Feeds

Five amazing computers for under £100

Old-school gizmo gladhandling to cure the bank holiday bores

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Apple PowerBook G3 (Pismo)

Apple PowerBook G3 (aka "Pismo")

This Apple laptop has inspired a ferociously loyal following for a decade, and is often called the best laptop the company ever made. It's the one design that pre-dated the return of Jobs, and professional PowerBooks were the last part of the four product "quadrant" he got round to updating, giving it the modern industrial design touch.

This is not mere sentimentality for a bygone Apple. There are practical reasons the 'Pismo' PowerBook attracted such a following – and why it remains a bargain today, provided you know the limitations.

One is the design, which proved much comfortable than any Apple laptop that followed. Curves have been out for a decade. The Pismo looked like, and felt like, a well-loved leather-bound reference book. That alone wouldn't have kept the market in Pismo parts alive, though.

This was the last modular notebook Apple produced, and perhaps the most expandable of all. Swapping out the standard hard drive and the memory is trivially simple. Upgrading the CPU – and several upgrades were produced for these models – requires only a bit more care. But the dual expansion bays were the key.

Much like IBM's UltraBay design, a huge variety of expansion options were produced for these bays: slot-loading Superdrives, HD adapters, faster FireWire cards and USB 2.0 drives, and even a Blu-Ray drive. Upgrading required lifting a latch and swapping in a new bay. But the option that endures is the range of high performance batteries produced for the machine, since the Pismo bays can host two long-life batteries.

Can you imagine an Apple laptop of today returning 14 hours run time? Even with the much improved battery technology a decade later, Apple only touts "up to seven hours". Admittedly, this adds a little to the weight: it tips the scales at 6lbs in its default configuration, so it comes at a cost.

In terms of software, the Pismo runs Mac OS X up to 10.4 Tiger. Tiger runs adequately, and 10.3 Panther very well indeed. If you don't need the internet – and for real productivity it is great to have a machine that doesn't – it boots into Mac OS 9, which is even more frugal with power.

Where it shows its age is with a 1024x768 screen (the same as the ThinkPad I've chosen here), which suddenly makes it look dated. The screen has aged so well, but many have a pinkish or yellowish hue now. Mac OS X generally got faster as it went along, up to 10.5, but the graphics demands of a modern OS (and these can't be turned off) really do put some strain on an 8MB graphics card.

I'd recommend it as an "offline" machine that can boot into a modern OS when you need to. A Pismo can be picked up for under £100 on eBay – around £80 if you're prepared to bargain-hunt – although two long-life batteries will of course be extra. With a genuine Apple capable of 14 hours, there might be a time where a Pismo could save the day.

Expect to pay: £90
Released: October 2000
Why you should get one: Distraction-free writing in comfort.
Forget about: the web, mostly. You'll be happier for it.

Conclusions

I had expected to find lots of vintage gear in this. But Amigas and Archimedes, to name two, command a collector's premium that puts them well outside the price threshold we set. Some gems, like the ThinkPad X60, and Psion's original netBook™, still command over a ton on eBay.

What about ancient enterprise kit, then? The strongest contender given the price we'd set was a Sun UltraSPARC – there are plenty of these about – with a very capable 4GB of RAM. But it was diskless, and adding the SCSI disks would send us over the threshold. Alas, there's no S/390 for £100.

Still, there's plenty to be getting on with. To the Shed, dear readers. ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
Reg man builds smart home rig, gains SUPREME CONTROL of DOMAIN – Pics
LightwaveRF and Arduino: Bright ideas for dim DIYers
Leaked pics show EMBIGGENED iPhone 6 screen
Fat-fingered fanbois rejoice over Chinternet snaps
Apple patent LOCKS drivers out of their OWN PHONES
I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't let you text that
Microsoft signs Motorola to Android patent pact – no, not THAT Motorola
The part that Google never got will play ball with Redmond
Slip your finger in this ring and unlock your backdoor, phone, etc
Take a look at this new NFC jewellery – why, what were you thinking of?
Happy 25th birthday, Game Boy!
Monochrome handset ushered in modern mobile gaming era
Rounded corners? Pah! Amazon's '3D phone has eye-tracking tech'
Now THAT'S what we call a proper new feature
US mobile firms cave on kill switch, agree to install anti-theft code
Slow and kludgy rollout will protect corporate profits
prev story

Whitepapers

Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.