March is steadily marching on! We haven’t yet had any of that spring weather that makes one want to throw open windows and rid the home of stale winter air, but its only a matter of time now. The forecast keeps hinting that it will be here soon, barring any late snowstorms.
The big technology news over the past week is that Microsoft reported that their next operating system, code named Vista, won’t be released until 2007, well after the holiday buying season. This has analysts predicting widespread effects for all of the tech companies except for Apple. Apple, they predict, will benefit from the additional delays as computer users compare the wait for new Windows software with the stability of Mac OS X.
This brings up the discussion of how different the companies are in how they deal with software upgrades. Microsoft XP was released in October 2001 and since then Microsoft has released two service packs to update it. Apple released Mac OS X 10.1 in fall 2001. By the time MS actually has Vista ready to ship, Apple will have done four major upgrades (OS X 10.5 should ship about the time Vista does), each major upgrade having approximately eight version upgrades.
One could argue that the slow rate at which Microsoft updates their products saves their users money. After all, XP Pro (which sells for $299 on its own) has lasted for six years. Apple users, on the other hand, may have spent as much as $516 to keep up with the latest software. But I’m going to argue that although Windows users may save money on software upgrades, they probably upgrade their hardware more often then Apple users. How did I come up with this? Well, my findings are more anecdotal than fact. I searched for the average life span of computers and couldn’t find a definitive study. Using personal experience and stories from customers, I’m going to roughly put the Mac life span at about four years and contrast this to reports I found online that the average life span of a desktop computer is about two years.
I’m just happy that Vista will be delayed and that it may work in Apple’s favor. I’d like to see more people experience how great computing can be when using a rock solid operating system.
iWork at Work
I haven’t had a chance to talk about iWork ’06 since its introduction back in January, which is a shame since I love using both Pages and Keynote. I often wish that I could make presentations, just so I could fire up Keynote 3. I’ve stopped using Microsoft Word to create documents. Everything that I would have done in Word, I’m now doing in Pages.
Let’s start with Pages. As I mentioned, I use it instead of using Word, though I do use Word to read any Word documents that are sent to me. Pages will easily open Word documents (as well as all text and HTML documents), but I find that I just double-click the icon as opposed to opening it in Pages. At this point, though, I could stop using MS Word and I probably wouldn’t miss it.
The templates that are included with Pages 2 include categories such as Newsletters, Journals, Flyers, Posters, Invitations, Stationery, Resumes, Business, Marketing, Creative, and Education. Within each category, there are between three and nine different options from which to choose. Each template has several different pages layouts included, such as cover pages, tables of content, multi-column layouts, etc. Once you choose a template, it is very easy to modify the template to fit your personal needs. You may also choose to start with a blank page.
Here’s how quick it is to create a personalized fax cover sheet starting with the Business Letter template and save it for future use. Just follow these steps:
1. Create a new document and choose Business Letter (under stationery) as the template to edit. You’ll notice that this document is pre-populated with information that is taken from your Address Book card. (If this info isn’t correct, modify the Address Book record marked “me” in Address Book for a permanent change.)
2. If you want to include your logo, drag it onto the “logo” on the page.
3. Make any changes that you want to this file. For example, I put Fax in large letters and changed the info to be modified each time I use it to: To, Fax Number, Date, Number of pages. I also added my signature, which I scanned.
4. Choose “Save as Template…” from the File menu. Give the file a name and save it to the My Templates folder. Now your fax cover sheet is ready to use all the time!
One of the new features in Pages 2 is Mail Merge with Address Book. All of the stationery layouts (letters and envelopes) are set up with Address Book fields already added. To print letters to an individual or a group, just drag and drop the address or group card to the document. It truly is that easy. To add an Address Book field, just choose “Address Book Field” from the Insert menu and use the Inspector to select the field.
The other new features of Pages 2 that I’ve put to use are the ability to add comments and to create tables with calculations included. I also like the new shapes that are included (star, conversation bubble, etc.), but I don’t often need to use them. I also don’t have much use for 3-D charts, although if I did this would be a really cool feature as they look gorgeous.
Export options for Pages include PDF (in Good, Better, Best modes), HTML, Word, RTF, and Plain text. The different qualities of PDF can result in smaller file sizes, which addresses a complaint about the first version.
Though I have replaced Word, I haven’t yet been able to replace InDesign for page layout, though I am close. My problems always seem to involve non-letter size formats. Every time I make a custom-size document, I can’t print it. The printer continues to wait for its abnormal-sized paper. I’m sure it’s a setting that’s off somewhere, but it’s a pain to figure out as it involves changing the paper size in the printer.
