Recycled Computing

Apple's Almost Netbook

- 2010.03.08

Withholding Judgment on the iPad

I've reached a major decision. I am not going to write aboutthe iPad under I get my sweaty hands onone, which is not going to be for four more weeks. I stopped in thelocal Apple Store (an hour's drive away) the other day and got theword. They won't see one until the end of March, and they are notgetting any earlier iPads to play with.

There's a real reason that I need to touch the iPad: the virtualkeyboard. Mr. Mike, our in-house computer repairman, feels that becauseApple is marketing a separate keyboard with an attached dock for theiPad, it is admitting that the virtual keyboard will not work forextended typing. I don't know. I want to see if I can use the virtualkeyboard to type a column, so I am reserving my thoughts on theusability of the iPad until I can use one.

There is one thing I'd like to talk about concerning the iPad: Userinterface. Keyboards are an input device that predates the personalcomputer. When Apple introduced the mouse with the Lisa in 1983, it was the startof introducing a different way for users to interact with computers.The iPod touch continued this tradition, and the iPad scales up theiPod's gesture-based interface.

Pismo PowerBookApplehas expanded the touch pads of its notebooks to allow users to use agesture interface, and nowadays when I am using my Pismo PowerBook on theInternet, I catch myself wanting to use the "pinch" and "tap"features.

Now that the iPad has almost arrived, it extends Apple's changes tohow we interact with our computers. Will we be able to substitute atouch interface instead of resorting to a physical keyboard? We'll havethe answer in a month.

Apple's Almost Netbook

It may well be all moot anyway. We have been replacing damagedG4 iBooks in our school with thewhite MacBooks. Mr. Mikehas also been fixing the more salvageable G4s to extend their lives andsave us some greenbacks. One of the computers we were going to give upon was a 12" PowerBook G4.

You knew that I was going to offer to see what I could do to try tobring it back from the dead. Predictable, I suppose.

If - and I say if - I can bring the old PowerBook back, I will havethe Holy Grail of the Mac universe: a Mac netbook.*

12" PowerBook G4Yeah, you heard me.

Long before the current Windows netbook craze, Apple made asubcompact notebook computer that measures 10.9" x 8.6" x 1.18" andweighs 4.6 lb.

Not only would this give me another unusual Mac to use, but I couldalso install Mac OS X 10.5"Leopard" on it and compare that with the OS X 10.4 "Tiger" install on myPismo. (I am joining the modern world - just at my own speed.)

Finally, I could also see if a small size factor makes that much ofa difference. Is the netbook a passing fad? Inquiring minds will wantto know.

Beat to Pieces

Now for the bad news. This PowerBook was issued to the Athleticdepartment. I don't want to generalize, but perhaps it should have beencovered with Nerf™ material first. The corner where the batterylives is mangled from some sort of impact (perhaps some sort oftraining accident?). Tape was used to secure the battery. There are acouple of other indentations, coffee stains, and a missing key on thekeyboard.

Would it start? Well, yes, it would boot up!

Of course, the screen was as dark and murky as a House committeemeeting. That's why it was abandoned.

Fortunately, I discovered a 12" display screen from an iBook, so allI have to do is take the screen out of the PowerBook, replace thescreen, and then button the whole thing back up again. Of course, thewhole computer has to be take apart to get the display off. Then I'llhave to take the display apart and swap the screen with the new(relatively) screen.

I'll keep you posted. LEM

* Editor's note: There is no strict definition fora netbook. Although the first netbook had a tiny 8.9" x6.5" footprint, a minuscule 7" display, and weighed just two pounds,netbooks have become larger over the years to accommodate biggerdisplays, higher capacity batteries, and more useful - closer tostandard size - keyboards. Nowadays a netbook is more likely to have a10.1" display, a 10.3" x 7.2" footprint, and weigh 2.5 to 3.0 lb.Netbooks are typified as being small, light, cheap, having shrunkenkeyboards, having no provision for an internal optical drive, and usingsingle-core CPUs at clock speeds (typically 1.6 GHz) that nobody wouldchoose for a real notebook.

In terms of size, the 12" PowerBook comes close. Interms of weight, not hardly. It also has a full sized keyboard, a morepractical screen size, and was not designed to be cheap - pricesstarted at $1,500. CPU speeds were only a step behind the 15"PowerBook, although by today's standards even the fastest 12" PowerBookcan barely keep up with a $300 netbook in overall processing power.

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