Sat, 25 Jan 2003

Taking a bite out of the new Apple notebook

Vishnu K. Mahmud Contributor Jakarta

I recently was in the market for a new notebook. As with computer laptops today, I needed one that has a long lasting battery, a CD-Writer (DVD also if possible), lots of memory and which is very, very light.

Notebook prices have fallen substantially over the past five years as more and more companies begin to craft their own laptop products. You can choose from a variety of brands such as IBM, Dell, Toshiba, Acer and Asus. But the one I chose was an Apple MacIntosh. Remember them?

Apple Computers is still alive and going strong, constantly launching innovative products such as Mp3 players (the amazing iPod), affordable computers (the iMac), and ultra-powerful notebooks (the Powerbook). And with the introduction of their latest operating system, OS X (dubbed OS ten), more people are switching over to the once faltering company.

Having first started on computers with Apple (an Apple IIe to be exact), I always wondered what it would be like to return to the company that Steve Jobs built.

The OS X operating system is fast, easy to use and can be effortlessly connected to an existing office network of any platform. Based on the powerful Unix operating system, OS X brings stability and robustness to the graphical user interface for consumer computing.

Using OS X is like using Microsoft Windows. No, there is no "Start" icon on the menu, nor does the mouse have a second button. But practically everything else is the same: drag and drop, double click, menus on the upper screen and the "trash" can. Remember, Microsoft "appropriated" the graphics user interface idea from Apple (who in turn took it from Xerox. Ah, the days of the Pirates of Silicon Valley!).

Some people are wary of buying a Mac because they fear that there are no compatible applications for them to work along with their PC-totting friends. Not true. Programs such as Photoshop, Dreamweaver and even Microsoft Office are available on the Mac and can exchange files seamlessly with PC users.

The iBook I bought is small, light, and completely white. It has the basic attachments of a built-in modem, network port, and VGA-out connectors along with an internal CD-RW drive. With USB and Firewire ports, I can easily add other peripherals such as an external keyboard, mouse, printer, and scanner. I can even edit movies directly from a firewire-enabled video camera.

Mac OS X is practically idiot-proof. One feature I like is the "Location" program. Being a freelance translator and copywriter, I go from client to client, sometimes needing to connect to their networks. With it, I can just set up the network connection once for each office, then select the appropriate one from the list. No need to reboot. In fact, my iBook has rarely shut down or restarted since I purchased it 3 months ago.

The software bundled with Mac OS X is worth the price of the notebook alone. It includes ITunes, an MP3 player that effectively manages your music files; iPhoto, an easy to use photo viewer; iDVD, for viewing DVD movies; and iMovie, for making your own.

Of course, there are some drawbacks in getting a Mac. Software is a little difficult to find in Indonesia. Games are also rare, as few have been translated from their PC versions. Mac hardware is also at a premium, as it tends to be more expensive then its PC counterparts.

But the design of the computer and operating systems are first rate. Most graphic designers, writers, photographers and other artists swear by it. Schools teach their children with it. And with its UNIX background, programmers and system administrators are managing their networks with it.

Everyone has their own reason for buying a Mac. Some are tired of having their computers crashing and facing the dreaded "Blue Screen of Death". Others are sick of searching and compiling device drivers just to make their sound card work. But many are just new users with their first computer. And the Mac is very easy for them.

Basically, a computer is just a computer. It has an operating system (OS X, Windows 2000, Linux) and applications (Word Processing, Spreadsheets, games). Most of the files nowadays are interchangeable so you should not worry about which PC you wish to choose. You use it to write documents, access your e-mail and play some games, so any system will do. I chose Apple to complement my work, and it has paid for itself in spades.

If you're tired of the same old computer system and want something new, try Apple. The community is extremely close knit so if you have a problem (which is highly unlikely), you can ask them. And with the Mac, there are so many things newbies can do that they never thought possible -- create and publish a photo album, record their own songs and even edit your own independent movie. Many professionals have, and now it's your turn.