Miscellaneous Ramblings

More on the 'Feminine' iBook

Charles W. Moore - 1999.08.06

NOTE: This Miscellaneous Ramblings column originally appeared on MacOpinion on August 6, 1999. It is republished here by permission of the author and MacOpinion.

More on the "Feminine-Friendly" iBook

My Road Warrior feature last week entitled "Is John Dvorak Exposing the 'Emperor's New Clothes' or Just a PC Curmudgeon?" generated a lot of mail, which you can read below in the RW Mailbag section.

Upon further rumination, Mr. Dvorak's protests notwithstanding, it occurs that Steven Job may just have identified another niche that other computer manufacturers have ignored up till now - and addressed it with the "feminine-friendly" iBook.

According to a Cox News Service report by Marilyn Geewax, only one tenth of computer purchases are currently made by women, and "millions of women won't buy a computer unless a man helps choose it, buy it, and set it up."

Consumer studies reveal that many women perceive computers as complicated and hard to use - an accurate assessment in most instances, especially with Windows PCs. According to data cited by Ms. Geewax, 38 per cent of all women were Internet users the at the end of 1998, compared with 46 per cent of men, but the vast majority of these women are not making their own computer purchases.

Michaela Platzer, vice president for research with the American Electronics Association told Ms. Geewax that women are discouraged and intimidated by the fact that computers crash a lot, and lack confidence that they will be able to keep them running. Men in general are found to be much more willing to confront the complexities and aggravations of computer setup, and are less discouraged by technical glitches and malfunctions. Men, are also much more likely to be technology buffs who enjoy, read about, and talk about computers as an end in themselves, rather than as a utilitarian tool or means to an end.

The problem for non-geek computer users is that the computer industry has yet to come up with the cyber-equivalent of the automatic transmission. When cars were hard to drive and tended to break down a lot, fewer women drove them. Now that cars are reliable and easy to drive, most women are drivers.

A few women are interested in auto mechanics, and doubtless a substantially larger proportion are technology-literate. There is no reason to doubt that women can excel in either field if they are so inclined, but it is the inclination that seems to be missing in the majority. This may be partly cultural conditioning, but I think that generally speaking its mostly because both men and women are essentially "hard-wired" toward different interest-orientations, which is not a bad thing - just another fact.

Women are from Venus; men are from Mars, so to speak. Neither is "superior" or "inferior" to the other - just different. However, at the present "Model T" stage of computer development, this reality does tend to put women at a disadvantage in a world where computer literacy is rapidly becoming as important as traditional literacy in terms of economic advancement and well-being.

Children from households that don't have computers are increasingly at an educational and economic disadvantage, and computerless households are more likely to be headed by a woman, according to U.S. Commerce Department studies. A white child in a two-parent household is nearly twice as likely to have Internet access as a child in a white single-parent home. Black children growing up in two parent households are nearly four times as likely to have Internet access as children in black single-parent homes.

While the iBook, which is probably the most user-friendly and un-complex personal computer yet conceived, iBookis not quite the automatic transmission yet, it is several notches closer than the competition, and the styling of its case is regarded by many (including several males in my acquaintance) as "cute" and "huggable," with its translucent case and bright Blueberry or Tangerine candy color highlights. Simplicity along with avant-garde styling equals a computer obviously calculated to appeal to female buyers. Steve Jobs may know exactly what he's doing.

Marilyn Geewax quotes Michael Erbschloe, vice president of the Carlsbad, CA, based private research firm Computer Economics Inc., who notes that women are much less impressed by fancy, cutting-edge, power features on a computer than men, and more inclined to just want the basic necessities. Witness this letter I received from a female PowerBook-owning friend who read last week's column:

Good grief, dear heart, the iBook was not made for men, obviously! You guys have the Lombard.

[My fifteen-year-old daughter] and her friends would absolutely love to have an iBook, but I don't like to buy the first release of a computer, which is just as well since I need to save up for it first. It has all the bells and whistles these kids need for years to come. They are not computer experts who need much expandability and upgradeability. Just something portable to carry from room to room, to type their reports on and get onto the Internet with for email, instant messaging and information. Something that is sturdy, sturdy, sturdy. I am afraid for her to use my WallStreet, especially when she has to carry it around, but right now it is the only computer we can use since the 6200 is so slow. Besides, she keeps changing my desktop picture!! ;-)

Wireless Input for PowerBooks (and Other Macs)

Road Warrior reader Michael R. Shannon wrote:


I'm the proud owner of a new last generation WallStreet G3 that is a vast improvement over the 520c it replaced. Thanks for your advice and insight.

Now I have a question. I use the G3 on the road for PowerPoint presentations. Now to change slides I have to be close enough to the trackpad button to touch it, so I was wondering if anyone makes a reliable wireless mouse? I know the PC people have them, but do the Mac people?

Michael R. Shannon

I don't know of a wireless mouse for the Mac per se, but Digital Creations Inc. makes a really cool wireless infrared keyboard called MacAirKey, which includes integrated mouse function and is designed for multimedia use. It works up to 30 feet away from the Mac.

