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Portables (Apple)

Journal Journal: One year after the switch

One year ago today, I bought an iBook. I needed a notebook computer and decided to give the iBook the nod, since I was increasingly annoyed with Microsoft's upcoming licencing schemes and intrigued by Mac OS X, and thought that the iBook was competitive in price and features. My intention was to run two platforms; I still had a Dell Dimension 4100 with a 933-MHz Pentium III, which I had bought the preceding March and which I still planned to use as my primary desktop computer.

It didn't turn out that way. I immediately had more fun using the iBook and began using it almost exclusively. By the end of November I had moved my mail over to it, just in time for the copy of Eudora on our PC was hit by a virus. There were some network connection problems (I couldn't access certain sites and services), which turned out to be a problem between the MTU setting and my ISP; once resolved (in February), everything worked thereafter.

Also in February, I added wireless networking, to give me more mobility, and I adored it. When my relationship broke down and I had to move out, I left the desktop behind and took the iBook. I've never looked back since.

The iBook has a 600-MHz G3 processor and a combo (DVD/CD-RW) drive. I brought up its total RAM to 384 MB. One year later, I find that I need more RAM than that. Running multiple programs takes up a lot of memory, and some programs are much more RAM-intensive than others. iPhoto, for example, is a pig, but a real surprise is how much RAM Microsoft Word can take up at once. You wouldn't expect that from a word processor.

The processor speed is adequate for most tasks, though there are times I would really like Altivec, such as when iTunes rips MP3s at 3x speed (or less, if I'm multitasking like mad). For writing, surfing, fiddling in the Terminal, etc., it's fine. As you might expect with a portable, disk access (and RAM) are serious impediments, that make using iPhoto (for example) an exercise in frustration.

The combo drive is a godsend. Originally I had planned on getting the DVD-ROM model, thinking I could continue to burn CDs on the PC (networking over whatever data was necessary), but it turned out that burning CDs was easier on the Mac. Most of my CDs are data archive CD-ROMs; I've burned only a couple of audio CDs through iTunes, and that, too was trivial.

Video RAM is a bit of a problem; my 8-MB ATi Rage Pro 128 can barely play most new releases. Civilization III runs all right, if sluggishly, and I'm amazed that Black & White runs at all. I'm not even thinking about getting any newer games until I have a desktop. Not being able to run Quartz Extreme is too bad, but liveable; Jaguar (I'm running OS X 10.2.2 right now) is still very usable without it.

Battery life is excellent; I easily exceed well over two hours when surfing over wireless (running AirPort does drain the battery a bit) and usually exceed three. I once played a DVD on the plane and had enough juice to finish it.

Physically, the iBook has held up well after a year of abuse. The lid is scratched up quite nicely, as you might expect, and I've gotten crumbs into the keyboard. The two front pads have cracked off the bottom of the computer. The power supply has a problem with the short adapter bit that plugs directly into the wall, which I will take care of shortly. I bought AppleCare since my last laptop (an IBM ThinkPad 380) had its screen fry after only 18 months.

As I said, I'm running OS X 10.2.2, and the operating system is one of the main reasons I switched. I was never a UNIX geek, and my ability to get under the hood and mess around is rather limited, but I do like having it there. I really do love OS X, which is something I could never have said about Windows. One of my original justifications for switching was the ability to run Apache (and PHP) locally so I could code web pages offline, but with wireless networking connected to a 1-Mbps ADSL modem, I've found it just as easy to save directly to my web server via Samba, or just ssh into it and code it remotely. I use Pico; I know, I suck.

The OS has crashed a total of four times. Twice there was a kernel panic during sleep mode that I attributed to a less-than-compatible USB hub, which I've since removed. Twice I rebooted after getting a network hang after connecting to my iDisk; this problem has been ameliorated under Jaguar, under which iDisk connections are much faster. I've turned the computer off only once in the past year, and that was to install the AirPort card; it's been either on or asleep ever since. I reboot only when Software Update requires it, which is once or twice a month at most, if that.

Finally, Apple has inflicted serious monetary damage on me in the area of the digital hub, which actually turned out to be very useful. The applications encouraged me to use them more than any PC equivalent did, and digital-hub apps are a bigger part of my computing life than I expected. The problem is that it has encouraged a serious gadget jones that is, well, expensive.

I'd had a digital camera before, but uploading and editing images was nontrivial. As it turned out, neither my camera (a 1.5-megapixel Fuji MX600Zoom) nor my SmartMedia card reader was OS X compatible, so I used the excuse to upgrade to a Nikon Coolpix 995 in March. Fantastic camera that was compatible with iPhoto, and as a result I'm taking a lot more photos than I used to.

