Not so long ago, if you wanted to be taken seriously as a commutin’, computin’, highfalutin warrior of the road, you adorned your person with a passel of drab devices–a cellular phone, a pager, and of course the requisite laptop computer–all in gray and black tones. How dull. How common. Thanks to Apple’s introduction of the iBook, common is out and colorful is in. Powerful enough for professionals yet affordable enough for students, the two-toned iBook is likely to appeal to a broad range of users–perhaps you are among them.
Although the iBook is a Mac at heart, it’s also a laptop. And with laptops comes a whole new corpus of concerns–making the most of battery life, synchronizing your iBook with a desktop computer, and keeping ne’er-do-wells from making off with your machine. We know this sounds like a lot for a first-time laptop owner to absorb, but we’re here to help. Before you next bundle your two-toned buddy into a backpack, briefcase, or book bag, read through the following tips, tricks, and techniques. With this information, you’ll transform your iBook from a cute consumer curio to a productive portable as capable as any other computer on the road.
Also see the sidebar: “Coming to Terms”
Safe, Not Sorry
It’s unfortunate that the minute you walk out the door with your new iBook, you must start thinking of ways to protect it from theft. Let’s face it?the iBook, with its rich blue or orange skin, is attractive not only to you but also to those who’d like to make your iBook their own. After all, it’s a portable and is therefore easy to snatch. Because we want you to own your iBook long enough to gain some benefit from the rest of this article, consider the following security measures.
Lock It Up
Apple’s PowerBooks have long carried a security slot for attaching special cables that tie the machine to an anchored object. The iBook lacks such a slot but does come with a foldout handle that’s devilishly difficult to remove. Loop a security cable or chain through this handle and attach a secure lock to keep your iBook from walking away. Because you don’t need a laptop lock, a steel chain and a padlock will do the trick.
What’s the Password?
If you plan to use your iBook to take notes in class or update spreadsheets when your flight is delayed, you’ll want to keep your data from the prying eyes of others.
With its PowerBook series, Apple provides the Password Security control panel for protecting a PowerBook’s hard disk, but regrettably this control panel isn’t compatible with iBooks. Even if you choose a custom installation of Mac OS 8.6 and attempt to install the Password Security control panel, your iBook will chuck it at restart.
Apple has provided no solution for password-protecting your iBook with Mac OS 8.6 installed, so you have to use a utility such as Power On Software’s $50 On Guard (800/344-9160,
https://www.poweronsw.com ). If you use Mac OS 9, however, you can use the Multiple Users control panel to help fend off prying eyes.
To configure Multiple Users for password protection, simply open the Multiple Users control panel (Apple menu: Control Panels: Multiple Users), click on the On button that appears next to Multiple User Accounts, and close the control panel. The next time you start up your iBook, you’ll be presented with a “Welcome to Mac OS” window that contains your name.
To start using your iBook, click on the Log In button, type your password?the same password you used when you first set up your iBook (the one in the File Sharing control panel)?and you’re on your way. Although some know-it-alls may figure out a way around this protection, most casual users will be dissuaded from investigating further. If you want to disable password protection, simply open the Multiple Users control panel again and click on the Off button, next to Multiple User Accounts.
Note, however, that if you plan to be away from your iBook for a while and are about to put the iBook to sleep, you should log out (choose Log Out from the Special menu) if you want your iBook protected during your absence. Unless you log out, your iBook will pop back to life without asking for a password.
Wrap It Discreetly
Using the iBook’s handle is a convenient way to transport your laptop, but carrying a naked iBook around simply advertises that you have a computer worth stealing. A computer bag, although a little less obvious, is also conspicuous. To disguise your iBook’s identity, carry it in a padded backpack designed to carry a laptop. One of our favorite backpacks is Kensington’s SaddleBag (see the sidebar “Road Tools” for details on this and other cool products).
Personalize Your Desktop
You can also brand your iBook’s desktop so that it can be easily identified later. To do so, create a PICT file that contains a message such as “This iBook belongs to insert your name here , so hands off!” Open the Appearance control panel, click on the Desktop tab, drag and drop this file onto the picture frame at the left side of the window, and click on the Set Desktop button. The message you created is now plastered across your iBook’s desktop.
