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Aging PowerBook Upgrade by a Linux/OS X Geek
Pages: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

My Menu Bar

All of these customizations result in a pretty crowded menu bar. Remember that every program shares the same menu bar on the top of the screen; the menus on the left side are application-specific, while the right side is where systemwide applications display their information.

Here's what my menu bar looks like, with some explanations:

Menu Bar

  1. First, the Synergy controls for iTunes. These aren't strictly necessary because I can always use the Synergy keyboard shortcuts. However, it's sometimes convenient to use the mouse instead.

  2. Next is the weather display for Meteorologist, including an image for the current conditions, the city, and the temperature. I know there is a dashboard widget that provides similar information, but I like the fact that Meteorologist is always right in my menu bar.

  3. As you can see, the menu bar can get crowded pretty quickly, which makes Slim Battery Monitor more important. As the name implies, it's slimmer than the default battery icon, and it's in color! What more could you want?

  4. (and 5) These are the MenuMeter displays. #4 is network traffic (bytes in on top, bytes out on the bottom). #5 is CPU utilization, with system in red and user in blue.

  5. The CPU utilization graph is particularly useful because of the instant feedback. If the CPU graph is pegged at the top of the menu bar, it's time to investigate what is loading down my system (of course, the answer is usually a Firefox plugin).

  6. I connect my Powerbook to my TV on a regular basis to watch DVDs. Thus it's useful to have Detect Displays at the ready on the menu bar.

  7. The time, obviously. Because I'm well organized and punctual.

  8. I use fast user switching to share my Powerbook with my wife. Click on my name to switch to a different user.

  9. Last of all is Spotlight. Spotlight is absolutely fantastic--I would say it's the most important new feature in Tiger. The power of Spotlight is that it always has an up-to-date index of everything on your hard drive, and it knows how to extract text from things such as PDF files.

    You can invoke Spotlight at any time by pressing cmd-space and from there, open any application or file with just a few keystrokes. That makes it the quickest way to:

    • find a mail message (full mail message text is indexed via
    • open a system preference panel
    • find a PDF containing (for example) the string "MAKE MONEY FAST"

Final Thoughts

I was apprehensive when I first started using a PowerBook as my primary home system almost two years ago. Could I, a longtime Linux user, really find satisfaction with a Mac? As you have probably already figured out from this article, the answer is yes. The Mac OS is an incredibly powerful environment and it manages to look good at the same time.

I also found it relatively easy to upgrade the hard drive in my PowerBook. The closed nature of the Mac hardware means there are fewer things that can be misconfigured and fewer hardware issues to worry about. In addition, the simple mechanism used to install most Mac software (drag and drop one file) makes installing and upgrading software a snap. Features such as these make me look forward to many more years of running a Mac as my primary desktop system.

Philip Hollenback is a system administrator at a financial firm in Manhattan. When he's not upgrading Linux servers or skateboarding, Phil spends his time updating his web site,

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