The only problem with the 500-700 (G3) iBooks for what you want to do is the size of the HD. If I'm not mistaken, the 700s never had a HD bigger than 20Gb, and the 500 and 600 models had smaller HDs than that (my 600 originally came with 15Gb). That may be enough if you don't have a huge collection of music and/or photos, but otherwise, it won't suffice. The bummer is that the HD is not easy to swap in these machines, though it is doable. If you can find one that someone has already replaced the HD on, great. Also, you should be aware that these iBooks fall smack dab in the middle of the machines prone to the logic-board problem (though mine was never affected--touch wood).
Most of the iLife apps will run fine on these machines, but be warned that Garageband requires a G3 600 minimum.
I know you said "preferably a laptop" but my suggestion would be to maybe go slightly over budget and get the low-end Mac Mini (I'm assuming you have a monitor already).
Now, as far as the suggestion itself, it aint a bad one if Mactavish wants portability for ~$500.00. He may luck out and find one with a big enough drive he'd need for his pics and tunes. But they will probably be rare finds. A G3 iBook might be easier to find.
Mactavish, consider an iBook. I wouldn't probably go for any of the early generation "clamshell" designed books, but rather early "ice" iBooks.
But, you will get the BEST bang for the buck with a Mac Mini. NO doubt about it.
__________________ 32GB iPad 1 WiFi. 2011 Mac Mini Server (used as a workstation) 2GHz quad-core i7/8GB/1TB, 24" BenQ LCD, 17" NEC LCD, Magic Trackpad. MacBook 2.4GHz Core2 Duo/2GB/200GB/DL-DVDRW. Apple TV 2, 32" flat panel TV, Logitech DiNovo Edge BT keyboard & trackpad. >5TB of FW drives, 16GB iPhone 4S. In memoriam: my Sawtooth "Frankenmac" with upgraded dual 1.3GHz G4/2GB/360GB striped RAID/DVDRW/ATI Radeon 9000 Pro
You mentioned iLife and the current version is not exactly designed to run on older, slower equipment. Images and music files can also fill up a smaller drive in no time. Your $500 budget will not get you a laptop that will adequately perform the above, IMHO. You may get by, provided you can run Panther and the portable is maxed out in RAM. You did say speed is not a big concern.
Macaholic's mention of getting a brand spanking new MacMini will, but you need to revise your budget a little and bump up the RAM on the 'mini'. You get a new machine with all the goodies including Tiger. You'll sacrifice the portability but get a better experience.
The Mac Mini comes with 512 MB ram and a 40 gb hard disk and a 1.25Ghz g4 which is pretty much all you need for most business and iLife apps.
The mini comes with the newest OS Tiger 10.4 and a 1 year guarrentee.
If you have a monitor , Keyboard and mouse, I wouid get the mini at about $700 after taxes, its a great deal and very cool all around, You cant get a better deal used. If you want wireless networking, be sure to order it with Airport.
Im not sure you will get a proper introduction to what Macs can do in an older used laptop for under $500. the extra $200 will make the world of difference.