Power Mac G5 is Apple’s best work yet
Cupertino’s 64-bit desktop system and Panther OS mix beauty and exceptional performance
The system is designed to be user-upgradable and user-serviceable. The system’s innards are concealed behind an easily-removed side panel. The Power Mac G5’s printed documentation describes, in plain language, how to add and remove system components. Apple recently instituted a program of supplying repair parts to customers as an alternative to site visits. The Power Mac G5 was clearly designed to support that approach.
Jaguar (OS X 10.2) Server was criticized for its shallow management interface, which forced administrators to resort to arcane methods to configure services by hand. The revamped management interface is much, much improved, although I wouldn’t judge it complete. All of the file-sharing settings and permissions should be combined into a single tab. Remote server management can only be done from another Panther machine; Jaguar is inexplicably not supported. The Panther Server management interface lacks a Web front end, too, which hurts because there is no efficient way to control the Mac GUI remotely.
For me, there is no administrative tool that compares to a terminal window. Apple finally addressed the thorny issue of Jaguar’s limited and poorly documented set of command-line tools. All of the OS X Server documentation has been reworked, and those docs are finally readable thanks to a retooled PDF engine that renders rich documents faster than you can scroll through them.
I was delighted that Apple replaced Jaguar’s clunky Sendmail SMTP server with the more respected Postfix. In practice, I don’t find Postfix to be an improvement, at least not the way Apple has implemented it. E-mail is one of the few services in Panther Server that was obviously cobbled together from open source parts. Keeping those parts loosely connected fits open source principles. However, this is one area where Apple can and should add unique value for mainstream customers.
The killer Panther Server feature is Windows interoperability. Panther will provide authentication, VPN, and file/print services to Windows clients, which creates interesting possibilities for reducing license costs.
The Ideal Mac
For the work I do, the Intel x86/Windows platform has fallen out of step with my requirements. I need my desktops to move and process multiple mountains of data, located in various places inside and outside the system, while maintaining a smooth, rich, and responsive user interface. I expect that from clients and servers. In the months I’ve worked with the Power Mac G5, I’ve found that the hardware, Panther OS, and the quite remarkable Xcode development environment form an ideal combination of usability and performance. It’s the ideal Mac; Intel’s Xeon simply can’t compete. If Apple wants a competing architecture to worry about, it should set its sights on Opteron. Apple should continue to make hay while Microsoft and Sun adapt their commercial operating systems to the AMD64 architecture.
I find digital media production to be a better overall predictor of compute and throughput performance than synthetic benchmarks, and in this regard, the Power Mac G5 stomps the Power Mac G4 and leaves the Xeon (running Adobe Premiere) choking on its dust. In the latter case, the Xeon system isn’t primarily hung up by a lack of compute power. The Xeon is hobbled by a shared bus that operates at half the speed of the fastest buses in the Power Mac G5.