Would an Asus Eee running OS X Leopard be faster than my PowerBook G4?
January 9, 2009 10:23 PM   Subscribe

I've got an older PowerBook G4 with a 1.5 GHz CPU and 1.25 GB of RAM. It works, but it's sluggish. I don't expect it to be as fast as my shiny new 24" iMac, but it's slower than I'd like. Would selling it on eBay and buying an Asus Eee (I assume the 1000 model) and installing OS X on it give me a fast machine or about the same?

From what I can tell, the PowerBook seems CPU and I/O bound. Programs are slow to load, but are fine when running. I don't heavily multitask since I know RAM is limited. Anytime there is a slowdown/beachball when I'm using a program, I notice that the CPU meter has spiked to 100%.

Primary uses will include: email, web, twitter, coding (nothing compiled, just FTP'd to a server) and serving as temporary storage for photos taken on vacation in the hotel room.

posted by Brian Puccio to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Honestly, those old powerbooks are great under Tiger, but they're RAM-starved under Leopard. Load 10.4.11 on them and you've got another couple of good years left.
posted by Oktober at 10:32 PM on January 9, 2009

I doubt the eee would be much or even any faster than the powerbook, especially since you're going to be installing OS X on there, which wasn't meant to be on there in the first place.

Do you really need OSX? Would working with the standard linux distro that comes on eee's be sufficient? Because by the looks of your primary uses, the eee can probably do all of that (maybe not the coding unless all you need is a text editor).
posted by azarbayejani at 10:36 PM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Have you tried a clean fresh reinstall of Leopard? If its beachballing a lot, you may have underlying problems, especially if you did an upgrade from 10.4 and not a clean install.

I run 10.5.6 on a 1.25Ghz G4 with 1G of RAM at work, and it's a little slower than 10.4 but still perfectly usable. This is with Terminal, Firefox, and NetNewsWire running at the same time, as well as MenuMeters and Twitteriffic.
posted by mrbill at 10:57 PM on January 9, 2009

As someone who has a 1.3G PPC PowerMac and a 1.6G MSI Wind (very similar to the Eee) Hackitosh, I can say: Yes. Plenty. The Atom based netbooks are pretty remarkable and run OSX 10.5 really well. I advise upgrading to 2G of RAM though.

Be warned that it is not as reliable as an actual Mac. To make the hardware work, some drivers come from the hacker community. This is usually for PS/2 keyboard & trackpad support, graphics, and audio. It's still really nice but not as stable as my real Intel mac.

There is also no optical drive and there are other issues with using the Hackintosh. For example, there's a good chance 10.6 won't work on them. If it does, it probably won't be for a while anyway.

If you are counting, that means I have 3 macs.
posted by chairface at 11:30 PM on January 9, 2009

Too funny, I was just contemplating posting this same question earlier today. I am typing on a maxed 1.2GHz 12" G4 right now and I know exactly the sluggishness you describe. Unfortunately, the remaining upgrade seems to no longer be possible: I can't find any ATA-100 7200RPM drives.

That said, cost- and speed-wise you'd probably be better off forgetting about the eee and think about the OSX86 Project if you're really committed to OSX and hardware speed.
posted by rhizome at 12:17 AM on January 10, 2009

Can you increase the RAM in the powerbook and roll back to Tiger? Or is 1.25 the max in that model? I also second reinstalling the OS and trying to limit the number of running services.

Because the time you spend futzing with the non-standard OS X install on the EEE will probably be equal to the time you spend watching the spinning ball on your powerbook over a period of months.

Be careful how you calculate the value of time. You can pick up a Macbook that will run circles around the EEE for $900 brand new, less used. By the time you've bought the EEE, a licensed copy of OS X, and put in all the hours it will take to make that combo work even halfway right, you're going to be talking about a wash compared to the the $900 macbook.

Of course, Macbooks are pieces of cheap shit (I'm writing this on my third, but I regard them as disposable computers that give you one good year of service at best under hard use, though maybe the new aluminum chassis improves that). But EEEs are also pieces of shit. Cute pieces of shit, though. If you like a 5 inch viewable image and a keyboard designed for munchkins.

Personally, I miss my old 12" G4 Powerbook more than any other laptop I've ever let go to find its own joy. I kept that one running years after it should have been retired because it was the perfect, perfect form factor for me (and many other people who need small/light/powerful/ fits on an airplane tray perfection). If Apple would come out with a new 12" form factor Macbook, I'd pay very good money for that, and do it again every 9-12 months, with pleasure.

I'll also plug my favorite traveling machine again, too: the Nokia N810 internet tablet beats the EEE or any other micro plastic Netbook hands down as a computer and as a portable device in my view. If the built in keyboard is too small, add a bluetooth keyboard and you've got a linux computer as powerful as any Netbook on the market in your pocket. With WiMax. And GPS.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:03 AM on January 10, 2009

Something to try before selling if you haven't already: download Onyx for Tiger and run everything in the "Automation" tab. It will run most of the system's automated cleanup and optimization utilities.
posted by DLWM at 7:32 AM on January 10, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all of your feedback.

I'm trying to use OS X (and Leopard specifically) because I find it much easier to just rsync or unison my home directories on my laptop and desktop to keep everything exactly in sync. Switching to Tiger or Linux wouldn't let me do that any longer.

Thanks again.
posted by Brian Puccio at 7:41 AM on January 10, 2009

i reinstalled Tiger, complete reinstall, wiped everything out, gave it to my mom, it is OMG AWESOME AMAZING STUPENDOUS GREAT to her.

Leopard on that machine is like using a 14.4 baud modem again.
posted by micawber at 8:17 AM on January 10, 2009

I'd strongly reconsider the EEE if you buy it for what you mentioned above. While I own a 701 4G and love it, if you're going to be writing code or emails frequently, consider something with a larger keyboard. The EEE loses it's main featureset (the ability to attract girls in coffee shops) when you have to lug around a keyboard and external monitor everywhere.

It sounds like your Powerbook may have problems that a reinstall could solve.
posted by antonymous at 8:52 AM on January 10, 2009

Can't you use unison with linux and OS X? From my knowledge (which frankly isn't much), unison can work across all unix systems.
posted by azarbayejani at 5:11 PM on January 10, 2009

max out the RAM. i just 4GB for my MBP for $45.

wipe the drive and reinstall Leopard. If you need a bigger/faster drive, get an SATA drive in a firewire 400/800 enclosure. pretty sure PB had FW800.

or sell it on thE bay and get a new MB or MBP.
posted by KenManiac at 5:35 PM on January 10, 2009

Response by poster: From what I can gather, this is the max RAM.

Unison would work, but how would I sync my Safari bookmarks to my Linux laptop when Safari doesn't run under Linux? Unison would let me move my data around, but having data in a format that is only accessible by programs that run under OSX doesn't get me anything.
posted by Brian Puccio at 11:18 AM on January 11, 2009

Safari has an "Export Bookmarks" feature. If your new browser can't import them, open them all and save tab set as bookmarks. May take a little labor but it's worth the hour or so spent, imho.

maybe do this with FireFox on the OS X side too just for extra insurance.
posted by KenManiac at 6:54 PM on January 11, 2009

Response by poster: Sorry, if I take my laptop out, surf the web and add a few favorites, I don't want to have to export bookmarks transfer a file and import the bookmarks. I'd like to just rsync and/or unison my home directory and get everything all at once. Running different operating systems or different version of an operating system precludes this entirely. One command to sync things that I can run from either machine is what I have now and what I don't want to give up.
posted by Brian Puccio at 5:45 PM on January 22, 2009

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