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  • Some Nice Things About 2006

    December 28th, 2006

    Just before writing this article, I sat back and looked over the material I’ve presented over the past few weeks, and it seems I’ve been very negative; so much so, in fact, that you can rightly assume that all I want to do is rant.

    But that’s not so!

    In fact, I tend to be a very optimistic sort of person, which you have to be as a long-time Mac user. I remember how many years Apple was marginalized as a niche platform that few cared about. People said they’d go out of business soon, so why was I wasting my time using Macs and writing about them? Why indeed!

    Well, the reason I got into Macs in the 1980s is the very same reason I continue to use them today. Pound for pound, a Mac is a better computing investment than a PC. As much as Apple has screwed up its hardware and software over the years, the basic user experience has remained extremely positive. As I’ve said a number of times, I don’t like to fiddle with things, unless I have a problem, something gnawing at my soul until I decide to fix it. Yes, I install system toys from time to time, largely as an experiment to see what they do. I also check out software updates several times a day to locate the latest and greatest versions of the products I use on a regular basis, but also to see if there are any tools that can do the job better.

    You see, I’m satisfied up to a point.

    At the beginning of 2006, I felt good about the Mac universe. The early developer buzz about the potential of the Intel-based Macs seemed very positive, particularly claims that the processor switch would make Mac OS X run faster. Could it be true? Well, when I had a chance to try out the first round of MacIntels, which consisted of the iMac and MacBook Pro, I was convinced. Where Mac OS X could surround you with spinning beachballs on the fastest PowerPC model, on Intel, the operating system awoke as if from a long slumber. So, it was meant to run on x86 all along! Maybe Apple was fooling us, knowing that it would make the switch when the time was right.

    Yes, there are slowdowns on Intel-based Macs too, but not so much, not so often.

    When I finally got ahold of one of the first 17-inch MacBook Pros, I left a comparably-sized PowerBook G4 behind and never looked back. It was so much faster, except for that little lag with emulated software. I found myself using the note-book more and more for regular work. You see, in the past I dreaded the process, because everything ran so slow. No more. This was one powerful puppy.

    But I was really amazed with the speed at which Apple accomplished the processor switch. Did I hear Steve Jobs say it would all be done by the end of 2007? Yet it was all over in August, with the introduction of the Mac Pro.

    Naturally if your new Intel-based Mac came with a few defects, you wouldn’t be quite as impressed. Consider those hot-running MacBooks and MacBook Pros, or some of the former that would suddenly shut down for no reason. I didn’t encounter any of these problems, although I couldn’t say the Mac note-books I’ve tried felt cool to the touch. I suppose if you want to have dual-core processors with cutting-edge performance something has to give, although I gather the second-generation models, with the Intel Core 2 Duo chips, don’t run quite as hot.

    I was particularly impressed with how quickly the developer community came on board with Universal applications, to run on both PowerPC and Intel. It all begin with a trickle, months before the first MacIntels were released. Then it became a torrent, numbering in the thousands. In fact, the figures are fast approaching 5,000.

    And just recently, Adobe released a beta version of Photoshop CS3, Universal, so it runs at full speed on the newest Macs. Although it’s a little ragged around the edges, as you might expect, the early benchmarks are extremely encouraging.

    I don’t have as much to say about Apple’s digital music initiative. I have an iPod, and I use it from time to time and it works really great. Microsoft’s Zune was a non-starter, but would you have expected anything different?

    For 2007, if folks can get past the stuff about those stock options, all systems are go for Apple Computer. You may disagree, and I’m sure I’ll find plenty to right about. But right now, everything looks real good from this little vantage point.

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