The Mac Netbook Revisited

With Apple’s announcement of the iPad, there’s a lot of talk lately about the “death of the netbook.” But for the photographer, a netbook is still a much better alternative to any other portable option. Smaller, lighter, and cheaper than a typical laptop, a netbook provides plenty of storage for offloading images, but can run the same software that you use on your everyday computer. In addition to replacing your digital wallet-type device, having a real keyboard and connectivity options make netbooks capable terminals for the traveling photographer. If you’re a Mac user, though, you won’t find any netbook options from Apple. However, it’s now easier than ever to hack certain netbooks to run the latest version of Snow Leopard.

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The Netbook as Photo Accessory – Mac Version

I love my aluminum MacBook. While I used a MacBook Pro for years, the smaller MacBook is a little easier to carry, and it never feels like it flexes or bends under its own weight, as the MacBook Pro sometimes did. However, it’s still just big enough that packing it in a bicycle or motorcycle bag is problematic, and it’s heavy enough that for backcountry or extended travel, it’s a bit of a load. What’s more, a lot of times it’s overkill. Usually all I need in the field is a place to dump images, and perhaps some email access. Over the last year or so a new class of tiny, ultralight laptop computers – netbooks – have appeared on the market at extremely reasonable prices. These machines turn out to be ideal photo accessories. Of course, Apple doesn’t make such a product, but there are now quite a few netbooks that can be hacked to run the Macintosh OS, allowing you to make something that Apple doesn’t: a tiny, very portable Macintosh.

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Build Yourself a Faster Mac

I have a few Macs that I use for my various jobs, but the main machines that I use are a MacBook Pro, and a Dual 2.7 GHz G5 tower. Since the tower is connected to a large monitor, it’s what I use as my primary image editing workstation. After a few recent jobs, including a computationally-intensive video gig, I started to wonder if it wasn’t time to think about upgrading to a faster machine. A friend mentioned that he was going to build a Hackintosh. As his machine came together, and he sent me some benchmarks, I decided that this was the upgrade path that I would choose. The result? A machine with Mac-Pro like performance that crushes all the other Macs in my house, and cost only about $1000.

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