Reviving the Mac

The ole girl is still going strong

My workhorse home computer is a 13 inch Macbook, one of the “ipod white” ones. I took advantage of the favourable exchange rate when in Canada to buy one when I lived and studied there. That makes the computer approaching 4 years old, fairly impressive for any piece of technological equipment let alone a laptop computer which have become ever more disposable as technology improves.

I do love my Macbook, it does everything I need with the minimal of fuss. I’m not a laptop computer games person so it doesn’t matter one bit that the catalogue is not as big on a Mac as it is on Windows. In its lifetime I have only had one major drama with it and that was when an update went horribly wrong and froze the computer up solid. Fortunately the system is designed well enough to allow me to firewire it to another Mac and use it like a giant white hard drive and rescue all my data, wipe the machine and put the OS and all my data back on safe and sound.

The battery has lasted far longer than the original machine specifications stated, they suggested that it would last only 18 months and around 500 charge cycles, mine has now done three times that many cycles and reports that it is at 94% health! Take that planned obsolescence!

Of course 4 years is a long time in a technological sense and the Macbook has started to get a little tatty and is lagging a touch. About 2 years ago I doubled the RAM up to 2GB which had a dramatic improvement. But the biggest drawback has been the hard drive. I still have the hard drive that was shipped with the computer which is a measly 80GB.

Until recently this swap would have cost hundreds of pounds

Until recently buying a larger hard drive has been an expensive proposition and I thought a difficult thing to achieve. Fortunately as the price of memory continues to drop to unheard of levels I can now pick up an appropriate 500gb hard drive for just £50! What is also fortunate is that my Macbook was one the last of the that Apple let you disassemble yourself. No unibody sealed compartments to worry about, just some neatly designed slots that you access through the battery compartment. Through the wonders of Time Machine, Apple’s back up and restore service it has been a relatively simple swap over and re-install process.

The last remaining issue is the processor, at 1.66GHz it is not too shabby and enough for most operations but when Photoshop, Illustrator or a 3D CAD program start doing some intensive operations it does struggle a bit. Thankfully my freelancing days seem to be over and I don’t need to worry too much about that now.

Apple have gone down in my views lately, part of the wonderful things about the Mac was that you could develop open source, free programs that were useful.  Macs were for the little guys, the start up professionals that just wanted things that worked without the horrible clunky faffing of Windows, An operating system that they could tinker with, and have access to all they needed without going down the horrible Microsoft route. Most importantly Apple Mac did things better than the other guys. They also used to last forever, I used to work at a packaging and print house and we had an incredibly old iMac running one of the early versions of OS7 which was still chugging along as a print server and scanner station among other tasks.

Features from IOS, the mobile operating system for the ipad and iphone have started to make their way into OSX and in my opinion I am not sure they are for the best. The controlling approach of the new age of Apple is not why I bought the computer and of course, rule number 1 of effective industrial design: form should follow function, not the other way round. I hope Apple, and software developers for them will continue to keep to the traditions that Mac has always been about.

With a revived Macbook I should hopefully be able to make it last another couple of years through to when a desktop computer may become more appropriate. Until then, it’s the same old tried and tested workhorse that has been just about everywhere I have for nearly 4 years.

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About Peter Woodthorpe

I am a Research Design Engineer living in Leeds, West Yorkshire in the United Kingdom as well as a Childrens Worker for Kidz Klub Leeds. I hold a International Master of Design degree from the University of Leeds.
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