The MacAirKey Wireless Keyboard weighs less than a pound and is very much like a PowerBook keyboard in size (13.8" x 6.3" x 1.1"), layout, and feel, with light, short travel keys The MacAirKey includes an integrated thumb mouse about the size of a quarter, which eliminates the need for a separate mouse, and of course allows wireless cursor control for the sort of use Michael enquired about.

MacAirKey is a plug and play design; it requires no special driver for installation. The Keyboard comes with an ADB connector for the infrared receiver, so it will work fine with Michael's WallStreet. For use with USB equipped Macs and PowerBooks an ADB to USB adaptor from Griffin Technologies is required.

The MacAirKey requires its own infrared receiver and will not work with the infrared communications port on PowerBooks and early iMacs. The keyboard is powered by two AA alkaline cells, and battery life is estimated at three months based on 5K strokes/day.

For more information about the MacAirKey, check out the Digital Creations Website.

The MacAirKey Wireless Keyboard is available for $129.95.

AirPort Still Lacks FCC Approval

The PowerBook Source reports that due to the current lack of FCC approval for its AirPort wireless networking products, Apple has reportedly canceled all AirPort Base Station and AirPort Card orders placed at the Apple Store to date.

FCC regulations unfortunately dictate that unapproved items may not be put into production, so in order to get iBook production ramped up Apple has been obliged to remove the AirPort component of orders already received. Orders placed with Apple resellers are unaffected by this action.

A Real Computer for Barbie (and It's Not an iBook!)

With tongue firmly planted in cheek, Dan Knight of Low End Mac suggests in his column The BarbiBook that "A hot pink BarbiBook could be just what the doctor ordered to have twelve-year-old girls salivating for a G3. Team Barbie with the iBook and imagine the possibilities."

"How about it, Steve," Dan asks, "could you do the iBook in Barbie pink? (Not only could you sell the Barbie crowd, but there's this cosmetic company with pink cars....)"

Dan may be more of a prophet than he realized. The Mattel toy company, makers of the hugely successful Barbie doll series for more than 40 years, will soon launch a line of low-cost, brightly-colored computers tied into its Barbie brand for girls, as well as a Hot Wheels variant for boys.

However, the Barbie/Hot Wheels computer will not be an iBook or any other sort of Mac, but another dismal Windows PC selling for $599 or $14.98 per month, including a CPU, monitor, and a bundle of 20 software titles.

The PCs will be produced by Patriot Computers, with the Barbie version dressed in silver with pink and purple floral accents and the Hot Wheels model sporting the trademark's "famous flame logo" used on the toy cars; both including a 15-inch monitor and a 333 MHz Intel Celeron chip.

The Barbie model will be bundled with a Barbie digital camera, mouse, and CD holder, plus some Mattel software like Barbie Super Sports and Barbie Cool Looks, while the Hot Wheels model will ship with a Hot Wheels steering wheel controller and mouse and software like Hot Wheels Stunt Track Driver. Both bundle versions will include educational software from The Learning Company, as well. The Mattel computers will ship around September 15.

With the separate computer models obviously targeted at girls and boys, respectively, one suspects that Mattel is risking accusations of "sexism" from the political correctness crowd. Families with both girls and boys my also face a dilemma as to which model to buy. Helpful Hint: the iMac comes in several "gender-neutral" colors, and it's a whole lot better computer than that poky Celeron-based PC, folks.

iBooks Bloom at Bloomingdale's

Last March, a 3rd Avenue window of Bloomingdale's Upper Eastside Manhattan flagship department store in New York City featured a spectacular spring iMac display , featuring all five iMac flavor-colors - strawberry, blueberry, grape, lime and tangerine iMacs - displayed with color-coordinated women's fashions.

Bloomingdale's iMac display attracted droves of window shoppers, especially at night. The 3rd Avenue window is located across the street from movie theaters, and at night the whole street is bathed in soft colored light.

Now Bloomingdale's is featuring two iBooks as prominent part of its "Back to Cool" back-to-school promotion. Bloomingdale's creative director Michael Fisher says "I mean, what a cool accessory you'd have to go back to school with.... I knew we had to do it."

A Mac user from way back, Fisher has a lime iMac in his office, a Power Mac G3 at home, and a PowerBook at his beach house. He contacted Apple's Suzanne Forlenza (the person responsible for getting iMacs, PowerBooks and other Apple products into movies and TV shows where millions of people can see them), and asked for iBooks in both colors. And she

"We didn't know what the iBook looked like until the very last minute" said Fisher... Suzanne hand-carried two of them from San Francisco." He managed to find tangerine and blueberry wigs for the mannequins, from a selection of wigs in every color.

For a look at Bloomies' iBook window dressing, check out the Apple story.

Apple Invests $100 Million in Samsung Electronics

Apple and Samsung Electronics have jointly announced that Apple will invest $100 million in the Korean firm to further expand Samsung's TFT-LCD flat-panel display production capacity. The investment will help Apple's ensure an adequate supply of TFT-LCD displays to meet the growing demand for Apple products.

Consumers can also hope that increased production of TFT screens will help lower prices, which have spiked sharply this year.

Apple iCEO Steve Jobs noted that with the new iBook coming on stream and continued strong PowerBook sales, Apple will need more flat displays than ever going.

