New soul of a machine

Some might say the bit of silicon that powers your Mac is just a chip. But if reactions to our August issue’s Mac Beat special report are any indication, Apple’s decision to switch to Intel CPUs means much more to many Mac loyalists. Beyond the technical merits of one chip versus another, there’s something deeper going on here, something about the identity of the Mac itself. Will the Mac become just another computer, like all those anonymous Wintel boxes? Maybe—unless, of course, a chip really is just a chip.

The big switch

Matthew Fries —Thank you for your issue about Apple’s switch to the Intel processor (Mac Beat, August 2005). You did a great job (as always) of explaining exactly what it all means. My big question as a Mac user and fan is this: Will we now have to hear that annoying Intel music theme at the end of every Apple TV ad?

Michael Richards —As someone who still owns his first 512K Mac, complete with its “insanely great” designers’ signatures imprinted inside its plastic hull, I think I speak for many when I say that I feel betrayed. If I had wanted an IBM PC, I would have crossed over years ago. Now, as I look at my 23-inch Apple Cinema Display hooked up to my Power Mac G5, I feel that I’ve been sold out. I’ve stood by this company through the IIe, the IIc, and even the Lisa, but for what? What will be special now? Why did I bother? Other computers were much less expensive.

Brad Marston —Your readers would have been better served if you’d checked the reaction to the Intel announcement among developers on Apple’s own Scitech mailing list. For example, you could have observed that Apple—having previously promoted the 64-bit capabilities of the G5 processor—has said nothing about the future of 64-bit computing with Intel. (Xcode 2.1 supports only 32-bit i386 instructions.) You might also have asked about floating-point performance. The G5 processor has two floating-point units; how do Intel chips stack up? Finally, you might have been able to tell your readers that the x86 instruction set is widely viewed as inelegant and dated in comparison to the PowerPC architecture. The transition to Intel may be the correct business choice for Apple, but it raises many technical questions, which Macworld’s coverage so far has not answered.

Jim Lofton —As a Mac owner since 1989, I’m amazed that some people are so upset about the switch to Intel. Clearly, they have drunk too long and too deep from the Apple (and IBM) marketing well. For all the highly touted benefits of PowerPC chips, they only briefly eclipsed the Pentium. And even that advantage was debatable, as the benchmarks Apple used were biased. Yes, the standard Pentium 4 is a dog. But the Pentium M is far superior to the G4 and may even match well against the G5 (if it were put into a dual-configuration desktop). The Pentium D is a dual-core chip available in production quantities now. And future Pentium releases such as Yonah will likely make the G6 (if it ever appears) look merely adequate, as the G5s do now when compared with Intel’s Xeons. Even if the complainers are right and the PowerPC is superior to the Pentium on technical merits, that was pretty much the argument for Betamax—with the result being that everyone now lives with VHS and couldn’t care less.

Bill Herman —Your Intel story missed one very scary issue: trusted computing (TC). Just before Jobs made the big announcement, Intel quietly announced that it would begin producing chips that implement TC. If you don’t know about TC yet, you need to learn about it now. One good way to do so is to go to the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Web site and do a search for trusted computing. If, as part of the switch to Intel, Apple implements TC in such a way that users lose control of their computers, our collective digital freedom will be in serious danger.

Walter Jeffries —I have read that when Apple switches to Intel processors, it will no longer support Mac OS 9 Classic applications and that those apps won’t run under Rosetta. Like many companies, mine has gigabytes of data and tens of megabytes of legacy applications that require the Classic operating environment. Just because Apple has a new OS and new hardware coming out doesn’t mean that businesses or individuals can abandon decades’ worth of data and applications. These tools and data are vital to our lives and our businesses. Many of these applications were written by developers who are no longer in business. Given a choice between fancy new hardware and software upgrades and losing our data, we’ll stick with the older machines. If Apple abandons these applications, we won’t replace these older machines with newer ones—which means that Apple will sell less hardware and fewer software updates to the operating system, and will lose money as a result. I strongly urge Apple to continue to support Classic applications.

Finish your photos

Paul Lomauro —Wow! Your digital photo how-to guide is just what I’ve been looking for (“The Big Picture,” August 2005 ). I’m one of millions of new digital camera users and a relatively new owner of an iMac. For many of your readers, the 17-page guide will be too basic—but for me, it was perfect. Keep this up, and I’ll never let my subscription lapse.

Rob Wilson —I read your excellent article on photo- printing services and noticed that you left out one service that I believe is the absolute best deal of all: having your prints done at Costco. You can simply e-mail the digital photos you want printed to the nearest Costco store and then pick up your prints an hour later. Costco does a great job of accurately reproducing what you send, offers glossy and luster finishes, and is very, very inexpensive.

Cross Current

Reid Conrad (CEO, Near-Time) —In response to your online review of Near-Time Current 1.5 (   ; October 2005 ), I would like to clarify a couple of points. For starters, your reviewer states, “I was unable to post entries to a blog created at Blogger.com … but I succeeded in posting the same blog easily at Typespot.com.” These problems could relate to a number of factors, yet you attributed them solely to Current. Your reviewer further noted, “It froze my PowerBook G4 several times, leaving even the Force Quit command unavailable.” We have found no record in our customer-service logs of other customers complaining of such freezes. We pride ourselves on our customer service. Your reviewer also states that Current’s “functionality and ease of use falls far short of the applications I normally would use to do these things: Ranchero Software’s NetNewsWire Lite, Apple’s Safari, Microsoft Word, and, for archiving pages, Mozilla’s Firefox Scrapbook extension.” Recommending the use of four separate applications instead of one speaks to Current’s potential. I invite the Macworld community to try Current and contact me directly with feedback at reidconrad@near-time.com.

Before we published our review of Current, we did, of course, contact Near-Time about the problems we had with the application. Our reviewer spent two hours in a face-to-face meeting with a Near-Time representative, trying to resolve these problems. We stand behind his review.—Ed.

Nearsighted Spotlight

Adam Kobrin —In Apple’s ads for its Tiger OS, one reviewer says that Spotlight “looks through absolutely everything.” This is clearly not true, according to Apple’s own documentation. The only way to perform a comprehensive search is to resort to a techie workaround (Geek Factor, August 2005 ). Besides dealing with its misleading advertising, does Apple plan to address this serious limitation? All I’d like to do is find every file I’m looking for—just as I could in OS 9, System 7, and System 6.

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