First of all, this is my first Apple machine. I come from a Wintel / Unix world. On my desktop I run Windows 2000, and I have extensive experience with various Unix platforms -- from Linux to Solaris to Irix.
Hardware and OS X Installation
The bundle came with a G4 550 MHz processor and 256 MB of RAM. It also included the slot-loading DVD drive. For storage, Apple has included an 18 GB hard disk. It includes every port desirable under the sun: USB, FireWire, IRDA, Ethernet, and Modem. The mouse is a typical touchpad, with the signature Apple single button. It also includes a single PCMCIA slot and an expansion slot for a future AirPort card.
The initial impression of the machine before booting it up is that it well thought-out piece of hardware with thought given to both form and functionality. The machine is very elegant, yet is designed such that functionality is not impeded by the good looks.
As far as the software configuration is concerned, I wiped out the default factory configuration and installed MacOS X from the disks provided by Apple. The installation was simple and straightforward. Booting up was a simple matter.
The first thing that I did after installation was to update the software using the Software Update application. A noticeable increase in performance was observed after the installation of the 10.1.2 update on the default 10.0.1 installation. I was also able to update iTunes and DVD player software. This was a simple and painless process, only involving a couple of reboots.
After getting the system to a default base state, the first thing that I noticed was that I was going nuts trying to effectively use the default touchpad to accomplish tasks. Coming from a Wintel world, I was used to two or more buttons on my pointing devices. I lucked out and was able to use a USB trackball (Kensington Orbit) in place of the trackpad. This was a typical PC USB accessory that I'd acquired while working on Windows boxes, and I was pleasantly surprised that it worked flawlessly with the PowerBook.
Included and Third-Party Software
So, I had a fully functional Apple. The DVD player is phenomenal. The video playback on the LCD is first class. I also experimented with outputting the video via my regular 17" monitor. To be frank, I'd not seem better DVD output from a computer than what I watched on that monitor. I also fiddled with the included iTunes application. It seemed to be a run-of-the-mill MusicMatch-type application for playing MP3 files. It didn't impress me as much as DVD player.
After futzing with the included applications and configuring the system to my liking, I went online to search for applications for the shiny new Apple. I started out at Apple's website. I found a few applications, but I was disappointed with the lack of free third-party applications available for OS X. I was able to find the AOL Instant Messenger port and a few other tools such as VNC. I also downloaded a few browsers, but few were as well-done as Internet Explorer (included on the OS X installation media). I also searched for a few games, but most were demos or updates. One bright game that I did find was the Cro-Mag Rally Racing game where you race cavemen in a 3D GL environment. However, for the most part, pickings were slim. Pickings were also slim in the other software categories.
One of the things that I wanted to do was to network the Apple with my Windows 2000 fileshares. Apple has made the inclusion of a SMB-compatible network layer as a major selling point of OS X. It is true that the functionality can be accessed through the Finder. However, Apple has not provided a browser that can browse Microsoft workgroups and servers. In order to connect to a share, the user needs to provide a URL like smb://workgroup;user@server/share. This is fine if you know the exact URL of the shares, but it is an obstacle if you just want to browse. Another obstacle that I ran into is trying to get my servers to resolve behind my NAT'ed network. I initially tried to add an entry to the /etc/hosts file, but found out that I needed to make an entry into the included LDAPish directory included in the installation. This took a bit to figure out, but I was eventually able to add the host entry to the directory so that OS X was able to resolve hosts outside the normal DNS. With this accomplished, I was able to finally connect to my file shares.
Another note about networking - when I initially tried to configure the Apple via DHCP, I found that the majority of the network configuration was made, but I did need to set a DNS server to make the system work. Note that the Windows machines using this system never had problems discovering a DNS server. Other than this, network setup was simple and straightforward.
In order to maintain compatibility with the older MacOS applications, Apple has included the option run older applications using the Classic layer. Classic is basically an installation of MacOS 9 that is used to run the older MacOS applications. Since I wanted to have a pure OS X system, I did not install Classic. This has not been much of a problem, but a few key applications such as RealPlayer, Windows Media Player, and Outlook Express refused to run without Classic installed. This may be a major roadblock to those who rely on Apples for work purposes, but for one running it as a curiosity (myself for the moment), it is only a minor inconvenience.
The Mac / Unix duality
At its heart, OS X is a Unix operating system. However, Apple has gone a long way to disguise that fact. It is entirely possible to run within OS X without encountering a command line. I'll be honest and say that I've done very little with the Unix side. I did do some tinkering around with the Samba daemon and was frustrated that Apple had disabled the root account by default. I eventually found out how to access root (it's via using sudo) and was able to get access to what I wanted.
In some respects, OS X is a very schizophrenic system. The Unix side is everything one would expect to find in a real Unix box, and the MacOS side is very much a polished version of the past MacOS systems.
This is not a complete review by any means, but I hope that my impressions are of some value to someone. In short, the PowerBook / OS X combination is a very elegant and well-designed system. The hardware is beautiful and works extremely well with the software, and the work that has gone into the operating system has made OS X a very good-looking and intuitive system to use. However, OS X does suffer from a lack of native applications at the moment that would distinguish it from other platforms. However, the native applications that are available are quite robust, consistent and work very well with the operating system and hardware.
Should the quality of work that has gone into this system continue, this platform has a good deal to look forward to.