When you have as many computers as we do (~30) there’s almost always at least one with a problem. This is something you don’t think about until you have a problem, and it’s always unexpected. My two-and-a-half year-old iBook just died. Well, it didn’t die – the display is not working correctly. Over a year ago, it started having the “angle of death” problem and I fixed it myself with a $15 part. That was a mistake, as laptops are filled with the tiniest screws you’ll ever see. And I doubt I put it back together correctly, hence this new problem with the display.

I’m sad about it. I loved that iBook and got lots of use out of it, even on our honeymoon last year. But more importantly, I expect all computers to last a minimum of three years, and many more actually. I love the fact that I used the first computer I ever bought in 1992 every day til just a couple years ago (and it is still fine, just too slow to be useful). Laptops generally suck for reliability, they’re more expensive than a desktop and they’re too proprietary, requiring specialized parts and lacking expandability the way a desktop computer can be expanded with a hard drive, more RAM, a new video card, etc.

I considered getting a PC laptop and running Linux on it thinking a PC laptop should be less expensive than a Mac laptop, but when I looked into the prices of a ThinkPad, for example, I found that PC laptops are more expensive than a comparable Mac laptop! Man, the PC industry is a scam! PC laptops are the crappiest pieces of hardware I’ve ever seen… they’re generally big, bulky, cheaply-made and, frankly, ugly as can be (“black is the new beige”). Sorry to you PC laptop owners, but if you think your PC isn’t ugly or is well-made, go to an Apple store and see an Apple laptop in person.

And although I love Linux for servers, Gnome is just no OS X. Why pay more for less? So I just ordered a new 12” Powerbook! (and I got it for 10% off, but I’m not telling how.)

The 12” PowerBook is even smaller and lighter than my 12” iBook. And at 1.5GHz, it’s faster than my 1.25GHz PowerMac (although it has dual CPUs, so it might be a wash).

On buying a Mac vs a PC

What does a potential buyer see when they check out the web stores for Dell, IBM and Apple? Which one makes your decision easier?

Dell’s line of laptops consists of the “Inspiron 600M”, “Inspiron 700m” (yes, lowercase ‘m’), “Inspiron 1150”, “Inspiron 6000”, and the “Inspiron 9300”. Which one is more expensive, the Inspiron 6000 or the 600M? You’d guess the 6000, right, but you’d be wrong, the 6000 is the 2nd least-expensive model, yet the 9300 is the most expensive. In order of least- to most-expensive: 1150, 6000, 600M, 700M and 9300. I can’t figure out the logic in it and I like numbers.

IBM’s ThinkPad line consists of the “ThinkPad R”, the “ThinkPad T”, the “ThinkPad X” and the “ThinkPad G”. Which one’s for you? Who knows? Which one is the low-end and which one is the high-end? No idea. Alphabetical? Yes! The G is the least expensive and the X is the most expensive. And as you pay more, you get a better-looking at more powerful machine. Not terribly simple, but not as lousy as Dell.

What about Apple’s store? They have two models: the iBook and the PowerBook. applelaptops.gif Which one is more powerful? The PowerBook, of course. Which one is more expensive? The PowerBook, of course. There are several models of each, but do they name them “iBook 3450” or “PowerBook XTR”? No. They call them the “12-inch”, “15-inch” and “17-inch”. What does that refer to? The screen size, of course. The tech specs are details, as they should be. And the prices are linear… bigger laptop equals more powerful equals bigger price. Simple and logical.

Now…. click to buy a laptop at either IBM’s or Dell’s site and you have to customize. To do that, you’re given pages and pages of words and question after question to asnwer. Do you want Office? Do you want the “Ultrabay Slim” CD drive, the “Multi-Burner Plus Ultrabay Slim Drive”, or just the “Multi-Burner Ultrabay Slim Drive”? Do you want the Sprint PCS Wireless LAN Card or the IBM 11a/b/g Wireless Cardbus Adapter? What about a Belkin SurgeMaster or a ThinkPad X40 Series 8 Cell Li-ion battery? Wanna buy a printer or a printer cable? How about a Logitech 980185-403 Premium Stereo Headset? A Targus DEFCON Authenticator with USB Hub? (You do want to be authenticated, don’t you?) A stainless steel Henckel knife set? Roxio Easy Media Creator? MIcrosoft Project or Visio? Apricorn’s SMART-ER? Which antivirus software do you want: “Norton Antivirus 2004 brown box” or “Symantec’s Norton AntiVirus 2005”? (I was kidding about the knife set.)

Is it any surprise that PC buyers always say “I want a computer, but I don’t know what to get!”?

Apple gives five options: size of memory (not “RAM”), hard drive size, a display (not a “monitor”), English or Spanish keyboard and AppleCare warranty. Simple and easy.