Upgeade Pismo or Save For Used MacBook Pro?

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unknown1's picture
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I got a nearly working Pismo off ebay for $46 and with parts from my first (non working) Pismo I bought off eBay for $66 I was able to get everything but the DVD drive to work. I really like it though it is bigger than I am used to for carting around (moved up from a 12" 3400).

I would like to upgrade it to the max like I did my 3400 four or five years ago, but this would cost about $500. The problem is by that time OS X probably won't be supporting Power PC Macs and neither will the latest software (90% of which I probably won't need, neither would it run on a 550MHz G4 much less on a 400MHz G3!)

But I am thinking, should I just use the Pismo as-is for now (maybe fix the DVD drive and Get OS X 10.3.9 on it). And then save the money and get a used MacBook or MacBook Pro? I know the early models of both had problems, but there should be fixes or work arounds, or just skip the first generation.

What do you think?

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Russell - Unknown1 - Idaho USA
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dankephoto's picture
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It all comes down to what you need and how much you can afford now. Your needs? Your budget?

You can use pretty much any 'standard' laptop drive in the Pismo's optical drive sled. Heck, a used combo drive can be had for $20 or so, scour eBay for about 5 minutes.

dan k

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unknown1's picture
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Re: Any Laptop Optical Drive?!?

dankephoto wrote:

It all comes down to what you need and how much you can afford now. Your needs? Your budget?
You can use pretty much any 'standard' laptop drive in the Pismo's optical drive sled. Heck, a used combo drive can be had for $20 or so, scour eBay for about 5 minutes.
dan k

Funny, I have read your webpage several times but didn't notice that! I have been searching for specific models of DVD burners and finding them all in the $70 range. I shall search...

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Russell - Unknown1 - Idaho USA
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If I had a choice between spe

If I had a choice between spending $500 on upgrading a Pismo or spending $700 on a used Macbook, I'd pick a Macbook any day of the week. You're getting a lighter computer with a better screen and even the lowest end Intel macs are many times the speed of a Pismo.

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re: DVD burners

Oh bother, you didn't mention _that_ in your precis!! Yeah, burners cost $60 on up, but while a DVD burner would be _my_ choice, I figured your budget might not stretch that far. You can get a drive that can read DVDs for far less. Frankly, given the target system, it makes little sense pouring much money into a Pismo.

dan k

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unknown1's picture
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Re: Pismo vs. MacBook

moosemanmoo wrote:

If I had a choice between spending $500 on upgrading a Pismo or spending $700 on a used Macbook, I'd pick a Macbook any day of the week. You're getting a lighter computer with a better screen and even the lowest end Intel macs are many times the speed of a Pismo.

For speed the MacBook is great (amazing) but the 'Vampire Video' Intel 950 graphics make me want to spit. It seems to go against Apple's usual mantra of competing in the 'quality' market verses the $500 laptop market which the 950 graphics is best for.

Of course the 950 graphics are probably still better than my Pismo, so where is my point...

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Russell - Unknown1 - Idaho USA
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A little breakdown...

First my background reason for responding: I own a Pismo, which for the better part of a year was my primary computer at home (until February, when I finally repaired my G4 AGP w/1.2GHz upgrade). Through the same time period at work I have used a MacBook core 2 2.0GHz (and continue to do so). So, having worked daily with both machines for some time, and having considered doing exactly the same procedures as you are contemplating, I have concluded and would recommend using the Pismo as-is until you save enough for the MacBook. Here's why, as a little point-by-point, with topics in no order other than as they hit my brain-pan.

Pismo vs. MacBook
(1) Processors - 400 MHz G3 vs 2.0 GHz Intel Core 2 Dual = If all you are doing is writing papers & e-mail, surfing the web, light number-crunching, then the Pismo is fine. Remember that with the right software, not bloatware, even an old Mac Plus "thinks" way faster than you can type. If you want to watch streaming videos, or rip & burn DVDs, the G3 is SLOW, but CAN do it. The only real advantage of the G3 is being able to run OS 9 - and yes, I for one do consider that an advantage, as I have a ton of "Classic" programs and documents that the Intels can't run natively. At least with a G3 to G5 I can use Classic. With an Intel, I'll either have to port all my old documents to different formats (an enormous task, which I have started), or try using SheepShaver (which I haven't even played with yet). In all other considerations about processing power though, it isn't even a contest. Time to rip an 8 GB DVD on the Pismo is usually over an hour, up to 90 minutes. On the MacBook it's like 30 minutes - 45 tops. Plus, Intel is the wave of the future - you (hopefully) will be able to use a new MacBook for 8+ years, like the Pismos we are using which are 8 years old now.

