hittingthesweetspot by Bob Skelley

It comes in many forms

PowerPC Mac ‘Obsolescence’ All Relative

Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Microsoft announcing plans to drop support for Mac Office 2008 demonstrates once more that unless you have tons of money to throw at current hardware and software, you are best served by utilizing solutions outside the Microsoft and Apple ecospheres.
Personally, I’m not tied to using any Microsoft products on my Mac. But that doesn’t mean I don’t use them if I need to—I’m not anti-Microsoft or Apple, I use what makes the most sense to me operationally- and economically-speaking.
Prior to broadband Internet service, we couldn’t easily seek out free and/or low-cost software solutions to run on our PowerPC Macs. We were at the mercy of electronics store shelves or setting our machines to laboriously download software and updates overnight.
Those with only PowerPC Macs as their main production machines sometimes feel slighted, but really shouldn’t.
Apple is just more notorious when it comes to lack of support. And Microsoft just follows suit when it comes to supporting their Mac compatible versions of its software.
Understanding all this really helps with anxiety over whether our machines are viable, work well enough or are being left behind. What I am suggesting is that our overall concern with older computers—whether they are PowerPC Macs, Pentium 4 Compaq’s or AMD eMachines towers, not get the best of us.
All computers get left behind…eventually. Therein lies the crux of how our thinking should be when we consider whether our computers are no longer useful.
One example comes to mind…
Let’s say, you have your own photography business. Ask yourself whether or not you need to go out and buy the latest update to Adobe’s Creative Suite or can you get by just fine with the version you’re already running (not that far behind the curve) for awhile longer?
The point in all this pondering is that what we should do regarding prospective technology purchases is really more about our mindsets. As technical as computers can be, I prefer making it more of a practical, philosophical decision and not one driven by marketing forces.

Apple Inc.

Apple Inc. (Photo credit: marcopako )

Why let yourself be motivated to do what the likes of Apple and Microsoft would have you?
People with PowerPC processors are always reading in the technology press that Apple has abandoned them long ago (in a far away world). Those with Intel rigs regularly, cruelly and unfairly mock and disparage them in comments below tech stories and blogs.
The word abandoned is a harsh-sounding word. No one wants to be abandoned, whether it’s by their computer manufacturer or by someone important in their lives.
Apple and Microsoft’s marketing departments know this all too well and employ this particular brand of fear-based psychology into their marketing so that we may purchase as many of their unnecessary products, services, peripherals, upgrades and devices as possible—and before we have anything resembling an actual need for them.
Oh my God! Oh my God! You don’t have an Intel Core i7 processor in your Mac? How will you ever possibly survive! You can’t be serious!” taunt Apple uber-consumers the world over.
“Useful” is one of the key words we should remember about our production machines– especially those of us with beloved PowerPC chips (running inside our Macs).
Microsoft has displayed support for Windows XP way longer than Apple has for any of its operating systems.
Marketers need not threaten us with words like abandonment in order to get us off our PowerPC machines. The worldwide PowerPC community is not as miniscule as mainstream Apple fans would have you believe.
Many in hittingthesweetspot’s audience are using older Macs and PCs; I hear from you all the time and appreciate your wanting to keep your machines running for as long as useful.
Authorized Apple resellers and the Apple Store Genius Bar do not make any money repairing older Macs.
That is why you should be healthily suspicious of being told your Mac is not worth repairing and you should put the money you’d spend on its repair towards the purchase of a new machine.
Avoid being coerced with words like “cost-effective,” too.
Seek out a second opinion from an independent computer technician and possibly save yourself some new purchase regret: just because Apple says your machine is obsolete, end of life, or “vintage,” doesn’t necessarily mean you should part with it.


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  1. Joe Bear

    Using logic in computer purchasing is seldom seen by the newbies. I would hate to tell you how many G4 clients I still have, it would scare Apple to death. But for some strange reason over the years I have saved them LOTS of MONEY by not buy something new and cutting edge.. Hell by the time they started using the Intel chip, they had just gotten the bugs out of the Power Macs. Think before you purchase something new… Unless you have EZ Money.

    • Good points, Joe Bear and I thank you for them. Those with Intel chip Macs can surf the web with the latest versions of Firefox and Chrome provided they are running Snow Leopard. Apple’s eventual abandonment of Intel Snow Leopard users (in favor of those running Lion and Mountain Lion), in my opinion, will truly be the end of what will be looked back upon as Apple’s Intel Chip Golden Era–the period reflecting Snow Leopard as the high watershed mark for OS X as an operating system not under the influence of Apple’s iOS development team. The walled garden that is Apple’s iCloud and App Store remain very much resistible to those users of Apple products that predate the iPhone.

