iMac – First Impressions (updated)

As I mentioned previously, I am not a Mac user. I use Windows and Linux for my computing needs. But now my iMac is in and I have been playing with Mac OSX Leopard for a few hours. Let me just say to Microsoft, this is where the Wow is.

The initial setup of OSX when you first turn on the iMac is as simple as you could ask for. It finds your network, wireless or wired, and prompts you to input any necessary configuration information to connect to said network. It asks you to create an account password and picture (using the built in iSight camera…more on that in a minute) and then let’s you into the desktop. It quite literally took less than five minutes to get the entire initial setup completed. Are you listening Microsoft? I really don’t need Vista taking in excess of 15 minutes on the initial startup. It’s a waste of my time and I don’t have all that much to spare.

The desktop is clean. You have the application bar at the top and the dock at the bottom. Think of the dock as a quicklaunch bar. Icons for the programs you will use the most should be here. The application bar will be somewhat confusing to longtime Windows users. See, programs in OSX do not have a menu bar with the familiar File, Edit, etc menus. The application bar changes to reflect those. This will probably be the hardest thing to learn when moving from a Windows environment to OSX. As for a taskbar showing a little button for every running program…you won’t see that here. However, changing between windows is just a squeeze of the mouse away. Yes, I said squeeze. The Apple Mighty Mouse has left and right click, a scroll ball (for smooth vertical and horizontal scrolling…a wonderful little bonus), middle click, and squeeze. If you squeeze on the two side tabs, all active windows shrink and spread out across the desktop so you can see all available programs. Click on one and it becomes the active window.

If you middle click, you get the Dashboard. This is a pseudo desktop that overlays the current desktop. On the Dashboard are widgets. Think of them as the gadgets in Windows Sidebar. I am not getting into the argument over which company or group came up with these things first, I am simply describing what the Windows equivalent would be for easier visualization. The Dashboard starts with a calculator, weather, clock, and a calendar. You can add, remove, and relocate widgets across this desktop to better fill your needs. If you don’t see a widget for something you want, there are many many more available online.

The iSight camera is simply amazing. The pictures are clear and the video is smooth with very little blurring even during fast motion. I probably played with my position in front of the camera for four or five minutes when OSX just wanted me to make a picture to associate with my user account. I was just that amazed with the quality it provided. I plan on playing with it a lot more over the weekend.

Sound on the iMac is both loud and surprisingly clear. The speakers are built into the system and are hidden behind the lower part of the bezel on either corner. There are no holes in the bezel to denote that sound is coming from there, which caught me off guard. I did not expect so much noise to come from so small a package without it sounding tinny or distorted. Somehow, though, Apple managed to put together a wonderful system capable of making happy about ditching my old Creative speakers and further uncluttering my desk.

My only gripe so far is the length of the USB cables for the mouse and keyboard. At this point I am going to have to completely redesign my desk to accommodate the skimpy length. The keyboard has maybe two feet of cable and the mouse about one. Now I can understand the thought behind the choices. If you have the iMac on a flat desk, the cables are adequately long enough to accommodate comfortable use since the mouse plugs into the keyboard’s USB hub. but if you have a keyboard drawer under the surface of your desk and you want to use the mouse on the surface…well, let’s just say you need to start working on new desk designs.

Anyway, the point is the hardware is impressive as is the ease of setup. I haven’t had enough time to really dive into the applications yet, so that piece will have to wait a few days whilst I delve into the Steve Jobs Kool-Aid…

UPDATE: Well it appears my Superdrive is DOA. I suppose it’s off to the service center next week so I can get it replaced. Isn’t that just a wonderful start to my life with an iMac. And it only cost my one of my favorite CD’s to discover the horrible truth of the refurb.

An Apple a day

I have finally decided to go to the dark side. Already my house is populated with both Windows and Linux systems. It is now time to add Mac to the list. I ordered my iMac earlier this week and it should be in tomorrow. Honestly, I haven’t really spent any quality time with an Apple system since my early childhood when I spent countless hours with my mom’s Apple ][e running Apple DOS 3.3. Oh how that was such a monster system for its day. It had the 80 column card, 64k of memory, two 5.25″ floppy drives and a 300baud modem. Seriously, this thing was a powerhouse. But alas, that computer eventually died and I entered the world of the Commodore and Adam and TI99-4a computers. Eventually it settled down into the PC world with my purchase of a Packard Bell 486sx-25.

