First Impression with My iBook

The iBook update came on 22nd of April, 2003. I first saw it on the MacSlash site when I woke up in the morning, and I sent down my order to the Apple on-line store before I came back home that night. I have always wanted to get an iBook, and Hajime from church can verify that! Everytime I played with his old Prismo G3 Powerbook, he asked me when I am getting a Mac, and I have been replying him "soon, when the next upgrade comes around" for the last one and half years! But now, I am finally getting one.

However, it seems ordering from the Apple on-line store is not that a good idea. First of all, I cannot see the machine first. However, I think I have seen enough iBooks around, and this time I am definitely buying one so without checking out the machine in person does not really affecting me. However, I heard buying from the shop-front does help you to build relationship with the shop, and in case the iBook needs maintenance, they might be more "willing" to help. Especially with LCD equipped machines, where it seems to be quite common to get a dead pixel or two, being able to go back to the shop to swap for another one is a big advantage. Lastly, buying direct from Apple on-line store does not really translate faster delivery. In fact, I waited 16 days for my iBook to arrive. During the wait, I was like checking on-line order status every 2 or 3 hours, and felt disappointed when it does not make any progress. Anyway, finally it came...

On 8th of May 2003, I arrived work seeing a delivery box sitting on my desk. It is not that big (much smaller comparing with the box that my Dell Inspiron 8000 came with), weighted just over 4 kilogram, and my long-awaited iBook is sitting in there! It got to one of the longest day at work, resisting my desire to open it up and play. And guess what was the first thing I did when I came back home that night!

Here's my first impression of the iBook, after playing with it for a few days...

Packaging and Presentation

First of all, the packaging - and it marks the epoch of my Mac experience. It gives you the feeling that you are buying something luxury. It has that BMW-like presentation, and you know you are not driving home a Ford Falcon, even though it is the cheapest model. Compare with the brown cardboard box I got with Dell, this is indeed impressive.

Inside the box there is a stack of manuals and books. Actually, there is nothing fancy and nothing complicated. The first page of the "operational manual" just tells you to plug in the power, open the lid, press the power button, and then follow the instructions to install the operating system. I am usually the one who would read through all the manuals and instructions before taking any actions (more engineer type I guess), and it is a bit disappointing to see so little information provided in that operational manual.

The box also comes with an adapter for VGA output, a power supply and power cable, a RJ11 phone line for the modem, a few Apple stickers, a blank CD recordable (I got a combo drive), and a few CDs of software, etc. And of course, the iBook itself :) Now I am ready to power it on for the first time...

Installation

Installation? What installation? Yes. I think the system comes without any operating system installed. Or at least only the very minimum was installed. However, setting up the operating system is a breeze. When the iBook is powered up for the first time, all I need to do is pop in the OS CD-ROM into the drive, swap another one in the middle, and then the OS is installed with all the applications I need (and some applications I don't need). At the end of the installation process, it asks you to register your iBook. It collects every bits of information about you - your name, contact detail, etc, and tries to send all information collected to an external server via HTTPS. However, the registration process does not work with proxy, even after I have configured the proxy setting after I logged in. So at the end I have to open up the home Linux firewall for a few seconds to let the request go through.

Once the operating system is installed, it is ready to be used as it comes with wide range of applications. Including the popular iLife applications - iMovie (I've not yet tried as I don't have a cam-coder), iPhoto (I've not yet used it extensively either), iTune (only used it to play one MP3 so far, no native support for all my library of Ogg Vorbis files), iCal (very useful. It has started to replace my Psion as my main diary), Address Book (very nice as well). The default web browser is Internet Explorer 5.2 for Mac, which I immediately replaced by Safari and Camino. I still need IE occationally for banking though, Mail.app is also very nice, and in some sense it feels more smooth than my favourite Mozilla Mail on Windows. There are lots of other apps that await me to discover. I'll come back to them later in other blog entries...

Performance

With 128Mb of PC-100 SDRAM, 900Mhz iBook is not impressive. MacOS 9 runs quite smoothly with that much memory, but MacOS X is a bit sluggish. DivX playing is not as smooth as well. Maybe G3 is not that a fast chip after all - at least my old Dell Inspiron 8000 with an old 700Mhz Pentium III feels faster in playing DivX. I heard topping up the iBook to 640Mb of RAM brings dramatic difference. I am still waiting for my order of my 512Mb stick, and I do hope it will change my opnion.

Conclusion

My first impression of iBook G3 900Mhz is a bit mixed. Generally it is a very good machine, but maybe because it is my very first Mac, I have too much expectation from this low-end machine. Walking through MacOS X proves to be a challenge, and Finder is not as easy to use as Windows Explorer. However, I am getting more and more use to its interface, and I have started to see the light under the beautiful skin. I'll keep on posting here about my discover.

And yeah. I don't regret switching.