Sunday, November 08, 2009

How do you replace a dead iBook in late-2009?

My trusty old iBook is finally dead.

Really dead.

Alas. I do have to admit, it was a good six years; but this puts me in the position now of having to contend with the reality of going on the computer hunt.

And for all the Geek in me, that's really the last thing I want to do.

So, I asked around on Twitter for some advice. After all, it's been six year since I last bought a laptop. Things have changed.

First bit of advice suggested a Tablet-PC. Now, I have nothing against a Tablet, per se; but I've got a work-issued one that -- while practical as a work computer -- languishes with regards to its Tablet-functionality. This is primarily due to my resistance towards using MS Office products.

As this Tablet is set up, OneNote is the go-to program for all pen uses. I just find OneNote clunky, and so it goes unused.


Well, one Twitterer (@tjmeister) suggested PenOffice as an open source solution. Would love to hear reader comments from folks familiar with the app.

Second up was Netbooks. Now, a way's back I bought two Netbooks for my twin sons. And while I love the simple functionality of the little computers, I nearly wracked my mind dealing with the correct (and not constantly overloading) security solutions. The obvious solution is a Linux -- or perhaps in the near future, a Mac -- Netbook alternative. And, though it may be hard to conceptualize in words, I do think some convergence of Netbook and SmartPhone is on the horizon; perhaps with a bio/light-operated, non-physical keyboard and a self-projection screen.

Engineers, feel free to get in touch.

Next up were the SmartPhones (as they exist currently). And while I'm pretty crazy about the new Android (seems like they just went through all of the criticism of the iPhone and came up with a solution for each), as a working-class teacher I'll admit to having to think twice before paying monthly for a data plan and cell minutes that add up to twice the cost of a PC laptop in twelve months time.

Lastly come the laptop replacements to my dead laptop. (Yes, I realize the irony in that six years ago this category would have come first).

I'm partial towards replacing my iBook with the smallest, most stripped-down MacBook Pro. But I wonder about the future of laptop computing and I question whether I really need all the crap that comes with a new one. I mean, why would I want any of the apps that come in free versions online? And do I really want to pay the big money for SnowLeopard when I see free alts on the horizon?

And so, here I stand at a quandry. I literally have no idea where to turn. And so, dear readers, I turn to you. Please give me your ideas. Where are we going with this mobile tech thing? Should I be thinking Netbook or Laptop? SmartPhone or SmartWallet?

Help me out here. Leave a comment and let's see where the TeachPaperless readership stands on this issue.


  1. Do you do much with music creation or video production? If you do get a MacBook. If you don't, try a netBook. Since you run mostly free apps, Netbook should be fine. The only issue I have had with a netbook is screen real estate. And of course there's that tablet rumor flying around.... Good Luck!

  2. I'm left with a quandary myself as my MacBook Pro now has a cracked screen. It's bleading black internally and is challening to work with though the hard drive is fine. My machine is only two years old, but is a $1200 repair?!

    I'm leaning towards a Macbook Air, but am unsure if I should wait for a newer model. Will reasonably priced Mac tablets arrive in 2010?

    I'll be interested to see what advice you get...

  3. Apple's netbook will be a large ipod touch running iphone OS. A multi touch screen somewhere around 8in. That will not be release until next year so it does not help you now. I think the screen and keyboard size are critical. I was using a old 10in thinkpad with 4/3 screen ration. It died and am currently using a macbook. What a huge difference the screen makes. The keyboard is nice and spacious too. After being on a MS Windows computer for most of my adult life I am blown away by OSX. There is a level of fidelity with local apps that is not there yet on the cloud based apps. If you do anything with video or photos or music, get a base level macbook.

  4. Currently the new White Macbook is speced higher than the base model MacBook Pro and costs less. So if you're going that way and don't care about aesthetics, then go a white MacBook.

