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A world apart

July 14, 2007 5 comments

In Mac circles — or more specifically, in those Mac circles where GNU/Linux is spoken — there are references to the types of machines with PowerPC processors being “Old World” and “New World.”

Generally, “Old World” revolves around those PowerPC Macs which come in two colors: beige and black (with the exception of the PowerBook G3 Lombard with the Bronze keyboard and the FireWire connections — I think this one belongs in the next category). Thank heavens for BootX and quik, which allow those of us (and yes, I still own Old World hardware) to boot GNU/Linux.

The “New World” Mac — whether it’s just a voyage over the PowerPC line of demarcation or whether it’s a brave, new one — “comes in colors everywhere,” as the iMac ad with the Rolling Stones song attested to so many years ago. From the iMac on, these color-laden machines have the distinct GNU/Linux advantage of working with most distros through the miracle of yaboot.

It begs the question: If the original PowerPC machines up to the iMac are “Old World,” and those that have come after are “New World,” what do we call the Macs that now come with Intel processors?

I think I have the answer.

Call them “Other World” Macs, of course.

The term “Other World” Macs covers a lot of bases. To those of us who remember the dopey clean-room technician disco dancing promo from Intel — and Apple’s ad setting them aflame — it harkens back to a bittersweet time when Apple aficionados were both circling the wagons while thumping their chests to take on all comers (God, how I miss the Power Computing reps clad in khakis at ’90s-era Macworlds, or being a proud MacMarine back during that time . . . but I digress. But those of us who go back that far understand that today’s Intel Macs are Porsches with Chevy engines).

To those who caught the wave after Apple rebounded at the end of the ’90s and through the first half of this decade, you’ll notice that the new Apple zeitgeist — both the trend away from computers to “appliances” as well as the trend toward being “all encompassing” — consists of making your hardware seem obsolete so you, well, buy another Mac, regardless of whether the technology on your desk (or on your lap) really is obsolete. To wit: There will come a day — soon, I understand (and as soon as 10.5, I’m told, but I can’t confirm that) — when the latest version of OS X will not work on your PowerPC-based Macs. So then what do you do with your perfectly good hardware running an OS that Apple implies is outdated?

So that MacBook and that MacPro share a name with what you’re using, if you’re using a PowerPC Mac, but with the exception of high quality hardware, little else is the same between the Intel Macintoshes and the ones that come before it.

And when you can’t use the latest 10-point-whatever on your machine, the solution is to switch to GNU/Linux.

[Note: I've ranted enough in the past about the technical superiority of Mac hardware, and I'll gladly spare you the stump speech. But Mac hardware does last forever and those distros which turn their backs on the PowerPC platform -- hello, Ubuntu? -- are making a big mistake because these machines are going to be around for a long, long time.]

The new Macs are, well, different than those released earlier in this decade — better, arguably, but different nonetheless, and hence they deserve another informal designation. Unless someone comes up with something more official, I’d stick with “Other World” for its other-worldly nature.

[FSF Associate Member](Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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