I'd had the opportunity to rip and burn music on my PC before, but the software was not user-friendly enough to encourage it; i.e, I could do it, but I'd have to learn. iTunes was, of course, trivial, and my MP3 collection, which was once nonexistent, began to proliferate. A 5-GB iPod followed in May. Strangely enough, I was actually listening to more music than I had before.

Then came the opportunity to edit a friend's video footage with iMovie, which I enjoyed far too much for my own good. And then I was thinking to myself, I really need one of those digital video cameras, and a desktop with a G4 and a really big hard drive (20 GB on the iBook is really not enough for video work), and, yeah, burning it to DVD would be really good, too ...

I think I'm in trouble.

Technology (Apple)

Journal Journal: Should Apple put out a Tablet Mac?

Matthew Rothenberg writes about a possible/hypothetical Apple version of a Tablet PC. I've felt that Apple's (lack of) presence in the enterprise sector, which Microsoft is explicitly targeting as the market for Tablet PCs, makes a tablet Mac less likely, but Apple could, as Rothenberg points out, easily put out a tablet that beats the Tablet PC's pants off.

  1. With Rendezvous and Inkwell already built into the OS, Apple already has everything it needs software-wise. From what I've heard, Inkwell is better than Microsoft's handwriting recognition, which claims 60 to 90 per cent accuracy, depending on, well, you. Based on my experience with the Palm OS's Graffiti, even 90 per cent accuracy would drive people nuts if they used it for anything more than a few words here and there; if Inkwell can do better than this, Apple would have a clear advantage.
  2. If the tablet is a premium form factor, Apple could negate its hardware disadvantages in the desktop area and use full-speed G3 processors without worrying about encroaching on the G4 marketspace. A tablet is not likely to make heavy use of Altivec-hungry multimedia apps, so a low-power G3 processor (maybe a full-speed, 1-GHz Sahara G3 on a 200-MHz FSB) would be ideal, providing better battery life than a Tablet PC --much like the case is now with laptops. (And you wouldn't have the talk about using higher-frequency G3s in iBooks threatening the G4s in PowerBooks, since this is a totally different, and premium, product line.)
  3. Apple has an opportunity to enter a market segment without pricing itself at the premium end. When it comes to desktop computers, Apple has a reputation for being overpriced. Its notebooks are seen as somewhat better value, which is probably one reason why they sell rather well. Apple's displays and MP3 players are rightly regarded as premium products that are expensive but just possibly worth it. And then there's the Xserve, Apple's rack-mounted server, which is actually seen as a bargain, because its hardware is competitive and an unlimited-user licence of Mac OS X Server is included (as opposed to Microsoft's usurious per-user licencing schemes). With Tablet PCs running at US$2,300 to US$3,000 (the same price point as a TiBook, and clearly aimed at corporate buyers and executive users) Apple might well be able to assemble something that would be profitable at a lower price point -- assuming, of course, that the R&D costs are not too extreme.

A tablet Mac with top-notch handwriting recognition built into the OS, Bluetooth and AirPort networking, a 1-GHz G3, hours of battery life, for US$1,999 would, on specs alone, eat the Tablet PC's lunch. But my guess is that not enough people would buy it to recoup Apple's development costs, so I don't think Apple will build it.

For more on Tablet PCs, read Anil on why they will succeed, and Matt on why they will fail.


Journal Journal: What happens when an Apple story makes the front page

Whenever an Apple story makes it to the front page of Slashdot, any number of complaints and silly arguments will follow.

Someone will object to the number of Apple stories on Slashdot.

Someone will ascribe nefarious motives to the editors of Slashdot for publishing so many Apple stories -- for example, that they're in it for a shiny new laptop.

Someone will suddenly notice the Aquaesque theme of Apple stories on Slashdot, and make a comment about Apple's lawyers.

Someone will complain about the lack of a two-button mouse.

Someone will complain about Apple's proprietary hardware.

Someone will argue that Apple should port OS X to x86 hardware.

Someone will demand that Apple allow hackers to build their own Macs.

Someone will complain about the lack of a Linux version of QuickTime.

Someone will nitpick the details of Apple's open-source software licence.

Someone will dismiss any and all of Apple's open sourced projects.

Someone will argue that Apple should open-source all its software.

Someone will argue that a KDE or Gnome desktop is a better UI than a Mac, and/or that Linux can be used by mere mortals.

Someone will want an Aqua port to Linux.

Someone will compare the price of a top-end Power Mac to a machine they could put together from parts.

Someone will compare the performance of a top-end Power Mac to an Intel or AMD processor/chipset/motherboard that they do not currently use and cannot afford anyway.

Someone will inflate the price of a Power Mac by 50% when comparing prices.

Most of which will be offtopic, none of which will be moderated as such, and all of which will derail the discussion for a little while.

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