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Mighty Jabba

A tale of 3 Tibooks...

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Sure, at this piont, you really find what you can get. I say the same thing about LCs and Performas all the time, and I suppose the same applies with late PowerPC laptops, too. Heck, I even have a second 1GHz TiBook that I run some OS9 stuff on, and some of my old-ish photos indicate that for some reason I had not just the one but three in total, so, like, yes, there are more tibooks in existence than pismos.

 

I'm fully aware that my eternal dislike of TiBooks is mostly irrational. I had a bad time because I deigned not to upgrade from a two-year-old professional laptop to a brand new one in 2005 when I got a new peripheral for it, and had a bad time that I didn't know how to diagnose because I was like sixteen and didn't realize that the CPU wasn't the only important part to a computer. I used it anyway because we didn't have the money for a new computer. Later, when the screen broke, I swapped the machine for something still working for what I needed in that moment, which ironically was going to be a laptop as I went to universality. In retrospect, high end chance that was a pity swap, but I appreciated it immensely.

 

It didn't make my photo work better, but the pismo had a screen and it ran OS X well enough. I didn't game and the pismo also had a generous disk and 512mb of ram so my day-to-day was fine on it.

 

I didn't get the TiBook in 2005, I pulled it out of the box new(1) in 2003. 2005 was when I got my DSLR(3).

 

We shouldn't give young cory that hard of a time for having still had a TiBook in 2005. It's well established that literally anything else from Apple's product stack would've been a better choice for me specifically in 2003, but I wasn't aware the machine was coming my way and even though I very very preferred laptops then (and until 2009 at the very least) - a laptop was chosen mostly for physical convenience(2).

 

---

 

(1) QT2451CEN4M, mine, had been a floor demo at CompUSA, but the model would remain on sale until the 15-inch got brought into the Al fold in September 2003. I believe there was a slight discount for haivng bought it this way, either in the form of AppleCare being included for $0 or around $150 off of the $2800 list price.

 

(2) The backstory there is that we were moving a couple states over, but it's the west and that means ~1500 miles. The four of us lived in a travel trailer a bit smaller than your average city bus (it was 37' long) for around a year. Incidentally, I completely do not buy the story that a PowerBook is better than a Mac mini or PowerMac in space-constrained scenarios, because after moving, we unpacked my mom's minitower computer and LCD dislay, my dad's laptop, my laptop, and we pulled out my iMac/233 and we'd swap between my brother using it and me using both on a small table-for-two inside. We'd stow the iMac on the floor at the back of the trailer between the booth seat and the bunk beds when we needed the table space for something else. If you have room for  powerbook and you're worried about connecting it an LCD: you have room for a mini, and you probably have room for a powermac.

 

(3) Yes I'm going out of order. I bought a Kodak DCSPROFESSIONAL and the cheapest possible F-mount lens on ebay and when those things came in, the camera didn't work, so my parents splashed out in a fairly unusual manner for a camera to put on the lens. That one was coordinated a little bit.

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Incidentally, largely, it almost sounds like the argument is to avoid a laptop from the era at all if you can possibly avoid it. I have literally no recollection about how I got the TiBook now in my posession, and some iBooks (a G3/366 and a G4-12/1.33) were given to me by a local friend, but by and large, I would rather have a desktop machine than a laptop for any number of the reasons you've listed: They're faster, they're more reliable out the gate, they're easier to maintain, it's easier to put modern replacement parts in them (in so many senses), they run OS X even better than a TiBook would, and they're physically more comfortable to use, from an ergonomics perspective.

 

Given that a pismo is now at minimum twenty years old, and the youngest TiBooks are a sprightly seventeen, you're absolutely right, these aren't spring chickens and it might be best not to treat them as if they are.

 

Which is a huge bummer because it basically means that save for the early iBook G3s and any other PowerBooks that happen to have survived, there's not a recommendable, viable on-the-go system 7/8/9 computer. (Ignoring battery issues, although it's not entirely out of the question to find something from this era that claims to still have surprisingly good life. My iBook/366 estimates over 4 hours, something I should test eventually.)

 

That's not to say that bag-ready Mac laptops outright don't exist, just that finding one is essentially random luck.

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3 minutes ago, Cory5412 said:

If you have room for  powerbook and you're worried about connecting it an LCD: you have room for a mini, and you probably have room for a powermac.

A Titanium is thin enough to stick under the lip of every monitor stand I have in sight, most of my monitors have multiple inputs so it's easy to just tether it when I want it, and the laptop *also* works by itself, which is not true of a PowerMac or Mini. (And I definitely do not have room to leave a big fat PowerMac set up in my house; one wouldn't fit under my desk and leave room for legs.) Nobody in their right mind needs an OS 9 machine around all the time today. As a sometimes food, er, toy, a Titanium is fine. Would I want one as my only machine today? Heck no...

