TV-PGJanuary 11, 2001: If you're wondering why Apple's new consumer applications require professional hardware, just wait a while. Meanwhile, Mac OS X is really starting to grow past that awkward "public beta" stage, and Steve is privy to the mysterious new invention called "Ginger" that promises to change the world as we know it...
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Burning For The Rest Of Us (1/11/01)

Timing can be a real bummer, you know that? For instance, take Apple's stunning new "killer apps" revealed on Tuesday. First there's iTunes, one remarkably slick suite of audio functions done up in a tightly integrated, nice-looking package. One feature that sets iTunes apart from its competition is the way in which it allows users to create custom audio CDs without ever leaving the application-- it's got built-in support for CD-RW drives. Well, sort of; at least right now, it's got built-in support for a CD-RW drive-- the one that comes with the new professional Power Mac G4 systems. Until Apple writes some plug-ins to support external drives and/or incorporates CD-RW devices into the iMac product line, iMac owners (i.e. those consumers for whom iTunes was obviously created) are out of luck on that particular burnalicious feature.

By the same token, iDVD looks like a marvelous thing: a method by which regular people can make their own DVDs that can be played in standard devices. Unfortunately, most "regular people" aren't likely to want to shell out the crazy ducats for the Power Mac that'll actually let them run iDVD and burn those discs. We arrived at the same inescapable conclusion as Ryan Faas over at iDVD (to master those discs) and the SuperDrive (to burn them) are technologies that "everyone should have." However, right now nobody can have them, since the 733 MHz Power Mac with which they're bundled won't ship until next month-- and even then, $3499 isn't exactly a Price Tag For The Rest Of Us.

Clearly Apple felt pressured to release these obviously consumer-oriented applications now, in an effort to restore some of Wall Street's lost confidence. (It may be working; AAPL was finally up over $18 when last we checked.) But unfortunately, the company simply can't back up those "killer apps" with consumer Macs capable of unlocking their full potential. In the case of iTunes, Apple's having enough inventory troubles without suddenly announcing new iMacs equipped with CD-RW drives standard. On the video front, iDVD probably wants a much faster processor than the 500 MHz G3 that currently ships in the iMac-- and the SuperDrive is unquestionably too expensive to be standard issue in the consumer line this early. Imagine the new iDVD-capable iMac: only $2699. See? Timing.

But there's hope yet! Think Secret has some juicy rumors from the show floor which, if true, ought to bring "Power To Burn" to the masses. Reportedly one Apple employee was actually surprised that Steve didn't announce new CD-RW-equipped iMacs during the keynote, because CD-RW will "spread to the entire product line soon." We're guessing that the omission was due to some last-minute numbers showing just how many current iMacs are still in the channel. So maybe those units will clear out by, say, next month, and CD-RW will come to the iMac in time for the Tokyo Expo.

Juicier still, the same source corroborates a rumor that originally surfaced at AppleInsider: apparently Apple is considering shipping external CD-RW drives, so that existing Mac owners will be able to join in the burnfest as well. But there's more-- if this source is correct, the company might even ship an external SuperDrive, thus extending iDVD's potential audience considerably beyond the lucky people who actually get their hands on 733 MHz Power Macs before all sixteen chips in Motorola's first processor run are spoken for. Power to the people!

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Geez, It's Almost A Mac! (1/11/01)

Hey, in the heady rush of all that good stuff that came spilling off the stage during the keynote, we've yet to mention our reaction to the changes to Mac OS X that Steve demonstrated. Basically, if we have to pick a word, we're going to go with "yippee." Seasoned testers who have been living with the public beta's little shortcomings for the past few months know what we mean; while even the beta was a stunning piece of work, certain aspects of it were frustrating to the point of exhaustion. Seeing evidence that those "issues" have been addressed makes us feel like proud parents watching their kid learn to eat food instead of smearing it all over his head.

Because there were definitely certain things about the beta that were analogous to rubbing various soft foodstuffs into one's scalp. The lack of AirPort support, in particular, kept us tied to an Ethernet cable while using the beta-- a fate we didn't suffer gladly after having tasted the sweet, sweet freedom of wireless 'net access. The new Finder windows took up way too much space. Folders in the Dock lacked any sort of hierarchical menu ability, and so were definitely no replacement for Mac OS 9's tabbed Finder windows. The font configuration panel was so oversized it was evidently optimized for use only on an Apple Cinema Display. We miss the Control Strip's quick and easy access to basic system settings. Restarting after any networking config change is so Windows. And just what is up with the centered, not-a-menu Apple menu?