"We are pleased that Apple has placed such confidence in Samsung's leading-edge technology," commented Y. W. Lee, president and CEO of Samsung Electronics' Semiconductor Business. "Samsung will use this investment to further accelerate the expansion of our TFT-LCD production to support Apple's growing needs."

Samsung Semiconductor, Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Korean-based Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. Samsung's semiconductor division is the sixth-largest semiconductor manufacturer and a leading producer of memory and TFT-LCD products. For more information, visit Samsung's website.

ZoomCam Live Motion Color Camera for USB Macs

Here is a really cool item I would love to have myself. Zoom Telephonics, Inc. is now shipping its new USB live-motion, full-color camera for Macintosh computers with a USB port, which of course includes iBook and Lombard. (I'll have to get a PC Card USB adapter for the WallStreet!) The estimated retail price of the ZoomCam USB Model 1596 camera is $80. The camera's software bundle includes a full retail ($69.00) version of White Pine's award-winning CU-SeeMe video conferencing software.

The ZoomCam USB for Macintosh computers is basically plug and play. Since the computer's USB port itself provides power for the ZoomCam USB, no other connections are needed.

The camera's still-image capture resolution is rated up to 704 x 576 pixels. For subjects in motion, the ZoomCam USB's software-selectable frame rate can be as high as 30 frames per second in QCIF (Quarter Common Intermediate Format) mode.

The ZoomCam USB is suitable for tasks like interactive videophone conversations or video e-mail. The camera may also be used for videoconferencing, presentation production and Web site imaging, or even as a security or baby monitoring camera. For positioning and mounting, the camera's base features a rubber, anti-slip pad and is threaded to accommodate a standard camera tripod.

Included with the camera is the full retail version of CU-SeeMe video conferencing software; SmithMicroVideoLink e-mail which lets users put a face and voice to e-mail messages for live-motion video communications; Microsoft NetMeeting and iVisit multiparty video conferencing software; and PaintShopPro SE image editing software.

The ZoomCam USB features a f1.5, multi-element, antireflection coated lens that focuses between 1.5 inches and infinity. Its 60 degree wide angle view can take in an entire room while automatic exposure control, brightness and contrast adjustment, backlight compensation, and fluorescent light flicker correction assure crisp, clear images under a variety of conditions.

The ZoomCam USB's driver software complies with the QuickTime standard for easy interface with most popular video applications. Still images captured by the camera may be edited easily using Adobe software such as Photoshop or PhotoDeluxe. Video generated by the ZoomCam USB can be viewed on any Mac with the Apple MoviePlayer.

UpgradeStuff Wants Feedback on PB 1400 Upgrade Demand

Apparently there are few to no G3 upgrades left for the PowerBook 1400 from either Newer Technology or Vimage. However, a group of resellers is considering the possibility of banding together to "sponsor" a special build of 1400 upgrades if demand warrants. They are not looking for a firm commitment to buy, but are trying to gauge potential demand. Parties interested in seeing more G3 upgrades on the market for the 1400 should send and email to 1400@upgradestuff.com.

TIL Article on Support for Older PowerBooks

Apple has posted a Tech Info Library (TIL) article to assist owners of older model Macintosh PowerBook computers to locate support information. The following are considered to be Older Model Apple PowerBooks:

You can check it out here.

Cleaning PowerBook Displays

Another Apple TIL article deals with cleaning the PowerBook's LCD monitor display.

Apple recommends first turning the computer off, and then using a soft, lint-free cloth or paper with water or mild (no alcohol nor ammonia) glass cleaner to wipe the screen. Do not spray liquid directly on the screen.

Apple has tested a product called Klear Screen made by Meridrew Enterprises and found it does not cause any harm to the plastics.

World's Biggest Internet Search Engine Goes Online

Fast Search & Transfer, Inc.'s New FAST Search index has more than 200 million Web pages today, and will offer the entire Web in one year. FAST claims that it's unique parallel architecture based on Dell servers delivers the fastest, freshest and most relevant search results.

I checked FAST Search out, and it indeed lives up to its name; it's the fastest Web search engine I've yet encountered, and by a wide margin.

FAST says that FAST Search is the result of more than a decade of research into optimizing search algorithms and architectures, a project originally initiated at the Norwegian Institute of Technology in Trondheim.

FAST Search currently includes more than 200 million unique URLs in its database, making its catalog almost twice the size of search engine reseller Inktomi and three to four times bigger than several popular search engines. FAST intends to resell FAST Search to major portals, search engines, ISPs, and content sites.

According to a study published in the July, 1999 issue of Nature magazine, search engine coverage of the Web has decreased substantially since December 1997, with no engine indexing more than 16% of the Web (estimated at approximately 800 million URLs as of July, 1999). At 200 million URLs, the new FAST Search indexes more of the Web than any other search engine and in one year's time is expected to catalog the entire Internet - and then to keep up with the growth of the Web from that point forward.

The FAST Search architecture is based exclusively on high-performance Dell PowerEdge servers and Dell PowerVault storage subsystems. These systems operate in parallel with each other to distribute user queries, search the document catalog, and spider the Web through dedicated computing and storage nodes.