 

Although, frankly, considering how awful and easily broken the last couple gens of Apple machines have been (mostly because of the butterfly keyboard fiasco, but let's also not forget the bloating batteries which *I and every one of my coworkers* have dealt with, in some cases on successive machines that are swapped out under lease when they're just two years old) I would kind of throw out there that maybe times haven't changed as much as we'd like to pretend.

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Batteries are the Achilles heel of all portables, whether it's the swelling problem (which I have also had multiple times) or just not being able to get replacement batteries anymore. You can actually still buy (what are apparently) new batteries for things like the clamshell iBook and Tibook, but the makers are essentially using their position as the only suppliers to charge ridiculous prices (around $200). I did however find a source for clamshell iBook batteries for "only" $60 and they actually work quite well, getting around 5 hours of life in my testing. 

 

I worry that in 10 or 15 years there will be surprisingly few usable examples of the current generation machines left because the batteries are so hard to replace, not to mention prone to catastrophic swelling.

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A generation or two (I believe it was for the 2017 or 2018 models) the MacBook Pro switched from adhesive to screws for some of the internals, so removing the battery has gotten a little better over the past couple years. For 2010/11/12 (or perhaps just 11/12, I'd have to look) the batteries were more or less removable, just not "in transit" swappable as they were up through that point.

 

So generally if you can pull the machine apart, removing the battery isn't the biggest problem. Sourcing a replacement is an issue, and I'm curious as to how the last ~decadeish of MacBooks will run without their batteries. Pre-unibody, the machines would boot and run, but they'd be speedstepped down to the slowest possible speed (around 800MHz typically) largely because burst power usage on a Mac laptop has long been higher than what the power adapters could provide on their own. (Actually, knowing what I do about Intel power draw, I almost wonder if there really is an increased incident of catastrphic battery failure, and not just something weird going on at Gorgonops' office, if it's related to something in the workload these machines are seeing causing a much higher than normal battery cycle/draw rate versus a machine that, say, mostly idles on office applications.)

 

I guess the question is, in 10-15 years, what "surprisingly few" will mean. I feel like the litmus test will kind of end up being how many flat-keyboard era macbook/pros we see hanging around in another ten years, relative to the number of 2008-2012 unibody/not-retina macbook/pros we all still see running around today.

 

If a much smaller percentage of the number of macbooks from the bad/flat keyboard era survive, there'll still be plenty to go around in 2030-2040, because mac laptops are "a bit" more popular in 2020 than they were in 2002. I do suspect most of the survivors will end up being used with external keyboards though. That seems to be the single most inevitable failure. Everything else mostly seems to be luck or perhaps something that happens on the coast but not in the mountains.

 

As far as batteries for vintage machines go: A thing I want to try eventually is getting one of those really huge battery packs with AC outlets on them (for example). I've got a 1400 that's... not great but if I took care, it would be bag-ready, and I would absolutely go hang out in a cafe with it, but getting seating with an outlet isn't a completely reliable possibility.

 

The problem, of course, is that AC-output power banks are huge and you can quickly go from "backpack ready" to "hand truck".

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14 hours ago, Cory5412 said:

Actually, knowing what I do about Intel power draw, I almost wonder if there really is an increased incident of catastrphic battery failure, and not just something weird going on at Gorgonops' office, if it's related to something in the workload these machines are seeing causing a much higher than normal battery cycle/draw rate versus a machine that, say, mostly idles on office applications.

Blame the victim, eh?

 

You've probably heard of this recall of 2015-2017 MacBook Pros. Apple optimistically says it was a "limited number" that were affected, but *everyone* in my office got the recall notice, and by the time it came out many of the machines had already started puffing up. My machine hadn't swelled to the bursting point yet, but if you set it on a table you could "wibble" it by pushing on a corner because the center of the case had ballooned out enough to be lower than the rubber feet. So far as I can tell, and sure, this is anecdotal, the failure rate of at least some runs of machines they built in that period was 100%.

 

It's mostly engineers, not "office users" that use Macs in my company, and that seems to be the case in a lot of tech-heavy industries. If Apple's not building machines that can handle the rigors of "devops" (whatever that really means, ask 20 people and you'll get 40 different answers) then clearly they're doing it wrong.

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7 hours ago, Gorgonops said:

Blame the victim, eh?

If you want to read it that way, sure. I can lean into it if you want, for dramatic effect.

 

(Also: I'd forgotten that recall and/or apparently didn't realize it impacted 2016/17 machines as well.)

