One of the fun things about working for TechRepublic is the frequent opportunity to test the latest hardware and software. While this testing is done for a serious purpose, to let you (our members) know what to expect from a product, it doesn’t mean we don’t have fun doing it or regret sending the product back to the manufacturer when we’re finished.

Recently, I boxed up an Apple Macintosh G4 with a 15-inch, flat-screen monitor and shipped it back to Apple, and I swear I almost had tears in my eyes.

Let me tell you why.

The most popular kid on the playground
Remember what it was like to be the first kid on the block with the newest and hottest toy? It’s a moment of fame you knew would pass, but you still enjoyed the attention and envy. That’s the way I often feel when testing new equipment at TechRepublic. While we do regularly receive gadgets and gizmos to test, TechRepublic’s offices aren’t awash with the latest technology. We utilize several test computers, but we don’t operate extensive test labs or have unlimited resources. Our community editors and Web editors often haggle over various pieces of equipment sent to us for testing or review.

Lately I’ve been evaluating wireless equipment from both ORiNOCO and Linksys, along with a new Hewlett-Packard laptop. We’ve been holding on to the wireless equipment until we could find a laptop to use for the testing. I was beginning to get worried, until HP sent us a new Omnibook 6000 to review. Finally, here was a chance to test a new laptop and the wireless equipment. For the past several weeks I wandered the halls with laptop in hand testing the wireless equipment. You can read our reviews of the Omnibook 6000 and the ORiNOCO equipment.

While the Omnibook showed up at an advantageous time, the Mac came to my office by pure whimsy. Apple sent TechProGuild a machine to review, and it ended up in my office after a failed application installation. Click here to read that article.

You know when it’s something special
For a month, the G4 sat proudly in my office with its flat-screen monitor on my desktop. Every day someone would come by my door, hesitate, and then come in to take a closer look.

It was a honey pot, and I was the center of attention.

The machine ran Apple’s new operating system, OS X, and I would often show off the neat things it would do. This is where the adulation often ended. The Mac was form over function, as far as most people were concerned. They loved the look and feel of the case, keyboard, and monitor but offered constant scorn for the OS.

People really loved that flat-screen LCD. Many said the image looked as big as the 17-inch CRT on my desk and would ooh and ah over the display’s vivid colors and crispness. They’d watch a QuickTime movie trailer and ignore how seamlessly it played. They just liked the display.

When our own IT staff would wander by, I’d tell them how the Mac doesn’t need AppleTalk anymore (Apple’s Achilles heal when it comes to networking) and how it wasn’t even the default network protocol under OS X. I thought they’d be impressed. I was wrong.

They’d nod and acknowledge the design of the machine. Sometimes they’d tell me stories of Apple experiences from their past. But there was little enthusiasm for anything but the system’s translucent case or single-cable monitor.

Not exactly an unbiased opinion
While I always try to remain impartial, I must admit that I’ve been a Mac fanatic for many years, and it’s often hard for Mac fans like myself to understand the dislike many PC users have for all things Apple. It’s like being the only believer in a crowd of skeptics. You’ve seen the light and want everyone else to experience it. It’s not going to happen.

Believe me, I’ve been fighting this battle since 1985 when I got my Apple IIc.

Then came the Macintosh with its trashcan and other GUI features. Years later I would think Microsoft Windows 3.1 was such a sad attempt to mimic the Mac’s interface. I’ve been impressed with Windows 2000 Professional here at TechRepublic, and it’s not as easy to be haughty about the Mac’s superior operating system.

Still, OS X was becoming addictive. In the month that I had the Mac, the operating system went from version 10 to 10.0.4. I’d click on the Software Update tool nearly every day just to see if there would be something new available—and there often was.

Updating was classically Mac. You click a button and watch it happen. When the progress bar was done, you were updated. No questions to answer, no preferences to reset. It was like watching the operating system grow and improve before you. Internet Explorer 5.1 changed from Very Beta to Beta. Other programs and functions got noticeably faster and smoother.

I’d love to have that G4 and flat-screen monitor still sitting on my desk. I really do miss it, but sometimes you just have to let go.

Have you fooled around with OS X?

What do you think about OS X? Have you had a chance to test its stability and speed? Have you seen an impact on your network, good or bad? Tell us what you think in the discussion below or send us a note.