I have been in love with Keynote since it first came out. I immediately found it easy to use and my finished product looked beautiful. The very first time I did a presentation using Keynote was as part of a group of speakers. My three-dimensional transitions and beautiful colors blew away the static, boring PowerPoint presentations of my fellow speakers.
Keynote is even better in version three, with new themes, 3-D charts, tables with calculations, and the ability to add comments. My favorite improvement is the ability to set the view to “Light Table.” This allows you to view all of your slides in a grid, as if they were laid on a light table. The 3-D charts are absolutely gorgeous and they allow you to do some really creative builds.
The big problem with Keynote is that it can do so much, it’s difficult to not make a presentation too heavy in special effects. Those of us without self-control will quickly have pictures and letters flying all over the place then splitting apart and disappearing!
I can’t wait to make another presentation!
At $79, iWork is one of the best commercial software values on the market. To make it even more of a value, it’s bundled here with a Kingston Data Traveler 512mb USB Flash Drive for $99
To order: http://www.smalldog.com/wag16524/mymac
More on the Intel Transition Ed @ Smalldog.com
Are you tired of hearing about Apple’s PowerPC-to-Intel transition yet? At a party a couple of weeks ago, several people discovered I worked for an Apple reseller and spent most of the night asking me questions about the transition. Other than the beer, it was like being at work. These are the questions I hear every day: “Can I boot XP on a Mac Book Pro?” (yes) “Should I buy a PowerBook G4 before they are gone forever?” (maybe) “Is it truly really actually fast?” (yes, when using Universal applications) “Can you get me a deal?” (errrr…).
The Internet is abuzz with tests demonstrating the speed of the MacBook Pro dual core 2.0. Slashdot, Digg, The Register, PC Magazine, Macrumors, MacWorld, TUAW.com, and hundreds of other sites have great articles about this subject. One of my favorite websites, www.barefeats.com, has the most in-depth speed tests. They compare not only the general speed of various machines, but also the speed differences between components such as the processor, hard drive, RAM, and video cards.
Interestingly, the MacBook Pro runs the Windows version of Photoshop CS faster than any other dual core laptop on the market — as long as you can get your MacBook Pro to boot into Windows XP. This means that the the next version of Adobe CS, which will be a Universal application, should be very fast on the MacBook Pro.
The Mac version of the Adobe Creative Suite is not Universal. Rosetta has to translate the Mac version of the Adobe CS on the Intel-based Macs. That’s because the Adobe CS has not been released in a Universal binary, and won’t be until sometime next winter. Thus the G4 PowerBook still runs many Photoshop actions faster than the MacBook Pro.
I’m still a big fan of the PowerBook. It’s plenty fast (though no longer the fastest Mac laptop on Earth), has Classic mode so older OS 9 apps can still run, and has regular PCMCIA card slots and a native FireWire 800 port. They’ve been around for a couple of years, so the bugs have been worked out. As time goes on and more and more apps are released in a Universal format, I’ll eventually upgrade to the MacBook Pro. That won’t be for a while. For now, I’m just enjoying reading other people’s experiences with the new machines.
Here’s a bundle that I created based on what I’m currently using as a computer:
PowerBook 15-inch G4/1.67GHz 512/80/SuperDrive/AP/BT with Silver iPod mini and Ogio Jackpack Redline Messenger Bag – $1749
To order: http://www.smalldog.com/wag16522/mymac
Technology: Making Life a Little Easier By Holly Buttura (Holly @ smalldog.com)
Today’s technology can make your life easier, more productive, and more in control. If you listened to the SDE Podcast in today’s Kibbles, you know I recently put my condo up for sale. It’s a great place, wonderful location, but it’s just not working anymore with my two large dogs. While I probably could sell my condo on my own, because I am so busy I decided to work with a realtor. However, I still want as much input/control as I can in the process.
One way to stay in control is to provide my own pictures of my place. I’m sure most of us have looked at listings before and been amazed by the photos. I’m not talking just about the obvious great photo. Have you ever gone to see a property and been stunned when you actually saw the place? Recently I went to go look at some houses I’d seen online and when I got there all I could think about was “How in the world did they take the photo? It looks nothing like this!” When I listed my condo, I hadn’t taken any photos so my realtor took a few. Once I saw them, I thought, “Yeesh, he’s not very good with the camera!” So I spent some time staging my house and took my own photos.
One of the other things you would have heard me say in the podcast is how intuitive I feel Macs are. I used to think working on my PC was a chore. With all the Apple software, using my Mac is fun and I continually look for ways it can help me simplify my life. How can it help me sell my condo? Using my Canon PowerShot digital camera, iPhoto, iWeb, and a .Mac Internet account, I was able to quickly put together a web page with the description and photo. It was all very easy.