These days I use my Dell Inspiron 1501 with Vista Home Premium for most of my computing fun because of its portability around my house. My stationary box is a home built AMD Athlon64 running Ubuntu at the moment. I have a tendency to change the flavor of Linux on that box between Fedora, Gentoo, Slackware, and Ubuntu depending on my mood that week. The downside to that system is the noise ratio. I have 11 fans in that system and it sounds like a rabid vacuum cleaner with buck teeth snoring itself into oblivion when I turn it on. When you add the near radioactive glow that comes from the acrylic case and plethora of cold cathode tubes and LEDs, well, it is more than a little distracting. There is also the matter of the 550 watt power supply being strained to its limit and the MAG 19″ CRT sucking in as much energy as it can and happily producing copious amounts of heat as a thank you that just make me tired of using it. I decided to go a bit more green and a lot more quiet.

Enter the iMac. Basically a computer in a monitor, the iMac is a wonderful little device that is quieter, cooler, and immensely easier on the electric bill. Some people say that Apple’s offerings are far more expensive than those of Dell or HP. Not so. I did a comparison build of computers between manufacturers and Apple is right in line with their pricing. They also have the concept of making the computer itself look really nice. Have you actually seen one of the Dell XPS One systems up close? It has all the allure and style of a train wreck. It is large, unwieldy, and just plain bad. I do not put form over function when it comes to my computing, but that does not mean I want something that is downright ugly. Just hand me the sleek one that does all of the things I intend to do on a computer.

iMac computers are capable of everything I want to do. In addition to their renown for being an artist’s best friend, with Leopard and Boot Camp I can load Windows on it as well to perform whatever tasks required Microsoft’s OS. It is not emulation; it is a boot loader that allows you to choose between installed operating systems at power up. As a matter of fact, most performance benchmarks performed on iMacs since their shift to Intel architecture have shown that Windows performs better on them than on similarly built systems from other manufacturers. Crazy, isn’t it? So here I sit, waiting for my new toy arrive…my very own 20″ Apple iMac (refurb). Why refurb? Because I got it for $999 with full Apple warranty instead of $1199. Bargain basement pricing on what is essentially a brand new system. With luck, it will be here tomorrow. Once I get it up and running, I will post a little of my experience in transitioning to the dark side of personal computing.

Steve Jobs on iPhone price drop

UPDATE: It appears the store credit page is up and running here. The process, like most of Apple’s offerings seems simple and straight forward. Kudos to Jobs for stepping up.

Well it looks like the masses have spoken and Steve listened. An open letter on Apple’s website from Steve shows that occasionally something does happen if you speak out. Now it isn’t the ideal solution for the consumer, but these things rarely are. At least it shows that some companies listen and make at least a minimal effort to quell the tide of discontent that so often happens in the technology world amidst a sweeping change.

Although he did not offer a full $200 refund to the early adopters, he did express his interest in make some amends to those masses that are less than pleased at the original announcement of the price drop. Instead, Apple will offer a $100 credit for use at Apple stores (including the online store). I’m sure there are many who will still be completely discontent with this offer. They can get over it.

As Mr. Jobs stated in his letter:

If you always wait for the next price cut or to buy the new improved model, you’ll never buy any technology product because there is always something better and less expensive on the horizon.

I think that pretty much sums up life in the world of tech. No matter how careful you are, sooner or later you will be caught like those that bought the iPhone at release. You have to accept that being on the bleeding edge means that you will pay a premium that others won’t when said tech isn’t bleeding edge anymore.

On the other hand, you also have to look at the company. Many of them would make changes like the price drop and tell the early adopters to stuff it … just with a little more eloquence than that. I could probably count the ones that truly listen to their customers on one hand. And it appears Apple is one of them.