  5. As Alice stated- it depends what you use your computer for. Maybe you could respond to that. This would target our comments a little better. I use the Macbook Pro because I am learning video and design. Otherwise it would not have necessarily been my first choice because of the expense.

  6. If money weren't an obstacle, I'd go for the best spec'd 13" MacBook Pro. That's just how I roll, though.

    In reality, I'd probably replace my 1st gen, lowest-spec'd MacBook with another White MacBook. I really like the look of the new ones.

    I'll never do bottom-specs again, though. I've learned my lesson. Google Wave absolutely drags my MacBook to a halt. I don't have a DVD burner, and editing even short videos means that's all my computer will do.

    I like the niceties of OS X enough that it's worth buying. I've run a few different flavors of Linux full-time for 6+ months and it wasn't bad, but there was some stuff I just missed.

    You were probably running Tiger on your iBook, weren't you?

  7. Knowing your passion for all things online, I would say go with a netbook or inexpensive laptop. For instance, Microcenter (local to Mpls.) has a Toshiba laptop for $350, close to a netbook but with full keyboard and screen.

    In the $300 range, I wouldn't be totally crushed if it only lasted a couple years. The key would be to put Ubuntu on it, or some other non-windows OS.

    Good luck!

  8. I used PenOffice extensivley for the 2005-2006 school year, through a wireless Wacom tablet hooked to a standard pc tower, then up to the projector screen.

    At the time, it was a great solution for what I needed - annotate over documents, write math on a blank surface, and control the computer without walking to my desk. However, that means Ii never relief on any of the crucial tablet features - convert writing to text, project-based note taking.

    A few years later on a school-provided Tablet PC, I used OneNote a lot. The writing or UI didn't swem any better than PenOffice, but I did like the "any media, any link, one file" conceptulization.

    In the summer of 2008, my wife and I both bought new machines. She got a white Macbooks for about $1000, and I picked up a crazy rebate 14" Acer machine from Staples for $300, and ran Ubunutu on it.

    I had been looking at a bunch of netbooks, but decided that I'm an old man who doesn't travel much, and opted for the bigger screen and keyboard. For a vast majority of tasks, it was good enough. Finding useful, meaningfull software was never a challenge. The build quality was crap, it was easily 7 lbs with a giant power adapter, and the battery quickly went to crap. When it last on my desk, or next to the couch, I was perfectly happy with it. But when we traveled,it was always the Macbook in the suitcase.

    If you live with you machine everyday, I think the engineering for both software experience and hardware on the Macbook is hard to beat. As Mel noted above, the current macbook/MBP distinction is really trivial (SD reader, lighted keyboard), and if you look around you can find the last set of Macbooks discounted down under $800.

  9. Before you give up on a tablet, take a look at InkSeine. I've been using it with my Dell Latitude XT2 and it works great. Much more intuitive.

  10. Keep us posted on your search and why you make the selection you do. I'm going to be in your shoes in a year-and-a-half when I retire from teaching and lose my school-issued Macbook. I'm intrigued by netbooks and have thought of relying exclusively on Google Docs. We'll see...

  11. Interesting quandary you find yourself in. I was in a similar position last June. I have a work-issued MacBook, but needed something for home and summer travel. Like you, I do the vast majority of my work using online apps. I was convinced I wanted a netbook until I saw a cheap Toshiba Satellite on sale for the same price as the netbook I wanted. After some quick online research, I ended up buying the netbook anyway. The deciding factors were size/weight, screen quality, and webcam. In all three categories the netbook won. The only drawback to my netbook is the screen is not quite large enough to run Google Earth properly.

    If you have a work-issued computer and you're really just looking for an online machine for home and travel, the netbook is a great option. That said, if money wasn't an obstacle I'd be tempted to get a MacBook Air. :)

  12. One more thing to add. Thanksgiving and the post Thanksgiving sales are just two weeks away. CNET and other outlets are running "sales feeds" on which they're sharing the best Black Friday electronics deals. If you can decide what you want by then, you might be able to come away with a great machine at a low price.


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