mac guy is famed for uncovering stories of extreme Mac fandom. But what kind of cult does he have in his own home?

As you might expect, I have several Macs.

Until recently, I used to use an eMac at work, which I bought myself with my own money. Over the years here at Wired News, I've been obliged to use a variety of Windows boxes, but after several years of constant headaches--crashes, viruses, you know the score--I couldn't take it any more. There was a stink from the IT guys because the eMac was "unsupported," but of course it just worked. Now I'm one of the few people here who doesn't need much tech support any more (some others switched also). A couple of months ago, I lucked out, inheriting a dual-processor Power Mac G5 from our designer, who's no longer with us. It's nice and fast (dual 1.8GHz, 2.25GB RAM), and rock-solid reliable. I have all kinds of apps and windows open simultaneously. I reboot it once a week or so to clear out the memory.

At home, I have a Power Mac (1.6GHz), which I thought was pretty fast until I got the dual-processor machine. It's OK for most things, but gets bogged down sometimes, which I find unforgivably aggravating.

I also have a PowerBook G4 (Aluminum, 1.25GHz). It's hands-down the best computer I've ever owned. If I had to choose one machine, it would be this one. It's fast enough for most tasks, and it's got enough bells and whistles to do everything. The high-res screen is gorgeous. And it looks great. I still marvel at how beautiful it is. The classic design doesn't age. If only it were as fast as a desktop.

We also have an iBook G4 (1GHz, 12-inch) and the eMac from work. The kids hardly touch the eMac. They prefer to bash on the PowerBook and the iBook. The iBook is also a fantastic machine. It's almost indestructible. After a couple of years of abuse from the kids, it hasn't had a single issue, except for a crack on the lid around the screen. Now that I think about it, this is remarkable. For a lot of things, the iBook seems faster than the PowerBook, like web browsing and starting up. Both Wi-Fi and battery life are great. It gets three or four hours from a charge. It's a great family computer. We often use it for movies on interminable road trips--plug it into the minivan's stereo, and the kids are trouble-free for hours.

The browser is the one app I can't live without. It's used for everything--finding stories, writing and publishing them (the WN publishing tool is browser-based), blog writing, email, shopping, banking, etc. I use Safari, but I'm slowly switching over to Firefox because of all the fantastic plug-ins available. For a company based on open source software, it's a shame Apple doesn't make Safari extensible.

Jonathan Rentzsch

Jonathan Rentzsch writes code and his popular development-oriented weblog. But what Mac does he tap on as he sits in that mysterious red shed? I fired up iChat to find out.

Turnbull: First off, what machine are you using these days? Or, if you have several, which do you use most?

Rentzsch: My main machine for the next few days is my old TiBook 800. Recently, I've been lured to the raw power of desktop machines, so my main machine will become a Quad G5 I have on order. I tried to wait out the PowerBook G5, but we all know the story there <grin>.

My next PowerBook will likely be an Intel one.

Turnbull: What spec have you gone for on the G5? Or will you do some upgrades yourself?

Rentzsch: I'm getting it with the NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GT upgrade. The base 6600 card seems paltry, while the Quadro FX seems excessive. I'm also bundling AirPort+Bluetooth, 30" Cinema Display, and modem (I need to send faxes here and there).

I'm going with the lowest memory configuration. Apple wants a left arm and leg for ECC memory. (The Quad is the first Mac that supports ECC memory, so I'm looking forward to it.) I'm buying my memory from Crucial.

Initially, when the Quad came out, they didn't list any ECC memory choices, but now they do.

Turnbull: Is the move from a laptop to a desktop something new for you?

Rentzsch: Yes. I've been using PowerBooks as my main machine for over a decade now. I keep trying out each new PowerBook generation, but the speed+capacity just wasn't there.


How old is the TiBook then? Will you miss it, do you think? (Sometimes, machines like that end up becoming old friends to some people...)

Rentzsch: The TiBook is around three years old now. And yes, it's worn to my shape--the paint peeled where my wrists rest <grin>.

The machine is going to stay active. I still need a machine to run 10.2 and 10.3 for backwards compatibility testing, and I need a presentation+conference machine. So it's not going dark anytime soon. It's just that its fan won't be pegged all day, every day.

Turnbull: One more little thing: can you pick out one application you couldn't live without?

Rentzsch: Heh. You've stumbled upon my dirty little secret.

I have a bunch of essential apps, some Apple (Xcode, IB, Safari) some 3rd party (PasswordWallet, AppKiDo, OmniGraffle), but I have one app that's always active and completely critical: Emailer 2.

Turnbull: !

Rentzsch: That's the old email client distributed by Claris way back when. It runs under Classic. It mirrors the PowerBook G5 game I've been playing.

I keep on waiting for something better. Year after year, nothing shows up. I've resigned to write my own, since Classic isn't supported on the Macintels and no client otherwise comes close to what I want.

Turnbull: I can see that. I've had my own moans about email clients recently.

Rentzsch: Yeah, most of the geeks are email-client-unhappy these days.

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