Again, straight from Jobs’ letter:

…even though we are making the right decision to lower the price of iPhone, and even though the technology road is bumpy, we need to do a better job taking care of our early iPhone customers as we aggressively go after new ones with a lower price. Our early customers trusted us, and we must live up to that trust with our actions in moments like these.

So while it may not be as good as a $200 check from the boys over at Apple, at least it is something by way of an apology and an attempt to make things right. Of course, anyone that truly thought the mass discontent would result in such a refund is probably woefully out of touch with reality. That’s not how capitalism works.

iPod Updates

And so Mr. Steve Jobs has once again graced the stage to usher in a new generation of sleek Apple tech goodies. The new iPods are here and they look good. Lots of minor adjustments, like available colors of the Shuffle. But there are also some bigger changes and announcements…

First off, the Nano has been redesigned to look like a midget (read: squished) iPod Classic. It has nearly the same beautiful color screen as the Classic (2″ instead of 2.5″) and can play video. The sizes are 4GB for $149 and 8GB for $199. Very reasonable considering I paid $250 for my 4GB Mini back when it was new.

Next up is the Classic. It has a size bump and is now available as either 80GB for $249 or 160GB for $349. That should take a bit longer to fill up. Oh, and it only comes in two colors, black and grey.

The big star, though, is the iPod Touch. Think iPhone without the phone part. The case is a near twin to the iPhone. It uses the same 3.5″ multitouch screen and has built in WiFi. Yes, you heard right. The iPod Touch has WiFi. Apple inked a deal with Starbucks. Now if you take your iPod Touch in range of their WiFi hotspot, you can access the iTunes Music Store for free. And yes, this works for the Mac and the iPhone as well. WiFi isn’t limited to iTunes. The Touch comes with the Safari browser and works just like the iPhone. Full page rendering and zooming with just a few flicks of the finger. Life can be sweet. So what’s the price for the goodness? 8GB for $299 and 16GB for $399.

If that isn’t enough, Apple decided to drop the 4GB iPhone. The 8GB is the only model and the price is … $399. Let me say that again … $399. According to AT&T‘s site, the 4GB model will sell for $299 while supplies last. I like the sound of that. I’d like it more if they had 3G. This price drop, however, puts the phone in range of a LOT more people. I expect AT&T will be getting a nice little boost in customers (probably followed quickly by a drop in customer satisfaction if the trend continues). So that’s it. There’s a whole lotta goodness packed into the new lineup and Steve is sure to push the envelope even further next refresh. But until then…enjoy the goodies.


(that’s Yet Another iPhone Blog Post…like we have a shortage of them)

Having played with one in the AT&T store right down the road, I can say that I wish I had the money to drop on the little morsel of technological geek candy. Sadly, Apple has opted to make it stylish only for those who have large salaries and almost no expenses. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but there’s no way I can just up and drop $500 on a phone…much less $600 for one with more storage. Add to that the higher monthly expense since the iPhone plans all need the unlimited data pack and you’ve got yourself a second mortgage.

Despite Apple’s extortionist ways and AT&T’s mafia-like control, I want one. I watched the Apple iMarketing machine with new iHype generator and even drank the iKool-aid. The device is very cool. It even works mostly as advertised and that’s no mean feat in today’s market where it is all too common to be promised the moon and given a block of moldy cheese.

The interface is extremely intuitive and simple. I would expect nothing less from Apple. The touch screen capabilities are absolutely some of the best geek candy I’ve managed to experience in a long time. The overall design, while definitely sleek, is also easily functional. I can’t say whether or not that opinion will hold up after a long call, but my trips to the AT&T store to play with something far out of my price range have convinced me that at least for my short average phone calls, this thing would work just fine.

Add to all of that the iPod capabilities and you’ve got a potential long term revenue for the little brother of the technology world. That is, if the batteries hold and the few software glitches get fixed while AT&T tries to beef up their network to handle the extra load. Oh…and while you’re at it…how ’bout some 3G? After all, you don’t go out and get a brand new Porche and drop a Yugo 3 cylinder engine in it…