What I really like about the digital cameras is their large LCDs. I’m pretty confident using photo-imaging software, but if you can get the angle and crop you want while taking the picture, why not do it? With a 2- or 2.5-inch LCD I can crop the shot just how I want it. (No more using your hands to make a rectangle frame!) Even better, with a digital camera if I don’t like how the shot turns out, I can delete it right then and there. (No more wasted film!)
Once I felt I had the right pictures, I imported them directly into iPhoto from the camera. I took the photos for my condo last night and while I had all the lights on and used the camera flash, they still came out a smidgen on the dark side and with a yellow cast. The yellow cast I kinda like — it captures the warm and cozy ambiance quite well. However, I did want to adjust the darkness a little bit, and that’s why I like the latest version of iPhoto so much. In iPhoto 6.0.2, in addition to “enhancing” the image, you can adjust brightness/contrast, saturation/temperature/tint, sharpness/ straighten, exposure, and levels. In the past, to have the ability to change that much I would have had to open the image in Fireworks/ Photoshop.
Now that I had all my photos, the next step was to put them on the web. I wanted my realtor to take a look at them. I could have just emailed him the photos out of iPhoto, but I hadn’t tried iWeb yet. Here was my opportunity! It was SO simple! You just create the Album you want to put on your web page, then click iWeb in bottom bar of iPhoto. Choose a template and iWeb does the rest! You can add text, move it around, and change the font, size, and style. It’s really pretty cool! What’s even more amazing is that iWeb intuitively knew to create hyperlinks when I typed in an email address. (Hyperlink – “to provide an electronic link of direct access from one distinctively marked place to another in the same or different document”.)
Isn’t it just amazing how much we can do on our own these days? Sure, we’re all busy, but Apple has found a way to disguise what might in the past have been a burden, and made it into something fun! Pretty slick!
Here’s a bundle that’s close to the one that I use at home:
Canon PowerShot S500 (5 megapixel, 3x optical zoom) with iLife ’06 – $499
To order: http://www.smalldog.com/wag16525/mymac
Panasonic DMC-FZ7K Lumix 6 Megapixel Digital Camera – $345 You might be wondering why a camera that is only 3.7″ wide has a 2.5″ Diagonal Polycrystalline TFT LCD. Well, we not only want you to get the picture, but we want you to be able to see the picture as well. That’s why we dedicated almost two-thirds of the DMC-FX7K’s back portion to the LCD screen. This high-quality, 114,000-pixel display makes it easy to see what you’re shooting. You can even boost the backlighting by 33% by pressing the Power LCD button when shooting outdoors on a sunny day.
Brother HL-5240 USB 30PPM laser – $230 Built for reliable day-in and day-out laser printing, the HL-5240 is a printing workhorse. With an extensive list of standard features, this printer is ideal for both office and graphics applications. With an expandable paper input capacity, including a fold-down multi- purpose tray for envelopes and letterhead, the HL-5240 is an outstanding choice for desktop business laser printing.
Brother HL-5250DNT USB 30PPM laser – $298 Small connected workgroups seeking a laser printer offering built-in network connectivity and a large, expandable paper input capacity will be glad they found the HL-5250DNT. This printer features a built- in Ethernet network interface to allow network printer sharing, as well as offering flexible paper handling with its built-in duplex capability for two-sided printing, and generous 550-sheet standard input capacity. Small connected workgroups and performance desktop users will be amazed at the versatility and affordability of the HL-5250DNT.
Micronet 400GB Firewire 800 Platinum XL Drive – $265 MicroNet Platinum XL hard drive is equipped with a fast, Hot- Pluggable FireWire 800 interface and can sustain transfer rates twice as fast as previous generation FireWire 400 drives. This drive offers ease of use with no software installation for Windows XP and MacOS X users – just plug it in and you’re up and running. Compatible with Mac and PC platforms, this drive features two FireWire 800 ports and cabling for FireWire 400 and 800 interfaces. The blazing FireWire 800 speed makes this drive ideal for audio and video as well as digital imaging and back-up applications.
Micronet Platinum RAID 1.25TB FireWire 800/USB 2.0 – $1635 The MicroNet Platinum RAID Features an advanced RISC processor capable of performing RAID Levels 0, 1, 3, 5, 0+1 and JBOD. Enhanced hardware XOR engine coupled with high speed error correcting cache delivers excellent throughput even under the heaviest of loads. The FireWire800 + USB 2.0 Platinum RAID is housed in a state of the art aluminum and plexiglas enclosure that is lightweight, transportable and compact.
