Article: Living Off of a G3

by on November 6, 2009

About two weeks ago I decided to send in my MacBook Pro for repairs. The repairs were to replace a defective LCD panel and top case (I had been putting it off since they were more annoying nuisances ). During the time my computer was in Texas, I decided to pull my now-ancient iBook G3 off the bench for daily use.

A little bit of background on my old iBook—it’s a 600MHz G3 rocking 640MB of RAM and an 8MB ATI Rage Mobility 128 graphics card. Although state of the art when new in late 2001, It is a mobile dinosaur in today’s world. It is currently running Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, as Leopard had left the computer behind. I copied some various settings to a flash drive and decided to get to work. After my computer was long gone on the FedEx truck, I learned some important lessons.

Prepare Your Files

Logically, I thought that since this computer ran Mac OS X and I had copies of the applications I use regularly, I’d be able to open my files. Unfortunately, I failed to realize that earlier versions of Pages cannot open files that are created with the latest version (which is what I use regularly). I didn’t have other programs, like iPhoto, Photoshop, or even Keynote loaded on it, but wasn’t expecting to do anything with those anyway. If I had, I would have to use older versions, and, in the case of iPhoto, downgrade my library, which would not be an easy task.

The same is true with Microsoft Office—the bloated product known as Office 2008 (which is good, but uses a lot of resources) generates XML files which are incompatible with earlier versions. Either save your files in Office 2003/2004 formats or expect them to be unusable.

Modern Technology Hates the G3

Although the G3 has a lot of processing power, with a clock speed similar to that of my iPod Touch, it just cannot handle even basic web browsing on par with more powerful machines. Flash ads on the web simply bog down the processor. Thankfully tools such as ClickToFlash help. This has been moved to my MacBook Pro now that I have it back.

Additionally, don’t even bother watching YouTube videos or having more than a couple of tabs open in Safari or Camino. I think this really proved the point to all those that expect multitasking or Flash on the iPhone to be as great as it is on their full-blown computers. It won’t.

Much is the Same

I was able to transfer much of my things from Apple’s applications, such as Mail, iChat, and Safari with no trouble. Mail simply ignored my work Exchange account from Snow Leopard, but I was able to recreate it as IMAP. Other than that, my messages, mailboxes, and attachments that were stored locally on Snow Leopard appeared just fine on Mail 2.

Similar Form Factor, Different Features

For basic things, such as checking email, web browsing, and instant messaging, the iBook worked quite well. I could get by doing those things on my iPod Touch, but having a larger screen and keyboard were more comfortable. What I did find was that I missed certain things from my MacBook Pro, such as the Multi-Touch trackpad, MagSafe connector, and USB 2.0. Other than that, I was able to get by, although with a bit of adjustment.

Almost Made It

Unfortunately, my computer came back with the wrong repair done, so I had to send it back for a few more days. On this attempt, I opted for my G4-based Mac mini, due to the need for more processor intensive tasks (I had a presentation that was due and also wanted to do some work on Pages documents that were too new). I think that if I had time to prepare, or keep my documents in a format that was a bit older and a bit more universal, I could have gotten by with my iBook. Its battery still holds about an hour and a half charge, too. Rather impressive for a machine that was made 8 years ago.

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