I spent some time this afternoon replacing the hard drive in a 500MHz white iBook. The old HD put out a noise level that had started to approximate a bandsaw, and I had a compatible spare of higher capacity bouncing around in my desk drawer.
For the uninitiated: replacing a hard drive in an iBook is a process that involves tearing the laptop down and disassembling it down to the frame, because the hard drive is buried all the way in the interior. Apple says the iBook hard drives are “not user-upgradeable”, and they’re not kidding in this case. The procedure involves about seventy steps, you need to pry the shell apart with a putty knife, and you need to pull fifty-odd tiny screws of different sizes. It took me about two hours, and thanks to the cheat sheet I sketched while I stripped down the machine, I had no screws left over at the end. The surgery was a success, though, and the patient is chugging along with a new, bigger, and much quieter hard drive now.
People who scoff at Macs often cite the “Apple premium” you have to shell out, and there’s a bit of truth to that. The current consumer-grade laptop is the MacBook, priced at $999. The very same hardware in a Dull or Spewlett-Hackard will cost you 1/2 to 2/3 as much. What you get for the extra dough, however, is a bomb-proof and elegant operating system, a smooth integrated experience between hardware and software, and a machine that has a much longer useful life than a comparable PC. The iBook on my lap right now was made in 2001, runs a reasonably up-to-date version of OS X, and still has the wheaties to serve as a daily beater. It’s not a speed demon, and Flash sites will bring it to a standstill, but the hardware has aged well, and the modern software still runs fine. Every time I use a Mac, I wonder why I ever bother with PCs. (Then I check all the games in my Steam client on the PC, and I remember why I usually own recent iterations of each platform.)
I have nothing against the PC, mind you–there are many fun games available for the Windows platform, fixing Wintel rigs constituted the basis of a lucrative career for me for a while, and Windows XP and Windows 7 really are quite decent operating systems–but for writing work, nothing beats a Mac with Scrivener on the hard drive. With that software, even a nine-year-old iBook beats the hell out of a Core i7 Windows rig fresh off the showroom floor when it comes to cobbling together a novel.
In the end, of course, only the quality of the finished product counts. Only a bad craftsman blames his tools, and all that…but most craftsmen will agree that some tools are better than others, and that the job is just a bit easier and more enjoyable with a nice toolkit.