Phytotron's stupid computer blog

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Phytotron
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Phytotron's stupid computer blog

Post by Phytotron »

Alright, so my computer since 2002 had been a snow CRT iMac, G3 PowerPC, 600MHz, 256RAM, 40 gig HD, yadda yadda. Well, thing up and died on me a few weeks back. Had it looked at, but all they could did was pull the HD for me, for which I got one of those USB/Firewire enclosures.

Anyhow, I'm on a loaner now, but am looking to get a used cheap desktop Mac to replace it (prolly off fleabay, unless someone knows of a better, reputable source). Might as well step up a bit, but not too far. I'm looking at those with a G4 1+GHz, 512+MB RAM, etc. That should suit my uses just fine. Also, trying to keep it at or around US$300, less is better, eh.

The question is, which system? There seem to be four that match the above criteria, each with various sort of selling points: a) iMac "lamp" - b) Mac mini - c) eMac - d) the PowerMac towers (Quicksilver and MDD)

So, if all else is equal in terms of specs, what are the benefits and drawbacks of each of these, and would one be considered a best option?

Remember, I'm not a geek or tinkerer nor a gamer. I don't need something high end (as noted) or modular (i.e., adding cards and drives).

Might it be smarter to get the mini or a PowerMac since if/when the monitor gets messed up or dies, I wouldn't have to replace the entire computer, as I presumably would with the iMac lamp?

So, any and all relevant thoughts would be appreciated.
Last edited by Phytotron on Sat Jul 28, 2012 12:10 am, edited 3 times in total.

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DDMJ
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Post by DDMJ »

The mac mini seems like it would be a good fit for you.

I wouldn't trust buying an old/used laptop and the desktop computers that come included with a screen are probably more than you need.

Again, this is assuming you already have a decent display.

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Post by Phytotron »

Let me clarify a bit. I do want a desktop, not a laptop (wife has that covered). I do not have a stand-alone display at the moment, but I was figuring the combined cost of a PowerMac or a Mac mini plus a display might equal the cost of the iMac. (?) Then if down the road the display went to crap (e.g., dead pixels, scratches, dent, discoloration, or just dies), I wouldn't have to replace the entire thing, only the display. I do have the keyboard and mouse from my previous iMac.

I mentioned it not needing to be modular, in terms of making upgrades, but should I consider that actually? I think I read the mini can be difficult to get into. I don't want to hot-rod and all that, and never really saw the need to upgrade/expand my iMac (could've added RAM, but never did), but...?

"All else being equal" meant to reference the processor, RAM, and HD capacity, but I wasn't thinking about HD speed. I've just learned that apparently the Mac mini has a slower laptop HD. That might bug me. Anything to consider there, that anyone is aware of?

I admit I committed the forum sin of asking a question before doing much simple research myself (plenty of other forums have similar topics, I've found), a sin which I normally detest. Still, I would like as much input as I can get, especially from any of you who may have first-hand experience with these.

Couple other notes: I use Photoshop 7. I've heard the PowerMac towers can be noisy; I can't have that if true. What's up with the eMac being so cheap? I see one with equal specs to, for instance, that iMac lamp but going for $100-150. Is it the CRT?

Anything else. Be as elaborate and detailed as you like. :)
Last edited by Phytotron on Fri Nov 14, 2008 6:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

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DDMJ
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Post by DDMJ »

Phytotron wrote:I mentioned it not needing to be modular, in terms of making upgrades, but should I consider that actually? I think I read the mini can be difficult to get into. I don't want to hot-rod and all that, and never really saw the need to upgrade/expand my iMac (could've added RAM, but never did), but...?
If you want to upgrade/expand after you've bought it (go inside and mess around), the PowerMac is definitely the way to go.

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Post by Tank Program »

If you're not planning on doing anything special, all things probably ARE equal. Go for the best price. Anyone of the systems you mention has a strength and weakness that's going to be either reflected in the cost or the overall performance, but none of those features sound like they're going to make any difference to your usage.
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Post by Z-Man »

I'd go with a Mac Mini. While they're not good to upgrade, it should still be reasonably possible to upgrade those parts that matter most for everyday tasks (Memory and HD). Unless you're doing video editing, the slower speed of the notebook HD shouldn't matter too much. The separate display is a bonus. I typically get a very good display and keep it over several computer upgrades, but maybe that's just me.

