Nemo Memo
Buying a New iBook – A Bargain Hunter’s Dream Come True

A needy family member requested help obtaining an inexpensive Macintosh computer. Barbara decided to give him her aging workhorse G3 “Pismo” PowerBook during our current summer vacation, and worry later about replacing it.

Research led me to the new 14” G4 iBook, with no special need for a Super Drive. The $1300 full retail price was higher than we wanted to spend, so David Weeks offered to help us look for a bargain iBook after vacation time.

David usually purchases refurbished or reconditioned or similar new-but-not-super-expensive computers, and that thought lingered as my research concluded. With ten minutes of free time in the Corte Madera Apple Store a few days ago, I had the following conversation with J. R., a pleasant sales associate:

NEMO: Do you have a strong recommendation between 14” iBook and 15” PowerBook? I don’t think I need a SuperDrive.

J. R.: What will you use the computer for, most of the time?

NEMO: Typical stuff, like Internet and email, with a lot of Photoshop too.

J. R.: PowerBooks are better for Photoshop, with a superior graphics card, so that’s what you should look at first.

NEMO: Okay. What’s the price difference? (Pause and gasp.) Whew! There’s a $700 premium for buying a PowerBook. I could get a lot of RAM and an Apple Care warranty for that, plus a year each of .Mac and Pro Care membership, with a little change left over.

J. R.: You’re right. Maybe you should get an iBook, because if you’re not a graphics professional, it should work fine for digital photography and Photoshop, I think.

NEMO: Which computer do you own?

J. R.: I have a PowerBook, the 12” model, and I love it.

NEMO: Yes, but your eyes are roughly twenty years younger then mine. (She smiles.) Do you ever sell any refurbs, or reconditioned iBooks?

J. R.: Check back near the end of any month. That’s the best time.

NEMO: I’m here on vacation, and we have an Apple Store back in Tucson. When does the end of the month start? It’s the 20th today. Am I too soon for the July clearance, for example?

J. R.: I’ll look. Just a moment. (She thumbs through a thick black binder.) It says here we have three 14” iBooks in our inventory, but this list is a month old. Want to me to confirm that with my manager?

NEMO: Sure. Any idea how much they’ll cost?

J. R.: I’ll ask her that too. (J. R. and the manager converse quietly, and then check their inventory). We have one of the 14” iBooks with Combo Drive, but it’s a floor demo model, not a refurb.

NEMO: Is that better or worse?

J. R.: You know, it was used here on the store, to demonstrate, just like those ones over there.

NEMO: And how much for this particular iBook, J. R.?

J. R.: It’s $949. (Pause, for effect.)

NEMO: You mean $350 off list price?

J. R.: Yes, correct.

NEMO: Okay if I look at this floor model, to see if it’s all scratched up and actually works?

J. R.: I’ll check with the manager again. (Goes away for a minute.) That’s fine. I’ll go get it in our storeroom and be right back.

NEMO: I have to meet my wife and go across the street to the farmer’s market, so I’ll be back in an hour. Okay?

J. R.: Sure. See you then.

One hour later.

J. R.: Here it is, John. I’m not sure it will work without AC power.

NEMO: Let’s find out.

I start up the iBook without plugging it in, and Tiger’s fresh launch screen begins singing and dancing, just like on a “real” new computer. We decide to quit while we’re ahead.

NEMO: Are you sure, J. R., this is the latest product model, with 1.33 GHz processor and built-in AirPort Express card?

J. R.: Yes, but let’s look on the box to make sure. (We do, and it is.)

NEMO: Barbara thinks I’m crazy, but when I said this new iBook is her replacement computer, she was very pleased.

J. R.: It’s a nice present.

NEMO: Yes, because we had a serious problem with the G5 iMac I got her earlier this year, and you can read about that saga at, J. R.

(Editor’s note — See both and for the long version of that situation.)

J. R.: You’re getting quite a good laptop, John, at only $949.

NEMO: For that price, I’ll buy the computer right now and purchase Apple Care too, because if the iBook is defective, I have a little while to return it, right?

J. R.: Fourteen days.

NEMO: Here’s my credit card, and thanks! I’ll install additional memory, but not from the Apple Store. Yours is too expensive.

J. R.: No comment.

From here forward, the narrative is concerned with the initial run of a new G4/133 iBook/Combo.

I connected the Apple keyboard and mouse I was using with my ancient travel companion G3 iBook/400 FireWire, pressed the power key on Barbara’s new shrinkwrap-free G4 iBook, and soon was asked if I wanted to transfer older data “from another partition” or computer. I connected a WiebeTech FireWire external portable drive containing the Carbon Copy Cloned contents of Barbara’s Pismo, that I had made before leaving Tucson, and seven minutes later had transferred all 1.4 GB from her Home folder plus 771 MB from her Applications folder onto her new white wonder.

I proceeded through Account Setup, but was unable to register because the iBook couldn’t locate the network just then. That could wait (See: Home / Send Registration) until later, I was advised. Typing in Barbie’s original Panther OS X 10.3.9 password, within seconds her new iBook was giddy with joy as it entered Tiger Territory, OS 10.4.

After inserting the Ethernet cable and restarting, I typed in the password for the active Earthlink DSL account, then agreed to update her Safari Keychain. Suddenly we were on the Web. Wowzer. Total elapsed time = 25 minutes, without rushing or making any unintentional detours.

Barbara and I took a one-hour walk during the download and installation of ten major Software Updates, all of which happened without incident. I ran a Disk Utility Repair Permissions, transferred some missing email archives, and by 5:00 on the Day I Never Guessed I Would Purchase A New iBook While On A Visit To The Farmers Market, Barbara has and will definitely enjoy using a very impressive new Apple laptop.


• Let’s keep the retail Apple stores in business. One way is to help them clear inventory, so always ask if a refurb or floor demo is collecting dust, priced for a quick sale.
Please post below your favorite websites for closeouts, refurbs, or similar discounted new Apple hardware.

• I calibrated the iBook battery, as advised in the printed iBook G4 User’s Guide. This step is essential, all you new Mac laptop owners.

• The computer is v-e-r-y quiet during normal hard drive usage, which is a genuine bonus.

• Tiger screams in the latest 10.4.2 update, and I’m becoming more familiar with it every day. It’s by far the best Mac operating system ever.

• iWork, including Keynote and Pages, came pre-installed, so I have no excuses for not working with these apps, right?

• Built-in RAM of 256MB is insufficient for heavy-duty powerhouse work, but the iBook is splendidly speedy during limited demands on its memory. I told Barbara to close all unnecessary applications until I add 1GB of RAM. Photoshop works better than I expected.

• Screen graphics and sharp text are superior. I’ve worked with every model of iBook, and this one has tiptop engineering inside and out, from initial impressions. (Haven’t used built-in keyboard or mouse much yet, because I prefer external USB peripherals when they are available. If you have user reports on iBook’s own keys/mouse, please add them below.)


Barbara is happy. Her exact words, “Is this thing fast, John!” and “I love this new computer” are better music than if Bobby McFerrin gave us a personal serenade.

Ask for a special offers or discounts when purchasing Mac computers, friends. Competition is fierce, and all Main Street or mall or web sellers need to move as many machines as they can. This iBook may turn out to be the best impulse purchase I ever made, and I’m normally very deliberate and patient when buying anything of substance.

One more thing: don’t wait unnecessarily long between computer purchases. David Weeks is correct in trading up frequently. It’s GREAT to have new computers, one each for Barbara and me, both obtained under incentive pricing.

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