as you're taking it out of the box, you encounter a layer of packing cardboard that says "Designed in California by Apple Computer." like the signature on a piece of artwork. that's the sort of language you expect to see on a book jacket or a jewel case, but not on a laptop box. when it comes to computers, only apple's hardware deserves that sort of reverence.
the fit and finish is just unbelievable. i'm hard-pressed to find any joints or screws or flanges that would make me think i'm looking at something that was assembled out of parts. it looks more like a sculptor started out with a silky block of aluminum and carved it into a computer. my first impression is that it's not all that large, only an inch thick and eight pounds, so when i flipped it open it was difficult to believe what a huge screen it's got. yo, check it, seventeen inches.
when you connect the power jack, a plastic ring around the end of the plug glows amber for charging, then green when fully charged. they didn't put the light on the power brick where you might not see it, or on the computer itself where you might confuse its significance. they give you a lighted ring around the power jack itself, the meaning of which is as unambiguous as possible.
once switched on, the screen is bright and clear. cranked up full blast, the backlight could blind you. i don't see any busted pixels but it's probably got a few. i had been using my apple cinema display for over a year before i finally noticed three bad pixels at the extreme right edge.
the powerbook's dvd drive has nothing so gauche as a door that opens or a tray that slides out. it's slot-loading, you feed a disc into a barely visible "mouth" and the computer takes it away from you, sucking it into its innards.
it's eerily quiet. i've never heard the hard disk churning. i can only hear the dvd drive spinning if i put my ear right on the case. supposedly it has a fan, but it only runs when the computer gets hot, which so far hasn't happened. maybe it really is a solid block of aluminum.
the battery is visible from the computer's underside. there's a pair of thumb grips that make it easy to remove and replace. the battery has its own set of five tiny green LEDs to indicate its charged status. at the moment, four of the LEDs are solid green and the rightmost one is blinking -- i can guess what that means without reading the manual. the LEDs work even when the battery is not connected to the computer. there's a tiny aluminum button you can press to make them light up for a second or two. you could have two or three batteries and quickly sort through them to determine their charged status.
if you're using the computer and want to put it away for awhile, all you do is fold it closed and it will put itself to sleep. the button you push to make the screen pop open has a tiny gray flourescent bulb in it that pulses brighter and darker while it's sleeping. watching that light pulse reminds me of the rib cage of a sleeping cat, rising and falling. when opened, the computer automatically wakes from sleep, with all your programs and data right where you left them.
it's simply breathtaking. you just don't see products like that these days. certainly not in the tech sector, where cutthroat price competition has sucked the life and character out of everything. a lot of people seem to begrudge apple their high margins -- hey, they make better products, they deserve higher margins.
i've named my powerbook "yvette." delicate aesthetically pleasing french names seem ideal for apple products.
i had absolutely zero experience with wireless networking before this. never once touched any kind of wireless hardware. when i was ordering the computer, i didn't see a need for it. the only reason yvette's got an airport card is because they come standard at no extra charge. the apple store doesn't allow you to deselect it for a price break, so it may be right on the motherboard for all i know.
while poking around in yvette's menus, i discovered she knew about a wireless network called 'SYNDICATE'. by futzing around a little bit i was able to say "sure yvette, go ahead and hook up to that biznatch." she said "okay, connected." and i was like, no WAY. really? connected? so i yanked out the ethernet cable and yep, web browsing still worked. it was a little slower, but not much.
i guess that means one of my neighbors is running a wide-open wireless access point. i did some googling and found mention of one that's four miles from here. is that possible? i thought 802.11 doesn't work at ranges greater than a few yards. my sister and her husband have an airport hub and they don't even get decent reception in all rooms of their house.
i was going to the mall anyway, so i took my powerbook with me, to see if there was a wap i could get to there. yvette found another one, called 'wirezero'. i tried to get her to connect, but that one wants a password. it's probably for mall business or something. don't those people know that information wants to be free? i should send richard stallman in there to give them a stern lecture.
okay, i sound too much like a fawning sycophant. i have to mention some bad stuff to prove i haven't lost my objectivity. i don't like trackpads and i don't understand why every single laptop manufacturer has switched to using them. i had a trackball on my last portable and it felt as comfortable to me as a full-sized mouse. i tried using yvette's trackpad for an hour or two but it's just not right. i rummaged around and found a logitech usb mouse i wasn't using, originally sold for use with pcs. i plugged it in and it "just worked," including the right mouse button and the scroll wheel, no drivers necessary.
i always love apple's hardware, but i have a love/hate relationship with their software. my initial impression of panther: ugh. the finder is metallized and ugly. window title bars are metallized and ugly. the menu bar and menus are metallized and ugly. metal, metal, everywhere, and what a lot of stink. HO HO HO. yes, it nicely matches the actual computer, since the aluminum bezel around the screen looks very much like one of the finder's own windows. i am still not impressed. it's like eating candy three meals a day. i'd rather have a little substance in my diet, please.
i much prefer jaguar's pinstripes. i want to use that until apple comes up with something that doesn't make me ill. i tried booting off the first jaguar install cd, but yvette gagged. her screen showed that "folder with a flashing question mark" thing, which is a mac's way of saying "what the ... ? i can't boot off THAT!" then she stubbornly booted off her hard disk, back into panther. so i guess i'm stuck.
i'd be willing to bet that, at this moment in time, yvette is worth more than my car. but dammit, i used my previous portable for five years, and it wasn't nearly as nice as this one, relative to other high-end portables of that era. also, pcs tend to become obsolete faster than macs. those two factors mean i'll be using yvette forever. i'm not normally an outrageous spendthrift like this, but every now and then i need my dumb indulgences.
before anybody should get the idea that i'm perpetrating the myth that macs are too expensive, i should mention that you can get a cute white ibook for a fraction of what i paid for svelte silvery yvette. at the low end, macs are pretty close to price-competitive with pcs.
now i'm off to finish installing the software necessary to make yvette roadworthy. after that i think i'll google up some more waps. i'd love to sit in a cyber-cafe, sipping a latte, reading all the interesting stuff you lj people write, making everyone jealous of my s00p3r-l33t aluminum monolith.