Archive for November 11, 2003

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

iBook G4

My iBook G4, with Panther pre-installed, arrived a few days before my copy of Panther. It was on my desk only about a week after ordering, which is quite impressive considering how new the iBook G4 is. I had tried to order the iBook G3 (Dual USB) that it replaces direct from Apple, so as to get the developer discount. At the time, the model I was interested in was more than six months old, yet after nearly two months Apple still hadn’t shipped it. I finally got tried of waiting on hold only to be told that they didn’t know why it hadn’t shipped, but that it surely would soon. So I gave up, ordered it from MacMall without the larger BTO hard disk, and received it in a matter of days.

The new 12" iBook is a great little computer. Of course, I wish it had a higher RAM ceiling and an option for a faster processor. The PowerBook G4 is significantly more expensive and includes lots of features I don’t need. Nevertheless, the iBook is reasonably peppy.

I’m nearly always impressed by Apple’s hardware. Even the oft-denigrated platinum (not beige!) G3s were innovative and comparatively stylish. However, with the iBook G4, I think Apple has taken one of its best-ever designs and made it slightly less excellent. I don’t follow hardware too closely, so perhaps the following changes took place with the later iBook (Dual USB) models.

iBook G3

The thin part of the power cable is much stiffer than before, so it doesn’t like to lie flat, and the part that goes to the outlet is significantly more bulky than before.

When closed, the iBook’s case looks mostly the same as before, except of course that the optical drive is slot-loading. I’m not sure which I prefer. The tray can sometimes get in the way, but the slot is next to the power cable, which makes it needlessly difficult to grip ejected discs.

iBook G4

After opening the iBook G4, my first reaction was that it looked like a PC knockoff of Apple’s design. Starting at the top, Myriad replaces Apple Garamond. I think Myriad looks great on-screen, but it lends a kind of Fisher-Price look to the hardware. The metal hinge that gave the old design some personality has been replaced by plastic that’s the same color as the case.

The keyboard, though perfectly serviceable, looks drab compared to the old design. It reminds me of nothing so much as Panther’s window title bars. The finish of the palm rests is rough rather than smooth, and it’s missing the shine that made the old design look so elegant. The trackpad is also not as smooth, which makes it feel slow. The white power button doesn’t quite fit in.

Overall, the iBook G4 seems slightly more solidly built, but it also looks cheap compared to G3.

Panther Text Rendering

Tonza illustrates my comment about how Lucida Grande looks narrower and blacker on Panther.

10.2 vs 10.3

John Gruber explains how on-screen typography is doomed to suck:

Non-anti-aliased text is dorky but sharp. Anti-aliased text is elegant but fuzzy. You can’t win, because truly winning would require on-screen text that is both elegant and sharp, and that requires higher-resolution displays than those we have today.

Which is true, but I’m not asking to win. Just let me pick my poison.