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Mac OSX: My First Take PDF Print E-mail
Written by Tim Wray   
Saturday, 12 September 2009 11:56

Apple PowerMac G3

I was recently over at Abel's place, and he had picked up several 1999 Apple PowerMac G3 computers from a local school auction. I had remembered seeing these machines when they were released, and I had thought they were quite attractive looking back in the day. I had never used a mac in any real use before, not since the mid 1990s. I was certainly not very impressed back then, the OS 9 and before Macs seemed awfully thin and generic compared to DOS/Windows, particularly because I was used to doing most of my activity from a command prompt or terminal window (linux)...Mac OS 9 or System 8/7 just didn't have any real feature like that (by default).


So, I took the thing and got it hooked up. It had OS 9.1 on it. I decided to have an open mind and have a look around. It techincally "worked", but it sure looked, well, '80s. I decided to set out on a quest to install OpenSUSE Linux PPC on it, since it had a PowerPC processor, unlike the most modern Macs. Linux installed on it (repeatedly), but I never could get the bootloader configured in such a way that the OpenFirmware system in the Mac could see it to boot properly. So I went on a long crusade to obtain a copy of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, the last version of OSX that had a PPC build. I popped a spare 20GB hard drive in it, as well as a DVD burner to replace the original CD-ROM drive. Finally, I got my hands on OS X. Talk about an update.

Now, keep in mind, I've ALWAYS been a PC user. This is my first experience with the "modern" Macintosh. I must say, my first impressions were good, certainly better than classic MacOS. It runs respectably well on a 10 year old machine, better than Windows XP would on a computer built in 1999 I would suspect from my experience. Setting up OSX wasn't too much of an excercise for me, though I had never used it before.


Everything "just worked" upon finish of the install, which is what I expected, running an Apple OS on an Apple computer. I downloaded and installed Firefox 3.5, just to see how it compares to the Linux and Windows versions. It's not much different, pretty much just like the others except running in "Mac" skin. The machine plays DVDs better than Windows Vista does on my 2003 Dell Dimension 2350 (A PC that is NOT considered Vista ready, but I'm known to make things happen that supposedly can't happen.)


I have been especially impressed with the core system of OSX, particularly that it comes with a bash shell-based terminal, which speaks to the linux/unix side of me. It was nice to have vi to edit things, top to look at system processes, and telnet/ftp available as if I were running on my OpenSUSE Linux workstation at work. That helped me reverse my Mac OS opinion nearly immeadiately.

Overall, if I could afford a Mac Pro now, I would consider purchasing one. This isn't something I'd say before my experience with this old G3. But with x86 processors, OS X, and the ability to run Windows either in dual boot or in a virtual machine, I think they're finally a good deal. I still can't digest the price tag difference (I can build a AMD-Phenom based quad-core whitebox PC with dual 21" widescreen monitors, Windows 7 Professional, 1TB Hard disk, 4GB+ of DDR3 memory, and all the toys I ever want for around $1,800 (Mac Pro starts at $2,499 according to apple.com)), but if I could get one (a NICE one) at that kind of price, I'd own one.


For now, this pretty little G3 will get a permanent spot next to the PC at home, sharing the same monitor. Congrats Apple for (almost) winning me over. Almost.