TV-PGNovember 26, 2001: Sure, the iPod's a hot item-- but Apple expects its stores to sell how many every hour? Meanwhile, a scary clause in the Microsoft Product License accompanying Office v.X has some people climbing the walls, and now there's still one more reason to love the Power Mac G4: it's apparently fireproof...
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Want A Whole Lotta 'Pods (11/26/01)
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Well, we're back; basically we spent all of last Thanksgiving Thursday split between the baffling ordeal of food preparation and the wanton consumption of twice our weight in Tofurky, Katie's famous mashed potatoes, three kinds of stuffing, and two pies-- after which we caught the last two hours of the Buffy marathon and then collapsed into a profound food coma. We just woke up about twenty minutes ago. Yes, here at the AtAT studios, we do Thanksgiving right, thank you very much.

The only drawback to our "let's gain all of our holiday pounds in a single meal and then hibernate for four days" strategy is that we miss the so-called "Busiest Shopping Day of the Year"-- which actually isn't the busiest shopping day of the year, but hey, why split hairs? Anyway, while we were sleeping off enough carbohydrates to throw the average rhino into insulin shock, most happy consumers were off at the malls, clawing at one another for that last light-up nose hair trimmer that would be so perfect for Uncle Harvey. And Mac fans were no different, giving Apple's twenty-two retail stores (including the four brand new ones in San Diego, Buffalo, Santa Clara, and Miami) a decent workout, if frazzled reports from the trenches can be believed.

Of course, the hot stocking stuffer among Macophiles this year is the iPod, $399 price tag notwithstanding; it's expensive, sure, but all that really means is that people are buying them as presents for themselves instead of for their loved ones. After all, Uncle Harvey's great and everything, but he's not $399 great, and besides, if he doesn't trim those nose hairs soon, someone's going to get impaled before January's out. So cash-flush Mac fans are conscientiously doing their part for public safety: it's the nose-trimmer for Harv, while the iPod becomes the newest resident of HandsOffItsMineville. Whatever. Whether for themselves or for others, based on the anecdotal evidence flooding our inbox three shopping days after we slipped into unconsciousness, shoppers are buying iPods, and plenty of them. We're no longer much concerned with the possibility of the iPod turning into a sales debacle à la the Cube.

We're still numberless, but those "in the know" hint that while things have calmed down a little since the November 10th launch date (when stores were selling 45-60 per day), iPods are still moving like a rambunctious three-year-old after a quadruple espresso. However, we've got some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that, iPodically speaking, Apple's retail stores are still "drastically missing sales expectations," as we mentioned last week. The good news is that we've finally heard what those expectations are, and they're the product of a brain that's either on fire or on drugs (or, most likely, both). Get this: each Apple retail store is supposed to sell twenty iPods an hour. That's one every three minutes, for the mathematically challenged-- also known as roughly $90,000 for a typical eleven-hour holiday season workday. That's just iPods, mind you. Aggressive goals are nice and all, but hooooo-eee, who spiked the eggnog over at One Infinite Loop?


 
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Keep Playing, Keep Paying (11/26/01)
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You may have noticed that while much of the Mac community celebrated the recent release of Microsoft Office v.X by crying tears of joy and dancing half-naked in the streets, the AtAT staff remained our usual low-key selves. The reason for that is simple; while we're pleased that Mac OS X finally has a native version of what is arguably the most important (primarily by nature of omnipresence and inertia) suite of applications to exist on this or any other platform, here at the AtAT studios, we simply don't use it. There are a few reasons for that, not the least of which is that we almost never need a word processor, a spreadsheet, or a presentation program, and on those rare occasions when we do, AppleWorks generally suffices nicely. And then there's what we'll preemptively refer to as the Crackpot Reason: we just really don't like Microsoft.