BTW, I suggest you don't spend the money to put a DVD burner inside the Pismo - get a DVD player or Combo drive at most, and if you want to burn DVDs use an external burner. You'll get better performance and drive reliability/longevity, and can then continue to use that burner after you stop using the Pismo.

(2) Graphics - The MacBook wins, even with the vampire 950 graphics, because it can access way more memory than the 8 MB of the Pismo. If you aren't a graphics professional doing high-end stuff, believe me, you won't notice a slowdown or hiccup. On the Pismo, you'll notice it even when trying to watch YouTube.

(3) Other Factors for the MacBook = WiFi, bluetooth, USB 2 all built in, not additions via PCMCIA. Thinner, lighter. Built in camera.

(4) Other Factors for the Pismo = More comfortable keyboard (subjective, I know many people like the MacBook keyboard, but I still prefer the Pismo). The edge of the MacBook where you rest your palms is sharp, which gets uncomfortable very quickly. The possibility of 2 batteries = longer life unplugged (but I've never used that anyway).

So, having weighed all of that myself, I'm going to keep my Pismo as a backup, and I am saving for a MacBook or Intel Mini for my new main computer, after which I will sell off the G4 tower.

I hope that helps your thought process!

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Thanks for the insights

That pretty much goes along with what I am thinking.

Interesting point on the DVD burner, they do make a lot of heat (even my external SCSI 4x CD burner does). I think I will get this Pismo up and running stable with OS X 10.3.9 or something and keep it for fun. I would like to turn my 3400 into a photoframe, no use selling it for $25 and buying a $250 photo frame with half the capability!

I might still build oa Pismo for my six year old daughter as she covets mine. Besides, I have got to get her to learn something besides Windows and Internet Explorer to go to barbie.com!

I have some interesting mod ideas for the Pismo (probably best left to another thread) but I think I will use this one until I can afford a MacBook Pro or something.

I really like the 12" PowerBook though and they have been going for pretty good prices lately. Hmmmm, maybe a 12" Powerbook for the road and a 17" MacBook Pro for home?!? I guess a 20" iMac might be a better idea for home though, I don't think I would be carting the 17" around much.

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Re: Thanks for the insights

unknown1 wrote:

I really like the 12" PowerBook though and they have been going for pretty good prices lately. Hmmmm, maybe a 12" Powerbook for the road and a 17" MacBook Pro for home?!? I guess a 20" iMac might be a better idea for home though, I don't think I would be carting the 17" around much.

I guess the question I'd have at this point is, well... it seems like your budget is something converging on zero. (Seems like you've invested a lot of time and thought and daydreaming on about a hundred dollars' worth of scrap Pismo.) Are you *actually* seriously in the market for a "modern" OS X computer? It doesn't sound like you have a working Macintosh of even remotely current specs now, and are getting along "adequately" with Windows machines. Do you use an OS X computer in some other setting and that's motivating you to want to switch platforms, or is it something else? (If it's an anti-Microsoft thing, which I certainly sympathize with, there are cheaper solutions then Macs that don't involve buying special hardware.) I could be totally wrong on your budget constraints, of course. Even millionaires can be "cheap" unless properly motivated. But it does seem to come across as if *something* is keeping you from just ponying up for a *real* production Macintosh.

Not sure where I'm going with this, exactly, it's just... seems like if you're scraping and scrounging to get a damaged Pismo going maybe you're not an ideal Apple customer. The unpleasant and nasty truth is that PowerPC-based machines (*all of them*) might have another year or so where you can pretend that they're at least on the trailing edge of "current", but the Intel switchover has introduced a *serious* discontinuity which the used prices of PowerPC hardware haven't caught up with yet. "Universal Binary" packaging of software isn't going to last forever. Quite a few vendors are already speaking openly about when is it fair to stop distributing it. With that in mind it's already fair to say that at current prices (still in the $500-$700 ballpark for Powerbook G4s) that unless you're a collector, crazy, or stuck with some mission critical PowerPC-only application and need more seats (or replacements for dead units) the used Mac market is a dead end. The minimal entry point for getting a Macintosh with any sort of future is whatever refurb MacBooks are selling for this week. Or Minis, I suppose. Doesn't change things much. You're still looking at, oh, $700-$1000 bucks.

