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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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I’ll preface this by saying that I’ve been, all things considered, quite happy with the Power Mac G5 I inherited from Sarah. It has been virtually hassle-free over the years, has performed well, and has needed little surgery, beyond tearing out its DVD drive at one point and replacing it with the guts from an external LaCie burner. The case design is exceptional, the fan system quiet, and it looks nice.

That said, as best as I can tell, the video board is melting whenever I leave the machine on, so for now it stays off. I’m ready to pull the trigger on a replacement, except:

  • The Mac mini hasn’t been updated in forever, and has insufficient disk space for me to move to it. Also, it doesn’t have FW800, which is a bitch when I’ve got 3TB of FW800 on my desk.
  • The iMac may be updated soon, but the real problem I have with it is that it’s got the right mix of components for my needs, except that it comes with a screen welded to it. I don’t want to keep paying that tax.
  • The Mac Pro more than satisfies my needs, but is in desperate need of an update, and I really can’t fathom paying top dollar for it when Core i7 gets released to the market in 2-3 weeks.

The alternative is making the jump back to a laptop, but I don’t really need a laptop (a net book would cover my mobile needs, and a laptop as a desktop replacement charges too high a tax for not enough performance, and disk limitations).

So, rather than invest in a Mac desktop in the twilight of its product cycle (as I’ll contend all of them are now), I am spending $80 to pick up a new (something feels dirty about saying that) GeForce 5200 FX AGP Mac edition in hopes that it will stop the burning inside my case. If it doesn’t, I’m SOL, as I’m not going to invest in a new logic board, and I’ll have wasted the money. If it works, I’ll hopefully limp along until the new Mac Pro comes out, and pull the trigger at the right time.

And no, if you’re thinking “switch to a PC,” that’s not an option. Have you used Vista? Really?

My needs are basically this, in a desktop:

  1. Lots of space: While I back up to another machine, I like to keep all of my photos on my workstation. This means a data budget of a few gigabytes per week, on average. As I’m planning on making the jump to a 21mp body, this is going to get a lot worse in the near future.
  2. Speed: Working with huge RAW photos, and especially working with sequences of huge RAW photos, is really painful on my current hardware. I want it to not be so. This means, in reality, I need both decent CPU power, and decent I/O performance.
  3. Gaming: I’d like to be able to play Supreme Commander, and eventually any other half-decent RTS game. At the moment I have no means of doing this. The Mac Pro provide a slight chance of this (by booting to Windows), but the video hardware is always going to be a few generations off peak.

Issue #1 seems to be solvable by external storage, except external storage is typically slower than internal, and for whatever reason, I’ve had a much higher failure rate for external drives (three in three months, this year alone) than internal drives (two in two years, and I have twice as many of these).

To solve issue #3, I’m still thinking about just purchasing a dedicated windows box, leaving it in my DMZ, and not worrying about sullying my mac with the whole boot camp experience. Then, there’s also no incentive to overspend on video hardware for the eventual mac. Downside is now we’re talking $4-5k for the two systems combined. Ouch.

In other news, the main gasket for my brew group also is leaking now. Brew temperature water getting sprayed on your hands? Not fun.