Technolust

When can I start the justification process for a G5 PowerBook?

I do all my non-farm work (and the farm accounts) on a four year old Apple PowerBook G3 (Firewire), known to its friends (and there are many) as a Pismo PowerBook. I bought it in September 2000, just in time for my truffle research trip through France and Italy, and it’s since bumped along with me to the USA, Argentina, Britain and Australia. About a year ago it began to feel rather slow. It wasn’t new anymore. The PowerBooks in Magnum Mac looked shinier and sleeker and faster. The sluggishness was partly because I insist on using the latest iteration of Mac OS X, and partly because I was converting to digital photography and doing more work in Photoshop and InDesign – getting ready for the production of The Truffle Book. I began to feel that “time for an upgrade” itch.

But: I bought the Pismo five months before Apple introduced its first G4 laptops. I felt momentary envy, but my computer was still new(ish) and I was happy. Last year saw the first G5 processors find their way into the desktop line, and my laptop hit its third birthday. The Mac web immediately began speculating about how long it would be before a G5 PowerBook hit the streets. A year on, the speculation continues. I could, of course, do the rest of the Mac world a favour and go and buy that rather smart 1.5GHz G4 PowerBook to hasten the introduction of the G5s, but I don’t want to. A G5 seems to be the future, and that’s where I want to be.

In the meantime, this little Pismo has had a heart transplant. I sent it off to Daystar in the States to have a 550MHz G4 processor fitted, and at the same time replaced the hard drive with a 40GB model. The whole process took only a little over a week – not bad for a return trip to Georgia – and the results have been excellent. Photoshop is much more responsive, and everything seems a lot snappier. Xbench tells me that it’s a little over twice as fast as before, but on some things that benefit from the G4 chip’s Altivec add-on (like Photoshop filters) it’s getting on for seven times faster. Very worthwhile, and not hugely expensive.

So when is Apple’s G5 laptop going to make its appearance? Your guess is as good as mine, and nowhere near as good as Steve Jobs’. There are some beguiling hints that Apple and IBM have some very interesting new processors in the pipeline. A month or two ago, a posting to the AppleNova forums by an apparently reliable source indicated that a new dual-core G5 processor was on its way – the 970MP – and that made headlines. All very interesting, and great news for Apple’s desktop computers, but if you read to the end of that AppleNova thread, you’ll see that the same poster is now dropping hints that another version of the 970 is on its way: the 970GX. The current G5, found in the iMac and PowerMac, is the 970FX, and it already includes IBM’s PowerTune technology – a system that IBM says makes it suitable for laptop use. The GX is obviously one step beyond. Maybe that’s what’s going in the G5 PowerBook. Early next year? Don’t hold your breath, but do check the forums!

Meanwhile, my Pismo feels comfortable and warm, like a cosy pair of slippers, and if I smoked a pipe, I’d be puffing contentedly in front of the fire with the truffle hound curled up by my feet. Dreaming about G5s.

[Update: 8/1/08: The Pismo was still working and being used on occasional road trips until I finally bought a Macbook Pro (2.4GHz C2D etc) in August 2007. It still works. I might set it up as a network server or something…]

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