A key design objective of the FAST Search architecture is to scale linearly in both query volume (number of searches) and catalog size (number of documents), enabling search to become an 'organic application' that effectively keeps up with the growth of the Web. This 'parallel server' approach of FAST Search differs markedly from the architectures of other major search engines, which typically use a small number of very large expensive multiprocessor computers. These large systems do not cost-effectively scale with the growth of the Web, and as catalog sizes increase, they are further slowed by increased processing overhead and inefficiencies.

The parallel FAST Search architecture also delivers exceptional search speed - a typical query on FAST Search races through all 200 million documents in less than 1 second. In addition, by using many systems working in parallel, FAST Search builds its document index in only 12 hours, a task that takes many search engines several days or even weeks to perform The result is fresher information to web surfers on a more consistent basis.

Fast Search & Transfer ASA (FAST) is a high-technology company that develops and markets advanced and innovative search and real-time filtering solutions for the Internet and corporate markets. The company performs research and development out of its corporate headquarters in Oslo, Norway, and in Trondheim, Norway, while sales, marketing, customer support, field engineering, and operations are run from the US headquarters in Boston and San Francisco. For more information on FAST and its solutions, visit the FAST World Wide Web site at http://www.fast.no.

Actiontec USB Call Waiting Modem Supports Macs

Actiontec Electronics, Inc. has announced that its Actiontec 56K USB Call Waiting Modem will support the iMac, G3, and other USB-equipped Macintosh computers. The modem's Call Waiting feature ensures users won't miss vital telephone calls while surfing the Web or checking e-mail.

Using the Call Waiting Service available on most telephone systems, the modem monitors the phone line for incoming voice calls while the user is online. The user is notified when a call comes in, and has the option of ignoring the incoming voice call or picking up the call to see who is calling without disconnecting the Internet connection. The user then has the choice of accepting the incoming call or taking a message and remaining online.

The ongoing sales success of the new iMac and G3 platforms, and a base of over 31 million Macintosh systems sold to date, means that the Macintosh represents a major market opportunity for Actiontec.

To install the 56K USB Call Waiting Modem on a USB-equipped Mac, simply plug the modem into an available USB port. The low power, hot swappable modem draws its power from the USB port, eliminating the need for an external power supply.

Based on the Lucent Technologies Microelectronics Group USB-compliant chip set, the V.90/K56flex 56K USB Call Waiting Modem offers automatic rate adaptation technology that adjusts speeds, depending on line conditions, to operate at the optimum speeds with the fewest errors.

The modem operates at up to 56 Kbps, and combines MNP5 and V.42bis data compression with MNP2.4, V.42, and LAPM error correction to provide full duplex operation with throughput up to 115,200 bps. It is fully compatible with all common modem standards to ensure reliable connections when lower speeds are needed. Speed is automatically negotiated on connection. In the FAX mode, the modem offers send/receive fax capability up to 14,400 bps and provides Group 3 fax support.

The 56K USB Call Waiting Modem will be available in late August from Actiontec's distributors, retail outlets, and on-line store at an estimated street price of $129.99. The modem is backed by a five-year limited warranty and comes with free technical support.

For more information visit Actiontec's Website at: http://www.actiontec.com.

Road Warrior Mailbag

My column on the allegedly "girly" (viz. John Dvorak) iBook generated a lot of mail. Thanks folks for the thoughtful, flame-free responses. There are also a few other topics addressed in this week's mailbag.

From George Blake

I read your report and was impressed. The iBook is not for everyone but those of us who love this platform want the media to be cheerleaders, not detractors. We can find all we want in the PC camp but when our own media is less than excited we feel betrayed. There is time enough to look at the iBooks shortcomings between now and late Sept. but for now we want positive spin from our media, not have you guy adding to the negative slant or giving ammunition to the enemy.

Again I love you report as it was 95% positive and that's what we your readers want for now. Don't put water on of our excitement because this product has been long in coming to the faithful.

God's Blessings on you and yours
Geo Blake

From Daniel Farnan


As always, your column tends to give me pause for thought. But I figured I write with my opinions anyway, and respond to a few things you've said.

Firstly, your complaint about the connectivity, with particular attention to the lone USB port. You note that you prefer (as I do) to use an external keyboard and mouse with a PB. Well, using an iMac keyboard would give you another USB port. I haven't investigated the area too deeply, but I imagine you could find other keyboards which provide you with an extra port (I know MacAlly make some solid products and are welcoming USB). But the iBook wasn't designed to be a desktop replacement - it *isn't* a PowerBook, just as an iMac isn't a PowerMac G3 Tower. So, while I respect your wish to use the iBook just like you do a PB, the iBook was not designed with that use in mind.

The removal of SCSI we could all anticipate clearly, I think - it's not a necessary component now that USB storage devices have arrived; USB is taking off quite nicely and I accept the move. People not wanting to shell out for an Ethernet card for an older machine... really, how much of a hassle is this? If you've got an iBook, you've generally got an Ethernet network to hook it up to. If you don't, somebody's child probably goes to a school which does - investigate that possibility. But the simplest answer is to have the reseller you buy the machine off transfer the data for you. If it's from the contents of your current PB's hard drive, you can probably get it done for nothing with your purchase (although I personally would charge for it, nothing goes onto one of my machines, even legacy ones, without my thoroughly investigating it, which takes time and effort) - at something like US$20 extra, what's the big deal? Plus, any reseller worth their salt will keep a backup of the data for you until you give them the OK, or they'll burn it onto CD for you for a small(ish) fee - there are a great many choices available for transferring legacy data in the personal case.

