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RAM vs. AirPort Express, and PowerBook upgrades

Michael McCracken writes about upgrading the memory in his PowerBook, the resulting performance improvement, and not buying an AirPort Express thereafter. Coincidentally, last week I had the same dilemma, but post-AirPort Express release: memory or music? My choice was the same; to upgrade my memory, and stay with my current bizarre music-broadcasting setup (which involves Nicecast, Shoutcast, and three computers) for a while longer at least. AirPort Express does exactly what I need, though; I hope it takes off, and Apple expands it beyond iTunes.

I had a tendency not to upgrade my laptops ever if at all—my PowerBook G3 still has the same 96 MB RAM it had when I bought it in 1998, and its predecessor PowerBook 540 didn’t get upgraded at all, memory, disk or CPU, from 1994 to 1998. But my PowerBook G4 has moved from auxiliary to main machine since I bought it: instead of having my desktop Mac at my research office, I have it at home, and use my PowerBook at school with an external monitor and Linux box through osx2x. Overall, it works very well as long as I don’t try to run simulations on it; but with 14 applications open, it bogs down a bit (Finder, iTunes, osx2x, Safari, Mail, Colloquy, Adium, Emacs, FileMerge, Terminal, OmniOutliner, Graphviz, Preview, BBEdit, to take an arbitrary sample).

If you’re buying memory, make sure you follow a link from a price-comparison site such as dealram; the price for 512 MB PC133 SDRAM at one vendor went down by $15 when I did so. Just knowing that vendor X will have the lowest price isn’t enough.

Update: my memory arrived yesterday; what a difference. With the above applications open, top reports PhysMem: 102M wired, 218M active, 355M inactive, 676M used, 347M free. Some room to run my memory-hogging research software. :)

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