To iMac or Not to iMac?
I practically had my hand on the phone to order an iMac when the October issue of
arrived with its "iMac Reality Check." That issue alone was worth the price of a year’s subscription. Let me get this straight: If I replace my Power Computing PowerCenter 150 with an iMac, I won’t be able to use my Iomega Zip, my Jaz, my scanner, or either of my printers? And although hardware adapters may be in the pipeline, interface software is far behind. This is all one more reason why my next PC may be a PC.
I have one thing to say to everyone who has lamented the iMac’s lack of a floppy drive and serial/SCSI ports: buy yourself a Power Mac. The iMac targets an audience with simple needs and few peripherals, not to mention a tight budget. If you want to use your Jaz drive, 3Com PalmPilot cradle, and 3.5-inch floppies, stick with the core of the hardware line and give yourself credit for being a power user. The iMac’s “shortcomings” are calculated omissions designed to suit the needs of basic and new users, not the death knell for Macintosh connectivity. Get over it! Apple is still making CPUs that sport all the bells and whistles.
I disagree with your statement that the iMac can hold only 128MB of RAM. Several companies currently manufacture and sell 128MB RAM DIMMs for the iMac, allowing for a total of 256MB. I know this because I just installed extra RAM in my iMac.
What we said was true when we went to press. And as
goes to press again, Apple’s official position is still that the iMac has a 128MB RAM limit. Obviously, vendors are selling RAM upgrades that go beyond this limit, and reports are that the upgrades work. Apple has not yet certified them, however, nor has
had a chance to test them.Henry Bortman
Working the Phones
Kudos to David Pogue forwriting about the unsung heroes of the tech-support phone pool (
The Desktop Critic, October 1998
). Although I agreed with many of Pogue’s points, there is one that needs discussion. I read many comments of displeasure when Apple revoked its policy of free telephone tech support, but none provided any reasonable solutions to Apple’s dilemma: the high cost of free tech support versus public disapproval.
Apple cannot presume to offer an “easier to use” and “more stable” platform and yet expect customers to pay for tech support the same as everyone else. Conversely, the public cannot expect the company to bear the cost of fixing problems caused by users’ lack of computer proficiency. Therefore, I propose that Apple have a proficiency test for its customers. Those who score well don’t pay (or pay a reduced rate) for telephone supportthe notion being that in such cases, the problem will likely turn out to have been caused by Apple rather than the user.
Hooked on Speed
Andrew Gore’s “Old Ports for New” has an error (
The Vision Thing, October 1998
). The speed of SCSI connections is actually 80 MBps, not 80 Mbpsbytes, not bits. So SCSI isn’t too bad after all. Other than that, I agree with everything said in the column. Look how long the Wintel world is taking to get rid of the ISA bus and all its problems. However, I am disappointed that the latest PowerBooks are still ADB-basedwe have six-month-old Wintel portables that have USB.
It’s true that we inadvertently transposed bits for bytes in the October 1998 The Vision Thing column on FireWire and USB. However, at 200 Mbps to 400 Mbps, FireWire will still be faster than Apple’s current external SCSI, which is running closer to 5 MBps, or 40 Mbps. Only an ultrahigh-speed internal SCSI card paired with high-speed drives will likely perform faster.Andrew Gore
What About IrDA?
So much has been discussed about USB, but isn’t IrDA worth talking about, too? I understand that it transmits at 4 Mbps, works with many printers, and so on. Wouldn’t I be able to connect my Hewlett-Packard LaserJet 6MP (with IrDA) to an iMac without a cable? Who cares about printer-port solutions if IrDA works?
Have no fear, we’re on the case. Macworld Lab plans to test the iMac’s infrared capabilities in the near future.Ed.
Seeing the Light
In your October 1998 feature about digital cameras (”
“), you say that Agfa’s ePhoto 1280 and Nikon’s CoolPix 900 can automatically sync with freestanding lights in a professional studio but that with the others, your only option is to use the built-in flash. This is not quite accurate. The reason the other cameras appear not to sync automatically is that they provide a preflash for exposure purposes. Most slave flashes sync on the preflash and fail to sync with the flash used for exposure. There are, however, slave flashes on the market that will sync with the main flash, ignoring the preflash.
When Size Matters
In your informative review of color printers (”
Print Out,” October 1998), you apparently made one very important mistake in reporting that the Epson Stylus Color 1520 prints images up to 17 inches wide. When I tried to print on poster-size paper, I was very surprised to see a great deal of my image cropped off. Upon further investigation of the manual, I found a single line in an appendix stating that no matter what size paper you use, the maximum printable image area is only 13.6 inches. This is like buying a new car that initially seems like a great value only to find out later that the salesperson neglected to mention that the top speed is only 45 mph. What good is a printer that takes 17-inch paper but allows you to print only up to 13.6 inches?
You are correctthe Stylus Color 1520’s maximum printable area is 13.6 by 21.78 inches. Our apologies.Ed.
Scanner Highs and Lows
I enjoyed your comparisons of
(“The Imaging Revolution,” October 1998). The articles were well done and very informative. It was very helpful to see a range of prices included and to see how well lower-cost printers fared in the comparison. But the scanner feature was a great disappointment, in that it was limited to expensive units (”
“). Many of us would like to see how lower-priced scanners compare and what quality and features an extra $1,000 to $4,000 buys. Please consider doing another lab feature comparing the better low-end equipment with the top-of-the-line scanners.
There is a “con” not indicated by Charles Seiter in his
review of Ashlar’s Vellum Solids (October 1998): for all versions since the introduction of Vellum 3.X, Ashlar has required a hardware dongle key for using the software. Yet nowhere is that indicatednot even in the manual. I paid for Vellum 3.0 in July and received everything but the dongle key. So far I have not been able to use the software, as I have not received a dongle. I have phoned, faxed, e-mailed, and sent letters to them. They keep silent.
Jim Heid’s article on the Digital Video (DV) standard was chock-full of good infoas Heid’s articles usually are”but I noticed one small problem (”
Set Your Video on FireWire,” Create, October 1998). One point Heid brought up was to “render with DV in mind,” suggesting that to avoid distortion, you should render at 720 by 480 pixels rather than at 640 by 480. Doing this actually produces distortion in the final playback on an NTSC screen, however. The reason is that the decoder in the playback unit compresses the image horizontally to fit it back on the screen; the result is that a rendered circle appears as a tall ellipse.
The problem can be corrected in one of two ways. First, if your rendering program supports it, render at 720 by 480 pixels with a .889-pixel ratio. This tells the renderer to create each frame with the nonsquare pixels that DV expects. On your Mac monitor, the picture looks oblong, but in DV it looks perfect. If your renderer does not support nonsquare pixels, then render at 720 by 540 pixels. This still results in the scaling of your images when you go to DV, but the renderer scales by throwing out information, rather than creating it as is the case when you scale up a 640-by-480 image.
If your rendering application can handle nonsquare pixels, then you should indeed render at 720 by 480 pixels as I originally suggested. For those with rendering applications that don’t support nonsquare pixels, rendering at 720 by 540 is a great ideayou’ll get better quality than if you rendered at 640 by 480.Jim Heid
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