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Post by Loor »

I have my mac mini plugged into our 67" LCD TV, with a wireless keyboard and mouse on the coffee table.

I think Apple should upgrade the mac mini soon though, to follow the silver and black trend.

So you could buy one now, or wait it out.
But I suggest the Mac Mini too, if you don't need a laptop. The Mac Pro's are usually quite expensive.

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Post by FourMJR »

Loor wrote:I have my mac mini plugged into our 67" LCD TV, with a wireless keyboard and mouse on the coffee table.

I think Apple should upgrade the mac mini soon though, to follow the silver and black trend.

So you could buy one now, or wait it out.
But I suggest the Mac Mini too, if you don't need a laptop. The Mac Pro's are usually quite expensive.
Take a look at this, Here. Now it does talk about there Holiday Line up. But I suppose that since the Mini hasn't been updated since early January 2007, there bound to update it either the Holidays or next year.

As for your problem, why not a refurbished mac? There cheap and have good quality.
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Phytotron
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Post by Phytotron »

To reiterate, I'm trying to keep it at around $300 (or less). Refurbs I've seen have been either too expensive, or I could get a better grade for the same or cheaper buying used. (Retail is for suckers!)

Meanwhile, I've been doing a little research on my own. Here are some of the pros and cons I've derived thus far:

PowerMac
Pros
• Easily expandable/upgradable, if necessary, and therfore might carry on longer.
• Is separate from the monitor. Were the monitor to malfunction or fail in some way, I wouldn't be left with a perfectly good computer that would have to be ditched along with it. Likewise, conversely, were the computer to fail, I wouldn't have to get rid of and replace a perfectly good monitor.
• Some have the dual core processors.
• Some come with two hard drives.
• Appears to be had rather cheaply.
Cons
• Bulky, but that's not really an issue for me.
• Many I've seen have already been upgraded, negating that bonus, and there's also that "bottleneck" thing with respect to the CPU.
• Is reportedly extraordinarily loud and noisy (due to a cruddy fan and power supply, or sumpin). I can't stand that. Can't do it. This alone more than likely takes it out of consideration; it's that big a deal on my constitution.

Mac mini
Pros
• Has a small footprint, although the flipside of the bulk coin, not really an issue.
• Same benefit as above of being separate from the monitor.
• Some have dual core, I think.
• Uh, neato for being so tiny? Heh.
Cons
• Apparently is a bastid to open up and some components can't be replaced or upgraded, even though this isn't something I've bothered with in the past, except for RAM.
• Slow laptop harddrive. Compared to a 3.5 in a desktop with similar specs (e.g., processor, RAM), would apparently be noticeably slower performance (OSX uses a lot of VM so it's more relevant, from what I read). Some people recommend replacing it with a faster one or using an external, but I don't think I'd want to futz with that.
• For some reason, seem to be equal to or more expensive than iMacs of the same or better grade (processor, RAM, etc), making it not as cost-effective to buy the monitor separately.

iMac "lamp"
Pros
• All-in-one, set it up and go, common, swively display, yadda yadda.
Cons
• Flipside of having the monitor separate. As far as I'm aware it's not easily or economically replaceable. If either it or the computer goes afoul, gotta throw out and replace the whole dang thing.
• More expandable/upgradable than the mini, but maybe not as much as the tower. (Not sure on that, or again, how much it matters.)
• Uses laptop size mini RAM sticks, I think? Are these more expensive?

eMac -- the wildcard
Pros
• Super cheap, even with specs well exceeding the above. One could be had for around $150 (or less) compared to the iMac approaching $300, more or less.
• All-in-one, etc.
• Larger display than my previous iMac (17" vs. 14"), and flat.
Cons
• The CRT's are reportedly low-end and only have a life of 2 or so years.
• At least one generation of them suffer from the "capacitor plague."
More about the last two: http://www.sunrisepage.com/machardware/emac.htm

General test comparisons:
http://www.barefeats.com/piei.html
http://www.barefeats.com/mini01.html

Then there are all the pros and cons concerning LCD vs. CRT, but many of you are probably aware of those so I'll leave it out. (However, I'll just mention, I dislike the display of an LCD, especially since I do some photo work, and am not fond of dead pixels; however the CRT has the non-green issues and can have a short lifespan which isn't encouraging. Ambivalent there.)

