Flower Power Journal

When the new Flower Power iMac showed up in the Macworld Lab, I was anxiously awaiting my chance to see the design that we've taken to calling Pokemon Vomit around the office.

But when it did arrive, I was disappointed to discover that the machine isn't nearly as ugly in person as it appears online.

I know. I wouldn't have believed it either, but you're going to have to trust me here. It's not an eyesore, which is unfortunate, since I had all sorts of clever things lined up to say about it. Still, if this is what music looks like, I'm glad I can't normally see it.

Out of the box, the first things I noticed (other than that the colors were more muted than I had expected) were the Apple Pro Keyboard and the Apple Pro Mouse. I know they aren't new-they've been around since last summer's Macworld Expo-but both are such major improvements to their old iMac counterparts that they really stand out. Nice job, Apple.

I turned on the iMac at 3:11 p.m. and noticed that it booted dramatically faster than my own Rev A, Bondi Blue iMac. After starting up, the machine took me directly to Apple's registration and setup screen. To be honest, this annoyed me, but I resisted the urge to quit out of it (as many experienced users probably will); I felt it was important to get the true new-user experience. Registration took only a few minutes and was fairly painless. (Why is he talking about the product registration screens, you ask? We'll get to that in a minute.)

When I completed the registration, I was horrified to discover that the same flower-powered infection covering the outside of the box had spread to the inside as well, as evidenced by the multicolored splotches all over my desktop.


Luckily, Mr. T came to my rescue.

Once I changed the desktop picture, I started poking around the hard drive. I was pleased to see that iTunes, iMovie, Palm Desktop, Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, and Netscape were all preinstalled. I fired up IE 5 and found that the registration process I went through when I turned on the machine had imported my Internet settings. I'd forgotten just how Internet-friendly these little machines are.

Next, I checked out my hardware. I love the 500MHz processor in the iMac, but 64MB of memory? Come on...

Am I the only one who thinks a computer released just one month before a new operating system should be able to run that system out of the box? If I wanted to install OS X on this machine, I'd have to double its RAM. Even my old Rev A iMac arrived from ComputerWare with 96MB of RAM. Admittedly, I had upgraded it to that. But shipping a computer with 64MB of RAM in 2001 is simply unacceptable: it virtually guarantees that the user will have to upgrade. I thought the iMac was supposed to do everything for you!

But what I really wanted to do was try out the CD-RW drive. The ability to write CDs is what sets this iMac apart from its predecessors. Besides, I'd seen so many "Rip. Mix. Burn." ads that I wanted to test the premise.

As you'll notice from the screen shots above, the new iMacs have an iTunes alias waiting on the desktop for new users to discover. For some reason, it's only version 1 (the current version is 1.1), which only works with Apple-branded CD-RW drives-but that's OK, since the iMac obviously has an Apple CD-RW drive.

I popped in five CDs and ripped a couple of tracks from each one. I was amazed to see that when iTunes queried Gracenote CDDB-an online database of CD artists, albums, and tracks-information for all but one of the CDs (a live bootleg) was imported. As far as user-supported services go, it doesn't get much better than that.

Once I ripped my tracks, I dropped them in a playlist and inserted a CD-R. Although I've been using iTunes since its release, I've never actually burned a CD with it before.

Man, it's easy.

At 4:28 p.m., just over an hour after I turned the machine on for the first time, I had a mixed CD in my hands.

Had I not poked around beforehand, it could have been even faster. Using this machine reminded me of why I bought an iMac in the first place: it's easy like Sunday morning.

The Rev A was about color and style, yes. But it was also about an all-in-one machine that was remarkably easy to set up and use. The latest editions carry on that tradition in grand form.

And thankfully, they also come in indigo.

In the Box: The new iMac arrives in our lab. First Look: The colors on the molded plastic are much more muted in person than in photos. What Music Looks Like? I hope not. Input Improvements: The Apple Pro Keyboard and Mouse ship standard these days. Desktop Disgust: The best thing about the desktop picture that comes with this machine: it's removable. Internet Savvy: The iMac does most of the heavy lifting for you in setting up Internet configurations. System at a Glance: 64MB of RAM, OS 9.1, 500MHz PowerPC G3 Querying Gracenote: iTunes automatically looks up CD artist and track information using the Gracenote CDDB service. Important Import: Once iTunes gets the track information from Gracenote, it automatically imports that information into your playlist and labels the files.
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