Thursday, July 31, 2014

Using Mac OS 9 For A Week

Nearly fourteen years ago Apple refreshed the iBook line of clamshell-style consumer notebooks with a more streamlined, white, rectangular design. What came of that was the 12 inch "Snow" iBook, which eventually grew up to become the iBook G4 and the MacBook.

Around this time, Apple was just getting its feet wet with Mac OS X, and using OS 9 was still a viable option. Sure, it didn't have protected memory or preemptive multitasking, or that delicious aqua UI, but it runs really well on 300+ MHz processors and 64+ MB of RAM. So, for the sake of seeing how well OS 9 runs on higher end hardware, I decided to do a test.

In 2002, Apple refreshed the Snow iBook G3 with high speed processors, 128 MB of RAM, and 16 MB of VRAM. These things were screamers. And with 5 hour battery life, and AirPort wireless, they were the ideal mobile computers for students and consumers alike.

For my purposes, I did this test on a 700 MHz Snow iBook G3 with 384 MB of RAM, 16 MB of VRAM, a DVD/CD-RW combo drive, AirPort wireless, and Mac OS 9.2.2. This is the last known iBook able to boot into straight OS 9 without the need for OS X and a classic environment. For my tests, it was perfect.

So the question arises, what in the hell is it like to run solely on Mac OS 9, an OS that hasn't been supported for over 12 years, in the insane internet world of today?

Not too shabby, actually.

Mind you, I still used my iPhone 5S for a lot of things, but this holds true most often anyways. In today's world, the mobile phone is pretty much everybody's workhorse, regardless. So, although I didn't live the 99' lifestyle in full, I still experienced mostly OS 9.2.2, and that's all that really counts- right?

Let me quickly name some helpful apps I found useful during my experience:

Classilla- web browser with modern capabilities- no WebKit, but still functional  for most mobile webpages. 

iTunes 2.0.4- just no frills iTunes for some jukebox action while working

Microsoft Office 98- this actually ran really well on my iBook, and I never found myself needing any of the newer features office has to offer. 

Marathon Trilogy- because hey, a boys gotta have fun, right? 

Simple Edit- text editor bundled with OS 9. Nothing much else to report here. 

Outlook Express 5.0.6- for email. Runs really well. Doesn't manage images as well as one would hope, but it's sufficient for basic emailing. 

So a week out, what did I find? You really can't live within a pre-post PC computer in a post-PC world. The internet is vastly different from what it was in 2002, when Apple terminated support for OS 9. As a result, while OS 9 screams on a 700 MHz processor and 384 MB of RAM, it totally falls apart with even the most basic modern internet tasks. 

Don't try this at home. R.I.P. Classic Macs. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Why 7 Inch Tablets Will Eventually Be Extinct

I was always really interested in tablet computing. When the first iPad came out, I bought it. But then I gave it to my sister since I rarely used it. When the Asus Nexus 7 came out, I bought it. But then I sold it to my friend since I rarely used it. More recently, I was given an iPad mini. I wanted to give tablets one more fair shake before I cast them off for good. And I did. And I sold it and bought one of the newer Chromebooks.

Here's the thing: I have two devices that pretty much "do it" for me. I have an iPhone 5S, and I have a Dell Inspiron 5447 with a Core i7 and 8 GB of RAM under the hood running Ubuntu like a champ. Along with those two, I have an Acer C720 Chromebook with 4 GB of RAM and a Haswell Celeron.

I'm not saying tablets are useless, but honestly, small ones are.

With everything a smartphone can do now, and with larger phones becoming a reality, there doesn't seem to be a use-case for smaller tablets. The extra screen real estate is welcome, but not a major requirement.

As for larger tablets, I fully understand why some people might find them to be useful. But for me, an up and coming Electrical Engineering student at the #hottestcollegeinamerica, I don't need a tablet at all. A notebook computer, no, TWO notebook computers and a fast 64-bit smartphone are satisfying. Games are bright and incredible on both, and when all is said and done, if I don't want to lug around either of my notebooks, I can bring my bluetooth keyboard with me and I can type on my phone. It's not completely ideal, but it works, and I have a feeling someone will come up with a laptop that relies on smartphones to power it sometime soon.

If the latest Apple rumors are true, there are two new iPhones coming out: a 4.7 inch device, and a Galaxy Note-like 5.5 inch device. I'm gonna be blunt, if you have a 5.5 inch phone, ya don't need a 7 inch tablet. The size difference just isn't significant enough to justify adding a secondary device. Even so, 4.7 inch displays are quite large and are still great for all sorts of applications, including media watching.

There's a reason Steve Jobs condemned the production of sub-10-inch tablets: they aren't productive. They're toys that do little more than a smartphone. The beauty of the iPhone in its current shape and design is its comfort as a pocket device as well as a beautiful media player. I've found my iPhone has become my go-to device for everything, even productivity uses. And if I had to write a paper on something, I went to my notebook, NOT my tablet. I assume most people will and do do the same thing.

Before you go out and buy a 7 inch tablet, think about it. Do you already have a notebook AND a good smartphone? What will you use it for? Isn't Netflix better on a bigger screen anyhow? Boom, Apple TV. Chromecast. Roku. We have cheaper devices that solve this issue. And if you really must have a great display on the go for watching movies and other content, shell out the cash for a larger, 10 inch device. You'll thank yourself for it later.