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ATPM 12.06
June 2006





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by Wes Meltzer,

Don’t Look Back

A remarkable thing happened this month: we have now all but severed our ties to the past.

When Apple removed the Happy Mac from the OS X boot sequence in the Jaguar release, I lamented the loss of a close friend. The Happy Mac, along with the smiley Mac face on the “Welcome to Mac OS” logo, had been my first introduction to the Macintosh world. To have it taken away was a powerful experience.

Not long before, they had started taking away the fonts. First, the OS X interface uses Lucida Grande for all its labels, where OS 9 used Charcoal. And the old rainbow Apple with a bite taken out of it was replaced with a monochrome-gradient Apple in the OS X interface. In 2003, Apple replaced its Apple Garamond signage and product logo types with Myriad, a sans-serif font.

We Mac users are a nostalgic bunch, so there are hacks that allow you to return to any or all of these things, up to and including a Platinum interface for OS X, although I doubt anyone has repainted his PowerBook to use Adobe Garamond for the product label on lid—that would be a seriously committed act of fandom.

But all this year we’ve been losing our beloved product lines. The “PowerBook” is now the “MacBook Pro,” after 15 years with the moniker, and as of this month, the iBook is now the “MacBook.” (More later.) Apparently Apple filed a trademark on the name “Mac Pro,” which would mark the loss of the long-lived “Power Mac” line.

Will the iMac be renamed the “Mac”? It would be consistent with the current naming scheme for Apple’s computers, and finally unify the pre- and post-Steve Jobs product lines (the ‘Power’ and ‘i’ lines). On the other hand, the entire country would break out in a modern-day “Who’s On First”:

Me: I’m buying a Mac.
You: Which Mac?
Me: A Mac.
You: You mean you don’t know what Mac?
Me: Well, I should.
You: Well, then, what Mac are you buying?
Me: Yes.

So here’s to hoping that little ‘i’ stays.

All this nostalgia for a couple of adjectives, right? This month, we cordially welcome the MacBook to the Apple lineup. The newcomer, in lieu of the iBook, splits the difference between the old 12″ and 14″ sizes (and there is no 12″ model anymore), with a 13.3″ widescreen display and 1280 × 800 resolution. For reference’s sake, my 15″ Titanium PowerBook has a 1280 × 854 display, which means that the new iBook—err, MacBook—has virtually the same number of pixels, in a smaller space. This seems to me to be a good trend, but it may dismay some people with poor vision, for whom the 14″ iBook must have been a godsend.

Early reviews of the MacBook seem to make two points in particular: they’re really fast, and they’re really hot. Macworld and Engadget both liked putting their hands on them, in spite of the warmth: Macworld calls them “more powerful and full-featured than the [iBooks].” Engadget is hung up on the keys, which are curiously raised out of the surface of the computer, rather than the old removable keyboard platform; they say they’re much less mushy, but that they take some getting used to.

Ars Technica was not thrilled about the glossy screen, however. They, too, got a review model, and note that while it’s great to go to widescreen, if the cost is a glossy, super-reflective screen, it might not be worth it. Of course, it’s still a really, really powerful machine (and hot), as Ars Technica’s Clint Ecker writes: “The leap from an iBook to the new MacBook is quite dramatic.” Even PC users seem to appreciate what a remarkable computer it is, as Notebook Review took a look at it and concluded that, other than the heat, it’s one hell of a computer.

(Hint: if you are in the market for a graduation present for me, or maybe someone else you love…this would be a good time to consider placing an order. Just a thought.)

This heat problem is, well, a real problem for MacBook and MacBook Pro buyers. However, there’s good news and there’s bad news, as James Duncan Davidson noted at O’Reilly’s MacDevCenter. Word had been floating around the Internet that a less hurried application of thermal paste had resulted in huge surface and internal temperature decreases in the computers. However, Davidson cracked his computer open and did just that, and found a decrease of just 2°F. On the other hand, he accidentally disconnected the temperature sensor, which sent his (fairly quiet) fans into overdrive and transformed his MacBook Pro from a griddle into a computer that was actually cool to the touch. He thinks that’s how others on the Internet got their “better application of thermal paste” results. Good news: Your MacBook (Pro) has great fans. Bad news: Apple has configured the computer to run hot, and therefore quieter. Tanya Klowden at Ars Technica thinks Apple’s latest MacBook Pro firmware update is shifting the balance toward lower temperatures.