For interaction with other people's legacy equipment, well, you're choosing to upgrade, you pay to stay connected to them (perhaps the costs can be shared?). Buy a USB ZIP drive if you've got big files to transfer, use email or ftp; there is always a way - I was reading recently that a company manufacturing and maintaining punch-card machines ("discontinued" 30+ years ago!) is confident they'll have a market for the next ten to twenty years!

Secondly, the general complaints about the size, styling and price of the machine are answered by that email from David Chilstrom - the iBook is meant to be visually arresting, to showcase what a portable computer can be! OK, it's bigger than you personally prefer, it looks like a powder compact or some such, but it draws attention like nothing else! I lost a few hours' worth of work staring in wonder at the machine on Apple's website on the day of the announcement, emailing all and sundry about it, etc. The price is pretty reasonable - for an extra US$400 over an iMac, you get an LCD screen, portability and battery power. If Apple brings the price to around US$1300 (even though I wish it would), it would have to correspondingly drop the price on the iMac (and again, I wish it would), but there is a strong possibility that such a move would seriously affect the long-term viability of Apple. If Apple isn't out of the woods yet financially (quick turnarounds often result in long-term problems), the last thing they need is financiers and economists expressing doubts again - the troubles were hyped to the point where they have stuck in the medium-term social memory (I still have people asking now whether Apple will go out of business), and the merest rumour will bring the spectre back. Even if this scenario doesn't happen, cutting prices on the iMac (what's the estimated gross margin there? 30%?) will require substituting cheaper materials, retooling assembly lines, tweaking software, etc. - things that may go wrong. When the "C2" revision comes out, maybe then price adjustments are possible, but I'm not holding my breath.

Thirdly, John Dvorak's article shows that he doesn't recognize who Apple is targeting with the iBook. He's not alone (IIRC, he missed the point of the iMac, too) - my biggest point, one which people have missed worldwide, it seems, even though it's the message coming directly from Apple:

The iBook is an iMac to go.

What was said about the iMac first off? Hugely critical things - but it's wildly popular. Who is it popular with? Mostly, new consumers, and some Wintel converts (hallelujah!). Why is it popular with them? It's not a threatening, "this is a computer" machine (IMHO - it's probably only one of the reasons, but *I* think it's the most important one). It looks like a toy? People will want to play with it, then. Who cares if it doesn't take off in business circles? There's a chance that, like the iMac, it will. Who cares if a lot of current Mac owners wanted a different machine from Apple? (OK, bad example, but...) Apple gains new customers with it, enchants the world (again), changes the world a little (again), and after a few months a fair proportion of users wanting to upgrade accept the new technology and what it can offer them. A lot of complaints are coming from people who don't like the fact that technology is moving on and making their machines "worthless" - to these people I explain that their machine still does exactly the same things for them that it did when they bought it, if their perceptions of its usefulness have changed then they will need to deal with that personally, they are concentrating on their situation rather than examining the positives that arise from moving to the new technology. If you want the latest and greatest of anything, you pay for it - if you don't think you can manage with a system which suited you perfectly well x number of years ago, how is that the fault of a company?

I, for one, welcome the iBook. I am biased because the better it sells the better off I am, and so I am more inclined to accept unpopular-with-the-faithful design changes and/or less altruistic behaviour by Apple, but my arguments are still valid. It's part of Apple's move to introduce more people to computing with a Mac, and as long as Macintosh retains its traditional advantages, I will continue to support Apple Computer, Inc.

Thanks for reading - sorry for the length, some things needing to be expressed are best captured quickly, and I lack time for thorough editing.

Daniel Farnan

From Darren Wheatcroft:

I must say I (almost) agree with both you and John Dvorak regarding the iBook. It is designed like a children's toy (if you don't believe me, visit http://www.toysrus.co.uk/encyclopaedia_vtech.html ) and will probably be bought by parents en masse for use by the 'kids' (and probably themselves when the kids go to bed).

It doesn't matter that it hasn't got the connectivity of the iMac, or FireWire, or SCSI - what do children care? As long as they can plug a joystick in or a printer, its fine. OK, its not as serious looking as my PowerBook 520 - which some of my friends have said resembles some of the 'computers' on the above link. It certainly isn't as serious as my PC laptop, which looks and feels like a brick, and despite careful maintenance crashes regularly (and I am a 'qualified' windows techie with years of experience.)

The point is - The iBook is a 'fun' machine. It is designed for children (or their parents) or adults who dare to be different. I certainly wouldn't want one, and I preordered an iMac before it even entered the UK, and now it is my main machine and crashes only if I do odd things with TCP/IP. I love my iMac, because it is different. The iBook is just *too* different, but maybe that's the PC techie in me fighting back. Good luck to Apple all the same.

