Andrew Burke

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Ironcoat
Posted on: 2005-11-07

That's the name of my new computer. I went and bought one of the latest generation of PowerBooks and have been using it for about two weeks now.

Why Ironcoat? Well, I ordered the machine direct from the online Apple store just a few days after the new models were announced, and so, according to the FedEx shipping tracker, it came directly from Shanghai, China. Thinking of names, I decided something Chinese might be appropriate, and I remembered a character in Jet Li's Once Upon a Time In China named Iron Robe Yim.

The movie takes place in Hong Kong in the 19th century, where Europeans are taking over and rival Chinese mobsters are fighting over what's left. Iron Robe Yim is a giant powerful brute of a man and the main enforcer for one of the crime gangs. The climax of the film is a justifiably famous fight scene in a shipping warehouse, after which both fighters are shot at by European marines - and Iron Coat Yin dies, saying "No matter how good our Kung Fu is, it will never defeat guns"

Apple is moving their architecture to Intel-based chips in the next year or so - so this is likely to be the last and greatest of the aluminum PowerBooks. After which will come something completely new and different. My old 12" PowerBook, Tamala (another long story there) was just not keeping up with me, and has been pretty beat up over the last two and a half years of travel and work - and since my entire life and work depends on my computer, I decided it was worth going for the latest version, getting it as soon as it was announced to get the most life out of it. I ordered the 17" screen version (which turns out to have cost just about the same as my 12" did back in 2003). So it's a big powerful brute of a computer, but it is on the cusp of being surpassed by New Things.

I played a little loose with the translation and so 'Ironcoat', which sort of describes the look of the machine, as well.

Reactions after a week:

  • The computer is much bigger, but the keyboard is the same size as the one on the 12". Couldn't they have, say, put in a number pad or something? It's also not so comfortable to type a lot with. When I'm at home, I usually plug in another keyboard anyhow.

  • The screen is gorgeous. It's so large and sharp that DVDs actually end up looking kind of grainy on it. High-Def 720p movie trailers look really great, though.

  • My old machine was 866 MHz, this one is 1.67 GHz - and it does feel distinctly faster. The fan doesn't wheeze whenever I load Eclipse or run a build script. Building a Java project now takes about 10 seconds instead of 30 seconds - which is quick enough to keep my mind from wandering, which is really important!

  • It's nice that it is actually from the same line as my current computer. The power plug is identical, and my old gear plugs in and works without any trouble.

  • Apple includes a great utility for transferring all of the data, users, and settings from an old machine to a new machine. An hour or so with a FireWire cable and my new machine already had all of my mail, my bookmarks, files, pictures (including desktop and screensavers), and network settings. It didn't manage to transfer my PostgreSQL, Tomcat, Ruby, or mySQL servers, but I didn't really expect it to. It did do CVS, though. Really nice - no transition time.

  • The computer detects the ambient lighting and brightens/dims the screen accordingly - as well as the backlighting on the keyboard, which is sexy.

  • I'm still a little wary of taking the machine out in public much, but when I want to do some work at Metro Ref or Future's or wherever, I can just sync up my old 12" machine with my latest code from CVS, take the small, older machine wherever and work, and then commit my changes with CVS when I come back home. Same codebase, same developer tools, same scripts, same keyboard shortcuts.

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