So, have I missed anything? Anything else to consider?

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Post by Jonathan »

Phytotron wrote:• Is reportedly extraordinarily loud and noisy (due to a cruddy fan and power supply, or sumpin). I can't stand that. Can't do it. This alone more than likely takes it out of consideration; it's that big a deal on my constitution.
AFAIK only the more recent machines (IIRC starting from G4 MDD) were really loud. Ah, the Wikipedia article confirms that. The G5s were also good at making noise, but that seems to be an overreaction to dynamic clock speed scaling. A dual 1.8 GHz that I have some experience with would stay fairly quiet, rarely speeding the fans up, and when it did just barely, if I fixed the clock speed to lowest or even highest in energy saver preferences. On automatic the fans would speed up and become much louder if you did, well, anything. But a mini should still be quieter than a PowerMac G5 at fixed speed.
Phytotron wrote:• Slow laptop harddrive. Compared to a 3.5 in a desktop with similar specs (e.g., processor, RAM), would apparently be noticeably slower performance (OSX uses a lot of VM so it's more relevant, from what I read). Some people recommend replacing it with a faster one or using an external, but I don't think I'd want to futz with that.
More RAM should help to counter some of it, since commonly-used things will stay cached in RAM. 1 to 2 GB should do if you don't do really heavy stuff. It won't help with boot time, streaming of e.g. uncompressed video, or opening/saving of large files once in a while, but it will keep responsiveness from being hit too hard by a slow disk. In fact more RAM can result in more performance gain than a faster disk. Which is faster really depends on the situation. Basic home use isn't affected much by either, BTW, though a snappier feel is of course a plus. Note that those laptop disks with slow rotation speeds are also noticeably quieter, which is nice in a machine that has quiet or even passive cooling.
Phytotron wrote:Then there are all the pros and cons concerning LCD vs. CRT, but many of you are probably aware of those so I'll leave it out. (However, I'll just mention, I dislike the display of an LCD, especially since I do some photo work, and am not fond of dead pixels; however the CRT has the non-green issues and can have a short lifespan which isn't encouraging. Ambivalent there.)
FYI, colors can be quite good on modern quality LCDs. Do research panel types and be sure to get one you like, or a CRT if no LCD outweighs that for you. I'm personally fond of modern IPS derivatives, which compete on all fronts including color and response time (TRUE response time, not just anti-ghosting tech that adds a delay before anything happens at all, and overshoots in some displays). They're rarely the very best on any one front, but overall they're neat.
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Post by QUARG »

I myself have been using a emac 1.25G with 1 GIG of ram for the past 5 years without incident. I know there were some reports of screen troubles but from what i have read and experienced with mine that can be fixed with the simple addon of external speakers. When sound levels are high with the internal speakers the screen seems to shimmer, i dont know if its the variation in magnetic field of the speakers or just the physical vibrations.

As for bag for your buck most of the reviews i have seen have placed the emacs G4 generation higher on the ladder than the Imac G4's. System performance is exellent even when running the larger apps like Photoshop (though the extra ramis a must).

The only components i have added are ram and a larger HD which i did at home and was quite simple. The most interesting modification that i still haven't done is screen spanning to allow you to use 2 screens and move the mouse across both. http://lowendmac.com/evan/05/0201.html

If i were you i would go with the emac for its low cost and moderate strength for your application.

Here is a link for a good comparison. http://www.barefeats.com/piei.html

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Post by Monkey »

Phytotron:

I don't use a Mac, I use a PC so I can't give advise on the computer side of things.