Darren Wheatcroft
Microsoft Certified Professional
IT Support, External Relations, Nottingham Trent University

From Ben Apple

Bra-vo, chap. Give me a thin, small PB with brushed-steel casing, model rubber grips, and a screen that takes up almost the entire top panel. Apple could do it... but there's *no* way they will, because precious iBook has already been imprinted on all our minds... and, yeah - it does look like a toilet seat. :-) Have a nice day,

Ben Apple
Owner/Editor, "The Mac Junkie"

For a pictorial look at Ben Apple's concept for the ideal PowerBook, go here:


From Randy Soare

When you state that the iBook isn't enough computer for you, you are right. You are a professional user who makes their living on computers. People like you need a full featured computer, like a PowerBook.

However the iBook is not for users like you. It is aimed at people like students, teachers and low end users who don't have all the gadgets and doodads you use every day. They need a simple machine for their simple needs.

I would never recommend a graphic designer buy an iMac. I would point them to a B&W G3. But a high school student or home user would not need all the power or features, (or price) of a full PowerBook, and I would strongly recommend they look at the iBook.

Please keep in mind the target audience when you evaluate the iBook. Apple didn' t offer this product as a way for someone to buy a work station class machine at $1600.00, so please don't expect it to have the feature set of that kind of machine.

Randy Soare
The Mac Observer

From Michael Brian Bentley

Would you buy one in black (instead of blueberry) and if the Apple logo glows when the screen is on?

It could be the color is the thing, and that these two colors are specifically chosen so that iBook does not appeal to those who otherwise buy Power. Of course, to also diff between Apple and the sea of beige and black already out there in spades.

In other words, to maximize niche sales, you sometimes have to maximize the appeal of the product for the target niche, even if it defuses sales in other, perhaps larger, niches.

A black one could radically change the demographics for a "consumer" product. The result _might_ cause a _dip_ in sales, perhaps because it softens the differentiation between Macs and PCs. I don't know enough about this kind of thing to take the argument any farther, but I think that's the gist of what's happening. It's a savvy and brilliant decision, I suspect, and no accident.

I didn't have a problem with the sexist aspect of Dvorak's opinion, because that doesn't go deep enough. I thought he marginalized and typecast both the target niche for the product and the folks for whom the product isn't intended. This is the reaction you'd expect by someone with either an untrained eye for that sort of thing, or someone who is intentionally being blind for the moment. He should have thought the article through better, but sometimes a rash thing like this is full-bore intentional. You have to be Bene Gesserit to resolve the big picture.


From Sean:

What kind of Mac Man are you?

If you write for a Mac website your supposed to praise their products


Not sure whether your comment is approbation or opprobrium, but as a professional journalist, my credibility rests on providing honest assessments of products I review - whether from Apple or other mfrs. - to my readers.

I am not anti-iBook, nor do I think it is a bad machine or even a questionable value. However, Apple made some choices and focused on some priorities that I would have done differently.

From Keene Haywood

Hi Charles.

I read your article today about the iBook's design and critique of Dvorak's article. Yes, Dvorak really went over the edge with his article.

I agree on the color thing. Personally, I would like to see it in a translucent smoke plastic case with solid black rubber "bumpers" on the case and maybe a way to attach a shoulder strap instead of using the carrying handle (although I just saw a shoulder strap being offered).

You mention the lack of ports and expandability. I only partially agree. First off, if you start adding things like SCSI and FireWire, you are talking more circuitry and more weight. And it would add more cost. I think Apple was very careful with this product to not overlap what it was already offering in the PowerBook lineup. If you really want the things you mention, then get a PowerBook because it has tons of ports, lots of expandability and is actually lighter but with a bigger screen.

I think the iBook has what most consumers need for a portable. There are only a few things I would change. For now I am sitting on the fence as to whether or not to get one. But it seems they have come up with a good compliment in terms of features for this product. I am sure they weighed all the options carefully before making decisions, and since these units are still 2 months away from shipping, there may be more changes or colors in the works.

Interestingly enough, no one is really making the big stink about no floppy drive the way they did on the iMac. Perhaps its a sign that, maybe we really don't need one and if so, there are third party options that have answered the call.

If my opinion counted for the iBook's design, I would add or change several things:

1) A translucent gray or black case option 2) An internal hard drive that can be upgraded 3) Instead of a fixed CD-ROM drive, have this a removable media bay 4) Add a second USB port 5) Maybe ship the unit with a removable DVD drive instead of the CD-ROM drive.

If it had these options or changes, I would think they would sell thousands more than they already will.

Best Regards,
Keene Haywood

Your wish list is pretty much mine. A second USB port and a mic jack wouldn't have cost much, and would help a lot. I would miss SCSI Disk Mode though.

From E. Karsten Smelser:

Thinking not as a 'techie' but instead as a 'consumer' (and a Mac loving consumer at that):

Seems that no one has yet hit on the fact that one of the coolest technologies included with Mac OS 9 requires a microphone!! I'm referring to, of course, the voice print login. Aside from the obvious cool/wow factor it sure would be handy on a notebook. Too bad we'll have to carry around a USB microphone to take advantage of it.

