Simon Willison’s Weblog

Mac buying advice needed

I’m in the market for a new laptop, and I’m almost 100% certain it’s going to be a Mac. I’m going to be using it as my primary personal computing platform, but the vast majority of what I do with a computer is browsing, using email and messing around Python, Apache and other geeky toys. I’m sorely tempted by one of the 14" iBooks. Since I’ll be using this thing a lot (and I’ve never been a huge fan of laptop keyboards) 12 inches seems to small, and I’m not convinced that the extra cash for a PowerBook is worthwhile now that iBooks go up to 1 GHz.

One major concern is that this is likely to be my only computer purchase for the next couple of years, and will likely be the machine that gets me through my final year of University. With this in mind, I’m not sure if shelling out the extra for a PowerBook is a better investment than I think it is.

I’m hoping that a fair number of Mac users will read this, so here’s a whole bunch of questions that have come up during my research:

  1. Buy from Apple, or buy from some other place like MacMall? Is it worth shopping around for a good deal or does Apple fix the prices to the point that I may as well buy straight from them?
  2. Will I really, really regret buying an iBook right now in a few weeks time? The Mac Rumours Buyer’s Guide says “Buy—Product recently updated” as the iBook was last updated 54 days ago. I’m just worried that the price will go down significantly after Christmas.
  3. RAM. I’ve been told that it’s best to buy the lowest configuration system from Apple and upgrade the memory myself. If I do this, where are good places to buy compatible memory online?
  4. Battery life: how long can I expect a standard iBook to last on battery? Is the expensive upgrade to add a second battery worth the investment?
  5. Are there additional advantages to getting a PowerBook over an iBook that I haven’t considered?
  6. Finally, a question about Virtual PC. Now that Microsoft have bought it can I still use it to run Linux? I know it’s possible to run most Linux software on OS X but I really like the idea of a sandboxed Linux install I can futz with without fear of destroying anything, especially since we use Linux heavily at work.

This is Mac buying advice needed by Simon Willison, posted on 16th December 2003.

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Previously hosted at http://simon.incutio.com/archive/2003/12/16/macBuyingAdvice