To keep unsavory souls from removing that message, rename the Appearance control panel something sneaky? Read Me , for example?and replace its icon with a generic text-document icon. To create this icon, find a text document on your iBook (any Read Me file will do). Click on the icon, press command-I to bring up the Get Info window, click on the document’s icon in the upper-left corner of the resulting window, and press command-C to copy the icon. Now click on the Appearance control-panel file, press command-I, click on the icon, and press command-V to replace the Appearance icon with the text icon. Now drag your renamed Appearance control panel to somewhere safe (and somewhere you’re likely to remember). Users who aren’t terribly Mac-savvy will have a heck of a time removing that message from your iBook, but you can change it, of course. Simply double-click on the disguised Appearance control panel and select a new desktop pattern.
Pump Up Power
For some people, running out of battery life is an unlikely prospect. But the truth is that it’s much more common than you might suspect. Imagine this: you’re heading home on a cross-country flight for spring break, but you need to finish a term paper and e-mail it to your professor the second you land in San Francisco. As you pass over Fort Dodge, Iowa, your iBook runs out of juice because you’ve been pounding the latest Korn CD through your cranium since the beginning of the flight.
Since a simple action such as this can drain your battery, power management is important for all portable users?not just for power users. If you want your iBook to deliver the goods when you most need them, squeezing every second out of your iBook’s battery should be your goal.
Avoid Battery-Sucking Operations
The iBook’s LCD screen and that Korn-filled CD-ROM drive pull a lot of power from the battery. To maximize battery life, turn screen brightness down to the lowest setting you can tolerate and avoid or cut back on CD-ROM use. Remove CDs from the drive if you don’t need them. Also, switch off AppleTalk, either from the Control Strip or by opening the Chooser and clicking on the Inactive button. Finally, remove external devices you’re not using?that button-studded game pad of death, for example. If you’re a music enthusiast, turn your favorite CD audio tracks into MP3 files and play them from the hard disk (see the feature ”
MP3 To Go,” elsewhere in this issue, to find out how to do this). If you have RAM to spare?and you won’t unless you add at least 64MB of RAM to the paltry 32MB that come with the iBook (see the sidebar “Inside the iBook”)?create a RAM disk for storing applications you tend to use often, such as your word-processing program. Steps for creating a RAM disk can be found in Mac Help in the Special menu. Additional RAM may also allow you to avoid using virtual memory?a scheme that forces the iBook to access the hard disk more often and, consequently, drains your battery more quickly. You’ll find controls for turning off virtual memory in the Memory control panel.
Use Energy Saver
Be miserly with your battery life by using the power-saving settings in the Energy Saver control panel. Put the iBook to sleep after a minute of inactivity when on battery power, for example. And select the Allow Processor Cycling option in the Advanced Settings window.
The iBook won’t automatically go to sleep when you have Speakable Items enabled in the Speech control panel. Speakable Items allows your iBook to recognize certain spoken commands. It’s unlikely that you’ll have Speakable Items enabled?particularly since the iBook has no microphone input?but if someone else has been using your iBook, it’s possible that this feature was switched on. If you notice that your iBook won’t automatically sleep, check the Speech control panel. If you boot your iBook from a CD-ROM and then put the iBook to sleep?for example, if you started your iBook from the Software Restore disc in order to reinstall a piece of software?it won’t wake up properly. The only way to recover is to reboot your iBook, by pressing command-control-power (or the reset button).
Selecting Preserve Memory Content On Sleep in the Energy Saver control panel should, in theory, help ensure that your work will still be there when your iBook next awakens. However, you might not be able to get your iBook to stop snoring. If this happens, restart the iBook and hold down the escape key until you see the Happy Mac icon. This procedure tells the iBook to bypass any corrupted file that might be keeping your iBook from booting correctly.
If your battery is running low and you have a spare, just swap it, right? Not exactly. Beware of haphazard battery swapping, because you can lose your work if your iBook isn’t plugged into a powered socket. Pulling a battery switch without having the iBook plugged in wipes out the contents of the computer’s short-term memory?the information stored in its RAM chips. To preserve the contents of RAM while the iBook sleeps, open the Energy Saver control panel, click on the Advanced Settings button, and check the box next to Preserve Memory Contents On Sleep under Sleep Options.
Reset the Power Manager
With time, it’s possible for the Power Manager to become corrupt, causing your iBook to act strange?refusing to recognize the AC adapter, failing to wake from sleep, or being unable to charge the battery. You’re probably wondering how this happens, but it’s not a bug?it’s just one of the quirks of working with an Apple portable. To reset the Power Manager, shut down the iBook, press the reset button (located above the power button near the hinge) with the end of a paper clip, wait five seconds, and press the power button to restart.
Search for Unexpected Power Sources
All these thrifty habits won’t protect you from eventually running out of juice. When the “battery low” warning appears, you’ll need to think fast.