Aspyr Command and Conquer Generals Deluxe Mac – $55 Command & Conquer Generals puts your trigger finger on the pulse of modern warfare. Prepare your forces, General…it’s time to engage in the next generation of real-time strategy. The Zero Hour expansion pack for the critically acclaimed Command & Conquer Generals challenges players to square off against the world’s most elite commanders for battlefield domination. ESRB Rating is “T” for Teen; includes violence.
Interplay Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark Expansion Pack – $31 As war erupts between the diverse hordes of the Underdark and the heroes of Waterdeep, RPG players will experience an amazing array of characters, creatures and conflict. But that’s only the beginning: Hordes of the Underdark provides a remarkable first in Neverwinter Nights play – it allows for rare and powerful Epic characters (only for gameplay levels 21 and beyond), making this pack an absolute must- have for true RPG players. Expansion Pack; Requires full installation of Neverwinter Nights Neverwinter Nights. ESRB Rating “T” for Teen
Totally Spies Monster Blues by Brighter Child – $15 When a cute government courier disappears deep in the Louisiana Bayou it’s up to the Totally Spies to save the day. Sam, Clover and Alex need your help! Only with your aid can the girls solve the mystery of the missing courier.
Totally Spies Zombie Jamboree by Brighter Child – $15 A therapeutic shopping trip to the mall is cut short when fashion zombies attack! Totally Spies spring into action when fashion zombies attack during a shopping trip to the mall. Sam, Clover and Alex need your help! The girls need you to help put a stop to those color clashing fashion zombies!
Here are the specials for this week, valid through March 30th or while on-hand supplies last. Be sure to use the wag URL to get this special pricing.
Two PowerBook Bundles
Bundle #1 PowerBook 15-inch G4/1.67GHz 512/80/Super/AP/BT with maximum 2GB RAM – $1739
To order: http://www.smalldog.com/wag16526/mymac
Bundle #2 Refurbished PowerBook 15-inch G4/1.67GHz 512/80/Super/AP/BT with Apple’s .Mac Internet Service – $1689 (or $1659 AFTER mail-in rebate!)
To order: http://www.smalldog.com/wag16529/mymac
iPod mini 4gb Silver (2005) with Small Dog Groove Cube Portable Speakers and AC Adapter for speakers – $169
To order: http://www.smalldog.com/wag50047/mymac
iPod mini 4gb Pink with FREE Small Dog Electronics Hippod – $149
To order: http://www.smalldog.com/wag50048/mymac
30% off any Burton iPod-ready Jacket
Enter coupon code BurtonSale at checkout.
Power Mac G5 DC/2.3GHz 512/250/SuperDrive/GeF6600 with 2GB RAM – $2299
To order: http://www.smalldog.com/wag16528/mymac
Ultimate Ears super.fi 5 EB White Earphones – $185
If you have an ear for maximum bass and only the best earphones will do, then you need the super.fi 5 EB extended bass earphones. The super.fi 5 EB earphones offer the best possible experience when listening to Hip Hop, Rap, Metal, Techno, or other bass-rich music from your iPod.
To order: http://www.smalldog.com/wag14470/mymac
Tiny Drives by LaCie
The LaCie Carte Orange are tiny, credit card-sized key drives that connect by USB 2.0. Available in 4GB and 8GB capacities.
LaCie 4GB Carte Orange USB Key Drive – $95
To order: http://www.smalldog.com/wag16531/mymac
Digital Camera Media in 512MB Capacity
512MB Secure Digital Card by Kingston – $33
To order: http://www.smalldog.com/wag16533/mymac
512MB Compact Flash Card by Kingston – $36
To order: http://www.smalldog.com/wag16532/mymac
512MB xD Card by Olympus – $46
To order: http://www.smalldog.com/wag16534/mymac
This week we updated our podcast. I had hold down my end of the microphone alone with Don being gone, and I had this idea that I’d do a “Girls’ Night Out” episode (actually a girls’ breakfast in the office) by interviewing some of the other women who work at Small Dog. I had wanted to interview women outside the company, but there was a problem with our phone recording device and then time wasn’t on our side. I had Ed in hysterics when I mentioned that I sounded like the Saturday Night Live skit with the two NPR radio commentators played by Ana Gasteyer and Molly Shannon. It’s kind of creepy, but it’s true! If you need a reminder, the skit can be found here:
As always, you can find our podcast in our blog here:
Or subscribe through the iTunes Music Store.
Thank you for reading Kibbles & Bytes!
Dawn, Ed, and Holly