Andy Ihnakto, publisher of a colossal waste of bandwidth and contributor to a dizzying variety of publications, print and digital, was happy to talk about his hardware. We fired up iChat, and spent some bandwidth together...
Turnbull: What Mac are you using now? (If you use more than one, which one's your favorite)?
Ihnakto: Well, the MVP of my menagerie is a 15" Aluminum PowerBook. I have a bunch of different machines but THIS is the one that handles all of my email, and all of my contacts and appointments. It's also the one I do every bit of my writing and research with.
Turnbull: Heh, snap! I use a 15" al pbook too.
Ihnakto: And it's always been that way with my PowerBooks. I buy a new one, I transfer the contents of the old hard drive onto the new one, and move on as before. I started with a PowerBook 100 in school, and on a shelf in my office you'll find all 6 previous PowerBooks, in a neat little row.
I even have a big "7" on the lid of this one.
Ihnakto: I figured that if Pete Townsend put numbers on all of his stage guitars...who am I to say that it's wrong?
(It also has the advantage of making sure someone doesn't confuse Lilith 7 with someone else's 15" alBook, at a conference or in airport security.)
Turnbull: Tell me some of #7's specs then.
Ihnakto: Lessee: 1.25 GHz, only a modest amount of RAM (512M...from the factory), but swapped out its original hard drive for a 100-gig model. I think it's coming up on its second birthday. Still working great and I won't buy Lilith 8 until the IntelBooks come out. I mean, the good ones.
Turnbull: What do you like about this machine--and is there anything you don't like about it?
Ihnatko: What I like about it is that it's perfectly suited to my needs.
Ihnatko: One of the (many) perks of my job is that I am required to learn as much as I can about as much as there is. So right about the time that I was considering upgrading my TiBook, Apple introduced the 17" and 12" PowerBooks. So they were sending me some hardware to test out for a month. And I spent a whole weekend using nothing but the 12" and nothing but the 17"...and neither of them were "right."
The 12" is just too small. I'd been jonesing (and in print, bitching) about the need for an ultralight PowerBook since the glaciers retreated from North America. And yet, once I had one...it was just too small for day-to-day use. Not enough screen, no place to rest my hands, and if I actually worked with it in my lap, I had to keep my knees together to support it.
I loved the 17", but it was just such a pain in the butt to move it around. If I wanted to head to the library or a coffee shop to do a little work, I had to stick it inside a special bag. That's no good.
But the 15" is the perfect form factor. Big enough screen to keep a chat window or a tool palette in view alongside your document windows, small enough that you never really stifle an impulse to take it somewhere.
That said, Sony lent me one of their TEENY little Vaios over the summer. Fell in love with the thing and actually considered buying one. Never any excuse whatsoever for leaving it behind. But definitely not as my "this is my entire workspace" Mac.
What I don't like about it is that the keyboard backlighting sometimes makes the keys LESS legible instead of more legible (like when the light from the screen washes it out). I wish it weren't so damned difficult to take apart. Replacing the hard drive was a huge production, and with all of the abuse I give my keyboards, I like to be able to pop them out and give them a good undercarriage cleaning.
Wish the case would take a little more abuse, too. Suffice to say that Lilith 7 has acquired a lot of character over the past two years.
Turnbull: So you say you'll wait for the good IntelBooks--is that because you always expect version 1.0 of anything to be bad, or because you have a bad feeling about the Intel machines in particular?
Ihnatko: Chiefly because Lilith 7 is working just fine, and I'm certain that the PowerPC and Intel Macs will be on equal performance footings for at least another year.
Also, iMacs and PowerBooks are always just a little dodgy on first release. Apple keeps thinking up new ways to design these things and they're all wonderful...but that means that no one can really predict what happens when you try to build 300,000 of them.
Turnbull: What hardware do you think Apple should drop in order to create a superlightweight?
Ihnatko: Depends on how they sell it. Only one thing is absolutely not on the table: battery life. If this hypothetical machine can't go four hours between charges, there's no point in even trying.
So you chop down the screen to 1024 width. Easy. You slim down the keyboard. Can be done. Believe it or not, I'd consider deleting the optical drive. If you choose to redefine this thing you're building, you can get away with a lot.
Turnbull: I'm with you on the optical drive.
Ihnatko: If it means super-slim, super-light, and (maybe best of all) One Less Thing To Break or Make Noise, it could be a winner.
Compensate by giving it a freakin' huge hard drive, to anticipate all of the music and videos that you're going to have to store locally. That said, one of the reasons why I gave that Vaio such a strong review was because they deleted nothing, and yet still had a tiny, functional computer that went 6 hours on battery.
Turnbull: What's the one app you couldn't live without?
Ihnatko: Oof. If you only rely on one app, then you need to get out more. If we scratch from the list any app that comes with the OS (like a browser, a mail client, even a word processor), I'd have to go with OmniOutliner. I use it as a database, I use it for accounting, I use it for ordering ideas, I use it for snippets of information that otherwise defy categorization...it's a Big Deal. My book publisher wants me to do another book for them, and in the space of three or four days, I've gone from "What do I want to write about?" to jotting down a few ideas to having a long and now somewhat organized book outline to send to my editor. All thanks to OmniOutliner.
Turnbull: Great, thanks Andy.
Mac Mac Mac Mac Mac
So what have we got in our tiny little survey? Two PowerBooks, an iMac G5, a Quad G5 Power Mac, several spare iBooks, and a handful of fascinating choices of essential software.
Also, everyone is waiting for the Intel Macs before they spend more money (although some have purchased very recently).
My thanks to everyone who agreed to take part, and gave up some of their valuable time to talk geekery with me. There were a handful of others well-known Mac users we approached to talk to, but time ran out to talk to them all. Thanks to them too.
If anyone wants to add their choice of Mac in the comments--Steve Jobs, you're welcome to pile in here--then please feel free to dive right in.
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