If you’re using your iBook at the airport, find a seat near a power outlet and plug in. Scope out the location of any power outlets in classrooms, lecture halls, and meeting rooms (and carry an extension cord with you). On a long flight, try giving your iBook a little extra charge by using the outlet in the plane’s lavatory. The battery takes two hours to fully charge, so unless the plane’s completely empty, you shouldn’t attempt to charge the iBook for more than a couple minutes at a time.
Have you ever wondered why the word mouse has become a verb?as in “I was mousing around on my Mac the other day”?and the word touchpad hasn’t? It’s simple: your hand was meant to mouse, it was not meant to touchpad. Regardless of how long most people use their iBook’s Trackpad, it never feels as natural as a mouse. These tips may make your “Trackpadding” feel a little more natural.
Making Tracks Cursor hard to see? Turn on Mouse Tracks in the Mouse control panel.
Sometimes it’s difficult to locate the on-screen cursor, particularly when you’re using the iBook in direct sunlight. To find it more readily, open the Mouse control panel (Apple menu: Control Panels) and switch on Mouse Tracks (see the screen shot “Making Tracks”). Doing so causes the cursor to leave temporary trails. Select the Thick I-beam option in this same control panel to create a more visible I-beam cursor.
If you’ve got big fingers?or, for that matter, small ones that don’t glide across the Trackpad very well?and are having trouble moving the cursor in small increments, open the Trackpad control panel and select a slower tracking speed. At a slower tracking speed, your finger movements don’t need to be as exact, so you can more easily zero in on your target.
Some people find it cumbersome to use the iBook’s bottom bar to double-click. To avoid using the bottom bar, turn on the Use Trackpad For Clicking option. Now just tap on the Trackpad to click.
If you don’t care for the iBook’s Trackpad or keyboard, attach a USB mouse and keyboard and navigate your iBook just as deskbound Macintosh users do. Likewise, attach a USB joystick or game pad for better control over games. (Check out “”Holiday Gifts for Gamers”,” The Game Room , December 1999, for stellar gaming options.)
Rules of the Road
Chances are, you bought an iBook because you planned to take it on the road with you. When traveling or working from remote locations, it’s important to remember these helpful tips:
Quick and Dirty Hard Copy
What if you need to print a file but don’t have an accessible printer? If you’re working from a hotel room, there’s an easy solution: fax the document to the hotel’s fax machine. Students may be able to use this fax trick with sympathetic librarians and professors.
Photography students laden with slides may want to show off their work to fellow students and professors. With an iBook, they easily can. Just open the iBook so the top lies flat, select a desktop pattern that’s completely white, turn up the brightness all the way, and place the slides on the screen. Instant light table.
Staying in Sync
In all likelihood, you have a Mac on a desk somewhere in addition to your iBook. A good way to stay up-to-date on both Macs is to synchronize the files they contain. Here’s how: Create a folder?called Road Work, for example?and place it on your iBook’s desktop. Create a folder with the same name on the computer you use at home. When you travel, place any documents you’ve worked on in this folder. When you return home, use Apple’s File Synchronization control panel to synchronize the two folders.
E-mail on the Server
When traveling, configure your e-mail program?most likely Microsoft Outlook Express, the program that came with your iBook?to keep copies of your messages on the server, the computer where your Internet service provider (ISP) stores your e-mail. That way, when you return home, you needn’t copy your e-mail database to your desktop machine. Simply log into your e-mail account with your desktop computer and download all your messages again.
Changing Places With Apple’s Location Manager, you can swap multiple configurations with a single click.
Hey, you’re going mobile with your iBook, and when you bounce from place to place, it’s nice to have your portable pal preconfigured when you reach your next destination.
Apple’s Location Manager lets you create different groups of settings to use at different locations (see the screen shot “Changing Places”). Create unique Internet and time settings for use at your East Coast college, your West Coast home, and your south-Texas spring break. Or if you use America Online and another ISP, for example, you can create a unique group of settings for each. You can easily switch from one group of settings to another, using the Location Manager module in the Control Strip.
If you have a single ISP and simply need to change dial-up phone numbers for different locations, don’t bother messing around with the Location Manager. Instead, open Remote Access?you’ll find it under Control Panels in the Apple menu?select Configurations (command-K) from the File menu, click on your ISP’s configuration, and then click on the Duplicate button to create a new configuration. Name this new configuration something memorable such as School , click on the Make Active button, enter a new phone number in the Number field, close the Remote Access window, and save when prompted to. Now when you want to change configurations, just select the configuration you desire from the Remote Access control strip.
