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ATPM 13.03
March 2007




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Apple Talk

by Angus Wong,

Massively Useful

Microsoft has been getting the PC industry (that is, the personal computer industry) very excited about its new Vista thang. Redmond has been insanely successful at stirring up awareness (“I waited half a decade for this?!”) and it’s great to see yet another home run after the Zune (you forgot about Zune again?!).

What I don’t get though is how Microsoft benefits from more Apple users. But whatever it’s all about, those Redmond boys are just working like madmen to increase iPod and Macintosh market share. Crazy guys, ya just gotta love ’em. I suspect it might have something to do with that nasty anti-trust case that says Microsoft is not allowed to directly fund Apple marketing efforts, so this might be the next best way it can be done. Sure is some thinking outside the box. Now I finally understand why the Zune is an iPod killer because it’s an iPod killer app!

Anyway, because of all this, and despite me often making fun of Microsoft, I figured I should give them a break and support their efforts, and so went out and got a brand spankin’ new 17″ MacBook Pro.

OK, technically I didn’t go out at all. I clickity-clicked my Kensington Expert Mouse and ordered from the Apple Store. I must have toyed with the configuration a hundred times over the past two years, restraining myself and saving up cash, while Apple kept patiently blasting Wall Street estimates.

Prior to my new 17″, I had been chugging along with a 12″ 1 GHz iBook G4 and was aching to see how quickly iMovie HD would import my most recent HDV camcorder videos. But, first things first, I made a little QuickTime slideshow (iPhoto was fast!) and Pandoed it to my buddies. Two of them decided to get a new Mac also.

Next up: Parallels.

Being able to safely quarantine Windows in its little private hell within OS X, at native speeds, just rocks. Parallels is pretty much everything SoftWindows and Virtual PC wanted to be. I even wrote an article about it. In comparison with Boot Camp, if you’re not doing 3D games, Parallels lets you be more productive by running another system concurrently with OS X. The latest version supports seamless drag-and-drop between the Windows and OS X desktops and so, for most things, Parallels is probably the better approach. I’ve not yet tried VMWare’s offering but have already paid for and am happy with Parallels. Things can only get better from here, and I look forward to further innovations in virtualization for OS X.

Speaking of the letter “X,” this new laptop makes for my tenth Macintosh. I started with a Mac SE in college, used a MacPlus in one of my first jobs, then bought a Mac IIsi, a Mac 6100 AV, a PowerBook 180c, a PowerBook 520c, used a IIcx at another job, bought myself the original iMac when it came out (replacing the puck mouse within a week), a PowerBook G3 “Pismo,” a second-hand iBook G3, and then the iBook G4. That’s approximately ten Macs I’ve bought in two decades, or a Mac every couple of years. Crazy? Not as crazy as putting up with Windows nightmares. If time is money, my Macs have already paid for themselves in the time I’ve saved from agonizing over Windows. God knows I already suffer enough with the Windows machines I am often forced to use and, bless Clarus, that I came back in from the cold.

A Mac running OS X is a massively useful machine. You really can’t say the same for any other computer out there because none of them have been designed to be so seamlessly easy to use for such a wide variety of tasks. Just iLife alone can streamline management of our personal digital content in enormously simpler ways compared to even the best Google applications on Windows (e.g., Picasa). But it’s obviously not just the software. Because Apple is playing with a full deck of cards (the complete hardware/software solution) it can be intelligently mindful of the past and the future, so much so that even an aging G3 Mac is able to run enough OS X to deliver basic computing needs, while more recent Macs can look forward to the quantum leap that will soon be Leopard.

The iPod is also massively useful. Often pigeon-holed into the “MP3 player” category by clueless analysts the iPod plays more than just songs and videos. You can store data on it as a portable hard disk, listen to podcasts (as a source of a completely new channel of information), play games, view your calendar and contacts, and expand its functionality with a huge array of third-party add-on attachments. I actually hardly use my iPod for MP3s; I mostly use it for listening to and watching news podcasts on a daily basis and sharing family photos and movies at gatherings.

As much as I want Linux to succeed (in the spirit of true competition driving innovation and cross-pollination between Apple and open source efforts), it’s just not there yet. Desktop Linux is getting better every year for end-users, but if you just need something done, in a matter of minutes, not hours, it is very likely that booting up OS X will save the day so you can get on with living your life. Mucking around on the computer to troubleshoot something, or because of inefficient workflow caused by nascent design, can insidiously burn up our free time.

So am I more productive with my new Intel Mac? Well, where I previously had to put up with Windows PCs for certain business tasks, I am now able to completely do away with physical Windows machines (and tempting though it may be, I won’t likely go as far as throwing them out the window). This saves me a lot of time and physical space. Forget the KVM switch; I now just instantiate a Windows VM whenever I absolutely, positively have to put up with Windows for a certain task. In fact, it’s great to be using OS X while Windows boots in a hidden window. And, whenever that dog-slow gordian knot of programming decides to spin wheels for unfathomable reasons, I just leave it in the background to work out its frustrations while I keep on being productive with a real operating system. The other big bonus is that I can copy the entire VM file onto a backup drive or network volume and enjoy the peace of mind that I can reload my entire VM environment if I ever need to “undo” something, or if the VM ever crashed or got nuked by a virus. As for gaming, because Boot Camp is still the best optimized solution when it comes to raw graphics performance, my Mac can deliver the hit I need to satiate a gaming itch.

I could go on and on about how useful my new Mac is (such as watching DVDs in bed on the widescreen LCD; having enough screen estate to do a decent iMovie editing job; reading or editing PDF, text or Web pages in full page view or even 2-up mode) but all I really want to say is that I am truly looking forward to the iPhone being so massively useful that it will finally deliver the convergence vision the whole telecommunications industry has been yapping about for ten years.

What we need are digital tools that enhance our lives instead of detract from them. That, perhaps, is the core difference between Apple and the wannabes.

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Reader Comments (2)

bob · March 2, 2007 - 11:45 EST #1
Hey way to go! But I thought you were a TRS80 fan!!!
Angus Wong · March 2, 2007 - 22:42 EST #2
Haha! But I was too young to be very discerning about my computing preferences back then :-)

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