The Low End Mac Mailbag

Apple Stores Near Philly, iSub Works 'Most of the Time', the Mac vs. PC Debate, and More

Dan Knight - 2008.02.13 - Tip Jar

No Apple Store in Philadelphia

From Jason Greshes:

Thought you would like to know a little bit about Philadelphia and some of the reasons there is no Apple Store here.

First, the number of places where there could be an Apple Store in Philly is extremely, extremely limited. Any type of high-end retail in Philadelphia is limited to four blocks of Walnut Street between 15th Street and Rittenhouse Square - most other high-end retail for the area is exactly where the Apple Store is located, King of Prussia. There were rumors about an Apple Store going into one of the few empty properties that were available - a Borders that had closed and moved a few blocks east - but that never happened, and space is a mix of stores including an H&M. There aren't many good candidates for an Apple Store right now, plus the two independent Apple dealers - Springboard and Bundy's - are very close - Bundy's a couple of blocks south on Chestnut Street, Springboard a couple of blocks west of Rittenhouse Square on Walnut. Springboard I've dealt with several times, and the service I've gotten there has been as good as or better than Apple Store, although their hours aren't as convenient as an Apple Store would be.

More than geography, though, the other issue is probably Philadelphia's really nightmarish business tax system. In addition to taxing the square footage a business uses, Philadelphia also has a gross receipts tax and a net profit tax. What that means is that, like most cities, Philadelphia taxes what a business earns (profits) but also has another tax on a business' income regardless of whether the business turns a profit or not - it is a tax on the gross receipts of the business, without regard to costs outlayed by the business, rent, or the price the business is paying for the merchandise itself. (For example, years ago the people that toss newspapers in front of houses in the morning got slammed for gross receipts taxes for the subscription money they collected for the Philadelphia Inquirer. All that did was hand the money over to the Inquirer, but since they were conducting business and collecting money, the deliverers had to pay tax on the subscriptions they were collecting.) As a result, Philadelphia is usually one of the last places a chain opens a store and is generally considered a lousy place to start doing business.

I have no idea how much these have to do with Apple's local decisions; I do tend to think that Apple wouldn't be foaming to find a store in a very limited, constrained area composed of a few blocks, in a town with new-business punishing taxes, where there are already existing retailers, where the big money shopping is out in suburban malls where Apple already has stores, and where a giant chunk of the customers they would get are Penn and Drexel students using educational discounts.



Thanks for sharing this information. It almost sounds like Philadelphia is actively encouraging businesses to locate in the suburbs.


Not really . . . they would like to not be in this shape, but there they are. The City has been doing small cuts in business taxes for years, and the mayor that was just elected might be the best guy the town has elected since the 50s. Frank Rizzo was giving away the store in union contracts around the same time the City's industrial base was disappearing, and the City's tax structure has been out of whack ever since. Philadelphia has wage and business taxes that are very high, and real estate taxes that are at a lower rate than the suburbs. Any large scale reduction of business and wage taxes would result in much higher real estate taxes, and that would be hard to swallow in a city that has a lot of unemployed and underemployment, and also a great number of elderly.


No Apple Store in Philly

From Ian Anderson:

Hi Dan,

I'm just writing in reply to today's mailbag, specifically Joe from Philly. While there's no Apple Store in the city of Philadelphia itself, there is one up I-76 (Skuykill Expressway) in the King of Prussia Mall, one in Ardmore, and one in the Lehigh Valley.

Philadelphia has none within the city limits, but Pittsburgh, with about 1/5 the population of Philly, has two! This makes no sense.

Oh well.

Ian Anderson
Levittown (Philly's first "suburb"), PA

Apple Store in Philly and iSub Working with MacBook

From John Martorana:

Hi Dan,

iSubCouple of notes on the mailbag...

I've had an iSub since 2002, and I'm pretty sure that I've used it with my MacBook both with an iMic present and without it. I'll check again, but I'm pretty sure it works - I'm not a Leopard user yet, so maybe that has something to do with it.

I live about 30 miles north of Philadelphia now, and while it is odd that the city itself does not have an Apple Store, there is an Apple Store at the King of Prussia Mall which is about 30 minutes or so outside the city. The King of Prussia Mall is like a small shopping planet with its own gravity . . . one of those malls where you really do need the map - so Apple may believe that it has this area covered for a little while.

