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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 ofwork being extremely busy. This is, of course, a good thing, soyou'll have to excuse my silence.

The fact that I've not written lately does not mean that Ihaven't been keeping up with Low End Mac or receiving emails aboutpast articles - I have. So here's a little article with my thoughtson what's new, answers to a few questions, my opinion on theiPhone, 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 recentlyis speculation about the demise of the Mac mini. Please tell me this isn't so. Ilove the mini, own a G4 version (thestealth 1.5 GHz model), and consider it to be about the bestcomputer on the planet for people with no interest incomputers.

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 itsengines as either "adequate" or in the case of turbos "more thanadequate", so my description of the mini's speed (and remember,I've got the older, slower G4 version) is not in any way an insultor 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 evenif 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 everyother tech-related website these days. I've seen an iPhone, evenplayed with one, but I'm not going to buy one.

I think its about the coolest device of its kind on the markettoday, making the various Sidekicks and Chocolates look so 2006,but for me it's a very easy decision. You see, I practice law andam often in Federal courts, and Federal courts do not allow camerasinside, period. No camera-less iPhone means no iPhone for me,simple.

Of course, the iPhone isn't a specialized product aimed atlawyers, so I totally forgive and understand Apple's not making acamera-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 moreof a philosophical thing for me. Visit my office, and you'll seeseparate printers, fax machines, and copiers.

...I like the reliability of separatedevices.

While these devices can all be combined easily into a singledevice that may even be easier to use or more capable thanseparates, I like the reliability of separate devices. If myscanner malfunctions, I can still copy and fax, where an all-in-onewould lose all of those functions.

My phone is simply too important a tool to combine with otherthings that may see rougher use, like an iPod, a digital camera,and a portable game console. Still, I'm sure that Apple will sellmillions 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. Applewould have had them beat had they kept using the PowerBook name,but oh well.

Of all PC laptops, ThinkPads have always been my favorites, soseeing the line turn 15 is a big deal. My First ThinkPad was amodel 600E around 1997, and my latest is a model T60 that I boughtearlier in the year. The two machines bear a striking resemblanceto one another, much as a new BMW shares many design elements withan old one.

Apple's done well since the WallStreet PowerBooks, but fordesign consistency the ThinkPad is the king. Just as there areApple 'Book users who complain when Apple changes the design orcomplain when they keep it static too long, the same can be seenamong ThinkPad fans. When I bought my T60, I was shocked to see thelittle red and blue lines on the mouse buttons (which had beenthere since 1999 or so) were no longer there. That we all shouldhave such stresses to deal with!

Region Free DVDs

Finally I'd like to revisit a subject on which I've written afew times, and that is making a DVD player region-free (seeMake Your Mac Region Free for DVDViewing and Region Free DVDViewing Options for Intel and PowerPC Macs).

The sad, sorry state of affairs today is that Apple and a numberof other laptop manufacturers are using 9.5mm drives (12mm isstandard), and only one company, Matsushita, makes these slimlinedrives. Matsushita, alas, has gone to great trouble to ensure thatwe cannot bypass their region coding or flash new firmware. Whatthis means is that the only option for region-free movieplayback 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 thatit is not a Matsushita. My external USB 2.0 drive (moreconvenient for mixed Mac/PC use) uses a Pioneer mechanism and isflashed to be region-free.

Tiger, Leopard, and Vista

Finally I'd like to talk a bit about operating systems. Therewere lots of complaints when Apple announced a delay in Leopard'srelease - and much rejoicing when articles started popping upciting poor upgrade sales for Windows Vista.

I think both concepts are pure rubbish. If Apple wants to delayLeopard, that can only be a good thing. What would you prefer, abuggy OS? Please, Apple, take your time and get it right. Tigerworks just fine for now, and I'll be delighted to buy Leopard a fewmonths later if it means a smoother transition.

As for Vista, I think Windows 95 was the last operating systemthat anyone ever bought in large numbers as an upgrade for existingcomputers. Most people use the OS that their computer came with,and for the enthusiasts out there, they typical time an upgrade inOS with the purchase of a new computer.

If one were to look at Tiger's upgrade sales, I'm sure it toowould appear to be a flop. Vista will sell in the many billions ofcopies, because it will come on every new PC. Leopard also willsell extremely well, because it will come on every new Mac.

Finally, don't take the reports of software incompatibilities asa sign that Vista is doing poorly. Every single time I've moved toa new version of the Mac OS, I've had applications break and had towait for new versions to be made available. It's a fact of lifewith any OS - and will be the same when Leopard arrives.

I actually rather like Vista. I'm using it on my new ThinkPadand find it to be fast and stable, and now that it's been out a fewmonths, most of my application issues (iTunes, anyone?) have beenresolved.

So there you have it, my little update on region-free 'Bookingand my take on some of the big issues in techyland. LEM

Andrew J Fishkin, Esq, is a laptop using attorney in Los Angeles, CA.

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