I guess I'm just saying it might be worth prioritizing before spending money. If your goal is to turn a $46 scrapheap computer into the best darn obsolete doorstop money can buy and you can afford it by all means upgrade Pismo. (Just remember that *nothing* you can do to a Pismo makes it "modern". It's already off that curve entirely, thanks to its video hardware. It's *obsolete*, period.) If your goal is to run OS X competently enough that you can rationally consider switching to it permanently then it's probably best to choke down the cost of a new or refurb Intel MacSomething, since the bang-for-the-buck is *much* better then dumping the money into the Pismo or an overpriced used Powerbook G4 (think 4x performance for less then 2x the price), and the Intel MacSomething comes with at least some assurance that it will run new software next year. If you're looking to "test drive" OS X to see if you *really want* to switch then maybe there's some in-between options (G4 towers are *almost* getting to the throwaway price range, and as long as you get one with a Radeon card or better it'll run OS X better then a Pismo), but you'll have to weigh the total costs carefully. (If you buy a $100 G4 tower and get tempted into dumping $400 worth of upgrades into it you've made a bad bang-for-buck mistake again.)

Anyway. That's my two-bit psychoanalyzing for the day. Have fun! ;^)

--Peace

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Re: Thanks for the insights

Eudimorphodon wrote:

I guess the question I'd have at this point is, well... it seems like your budget is something converging on zero. (Seems like you've invested a lot of time and thought and daydreaming on about a hundred dollars' worth of scrap Pismo.)

Anyway. That's my two-bit psychoanalyzing for the day. Have fun! ;^)

--Peace

Damn therapists! I told mine yesterday to stay off this board so I could keep up the impression that I know something and have a positive monetary net worth!

Yes, I am a dreamer, I have always liked Macs, would like to run OS X (never have though), have little budget in reality.

You have uncovered my fraud! I am so ashamed! I shall return to lurking... :[

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Many apologies...

unknown1 wrote:

Damn therapists! I told mine yesterday to stay off this board so I could keep up the impression that I know something and have a positive monetary net worth!

Yes, I am a dreamer, I have always liked Macs, would like to run OS X (never have though), have little budget in reality.

You have uncovered my fraud! I am so ashamed! I shall return to lurking... :[

I'm sorry if you took offense, here. :^b You know, the dirty little secret is I only use Macs because I get them from work, so absolutely no criticism intended. Last computer I actually spent significant money on was a fire-breathing gaming rig in 2001... which I promptly burnt out on after fighting my way through the first series of video-card and OS upgrades and hardly turned on again after getting a Playstation2. (Learned a valuable lesson there about wanting expensive things just for the sake of having them, and another lesson about how stupid it is to get caught up in a "keep up with the Joneses" upgrading cycle. Which can happen with upgrading old computers just as easily as new ones.)

Dreams are great, don't get me wrong. My jaded position just happens to be that computers are bad things to get emotionally involved in (IE, to dream about). Computers can shave joy and well-being off your life (and money out of your pocketbook) faster then a Flowbee on a Shop Vac shaves the hair off a terrified six year old when you get emotionally invested in them. From that perspective I guess it just seems to me that shoving overpriced upgrades into a flakey old computer trying to make it "the best it can be", only to at some point have a logic board blow out or a CPU card bite the big one (a very likely possibility) and undo all your work until you can scrape up yet *more* money for an eBay replacement seems like a rather Sisyphean hobby.

(If Apple Macintosh parts were as cheap and interchangeable as PC components I'd probably have a better attitude about it. It just seems like you can run into serious sums of money so easily when dealing with old Macs unless you have a "connection".)

So don't go into lurk mode on my account. By all means given your situation my advice would be to blow $20 on a DVD drive (Just drive. Not an expensive burner.), make sure your Pismo actually *works* with it installed (you could always have a bad IDE port on the media bay, you know), install OS X on it, and see if OS X is really what you want. It just seemed like the way your posts were reading that you were thinking of emptying an existing rainy-day computer fund on a $500 used Powerbook G4 with OS X sight-unseen, which I'd consider a serious blunder. But what do I know? :^b

--Peace

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Re: No Worries...

