I Love the Mac mini, No iPhone in Court, No Region-free DVDs on MacBooks, and More
- 2007.07.31 - Tip Jar
Its been a while since my last article, mostly on account of work being extremely busy. This is, of course, a good thing, so you'll have to excuse my silence.
The fact that I've not written lately does not mean that I haven't been keeping up with Low End Mac or receiving emails about past articles - I have. So here's a little article with my thoughts on what's new, answers to a few questions, my opinion on the iPhone, and a bit about IBM's ThinkPad turning 15.
Demise of the Mac mini
First off, one thing I've noticed a lot on the Mac Web recently is speculation about the demise of the Mac mini. Please tell me this isn't so. I love the mini, own a G4 version (the stealth 1.5 GHz model), and consider it to be about the best computer on the planet for people with no interest in computers.
The mini is nearly silent, extremely reliable, good-looking, small, inexpensive, and, while no speed demon, it's thoroughly "adequate" in most performance measurements.
It wasn't that long ago that Rolls Royce rated the power of its engines as either "adequate" or in the case of turbos "more than adequate", so my description of the mini's speed (and remember, I've got the older, slower G4 version) is not in any way an insult or complaint.
Like many others here, I'd love to see an updated mini or a midi (can they call it that?) with a modicum of expansion bays, but even if left alone and merely speed-bumped, I'd be happy.
The iPhone: Not in Court
iPhone madness is all over Low End Mac - and just about every other tech-related website these days. I've seen an iPhone, even played with one, but I'm not going to buy one.
I think its about the coolest device of its kind on the market today, making the various Sidekicks and Chocolates look so 2006, but for me it's a very easy decision. You see, I practice law and am often in Federal courts, and Federal courts do not allow cameras inside, period. No camera-less iPhone means no iPhone for me, simple.
Of course, the iPhone isn't a specialized product aimed at lawyers, so I totally forgive and understand Apple's not making a camera-less version available like RIM does with its BlackBerry (extremely popular in the legal field).
Less Is More
In addition, I'm a believer in separate devices, which is more of a philosophical thing for me. Visit my office, and you'll see separate printers, fax machines, and copiers.
...I like the reliability of separate devices.
While these devices can all be combined easily into a single device that may even be easier to use or more capable than separates, I like the reliability of separate devices. If my scanner malfunctions, I can still copy and fax, where an all-in-one would lose all of those functions.
My phone is simply too important a tool to combine with other things that may see rougher use, like an iPod, a digital camera, and a portable game console. Still, I'm sure that Apple will sell millions of these things - and wish them all the best with it.
15 Years of ThinkPads
About a week ago IBM's (now Lenovo's) ThinkPad turned 15. Apple would have had them beat had they kept using the PowerBook name, but oh well.
Of all PC laptops, ThinkPads have always been my favorites, so seeing the line turn 15 is a big deal. My First ThinkPad was a model 600E around 1997, and my latest is a model T60 that I bought earlier in the year. The two machines bear a striking resemblance to one another, much as a new BMW shares many design elements with an old one.
Apple's done well since the WallStreet PowerBooks, but for design consistency the ThinkPad is the king. Just as there are Apple 'Book users who complain when Apple changes the design or complain when they keep it static too long, the same can be seen among ThinkPad fans. When I bought my T60, I was shocked to see the little red and blue lines on the mouse buttons (which had been there since 1999 or so) were no longer there. That we all should have such stresses to deal with!
Region Free DVDs
Finally I'd like to revisit a subject on which I've written a few times, and that is making a DVD player region-free (see Make Your Mac Region Free for DVD Viewing and Region Free DVD Viewing Options for Intel and PowerPC Macs).
The sad, sorry state of affairs today is that Apple and a number of other laptop manufacturers are using 9.5mm drives (12mm is standard), and only one company, Matsushita, makes these slimline drives. Matsushita, alas, has gone to great trouble to ensure that we cannot bypass their region coding or flash new firmware. What this means is that the only option for region-free movie playback on a recent MacBook (or Pro) - or anything else with a 9.5mm drive - is to buy an external USB 2.0 or FireWire drive and be sure that it is not a Matsushita. My external USB 2.0 drive (more convenient for mixed Mac/PC use) uses a Pioneer mechanism and is flashed to be region-free.
Tiger, Leopard, and Vista
Finally I'd like to talk a bit about operating systems. There were lots of complaints when Apple announced a delay in Leopard's release - and much rejoicing when articles started popping up citing poor upgrade sales for Windows Vista.
I think both concepts are pure rubbish. If Apple wants to delay Leopard, that can only be a good thing. What would you prefer, a buggy OS? Please, Apple, take your time and get it right. Tiger works just fine for now, and I'll be delighted to buy Leopard a few months later if it means a smoother transition.
As for Vista, I think Windows 95 was the last operating system that anyone ever bought in large numbers as an upgrade for existing computers. Most people use the OS that their computer came with, and for the enthusiasts out there, they typical time an upgrade in OS with the purchase of a new computer.
If one were to look at Tiger's upgrade sales, I'm sure it too would appear to be a flop. Vista will sell in the many billions of copies, because it will come on every new PC. Leopard also will sell extremely well, because it will come on every new Mac.
Finally, don't take the reports of software incompatibilities as a sign that Vista is doing poorly. Every single time I've moved to a new version of the Mac OS, I've had applications break and had to wait for new versions to be made available. It's a fact of life with any OS - and will be the same when Leopard arrives.
I actually rather like Vista. I'm using it on my new ThinkPad and find it to be fast and stable, and now that it's been out a few months, most of my application issues (iTunes, anyone?) have been resolved.
So there you have it, my little update on region-free 'Booking and my take on some of the big issues in techyland.
Andrew J Fishkin, Esq, is a laptop using attorney in Los Angeles, CA.
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