Computers

My 3 headed monster

I use Windows 10 Professional, Ubuntu Mate 16.04 and yes, Mac OS X 10.5.8 Leopard. Some would say this is a strange mix of the latest and greatest with old (on the Apple side of the equation).

If not for the dependability of my highly upgraded Apple PowerPC G4 Sawtooth Tower, I probably would have considered a newer Mac of some kind a long time ago.

My problem is the lack of attention Apple pays to the tower side of the equation—which now is virtually no attention at all. Yes, I can purchase a Mac Pro tower, but the latest Mac Pros have always resembled a subwoofer more than an actual computer. I know Apple packs a lot of power for its professional consumer into these Mac Pros, but the price is ridiculous and it remains no more than a legacy niche beyond the reach of commoners, for Apple’s old desktop publishing business market.

iMac all-in-ones have never appealed to me for different reasons. I don’t like all-in-one devices. This distaste for all things packaged together in a neat little unit dates back to the time I owned my one and only new Mac: an “Un” Performa 5215 CD. Apple’s Power Macs were priced out of the reach of average consumer Joes back then and its Performa line of computers were marketed as the poor man’s Power Mac. In reality, they were severely crippled machines with compromised logic boards resulting in an underperforming Road Apple for those like myself who bought one.

The original "Bondi Blue" iMac G3 wa...

The original “Bondi Blue” iMac G3 was introduced in 1998. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

iMacs of today, when they need repair, necessitate having the whole computer taken in to the shop. They are all-in-one. What sounds great in theory with respect to all-in-one computing actually results in the loss of your entire computer when something goes wrong. You are at the mercy of the resellers or Apple themselves, as to when you might have your working iMac returned to you.

I like separate components that play nice together—a separate CPU (always have loved towers for their ease of repair access) and a separate monitor. It’s really pretty easy if your CPU is bad in anything other than an iMac. You simply take your existing, working monitor and plug it into another computer that works (until you repair the tower in disrepair). I would suggest that most households have more than one desktop computer (unless they own an iMac), and so you are never in the lurch for long so long as you don’t “only” own an iMac.

This isn’t a new argument against iMacs. It’s just one that’s remained relevant for as long as there have been all-in-one iMacs dating back to the bulky CRT-encased G3’s of yesterday as well as the legendary behemoths formerly known as eMacs—basically CRT iMacs on steroids.

Anyway, my digression has accounted for a lot of words here. The point is, however, an old Mac Pro tower or even further back Power PC tower, albeit one that’s been tricked out, is one that works best for those who forsake the all-in-one-convenience-until-it’s-not-convenient-convenience of the iMac.

While Windows 10 may be the best version of Windows since XP (I hear the boo-hissing of those still running Windows 7), it gives me the feeling my every move is being watched. I don’t want to be indirectly data-mined, I don’t want to be queried and I don’t want to take surveys or respond to questions about how I like this or that or the other about my Windows 10 experience.

Apple eMac PowerPC G4 1.25 GHz 2005

Apple eMac PowerPC G4 1.25 GHz 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know I can turn off most of these annoyances, but I shouldn’t have to; they should be set to off by default.

Windows 10 64-bit does bring me all the convenience of everything the majority of the world knows and uses—Microsoft operating systems as well as their world, business-standard office suite of productivity applications. It also brings me the highest vulnerability levels to malware and viruses on the face of the planet.

This doesn’t exactly endear me to towers that run Windows 10 Professional, but in my case, I like it well enough compared to Windows 7 and 8. The tower I run it on is a Tangent Core 2 Duo 2.93 Ghz processor with 4 GB of ram. It’s not a speed demon by today’s standards, but it’s pretty quick on the Realtek wireless N Wi-Fi stick residing in one of its available USB 2.0 ports.

This system allows me access to One Drive so I have cloud-based storage I can share among my other devices running Windows—an Asus Laptop with Windows 10 Home and an original Microsoft Surface RT running Windows 8 RT. These three devices make up the Windows portion of the ecosphere of computing that is my stable.

I’ll never fall fully in love with Windows products of any kind, though.

Apple techs used to say (maybe still do) before working on a data migration for a customer who purchases a Mac and wants their data from their PC moved over: “There’s a virus on this thing and it’s called Windows.”

English: diagram of kvm switch

English: diagram of kvm switch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That may be harsh, but it still has a lot of merit even to this day. Try working with an unprotected Windows 10 device and see how long you can go before you’re infected. And the problem with staying infection-free is it takes anti-virus programs and anti-malware programs which sap precious CPU cycles and consequently drain performance.

So, the Windows 10 tower, while it has its merits can never be a full-time, all-the-time computer for me. Neither can the Mac G4 which while it has three regularly updated browsers at its disposal: TenFourFox, Roccat and Leopard Webkit, is frozen in time to a degree with respect to other software. There is no Microsoft One Drive for this machine, nor does iCloud or whatever Apple’s cloud name is, work on this Mac. This brings me to another opinion which is, it’s 2016 for cripes sake. Does Apple really need to call anything it has “i”-Anything anymore? I don’t think so. It’s more than time for Cupertino’s marketing branch to rebrand all their silly i-anything services and devices. The fact they’ve used it this long only makes them look even more I-dated than they are.

So I’ve covered 2/3 of the 3 headed monster I have—the Mac and the Windows box. I haven’t even mentioned the third…until now. It has become my favorite machine of all to use. It can be best summed up as what you’d get if you meld the Windows 10 tower with the Mac tower. It’s a tower, but it has a lot of the features like ease of use and “just work” capability that Apple users enjoy. And it also has a modern, full-featured, and cross-compatible-with-MS Office productivity suite—LibreOffice.

The tower I’m speaking of runs 64-bit Ubuntu Mate 16.04—the latest version. All of my towers are old, similarly spec’d in terms of hardware capability and share the same keyboard, mouse and monitor. I can switch back and forth between them with the press of a button on a KVM switch. All three towers sport DVD burners of equal capability but the most cross-platform capable burns happen ironically enough on the Linux tower running Ubuntu Mate.

Using Mate feels a lot like revisiting an old friend that you haven’t seen for a while. It’s familiar feeling, but it’s always new—especially when you’re running the most recent version. If you’re so inclined you can use the command line in terminal to get things done like updating the system and software. But you can also do that with the more user friendly Software Updater application accessed via a simple drop down command. It’s reminiscent of Apple’s software update function and less reclusive than Windows 10’s System update function which resides burrowed within the “Settings” series of menus.

Linux is simple yet sophisticated, secure, with its modern web browsing choices of Firefox and Chrome. It’s also not necessary to wrap it in anti-malware and anti-virus software. It’s up to date and feels as fast as the 4 GB Ram Windows 10 tower. The Core 2 Duo running Windows 10 is actually quite comparable hardware capability-wise to the eMachines AMD Athlon 64 3GB Ram tower running Mate. Ditto for the Power Mac 2 GB Ram with a 1.8 GHz Power PC Sonnet upgraded CPU.

It’s my 3 headed monster. It’s full of things to love. But the one I’m most fond of is the one you’d least expect and which I’ve saved for last here in my closing paragraph—Mate 16.04 running on the AMD eMachines tower. I like it, especially when I’m clicking “Publish” on blog posts right about now.

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