Apple recap

Posted on August 03, 2007 by Steve

Two years ago, in this space I described the newest member of our family, an iBook. There was an initial period of adjustment and doubt, and many hours spent patiently encouraging the iBook's siblings to share their peripherals, but it is now a fixture in the household and frequently joins us on outings to school, coffee shops, and vacations. I am still using the iPod mini to audit music scraped from blogs.

At the risk of adding to the many lists of annoyances in OS X, I will mention a few gripes. I still have to go to my happy place after trying to maximize a window, failing, and then having to use the teeny-tiny target on the bottom right corner to resize. Here's a look at the file picker as I tediously root around the library of mediocre iPhoto, looking for an image to attach to an e-mail.

wee little window

That little scuff in the corner is the only resize handle, and the cursor doesn't change to let you know when you're over it.

It also bugs me that most (but not all) applications fail to close when you close their only open window. These apps (and any minimized apps) appear in the "Alt-tab" sequence but nothing opens when you switch to them. If I exit from Terminal, Terminal should die. If I switch to a minimized application, that application should pop open. Any questions? Overall, I grind my teeth about as often using OS X as I do using Windows.

But it's easy to criticize. Here are a few things Apple got right.

  • Slot CD drive -- why do we still put up with flimsy plastic trays?
  • There's a four-level LED charge indicator on the battery, which works when the computer is off or the battery is disconnected, and even when the battery is charging.
  • The power plug glows orange when you connect it to the computer, then green when charging is complete, whether the computer is on or off. (The power adapter alone is a credit to Apple's designers. To reduce weight and clutter, you can remove the wall cable and plug the brick -- more like a deck of cards -- right into the wall outlet. It has collapsible hooks for winding up the cord. And it cools off, presumably not drawing power, once the computer is fully charged.)
  • Restart from hibernation -- actually it doesn't seem to hibernate. We close the lid when we're done working, then open it to resume where we left off. There's a beat or two as the hard drive spins up, but I never feel like I'm kept waiting. A newer Sony laptop wakes up with a black screen and a crude progress bar, reminding me that standing up an operating system and restoring a session from a cold start is actually a lot of work.
  • Remaining battery life is shown in hours and minutes.
  • Hardware design: it is sleek. And patching in more RAM was easy -- fold down the keyboard, remove a shield (the four tiny screws stay attached to the shield), and snap in the module. Oh, another complaint: the laptops on display in the Apple stores always seem to have more RAM than the descriptions on the price tags indicate.

    Just in time for this review, the iBook froze up a few times recently, requiring that we touch the power button for the first time. I suspect a recent update to Firefox, which has always been open at the time of the freeze. Stay tuned for an update in 2009.

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