While on spring break, you realize that your copy of “101 Jokes about Buicks and Beer” is tucked away on the hard disk of the frat’s Mac. You know that joke number 52 is going to be a great hit by the pool. If only you could retrieve it! Relax?with OS 9, you can.
Unlike previous versions of the Mac OS, Mac OS 9 incorporates both the send and receive components of Apple’s Remote Access. This means that you can use your iBook to call your desktop Mac, and then you can mount its hard disk on your iBook’s desktop?just as if it were attached to a local network?and easily copy files between the two computers.
The Last Word
Also see the sidebar: “The AirPort Arrives”
With these tips, you’ve taken your first steps toward becoming a road warrior. Before long, you too will begin thinking like a laptop user?seeking ever greater security measures, trying to match Apple’s fabled claim of six-hour iBook battery life, and making your iBook a full member of your computer family. Now close the lid and wind up that power cord. It’s time to hit the road.
Contributing Editor CHRISTOPHER BREEN is a coauthor of My iMac (IDG Books Worldwide, 1999).
February 2000 page: 70
Coming to Terms
When you purchase an iBook, you join the ranks of the Laptop Legionnaires?a group of users with specific computing concerns and a language all its own. If you expect your iBook to walk the walk, you should know how to talk the talk. This glossary of terms will help you make sense of portable prose.
The process whereby changes that have been made to a file or folder are made to its duplicate on another computer. For example, if you update a database or an e-mail file on your iBook while on the road, you can use file synchronization to update the copies of these files on your desktop Mac at home.
An application that allows you to create groups of software settings for your Macintosh. Using Location Manager, you can change such settings as AppleTalk and TCP/IP configurations, the default printer, the sound level, and the time zone.
An integrated circuit that is responsible for such tasks as controlling backlighting, waking your iBook from sleep, spinning down the hard disk, controlling the Trackpad, handling some aspects of battery charging, and making sure the iBook doesn’t go to sleep while you’re connected to the Internet.
A reduced-power mode that causes your processor to consume less power when idle.
The control panel where you enter and save the user name, password, and phone number for your Internet service provider (ISP). Under Mac OS 9, you can configure Remote Access so that you can run another Macintosh from a remote location.
A small, indented button that sits just above the iBook’s power button, near the hinge. Pressing this button with the pointed end of a paper clip makes the iBook restart.
A state in which a computer’s hard disk stops spinning, the screen shuts off, and just enough power is fed to the computer to maintain the contents of the computer’s memory.
A scheme that allows your Mac to use free space on its hard disk for short-term memory, or RAM. You can turn on virtual memory by going to the Memory control panel (Apple menu: Control Panels: Memory), but beware–because your Mac accesses the hard disk more slowly than it does RAM, using virtual memory will slow down your Mac.
Even with all the perks it provides, an iBook?like any other laptop?can benefit from a few well-chosen add-ons. When you take your life on the road, consider bringing these items with you.
For those Mac users who are still big fans of old ADB peripherals–mouse, keyboard, and joystick–this $39 USB-to-ADB adapter may be a godsend. (Griffin Technology; 615/255-0990,
USB 6GB Hard Drive
By today’s standards, the iBook’s 3.2GB hard drive is considered cramped. To provide more storage, try this $430, colorful drive. (VST; 978/635-8200,
Port Travel Connection Packs
If you’re taking your iBook overseas, you’ll need telephone and power adapters. Port offers three collections (Europe pack, $199; Americas pack, $99; Asia and Middle East pack, $99). (Port; 800/242-3133,
If you’d like to use floppy disks as well as a roomier storage medium, the $150 SuperDisk is a good compromise–allowing you to use floppies as well as Imation’s own 120MB disks. (Imation; 888/466-3456,
Zip 250 USB Drive
Just about every computer today seems to have a Zip drive. Thanks to this slim drive’s USB interface, for $180 your iBook can have one too. (Iomega; 801/332-1000,
Klearscreen Wet Dry Singles Pack
Even the cleanest of hands are likely to smudge an iBook’s screen. These disposable towelettes–$6 for a pack–can help you keep it spotless. (Klearscreen; 800/505-5327,
Hands big and small may find that the iBook’s keyboard is a wee bit flat. To add some elevation–and provide a swiveling base that really grips an airplane tray table–try the $23 iCoolPad. (Road Tools; 603/926-9000,
Although the iBook’s Trackpad is reasonably responsive, you may still miss using a mouse. Try out this $40 USB four-buttons-and-a-wheel input device. (Kensington; 800/235-6708,
This good-looking and durable backpack will protect your iBook and make it easier to carry. (Kensington; 800/235-6708,
The AirPort Arrives
The iBook wasn’t the only big news at last summer’s Macworld Expo. Steve Jobs also introduced AirPort wireless networking, a technology he promised would free iBook users from the tether of their telephone cords and let them surf the Web and send e-mail without ever having to plug in.
