Digital Archaeology: 12″ 1.07 GHz iBook G4

I’ve never been a big fan of Apple desktop computers because I prefer to build my own. Far more options both in terms of hardware and in terms of software (including the OS) that way. Apple laptops I have more mixed feelings about. I didn’t care for the early PowerBook 100 series. The later PowerBooks (most of them anyway) were nice computers but usually vastly overpriced. In some cases you could buy a nice used car for the price of a PowerBook. The iBooks…some were nicer than others but they at least tended to be reasonably priced. The early MacBook Pros were pretty nice. But ever since they have decided to glue everything into place I’ve pretty much decided they are overpriced, poorly cooled pieces of junk (at least the last one I’ve used from a few years ago is).

This particular iBook model was released in early 2004 and has the following stats:

  • CPU: 1.07 GHz PowerPC 7447a (G4)
  • RAM: 256 MB (expandable to 1.25 GB with the addition of up to a 1 GB PC-2100 DDR SO-DIMM)
  • Video: Mobility Radeon 9200 with 32 MB (4X AGP), 1024×768
  • Hard Drive: 30 GB 4200 RPM Ultra ATA/100

It also includes 10/100 Base-T ethernet, V.92 modem, 2xUSB 2.0 ports, 1xFirewire 400 port and an optional Wireless-G Airport Extreme card.

When initially released this particular model came with OS 10.3.3 (Panther). Up to 10.5.8 can be installed with a minimum of 512 MB RAM. The original retail price was $1099 (with 256 MB of ram and no wireless). On the PC side of things, the Pentium-M was the relatively new thing at this time. You could get a low end Pentium-M based system for about the same price. It would give you about the same performance while using less power in most cases. However, if you had Altivec optimized apps on your iBook, they would outperform equivalent software on the Pentium-M. Often by a lot.

The Altivec vector processing extensions in the G4 also made it pretty good for certain BOINC based projects back in the day (einstein@home comes to mind). However, support for PowerPC has almost vanished from BOINC related projects. I found exactly two projects that still work. Seti@home and Moo! Wrapper. Check out this iBook’s current progress with seti@home.

There’s still quite a bit of support for the PowerPC macs out there. There is a modern port of Firefox called TenFourFox and a relatively modern port of Thunderbird called (you guessed it) TenFourBird. While the last version of Microsoft Office to support the PowerPC was 2008, recent versions of LibreOffice are available for that platform. Linux is also still available with Lubuntu being a popular choice.