Damn therapists! I told mine yesterday to stay off this board so I could keep up the impression that I know something and have a positive monetary net worth!

No, wait, that was earlier... :Smile

Eudimorphodon wrote:

I'm sorry if you took offense, here.

None taken, just a little poetic hyperbole without the proper emoticons :Smile

Quote:

Dreams are great, don't get me wrong. My jaded position just happens to be that computers are bad things to get emotionally involved in (IE, to dream about). Computers can shave joy and well-being off your life (and money out of your pocketbook) faster then a Flowbee on a Shop Vac shaves the hair off a terrified six year old when you get emotionally invested in them.

LOL! Now that leaves a mental picture worthy of Wayne's World; "It's sucking my will to live!!!" Shock

Quote:

a rather Sisyphean hobby.

Now that one I had to look up! "endless and toilsome, useless, etc."

Quote:

So don't go into lurk mode on my account. By all means given your situation my advice would be to blow $20 on a DVD drive --Peace

No chance of just lurking here. I've got an opinion and I'm not afraid to use it! ;D Without Apple Fritter and about half a dozen train sites, what would I do with my life? :?

I plan on doing just that with a DVD drive, but what is crazy is an original 8 year old Pismo DVD drive can go from $40-60! Now that I know that most others will fit the chances of a better deal are obvious.

Just a note: The Pismo has taken a dive, evidently the OS is really screwed up, won't run WAMCom for more than 10 minutes straight without a hard reboot.

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Re: No Worries...

unknown1 wrote:

None taken, just a little poetic hyperbole without the proper emoticons :Smile

You did have me worried there. ;^)

Quote:

I plan on doing just that with a DVD drive, but what is crazy is an original 8 year old Pismo DVD drive can go from $40-60! Now that I know that most others will fit the chances of a better deal are obvious.

If I could be bothered to go through the trouble I'd send you a laptop DVD drive out of my junk bin, but unfortunately, well, I really am too lazy to ship anything. ;^b

Just remember the old caveat that Macs can be "picky" about CD-ROM drives when it comes to booting from them. Admittedly that mostly applied to the SCSI era. The issues now mostly have to do with whether the writing functions on burners work or not. You're probably fine throwing whatever bottom-feeding CD-ROM drive you can find in there if the goal is just to get an OS on it.

(The only other thing I'd note is don't buy a *really old* laptop CD-ROM drive, "really old" meaning made before... 1997-98 or so. Some drives of that vintage had a visually similar-but-larger connector then the "standard" port you see on laptop IDE drives now. Most of the drives like that I'd run across are from old ThinkPads.)

Quote:

Just a note: The Pismo has taken a dive, evidently the OS is really screwed up, won't run WAMCom for more than 10 minutes straight without a hard reboot.

I could never run OS 9 "for real" for more then about half an hour without having to reboot it, so your Pismo might be just fine. ;^)

--Peace

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Re: OS 9 Uptime

Eudimorphodon wrote:

I could never run OS 9 "for real" for more then about half an hour without having to reboot it, so your Pismo might be just fine. ;^)

Interestingly, my old 3400 would run for weeks at a time on OS 9.1, a great improvement over Windows 98 on my wife's PC. I was even able to run DOS 6.22 under Virtual PC pretty well. What really was a pain was iCab or any other web browser I could find at the time. Not that I found WAMCom, which works really well (although I have to clear the cache every hour or so to keep pages rendered with CSS showing accurately), I may get 'Little Boy' running again.

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I used my 1400c all through h

I used my 1400c all through high school to type up stuff, take notes in class, etc, and I probably never had to reboot the thing in all those 4 years.

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It's funny the thoughts and c

It's funny the thoughts and comments made here. Macs have been a big hobby and a source of a living for me for many years. Been using macs since 1995, supporting and selling them in one way or another since 1996. (was in junior high school at the time) There was a time when I had a new or newish (i.e. less than 18 month old) Apple laptop at any given time. Through a series of events - I really don't care to anymore. These days, I just get along with a 14" iBook G4 that a friend sold me for $50 (it was for two broken machines - I made one working unit). The battery is kind of crap, but it's ok. Life is better lived with a computer as a tool and not an all consuming thing. (this is something I'm still working on - some days I fall back into those habits)

This is why I haven't been active in a while, and when I have - it's been sporadic.

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