 

But, largely, if it turns out that, just, any machine subjected to the rigors of that kind of technical and/or multimedia authoring workflow does that, and that happens to be the reason, and not just purely coincidence (i.e. production batches or bad cells from a supplier) then, sure, we can/should absolutely talk about Apple's continued inability to build a machine that can withstand the rigors of professional work. The audience of 15-inch MacBook pro users at the university where I work -- as tech support, so I take calls from the people having these kinds of problems -- is much more diverse compared to the population you described. Many of them are very, very under-using these machines, and many of them are doing things on them that arguably should be going onto the HPC. (Not a Mac, but: we had a faculty repeatedly blow out the cooling on their Latitude E6400 or 6410 doing really long-running analytics jobs in SAS or something similar, for example) (That faculty now has either an HPC account or a special RDP environment that doesn't terminate their jobs, both for speed and reliability.) It's also entirely possible (I'm on a team of 5) that there's loads of these failures at the university, and I just don't happen to have seen any of the tickets, so, like, take all that for what it's worth I suppose.

 

That said: That's a pretty random grouping of machines. If we want to claim it's some kind of design flaw, then it would make more sense if it was, say, all of the older unibody retina machines, or all of the flat-keyboard/type c machines, rather than certain groups from each model. I.e. all machines that share a single particular design, and not just some of the machines from two different designs. Even more interestingly is that the 2013 and 2015 MacBook Pros have the same processor -- the component I singled out as being highly likely to spike power consumption and cause draw from the battery, even when plugged into the wall.

 

The result is ultimately the same: Some of these computers are going to suffer -- badly -- from failed batteries. I suspect that it's not an overarching problem with the macbook pro, however, if none of the 13-inch machines are involved and if the 2012-2014 and 2018+ models aren't involved.

 

To call back to the future collectability aspect that got mentioned:

 

The long-term collecting effect is probably going to be that there'll be a couple fewer 2015-17 machines around. As established elsewhere in the site, the 2013-14 and 15 macbook pros are dang near the same, and the 2016/17 models are quite similar to the 2018/19 models, so it'll be a bummer if by some miracle these are by any measure "difficult to get", but I doubt, to be perfectly honest, that it'll impact total survivor numbers in ten to twenty years that much.

 

Even if it does: interest in "late 2010s era" vintage Macs will need to be proportionally more popular in, say, 2040 than "late 1990s era" vintage Macs is today for it to make a difference. (i.e. if the vintage Mac community doesn't grow at the same rate new Mac buyers has 2000 to 2020, then we'll be swimming in the things.)

 

Basically: I think it'll be fine, and at worst, it's pretty reasonably likely that the 2015-17 machines will run without their batteries, even if they speedstep all the way down and become annoying or useless by today's standards. (Though honestly, at everything except the web I suspect a quad-core 800MHz machine otherwise operating at full modern speed (i.e. SSD and RAM) would be more or less fine to actually use, and it'd certainly stay cool.)

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By the way, I feel like the mood in this thread is a little sour. That's definitely mostly my bad, and I apologize.

 

I absolutely don't explicitly intend to blame you for your machine's death. I agree completely that it's "a problem" that a machine with "pro" in the name and sold as a professional product with marketing and imagery designed explicitly to promote its professional usage, and a price tag to match, should probably be able to hold up to that use case. It's very bad that you and everyone you work with managed to get multiple successive bad units and/or repairs that ended up having the same problem.

 

If that were me, I would be at least as angry at that machine as I am at the TiBook, and in another 15 years, nobody should hold it against you for recommending against that machine, even if in the context of 10+ years from now, what happened in 2017 makes no bearing at all.

 

Ironically, that kind of thing is most of why I hated the TiBook, and why after that machine, I never ended up buying another Mac laptop again. (Let's be entirely real: If that Pismo hadn't been so bad or if I hadn't lucked into the single workload that brought the machine to its knees, ironically, it'd seem, without even taxing the CPU that hard, I would probably have bought or asked for a Mac laptop instead of the iMac for school, and would likely even have been less likely to go looking again once Vista launched, which is the start of my becoming almost entirely Windows-based at home, to the extent that I run AD/Exchange/SharePoint on my Hyper-V server).

 

And, this is entirely with the recognition that the people who are buying Macs are doing so for good reason, and I just don't happen to have that reason any more.

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19 hours ago, Cory5412 said:

By the way, I feel like the mood in this thread is a little sour. That's definitely mostly my bad, and I apologize.

It did seem a bit like it was getting over the top in the anti-Titanium department (in addition to treading the line about getting personal), particularly considering the OP was all about proudly showing off a couple of the units they'd put a fair amount of work into spit-polishing. I understand that you had a negative experience with one and that it was clearly the wrong tool for the job you needed it for at the time. But... these days, let's get real, the hardest thing someone's likely to do with one of these things under OS 9 is play Nanosaur Extreme on it now and again. Honestly that's probably about all anyone should ask of a PowerPC Mac, *period*, anymore. And they'll do that fine. Great even. A Titanium can actually be an impressive little machine if fed the right things.

 

19 hours ago, Cory5412 said:

It's very bad that you and everyone you work with managed to get multiple successive bad units and/or repairs that ended up having the same problem.