On the same tack, I'm saddened that to listen to CD's on the road I'm now required to plug in a headset to hear it in stereo. Plus - now I'll get fragged because I won't know which way I'm being shot at in Quake - I guess I'll have to carry around some speakers too.

Considering that 128 MB of RAM is going to be $300 and a larger HD is going to be an additional $400 - not to mention the $400 for the wireless option so I can use it around the house. Then there's the $100 for the speakers and another $30 for a microphone. Don't forget the $80 for a USB hub. That makes it total $2909. Not exactly cheap.

This is all from the general consumer perspective - I'm not talking about video out, DVD, or a Zip/Floppy drive (even though the Zip drive could be considered a consumer rather than techie item) and I never even mentioned the weight or size - or even the 'look', much less a CPU that has been discontinued from all the other Mac models.

Now, don't get me wrong - I'm not bashing the iBook, but I am curious why people are so excited about paying SIXTEEN-HUNDRED dollars (more) for an iBook (less).

The upshot? Lower the damn price and up the RAM to 64 MB.

Minimally - I am going to need extra RAM and the wireless option - that puts me at $2299. That's more than in the range of existing notebooks that have everything else that the iBook doesn't.

If you want market penetration - price it at $1199 as is. At least then I won't feel like I'm buy a professionally priced item that is missing all the professional items.

From Dave Martin:

Now, I hasten to interject here that John Dvorak is not your typical beige-worshipping PC troglodyte

He's actually worse, because he spews his vitriol purposely and with absolute certainty that he is wrong - but at least people will read what he says.

My tastes run to midnight black, gunmetal and other metallics, or barely-there subtle pastel shades.

Then go with the PowerBook line. The iBook isn't for you, simple as that.

I don't anticipate the iBook being a hit with the Marlboro Man set, or in executive suites for that matter, not to mention the college frat house

Nor is it geared to them. And you'd be surprised how many "professionals" and "macho men" wish Apple would remake the PowerBook line in the iBook's colorful and stylish image. They want the features of the PB, not the consumer-targeted iBook, but they want the "look" of colors and translucency and "coolness" that the iMac started.

And, oddly enough, while many don't care for the Tangerine iMac as much, something about the Tangerine iBook makes a statement. Somehow it DOES look more sexy - but in a masculine way - than the Blueberry one. Almost a musk, or Old Spice.

However, it's arguable that the first two of those markets at least are not what Apple was going after with iBook anyway.

No, but they'll buy some of them anyway, proudly displaying them in the privacy of their own homes, throwing a dish towel over them when the girls come over to watch football or play poker.

Is the iBook "effeminate" and "sissified" as Dvorak asserts? The foldaway handle does recall a handbag, although it should prove functionally useful given iBook's road-hugging weight.

As I pointed out to one person, it's close to seven pounds of bulletproof polycarbonate plastic, and it has a conveniently sturdy handle. One good swing and the silly brute that called you a "sissy" is KO'd on the ground, while you skip away whistling show tunes. Who the hell CARES if some idiot thinks it looks like a purse or a giant compact, or what they might think about someone that chooses to carry one?

If you're that insecure - "in the closet", if you will, when it comes to choosing "form & function" over utility alone - put it in a nylon carrying case and have the best of both worlds.

At least until someone comes out with stylish Tangerine and Blueberry flavored form-fitting iBackPacks. :-)

...with a respectable compliment of ports including either SCSI or FireWire, the STN passive matrix screen from the MainStreet Series 1 G3 'Book to keep costs down, and a price below $1,300. [...] I would have liked to see at least two USB ports [...], a SCSI port, and a removable-device expansion bay, as well as at least one PC Card slot.

There you go, wanting the world on a dime. Repeat after me: "Consumer Portable". Once more, just to be sure: "Consumer Portable".

The average consumer - think "Mother" - doesn't need SCSI or lots of ports. FireWire might be nice one day, and it would help Apple to strengthen the adoption of it as a standard, but USB suffices for most of what your average (or even slightly above average) user wants or needs.

USB *is* the "removable-device" bay *AND* the PC Card slot. How many USB things were you planning to cart around with you? Printer? Scanner? And drives? And..Yeah, right. If you are packing that much, might as well drop a hub in the bag. Heck, I expect someone will have a "docking station" for the iBook soon: combine power management, recharging, and a USB hub in a nice little desktop platform. Maybe throw in a serial port, too, and a PC Card slot. There's already someone making a USB-based PCMCIA, so why not?

As an aside: an iBook and that cute little USB flatbed scanner Jobs held up at Macworld make the perfect library companions. Might not get six hours worth with both going, but you can certainly keep from paying high per-page copier fees or cramping your hands.

And while I was myself hoping for a slightly lower price point, it's still a damn good one for what you get. Apple's move to ensure availability of TFT screens is the wisest move they have made in a long time, and may even help drop the price by September when the iBook ships.

"Do they spray mind-numbing gas in these auditoriums where Steve Jobs speaks?" he asks rhetorically. "Is his 'reality distortion field' really that powerful?"

Dvorak's real query, his real fear if unanswered, is "when will they pay that much attention to ME?".