Thanks Dan,
John Martorana

Thanks for the feedback, John!

iSub 'Works Well Most of the Time'

From Grant Davis:


I hadn't realised how bad it was. I have my iSub attached to the USB port on my PowerWave USB audio device, and the iSub works very well most of the time. There are some issues where the iSub cuts out and all bass audio is lost or piped through the Pro speakers attached to the PowerWave, even when the iSub volume is visible in the Sound Preference pane, but this seems to be a PowerWave issue. If I completely unplug and power down the PowerWave and reattach, the routing of bass audio is properly restored.

I suspect iSub support will completely disappear with Leopard, even with this setup, going by the links you gave me.


Another iBook Question

From Brian Troisi:


I hate to bother you again, but I have a question about which iBook I should get. At PowerBook Guy there are a list of iBooks I may want.

I am leaning towards the iBook 1 GHz 512 MB RAM 30 GB hard drive. The price for that is $499. But the iBook from BetaMacs that is $399 with a 256 MB upgrade (would make the total RAM 512 MB) is only $420. Do you think it is worth the extra $80 for the iBook from PowerBook Guy? The iBook from PowerBook Guy is restored to its factory defaults and has Mac OS X Panther installed. The one from BetaMacs has Tiger, but it also has a "minor hairline crack on the bezel surrounding the LCD. Hardly noticeable and doesn't affect functionality. " Could this crack develop into something much worse easily and cause damage to something like the microphone or screen over time? Or could it get bigger (wider or longer) and really look bad? Thank you so much!



A crack in that location shouldn't be a big deal if you handle the iBook carefully. If you're going to treat it roughly, though, all bets are off, as cracks tend to get worse with stress.


Irritating Mac Lovers

From Dave in response to Once You Go Mac..."

Hi Dan,

This kind of opinion is one of the most irritating thing about "Mac lovers".

I use a Windows XP machine at work; I have a number of various systems at home, including a MacBook, a (G4) Mac mini, home-build PC, Toshiba laptop, etc.

I have used Macs since about 2001. I have used computers since I was about 6 years old.

There are many things better about Macs. But there are many things better about Windows, too.

The Finder is - well, awful. Terrible. Explorer is so much better. Detail view . . . and it doesn't muck up so you have odd scrollbars where, in truth, none are needed. And it's much, much quicker.

That's my main problem with Macs, in fact - the speed. XP is snappy. Unless you're trying to do too much at once or seriously hammering the hard drive, it feels responsive (I'm talking database application stuff, not just using one tab in Firefox).

On my 2.16 GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook, sometimes clicking new email in mail takes a few seconds to pop up an almost empty window for me to type in. Starting Firefox, Mail, and iTunes on boot (oh don't get me wrong, boot is fast, but doing anything once booted?) takes 10-15 seconds of waiting for anything to respond.

I have AVG Free on my XP machines at home; it updates every day. Its hardly a chore to, er, ignore it while it does its work. If you don't want viruses, don't go to dodgy sites, simple. I have never got a virus on a machine I own.

He "only" needs 4 apps for maintenance?!? My word. How is that better than an email client you ignore, Spybot, and AdAware?

I like my Macs, I wouldn't be without one. But OS X being "so so much better" just isn't true. You can browse, email, print, and yes muck up both systems easily enough. This smugness really doesn't suit "the community" - its the same old same old on every Mac site, "Macs are great, Windows is the devil!" and its dull. You can do everything on both. Simple.

I enjoy many of your articles. But you're pretty much preaching to the converted, or people who will be irritated by this kind of stuff, in my opinion. Why not give us some interesting articles - 50 useful keyboard shortcuts (I only just figured out "Enter" does the default thing on a dialog box, but space does the thing with the faint blue border, and responds to tabs as usual...), alternative programs, I don't know.

Anyway. Apologies for the rant.



We try to avoid blind fanboyism at Low End Mac. We love our Macs, and we're fans, but we're thinking fans. We don't believe that Apple/Steve Jobs can do no wrong. We don't believe that Windows is so inferior as to be unusable. We recognize that Mac have to coexist with Windows and Linux computers, and we know that Apple hasn't cornered the market on innovation or quality.

We believe that Macs are the best choice for most users most of the time. Not for every user all the time, as some software is only available for Windows.

Anyone who made the transition from Mac OS 9 to OS X can tell you how fast and responsive the Classic Mac OS was and how sluggish OS X is in comparison. It's become better, but the eye candy takes its toll, especially on older hardware.

Don't use boot time for Firefox as an example of the Mac's sluggishness. It's a horribly slow loader, as I rediscover every time I launch it. On my 1 GHz dual G4 Power Mac, it takes 3-4 seconds to launch Camino, about 4 seconds for Safari, 3 seconds for iCab 4, and 17-20 seconds for Firefox. (BonEcho, the G4-only build that I have on my Power Mac takes just as long.) And KompoZer, the HTML editor rooted in Mozilla, is another horribly slow loading program.