Just about all of those gripes have been fixed, though; MacAddict's got a nice rundown of Mac OS X's ongoing progression. AirPort support is in, as is better printing support and the all-important Location Manager. The new Finder window toolbars are much smaller-- and the shortcut icons are "configurizable." (Okay, Steve.) You can now click and hold on items in the Dock for pop-up hierarchical menus; it's not a perfect solution, but it's pretty darn nifty (assuming that dragging items onto Docked folders triggers the pop-ups, too). The font panel is smaller, and can be made positively tiny. Certain system settings are now configurable right on the Dock. Dynamic networking changes appear to have been restored. And the Apple menu is back where it should be-- and it's actually a menu again.

All told, that's some pretty hefty progress, and we're anxiously awaiting the magical March 24th release date so we can give it a spin ourselves. Now if they'd just make a vertical Dock orientation a supported option. Oh, and find a way to keep the Dock from blocking the resize widget in the bottom right corner of windows...

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Steve, Ginger, And Tyranny (1/11/01)

Oh, sure, the incurable skeptics among you scoffed when we expounded at length about Steve Jobs and his master plans for world domination, but who's laughing now? You all got completely taken in by his "oh, I'm just an enthusiastic tech guy with a stunning fashion sense" act, and utterly failed to account for the Steve lurking beneath that happy-go-lucky exterior-- the Steve that is suppressed when the cameras are rolling and the fans are watching. The Steve who fires bozos upon a whim and reduces interviewees to tears just for fun. The Steve of legend. The Dark Steve.

Not that Dark Steve is a particularly evil guy or anything, but he clearly has a bent for taking over the planet-- and he's patient enough to work towards that goal so slowly and deliberately that most people never even recognize what he's trying to do. Why, during daylight hours, we ourselves sometimes wonder if the whole "Dark Steve's World Domination" idea isn't just a little over the top, but late at night we start to come to our senses again. (We're starting to realize that the effects of the Reality Distortion Field start to weaken considerably at about 2 AM; "You don't have to be sleep-deprived to recognize the intricacies of this conspiracy, but it sure helps!")

Anyway, in light of the new evidence, we're utterly certain that all you skeptics will apologize profusely for doubting the obvious truth and will immediately start stockpiling canned goods and firearms in preparation for the inevitable. What new evidence, you ask? Well, faithful viewer Ophion pointed out an article over at Inside about Dean Kamen's top secret new invention-- something code-named "Ginger." The thing is, very few people know what Ginger is-- hence that "top secret" part. But one thing we do know is that "technology visionaries" in on the surprise are calling this thing bigger than the Internet in terms of potential for revolutionizing the world.

Here's the part that makes the pieces click into place: one of the tech visionaries who's in on the Ginger secret is none other than-- big surprise-- Steve Jobs. In fact, Steve himself has made a few public comments about Ginger, apparently relying on his RDF to allay suspicion; he has called the Ginger technology "as significant as" the personal computer, and said that "if enough people see the machine you won't have to convince them to architect cities around it. It'll just happen." That tantalizing clue, when viewed in the light of several other hints (Kamen is an "avid aviator," Ginger fits into two duffel bags and can be assembled in ten minutes, it will "profoundly affect our environment and the way people live" by acting as an alternative to "products that are dirty, expensive, sometimes dangerous and often frustrating, especially for people in the cities," etc.) have led many to conclude that Ginger is some sort of personal transport device that will replace the automobile. Stay up late enough, though, and it doesn't take long to see that it's actually an instrument for the subjugation of the masses-- and Steve's in on the ground floor.

We beseech you-- set aside the obvious interpretation that Ginger is a personal hovercraft or a jetpack or something, stay up for, say, forty-eight hours straight, and take a look at the big picture. At some point it'll all come clear, and you'll start building a lead-lined concrete Ginger bunker in your back yard in preparation for the big day. We know that most of you will laugh this off as some big joke, and hey, that's your prerogative. But when Ginger is unleashed upon a largely unsuspecting world in 2002 and Dark Steve seizes control of the four largest governments in power, don't say we didn't warn you.

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