It took a while, but at press time, Apple finally delivered the goods. You can now buy a $99 AirPort card for your iBook and a $299 Base Station and surf without wires to your heart’s content.
AirPort technology doesn’t begin and end with the iBook, however. This method of connecting computers without cables has also found its way into two other members of Apple’s computing family?the newest iMacs and the 400MHz and 450MHz Power Macintosh G4s. It’s sure to be included in the next generation of PowerBooks as well. Considering that AirPort technology is likely to be a part of everyone’s Macintosh experience in the near future, perhaps it’s time to learn what makes it tick.
What Is AirPort?
AirPort is a slick technology that provides you with all the convenience of a wired network?transferring data from Mac to Mac, connecting to the Internet, and printing to a printer in another room?but without the muss and fuss of cables.
The center of an AirPort network is the AirPort Base Station, a flying-saucer-shaped device that carries a 56K modem as well as a 10BaseT Ethernet port. As many as ten AirPort-equipped devices can communicate with a single AirPort Base Station, and you can create larger networks by adding more Base Stations.
Apple claims that AirPort devices can transfer data at up to 11 Mbits per second?close to the speed of 10BaseT Ethernet?over a distance of up to 150 feet. Because AirPort uses radio waves, which can travel through walls, AirPort devices needn’t be within each other’s line of sight. That means you can tap away on your iBook in the living room and print your work on the printer in the den without ever leaving the comfort of your sofa.
How Does It Work?
The AirPort technology’s flexibility gives you a lot of options. For instance, you can wirelessly access the Web from your iBook by either connecting a phone line to the Base Station’s internal modem or, if you’re a DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) user, by attaching this speedy line to the Base Station’s Ethernet port.
The Base Station’s Ethernet port introduces a world of possibilities. You can connect to any Ethernet-equipped Macs, PCs, or printers simply by attaching them to the Base Station. If you use an Ethernet crossover cable, you can quickly connect to a single Mac. To attach an entire network of computers, use an Ethernet hub and standard Ethernet cables.
Don’t feel left out if you’re a PowerBook user. If you have a PowerBook 190, 5300, 1400, 2400, 3400, or G3 Series and you’re using Mac OS 7.5.5 or later (or even if you have a Windows PC with a PCMCIA slot), you can use the $300 SkyLine Wireless PC Card, from Farallon (510/346-8001,
https://www.farallon.com ), to connect to an AirPort network. Although this card provides data-transfer rates of only 2 Mbits per second, it does offer an extended operating range?up to 300 feet indoors.
To wirelessly connect two AirPort-bearing Macs, you don’t need an AirPort Base Station at all. With these Macs, you can use the software’s AirPort Control Strip and switch from using the AirPort Base Station to communicating via a direct Mac-to-Mac connection. Soon, using a scheme Apple has dubbed AirPort Software Base Station, you will be able to use the modem of one of your AirPort-equipped Macs to act as both Macs’ conduit to the Internet.
Who Needs It?
From what we’ve seen so far, it looks like educators, students, and gamers?and the people who support them?will quickly grasp the value of AirPort technology.
With AirPort hardware in place, students can waltz into a classroom with their iBooks, select the AirPort Base Station from the AirPort Control Strip, enter a password, and get started?no more labs full of deskbound Macs that must be reconfigured for each class. Gamers using AirPort technology will be up and blasting within minutes?without the hassles of stringing yards of cable to a central Ethernet hub and mucking about with arcane AppleTalk and TCP/IP settings.
To find out more about the AirPort card and Base Station, see
Reviews elsewhere in this issue.
Inside the iBook
Inside the iBook before removal of the metal shield.
A) This connector–an antenna lead–attaches to the AirPort card.
B) The iBook’s hard drive sits beneath this metal plate. Unless you’re fearless about working in tight places, have a dealer install a new hard drive.
C) After lifting out the keyboard, lay it face down across the iBook’s Trackpad.
D) The AirPort card sits atop this plate and is attached to the slotted connector seen at the bottom edge of the plate.
E) Remove these two screws to lift out the metal cover that hides the RAM slot and insert RAM here.