  2. MacRecycleClinic in Silver Spring, Md. refurbishes many older Macs to give to non profits, students and families who don’t have computers. They are sent out with new OS installs, upgraded memory, hardrives and third party (free) suite software. They still work like a champ and folks appreciate that they have a computer to use for a wide range of purposes. What worries us is Apple’s decision to completely close their newest machines – which will make it all but impossible to repair or even refurbish. It will even make it difficult to recycle as recyclers want parts, not whole computers.

    • You make an excellent point. I know Apple Certified Technicians who see the writing on the wall in terms of their repair careers at both Apple and Apple Authorized resellers. Apple’s build architecture on their new models is making them truly throw away computers once something goes wrong with them–and all too often (and suspiciously? 😉 ) within days of Apple Care extended warranty coverage expiring. Users (or repair centers for that matter) are not able to perform previously simple repairs like RAM upgrades without much hair-pulling and contortions, too. Sadly, Apple is becoming the 21st century’s SONY with their emphasis on consumer electronics. The Mac is a mere afterthought for Apple these days. The good news is that this profit-at-all-cost mentality does not deter true Mac lovers from making older Macs useful long past the points of obsolescence Apple initially planned for them. Thank you for your comments.

  3. Seth

    I’m withholding judgment on Apple till I see whether / what kind of Mac Pro they come out with, supposedly this year. I want a machine I can open and customize not some glued-shut box with soldered-in SSD and RAM and a walled garden of an OS. If the offering is lackluster I’ll put a boot SSD in my 2006 Pro to speed it up a bit and run it till Snow Leopard is no longer a viable option as a general-purpose OS and then consider whether to (shudder!) run some flavor of Windows in virtualization, keep the machine going that way and call it a day with Apple. It’d be sad; the build quality on the Mac Pro is exemplary; bullets would probably bounce off it. Blow the dust out of it once in a while and that’s it – just runs, as does the assortment of other 2006-vintage Intel Macs and 2001-2003 vintage G4 and G3s we have around the family.

    • Seth,
      Thanks for the insightful comments. Today’s (4/11/13) technology news reports that PC sales are down quite a bit is further evidence that people are making do with the older machines just fine. I understand smart phones and tablets have sliced into the computer hardware market quite a bit, but folks who use their computers typically have no compelling reason to upgrade (provided it is not to have the benefit of a particular OS’s new feature(s) they had to have). We both realize there is a lot of good life left to enjoy in the older Mac Pros, and even the G4s and G3s you mentioned–they just run, and well at that.

      • Seth

        Yes, there’s a lot of life in old Macs – the oldest I sometimes use is an upgraded B&W G3 from 3/1999 however the march of progress in software including printer drivers etc. will leave them uselessly behind at some point hence my interest in a new Mac Pro. I suppose worst-case I’d buy a Mini with Thunderbolt and do my expanding via an external chassis. An ordinary human with normal tools can get inside a Mini in event of need. A jazzed up Mini with SSD, 16 GB and a 2.6ghz i7 would be a hair over $1500. TBolt to FW adapter $39 for my old drives and I’d be good to go. Could probably save a little buying the SSD and RAM from OWC or another similar source.

  4. I run a personal project audio recording studio for my own music and a few select clients, and for audio, my hot-rodded G4 still does a perfect and reliable job. It won’t pull the HD video too well, so I have a mini for that, but for everything else it still does the job. Apple has moved on to phones and iPads, and the whole pro community is starting to wander off and if they do, they are going to lose their base, that really hung in with the mac and made it great.

    • Cyrus–first off, thanks for stopping by. Secondly, I agree wholeheartedly with your comments regarding the pro community. And an Intel mini is a good choice to bail out the G4 on those jobs it needs some help with like HD video. Apple has really forsaken the professional desktop computer space, but it’s not that surprising given that the big margins they once enjoyed in the now dying print business are no longer there. They have painted themselves into a corner and since they won’t drop their prices enough, they will only continue to lose market share as a computer seller while hoping their other electronic gadgets like iPhones and iPads (while technically computers, they are not desktops) make up the difference. Mac users will stay with their older, earlier Intel and PowerPC models until they decide to jump off entirely. Personally, Leopard will continue to get me through on my G4’s. I think the longer I hang out in the PowerPC space, the greater the chances are for some variant of Linux to be on my next desktop or even PowerPC Mac–whatever that is. G5’s are plummeting in price and some really good values can be had.

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