I've been comtemplating my jump into Mac OS X for a long time now, and I've recently decided to go for it. My dream machine should arrive this week to the office where I'll use the Power Mac G5 and its 30" display as my principle work station, in between my Windows XP box on one side and Red Hat Linux on the other.

I wasn't planning on the 30" display, but after spending a lot of time in the Apple store getting the feel of the displays, I couldn't get myself to part with the motherload of all displays. I mean, hey, I'm in front of a monitor for the better part of 50 hours a week here, so I'd better start making it a better experience than a 17" CRT on top a Wintel workstation that's bulging under the load.

Here's the full spec:

  • 2GB DDR400 SDRAM (PC3200) - 4x512
  • Dual 2GHz PowerPC G5
  • 160GB Serial ATA - 7200rpm
  • ATI Radeon 9650 w/256MB DDR SDRAM
  • Apple Cinema HD Display (30" flat panel)
  • 16x SuperDrive double-layer (DVD+R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)

Its been many years since I've worked with Macs. At my previous place of employment, while still working in a computational neuroscience lab, I managed about 30 Macs ranging from versions 7 to 9. They mostly ran Matlab and connected to all the biology hardware used in the wetlabs. And they crashed... a lot.

That was before OS X.

Managing the lab's computers was just an extra hat that I wore since no one else was up to the task. That was in addition to the biology research I was doing including projects involving neuronal cell culture and maintaining a line of BDNF-knockout mice (genetically altered to be missing a targeted gene of interest). Both my work and my Mac have changed a lot since then, and I greatly look forward to working with this new power house of a machine.

I ended up buying online after making two trips to the Apple store in New Hampshire this weekend. The first trip was on the day of Tiger's release, where I stood in line for way too long just to get in and later found out that there were no Apple "geniuses" around to configure the desired Power Mac.

On Saturday I called first before making the 45 minute drive, to confirm that my configuration was possible in the store and that an available genius would be on hand to install the memory and add the graphics card. Upon arrival, a sales person draped in a black Apple t-shirt took my inquiry. He said that they may not have the parts available for my configuration after all, since they only had the high end NVidia cards available, and they were out of Dual 2.0 GHz Power Macs.

Apple price structure has always seemed so rigid that I thought haggling would be futile, but since I was told incorrect information and drove almost an hour to get there (to save sales tax costs), I thought why not. The sales person did in fact engage in some negotiation, and we began bargaining on which components he could discount or throw in free. I haggled until he agreed to throw in the high end NVidia card for free ($450!) in exchange for going with the 2.3 GHz Power Mac instead of the 2.0. They pulled the machine and 30" display from stock, and wheeled it up to the front. After all that haggling, the sales clerk at the register notified me that I'd have to pay an extra $800 for the 2GB memory sticks since the Power Mac ships with 1 512 card. She urged me to understand that the online deals couldn't be matched in the store, and I'd just have to pay more. An extra $800 for memory was a deal breaker, so I left the hardware at the counter and went home empty handed.

After my online purchase that night, UPS should be hauling my new machine as I write, so I expect to be fully set up by the end of this week :-)

My advice, if you're going to an Apple store, be prepared to settle for what's on the shelf. If you're not satisfied, try haggling a little, and in the end the online store is a painless alternative. Visiting the online store to see what you're buying is good to get the feel of the hardware and UI, but you may not want to buy there.