The reason OS X seems less than responsive is that it's doing so much in the background, and that only gets worse with each new version. Of course, some of that code is improved along the way as well, so every update is a mixed bag.

Most of us are longtime Mac users. My first Mac experience was in 1986, and Charles Moore has been using Mac since 1992. We don't even think about what new Mac users might not know; Macs are second nature to us. If one of our writers were to submit a column on keyboard commands, I'm sure we'd publish it.


Mac vs. PC Superiority Debate

From Bob:

I read your article "Annoyed by Mac Users who Bash Windows". I disagree with some of your points:

"3. See point 2. Malware will make Windows PCs sluggish and more prone to crashing. Antivirus software will also make them more sluggish."

I'm a open-source freak, so both my computers have free antivirus programs; my new Pentium dual core notebook has AVG Free Edition, and my six month old Via C-7M runs Clamwin. I agree that malware protection slows down PCs, but by all standards, it really doesn't slow them down that much, if hardly at all.

"The point is that Macs tend to remain in daily use much longer than Windows PCs do. And even when they're retired from regular use, Macs tend to be set up as file servers, messaging/email terminals, computers for the grandparents or kids, etc. And they rarely end up in landfills. I think part of that is the emotional attachment Mac users have to their computers; we hate to orphan them."

I used a 1998 Gateway Solo for email and file sharing until early January when it died; it was great, and I only upgraded it twice; I maxed its RAM to 192 MB and put XP Pro on it, I even had Clamwin on it. Surprisingly this laptop was pretty zippy, not any good for heavy tasks, but for browsing the Web on Firefox, working as a wireless print server, and listening to internet radio it was great.

"6. You're right. 6 million Frenchmen can be wrong. Everyone once thought the world was flat. 10-12 years ago, almost everyone believed Apple was doomed. And hundreds of millions of Windows users think it's the only real choice. The masses can be wrong - and often are."

I don't use Windows because everyone else does, about a year ago a bought an old iBook (500 MHz) to try out OS X; it wasn't as fast as my old Gateway, but I didn't base my decision on speed. It was a nice machine, just like all other Apples. The simplicity of OS X was nice, it was polished to perfection, you could tell Apple engineered OS X for the end user, but it wasn't right for me: I like Command Prompt much better than Darwin, and the selection of freeware for Macs was certainly less than satisfying. When I got my new laptop I was stuck between a Acer Extensa and an Apple PowerBook 15 inch 1.33 GHz. I chose the Extensa mainly because I didn't want to have to deal with the insane requirements for upgrading the OS. I'm not a PC fanboy or a Mac hater, but now I believe PCs are the better choice.



The point of my point 3 is that the more software being actively run simultaneously, the more the computer will become bogged down. That applies to malware and anti-malware programs, as well as running multiple browsers with lots of tabs and/or windows, having an IM client running, etc. as well. The worst part is that this is even worse for older, slower hardware. You can take Leopard and Vista as examples, as they both have more tasks running than their predecessors and feel sluggish on older hardware.

I don't doubt that some PC users keep their computers for years and years, but as a percentage of Windows users, they are much lower than those who keep using their Macs for sometimes a decade or more. (I knew someone 15 years ago who still used a Macintosh 128K or 512K. It did what was needed, so there was no need to upgrade or replace it.) Fortunately for those who like their old computers, they're often supported for several years before a version of Windows or the Mac OS completely leaves them behind. Then we're "stuck" with an outdated operating system that still does everything it did when it was first installed - if not more.

As far as "insane requirements for upgrading the OS", Vista requires a 1 GHz CPU vs. 867 MHz for Leopard (and we've had reports of users running it on 400 MHz G4 Macs). Vista requires 32 MB of video memory and DirectX 9 graphics vs. any ATI or Nvidia card Apple ever put on an AGP bus. Microsoft recommends 1 GB of RAM for Vista (512 MB required), and we've had reports of Leopard running with 384 MB (Apple's official requirement is 512 MB).

I'm not a Mac fanboy or PC hater, but I appreciate the Mac's stability, ease of use, and freedom from malware (not a single virus in the wild since OS X was introduced in 2001). I recognize that a lot of people are productive on Windows, many know how to keep the malware off, and some actually like the operating system. All that really matters is that we can get our work done without the computer getting in the way.


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Dan Knight has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. Mailbag columns come from email responses to his Mac Musings, Mac Daniel, Online Tech Journal, and other columns on the site.

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