Surely that comes as a surprise to most of you, but when you're done gasping in shock, hear us out. Simply put, we don't like the idea of supporting a company that routinely bullies and/or steamrolls competitors to get ahead. You may feel otherwise, and that's fine, but we personally feel uncomfortable forking over our hard-earned cash to a corporation that not only repeatedly and unrepentantly violated antitrust law, but also now appears to be getting away with it. The thought of supporting a company that, for instance, went to Apple and said "switch from Netscape to Internet Explorer or it's curtains for Office on the Mac"-- remember, this was long before the Mac version of IE was good, or even remotely useable-- frankly gives us a wiggins. That's not to say that Microsoft's Mac Business Unit doesn't crank out some pretty spiffy Mac software these days (nice job, folks!), but unfortunately, Bill or Monkeyboy or one of those guys still ultimately signs the paychecks. So we'll pass, but thanks.

However, if you're not the type of masochist who deprives yourself of otherwise fine products purely on crackpot ethical grounds, there may be a slightly more practical reason why you might want to reconsider buying Office v.X; it apparently comes with an expiration date. We haven't confirmed this, because we don't actually use Office (have we mentioned that yet?), but faithful viewer g4Vrll tipped us off to a rather upsetting note over at MacInTouch concerning the Microsoft Product License that accompanies that software package. According to a reader, "the license clearly states that the product will 'de-activate' one year (365 days) from activation," requiring the purchase of a renewal to stay useable. Maybe it's just us, but that sounds pretty harsh for a product that retails for five hundred smackers, and whose upgrade price is at least $149.

Now, we have a feeling that this whole "breaks after a year" thing won't actually happen with v.X, since it's been noted by Microsoft itself that the product shipped without all that "activation" nonsense-- though not for lack of trying. Make no mistake; Microsoft has clearly stated that it "would have already implemented the activation mechanisms in Office v. X, if [they] had had the time and the people for it." So enjoy it while it lasts, people, because the writing's on the wall; this may be the last version of Office that you can buy instead of rent. Personally, we opt for neither-- but we're funny that way.


 
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Put That Puppy Out To Stud (11/26/01)
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Still think they just don't make 'em like they used to? True, Apple's quality control appears to have slipped a few notches in recent years-- Cubes with "cracks," PowerBooks that electrically shock people, etc.-- but every once in a while we hear about some poor Mac that's been subjected to, shall we say, "unfriendly conditions" and bounced back like a champ. Oh, sure, there are always going to be forces too nasty for even the hardiest Mac to overcome-- such as UPS, judging by the photos of a poor, jacked-up G4 that faithful viewer Chris Ashley pointed out a couple of weeks ago. But there are some Macs out there that have been to hell and back and lived to tell the tale. They are the few... the proud... the UberMacs.

The latest UberMac sighting comes courtesy of faithful viewer Wayne Stewart, who notes an article at it.mycareer.com.au which describes a Power Mac G4 that went through a trial by fire-- literally. It seems that an Australian digital music outfit called the Electric Factory suffered a touch of arson last month that left their G4 a "twisted, melted wreck" that was "too hot to touch" when it was found. Not that we like to revel in graphic descriptions of Mac carnage, but we'll press on just to give you a sense of the extensive damage: "the keyboard was melted beyond recognition and all that was left of the peripheral speakers was the magnets... One side of the G4 was melted and the other side fused solid." Oh, the horror...

But despite the G4's massive disfigurement (and a good soaking from the fire fighters' hoses), the company's techs sawed it open in a valiant effort to rescue the internal hard drives. Miracle of miracles: all three of the drives (two IDE, one SCSI) were extracted and found to be in perfect condition, with zero data loss. Even crazier, the RAM and SCSI card checked out A-okay as well. Finally, the techs hooked up a monitor, plugged the G4 in, and turned it on. There was no startup chime because the speaker was fried, but that melty Mac otherwise booted up just fine. In contrast, the Wintels that weren't as close to the fire (suffering only smoke damage instead of a double whammy of full-on flame and water) "don't work at all now." Hey, Electric Factory people-- may we recommend that you send that UberMac back to Apple for breeding purposes?


 
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