However, as far as the monitor goes, I have used CRT's all my life (excluding laptops of course) and I can safely say that CRT technology is *very* reliable nowadays. I have a cheap shadow mask CRT that I have been using for the last 7 years and have had no issues with it. Aperture grille CRTs are even better (despite the 2 feint lines that some people don't like).

LCDs, although they have improved a lot since they first hit the mainstream, still just don't have the image quality of CRTs, their contrast ratio is lame and I also don't like the idea of having only one native resolution. The only real advantages that I can see for LCDs are 1) lower power consumption 2) Less screen glare (only matters if you have your back to a window) 3) Widescreen (if you consider that an advantage).

I am hoping to avoid LCDs altogether until SEDs come out, which will pwn in all areas.
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Post by Phytotron »

Hmm, why did I place an exclamation point in the title?

New rule: any use of the word "pwn" or its variants should elicit an automatic "Dipshit Words Tax" fee to the government, redirected toward rescuing the economy. Others to incluide: hella, woot, LOL and its variants, douchebag as slang, among countless others. We ought to be in recovery in no time.


Those orders of business out of the way.... Going by a couple of the more useful responses, plus my own research, I guess I'm just going to keep an eye on the craiglist and other local sources for deals. I'm pretty much ruling out ebay. I was already long aware of the fact that ebay is a major seller's market from using it for guitar and other instrument "gear," as well as seeing absurd things like used CDs that are still in print selling for $15 excluding shipping. I don't know who these idiot buyers are. But anyway, I had kind of hoped that the planned obsolescence of computers might drive down their resale value more by comparison. Not so much. Factor in the mindless "boo-teek" and "lifestyle" aura that surrounds Apple products on top of it. So, ebay is out. So are other online retailers of used/refurbed computers, whose prices aren't much better. Plus, I would prefer to check things out in person before buying, to inspect the potential issues each has. Also, that Mac mini is out. The resale on those is absurd, especially for what they are—or perhaps more aptly, aren't. And like I said, I don't really want to exceed $300.

I think it's bullshit that the main thing that makes computers obsolete for the average user is the internet, because of all the goddamn flash and java everyone is embedding all over their webpages these days, causing the "frozen browser syndrome." And I'm not talking youtube or anything like that, either. Just regular browsing, reading. Bah!

I also think the gubment should break up Apple and force them to separate the OS from the hardware. I also think that some Linux geek should make a version that has a UI similar to Mac OSX (or even 9, or a combination—doesn't have to be identical to either), and doesn't require use of any command-line or other such bullshit either. And make it free, of course.

So, er, yeah, in case anyone was wondering about where this went. :roll:

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Re: Calling Mac'sters for system advice!

Post by Phytotron »

Welp, finally got a 1.42 eMac, with 1 GB RAM already installed. Paid $125. Only issue (which of course I didn't notice until I got it home) is a light line of greenish tinge running down the edge of each side of the screen, mostly noticeable with a blank white page open. Something to do with the CRT, I reckon. Bastid! Oh well, I just won't Photoshop under the 1cm on each side. The built-in speakers are terrible, and I'm not too fond of the heat it puts out (although, actually, I may like it come winter), or the fan (considering the iMac was silent), but it's tolerable. Running Tiger 10.4.11, probably won't go to Leopard; there doesn't seem to be any reason, unless I want sluggish, glitchy performance. Next up, transferring all my old files onto here. Woopee.

Just to test, I did download 0.2.8.2.1 to see how it would comparatively perform. Actually, not much improvement over my G3 iMac mentioned in the first post. Sure, the framerate was better, to a point. But some other issues remained. However, seeing how a) the servers all suck big-time nowadays anyway, and b) the "community" is a bunch of trash kids (or at least act like it), and c) the development team seems more interested in adding bells and whistles and gimmicky game modes over improving basic functionality and whatnot, and so thusly d) I don't play anymore anyway, it doesn't really matter, at least where AA is concerned.
So, er, yeah, in case anyone was wondering about where this went. :roll:
Last edited by Phytotron on Sun Aug 23, 2009 9:47 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Calling Mac'sters for system advice!

Post by Word »

Phytotron wrote:Welp, finally
SPELLING FAIL (just want to point out that I'm not the only one here who makes mistakes XD)

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