Is Jobs charismatic - sure the heck is. Does he put on a good show? Yup. (QUITE the showman, bringing Noah Wyle on stage like that; now Gates can't tell Anthony Michael Hall "no hard feelings" without it looking like Bill's copying Steve again.)

Dvorak has his own RDF, just a different polarity. Jobs' RDF was initially attributed only to him - HIS worldview differed from what everyone else saw, implying there was an aura which altered the way the "real world" was perceived in his mind alone. It's a more recent claim that he's stretched reality so many times that he can now extend the mind-altering aspects over a wide area. It's actually more likely that people are learning to "grow" their own RDF just like Steve's, or that the audience creates its own RDF, independent of Jobs.

PC types tend to be attracted to the more negative "dark side" RDF that Dvorak projects, but that's just due to conditioning.

Besides, even if Jobs could "broadcast" his RDF to others, his Nielsen ratings are rather good - people are choosing his channel.

Oh, my! QTV, broadcasting Steve's RDF 24/7 worldwide...!

I still want a less than four pound, not more than an inch thick, "executive" PowerBook in a tastefully subdued color with lots of connectivity and expandability

Face it, Apple can't make EVERY product line meet your specific desires. Especially all at once. "Portable!", "Tower!", "Weightless!", "Tiny!", "Huge Screen!", "Six Slots!", "SCSI/ Serial/ ADB/ FireWire/ USB/ Parallel/ Modem/ Gigabit EN/ Wireless/ VidInOut/ MicIn/ Stereo/ Etc. Connections!", "Cheap!", "Floppy/ SuperDisk/ Zip/ SyQuest/ MO/ CD/ DVD/ CD-R/ DVD-RW/ Etc. Drives!".

Get a PowerBook and quit ragging on the iBook.

The iBook is the first PowerBook model ever that I don't find myself really interested in having for my own.

The iBook isn't a PowerBook. It's more like a Performa; a completely different market of users than the Power line. Besides, it's not meant for you. You can't have one, even if you want it. Sorry, kid, it ain't for you.

but so far it doesn't turn my crank.

With all your griping about the iBook, about how you "don't like it but...", how "if only it had...", and "I want...", one would get the idea you REALLY want one but are afraid someone will find out.

That's exactly what's got Dvorak's CareBear panties in a twist. Why he's bitching so loud about it. Methinks he doth protest too much.

He wants one. He wants one BAD.

He's just afraid someone's going to walk in on him while he's playing with it...


From Todd Bates:

A Microsoft advocate baited me with a description of it as a toilet set. after call WinCE wince I let him get by with that one. I also have to agree, it does look like one. Maybe if it came in a more understated color scheme.

From Stan Cousins

That's right Charles it doesn't turn my crank either but my 8 year old wants one like crazy

Good read

From Jeff Ford:

Subject: Is The iBook A Bit Too "Feminine" For He-Man Road Warriors?


Only for limp weenies like little Johnny Dvorak.

From [name removed]:

Dear Charles,

I read your article in MacOpinion about the 5300 Apple PowerBook. I have a 5300cs but unfortunately it's really slow. I run PowerPoint 98 and it takes me ages to make a poster or things like that. Is there any way to accelerate the Mac? You mentioned in your article that you are able to run different applications at the same time. I have sometimes problems with the memory. What size of memory is recommended for Office applications and Netscape?

I don't want to bother you but it's not easy to find information for this Mac. I'm sure you received loads of Emails like this. I'm glad about any information/help.

Thank you very much.

[name removed]

Yup, the old 5300 is pretty slow by today's standards, especially for graphics apps. that require a lot of processor power. Actually, the slow internal bus and slow hard drive are also to blame.

There is no upgrade path for the 5300. Some people report modest improvement using Connectix's Speed Doubler.

You can never have too much RAM, and upgrading your RAM capacity is probably the single most effective thing you can do to improve your 5300's performance. I have only 24 Megs, but I use RAM Doubler. However I rarely use really RAM-hungry applications.

From Vincent:

I appreciate your Site. The Magma PCI expansion for the PowerBook G3 currently is only available for G3 WallStreet versions. It uses an expansion slot in the WallStreet and doesn't fit the Lombard.

I'm struggling with the need to purchase for Digital Audio but don't want to be limited to the WallStreet's 300 MHz G3 . . . And the Lombard compatible version isn't out yet....

From bibos:


I am a website dev. & architect in Switzerland, and know pretty well the BIG differences between IE 4.5 Mac and IE PC... they are essentially due to the facts that some basic calls in Jscript (equiv. Netscape's JavaScript) are system call's to undocumented parts of proprietary code in Windows. That means that some JScript are handled by Windows itself and thus not available to Macintosh users.

More info can be found at http://www.DHTMLab.com probably in the FAQ's...

When questioned about it, MS Tech's and Engineers reply that this will probably be worked out in future versions of IE... Great... I suppose...

So Mac users are left with three net-browsing options:

I know users had stability troubles with iCab, and my experience with the last versions of the three above is only on a G3 (233 Beige Box & iMac, PowerBook 400), but I must say that my crashes are rare with iCab but only iCab crashes, very often in NS but only NS crashes, and pretty rare with IE but it brings the OS down with him!!!

Just my two cents,