While iLife ’09 brought many welcome improvements to the programs (well, except for iDVD) in Apple’s digital lifestyle suite, it also brought one unwelcome change—the end of any sort of manual for the programs at all. In prior versions of iLife, each program included a Getting Started PDF that you could view via an entry in the Help menu. In iLife ’09, that menu entry has vanished from every program in the suite, except for GarageBand.
What other bundled content, you may wonder, has taken the place of these Getting Started manuals? Lacking the detective skills of Inspector Clouseau or Agent 86, the best answer I’ve come up with so far is…”absolutely nothing.” The Help menu contains entries for the help system, of course, as well as a keyboard shortcuts list and a “Welcome to” panel, but all of those existed in prior versions of the program. So as far as bundled (free) content, iLife ’09 comes up short compared to its predecessors…and that’s a shame.
While the previous Getting Started guides were far from top-to-bottom manuals for each program, they were well written and did a good job at getting you up to speed in a hurry. They were detailed enough to answer many questions a user may have, yet still easily readable and illustrated with numerous photos to clarify many operations. They ranged in length from 20 pages (iPhoto) to more than 100 (GarageBand), and were also relatively small—all five guides for iLife ’08 take up just over 4MB on my disk.
And another piece of the puzzle falls into place. On Monday, Google announced its new Sync beta, based on Microsoft’s ActiveSync technology. So now you can sync your Google Calendars and Google Contacts directly to your iPhone, all without the mediating influence of iTunes.
It’s the kind of thing that would look like a shot across Apple’s bow if it weren’t for the fact that the two companies are apparently the best of pals—Google CEO Eric Schmidt is still sitting on Apple’s board, and it’s not as if the built-in Google search bars in the iPhone and desktop versions of Safari suddenly vanished into thin air.
Still, the move means that Google users now join the hallowed halls previously frequented only by Microsoft Exchange users and those $100 per year MobileMe subscribers (among which you can count yours truly). More to the point, it finally gives the average consumer an option to circumvent MobileMe and still get the service’s extremely attractive over-the-air iPhone syncing superpowers.
Today, though, I’m sharing praise for an Apple product that has performed amazingly well for me. Recently, while reviewing our year-end records, I noticed that my original (Aqua-style) 23-inch LCD Cinema Display just turned six years old. This is my main monitor, and it’s in use every day. I was curious, though, just how many hours I’d been using it during those six years, so I did some rough back-of-the-envelope calculations.
There’s a lot to love about Faces, the new face-detection and -recognition feature that highlights iPhoto ’09. Certainly, it’s the one feature in the new version of iPhoto that I was really looking forward to using. And it’s largely delivered on that promise.
Well, except for one small hiccup. Thanks to Faces, iPhoto seems to think that I’m Steve Jobs.
In the immortal words (to a golf fan, anyway) of Roberto de Vicenzo, “What a stupid I am to be wrong here!” In my case, the ‘stupid’ doesn’t apply to anything nearly as monumental as losing one of golf’s major championships by signing an incorrect scorecard. Instead, my ‘stupid’ relates to hard drives, and the mistakes one can make when working with them. What follows is nothing more than a tale of woe to hopefully impress on all of us, myself included most definitely, of the need to look that one last time before we take the leap.
A couple weeks back, I noticed that my personal data drive was quite full—only 10GB left on a 500GB drive. So I ordered a replacement drive from NewEgg—a Western Digital Caviar Green 1TB model. As my Mac Pro has all four drive bays full, replacing a drive is a bit tricky. First I shut down the machine, open it up, remove one of the non-system drives, and install the new drive in the empty slot.
No one asked me what the best Mac ever was (the PowerBook G4), or the greatest Mac game (I’ve always been torn between Civilization II and Championship Manager) or what Apple needs to do right now. (Give more exclusives to that dashing fellow from Macworld. No, not Dalrymple. I said dashing.) And I’ll tell you, it hurts. It hurts very deeply.
But there is something I can contribute to our 25th anniversary hoopla—a rundown of the best and worst Apple commercials of the Mac era. I’m uniquely qualified for this task—I watch quite a bit of television. (After all, something has to fill the empty hours when I’m not playing Civilization II or Championship Manager.)
The problem, of course, when drawing up a list of the best Apple TV spots of all time is that your toughest decision has already been made for you. You have to put Apple’s “1984” ad, which introduced the Mac 25 years ago, in the top slot. If you don’t, people either assume you don’t know what you’re talking about or you’re just trying to make some waves. And if you do put “1984” at the head of the list, people say, “Well, duh”—usually not that politely—and conclude that you’re some sort of play-it-safe dullard. It’s a lose-lose proposition.
Last week Apple quietly began selling a refreshed version of its entry-level MacBook with improved graphics. We’re still working on getting a version of this updated MacBook into Macworld Lab for testing and review. But based on the revised specs of the laptop, this model appears to be a solid value for both gamers and Mac users on a budget.
The $999 MacBook is clad in a white polycarbonate chassis, a throwback to the previous-generation MacBook. It lacks the aluminum-clad “unibody” design of newer MacBooks, but it also is a lot easier on the wallet, priced at $300 less than the 2GHz version of its shinier cousin.
But what’s under the hood is what counts the most. For the same price Apple charged a few weeks ago, the revamped low-end model incorporates twice the memory—2GB, versus 1GB—and dramatically better 3-D graphics performance than it did before. That’s thanks to the adaptation of a motherboard design that features Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics. It’s still an integrated graphics chip, like the Intel GMA X3100 system in the previous-generation low-end MacBook, but it shares more memory with the system RAM than the Intel graphics did. And all of our tests on other Macs equipped with that graphics system conclude that the 9400M outperforms the Intel graphics system in every way. (Note that this MacBook now runs on a 2GHz Core 2 Duo processor; the previous low-end MacBook had a 2.1GHz chip.)