Why I'm still using Macs, even though I don't always like them.


Categories: GeekStuff

I’m doing more Apple-related work these days, so I decided it was time to go ahead and get a G5. I got the second-cheapest G5 Mac they sell, the dual 2.0Ghz. (Dual-processor is a big win.)

It’s not been entirely an easy path. The new machine has only one open drive bay (the older machine it’s replacing had four), only one slot for an optical drive (the older one had two), only three PCI slots (the older one had four), doesn’t support 5v PCI cards (which loses me my SCSI controller and serial port card, both of which were 5v only), takes DIMMs only in pairs (and I didn’t realize this and got a singleton)… In short, it’s pretty much consistently inconvenient to me. I need to go get more memory. I need to get a serial ATA drive or another external FireWire case if I want to add disk space to it. In short, at every turn, I need to do extra stuff to make the machine work.

So. Why do I use a Mac?

Let me tell you about my Windows machine. Every so often, it stops booting for a while. The symptom, which you can find hundreds of pages about on the net, is that it will hang during the initial “fade-in” of the Windows logo. If you try to boot in Safe Mode, it hangs right after AGP440.SYS.

Last time it did this, I spent a few days shuffling parts and reloading. Then it suddenly got better without explanation.

A few months later, it’s doing it again. I have a deadline to meet. I am supposed to be writing. What am I doing? Waiting 15 minutes to see whether the Windows install CD has hung or is just painfully slow so I can try to get to a recovery console and try a variety of cargo-cult tricks picked up off of web pages that might make this machine work with the exact same set of hardware and software it was booting with before I moved it from the right side of my desk to the left side of my desk, or possibly even with a few things taken out.

This is why I use a Mac; because you can get the Mac to tell you what it’s doing, and it generally doesn’t just inexplicably stop booting for a while then maybe start again.

Needless to say, outside of specific projects that require Windows-only software, I don’t run Windows. (Well, I do. It’s a good games machine… When it boots.)

Edited to add: The cargo cult people were right. Even the Windows install CD couldn’t boot, so the solution was to go into the BIOS, not make any changes, and select “Save and exit”. Some people think this means I may need a new battery for the motherboard.

Comments [archived]

From: beoba
Date: 2005-05-21 08:41:43 -0500

I have a powerbook whose harddrive starts freaking out if I leave the thing on for longer than ~48 hours. I purchased the thing in June 2004, and had the harddrive replaced in Jan 2005 when the original began refusing to work unless I held the laptop vertically. The new harddrive has already started showing signs of doing the same thing, even though I’ve been careful to turn off the powerbook whenever not using it.

From this experience, I’ve quickly learned that an Apple logo doesn’t make hardware any less prone to failure.

From: dave
Date: 2005-05-22 13:46:24 -0500

Low battery on the motherboard makes Windows hang on boot? That seems strange (but somehow not unexpected, given that this is Windows) to me… I Don’t Do Windows, but the only time I’ve ever had battery backup problems on Intel hardware I didn’t see any OS problems until it actually died and I had to remind the BIOS what its setting were every time I booted that machine.

From: beoba
Date: 2005-05-22 21:38:18 -0500

Oh. Just remembered.

On the old 486, the battery (two AA’s) eventually went out. The clue was that the computer kept forgetting what time/day/year it was whenever it was rebooted. I’d assume that your computer would be acting in a similar way were it the same problem.