What about the strategy of producing a black model with a price premium? (If you’re interested, it’s about $150 after the other associated upgrades.) Julio Ojeda-Zapata at Your Tech Weblog cites anecdotal evidence that they’re selling out faster than the white models. On the other hand, under at least one possible interpretation these MacBooks are cheaper than similarly configured Dells; whether it’s true or not, the fact that we can make the comparison is all the more interesting.

And in case you know some fence-sitters, folks, remember that the MacBook will run Windows, too. The Unofficial Apple Weblog’s Dave Caolo reports that he got two potential buyers to buy Macs just by telling them that they can run Windows on them. Congratulations, Dave! Hope you got a commission.

Last but not least, Apple just rolled out a new commercial campaign to get PC users to buy Macs, which ends with a shot of the new MacBook. They aren’t using the “it runs Windows” line, but they’re entertaining nevertheless. Watch them yourself, then read what John Siracusa and my boss Michael Tsai think of them. I find myself laughing, especially with the commercial involving the Japanese woman.

Far Away and Left Behind

  • While we Mac users enjoy the excitement of a newly rejuvenated product line and an upcoming OS, we should take a few moments to ponder the plight of the Windows user. He’s been using the same OS since 2001, and Microsoft keeps pushing back the release date on Vista and taking features away from it. Bad news just keeps getting worse. Now, even Paul Thurrott (!!) has soured on the whole megillah—he says all he hopes is that when Vista does finally arrive, it’ll be worth it. What’s next, will Bill Gates come out as lukewarm on his own product? Brian Tiemann thinks Vista may be Microsoft’s Copland; and Coding Horror, Rick Strahl and The Old New Thing all express their dismay at what a train-wreck Windows Vista is turning into. It’s almost painful to watch…and this is speaking as a Mac user.
  • Apple is building a second campus in Cupertino. This one will have 50 acres, and apparently Apple paid $160 million, which is money they didn’t want to spend on it, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Anyway, they’re flush with cash, and it seems they may as well use it to build a campus that could cost us as much as $500 million.
  • To put it mildly, the universe contains some mind-numbingly bad error messages. Unfortunately, Unsanity’s Rosyna found one in connection with the PowerPC-to-Intel migration which doesn’t bode well for all those MacBook (Pro) buyers: one that reads, “You cannot open FontCard preferences on this computer. Contact the developer of this software for a newer version.” This is one of the worst error messages I have ever seen, because it doesn’t even explain the problem. And Rosyna agrees, obviously. But nothing is quite so bad as the ultimate Zen dialog box Matthias Thorn at Thornography got…you have to see it to believe it. Here’s to hoping we haven’t jinxed you, Matthias!
  • Have you ever felt ripped off? Imagine how Panic Software feels, since they have some of the best graphics and UI work in the business. They put together a whole gallery of all the painful rip-offs of their work they’ve seen. Sorry, guys…If it makes you feel any better, Samsung ripped off Apple, of all companies, on some of their cell phones.
  • In iPod news, longtime iPod CPU-maker PortalPlayer will not be supplying the chip in forthcoming flash models with screens. Because the universe has a sense of humor, and I do not, Samsung will be the supplier. Also, SanDisk is starting an “iDon’T” anti-iPod campaign, in the hopes that they can use guerilla marketing tactics to convince people that the iPod is too trendy. Um, good luck with that, guys.
  • Since I’ve been down on the idea of Apple entering the mobile world before, and in March I gave away my JFK Shot By LBJ Award to a writer who believes that Apple will market an iPhone as an MVNO, I feel obligated to link to Rui Carmo’s timeline of iPhone rumors. Talk about fascinating.
  • Speaking of awards, I have another to announce: the Dave Winer Award, which celebrates the dumbest thing Dave Winer said in any given month. (Yes, this means I have to keep an even closer eye on Dave Winer. This month, as every month, the award goes to Dave himself, for writing that his data is locked into Apple applications and linking to a photo of a grain silo—a “silo” is an application that locks your data into it. Why does this merit a Dave Winer Award? Les Posen notes that it’s actually quite easy to get your data out of those Apple applications…But then again, unless an application uses OPML or his officially sanctioned RSS, Dave Winer will happily blast it. So, congrats, Dave.

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Reader Comments (1)

ssp · June 2, 2006 - 10:42 EST #1
As for nostalgia... what about Chicago (still living with us on the older iPods)?

And I think Apple used 'AppleGaramond' for their labels, which was more Garamond Narrow than normal Garamond. Heck I miss that...

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