I realize that statistically what I can see in my immediate orbit, particularly with regard to the battery recalls, could be skewed by any number of things including simple dumb luck. According to some of the press releases the estimate is that the recall affected something like 460,000 units produced over three years. Apple doesn't break down unit sales enough to be able to confidently say what that translates to in terms of odds; one set of numbers suggests that's in the ballpark of 1% of *all Macs* sold over that period, but there's no breakdown of how many of those were MacBook Pros, or laptops at all. It could well just be that the outfit that services our corporate leases had really bad luck when they did a bulk order for refresh inventory and got a tonne of them from one bad production run. (Although at the very least that requires that they let them sit around on the shelf for long periods, because PC refreshes happen at random per-employee intervals.) That said, I've seen plenty of issues with machines outside of the battery recall, including bloated batteries.

 

The main reason I brought this up is because, to be frank, it really does feel like the root cause of many of these issues is largely the same as the physical issues the Titanium has, IE, the designers simply went too far in pursuit of an aesthetic and in the process compromised the functionality and durability of the machine more than the trade off was worth. I know that this ship has already sailed across the entire industry but I still firmly believe that gluing batteries into laptops is a bad idea and I can't say the evidence I've seen fails to support that conclusion. Apple also *seriously* dropped the ball with the butterfly keyboard; a millimeter or two of additional thinness is not worth keyswitches that can be jammed by minute particles of dust. (Frankly scissor switches aren't the greatest, but at least the older design had a chance of getting restored to functionality with a cleaning.) Recently we've been noticing around the office how easily the screens of the recent model Macs get broken inside of laptop bags. (It happened to two people at a recent offsite.) The "Retina" unit (I think it was a 2013 model) I had before bloaty-mc-bloaty-battery went back with a broken trackpad because, so far as I can tell, I got *one* drop of water inside the unit from touching the pad after picking up an icewater glass with condensation on the outside. Granted that's not a thinness-related problem per se, but still... whut? Never had that happen before. Maybe stick a membrane around the border of the clicky-part?

 

Maybe we can just chalk all this up to the inevitable march of progress or whatever, that it would simply be an unacceptable state of affairs to imagine an alternative universe where the dimensions of laptops stabilize to some "reasonably thin but can still take a punch" form factor with just the important parts getting their biannual spec bumps. But to me it kind of puts the active disdain I used to feel toward the Titanium and its multiple glass chins into perspective. It was truly ahead of its time in more ways than I could appreciate back then. Maybe not in a good way, but you can't deny in retrospect that it was forward-thinking.

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28 minutes ago, Gorgonops said:

I know that this ship has already sailed across the entire industry but I still firmly believe that gluing batteries into laptops is a bad idea and I can't say the evidence I've seen fails to support that conclusion.

I agree with you there.  Seems it wouldn't be impossible to use tiny screws or even a slide-in fit to hold them in place.

 

30 minutes ago, Gorgonops said:

Recently we've been noticing around the office how easily the screens of the recent model Macs get broken inside of laptop bags.

I feel fortunate that, when I got my now-ancient MacBook Pro, I bought a metal case with a padded interior that does a pretty good job of protecting the computer.  It was supposed to protect the computer from a three foot drop, maybe more, and I don't recall ever dropping it from a height like that, but it has been knocked over or fallen over a couple times and the computer remained secure.  The locks no longer work, and parts inside the lock are broken off so that ship has sailed completely, and the latches don't reliably work anymore, although they still manage to somewhat lock themselves shut on occasion, so I've had to resort to straps and Velcro to ensure it stays shut but otherwise it's still serviceable.

 

The downside is that the manufacturer no longer makes such cases and all I've managed to find so far are fabric cases, sometimes with padding, but no secure, metal, interior-padded cases, which is definitely something I would want if I ever got a new laptop.

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By the way, I didn't mention it in this thread before, but I did manage to get a fourth "non-working" Tibook a while back for just $12.99 (not sure how they choose these prices sometimes). When I got it in hand, it was the lowest-end 400mhz version but it looked almost mint. And it turned out that disconnecting the PRAM battery allowed it to boot right up. This is another way that batteries are a big weakness for computers -- so many older Apple portables have trouble starting up without a working PRAM battery. It makes me sad to think of all of the computers that might have been thrown out because they were "broken" when in fact they were just sort of... confused.

 

This Tibook in particular still had all of the previous owner's files on it. Turned out he was a Harvard professor who had passed away a number of years ago. There were things like book manuscripts on there that I can't bring myself to delete.

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I ended up stripping down a few smashed-to-heck PB G4s back then; used to have a small collection of those little boards the PRAM batteries were soldered to. Probably tossed them all by now, alas. Also had a few slot-loading drives that I always intended to try using for some cool case-mod project that I never got around to.

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