Glenn's Junk Chest

An assortment of Glenn's writings, photography, gaming resources, flash movies, and other creative output.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Apple: Small Toys, Big Excitement

Apple has released some new products, as expected, and I'm really excited. There's the tiny iPod Shuffle, that I'm almost certain to acquire, since at $99 for the smaller capacity one, it's pretty damn affordable. I haven't previously thought the iPods were worth the money for me, but this is perfect.

There's also a new productivity suite, iWork, which includes Pages, a new word processor. I'm itching to get my hands on it and put it through its paces. The Macintosh hasn't had a really good word processor since MS Word 5.1 stopped working properly. The Microsoft Word for OS X that I'm using now is adequate, but only barely, and it does crash from time to time. I don't know if Pages will suffice, but if it even comes close, that'll be a pretty exciting development.

But I'm most excited by the Mac Mini. In part I'm excited because it's a computer that I can comfortably recommend to a lot of people I know that already have some stuff, like monitors and keyboards, but need a new computer. It's a computer that I can envision using to replace just about any old and ailing macintosh at a really low price point. In short, it's both physically and economically convienent, and that's awesome. What's really got me excited, however, is a feature of the device that's not even referenced in any of the press releases or ads I've seen.

You can hook it up to a TV. It supports the Apple DVI to Video Adapter.

While you can do this with some bigger computers, it's usually not very practical to put them near your TV. But the Mac Mini is nearly the size of a Nintendo GameCube. You can take it and put it right into your entertainment center. For someone like me, who uses a laptop for many tasks, this opens up worlds of possibility, since I can remote control it from my computer via Airport wireless. I can put movies and audio on it, and play them through my speaker. I can use my firewire video tools to capture, edit, and display video on the TV. Hell, I envision setting it up so that it's a server, video player, and jukebox, all in one, that can be used to do computing tasks on the TV when needed, or moved (it's really small) and hooked up to a real monitor if needed.

Give the thing a decent game controller, and it's like a Mac OS-based X-box that you can put your own software on. This excites me greatly. People have spent hundreds of hours trying to put thier own software onto the X-box, despite Microsoft's serious obstacles and objections. This is a more general purpose box without all the barriers. In short, I think it's time for us to sell our old G4 Tower and get one of these instead.


At 6:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a bit disappointed by the announcements.

I don't believe the iPod Shuffle is worth the money. This kind of thing has existed for several years for under $50. I've seen half a dozen brands on the shelves and in magazines, they have similar memory sizes, similar package sizes, controls, USB connections, and some are even compatible with iTunes. I felt the iPod was worth the money because it could contain so much more and had a really nice interface. The shuffle doesn't have any readout. Save your money for a real iPod. If you want something small and cheap, there are better alternatives to the shuffle.

I feel the Mini is a total waste of money and time. When will Apple learn to stop putting slot loading drives into their systems? Slot systems are an utter headache for their users and Apple's support staff. They jam easily, scratch CD's (I wouldn't dare put a DVD in one), and wear out quickly. Never, ever, ever put a non-standard sized CD in one; you'll never get it out. Oh, and don't forget the external power supply. Everybody loves those, right? Need more memory? Forget it. There is only one memory slot and you have to have a special tool to access it (i.e. pay money to an authorized repair place, good luck finding one in your local area). And why would I puchase a 1.4GHz-G4? That is so five years ago!

The only thing I see from the announcements is "See, we can make things small and cute." I see the small packages, but where are the big things that are supposed to come in them? I'm a Mac user, I expect power for my money.

The only comment I can make about Pages: I've always hated Appleworks and it's predecessors. I'll probably hate Pages, too.

-- Kit.

At 7:04 PM, Blogger Glenn said...

Part of the problem is that Apple is working against a processor bottleneck that isn't likely to give way anytime soon. While the speed on the G5s is continuing to climb (slowly), they're not getting small enough, cool enough, or low power enough to go into laptops or small-form-factor devices. The big iron G5 machines are pretty, but a huge percentage of their design goes into cooling and power systems.

I'm prepared to stand by the Mac Mini, however. It's a winner for those who aren't nerds because it's good enough, cheap enough, and a Macintosh. It's a winner for those of us who are nerds not because we'll use it as our primary computer, but because it's a great computer to use for secondary applications. It ought to be very tempting for the huge number of people who can't even check their email on their indifferently-maintained Windows box because it's totally clogged with Spyware, Viruses, and Trojans.

As far as the iPod mini is concerned, I'm unconvinced you're right. I recently tried to find a decent flash-based MP3 player, and was seriously underwhelmed. Bad design, bad interface, low memory, and poor compatibility seemed to dog just about product in that space. This has everything so neatly wrapped up I'm hard pressed to see how it can be bettered. Heck, you don't even need a cable for it, since it plugs right into your USB port.

My dream product would be something similar in size and function to the Mini that allowed you to put in Compact Flash cards instead of having on-board memory. The only thing I've found is comparatively huge, no longer made, and apparently sucked anyway.

Can't comment on meaningfully on Pages until I get to try it, of course. You may be right there. We'll just have to see.

At 7:06 PM, Blogger Glenn said...

Er, substitute my references to "iPod Mini" with "iPod Shuffle" in that last comment. Got my names confused.

At 8:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Free Mac Mini…Cool site!


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