If you have any doubt that instant messaging (IM) has gone thoroughly mainstream, just check out the response to our review of IM programs (
). The mail was high-volume in both quantity and tone. Everyone, it seems, has an opinion—and it’s usually a strong one—about which IM client is the best and why the others are too awful to even contemplate. Here’s a sample of the vituperation, as well as reactions to some of our other recent stories.
– As an avid
reader, I’ve often noticed that your ratings for Apple products tend to skew upward. In the case of your review of IM software (May 2005), I feel that bias gave America Online’s Instant Messenger (
) a bad name. You praise Apple iChat’s (
) audio alerts but fail to mention that status changes in AIM can also trigger all sorts of actions, from playing sounds to running a script. AIM also does a better job with sharing files. For example, I can put all my photos in one place and let anyone on my buddy list download them as they please—much easier than sending the file to everyone individually. While iChat does have great audio and video capabilities, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who needs only text messaging.
– I’ve used all the IM clients you reviewed (except for Defaultware’s Proteus) and think that Adam Iser’s AdiumX (
) deserves more credit than you gave it. No, you can’t have AV chats with it, but there isn’t much else it can’t do. I’d rather use a program with everything a Mac user could want than one with extra bells and whistles.
– In your review of Microsoft MSN Messenger (
), its cons include “annoying ads.” If you purchase Microsoft Office 2004, you can turn off the promotional pane. Only the free version displays ads.
– Are you daft? How can you compare instant messaging systems without including
? It’s the only IM system that also allows you to talk from a Mac to another Mac, a PC, or any regular phone. Skype is the future—not iChat AV or any other proprietary system.
On the Road Again
Richard G. Bribiescas
– In response to the excellent tip about backing up your slides (“Hit the Road, Mac,”
), I’d like to suggest simply creating a backup PDF copy of your Apple Keynote or Microsoft PowerPoint presentation (either within the respective application or through the Print dialog box). This is especially useful if you’re forced to use a Windows machine. Nearly everyone has a copy of Adobe’s Acrobat Reader, which has slide-show capabilities. If you don’t mind losing your fancy transitions and animations, making a PDF copy can provide peace of mind.
– In “Hit the Road, Mac,” you recommended using Reverse DNS Lookup to find the current SMTP server when connecting from the road. Trouble is, if you want to send e-mail messages from a hotel, a coffee shop, or a wireless hotspot, it can be hard to connect to SMTP servers; almost all of them bar relaying. (If you try to send mail via a third-party Internet service, your SMTP server will say that you’re out of bounds and politely tell you to go fish.) May I offer a couple of solutions? First, talk to your IT department or your ISP to see whether it has an authenticated SMTP server. If it does, configure your e-mail client accordingly and then send messages from just about anywhere. Second, use the secure, authenticated SMTP servers at Gmail or Yahoo.
– Jonathan Seff’s “Play Anything” (
) came two months too late for me. That’s how long I’ve been trying to open some AVI files that used an old Intel Indeo 2.1 codec. I tried converting them using a slew of applications on both a PC and a Mac; I posted questions on major video-discussion boards—all to no avail. Turns out the video files were created on a PC running Windows 3.1. I haven’t tried the VLC Media Player yet, but I’m planning to give it a go. Thanks for the good article.
How to Download an OS
– I recently bought a new iPod mini. I followed the instructions, loaded the software, and then connected the iPod mini to the computer. Nothing happened. So I looked up the system requirements. Turns out that while iTunes and the iPod software are both current, my operating system isn’t; the iPod requires Mac OS X 10.3.4, but I have only 10.3. I really wanted to make this work, so I decided to update to OS X 10.3.9. The problem: it’s a 117MB download and I have dial-up service. After three hours, only 50MB had downloaded. Not wanting to tie up our telephone for that long, I disconnected. But what do I do now? Return the iPod? Apple should include the Mac OS update on the CD that comes with the iPod.
So Long, Paper
– I agree with Jason Snell when he says that the Internet hasn’t replaced the printed word (
From the Editor’s Desk
). But I happened to read that column in digital form, using Zinio Reader, which came installed on my Mac mini. I find that it’s a nicely interactive way to read the articles, complete with links to the sites mentioned. Now I’m considering switching to the digital format, which would allow me to keep each issue on my computer and organize PDF files of individual pages for future reference.
Apple versus ASP
– In response to reader Tom Dalton’s letter “Mac Off the Web?” (
), in which he blames Apple for OS X’s incompatibility with a “growing number of Web pages [that] use ASP (Active Server Pages) apps”—his real problem is with ActiveX controls, a PC-only technology. ASP—much like PHP or Apple’s own Web Objects—creates pages on-the-fly when they are requested. The client doesn’t have to process these pages. ActiveX controls, on the other hand, are small applets that run scripts on the client, and are Windows-only.
Who Burns Your Music?
– In “Napster’s Bad Math” (
, May 2005), Jonathan Seff writes that “you
anything you get from iTunes.” This is not really true. You are simply licensing the song—you are bound by the terms of the license agreement, which limits what you can do with that song. Whoever owns the copyrights owns the song itself and the recording. I think this is an important distinction to make when discussing online music services. None of the services, to my knowledge, actu-ally transfers ownership of the copyrights to customers.
Change Is Good
– The May issue just arrived, and I like the changes you’ve made. I like the nuts-and-bolts how-tos. I like to make my Macs more useful. Your new direction is much appreciated.